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Tag: War of Resistance (page 1 of 5)

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The game ended with the Japanese holding Inner Mongolia, Shansi, Hopei, Shantung, northern Honan, most of Anhwei, Kiangsu, Chekiang, and all ports of any importance as far as Canton. The front, where one existed, ran from west of Loyang and south of Chengchow (both in Honan) to forward of Pengpu and Hwaining (both Anhwei) and to the Kiangsi-Chekiang border at the Hangchow-Nanchang rail line. There were guerrilla bases in the Wutai mountains of northern Hopei, the central Honan plain, the mountains in the Big Yangtze Bend, and the Tienmu mountains of eastern Anhwei.

The game ended in a Japanese victory in minimum possible time. However, it would be wrong to conclude that it is imbalanced in favor of Japan. First, at first I overlooked some rules, such as the +1 DRM for Japanese light and mountain infantry attacking in rough or mountains terrain. Second, it took me some time to catch on to some of the possibilities, such as moving units or
replacement points back or forth between the south and north via Hsi river tributary, Kienshui (G5:4213), Yunnan RR, Kunming, and Yangtze (I could have reinforced Canton better using this route in addition to the more direct one via Nanchang). Third, I made mistakes, and my Chinese ones were more serious, among them to be too stingy with bribes at first and not to run a supported division to Woosung when becoming “aggressive.” Fourth, my Japanese were lucky with some critical die rolls, such a getting a relatively early relaxation of all Tokyo mandate restrictions. Fifth, my style of play fits the Japanese better. I enjoy working out a complex move such as taking Gijon the second turn in Bell Tolls, taking Riga and getting to the gates of Minsk the first turn in Fire in the East, or capturing Canton by amphibious assault. My weakness is in not sufficiently foreseeing what the enemy can do. So I probably did a better
job for the Japanese. Lastly, I may still have misinterpreted or misused one or the other rule, and I am certain there are still quite some strategies I haven’t caught on to even now.

Even so, the game was closer than it might seem. At every stability check, the luck of the random die rolls could have kept the stability level as is. If that had happened in at least one check, the final outcome would have been very much in doubt. If the game had gone on, the Japanese would have been hard pressed to avoid a decline of their destabilization points, getting fewer for cities already held and finding it difficult to conquer enough additional ones. Moreover, starting with 1939 they would have faced quite serious supply shortages.

Some Comments on Strategies and Tactics

Priority Number One for the Chinese must be to meet the garrison requirements and establish the supply and production base by rushing KMT units to all supply source cities (I did that). When this has been done, to keep the transportation net (including the RTs) working to bring factional units and, later, replacement points from the south and southwest to KMT home
territory (I didn’t do that as effectively as is possible).

On factional cooperation: Some have complained that factions defect too easily. What the Chinese must do here is be generous with bribes. With 2 ResPts for every faction that matters (an expense they can easily afford if only they accord bribes the priority they deserve) and matching any deductions for “violations” and Japanese counter-bribes (1 Chinese ResPt matches 2 Japanese ones) they can avoid defections.

On Shanghai: This is a crucial city for many reasons. The Chinese can’t tell when the mandate restriction will be relaxed, so they must prepare by moving at least one good division to Woosung to protect that port against amphibious assault and block the Whangpoo River. In any event, they should by all means do so when they become “aggressive” (I failed to do that and my
Chinese paid the price).

On guerrilleros: Wherever possible, the bases should be established in mountains, to gain the -2 DRM even in fair weather. Good places are up north in the Wutai and Taifeng Mountains, soon so far away from Japanese front-line troops that separate security forces must be kept for protection of the cities. Bases there can be set up with some of the CCP regulars that start in Shensi. So as not to be wiped out quickly they should not be activated until they have accumulated respectable strength (say, at least 8 pts). When a CCP base is activated, preferably in poor weather, send two 1-6 guerrilleros to an inaccessible mountain hex, convert them to a 1-6 CCP regular unit that can then establish a new base. If the old base does not survive, the new one takes it place; if the old one does survive, both bases accumulate the replacement points every month.

I believe the tactic of massed Tet-style guerrilla offensives is sound, even if mine in my game had only marginal success. The only chance of active operations (i.e., beyond sabotage) seems to be to swamp the Japanese with more than their security forces can take on at one time.

For the Japanese, do keep the 5 Mountain (and the Formosa when it becomes available) on anti-guerrilla duty where mountain bases exist. Admittedly with amazing luck in die rolls, the 5th almost singlehandedly won the game for the Japanese by crushing the guerrilleros.

For the Chinese, consider eliminating the CCP base in Shensi as soon as the weather turns fair (I waited too long with that). It just ties down too many good KMT divisions as long as it exists, and they will be needed elsewhere. As long as weather is poor, use the base for forming CCP regulars that can then drift eastward into Shansi and spawn new ones.

On Canton: This is by far the most important port save Shanghai and is in danger as soon as all Tokyo mandate restrictions fall. That can happen anytime, so garrison it strongly at start and move at least one or two KMT divisions in from the north (rivers and RR via Kienshui and Kunming, or river and RR via Nanchang).

From spring or early summer 1938 on, the Chinese should no longer have to worry much about losses, except of the supported divisions and artillery. By then the Japanese will by stretched thin having to protect wide areas and will no longer be able to inflict heavy losses. If so, the Chinese can the launch “human waves” to try to engulf Japanese stacks, which can then be attacked when cut off from supply. (Remember, the Japanese can well afford losses when they
attack, but not so when they defend because those losses count for stabilization points.) Where they can afford to give up a bit of ground, the best Japanese counter seems to be to concentrate in a big stack that is too strong to be attacked frontally and then retreats just far enough to avoid envelopment or strong attack from more than one hex. When there is no more
ground to sacrifice, a strong counterattack with good reinforcements is called for to clean up.

Some Comments on Rules

First off: The rules are the best organized and most thoroughly developed I have seen in any game. Moreover, they are extensively cross-referenced (and correctly in every instance!) and illustrated with examples of play that are most helpful. With only one or two entirely unimportant exceptions I never had the least trouble figuring out what a rule said. In the very few instances when I had a slight doubt whether the literal interpretation was really the design intent, Mark Royer kindly confirmed that it was and explained the reason.

On the other hand, this is not a game for the faint-hearted afraid of hard work or for those who just want slam-bang combat, is all. There is a lot of logistic planning (after the first few turns, many attacks will have to go in without attack supply), quite some bookkeeping, and many demands that go beyond combat and territorial gains. That’ just what makes the game so
fascinating!

I was amazed how well the guerrilla rules worked, and they are a very important part of the game (I’d venture to say the Chinese couldn’t win without them). My only hesitation here is that perhaps the guerrilleros could be made a bit more slippery, say, by being allowed to disregard reduced ZoCs upon retreats or to retreat through ZoCs upon success of a die roll. Also, it might have been simpler to declare all guerrilleros in supply at all times (if operating alone they are halved anyway for lack of artillery support) and in compensation to reduce their numbers a bit.

I believe I found a simpler way of bookkeeping for the guerrilleros: When a regular units “enters” a base, place it in the base’s holding box, when a regular unit is eliminated in the base area and the special replacements accruing are to be assigned to the base, place the unit in the holding box but rotated 180 degrees. Then, in the next initial phase, figure the total
guerrilla points accumulated in these ways, move the units to the replacement pool, use points to recruit, and only then enter any left-over points on the Chinese Replacement Chart.

I was not altogether happy with the complications introduced by the Japanese reserve divisions and the substitutions for the 9-11-6 square divisions. The reserve divisions are an important historical fact and affect play, so I’m willing to put up with their rules. The square substitutions are also a historical fact, but may perhaps go beyond the point of diminishing
returns. If a division that has been substituted is to be withdrawn, it becomes a pain in the neck to find its 1-2-4 “tail.” I’ve tried not to use those substitutions. The divisional break-down possibly as far as battalions (eight per square division) was work enough for me.

