Tired of yet another East Front wunderkind? Have you overinBulged over the holidays? Having another North AfreakOut? Maybe you need a theatre less travelled, one that has rarely been covered by a war-game. A game like: Nemesis: Burma 1944.
Nemesis covers the last of the Japanese offensives in Burma, all aimed at driving to India and triggering a colonial revolt. By 1944, the Japanese were pretty beat down in most areas, but they still had a huge advantage when it came to jungle fighting and hoped it would counter their numerical shortcomings.
I’ve chosen this game because of all the interesting mechanisms it uses to show how difficult fighting in such a hostile environment can be. Supply is critical, but you never know what part of the turn you need to have it under control (mostly). Motorized units are fast, but are limited to the road net. You need to keep your commander in chief happy, which is not an easy thing to achieve because your CinC is probably high and can’t spell Burma anyway. There are three different forces to contend with from three different directions, all very different and with different goals. Perhaps what I like most about the game, though, is that you have very limited resources at your disposal and using them effectively and efficiently is a key to good play.
The game has a lot of moving parts. A lot. There’s a unit quality that drives a number of game functions, a variable phase play order that dictates when you can move and fight, get reinforcements, and check supply, and it’s different from the order your opponent has to do the same things in. There are “transporters,” basically supply trains, that keep units from dying of beri-beri, and the ability to hold at all costs (and a cost to forcing units to hold at all costs). All in 15 pages of rules that make the game look a whole lot easier to play than it is.
And, if I didn’t mention it already, the designer is Kim Kanger, who has been making a bit of a name for himself with designs on the French Indochina war, the Algerian War, and Dien Bien Phu. His designs are elegant, clever, gorgeous components, and excellent human factors. He looks fabulous in sunglasses. And he’s why I learned about Legion Wargames and what a great company they are.
I’m still trying to figure out how best to explain this game, and I think that, unlike the last two games, we need to instead focus on some of the basic concepts, especially combat, supply, and the Lamentation/Satisfaction system that is key to victory (not the words I would have chosen, but then I didn’t design this game). Supply is critical, combat is a little on the elaborate side, but you are unlikely to see more than twelve combat resolutions in a given turn. There isn’t an NRA satellite office in Burma, or at least there wasn’t in 1944, and bullets are hard to come by.
The Chinese are represented in two different forces, one under Stilwell and the Americans coming from the Burma Road, and Chiang Kai-Shek coming from the east (if he ever actually does, he was more interested in military aid bucks rather than actually fighting the Japanese). The British are to the west and Imphal, the door to India, and the famous Chindit units are in the middle of the map taking the initial hit from the Japanese.
Units have a lot of information: what sort of conveyance they use, troop quality, fragility, and organization. Like Paths of Glory, you can break down some units into smaller battalions to create greater coverage. There’s artillery, tanks, ambushes, banzai charges, a lot of rain, bunkers, barricades, all sorts of stuff meant to give the flavor of the campaign. If you want to improve the experience, play it in your bathroom in high summer with the shower running on hot and no fan running. Sadly, that will make your copy into a legacy game once it’s turned into wet tissue paper, but it will be realistic!
I love the rules for this game. There has been very little errata, mostly just clarifications, and they are organized by the type of action chit you draw so you can find things very quickly. That said, there’s less discussion of how things interact, so that’s why I’ll be focusing early on basic mechanics instead of game play. There’s only one scenario, so no need to try a bunch out, and I expect we will be able to get through most of a game in a month.
We will begin the next post with a discussion of the various units, their values, and how they differ from force to force. Fortunately, the human factors are well done and consistent, this is more so we are on the same page wrt nomenclature and capability. After that, we’ll discuss supply, the road net, and how Troop Quality affects how all of these things interact, and finally the combat system. Once all of that’s been covered, we’ll play the game.
I expect this exploration to take about a month, so we will be done by the start of May. Here we go!