A153 - Totsugeki

Another repost from a game vs FargoGamer first published January 2014. This was our first foray into PTO

My first PTO scenario is apparently something of a classic – Totsugeki, Nationalist Chinese versus Imperial Japanese in Burma. I have the honour of being the Chinese.
Historical Background
The Nationalists proved masters of promising much and delivering little to the Americans and soaking up all the weapons and equipment provided to increase their chances versus the Communist Chinese forces after the current war ended. The US had deliberately ignored the flaws in Chaing Kai Shek’s regime for years but eventually they too began to gain a jaded view of ‘the peanut’ (to Quote Stillwell) and his will to actually fight the Japanese in the manner the US expected. Recognising this Chaing allowed Stillwell to arm and train several divisions with much closer US oversight and during the Burmese war these troops were sometimes even permitted to operate.
 General Sun Li-Jen
One of these divisions was the 38th infantry division under the capable command of General Sun Li-Jen. Stillwell tasked these troops with clearing a valley as a prelude to a major attack and Sun eventually decided to split his force with a regimental sized combat team attacking the flanks of the in place Japanese 18th Division whilst his remaining forces attacked frontally. As often happens though the plan immediately came under difficulties when the enveloping force (the 114th Infantry Regiment and the 6th Field artillery battery) moved to cross the river Tanai at Kantau where they collided with Japanese infantry.
Not expecting to make contact at this point the enveloping force was considerably separated and unable to co-ordinate. They did not pull back though and a vicious fight was soon raging around the guns whose commander threw everyone into protecting them. This is the engagement the scenario is covering.
 Situation Enemy Forces
We are facing the IJA army and though we outnumber the opposition the enemy has better firepower, better range and much better morale/general resilience. Their officer cadre is confident. Japanese weaknesses are that though the officers have high morale they do not seem that talented (only one negative one) and they have only a small time to fulfill their objectives. Plus we know exactly where they are going.  In terms of weaponry they have nothing to shout home about with a light scattering of machine guns and the more annoying sight of a mortar which can utilize smoke.
Situation Friendly Forces
The Chinese in this scenario consist of troops from one of the US trained/equipped divisions, this explains the large amount of officers including a mighty neg one. The artillery guns are decent US M1A1′s which would hit with a direct infantry hit on the twelve column allowing for no other adjustments or the six column for area fire, canister has unfortunately been disallowed by scenario rules. Plus we have a decent amount of support weapons to increase our firepower from our rather lamentable basic three. Most troops in the Stillwell trained divisions were armed by the Americans so usually have better firepower than standard Nationalist troops but as these were all artillerymen so the restriction makes sense.
Though the terrain is Jungle we have the lesser Light Jungle in play which should allow slightly more opportunities for more damaging defensive firepower though equally troops will move faster.
The Plan
I intend to have my forces in two lines the first as far South as they can go (without permitting Japanese to get in close combat first turn without going CX that is) and the second close behind. The second providing covering fire to allow the first line to move back. Once I can see where the Japanese Schwerpunkt is I can then react as required. Foxholes have been placed so as to protect the rear of my leftmost guns.
The two Russian concealment counters indicate my two HIP formations. The one in the Bamboo at Z3 comprises the 9-1 and a 3-3-7 Dare Death. Next to them in AA4 are two 3-3-7’s with an medium machine gun concealed. Hopefully my opponent will see a gap in the middle and try and target the machine gun. If they do this provides a good opportunity for a hopefully successful Close combat. The other Hidden unit just has the 7-0 with a 3-3-7 dare death squad and they are more a last ditch reserve. As my troops fall back someone can occupy the foxholes and should the Japanese take this side first I can use the U8 troops to potentially counter-attack and re-seize the gun. I will probably attempt to get the guns to fire on obvious side squares to increase acquisition and push the approaching menace the direction I wish them to go.
The X8 foxhole is there to provide extra protection for troops (hopefully) arriving to protect the gun and to allow an easy fire land to block troops attempting to cross the road though I recognise there is now a nice protected path between both guns for the Japanese to use as well.
Sergeant Yong Zheng rested his spade and surveyed his work proudly. Behind him stood the squat shiny gun barrel of the US made M1A1. To the irritation of their American trainers the men of the 6th Gun Battery had polished the barrel until it shone which was having  unfortunate repercussions with regard to camouflage.. *  Before him stood several perfectly sized foxholes being well camouflaged with jungle debris by several of his men. Work parties were gathering in the distance to cut down trees and prepare fire lanes for his big gun and Zheng was well satisfied. He had had no intention of joining the Nationalist army and would have preferred to avoid it but having been conscripted he had done his best plus been rapidly promoted and anyway it was always better to face the Japanese than fellow Red Chinese who he had a secret respect for – not that he could ever vocalise such an opinion in this particular army.