The one possibly important rule I have not been able to figure out in my mind is Chinese fragile units and, in that connection, the difference between “rebuilding” a division (forbidden) and “equipping” it (allowed). With so slow a Chinese artillery production, do we need that fragility of their supported divisions? Probably I have missed something here.

The new victory conditions: For me they work much better than the old ones and achieve exactly what the designer intended: The Japanese have fair sailing in 1937, an increasingly harder time through 1938, and have little chance of victory once the game has dragged through 1939. What has not worked for me is the effect the stability checks fixed in time have on tactics. To reduce the count of destabilization points, the Chinese may well have to try to topple a regional puppet government the turn before, but not sooner so that it will not have been reestablished by the time of the check (“don’t recapture that reference city now, bypass it and move in later just before the check”). The Japanese in turn know that also and so have excellent information on when the Chinese will launch such an attempt. (The last turns of my game showed exactly that.) This could possibly be fixed in one of several ways: If a provincial puppet falls, have the Japanese roll on the success table to reinstate it (possibly with properly tuned modifiers) so that it might take an unknown number of turns until the government is operative again. Or, have them roll only the first time to determine how many turns that will take (as in some games for a/c arriving inoperative). Even just to give the Chinese a point for any puppet toppled since the previous check would alleviate the problem, though not eliminate it.

In conclusion, I fully realize I have only scratched the surface. I’m sure there are many excellent strategies I haven’t even dreamed of. I can only hope not to have dispensed any nonsense with my reports and comments. If I have, let us hope that Mark Royer, busy man as he is, will be so kind to set the record straight. Lastly, if you enjoyed this replay, play the game or one of its scenarios and recommend it to all your wargaming friends (no axe to grind here, I don’t get a commission on sales).

JULI I 1938

JULI I 1938

The weather worsened again. Torrential rains and mud except in the far, far off northwest, and gale-force winds along the entire coast.

Japanese Player Turn

5th Mountain and Formosa at it again! Having wiped out the guerrilleros that had threatened Changkaikow, these stalwarts took up the search for the base form which they had come and destroyed much of it [3 pts killed on “6”]. The cordons of security troops in the mountains and forward of the cities returned home. Life in Hopei and Chahar is back to normal.

No activities in central and southern Shansi. In northern Honan, 27 Division pulled back into Loyang to join the defenders of that city, braced for the human wave.

In northern Honan south of Chengchow, 16 Division again tangled with factional troops in its western flank, this time without much success [a DR only helped the factionals in the attempt to envelop the position]. Farther east, reinforcements that had arrived earlier from Manchukuo via Tunghai took on a detachment of factional troops that had crossed the Kaifeng-Tungshan rail line and battered them at the town of Tsoochow [DH]. However, others still remain farther east near Fenghsien.

Guerrilla sweeps in Honan, the Big Bend, and the Tienmu Mountains were unsuccessful.

The front on the Hangchow-Nanchang road remains stalemated forward of Chuchow.

A naval operation in the South China Sea had to be cancelled because of the weather. Dive bombers from the carriers attacked the port of Yanchow near the border with French Indo-China, but were frustrated by low clouds and high winds.

Chinese Player Turn

It’s over! Even generous bribes were to no avail. Amid growing unrest, deep dissatisfaction, and a rift in his cabinet, Chiang Kai-Shek was forced out of power and no one has been able to take his place. The failure of Red Dragon was the last straw. Without a strong hand at the helm it is only a matter of time when the troops will lay down their arms. Japan is triumphant. [Before the random rolls the Chinese had 8 stabilization points (5 for government in Hankow, 1 for foreign aid, 2 for inflicted losses) versus 12 destabilization points (7 for captured cities, 2 for two or more operative regional puppet governments, 1 for six or more guerrilla bases, 1 for two KMT anti-guerrilla sweeps, 1 for two or more terror bombing hits on the capital). To prevent the drop of the stabilization level to zero, the Chinese needed a random roll of “6” for 3 extra stabilization points against a Japanese “1” for no additional destabilization to give a score of 11:12. This was a chance of one in 36. The rolls were “5” and “2” for a score of 10:13.] This amounts to a decisive Japanese victory.

JUNE II 1938

JUNE II 1938

The Gobi, Chahar, Jehol, northern Shansi and Hopei, and Manchukuo were
granted a respite from monsoon rains. Not so the rest of China. The gale-force
winds have subsided but the seas are still rough.

Japanese Player Turn

5 Mountain and Formosa had to play fire brigade again. They took on and mercilessly disposed of the guerrillero concentration south of the Chahar capital Changkaikow. Lin Piao’s last stand? The guerrilleros turned regulars in the Wutais close to Peiping were surrounded by security forces and Manchukuo troops. For added protection of Changkaikow and Shanhwa a cordon of Chahar and Jehol troops was set up forward of the main defenses of the cities. One new Japanese light division arrived in Hopei from Manchukuo and was used to replace the 5/13 mountain and 2/3 infantry brigades that had to be withdrawn. Here in the north the danger appears to have been averted for the time being.

The city garrisons in central and southern Shansi, not directly threatened by the guerrilla offensive, kept to their posts. So did 8 Division forward of Linfen.

At the Sha river in north-central Honan, 16 Division struck again at factional troops that were trying to outflank its positions around Hsuchang [DH].

Reinforcements were sent to Tungshan and Pengpu. Gunboats that made their way up from the Yangtze are standing by to support Pengpu’s defenders.

Attempted search and destroy missions against the guerrilla bases in southern Honan and the Big Bend remained fruitless.

Although numerically superior and better equipped, Central China Army troops forward of Hwaining on the Yangtze were unable to take action against the guerrilleros and regulars that are sneaking closer through the flooded rice paddies [reasonable odds unattainable in the paddies].

In the mountains of eastern Anhwei, the road to Hweichow was cleared of guerrilleros. One brigade of 6 Division pushed through to join the defenders of the city. Although a strong KMT guerrilla force still lurks nearby, the city is now safe. Here, too, the danger has been averted. However, a sweep of the Tienmu Mountains in search of the KMT guerrilla base, hampered by the weather, had only a very modest effect [1 pt killed].

On the Hangchow-Nanchang road, 13 Division reinforced by extra artillery took up positions in the rice paddies forward of Chuchow [it was Chuchow, not Kinhwa, from where 9 Division could have drawn supply last turn]. Badly battered 9 Division retreated through the new defense lines to Chuchow for well-deserved R&R.

Overall, Red Dragon has been blunted everywhere except west of Tungshan and Pengpu and in the Big Yangtze Bend where major concentrations of guerrilleros and regulars still roam freely. However, even there the cities appear reasonably safe thanks to the reinforcements their garrisons have received. Additional troops and engineers will be needed for clean-up the mess. They will become available now that the guerrilleros in northern Shansi and eastern Anhwei have been taken care of. It seems the Chinese have shot their bolt.

Chinese Player Turn

In the Wutai Mountains near Peiping the last surviving CCP guerrilleros turned regulars managed to sneak out of encirclement to fade into the mountains and start preparing a new base [they could not have reached any target to attack if using regular movement, are forbidden to attack if using
infiltration movement, and had nothing else of value within reach]. Likewise, the KMT guerrilleros in the Anhwei hills near Hweichow scurried into hiding since any attack on that city had become hopeless and pointless [automatic AE if attempted]. Here, too, an additional base is being set up by guerrilleros turned regulars.

The advance in southern Shansi and northwestern Honan continued, if at a snail’s pace because of the weather conditions. Engineers are raising the Tunghwan ferry at the Shansi border. The CCP regulars from the Liuliang Mountains finally risked the dash across the central valley into the hills
northwest of Luan.

