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Monday, November 23, 2015

Bolt Action - AAR: Japanese vs the French Foreign Legion

By Bryan

Welcome to the French colonies of Indochina. It's 1945 and the Japanese have occupied the colony for the last 4 years, leaving the French colonial garrison in place under a compliant Vichy government.

Now, with the Allies liberating France itself, the Japanese decide to wipe the French out before the Allies arrive to help them.

In a series of surprise attacks, many regiments of local troops are quickly overwhelmed, but the 5th regiment of the infamous Foreign Legion will prove a very tough nut to crack... read on for a Bolt Action game set in some very obscure history and using a home made narrative scenario.

The game was fought over these vital crossroads.

My buddy Luke and I have been meaning to get a game in for over a year now, we live 2 hours drive apart (which is almost around the corner in Australian terms) and this was the day we finally got it all together. We basically threw into the mix all that we were currently excited about hobby wise, the armies, terrain and scenario all went into the mix and this is what came out the other side.

The table would be played length ways. This is looking from the French side down toward the main Japanese deployment zone.

Luke has a very large Imperial Japanese army and I have been busy with French for most of this year. At first glance, French and Japanese don't look like an obvious historical match up. But I had heard of some obscure history of the 5th Regiment of the Foreign Legion being posted to Indochina during WW2.

A bit of googling and I turned up a rather epic, and suitably hardcore, story of the Legionnaires fighting off the Japanese. Luke had a collection of freshly painted Japanese tanks and even armoured halftracks. These particular vehicles weren't used in Inodchina but we wanted to use all our cool toys so went with it. The game was 1500 pts a side and used a mash up of both Luke's and my terrain collections. We played at a local club and even had a new player, Angus, join in his first game and took command of half the French troops.

The initial blocking force of Legionnaires deployed in defensive positions around the cross roads.

The quick history goes that after the fall of France itself  in 1940 the Japanese armies in China saw an opportunity to grab the French colonies of Indochina. The French had effectively signed over to the axis by setting up the Vichy Government, and so after some initial resistance, the French troops let the Japanese into the country and effectively sat out the war for 4 years. That is until the tide turned and with France newly liberated, the Japanese took no chances and by surprise, turned on the local French troops garrisoned there on March 9th 1945, massacring all they could catch.

Luckily, the 5th Regiment of the Foreign Legion was up country on maneuvers and so avoided these initial attacks. It's commander, Colonel Alessandri, faced a a very grave situation, the 2,000 Legionnaires faced 40,000 Japanese troops. Their only option was an epic 800 km fighting withdrawal to Allied China.The Legionnaires would once again need to prove how tough they really were.

A light howitzer and medium machine gun face off against the Japanese infantry infiltrating the position.

We set our game at the very beginning of the Legions fighting escape. They must hold a vital cross roads for long enough to allow their men and supplies to get a head start on the pursuing Japanese troops. The mission is simple, if the French can hold the crossroads they win, if the Japanese can take them or at least contest them, the French escape route is cut off and they lose.

Only infantry units can claim the crossroads. The French are allowed a small blocking force to deploy within 12" of the crossroads at the table's center, the rest will come on in reserve starting on turn 2 from one of the short board edges. The Japanese can deploy anywhere they want but outside of 12" of the French troops. The Japanese have a powerful flanking force which comes in on turn 3. If the Japanese can control the crossroads by that time, then Luke get's to choose any point on either long table edge for them to arrive from. If he doesn't, then I get to choose where the Japanese flanking force deploys from.

The battle begins with the first dice being drawn having to be put back in due to the French national rule "communication breakdown". This ends up giving the Japanese the first order dice and they rush the first wave of militia infantry at the French heavy weapons position.

The second order dice also goes Imperial Japan's way and a squad of Grenadiers begins ranging in with three light mortars.

  The French light Howitzer hits the Japanese infantry in the jungle facing it, causing 4 casualties.

  But with three large 15 man units attacking the French guns, time is running out.

  The first Japanese wave assaults and wipes out the howitzer crew.

  While the machine gun mows down some of the 2nd wave of attackers...

  ...before it too falls to the Japanese bayonets.

  The Legionnaires platoon command bravely counter attacks with their SMG's

  The French take out a Japanese squad but now face the third wave...

Turn 2 and the first of the French reinforcements arrive. An antiquated 1920's Laffly 50 armoured car races down the road. This squad of Legionnaires leaves their trench to head toward the recently overrun gun position, as light mortar rounds begin to range in.

  Legionnaires arrive in two truck loads to help the defence of the vital crossroads as a 47mm anti tank gun redeploys for a better field of fire.

Newly arrived French troops deploy out toward the area where the Japanese flanking troops are expected to arrive.

  The French armoured car is the 'heaviest' bit of wargear in the far flung colonies arsenal.

Some of the only functioning tanks in the colony arrive, the mighty Renault FT-17 of WW1 vintage. A Legionnaire AR rifle takes up position overlooking the relief column.

Players view of the bottom of turn 3 showing the French reinforcements moving up the road. The Japanese armoured platoon must arrive next turn from the right hand side at the side road. Having failed to secure the crossroads by turn 3, they deploy from a place of the French's choosing.

A Japanese Ho Ni tank hunter rumbles on through the elephant grass, firing it's 75mm HE shell at the Legion infantry but misses as they go down.

A second Ho Ni rolls on and survives an ambush by a French 47mm medium AT gun. The Laffly armoured car makes an aggressive move though, racing down the road and taking a shot at it with it's light AT gun, rolling three 6's in a row it knocks it out!

Back at the gun position the Japanese third wave fights bitterly with a section of Legionnaires, taking the squad out after 3 rounds of fighting, but with not many of it's own squad surviving. Fanatics in assault are hardcore.

With the ambush of the French AT gun already sprung, the flanking Japanese tank platoons supporting infantry arrive in armoured halftracks, quickly deploying as they get two order dice in a row.

Turn 4 and the Japanese veterans assault the AT gun crew and wipe them out. But the Legionnaires quickly counter attack and pour fire into them at point blank range.

  Japanese infantry pin the truck and silence it's two medium machine guns, but fail to blow it up.

  The rear of the French position sees the Medium mortar struggling to find targets in the jungle.

The 2nd French AT gun takes a shot at a Japanese tank hunter in the tall grass but misses, while the FT-17 tanks begin to move to support the infantry. Their slow speed, and the single road are making it difficult.

A second Japanese veteran squad leaps out of it's halftrack and assaults the only French officer alive, as they hold the recently retaken gun pit.

Having survived the hail of bullets from the French, the other Japanese squad wipes out their attackers in an assault.

  But another squad of Legionnaires is about to avenge their comrades.

The Legionnaire AT rifle takes an extremely long-shot and knocks out one of the Japanese halftracks!

  The 2nd Japanese halftrack guns down the French medic. Booo!

  The Legion sniper meets his fate as 2 light mortars range in and end his career.

  It's getting desperate now as both sides rush whatever troops they can to secure the crossroads.

  A third Ho Ni tank hunter destroys the French armoured car.

  As Japanese infantry overrun the French back line support troops.

  The final scene as both sides contest the crossroads objective.

Because the French failed to secure the crossroads, they lose control of the road network. Meaning their escape route out of Indochina is now very perilous. It is a French defeat, but it was a really fun game with many great moments. Well done to Luke's Japanese and my French sub commander Angus, who rolled many of the lucky hits with the Legion gunners.

  If you have any questions on the games various aspects, ask away on the forum:

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