Projets Mémoire '44 de Mr & Mrs Guderian

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Last time we tested the Improved Command Rules, we said we would try it again but this time the Axis side wouldn't be handicapped by the Special Rules - the Japanese would get five command cards, there would be no lost orders, and the Tennis Courts would only be a Victory Medal for the Japanese. We would also be using the Night Rules. Unfortunately, having watched Valkyrie at the cinema (a seriously good film - we highly recommend it) we only had time for one game. Random selection of sides meant that Mrs Guderian was the Japanese General and Mr Guderian was the British General.

Both Sides Shake Hands Before The Game

Both sides started with their best cards. As it was still considered night-time, both sides could initially only Close Assault. In the first Japanese Banzai attacks, the British lost nine casualties in the centre of the board. The British unit to the extreme right of the Tennis Courts was destroyed (J1/B0). The British unit defending the Tennis Courts was seriously weakened. British counter-attacks cost the Japanese four casualties but no medals. A concerted British attack went on to drive the Japanese unit back and hold the line.

The next round saw the beginnings of dawn but both sides scored minimal results. This was just enough for the British to get another medal (J1/B1). The Japanese continued to attack but only managed to force a British unit to retreat. More British counter-attacks cost the Japanese a unit following a dramatic three-figure loss (J1/B2). Four British units went on to jointly-attack and destroy another Japanese unit on the left flank (J1/B3). The Chindits took ground. At this moment, there were virtually no Japanese units still remaining on the left flank, certainly none within combat range. The Japanese on the right flank had barely moved an inch. Heavy fighting had taken place in the centre with both sides taking heavy casualties. Each side had taken 14 casualties each, but the British had three medals to the Japanese single medal. The Japanese were making good use of the Banzai bonus to overcome the British terrain advantage but British counter-attacks had weakened Japanese units and had even gotten a surprise medal.

The Japanese continued to attack in the centre, but this merely led to the attacking unit being itself eliminated (J1/B4) and the ground being taken. However, the Japanese went on to capture the Tennis Courts in a surprise rush by one unit. As the sun was still rising, the Barrage card Mrs Guderian was holding could only move a single unit of her choice. This was played for a major gain in the centre. The attacking unit also took ground, thus capturing the medal as well (J3/B4).

Japanese Occupy The Tennis Courts

British On The Verge Of Victory

The British attempt to recapture the lost hex only caused two casualties leaving the Tennis Courts still in Japanese hands. The Japanese General expected more British attacks and the loss of the Tennis Courts at any moment. Still, she was catching up. To relieve the pressure on the centre, and probably because of a lack of better cards, she played a Pincer card. This drove back the Chindits on the left flank but had no effect on the sandbagged British unit defending Aradura on the right.

From the British side, things were not looking so good. Although having a one-card advantage, that card seemed to be a Dig-In card. The others were mostly for the left flank, whereas all the action was taking place in the centre with the right flank also beginning to heat up. Although the British had a one-medal advantage, the Japanese had made significant gains and the cards were severely restricting the British ability to respond. Using the Firefight card, and the increasing light, meant that the British Artillery could bombard the Japanese unit holding the Tennis Courts. A British Infantry unit also attacked on the left flank. These attacks only led to light casualties but now things were desperate for both sides.

The winning card, by popular acclaim, was the Mrs Guderian's use of a Direct From HQ card. This enabled a major offensive by the Japanese General, eliminating a British unit on either flank including the British sandbagged unit defending Aradura (J5/B4). The Japanese were now ahead of the British by one medal. It was now the British turn and full daylight had arrived. The British attacked on the left eliminating another Japanese unit (J5/B5), requiring only one more for victory. That unit was likely to be the only other Japanese unit on the left, now reduced to a one-figure wonder.

At this point there was a Blue-on-Blue (friendly fire incident) on the right flank. One Japanese unit outside Aradura attacked another Japanese unit in all the excitement. This was because the camouflage made the units really stand out from the terrain like sore thumbs and yet totally blend-in (Mrs Guderians comment:- Blend in is one way of putting it, they looked exactly the same!) with the enemy as seen from the other side of the board.

The card was replayed by common consent, only this time it was a Probe on the Japanese right flank. This is when the one-figure wonder charged the two-figure Chindit unit. And it eliminated it! This surprise result gave Mrs Guderian her final medal (J6/B5) and the game. However, at the time she was not expecting it (Mrs Guderians comment:- It was a very welcome result, I'm sure I must have punched the air in triumph) and was hoping to win with the Ambush card she had been holding back for the inevitable British counter-attack.