Factional troops that had surged into the gap between the northern and southern Japanese forces blew up the imporatant lateral Taifeng-Tungshan railway at several places and continued their unopposed advance in northwesterly direction. Farther south, guerrilleros and regulars sneaked into the rice paddies close to Pengpu, but found the city’s defenses impregnable. Two new CCP guerrilla bases were established.

To the west, the human wave from Hankow has reached the Sha river. Chuning was occupied and bridges and tracks in the rear repaired. Still farther west, troops from Hankow that had advanced through Nanyang are continuing on unopposed in direction of Loyang.

In the Big Bend, factional and KMT regular inched closer to Hwaining, but were unable to attack the strong Japanese positions.

On the road to Hangchow, elements of KMT 1 Army crossed the border into Chekiang and occupied the little town of Kiangshan (only a point city). Others fanned out north and south to attempt to outflank the Japanese defenses in the valley.

Comments

Having failed to topple any regional governments by recapture of cities, Chiang Kai-Shek’s chances now are slim. All potential targets were too heavily garrisoned by the time they could have been attacked. This is to a good part because the timing of the last-gasp effort had become rather obvious. Should Red Dragon have been launched a month earlier? The Japanese garrisons would have been weaker and the attacks on them would not have been subject to the -2 DRM for mud. On the other hand, without their June I recruits the guerrilleros would also have been weaker and, perhaps more importantly, in fair weather the Japanese would have been even better able to reinforce the targets and to round up and destroy guerrilleros before they could attack. Who can say?

JUNE I 1938

JUNE I 1938

Monsoon season in full swing: Except way up north in Mongolia,
torrential rains have turned the ground into a quagmire. Through much of the
time gale force winds along all of China’s coast. Couldn’t get much worse!

Japanese Player Turn

Easy come, easy go. Gone is the puppet government of Honan, come has one of Fukien at Foochow. The Japanese military had the power to impose a new Honan government, but decided to hold off in view of the unsettled conditions in the province [no point in forming a government when it can be toppled again at the Chinese’s pleasure by occupation of Chuning].

Anticipating a new Tet-like uprising, the Japanese command strengthened garrisons wherever that was possible. Artillery was transferred by ship and rail from Foochow to Chahar and northern Shansi. The city garrisons in northerwestern Hopei were reinforced. Marines were sent to Tunghai and Lienyunkang in northern Kiangsu, where they remain on stand-by. The divisions of the Central China Army southwest of Nanking are on full alert.

In southern Shansi, 8 Division held its position in the rice paddies forward of Linfen, keeping a regiment in reserve in that city. In the Yellow River valley, 27 Division continued its slow retreat eastward. South of Chengchow, 16 Division struck again at forward factional elements that were threatening its supply line [DH].

The only significant combat actions occurred on the Hangchow-Nanchang road and rail line. 13 Division was shipped to Hangchow from Foochow and hurriedly railed forward to relieve the besieged garrison of Kinhwa [OR, but no MPs left for farther advance]. Reservists of 9 Division supported by artillery took care of the other KMT contingent on the road between Kinhwa and Shangjao. Although its line of communications had been cleared, 9 Division retreated to just forward of the Chekiang border into better defensive terrain [rough].

Chinese Player Turn

This is it! The central command has unleashed Red Dragon, the long-awaited guerrilla offensive, to be coordinated with all-out attacks even at poor odds wherever an enemy can be found. Their’s not to make reply, Their’s not to reason why, Their’s but to do and die, And our’s now to say “oh, my!” if Some one had blunder’d.

The CCP guerrilleros in the northern Wutai Mountains had the choice of driving toward Chahar or into Hopei. They chose Chahar, where the garrisons are weaker and less easily reinforced. They are now huddled still in the protection of mountains and hills, preparing to strike. The relatively new KMT bases in Shansi’s Taiheng Mountains, northern Kiangsu’s rice paddies, and the Fukien coastal range were not yet combat-ready and remained inactive. The KMT base west of Tungshan sent its fighters eastward. The greatest guerrillero concentration was achieved in the Big Bend country between Nanking and Hankow, where two previously inactive CCP bases sent out their guerrilleros northeastward to disrupt traffic to Nanking and attack targets of opportunity. KMT guerrilleros from the base in the Tienmu range northwest of Hangchow moved west to cut the road to Ningkwo and the mountain town of Hweichow. The south was spared, the only activity there being the appearance of a CCP guerrillero cadre north of Canton. [They are to convert to regulars, which are then are to move east and form a new base closer to Swatow and Amoy.]

Unfortunately, one of the more promising of these guerrilla operation, in eastern Anhwei, ran afoul of the watchfulness of the Japanese Central China headquarters [successful reaction roll]. Hurriedly dispatched troops from around Wuhu cleared the road to Ningkwo. However, others that had rushed into
the mountains to relieve Hweichow fell short of their objective [DR against the other guerrilleros, who still block the road].

Everywhere, a few of the guerrillero cadres were armed to fight as regular units.

While the guerrilleros came out of the woodwork, the KMT front line troops mostly found the opposition too strong for their taste [attacks at 2:1 or worse in mud and possibly other than clear terrain are cannot inflict losses]. The sole exception was the Nanchang-Hangchow road, where an all-out effort that included rail and river transport of reinforcements and ammunition was made. It succeeded in mauling the Japanese 9 Division, though at a high cost [EX at 3:1; the Japanese had inexplicably failed to break the division down to take advantage of the fact that three of its four regiments could have been in supply from Kinhwa’s river port]. Among the decimated attacking units were two of the few remaining KMT elite divisions.

Though unable to attack, troops in Honan continued their advance. The Shensi Army inched forward heading east in the Yellow River valley. After past reverses the approach toward Linfen was more cautious and now attempts to rely on outflanking. The most spectacular success was that of factional formations in central Honan who pushed forward unopposed from around Chowkiakow to reach the strategic Taifeng-Tungshan rail line. In their wake, recruiters were busy raising new troops from the liberated villages. In the Big Bend, factional forces moved forward to join the guerrilleros for attacks yet to come.

Finally, the anti-aircraft batteries of 1 Army reached Hankow by barge from Lake Po Yang, a long-awaited boost to the defense of the capital.

An airlift from Kweichow to Kiangsi was organized to ferry draftees to river ports on Yangtze tributaries.

Comments

Make or break for the Chinese! Whether they can avoid preventing the drop of the stability level to zero in July I and so avert their total defeat now depends on the success of the regular and guerrilla attacks next turn (and luck in the random roll!). They have inflicted enough losses to for 2 stability points (the maximum in this category), but for a more than minimal chance they have to topple two regional governments so that the Japanese will be reduced to one. They can do so by capturing at least one city each in two of the four provinces Chahar, Hopei, Shansi, or Anhwei. If the Chinese survive the July I stability check, their chances are not bad. The capital in Hankow is safe for the time being, so they are assured continuing stability points on that score. The Japanese no longer have easy territorial targets, but will get progressively fewer destabilization points for the cities they now hold. And if they do capture additional cities, they will be stretched even more thinly to protect them. Also, if the war drags on into 1939, the guerrilla recruitment rate goes up again and the supply rate of Japanese ResPts goes down. It seems we have reached the turning point of the game or its end.

Although this slightly weakened overall strength, some guerrilleros were converted to regulars, for two reasons: Japanese attacking a guerrillero stack that includes regulars are halved unless they use attack supply; and surviving regulars can establish new guerrilla bases that will be inactive and so not exposed to Japanese retaliation, using infiltration movement to escape if necessary.

MAY II 1938

MAY II 1938

Beautiful spring weather continues except in the south, which is drowning in monsoon rain. Seas are calm except again on the South China Sea and in the Formosa Strait.

Japanese Player Turn

The puppet governors of Kingsu, Chekiang, and Anhwei have decided to form a Central China Regional roof organization in Shanghai.

