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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Bolt Action - Creating Greatcoat Japanese: Part 3 - Writing An Army List

By Old Man Morin

Howdy gang! As promised I am back with the third and final installment of my greatcoat Japanese articles. If you are interested in the modelling side of this project you can find the Part 1 and Part 2 by clicking the links.

Now for those just tuning in, I set out on this project to create a Bolt Action army that would be unique both in composition and in appearance, while being historically flavoured. I wanted to avoid the iconic images of masses of inexperienced, ragged IJA soldiers pouring out of the jungles in a banzai charge to repel the Allied advance towards the Japanese homeland at the end of the war. Instead, I decided to look at Japanese soldiers prior to the beginning of WW2 as they invaded and fought Chinese forces on the Asian mainland. A fight that soon became part of the greater world wide conflict. Northern China (or even other parts of China in winter) is not a warm place. Thin cotton fatigues would not do for soldiers fighting in these cooler climates (as the Germans discovered when they invaded Russia). I chose to focus on a force made up of warmly dressed Japanese soldiers who used the weapons and gear available in the later half of the 1930's. Though I have loosely based my army around the urban fighting that occurred in Shanghai, I have taken some small liberties as the major conflict in and around Shanghai was not fought through the worst of the winter months.

As you can see from the footage, a majority of the 3 month battle was fought in an urban environment by soldiers wearing full dress (no short sleeves or ragged uniforms). I wanted to build an army around a force that could be fighting in this era and that would be competitive on the tabletop.

Here is my army list:

Those of you regularly play with or against Japanese armies might notice a few irregularities right off the bat. Let me begin by saying this, in 1937-38 Japan was an ascendant world power. They had successfully fought off the Russians (in the Russo-Japanese War) and had quietly invaded and taken over Manchuria. The Japanese military was generally in charge of its own destiny and was not answering orders from civilians back home. Politicians who disagreed with military policy were removed from power or were sometimes assassinated. The military was in control and they arrogantly believed that they were turning Japan into a world power like the British, whose empire building they admired and were replicating in their own way. This translates to Japanese military doctrine at the time. Japanese forces were well trained, combat experienced, and were confident in their inevitable victory. As such I avoided inexperienced infantry and I definitely avoided suicide AT troops. The weapons the Japanese had were more than capable of wrecking what armour the Chinese put in front of them and soldiers were not desperate enough to kill themselves at this point in the war. In fact, it was the Chinese who were loading themselves up with TNT to throw themselves in front of Japanese tanks to stop the invading armoured vehicles. 

So without inexperienced soldiers, Kempetai Officers and suicide AT troops... The Japanese army list starts to look a little different. I decided to start with an idea. I bought two Type 89 I-Go tanks in the Trenchworx Kickstarter last year and I really wanted to put both on the table. The Type 89, was a slow infantry support tank and was common in the region during that stage of war. I decided putting both in my list fit my theme nicely. As such, I needed two platoons. I took two regular Lt's to let me take a second platoon and bought five squads of eight regular IJA riflemen. SMGs were extremely rare at this point in the Japanese military so I only have one in the army, on the Lt's assistant. This is why my rifle squads are just that, rifle squads. I did buy one LMG for my squads (at 5 points using the Season 3 format rules) and to be fair I probably should figure out a way to get more, but I have not built the models yet, and this is what I have. The Fanatic and Banzai Charge rules mean that though my rifle squads are very basic, they are not helpless either and at regular, if you can get them into cover around an objective... well they will not be easily shifted. 

I chose a light AT gun and a light howitzer, the type 41 mountain gun to be specific, to back up my core of troops. Both were used plentifully during this conflict and I thought that building these into scenic bases could give me some pretty cool modelling opportunities. Game wise, the light AT gun, in the right spot, would give me an additional tool (on top of the two anti-tank rifles) to deal with light armoured vehicles and transports. Though I would love something heavier to beef up the hitting power of the gun, Japanese forces didn't need anything heavier so, I avoided the use of something bigger. The light howitzer, on the other hand, when used in conjunction with the light howitzers mounted on the Type 89's, is there to soften up enemy squads and units so my riflemen can get in to finish the job. The multiple machine-guns mounted on the tanks help with this process as well. 

You will also notice that I have a Type 94 tankette listed as well. After watching the combat footage above, I am strongly considering switching this out for the bulbous armoured car featured in the clip. The Type 87 armoured car is the same point cost as the Type 94 and sports an extra MMG. Sure it looses Recce and has a much easier to hit silhouette but it looks great and it is much faster (being wheeled). I can use this, like the tanks to soften up enemy units and to apply pressure on enemy positions. It also has the speed and range to allow me to reposition it mid-game if my forces need help on one side of the board. 

To combine all of this, depending on the mission, my fanatic infantry backed up by the morale bonus of two officers, are there to hug cover and advance to claim objectives and finish off damaged infantry squads (and to apply pins). They are supported by the three light howitzers and the vehicle mounted machine guns in the list. Meanwhile, AT assets in the form of a light AT gun and a pair of anti-tank rifles keep transports filled with enemy assault troops and light armoured vehicles at bay. They can also be used to hopefully pin heavier vehicles into a state of inactivity. 

If I find that this list does not work at all, I do own a Type 4 Japanese Heavy Howitzer (from Mad Bob Miniatures) and a horse drawn limber to tow it. I could rotate the light AT gun and the Light Howitzer out for these additions (and not change my 14 order dice). The Type 4 was also common at this point in the war and could be fun to put down on the tabletop. As I prefer the versatility of the two smaller guns, I have decided to go that route to start with. I think I will have to see how the list goes.
Now, I am sure that many of your could come up with harsher and maybe even more historically minded army lists. I am just explaining how I came up with my historically themed, generalist list for this conflict and time period. I am looking forward to getting this army on the table as soon as possible. When it is up and running, I will post a showcase article displaying my conversions and Patch's exceptional brush work. I will also be posting a battle report of it taking on my new Chinese army in the urban rubble of a ruined city. 

Until next time...

Survivor of a thousand game systems, a thousand journeys and a thousand years, 
Old Man Morin... 
Salty and experienced.

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