Now that we have a better understanding of some of the more complex elements of the game, we will move on to units. We’ll be discussing markers too, remember that Transporters are not units, they are instead Markers, as are Bunkers and Ambush counters. That said, we will start with the various types of units. There are a few unique aspects to each side’s units, we will begin with common elements then move on to how one side differs from the other.
First off, you will notice that there are two sizes of units, Large and Small. Large units usually have two sides, and thus denote multi step units. Small units, in comparison, are single step, and their back side denotes Limited Supply status rather than a step reduction. Large units have small markers to denote Limited Supply, which is a nice human factors choice. The other thing that size denotes is for stacking, where Large units count as 1 stacking point while Small units are 1/2.
Aside from the obvious background color to denote nationality, the background color of the NATO symbol also denotes whether the unit is Support or Light. A yellow background denotes a Support unit (important in combat) and white denotes a Light unit (important for movement and a few other things). All other units should have a background color that matches the counter color. Note that the Air Support markers also have a yellow symbol background, and are used for support, but are not units. Mule Transporters (only) are considered Light for movement purposes.
A few units on each side, primarily the Allies, have an image rather than a NATO symbol, these are called Special troops. The Chindits and the Galahad troops are good examples, think of these as Special Forces, Rangers, Commandos, that kind of thing.
Units will typically have a letter or number in their upper left corner, this is used to denote what hex they are set up in. Both sides use the same letters, so be sure the Japanese go on the symbols that have white letters in a black circle, while the Allies are placed on letters with white letters on red circles (the Chinese under both Chiang and Stilwell) or black letters on white backgrounds. Many of the setup symbols have a colored border, this should match the division symbol to the right of the unit type on the Allied pieces, or the top color bar on Japanese pieces. If there’s a number, it corresponds to the turn everything comes in.
Units have three numbers along the bottom, two large numbers separated by a dash and a smaller number with a circular background above the dash. The two big numbers are combat and movement values, respectively, and the small number is the Quality Value, or QV, used in many aspects of the game. Note that Transporters have both Movement and QV values as well, but no combat value.
For the Combat value, if the number is in parentheses then the value is defensive only. These units are called Garrisons, and they can have an effect on Laments. Support units can use their combat values to determine if that side has a Support Advantage in combat.
Movement values that are red denote motorized units that are limited to the various roads, tracks, and paths we discussed during supply. All sides have these, primarily in the form of tanks, but the British also have truck Transporters that are similarly limited to the road net. Note that the supply they throw is not motorized, it is the Transporter itself that is limited.
QV gets used in a lot of places, but here we will only note that if the value is a white number on a black background, it’s a non-replaceable thing. Most of these are Garrisons, local troops, or special units like the Chindits.
That’s the common elements, now for a bit on the Allies specifically.
Probably the best way to think of Allied units is which “front” of the map they will be on. The CW units are on the west border, and this is also the direction of the Japanese offensive. Aside from the Chindits in the valley, these units are all of the CW force. For all practical purposes, this group has few limitations on their activities. These are the first two columns in this shot:
The combined US/Chinese force, Force X, is made up of all of the US units and the Chinese units that have a star to the right of the unit type. Like the CW, they mostly have no limits on how they operate. They are the third column of units in this shot.
On the east side of the map are Chiang’s Nationalist forces, called Force Y (for Yunnan). They begin the game unable to do much unless provoked by the Japanese. The Chiang Loses Face marker tracks upward with the Churchill superior marker, but does not drop back down. Once it gets high enough on the track, Chiang is embarrassed enough of his lack of action that he finally makes an attack. Unless the Japanese are idiots, you probably won’t see much activity on this side of the map in the early game. Go ahead and guess which ones they are.
All Allied Large units in the game are two steppers, once they’ve flipped another combat loss will send them to the losses box. As mentioned before, small units flip when they are in Limited Supply to help bring down counter clutter. The first Chindits in the image below is a reduced large unit, the third is a Limited Supply unit.
The exception is the Chindits, which are three step. Their Small units, set aside at startup, are used when a flipped Large unit takes a loss. There is one small Chindit unit that begins on the board, it starts the game flipped because of Limited Supply, and so it only has one step to lose, it’s the third one in the graphic, and you can see the set up code on it. You can also see that the large unit shown also begins the game with only two steps and will never get to three because of the black QV. There is no recombining of small units back into large ones for the Allies.
Note that three steps doesn’t make the unit larger in terms of stacking, that’s all about the size of the physical counter, not the number of steps it has. When a large unit is reduced, it still costs one stacking point. The same applies to units in Limited Supply.