A commotion started behind him and he stood smartly to attention holding the spade like his rifle as he recognised the sounds of approaching officers. His Captain soon appeared followed by a couple of alarmed looking Lieutenants. The Captain stopped, glaring into the jungle line his scowl only interrupted when it passed over one of his beloved guns.
“We must leave Sir the Japanese are approaching and are infantry supports are nowhere to be found!”, This was Lieutenant Gang. Zheng did not like Gang particularly as he appeared to prefer being a martinet to being a soldier and after three years in the army Zheng was dismissive of such people.
“General Sun does not want us to sacrifice ourselves to fill the Americans greed or fight their war, let them kill each other!”, Gang was nothing if not persistent Zheng mused quietly to himself.
The Captain glanced over at the Lieutenant then over to Zheng who had not moved, “You! The Japanese are approaching do you want to run or fight”
Zheng thought a second or two, “Yong Duizhang, the Americans have fed us, armed us and trained us. They even pay us on time! If we leave without a fight might they not do these things any longer?”
“Excellent attitude soldier”, he swung back to the Lieutenant who was glaring now at Zheng in a way that indicated he was adding his name to a list which it would not be pleasant to be on if they both survived the combat, ” General Sun would not want us to waste our lives though General Sun would also not want us to run at the first sight of the enemy and put his own face at risk with the Generalissimo. Take the first two platoons and delay the enemy so we can protect our guns!”
 “But we are not infantry – we are artillery”
 “We were infantry before becoming artillery and I am sure it is just like riding a bicycle”
The Lieutenant opened his mouth to argue further but snapped it shut as the Captain commanded “NOW, Lieutenant”
As he ran off the Captain swung back to Zheng, “hold this position Sergeant, do not lose my Gun” and left in the same direction.
 Turn One
The Japanese swarmed on board concentrating on the left and centre primarily. Unexpectedly they did not seem keen to come to grips quickly and most of them assault moved.
On my turn not much of note occurred. I slowly moved backward hoping the Japanese would continue slowly and ‘forgot’ about my own HIP unit pulling back the large stack with the machine gun that was supposed to provide ambush fodder. I also started to get nervous that I was not causing any casualties so I trailed a single squad on the left flank hoping I could start to lay some pain down. As so often happens in ASL this proved a surprisingly success, though not due to talent but a combination of luck and both our lack of familiarity with PTO scenarios.
 End of Chinese Turn 1, the Russian concealment counters are on my board only and are to remind me of the location of my HIP units
 Japanese turn Two: The bamboo squads advanced in and stripped concealment of my hidden forces. I promptly unleashed a hail of fire at point blank range and  both Japanese squads red lined followed by a subsequent fire shot which reduced one of those to a half squad. We had spent some time deciding what the squiggly line in the bamboo was and eventually settled on a dry gully (incorrectly as apparently it is a path, fortunately that did not invalidate what we actually did with that assumption). Elsewhere I took several shots at the IJA troops in the kunai on the left to no avail.  A Japanese 10.0 leader suddenly appeared on the left with a DC and moved forwards towards the units in W5 and V5 these shot at him to no avail and he planted his dc which exploded killing a 3-3-7 and breaking the officer and remaining squad who routed backwards leaving the machine gun behind. 10-0 are scary mother**ckers especially with DCs…
Elsewhere the diminished bamboo IJA shot at point blank at the dare death squads and caused a large morale check which the officer passed but the squad failed. During the rout phase they left the bamboo and bumped into the concealed stack in AA4 exposing a 9-1 officer. The 3-3-7 returned to the bamboo and was destroyed for failure to rout. In the Advance phase the bamboo japs advanced into CC with the solitary officer and a large concealed stack did the same to the solitary concealed stack in X4.
Close combat eventually occurred with my lonely solitary leader being addressed first. No ambush was carried out (though perhaps we should have made the roll as we were not certain if the dry gully was ambush terrain or not. After querying this on GS we found the path would have been ambush terrain) The IJA needed 11 and rolled a 10 so killing my officer. In the return attack my Officer on his own at 1:6 odds needed a 4 and got a 3. All involved were killed. All in all I was very satisfied (and lucky) with that hidden placement having taken out two full squads of Japanese troops.
The other combat definitely needed an ambush check and as the IJA were concealed they had a good chance of getting this but then rolled a 5 dropping to a 3 (-1 Stealthy, -2 concealed +1 attacker in jungle) and I followed with another 5 as well so woot! no ambush. My valiant opponent then revealed a 9-0 with a dc and 2 4-4-7s so the IJA needed a 10 to win which they obtained easily whereas my squad at 1:4 odds needed a straight 5 (hand to hand is hardcore) and rolled another 3! So for the destruction of one Chinese squad a further two Japanese squads plus a leader were removed.
