Supply, along with almost everything else important in the world, is guaranteed to put the vast majority of people into a narcoleptic trance. In Nemesis, supply is the thing that will make or break your game, and the Burma theatre was a case study in limited resources and supply nets. This will be a bit of a bear to get through, but we will do the best we can.
It will be best if we start with a portion of the map so we can see the various ways to get supplies around and from where.
Let’s start with the road net, as it will dictate many things in this game. The grey lines are road, the red are road/rail, the clear/taupe lines are tracks, and the dotted are paths (which operate a little differently in mountain terrain, the brown splotchy things).
There are three other map elements that dictate supply, Supply Entry hexes, Supply Depots, and Reinforcement Hexes. You can see three Japanese Supply Entry hexes at the bottom of the picture above, they have cream colored thick hexsides. The Allies SE hexes have a grey border. The Allies can also create an SE hex via a supply airdrop.
Supply depots can be seen in many of the hexes with towns, such as Wunthe, India, and Katha. These are the red numbers with a black, light blue, or dark blue bordering circle and a cream and white background. The blue circles denote Japanese River Supply Depots and we’ll cover those later. The number denotes the range of the Supply Depot, so Wunthe’s depot has a range of 3.
The Japanese have three reinforcement hexes on this map, Kanbalu and the two hexes SE and SW of it. These are denoted in a very unambiguous manner!
We’ll cover the other map elements later, supply is hard enough without a lot of superfluous information.
To be in supply, a unit must be in one of the following situations:
- On a road or track (not path) with the ability to trace along roads/tracks to a friendly Supply Entry hex, or
- Within range of a friendly supply depot or transporter that is itself in supply, or
- Occupying a Reinforcement Hex.
This is not unusual for a game that has a serious supply system. You’ve got a road net to get you to the ultimate source, or if you’re offroad you need something that will jump the supply to you, in this game typically mules. The Supply Depots include basic transport to get things offroad, but if you’re pressing forward sometimes you’ll need something to keep the wagon train going, and those things are called “transporters”.
As you can see, there are three basic types of transporters (and they are not called units in this game, they are transporters). Both sides have HQs and mules, but only the Brits have Trucks. Trucks are a little more interesting because they are motorized and so limited to the road net for actual placement, but can provide supply offroad.
Also note the different colored backgrounds, which means that a supply depot or transporter will only work for the side that has the correct color, cream for the Japanese and grey for the Allies. The printed depots on the map work the same way (all of the supply depots on the map shot above are Japanese).
The way a transporter works is very similar to that of a Supply Depot. They have to be able to trace to a supply source just like anything else, but they can chain like crazy. Here’s an example:
Pretend briefly that Kanbalu is supplied (it is, it’s a Supply Entry hex), and it contains a depot that has a range of 4. This range is in MP, but is not affected by changing weather (there are different movement costs during Heavy Monsoon, but not for supply, with one exception we’ll see shortly).
We count from the the transporter/depot/source to the unit, so starting from Kanbalu, we see that there is a depot in Kanbalu, so now we can start going off road. The divisional HQ (labeled “15”) is three MP away, one for the clear hex, two for the jungle. The minor river does not add an MP cost, but see below for what happens in a Heavy Monsoon. The HQ can then trace to the Mules, which are exactly 4 MP awn, the limit of the HQs range. The Mules can then trace to the Japanese Battalion just north of it.
There are a few caveats, the biggest being that while we still use the movement costs for non-Heavy Monsoon turns, the minor rivers turn into major rivers during Heavy Monsoons, and as such would add one MP for each river crossed. This means that the HQ can still draw supply, but the mules are 5MP away and would be flipped to denote them being out of supply.
[Edit: neglected this the first time!] It should be noted that you always use Light Troop movement costs for tracing Supply. We’ll talk more about that later, but it really only applies to Paths in Mountain and Cliffs, although if you’re tracing Supply through a Cliff I’ll be impressed, and it probably would have fallen under the One Hex Trace rule.
Another big thing to keep in mind is that you can only have one divisional HQ in a given trace. In our example above, we only used the one, so it was OK. The exception is if you have a Japanese Army HQ, pictured above and to the right in our example, which is not divisional and thus could be included.
Transporters can draw from either a Supply Entry hex or from a Depot, but Depots can’t draw from a Transporter. Once you go to Transporters, you are riding them all the way to the unit.
Traces can’t run through enemy units or enemy held objectives (which have a notional garrison protecting them). They can always trace one hex regardless of costs, so a mule throwing 2 MP could go into jungle over a major river even though it would cost 3 MP normally, so long as the trace was only that one hex.