Japanese Single Figure Wins Game

End Game In The Centre

End Game Panorama

It took us 1.25 hours to play this game, mostly because Mr Guderian was making notes. (Mrs Guderians comment: - Mr Guderian always likes to take extensive notes, it's what he does) Mrs Guderian won with six medals, including one for retaining the Tennis Courts, in return for 28 casualties. Mr Guderian lost with five medals in return for 27 casualties. Mrs Guderian played eight cards and Mr Guderian played seven cards. The British lost 3 sandbag positions due to units eliminated and another one by abandoning the position to bar a potential Japanese Banzai attack on the British Artillery position. The British Artillery attacked once whereas the Japanese Artillery were completely inactive. As usual, the British Armour never moved.

Japanese Last Cards

British Last Cards

This was a great game and much more of a challenge than the two previous Kohima games. Both sides played as well as the cards would allow. The changes to the Special Rules did make the game un-historical, but did have the benefit of being much more fun and a fairer test of the Improved British Commonwealth Command Rules. Apart from anything, it did demonstrate that the British did not gain an unfair or unbalanced advantage.

Reluctant Japanese Prisoners

British Prisoners Whistling Bravely

The Last Kohima - 07FEB2009

I think that this is the last time that we will play any Kohima-themed games for a while, as we currently feel as tired with it as the actual combatants did after the battle. Like them, we went into it with high hopes and, also like them, we seem to have done it to death. They have been good games, but playing the same one four times becomes either a labour of love or sheer bloody-mindedness. This last game was the final re-match to assess the Improved British Commonwealth Command Rules. Although, they need some testing against the Germans, we currently feel that it is time to leave the Far East and the Forgotten Fourteenth Army for a bit of a holiday elsewhere.

As this is the re-match, Mrs Guderian was the British General on this occasion, whereas Mr Guderian was the Japanese General. Hurrah! for our respective sides. This time, instead of a blow-by-blow account of a battle, we will summarise the action before turning to a more detailed analysis of what we discovered:

Game For A Re-Match

The game itself only took about 20 minutes, which surprised both of us:

Turn 1 - Japanese Attack Centre (3 units); British Attack Centre (3 units). Both sides playing the same equally strong card, without the aid of a Counter-Attack card, is an unusual start to the game. The British managed to get two units from Counter-Attacks and Card Play. The initial Japanese attacks against the British centre made almost no headway and were actually quite costly for the Japanese side. Mr Guderian had hoped for better results, but it looked like Mrs Guderian would win right from the start. Japan 0 - Britain 2.

Turn 2 - Japanese Move Out! (4 units); British Direct From HQ (4 units). Again both sides played similar cards. As the available units were almost entirely Infantry, the results were broadly the same. Mr Guderian moved units on his left, including a one-unit attack on Aradura, but mostly made a second big-attack against the British centre. This got the Japanese side its first medal - the middle unit in the British central line. Mrs Guderian was undecided as to which units should be moved as most of the action was taking place in the centre and so only used three of the four orders the card entitled her to. This is an occasional characteristic of her style, which is just as often made up by the end-game lunge that secures the final medal. Japan 1 - Britain 2.

Turn 3 -  The British Retake Aradura!

Turn 3 - Japanese Close Assault (3 units); British Recon In Force (1 unit/section). In effect, this is the same card for both sides once more. However, a full-strength Japanese unit finally broke into the Tennis Courts, eliminating the defending unit and taking an additional medal for occupying the hex. The fly in the ointment was that a strong unit had to stay put to retain the medal. The Japanese also broke into Aradura, eliminating the British unit there for another medal. On the whole, this was an excellent turn for the Japanese. The British did mop up the board, clearing away three seriously reduced Japanese units (including the unit in Aradura!), but both sides were now within reach of victory. This seemed very different from the beginning of the game, where the British looked sure of an easy win. Japan 4 - Britain 5.

