And now we come to combat. Combat can be difficult because it has a lot of moving parts. It will affect Laments and Satisfaction, it will be affected in multiple ways by Quality, with units stepping up to take the brunt of the attack, or to hold the position. There are Banzai charges, massive combats, all sorts of fun. Thank goodness we only have to do three of them in a single turn.
And that’s a good thing. If you ever played Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage, the evergreen classic by Mark Simonitch that more or less launched the modern CDG in wargaming (I know, Herman did We the People, and I love me that game, but Simonitch brought the system to maturity and popularity), you know that making a battle an event can be a lot of fun. And these battles are about as procedural as they are in Han:RvC.
Combat comes in two flavors in this game, assault and attack. They are triggered by the Phase Chit drawn for that activation, and are identical with the exception of Assaults being launched from a single hex, while Attacks can come from multiple hexes. Otherwise they are the same. Because you only get three, I think it wise to consider where you wish to focus your schwerpunkt (lookit me with the big German words!) at the start of your phase, which is also important because of making sure you will have supply. This is, without question, a game that requires consideration by both sides and a clear understanding of how the systems work and mesh together.
We will work from the south up for our examples. There are three divisions attacking the Brits in our examples, but there is no limitation on how often each division can attack. We’ll begin with 33rd Div, the force pushing up from the south.
I will step through the combat system and explain each step as we go for this first combat.
First, we need to be sure that the attacking units are in full supply, but we don’t actually trace it. If the unit doesn’t have a marker indicating Limited or Out Of Supply, we’re good to go, as our supply state lasts the entire time between Supply Chit Phases.
We have an artillery unit in the attacking force, and they are not allowed to attack by themselves but need other unit types. We also have to be attacking across a road/track/path because we have motorized units (see all of those red movement factors?). We are also limited to a single attack in a phase by the X Force under Stilwell in the north, but they aren’t phasing so we don’t care.
OK, we’re sure we can actually attack, so we figure out the odds. This is your standard odds ratio computation, if you need to know how to do this you are probably on the wrong blog. The Japanese have 19 factors, the Brits have 12. The Japanese have a 3 factor air unit that they could put into the combat, but 22:12 still comes out 1:1 after rounding down, so we leave them on the ground for now. They may be better in a defensive role anyway, and their use is pretty limited.
Once we have odds, we choose one attacking unit to spearhead the attack. The Quality of the unit and your willingness to lose steps from it is possibly the most important aspect of choosing this unit, we will pick the reduced infantry regiment as it has the highest Quality and we don’t want to lose Support steps as they are harder to get back. We could not have chosen the artillery unless it was the only choice, and that would only happen if we were defending, as you can’t attack with just arty!
Next, we will see if the Quality value gets modified by attacking across a Major River or if the defender has Bunkers. Neither are present, so the Quality for the attacker remains a 3.
We also need to choose a lead unit from the defenders to man the “barricades,” or really just be the first unit to take a hit. Like the attacker, this is mostly for Quality of the defending force as well as the first unit to suffer a loss.
Now we will shift the odds based on a variety of factors, but no more than four CRT columns. These are actually a much bigger deal than the initial odds ratio, as it’s effectively giving you again as many factors as your opponent is defending with (assuming positive shifts). There are five things that will affect this:
- Quality differential. You shift one column for the total difference in quality between the spearhead and the barricades, in this case the Japanese have a 1 Quality advantage, so we shift the odds up one column to 2:1.
- Next we see if the defender is in mountains or cliffs. They aren’t, so no shift back and we are still 2:1.
- Next, we see if we have a support advantage. Unfortunately, the rules for this are under the Components section and there’s no reference, so just be aware that this is covered much like Japanese Battalion Exchanges. Simply add up the combat factors from each side. If one side has 3 or more Support and the other has none, you get Support Advantage. The Japanese have 15 Support, the Brits none, so the odds go up one more column to 3:1. If the British had even one Support in the combat, but the Japanese still had three more than the Brits, the Japanese could still get the shift but it would cost one Lament! Don’t be risking those precious support resources!