In northern Shansi, Formosa Mountain Division hunted down the volunteers from Ningwu before they could fade into the mountains. For a rare change and for lack of anything better to do, 5 Mountain Division took a rest near Yanku. Near Linfen, three regiments of 8 Division advanced south along the rail line to Tungkwan and struck hard at the leading elements of a factional corps from Shensi [DE], then pulled back into the rice paddies forward of Linfen. That city remains garrisoned by the fourth regiment of the division.

A new mountain brigade from Manchukuo was railed into Hopei and made good use of the excellent weather to seek out and destroy the Shansi troops that had been lurking in the Wutai range near Peiping.

In the Yellow River valley, 27 Division retreated from Shanhsien on orders from up high even before the Chinese masses could make contact. The minds of the mighty are inscrutable.

16 Division and its assigned armor retreated all the way back from the Hwai to the Sha river, giving up the city of Chuning. The division overpowered the adventurous Chinese that had come to threaten its supply line and is now deployed in and around Hsuchang on the rail line to Chengchow.

In the Big Bend, 26 Division retreated from its blocking position at the north end of Lake Po Yang to set up defenses upstream of Hwaining. Two other divisions are forming a screen to protect that important city against attacks from the west. On the river’s other side the divisions of the Central China Army made short shrift of the Chinese rearguards, but advanced no farther: In the just beginning monsoon and rice growing season, the rice paddies to the south are no place for Japan’s elite to get mired in, especially since ominous rumors about an impending new Tet have begun to circulate. A further advance into the flank of the Chinese masses pursuing 9 Division on the Nanchang-Hangchow road was a tempting alternative, but was deemed unwise at this time.

9 Division retreated farther along the Hangchow road. Giving up Shangjao without a fight, they dispensed of a KMT brigade from the mountains in their rear, then took up new positions blocking the narrowing valley of the Kwangsin river forward of the pass that leads into Chekiang.

Security was strengthened in Anhwei and southern Kiangsu. The towns of Ningkwo and Hweichow were belatedly garrisoned. Little can be done at this time for northern Kiangsu (north of the Yangtze) and Chekiang.

The major port city of Foochow in Fukien capitulated. Last food and ammunition had been used up and no relief was in sight. [This really was an automatic DE on 9+:1 -2 surrounded, guaranteed even without attack supply; there is no U4 and no death by starvation in this game!] Dead tired, starved, and fed up with the war and the KMT, the citizens even welcomed the Japanese, who wisely distributed some meager rations of rice [no rampage].

In Upstate Fukien, the Kure Marines and mountain artillery stocked up again on ammunition ferried to Nanping’s river port, then tracked down and disposed of the last factional troops [DH; the river port allow them to trace a supply line to Japan].

The night terror raids against the KMT capital Hankow continued with good success. This time the AA gunners brought down a few bombers [1 A], but all returning aircraft landed safely.

Chinese Player Turn

The guerrilleros in the northern mountain ranges still hold their peace, though chafing at their bits.

The Shensi troops continue their two-pronged advance into Honan and Shansi. Abandoned Shanhsien was occupied and contact with the enemy was reestablished. Some troops were shifted to strengthen the drive into Shansi toward Linfen. News of the recapture of Shanhsien has forced the Honan puppet government in Taifeng to resign.

In central Honan the advance of the masses continues. Troops pressing forward from the Hwai river have reached the vicinity of deserted Chuning. Farther east and ahead of the main human wave, several forward detachments are force-marching through the thinly populated countryside in a northwesterly direction without encountering resistance. Forward elements have passed through Chowkiakow, only 60 miles from the strategic Taifeng-Tungshan rail line. The drive appears to be headed into the wide gap that has developed between the Japanese security forces in northern Honan and southern Hopei and Japanese 1 Army in the Nanking-Shanghai area.

In the Big Bend, factional forces are cautiously following up on the surprising Japanese retreat. No combat actions here.

A new defense line in the rice paddies and anchored on the east shore of Lake Po Yang is being formed to shield the flank of the advance along the Nanchang-Hangchow road. On this road, abandoned Shangjao was occupied and contact with Japanese 9 Division reestablished. In Chekiang, KMT brigades from the mountains have now reached the road and rail line at two places in the rear of that division, cutting it off from its supply.

Comments

The withdrawal from Shanhsien has brought the Honan puppet government down, but not the North China Regional one since Shantung, Hopei, and Shansi are still in the fold. As with Sunwul in Kwangtung, better to give up such an outpost sooner than later. Against the human wave, its defense would have called for reinforcements not readily available at this time. The Honan government can be reformed at any time since Loyang, Chenchow, and Taifeng are still held (and will certainly be strongly defended).

That the Japanese gave up the Honan reference cities Shanhsien, Chuning and Chowkiakow without a fight might seem surprising, but was prompted by a slick tactical consideration: It gave the Chinese two poor options: to occupy now and topple the Honan government, but see it reinstated before the July I stability check; or to bypass, only to see further advance obstructed and the road or rail supply line blocked. The Chinese made the best of it, occupying Shanhsien and Chowkiakow, but not Chuning, whose capture can now be used to bring down the Honan government in the critical June II turn. Again, a probably unintended artifact of the victory conditions.

MAY I 1938

MAY I 1938

Clear skies and dry spring weather everywhere except in the south, where the monsoon season is now in full swing. Seas are rough in the Formosa Strait, otherwise calm. Rice growing season everywhere.

Japanese Player Turn

A puppet government of Anhwei was constituted at Wuhu. Having cleared the Taiheng range of guerrilleros, 5 Mountain with accustomed verve took on an easier task: to squash a band of volunteers from Luan that had sneaked into the mountains nearby. Luan itself was occupied by a cavalry brigade to prevent recurrence. Near Linfen in southern Shansi, 8 Division pursued the survivors of the city’s garrison into the foothills, but was unable to catch them. At Shanhsien in the Yellow River valley the troops are digging in for defense so as not to be exposed to envelopment.

16 Division engaged factional troops at the Hwai river near the Honan-Hupei border and caused some losses [DH at 7:1]. However, any advance into Hupei would invite becoming trapped. The other strong Division in the Big Bend, the 20th, retreated eastward to avoid becoming entangled with advancing Chinese hordes. So did the reservists at Hwangkang near the Tri Cities, who were being outflanked from the north.

The countryside of northern Kiangsu is now reasonably effectively being policed by security forces. The guerrilleros have kept a low profile in their hide-outs in the rice-paddy country. Their recruiters will now have a harder time [all reference cities now garrisoned].

The main combat actions occurred on the Yangtze south bank southwest of Wuhu. With four elite divisions abreast, Central China Army rolled over poorly armed rearguards of draftees from Yunnan and Szechwan and advanced beyond fortified Matang, but the KMT core of Chinese 1 Army once again managed to slip away [DR].

Brave but lone 9 Division on the Hangchow-Nanchang road continued its slow retreat toward Shangjao and the Chekiang border to avoid becoming encircled by ever growing hordes of Chinese.

In Fukien the siege of Foochow continues [why attack full-strength defenders when next turn they will be quartered for isolation and no supply as their GSPs have been used up?]. Meanwhile, a mountain artillery regiment on foot and the Kure Marines on barges escorted by gunboats advanced up the Min river toward Nanping to weed out the last fertile Chinese recruiting ground in the province [last unconquered replacement city other than Foochow]. The fleet-footed mountain gunners cleared the way and were joined by the Marines who disembarked just downstream of the city. [Ironically, the mountain artillery, thanks to its high movement rate in rough terrain, was able to gain ownership of one riverbank and so allowed the RT and RF to move upstream in their wake.] With support by aircraft from Putien and fire from the gunboats the city was taken, but the defenders got away [DR].

Bombers from Shanghai, Nanking, Wuhu, and Hwaining conducted a successful night terror raid on Hankow in an effort to demoralize the KMT (and disturb Chiang Kai-Shek’s sleep). Anti-aircraft fire remained ineffective, but a small number of aircraft were damaged when landing at night upon their return [1 A].