End of Japanese turn 2. The officer who set of the DC can be seen on the left with the dc on the floor representing the last fight location of two IJA squads. As can the lonely Chinese LMG at the site of the other fight to the death.
Chinese turn 2: I kept my ‘slow retreat plan’ for turn two and pulled back my troops. This is where we stopped for the night with things looking decidedly weird. The Chinese forces are still almost intact though the officer loss might hurt long term. There are not a lot of hexes that I can pull back to now as the fight for the guns will begin in earnest. On the Japanese side those two combats have destroyed almost 40% of their force and those that remain are separated by a small gap.  Next week I will try and move my troops around the guns and try and funnel the enemy to dangerous hexes. I have enough troops to mass in two rows so can also counter attack any local incursions through my lines.
Lieutenant Gang ducked as more Japanese troops passed his position. Things had gone pear shaped when two full Japanese squads had attempted to enter his position. The brief fire fight had cost the enemy casualties – he could see the bodies still lying around the bamboo but had also cost him his own squad which had panicked and disintegrated in the hail of return fire. Now there was just him. He gripped his Jian nervously – the sword was a family heirloom with an Honorable history. Though he disagreed with his Captains decision he did not plan on doing anything to counter that decision once made. Along the path several Japanese could be seen approaching. Dropping into a marital stance he offered up some prayers and with a yell charged the enemy. Reacting quickly several took snap shots but missed and Gang smashed into the front troops expertly swiping the bayonets aside before cutting down their possessors. The Japanese had not expected this attack and their numbers were counting against them. Gang though was on a suicide mission and knew it.  Spinning he swung around to the last three surviving enemies. These separated and attempted to surround him. With a yell he swung forward thrusting his blade through the first’s neck only to feel the agonising thrust of a bayonet penetrating his back and lung. Coughing blood he spun backwards decapitating the sergeant who had wounded him. Energy almost gone he fell to his knees and looked through fading eyes at the last remaining opponent who, shaking, was moving forward. With one last herculean effort he flung himself forward and as another bayonet penetrated his heart he drove his bloodied weapon into his opponent’s chest. Both collapsed and died entwined together.
Now my opponent could be forgiven for failing his personal morale at this point but he passed and the boot was certainly transferred to the other foot!
Japanese Turn 3: The Japanese engaged aggressively this turn and in my mistaken confidence I decided to use my now superior numbers to shoot him to pieces. Unfortunately the dice did not oblige. As an example of the sort of horrible shooting I was pulling of at one point I broke concealment to reveal two 3-3-7’s with a Medium Machine Gun and took a 20 flat shot at a Japanese squad in the next hex only to both miss and destroy the Medium Machine Gun. Most of my shooting rolls were equally ineffectual and to add insult to injury the Japanese sniper woke up and pinned a key defensive squad. When the Japanese returned fire it was a different story and a large section of my front line simply disintegrated into a mass of panicked artillerymen. The right hand gun was taken by shooting in this fashion..  Capped with my worrying failure to rally my broken officer meant I was starting to see worrying gaps in my defence.
Chinese Turn 3. Remembering how well close combat had helped me last week I decided to play for high stakes and moved squads into even/better odds combat versus the Japanese. I sent two squads on the left onto the single Japanese elite, one squad versus the lonely officer and another single squad versus the officer plus crew. At best I should be able to wipe out the first squad and if lucky win either of the other two. Unfortunately it was not to be. In the first combat I did no damage and the Japanese concentrated on one squad and casualty reduced it. In the second the Japanese won the ambush and withdrew to a different hex and the last was a straight draw. Ack ick ick. At least next turn with even-odds Hand to Hand I would have an excellent chance of everyone getting wiped out.
Japanese Turn 4. IJA shooting continued to be worryingly effective with my only defensive points to note being the utter destruction of the 10-0 officer who somewhat inexplicably advanced on his own next to my central gun and my sniper executing a broken Japanese half squad. Apart from that I could only watch as my troops were demoralised again or destroyed for failure to rout. The Japanese also managed to set off a further Demolition charge destroying another squad. All my hopes centered on the hand to hands though.  That was a mistake though as all my squads on the left were killed by the psyched up Japanese elite squad – and they failed to do any damage in return even with good odds. On the right flank by strange co-incidence I also lost my squad and again did no damage.
Chinese Turn 4.
This was the last turn before we stopped for the week and I have so few (gulp) units left we were able to storm through this very quickly. My central gun managed to ‘stripe’ the neighbouring full squad and the IJA in the BB8 square spent a turn destroying the gun. As positives one of my officers and a full half squad (woot! 1 extra fire power for defence) rallied.  Things are looking bad currently as my defensive line has literally disappeared with only some concealed concealment counters making only an impression of force. I have left 2 guns, 3 and a half squads with an officer and several brokies. The Japanese have six full squads, 1 half squad, a crew and one officer (and we know they rely on their officers for rallying less than other armies) My main hope is that he only has 3 turns to capture both guns and any misplay might save me from annihilation..