Whew, that was a lot.
Oh, there’s more.
All of the above is if you want your units in Full Supply. Sometimes, though, the enemy just doesn’t cooperate and you will need to try more desperate measures. This is called Limited Supply, and there are four cases in which it is in effect:
- For the Allies, friendly Airfields (there’s one in Indaw, for example) are treated as Supply Entry hexes, but only provide limited supply. An airfield is treated exactly like a normal Supply Entry hex, so if it’s on a road/track it can trace to a depot and/or transporters.
- Also for the Allies, units west of the 0500 hex column and on a road or track can get Airdrops. Only the units in the hex with the Airdrop (and there are only four of them) are considered in limited supply, these do not create traces to supply more units. Special units (like the Chindits and a few others) can get an airdrop as far East as the 2300 column and don’t need to be on a road or track.
- The Japanese can “live off the land” if they are in Imphal, Dimapur, or Golaghat and can’t trace a normal supply line.
- The Japanese also have River Supply Depots. These are the depots with blue outlines, the dark for all turns and the light for once the Monsoons (of either type) begin. These can use the river to trace to a friendly map edge, and can’t be blocked other than by the Allies controlling the depot.
Limited Supply messes with your movement and combat abilities, but units won’t be eliminated for being Out of Supply. Large units have a marker placed on them, small units and transporters are flipped over.
Supply status is determined for your side when you draw your supply chit, and the status is in effect until the next time you draw the chit. We’ll see exactly how this works when we get to the sequence of play, but for now simply know that there isn’t a set point in the Sequence of Play where supply is checked. This adds a lot of tension to the game, as you may be putting units out on a limb and hoping to get another activation to get them back into supply. If your supply chit has already been pulled, you know you have some time before you have to worry about attrition. We won’t worry too much about the actual effects now.
Now that we understand a bit more about how supply works, let’s look at the full map and see what the ramifications are:
No units shown, but basically the Japanese are in the bottom center of the map as well as pressing the western portion (where the Brits are), the center (where the Chindits are), the north center (where Stillwell’s Chinese/American force is), and the east (where the Chinese are trying not to get involved). If you look at the rail/road line running from Kanbalu up to Mogaung, then the road due north to the edge of the map, you will note that there is not a single road/rail connecting to the west. There is exactly one track heading west, and it more or less stops at the Chindwin River. Conversely, the Golaghat to Tiddum road/track continues east, but to a Japanese supply source so no help to the British. Until the British can connect up to the central valley road net and the American force, they will struggle to keep everything supplied, and they rely more on trucks than the Japanese do, which are limited to the road net (but can’t trace through paths, although they can move along them).
As such, much of the Allied thrust, once it happens, will be along the major throughways with clear barriers. The Stillwell group, Force X, will need to push south through Kamaing over the mountain pass marked “P”, then to Mogaung. There’s a depot there, but the Allies can’t use it, so they’ll need Transporters to get supply thrown further. The Chinese Y force in the east has it even tougher, they have a heavily channeled path through the mountains with no depots beyond their map edge. They begin with a whopping two transporters!
I’ll close the supply discussion with a couple of notes. First, you only determine supply status when your supply chit gets drawn, and the effects last until the next time the chit is drawn. Attrition, however, happens at the end of the turn, and only at the end of the turn, and supply status is not changed. When that supply chit comes out is a pretty crucial business, but as we will see it may be a valuable chit to choose as your first activation.
Second, Imphal has some interesting effects. This was more or less the goal of this Japanese offensive, take Imphal and trigger an India revolt against the British. As such, Imphal has some interesting rules, you can look at 7.1C. There is not only an effect for Airfields, but also for Airdrops and you should read this part carefully so you understand the ramifications of the Japanese forcing the Brits to use Imphal as a limited supply source.
Supply is almost always one of the least interesting parts of a board war-game, and it’s often abstracted to a point where supply lines can be running over Mt. Suribachi just as if they were going down a modern superhighway. Not here, and that’s a very good thing. A good war-game will give insight into the historical realities the local commanders faced, and there may have been no greater enemy than the logistics net in Burma. Hopefully, this quick overview gave you some insight into how you can run a campaign in Burma on what is often a literal shoestring of support.
So much for paint drying. Next, we will look at units in general, and discuss Troop Quality and the many things it affects, as well as a quick and easy discussion of movement. After that, we’ll cover combat, the sequence of play, and finally begin our game. The good news is that we’ve covered the two most difficult aspects of the game for new players to grok, but you need that information to better understand the less involved moving parts.