- Next, we decide if we want to have a Massive combat. To do this, the attacker has to have 8 participating steps (not combat factors, steps), and the odds ratio to this point has to be 3:1 or less. The reason for this is that the attacker is more or less throwing everything they have into the combat to try to win it, and they wouldn’t do that against an insignificant force. The cost is that it’s giving your superior heartburn, so you add two Lament to your track. The effect is that each side will take an extra step loss in combat. The Japanese, even with four units, only have six steps (the large arty unit is a 2 stepper), so this won’t be happening. Even if we could, it would be risky as so much of the attacking force is Support. No Massive Attack this turn.
- Finally, the Japanese decide if they want to make a Banzai charge. This is only done by Light Troops, they have to be at the barricades (so on defense), and it can’t be the INA. Because not ethnic Japanese. Note that the sequence for Massive Attack choice, Banzai choice, and die roll is important, you can’t do them out of order.
We’ve ended up at 3:1, no Massive Attack (or cultural reference, I think I’ve been quite good at skipping mentioning the electronica act… Damn. I just did). No Banzai. So, we roll a d6 and get a 4, resulting in a 1-1r result. The 1 result applies to the attacker, who must lose one step and it has to be from the Spearhead unit. Because this is a Japanese Infantry regiment, there is some hilarity involved:
- If the unit to lose a step is full strength (not in this situation), we flip the unit and move a corresponding Batt unit from the Battalions box to the Losses box. This is the actual loss, and I can see this as something people would miss the first time they play.
- If the unit to lose a step is reduced, the regiment goes to the Japanese Regiments box (not the Losses box), one Batt goes to the Losses box, and one Batt ends up replacing the regiment. This is what we actually end up doing.
- If a Banzai was declared, anything going to the Losses box instead goes to the Permanent Losses box. Banzai is expensive.
The 1r result goes to the Allies. they lose one step from their Barricades unit (both units are the same, so we never actually declared this before). Then they need to retreat.
Before we get into retreating, we do a couple of things. First, we see what our die roll was. Had it been a 1 or 2, we would have given a Satisfaction point to the Allies. Had it been a 5 or 6, we would have given a Satisfaction point to the Japanese. Besides taking Objectives, this is how you get Satisfaction points, from how the die rolls. In our case, the Japanese rolled a 4 so no SAT points are given (it’s an obsolete and discriminatory test anyway). We should also see how things fall with Laments, and we see that when troops are eliminated, they generate Laments. Japanese losses that aren’t arty or INA give one Lament to the Japanese, but the Brit unit has to be eliminated in order to generate Laments for the Allies. Laments for the Japanese go up to 1. I think it’s a good idea to check for this sort of thing whenever the board state changes, it will help internalize the Sat/Lam system.
I’ll also note that there is one additional element that comes from troops being eliminated, and that is Allied Resources. Had the Brit been eliminated, the Allies would have gotten one Resource point, which is helpful during reinforcements/replacements. The Japanese don’t deal with Resources, just the Allies. We’ll see this more when we run into that particular Phase Chit.
Now we’ll figure out that whole “r” thing. First of all, had there been a Bunker in the defender’s hex, it would now be removed because of the r and also because there was a tank or engineer in the assaulting force. Not a thing here because no bunker, but one would have been removed had there been.
Now the attacker has to decide if they want to “enforce” the retreat. To do this, the attacker has to have Support Advantage. You can see how important those Support units are in this game, and why you want to protect them as much as you can. In our case, the Japanese have the option to enforce the retreat. To do this, they choose an “enforcing” unit, much as they did for the Spearhead unit. They will choose the Batt, which has a Quality of 3. The Brits must choose a unit to refuse the advance, again just like the barricades. If no unit is chosen to enforce the retreat, the retreat doesn’t happen.
Now we compare the Quality values, which are 3:2. Because the Japanese value is higher, they may enforce the retreat without losing a step. Had they been lower, the Japanese would have lost the Batt, along with a Lament point. If there had been a two point or larger differential, the Japanese would have had to lose steps, beginning with the enforcing unit, from their attacking force.