 Japanese Turn 5/Chinese Turn 5
Pressure was now mounting as the Japanese surged forward efficiently removing several more demoralised units from play whilst Japanese fire-power kept being effective and destroying the crew of the middle gun. One amusing side note this turn was that the elite Japanese squad advancing to the rear of my last (sob) gun decided not to advance in on it due to the presence of a concealed defender (in reality a paper threat as it wasn’t a unit but a further concealment counter) and instead advanced into my HIP remaining dare death squad revealing them. My own turn was spent attempting to pull back those remaining troops to create a fire line. I did hit a round of good shots coupled with some appalling rolls from my opponent that reduced the left elite to a  broken half squad and reduced a further two Japanese squads to half squads, the officer to the wounded side and the crew to a stripe. Finally I advanced into combat with the Japanese officer and crew only to casualty reduce them. My valiant opponent then continued his own bout of personal bad luck by rolling a double and losing both.
Japanese Turn 6/Chinese Turn 6
The Japanese did not give up and continued squeezing their units round my last bastion wiping out two squads and an officer in close combat (losing a casualty reduction to a half squad in return).  My turn continued to weaken the enemy by step-reducing more Japanese. Unfortunately that does not stop them attacking…
Japanese forces are poised for the final advance. There is another squad under the acquire artillery counter and there is a Chinese squad who have picked up the Japanese machine gun in W7.
Japanese Turn 7
This was a great last turn. My opponent had quite a complicated plan on his hands but as so often happens the dice gods now frowned on me and smiled on him. Firstly his elite half squad in my read rallied, then his prep fire of two half squads next to the gun revealed the double conceal for the ploy it was and pinned the gun crew. In the Japanese movement all remaining squads bar the half squad moved next to the gun by various routes and all my defensive fire failed. In the advancing fire phase my squad with the gun also pinned. Finally every Japanese squad advanced into close combat with the gun. The ambush roll for me was a 1! Upped to 2. I thought maybe I had done enough but no my opponent also rolled a 1 and because I had a pinned unit and he was both concealed and stealthy he only just ambushed me. Any one of those not being present and an even combat would have occurred. He then made his hand to hand combat roll and rolled a 10! Unfortunately being Japanese and having won the ambush that just managed to reduce the roll to ‘kill everything’ anything less would have only casualty reduced or done nothing giving me the win. So close……The Japanese half squad also ambushed and killed my last squad in hand to hand.
The end – I have a lowly broken squad left
Len-Shun fired a short burst with his US made carbine and smiled as the distant figure of a Japanese soldier spun down onto the floor. Behind him the artillery piece roared defiance slamming itself into the earth as another high explosive round whistled into the jungle ahead.  Two of the guns had been lost now but Len-Shun remembered his promise – not this one. This gun would be held.
 The Japanese were approaching fast now, any semblance of jungle craft lost as they swarmed forward attempting to take the gun before the supporting infantry could relieve them. It would be a close thing.
 His Captain was shouting at the troops to hold stand and fight as several seemed to be showing signs of nervousness and taking cover but as Len-Shun turned to look his Captains entire face seemed to explode and a spray of wet matter temporarily blinded Len-Shun. By the time he had snapped out of the shock and noticed the well camouflaged Japanese who had infiltrated into the position it was too late.
Great game. I especially enjoyed the end. I cannot say I played particularly well and seemed somewhat mesmerised at the beginning and unable to put any real pain on my opponent. If it had not been for those unbelievably lucky close combat wins early on and I would have been erased in a far handier fashion than actually occurred. Also as neither of us had played PTO before our knowledge and lack of knowledge to use  ‘special’ Japanese abilities damaged my opponent’s ability to attack. So for example no Banzai’s no use DC Heroes though as ever his use of concealment and continual pressure to stop my boys rallying was exceptional. So all in all I was lucky to have the game turn out as close as it actually did.  Looking forward to my next PTO game now where I will get to take the Japanese.
  • NOTE When I was running through TA officer training one of our attached officers was a serving Gurkha officer and he told me the tale that when he first joined his unit he had handed his suede shoes to his batman (apparently used at an earlier time, I don’t know whether it is still relevant now around twenty years later) to clean. His batman had spent hours and returned them shining brown back again. He had thought the suede ‘hairs’ had been dirt and had polished until he had completely smoothed the shoes.
  • For more details on the Burmese campaign you could do a lot worse than to read
He focuses on Slim, Stillwell, Mountbatten and Wingate but apart from being a little too awed by Slim is fair on the negative and positive traits of each. His description of what Stillwell went through in China completely adjusted my view of this excellent US general.
 Also check out Jacks AAR at HongKongWargamer


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