All guerrilleros kept a suspiciously low profile [no base active at this time]. The calm before the storm?

Chinese Player Turn

Commanding over a plentiful treasure chest and facing crisis times, Chiang Kai-Shek wisely shunned no expenses to keep his warlords happy and loyal. [2 ResPts for every faction ensures continuing cooperation and was given to all that still exist, except only the MSF. Ironically, the MSF rolled a
“10” and would have reverted to cooperative if it had been bribed.] In Ningwu in northern Shansi, a town still untouched by the Japanese, a formation of volunteers was organized and equipped with whatever arms could be found. They are heading for still distant mountains. The CCP guerrilla base in the Taiheng range continued its recruiting, but still kept its people out of harm’s way.

In southern Shansi the last survivors of the Linfen garrison, a KMT brigade, reached the local mountains and went underground to start forming a guerrilla base. With their pursuers hard on their heels, their original plan to reach the Taiheng range farther east had proved suicidal. The CCP regulars in the Liuliang Mountains west of the central valley are still biding their time, waiting for the moment when a dash east across the open central valley will have become safe.

Now that the CCP guerrilla base in the loess country is out of the way, the massed troops in the Yellow River valley crossed the border into Honan, eager to confront the outnumbered Japanese that face them at Shanhsien. A smaller group is advancing into Shansi along the rail line to Linfen and Yanku.

In central Honan a collection of factional units force-marched northeastward to outflank the Japanese forces at the Hwai river. Forward elements reached the Sha river near Hiangcheng, just 70 miles south of the Yellow River and almost a hundred miles north of the Hwai. They are threatening to cut the vital supply line from Chengchow.

Closer to Hankow the human wave inched forward to the north and the east. In the north the forward elements are closing to the Hwai river, in the east vanguard have reached the foothills of the Tapieh Mountains in the center of the Big Yangtze Bend. Japanese troops were encountered only in a few places
and then found too strong to be attacked. Engineers from Hankow are fortifying the right bank of the Yangtze between Hankow and Lake Po Yang as well as the west shore of that lake where it can be crossed.

VII Corps on the Yangtze left bank retreated through Hokou and then along the east shore of Lake Po Yang into the rice paddies. Rearguards composed of cavalry and factional draftees were left behind to slow the Japanese advance. In Ningkwo and Hweichow, two backwoods towns in eastern Anhwei, ad hoc KMT brigades were raised from locals. They destroyed the airfields and then scurried into the mountains to join the guerrilleros [a Japanese miscalculation not to have gained ownership of these towns; it was feared they would too easily be recaptured by guerrilleros, causing trouble for the new Anhwei government]. Also, three KMT brigades that had been hiding in the Nen Mountains emerged and are making for the Hangchow-Nanchang rail line on which 9 Division relies for its supplies.

The pursuit of 9 Division on the Hangchow-Nanchang road and rail line continued. The Japanese are too strong for a frontal attack along the road and retreat just fast enough to evade any flanking moves. Despair reigns in besieged Foochow. Food and ammunition are used up, and no relief is in sight. The Marines evicted from the city found refuge in the nearby mountains and are setting up a guerrilla base. The troops evicted from Nanping are also heading for the mountains. The defenders of Foochow would
love to do likewise, but cannot because the city is surrounded.

Comments

What the Japanese must now beware of is casualties from Chinese or guerrilla attacks and loss of regional governments. These are what can give the Chinese stability points. A loss of ground and reference cities is of lesser importance. Even if a provincial government is brought down through loss of a reference city, it reappears the very next turn, and the effect is minor unless it causes the fall of a regional government at a time when it cannot be reinstated before the next stability check. [Three provincial governments of the region must be operative at start of the turn for the regional government to be formed, that is, before a provincial government can be reinstated. This causes a delay by one game turn if one of the three provincial governments has been toppled through loss of a reference city and has dragged the regional one down with it.] On the other hand, the loss of a dot city such as Linfen or Loyang would bring the provincial government down until the city is recaptured, which might take longer. As to casualties, the danger is low-odds attacks by the Chinese hordes. The Chinese can afford massive losses in their attacks, the Japanese cannot when defending. This is what makes the now rising “human waves” dangerous and explains the seemingly cowardly Japanese tactics in Honan,
Hupei, and Kiangsi where they face them. Although at an advantage, the Japanese haven’t won yet. As Yogi Berra was wont to say, it ain’t over before it’s over.

The so far successful Japanese tactic against the human wave is to concentrate in one central stack that blocks the road and is too strong to be taken on frontally, and then to retreat just as far as necessary to avoid being attacked from more than one hex. This must be paid for with some loss of conquered territory, but at the present time territory is less important than to avoid losses.

The Fukien expedition was designed to liquidate the MSF once and for all (For non-WoRers, MSF stands for miscellaneous southern factions). Its provinces are Chekiang and Fukien, and all of Chekiang is held by Japan. No MSF units were left on the map except at Foochow and Nanping. If all replacement cities of a faction have been captured, all replacements points are lost and no further ones accumulate (40.B.3). Replacements start to accrue again only if a replacement city is recaptured by the original owner (the faction), and the lone MSF 1-4 that might or might not get away into the mountains will
hardly be able to do that. If I misinterpreted the rules here, maybe Mark Royer will again set me straight again.

Night terror bombing was started as an insurance policy. There is not enough AA to have much effect at night, terror hits can help to offset stabilization points the Chinese might still gain with guerrilla and suicidal human wave attacks or toppling of regional governments in a new Tet offensive, and ARPs to repair air units aborted in crash landings are in ample supply. The only other productive employment for the airforce at this point would have been a systematic bombing campaign against the South China seaports to choke off imports and western foreign aid, but that would have taken time to make itself felt.

The Chinese faced a difficult problem in deciding when to spring their guerrilleros again. The ideal obviously is a simultaneous new Tet in all the provinces, coordinated with human wave attacks by the regular front troops in Hupei, Anhwei, and Kiangsu. To wait for the arrival of the new recruits in June
I would allow a build-up to maximum guerrilla strength. However, by that time the Japanese might have strengthened their rear area security again, as they are apt to do now that their current offensives have mostly run their course. What tipped the scales and made the command decide to hold until June I is that a chief aim is to have the regional governments of North and Central China toppled and not reinstated before the July I stability check. Since there is no realistic chance of recapturing a major or dot city, the regional governments will reappear like Phoenix from the ashes with only one turn delay after reference cities have been lost. This calls for activation of the bases and maximum guerrillero deployment at the end of the June I exploitation phase and all-out attack on reference cities in Hopei, Honan, Shansi, Kiangsu, and Anhwei in June II. An earlier start might or might not have more success in killing some Japanese garrisons, but would expose the guerrilleros and their bases to massive retaliation before the critical June II turn. Only the future can show whether the decision on timing was correct. That a technicality in the victory conditions should seriously affect such timing decisions is probably not intended. Maybe the Chinese could be given stability points for recapture of cities and toppling of puppet governments during the entire time span since the last stability check?

APRIL II 1938

APRIL II 1938

Rain and mud in the far north, nice spring weather in central China, frequent rain squalls heralding the monsoon season in the south. Seas rough at the central coast, stormy in the South China Sea.

Japanese Player Turn

Three new puppet governments installed! Shansi’s has taken its seat at Yanku, one for Kiangsu has been formed at Shanghai, and a new one for Kwangtung has been imposed over unruly Canton.

At Linfen the evicted defenders trying to escape into the mountains are being pursued and battered [another DH]. The mountain divisions in Shansi went about their accustomed job of partisan hunting in the Taiheng Mountains with a vengeance. They found the main guerrilla base and wiped it out. Lin Piao escaped on the skin of his teeth. His whereabouts are unknown.

At the Honan-Shensi border the troops kept to their positions. The Honan cities on and north of the rail line along the Yellow River remain strongly garrisoned.