The Allies also have notations that break out different divisions, but I’ve been unable to find anything that gives a reason other than historical for the Allied side, even in the optional rules. As mentioned above, this is solely useful for setup and historical value, there are no game mechanisms that use Allied divisional organization. Y Force has no divisional differentiation.
Be honest, when I started discussing units, you felt like you could probably skip this bit. Well, no. Because the Japanese have all of this beat. By a mile, which is 1.6 kilometers for those of you in countries with sane measurement systems. And it’s all in one semi-convenient bite, Battalion Exchange.
We are looking at the Japanese Battalions holding box. The Japanese, unlike the non-Chindit Allies, have three step large units, and like the Chindits, they go to a small counter when they drop to their last step. All of the small units simply have a color bar to indicate division, which has to match up when you make the exchange, but otherwise they are indistinguishable (no historical unit designation, such as the 18 on the large Japanese unit above). There are a few units which only have two steps, but these are all easily identified as any Japanese large units that don’t have a QV of 3. This means the large Artillery unit, the three non-divisional INA units in 0810 at the start of the game, and the lone Japanese Garrison unit, all of which have only two steps. You might wonder why there are non-banded units in the Battalions pool if the only units on the map that don’t have divisional color stripes can’t use them. The ones that you can use them with come in as reinforcements on the first turn.
You can also “drop” a battalion from a full strength regiment/brigade by flipping it to it’s reduced side and placing the like battalion with it. It can do this any time. They can recombine at the end of any phase, provided they are stacked together, or you can combine three battalions., taking the large unit from the Japanese Losses box where the two blue division units are in the graphic above. This is all infantry, you can’t recombine tanks or artillery or anything other than units with the standard X in a box.
Wow, so many things to remember! There’s a very simple thing you can do to get past this, and that’s taking up Advanced Squad Leader. Believe me, nothing will ever seem too complex again. Maybe Streets of Stalingrad, which has a combat system that can take ten minutes for one counter shooting.
Fortunately, we have come to the end of worrying about units, and just have a couple of markers to consider.
These are the three that you’ll most often see on the board that are actively placed. There are also Supply Airdrop markers.
Bunkers are created in the Assault Phase, I won’t go over them now other than to say that they are useful in combat, but these are not your concrete pillboxes from Omaha Beach, these are more like Lincoln’s log cabin. They go away when their side no longer has units in the hex, or if the only friendly units are cavalry or Transporters.
Air Support markers are used during combat like other support units, which we will discuss later. Be aware that their effectiveness drops as the rains gain speed.
Remember how we don’t really have ZoCs that do much in this game? That’s because we have Ambushes. These are placed solely by the Japanese, and solely affect the Allies. Any non-INA Japanese Light Troop unit may place these in the Assault Phase once the unit is done moving (if it does at all). It places one marker in any hex it’s in or adjacent to, although the number in the game is a design limit. Allied movement and supply traces will spend an extra MP to enter the Ambush hex, and they also prevent units moving in at all that are using Operational Stretch. This is important because you remove an Ambush marker at the end of an Allied phase when an Allied unit is in it’s hex, or if that doesn’t happen, in the End Turn Phase. If the first thing the Japanese do is Assault, it can really screw up the Allies.
We’ve already discussed Transporters, but here I’d like to mention what happens to one if it gets “overrun” by an enemy unit moving into it’s hex. If only Transporters are in the hex, it doesn’t cost any more MP for the moving unit, and the Transporter is retreated one hex in a legit direction (trucks must move along the road/track/path net). All you are really doing is disrupting one hex of a much longer supply chain, although that can be a very powerful move.
Pro Tip Time: Guess what Phase marker the Japanese will start with in the game? Yup.
See? There was stuff. Stuff to learn.
Sadly, a bit more stuff to learn. Next, we will cover pretty much everything but combat. We’ll tackle how the game moves forward, reinforcements and replacements, how supply fits into the larger scope of the turn, and what we do at the end of each turn. This won’t be all that long or complex, but you do need to understand the different types of units and how that maps into these other mechanisms.
After that, we’ll run a combat example and see how it works. It’s a multi-step process, and does an excellent job of showing just how hard it is to push someone out of a position they don’t want to leave. If you were here for my Blitz! deep dive, you’ll see a bit of similarity here. While combat can be complex, the good news is you’ll never have more than 12 of them in a turn, six per side. Because where are my bullets? Who took my bullets? I put them down right here and… Good water buffalo. Nice water buffalo. No, consider the box of bullets my gift to you. I should be running, er, going now.
And so I will! See you at the next post!