Turn 4 -  The Japanese Take The Hill

Turn 4 - Japanese Attack Right (3 units); British Barrage (vs. Artillery unit). Mr Guderian ganged up three units on one British unit that had previously been advanced onto a hill. The first two attacks got a figure each which is fairly poor. Fortunately, the last attack got the last two figures, eliminating the unit. This put both sides neck and neck with five medals each and perhaps pressured Mrs Guderian in trying for a quick win. The British Barrage card was perhaps a mis-step on the part of Mrs Guderian, but she was going for that final medal, as is her wont, and a 2-model unit on the back line with four dice looked like a good bet. However, seeing as she had to get Red Grenades or Purple Flags it was a bit of a brave decision that completely failed. There were no Grenades or Flags and the Artillery unit remained untouched. Japan 5 - Britain 5.

Turn 5 -  Japanese In Possession Of The Centre Line

Turn 5 - Japanese Behind Enemy Lines (1 unit). A full-strength Japanese unit on its left-flank moved in to close assault range of the remaining British 2-figure unit on the central defence line. An excellent dice roll led to the British unit being eliminated. This left the Japanese in complete control of the entire British centre with two, full-strength units. The game ended there with a Japanese win! Japan 6 - Britain 5.

Some Might Not Be Surprised This Is The Winning Card

Results For The British Side - Mr Guderian lost 20 Infantry figures but gained the required 6 medals for victory, including one from occupying the Tennis Courts.

The Last Japanese Cards

Results For The British Side - Mrs Guderian also lost 20 Infantry figures but only got 5 medals, the same as the Japanese in terms of just casualties. However, not being able to get any medals for territorial objectives, meant that the British had to eliminate an extra Japanese unit, something that they failed to do.

The Last British Cards

The Japanese Army - The Deadliest Opponents

Frankly, the Japanese are the deadliest army on the board that we have discovered so far. We are probably getting much better at handling Japanese forces by now and the Night Time Rules were a big help to them. Just the same, the standard Japanese Command Rules make them incredibly powerful. Provided that they are at full-strength, Japanese units regularly out-perform other nations Special Infantry provided they can Close Assault. The only reason that the first two games were so easy for the British side was that the Japanese were ham-strung by the Special Rules for the game (reduced orders and supply problems).

Turn 5 -  A Japanese Prisoner With The Winning Japanese Units In The Far Background

The British Army - Getting Better

It wasn't a good war for the British as fighting the Japanese on the Indian border can testify. Still, Kohima was the first time that the Brits had the Japanese on the back-foot, having lost every hard step of the way upto that point. Letting go of some of the historical rules for the sake of an experiment predictably made the game a bit un-historical. The British probably wouldn't have fought the battle without major reinforcements if the Japanese hadn't put themselves in so much difficulty. It would have been a bit like Wellington fighting at Waterloo, having told Blucher not to hurry, there's always time for a cup of tea.

Still, this was an experiment with a particular purpose in mind - to assess the suggested Improved British Commonwealth Command rules, so that is what we will turn to next.

Turn 4 -  British Troops At The Ready, Jotsoma Clear, And Japanese Prisoners Sent To The Rear


Rationale - I would never want Memoir to become dominated by a series of special exceptions to the detriment of the game. Then we might see different types of units or nationalities becoming super-soldiers and gamers looking for the "perfect army". This would ruin a game that is played at a higher command-level than what kind of specific weapons were being used or how many buttons they wore on their tunics in 1940. That kind of game is the skirmish, section or platoon level where such things matter, such as in Tide Of Iron. But Memoir units can be upto Brigade level in size, between combatants that have a relatively similar technological and organisational level of development. The equipment and weapons might look different, but they broadly achieve the same results. Some things do stand out, like small numbers of Tiger Tanks, but these are dealt with perfectly well by using four-model Armour units.

I Take Note -  Mrs Guderian's Opinion On The Original British Command Rules

The Original British Command Rules - Unfortunately, the Stiff-Upper Lip rule never seemed to apply enough during play and would have probably made no actual difference if it had. Its hard to believe that such specific circumstances might occur enough times for people to remember to use them, or that the rule might actually have a noticeable effect on the outcome of a game. In the games we played, we think that the required criteria only occurred twice at the most out of numerous Close Assaults. The two single dice that would have resulted from this would have been a waste of effort and anti-climactic, to put it kindly. The rule therefore seemed a bit silly and weak when compared with other Command Rules. The Poker Chip reflects Russian slowness to respond against a more flexible German foe quite well. The US Marine Corps and Imperial Japanese Army are locked in a titanic struggle for supremacy. Even the Italians have a remarkable turn of speed and determined artillery.