North of Hankow a screen of light units is advancing cautiously, protecting engineers engaged in bridge repair. The only engagement was a bitter encounter of leading 16 Division with factional rearguards at the Hwai river near Hsingyang [HX].

The Big Bend of the Yangtze is now cleared. 26 division advanced to a position opposite Kiukiang at the north end of Lake Po Yang to block any further river barge traffic to points downstream and to Nanchang. Screening units reached the Yangtze at Hwangkang, just 40 miles downstream of the Tri Cities (Hankow-Hanyang-Wuchang). On the Yangtze’s south bank, undefended Wuhu was seized. The might of the Central China Army was concentrated on KMT VII Corps that had been shielding the retreat along the Yangtze. One of its elite divisions was decimated, the others are in danger of being cut off. An alert KMT headquarters averted disaster one more time [successful reaction roll!].

Security troops [two broken-down static divisions] were brought in from Japan to Shanghai and northern Kiangsu in a determined effort to pacify this populous and unruly province and put an end to Chinese recruiting. Two newly raised KMT units were tracked down and liquidated. South of the Shantung border, MG battalions formed a screen to prevent any KMT remnants from spreading guerrilla warfare to that so far peaceful region.

9 Division on the Hangchow-Nanchang road, faced with a superior enemy, is retreating slowly toward Shangjao to avoid being encircled.

13 Division was ferried from Nanking to Putien and advanced farther toward Foochow, liquidating a feeble factional battalion. They now have the city in their sights, but rain and flooding play havoc with the supply line to their base [unfortunately, Putien is in the midst of flooded rice paddies]. The Marines meanwhile advanced along the coast to the town of Changlo, opening up another small harbor that can be used for supplies.

On the mainland near Amoy the last remnants of the fortress garrison, mainly gun crews, were hunted down in the rice paddies by security troops.
[Ironically, the DH in the amphibious assault had eliminated the 1-2-2* fortress brigade and let the 0-1-4* artillery, of all things, escape to the mainland and into the paddies. Defending alone at zero strength they stood no chance even in excellent defensive terrain.]

No longer needed at Amoy, the Shanghai and Sasebo Marines transferred to the Putien beachhead, handing protection of the area over to security forces, and the Japanese airforce took on the airfields at Foochow and Nanping and plowed them over thoroughly. Outnumbered Soviet I-152 fighters took to their heels rather than face the music [they scrambled rather than attempting to intercept]. The port of Foochow remains blockaded.

Chinese Player Turn

Far up north in the Wutai Mountains a factional units continues its waiting game while another inches it way from the west to join them. Farther south in Shansi the last survivors of Linfen escaped into the Taiheng Mountains and went underground [would have liked to cross the mountains before establishing a guerrilla base, but that would have been caught in the attempt]. A regiment of CCP regulars is awaiting its chance to cross the central valley and also sneak into the Taiheng range.

Meanwhile in Shensi, KMT commanders gave their troops quite a talking-to, laced with hints of “or else.” This worked: The CCP base in the loess country was found and liquidated. Mao Tse-Dong escaped and is fuming, vowing revenge. However, he is shrewd enough to figure that Japan is his enemy number one and that the KMT can be dealt with farther down the line.

North of Hankow the massed troops of the KMT and from provinces far and wide arose from their positions and started advancing northward. The start of the human wave?

In Kiangsu the remaining KMT detachments found they had nowhere to go and decided to go underground. One did not make it in time and faces certain annihilation.

The troops on the Yangtze’s left bank retreat at best deliberate speed. A corps of Yunnan divisions is blocking the road at Chinchow to slow the Japanese advance.

In Kiangsi a human wavelet is in motion, giving Japanese 9 Division no respite on its retreat.

Foochow commander Qin Yong gave out last reserves of ammunition to his beleaguered troops [a foreign aid ASP had been hoarded for such an occasion]. The monsoon rains have given him a breather, but will not avert the inevitable end. At Nanping in Upstate Fukien new troops were raised in defiance of both the Japanese and the KMT.

APRIL I 1938

APRIL I 1938

The storm fronts have passed. The sun shines and the ground has dried
wherever it matters. The seas have calmed. Can you wish for more?

Japanese Player Turn

A regional North China government under Japan’s auspices has taken its seat in Tsingtao. Now that any threat from Shansi has faded, long idle Jehol cavalry from Kweihwating bestirred themselves to take out the small garrison of Paotao, end of the rail line in Mongolia. 11 Army in Shansi speeded up its advance on Linfen. After supplies were rushed forward [rail and SMPs], two divisions attacked the city and seized it, but some of the defenders escaped [DH]. Meanwhile, the mountain divisions pounced on a brigade of CCP regulars from the Shensi guerrilla base who tried to sneak into the Taiheng Mountains. That encounter was bloody, but none of the infiltrators got through [HX]. A half-hearted guerrilla sweep by the garrisons of the Hopei towns remained unsuccessful.

All quiet in the Yellow River valley. Covering forces protect Shanhsien (close to the Shensi border), Loyang, Chengchow, and Kaifeng. Two divisions and assorted small fry are marching south toward Hankow. Engineers and construction units are arriving to start repairing the countless destroyed bridges in the water wonderland between China’s the two mighty rivers. In the Big Bend country of the Yangtze between Nanking and Hankow the mop-up continues. The last KMT remnants at Lake Chao were bagged and a few forlorn stragglers were caught before they could escape across the Great River.

The city of Hwaining was seized without a fight. With help of one of the divisions from the southern wing and 108 Division diverted from 2 Army in Honan, isolated Nanking was stormed at a surprisingly low cost in casualties [DR at 4:1]. Dead tired from the turmoil of the past weeks the city remained quiet [no rampage]. Engineers are working overtime to rebuild dismantled track and are preparing to raise the rail ferry.
[Can’t find rules for destruction and repair of rail ferries, so we are using the same rules as for bridges over major rivers.]

Farther south, the advance on Wuhu, weakened by the release of one of its best divisions, gained a few miles against KMT VII Corps [DR at 6:1 -1]. In northern Kiangsu the catch-me-if-you-can continues. Two KMT brigades that had not managed to go underground in time were liquidated. The chase is on for two others on the move north toward Shantung, the one province that so far has escaped guerrilla disruption.

The stalemate on the Hangchow-Nanchang road continues. No troops and supplies can be spared to jump-start this drive again as long as the battle of the Yangtze is still in full swing. A static brigade from Japan and siege artillery held in reserve on Formosa disembarked at Putien and, with the Kure Marines in the van, attacked toward Foochow while a security regiment from Shantung took over the protection of the port. They made short shrift of a factional brigade blocking the way, but are still 30 miles short of their objective and too weak anyway to tackle it alone.

Anxious to strike before the start of the monsoon season, the Shanghai and Sasebo Marines took on Amoy. With all-out support by 5th Fleet and aircraft from the Pescadores, Formosa, and the carriers the island fortress was stormed. A few defenders scurried to the mainland hoping for sanctuary in the rice paddies [DH]. Coastal steamers that tried to escape were sunk. One more big port seized! The Fleet lost no time departing to assume a blockade of Foochow, last unconquered port on the Fukien coast.

Chinese Player Turn

As had to be expected, the reverses of the last few weeks have further eroded public confidence. Despite all his best efforts, Chiang Kai-Shek sees his hold onto power slip. The future looks dimmer than ever. [Stability level dropped to 1. Maximum geographical objective points, two operative regional governments, and more than six guerrilla bases in existence gave Japan a solid lead despite points for air and ground unit losses. Only random rolls higher by 3 for China would have saved the day.] To add insult to injury, the factions in Fukien have had their fill and refuse any further cooperation. There had been deep dissatisfaction with the utter lack of assistance from the central government except for the arrival of a few beat-up fighter aircraft and with the fact that foreign aid unloaded at Fukien ports was diverted to other provinces. The fall of Amoy was the last straw. The Soviet fighter aircraft at Foochow hurriedly rebased to other fields while the KMT Marines in the city found themselves unceremoniously evicted .
[With Chekiang gone and Fukien on the brink, the MSF were no longer considered worth a bribe and, with 2D6 of “3,” promptly became uncooperative. In game terms this is of little consequence, though, as the Japanese still have to fight the renegades.]

Pestered no end by the local Shensi command and intent of scoring a success for a change, Chiang Kai-Shek overruled the moderates in his cabinet and reverted to his old strategy of hitting the CCP, come what may and to hell with public opinion. He gave free rein to the Shensi garrison to do all they
can to wipe out the guerrilla base in the loess country. The military brass in the province are jubilant, the soldiers to do the job less so. A first sweep promptly was a dismal failure [1D6 “1” -1 for NE even with 15 attack factors (DRM -1 in fair weather, my saying -2 in March II was a typo)].

Meanwhile the troops at the Shansi border extended their positions both north and south in preparation for a broad-front advance, but did not cross the border. New recruits were raised in northern Kiangsu to keep the Japanese security forces on their toes. Two brigades made further headway toward Shantung, but a lack of almost everything makes the going painfully slow [isolation, no supply].

At the lower Yangtze the retreat continued. Wuhu was evacuated except for engineers to destroy the freight yard. VII Corps is retreating parallel to the river in order to block any Japanese attempts to cut the troops off. At Yukiang on the Hangchow-Nanchang road, additional reinforcements arrived. The troops fanned out both north and south and are threatening to encircle the Japanese 9 Division. The garrison of Foochow is bracing for the inevitable. A small airlift from Hankow with desperately needed ammunition was received with jubilation but did not change the governor’s resolve to go his own way.

Finally, at long last a success! At Canton a KMT division had laboriously worked its way around the city toward the south and joined up with an artillery-supported factional outfit that had come down the Hsi and another ferried in along the coast. The little army attacked and overpowered the Japanese regiment that had been garrisoning the port of Sunwul. Peanuts, but a victory nevertheless: a fried egg on your hand is better than a broiled chicken on the roof. News spread, and a popular uproar in Canton forced the despised puppet government to resign, throwing into disarray all efforts to raise Japanese-controlled military and police units.

To shift KMT recruiting into high gear, ex logistics czar Chern Jia-Ming was appointed Minister for Manpower. On his orders, KMT recruiters are ruthlessly combing the countryside of the western provinces. Any and all healthy males they can find are herded to Yangtze ports to be crowded onto barges bound for Hankow, where new KMT divisions are being raised.

Comments

The expedition to Paotao, last Suiyan city, puts a stop to Chinese recruiting in that province. It cost the attack supply at Kweihwating that had been hoarded for defense, but seemed no longer needed.

The fall of Nanking and the forthcoming formation of a provincial Kiangsu puppet government give Japan quite a boost by unifying and greatly increasing the capacity of the supply net (Shanghai alone contributes 9 pts) and linking the main and Shanghai-Hangchow rail nets. Yet, the war has ceased
to be a purely military affair, if it ever was. The greatest problem for Japan now is how to police effectively a vast and hostile chunk of land in the face of pervasive infiltration and proliferating guerrilla bases.

The planning of the Amoy venture was a gamble. It would have had to be canceled if monsoon rain with rough seas had arrived. As it turned out, not even the available attack supply was needed.

The April stability roll done with, the Chinese decision to attack the CCP guerrilla base in Shensi was based on the expectation to wipe it out with one or two sweeps in the good-weather season so that the garrison troops can attack into Honan and Shansi. A gamble for sure, but only desperate gambles can now save the day. Another alternative to just sitting still would have been to defy the garrison requirement and attack into Honan now. That, however, would have resulted in a stability penalty every turn for the remainder of the game. Better an end with horror than horror without end! Quite apart from the fact that the complete lack of attack supply and any means of securing it would have made an offensive difficult to sustain despite numerical superiority.

The loss of Sunwul and the resulting fall of the Kwangtung puppet government are little more than an annoyance for Japan. Since Canton and Swatow are still in their hands, a new puppet government will be installed right away. The port of Sunwul is not needed and was in fact a drag on manpower. Better to lose it now than later with a lot of puppet brigades raised in the meantime.

It will be difficult to keep the stability level from dropping to zero in July. The only silver lining is that recruitment has begun to outpace losses. This makes it possible to assemble a massive army around Hankow, though of admittedly inferior troops, and has given the Chinese one last trump card: At any time the can unleash a human-wave offensive from Hankow into Honan, coordinated with another Tet-style guerrilla operation in Hopei, Kiangsu, and possibly Shantung, and, after the CCP base in Shensi has been liquidated, an offensive from Shensi into Honan and Shansi. Although the troops have little combat value and almost all will operate without supply, their sheer numbers might swamp the Japanese. If some cities can be recaptured, provincial puppet governments will fall and drag regional ones down with them. This and luck with the random rolls can avert disaster one more time. Hope springs eternally!

YEAR’S END 1937

The Year in Review (includes Jan 38 stability check):

Since the start of the war in July, the Japanese have taken over Shahar and Inner Mongolia, conquered all of Hopei and Shantung, and advanced to a line that is just short of the course of the old Yellow River (forward of Chengchow, Kaifeng, Tungshan, and Tunghai). They have also taken Shanghai and Hangchow and are close to Nanking from that direction. An excursion of theirs into Shansi failed to take Yanku, the provincial capital, and had to recalled when rear communications were cut. In the south they have captured most of Canton city after an amphibious assault. They have installed new provincial governments in Shahar, Inner Mongolia, Hopei, and Shantung as well as a regional government
for Mongolia.

Yet, so far the invasion has been a mixed success and has left many in Tokyo impatient. The invaders are at the point of becoming overextended. They now struggle with serious supply shortages, and in the conquered provinces except Shantung they must contend with massive guerrilla uprisings that sap their strength. Moreover, the military leaders in China appear to be losing clout at home and are likely to see dwindling support and demands for troop releases. Although a good chunk of China has been conquered, much has yet to be accomplished, and it could still turn out that the invaders bit off more than they can chew. In the words of one Japanese general who refused to be identified: “There are 300 million Chinese; we can’t kill them all.”

On the other side, Chang Kai-Shek’s hold onto the reins seems to be slipping, no wonder after the impending loss of Canton and threatening decimation of his prized 1 Army in Honan! Serious trouble might be ahead for him, and the Chinese will to resist could collapse with his fall. [Stability level dropped to “2” in January. Actually, Canton and the plight of 1 Army had no effect on the stability check this time as they have not occurred as yet. In game terms, although the Japanese are ahead of historic performance with respect to points for cities conquered, the outcome was quite close: A very
high Chinese and very low Japanese random die roll could have kept the level unchanged. Also, the level might have remained so if the capital had stayed in Nanking, for 3 additional stabilization points. That can be argued, though, because the Japanese then would probably have gone for Nanking before Canton and might well have taken that city before year’s end.]

In game terms, the current situation is clearly in favor of the Japanese. With the points accruing for capture of at least Canton, Yungkia, and Pengpu and the formation of other provincial puppet governments in Chekiang and possibly Kwangtung, the stability level is likely to decrease again in April. However, no one should interpret this as an imbalance of the game in Japan’s favor. I have made unintentional tactical and strategic mistakes impartially for both sides, but it so happened that the Chinese ones had the more serious and more immediate consequences. Also, though conservative, I’m
temperamentally an aggressive player and probably better at devising Japanese offensives than Chinese measures to counter them, simply because for me that is more fun.

Japanese errors:

  • Too wasteful of resource points early on, including spending some on railway upgrading at a wrong place.
  • Not enough rear area security (this is coming to haunt them now with Tet).
  • Too much strength poured into Hopei-Honan offensive, from where troops are not easily shifted to other fronts, and leaving Shanghai front not strong enough for decisive action.
  • Canton operation without back-up by capture of nearby port city.