The "British Lion" Rule - The ability to counter-attacking enemy close assaults worked quite well. These happened a lot when fighting the Japanese, probably a lot more than might be normal for a game of Memoir. The most common form of attack by Japanese units was the Banzai War-Cry attack. This guaranteed a British Lion attack in response by surviving British units. Despite inevitably disappointing dice throws, it guaranteed that Japanese attacks would be costly and the attacking units were whittled down to size. This is kind of historical, where Japanese units would sweep into the attack and British units would struggle to push them back. However, the Japanese are encouraged to attack in Memoir, even against suicidal odds, so this to and fro is to be expected. German or Italian opponents lacking these special features might try slower ranged fire before closing in on a doomed British unit. Therefore, the British Lion rule would be less well-used in these games.

The new "Stiff Upper Lip" Rule - This rule gave the British the ability to hold particular forms of terrain without retreating. It also added to the idea that the British were better at defence than attack. I would revise this rule to exclude artillery, as, in retrospect, artillery is probably going too far. There was a lot less defending than counter-attacking, but it still had an influence in our Kohima games. Another point that should be noted was that the British were rarely attacked while holding Towns. Mostly, they were defending hills. However, if the British were playing against the Germans and Italians, I would expect this rule to be much more used than the British Lion rule. This is not something that I think needs fixing.

Counter-Attack, Massing and Regrouping - It is said that during the war people learned how to interpret the news. Counter-attack was interpreted to mean that the enemy had already attacked, massing meant the enemy was still too dangerous to attack, and regrouping that another battle had been lost. It should be said that, at least until El Alamein and Kohima, British armies did a lot of counter-attacking, massing and regrouping, even after these famous battles. There is one change that we might offer to our amendments - the Improved British Commonwealth Command Rules should probably not apply to poor quality, demoralised or disorganised British forces. We were reminded of this in fighting against the Japanese where the British consistently failed until the Battle of the Admin Box at the beginning of 1944. The British Lion and Stiff-Upper Lip rules should also be suspended for some of the more disastrous campaigns or battles. The British Lion rule, for instance, might be inappropriate at Dunkirk or Singapore. However, the Stiff-Upper Lip rule should definitely apply to the 1st Airborne Division at Arnhem. Its a question of balance, but the British Lion rule should go before the Stiff-Upper Lip rule.

British Commonwealth Infantry Tanks - As well as the Cruiser Tanks, that would later develop into the Universal or Main Battle Tanks of the post-war era, the British developed a series of Infantry Tanks in large numbers. These were heavily armoured, slow moving tanks that were intended to operate in support of Infantry. Tanks such as Matilda's, Valentine's and Churchill's were used throughout the war and could be a serious threat to the Germans, such as at the Battle of Arras. Therefore, an important but disregarded part of British Commonwealth Command Rules should be that British Armour can only move at 2 hexes per turn. In some battles these should be 4-model armour units. Infantry Tanks should only appear in the early years of the war, such as the Battle of France or the Desert War, before British Cruiser designs (such as Crusader, Cromwell, and Comet designs) and American Sherman's began to take over.

A Note Of Caution - This was never meant to be an exercise in flag-waving. But if we want to play with a British Army, then Memoir '44 should be able to portray something of its character. The British Army, and its Commonwealth and Imperial cousins, have the unusual distinction of fighting for the entire length of the war and in every theatre. Even the German and Japanese Armies cannot make the same claim. So, it is a great pity that the armies of Churchill, Alanbrooke, Montgomery, Slim, Auchinleck, Alexander, Percival and Gort (to name a few) should be so poorly represented compared to the other armies mentioned. Even though we wrote the amendments, we think that they do work better than the official British Command Rules and are far more representative of British defensiveness.

What's Next

I think we might holiday for a bit with a Battle of Waterloo game set in 1815 by Chris Vickers that I discovered in Scenarios From The Front. Seeing as the news says there might be a Napoleonic Memoir, it might be fun to play a game of it using Memoir '44 but without any of the rumoured changes being made by Richard Borg. I think we will return to the subject of the Improved Command Rules after the Waterloo Game. This will give us a chance to find a suitable test with Germans attacking with the British in defence. Maybe Arnhem or Alam Halfa might be possibilities, but we will see...

The Detritus Of War