Chinese errors:

  • Not enough troops in and around Canton in initial set-up, reinforcement of that city too slow and not at highest possible efficiency (airlift too late, not enough artillery in first reinforcements, too few RTs shifted to Hsi while there was time, too few RFs and TFs moved to Hsi estuary before Nov II).
  • Tsingtao garrison left too weak.
  • Retreat by 1 Army from Tsinan initiated too late.
  • Move of KMT government to Chungking (fortunately corrected before harm was done).
  • Possibly, guerrilleros in Hopei should have been used more aggressively earlier. It may also turn out that Tet was launched prematurely, with not yet sufficient strength accumulated.
  • Not enough largesse when bribing warlords.

No doubt experienced players can add a lot more to this list. Please do!

Signing off for 1937 with the Chinese version of Auld laung syne and hoping you’ll had fun with the reports so far.

DECEMBER I 1937

DECEMBER I 1937

Pleasant weather almost like Indian summer, with calm seas except at
that usual trouble spot: southern Formosa.

Japanese Player Turn

All eyes are on Canton. Although the Divine Wind master plan had called for a direct attack to seize the harbor, the idea was scrapped as too risky after the defenders had received massive reinforcements. However, by throwing all his weight into the harbor district, Gen. Wu left his other defenses weak. Divine Wind’s Nagumo countered by moving his two divisions across the narrow straits to attack the eastern part of the city instead. With economy of force he relied mainly on his siege guns to have his troops penetrate deep into the city at little expenditure of scarce ammunition [only siege guns draw their 1RE worth supply from ASP ashore]. His reinforcements–another infantry brigade and more artillery–were also landed on the east shore of the estuary. Meanwhile, south of the city the Shanghai Marines moved west to the road to Macao and, assisted by gunboats on the river, made short shrift of a Kwangtung factional division stationed there and then pushed on westward. Coastal barges [an RT] entered the river and posted themselves to function as ferries if needed.
[Whew! Tradewind at Shanghai was a walk in the park compared with this!]

While Canton’s little airforce had busied themselves providing CAP and ground support for the defenders of the harbor, Japanese carrier aircraft attacked the Changsha-Canton rail line, but failed to achieve results. Long-range bombers from Formosa proved better at that job [1 hit].

Meanwhile up north in Shansi, 14 and 108 Divisions reversed their advance on Yanku to clear the Ladies’ Pass in their rear, rolling over an outmatched Shansi division but failing to make contact with the remnants of CCP 120, who had faded into the mountains.

At the Yellow River, 2 Army occupied deserted Kaifeng and Chengchow. One division was split off to reconnoiter toward Loyang. The main body of 2 Army advanced southeastward to engage and begin to envelop the west wing of KMT 1 Army. No major combat actions here.

1 Army also pressed forward relentlessly toward Tungshan and points west hard on the enemy’s heels, providing the eastern pincer squeezing KMT 1 Army. For lack of supplies, still stalled at the Tsinan Yellow River bridge, only one limited attack here [DR]. On their left the troops from the Shantung peninsula crossed the Grand Canal and are approaching the Tungshan-Nanking rail line.

The Shanghai front is almost totally stalled for lack of supply [no ASP]. Only one limited attack was launched south of the rail line to Nanking and succeeded in wiping out one KMT division [tactic here is to concentrate for one attack, then spread out again in exploitation to cover the front anew].
South of Lake Tai a loose picket line of reserve brigades was set up forward of the Grand Canal while 9 Division and subordinate units surged forward unopposed heading south toward Kinhwa and east toward Ningpo. [Haven’t been there myself, but my maps show Ningpo as 15 miles inland and Chinhai as the port.]

Chinese Player Turn

A brouhaha ensued at Yanku, where Shansi troops, no great friends of Chiang Kai-Shek’s administration, became incensed over the KMT commander’s insistence to keep his own men safe and comfortable in the city while letting the Commie comrades take it on the chin. They defected en masse to the guerrillas. Shansi General Yen Hsi-Shan is refusing further cooperation with the central government. [I sounded off too soon about those cooperation rolls. This time Shansi rolled snake eyes for downward shift despite bribe of a res pt, and the buy-off attempt with 3 res pts failed. Greater largesse is called for!] However, enough KMT and loyal factional defenders are left in Yanku to make it a hard nut to crack. Moreover, the Shansi troops around the Ladies’ Pass kept to their positions, so the Japanese now have other worries than to attack the city.

To add insult to injury, the CCP 115 brigade that had not gone underground sortied from the Taiheng Mountains into the Hopei plain and now sits defiantly astride the Shihkiachuang-Chengchow rail line, the lifeline of the Japanese forces in Honan. Add successful guerrilla sabotage of the rail lines and you see the reasons for the smile on Lin Piao’s face. Japan’s negligence in not keeping the rear properly protected has come home to roost!

Farther south, 4 Army retreated slightly to put more distance between itself and the Japanese at the Yellow River, leaving destroyed bridges in its wake. The blocking position on the Chengchow-Siking road was reinforced by a newly raised factional Honan division.

In contrast, 1 Army is faring less well in its retreat from Tsinan. For lack of a rail line straight back and constantly harassed by the Japanese, its main body with most of Chiang’s best divisions has been too slow, and a crisis is in the offing. A saving grace is the fighting strength and still excellent cohesion of this formation, which will deny the Japanese victories as easy as they have got used to. The right wing of the Army is in fighting withdrawal from the Grand Canal. KMT 32 Division was left behind in Tungshan to defend that city to the last and gain time for the general retreat.

The westward advance of the Japanese forces from the Shantung peninsula to the Grand Canal has left a wide gap on their southern flank. A few ad hoc formations that could be spared north of the Yangtze river estuary are moving toward this gap in an attempt to reoccupy the ports of Tunghai and
Lienyunkang.

On the approaches to Nanking, KMT VII Corps is digging in forward of Shaohsing to deny the ex-capital to the enemy as long as possible. All is quiet to the south, where screening forces in the Tienmu hill country and a weak Japanese picket line of reserve brigades face one another. Still farther south, a coherent front no longer exists. Nothing can be thrown in to block Japanese excursions along the rail line to Kinhwa. The garrison of Yungkia [last Chekiang dot city still held by the Chinese] has been reinforced by new draftees, but the road to Ningpo and Chinhai is wide open.

Everything was done to expedite the transfer of reinforcements to Canton. All Yangtze river shipping was used to ferry KMT troops, including two elite divisions, to river ports from where they could be railed south. Most of the scarce rolling stock was shifted to the Changsha-Canton line. However, because of the bomb damage to the rail line, only a trickle of reinforcements has as yet reached the endangered city. This may be too little, too late.

In Canton itself, Gen. Wu still maintained his concentration of strength in the harbor district to deny the port facilities to the enemy as long as possible, even though that left little to beef up the defenses in the other parts of the city. Having delivered one last output of goods, both factories were dismantled in preparation for transfer, should there still be time for that.

Comments:

It certainly turns out to have been a mistake not to pack Canton with troops right in the initial set-up. No one can predict whether the Tokyo Mandate restrictions will not be lifted early, and a scantily garrisoned Canton then is a tempting prize. With their powerful NGS the Japanese pack quite a wallop, particularly if the Shanghai TF has been freed and the weather gods are kind. The operation is expensive in terms of res pts for landing craft and extra shipping, but the pay-out seems worth the cost.

The Japanese might have been well-advised to secure a Hainan coastal city before attacking Canton. That would have given them an airbase for use by aircraft with range too short to operate from Formosa, as well as a port with 30 MP for RFs to replenish in and then return to Canton with still 90 MP left for NGS preparation (good idea, courtesy Mike Tapner on this list. Still on a learning curve, I overlooked this one, but then you can’t do everything with limited resources).

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