Note that all of this Quality comparison is never a surprise. You don’t make any rolls to decide how this susses out, it’s right there in front of you. Choosing low Quality units to attack is a dangerous game, even though you lose crappier steps. When you notice that the Japanese generally have a Quality advantage across the board, you see how the Allies will generally be losing extra steps to get units to retreat and having to have a better force ratio to begin than the Japanese to get their odds up.
Now, the defender gets to decide if they are actually going to retreat or not, called “refusing the advance”. Before we decide if the Allies want to refuse the advance, let’s see what would happen with an actual retreat. Here is the situation after step losses:
When retreating, each unit moves one hex into a space it can legally enter. Since the Brits are non-motorized but not Light, they can go into any hex but Cliff, and that’s not an option. If there were an ambush marker, and now I’m wishing I’d done some different things with Ambush markers, they can’t retreat into those either. Were there enemy Transporters or enemy Objective hexes, those would be right out as well. Note that EZoCs don’t matter at all in retreat, units couldn’t project force nearly as well in this theatre.
If a retreat would create overstacking (three large units in a hex), the unit would need to lose one step and keep retreating. This is important for this retreat because there is a stack with two large units, so both couldn’t go there without a step loss.
Also, there is a hex that hasn’t been attacked yet that they could retreat into, 0612. There is no requirement to declare attacks ahead of time, so the British don’t know that this hex will be attacked, but it sure looks likely. If they did, the retreating force wouldn’t be included in the combat factor calculation or be at the barricades or refuse any advance. It could take losses, however, but if it retreated again it would lose a step per hex moved.
The Allies decide to move the reduced unit into 0512 with the two large British units. The full strength unit moves to 0412, that seems like a better choice than the others as it will block a path for non-motorized troops.
What if the Brits had decided to refuse the advance? It would not have been good. The refusing unit would need to take a step loss for the refusal, then one extra step loss per quality differential from any unit in the defending force. For the Brits, that would have eliminated a full strength unit. Since a retreat won’t hurt their position immensely, they choose that over unit loss.
Now the attackers advance. You must advance the unit enforcing the retreat, as well as any units that suffered any step losses enforcing the retreat (we have none in this combat). One thing to note is that if the defenders refused the retreat but lost all of their units, they fought to the last man, and no attackers may advance.
A few units may not advance, specifically units that didn’t attack (we could have left the Tanks out, for example, they didn’t really affect anything), transporters, and artillery. This leaves a lot of Brits pointing directly at the hex the Japanese are advancing into, so only the Batt (which is required to advance as the enforcing unit) and one Tank move up. We leave the other tank with the Arty to protect it. We have a big attack coming in on the 80th Brigade in 0612 next, so it’s not as exposed of a position as it might be, but it’s still a little worrying.
Finally, let’s just double check our Sat/Lam situation and see if any more points got generated. No one took an objective or lost more units/steps, so no more points for those tracks. See, you’re starting to get it already.
Wow, that’s an attack. There is a lot going on, there is a lot to consider, there can be a lot of repercussions. Understanding this process is also critical to good play. This is not the Eastern Front, we aren’t throwing men into combat with everything we have every combat. This is a game of maneuver and positioning, but done with a certain amount of brute force. It is why this is such a good game.
Now we’ll run the next two combats with a lot less ‘splainin’. Here is the aftermath of the first combat, along with the next combat we consider:
This combat is a bit different because this is an Objective hex in 0612. You know it is an objective hex because it has a boxed number in it. In this case, it begins Allied because it is a white number with a grey background. You can see it poking out from under the 80th Brigade at the bottom, the number is a 2. These numbers go up to 10, and the hex doesn’t have an orange star in it, so it’s not a very important hex as objectives go, but it is the bridge over the river Chindwin, so important nonetheless and why it’s a hex we’re attacking. The Support units in the attacking hex are an Arty and an Engineer, none are motorized.
The Japanese bring the whole enchilada to the combat. The initial odds are 20:6, or 3:1. No one is attacking over a major river or into bunkers, and the Japanese spearhead with one of the two infantry regiments, while the Allies have only one unit to man the barricades. Quality is 3:2, so we first shift to 5:1, then the defender is in mountain terrain, so it shifts back to 3:1. The Japanese have a 6:0 support advantage, so back to 5:1 we go. There are enough steps for a Massive Combat, but the odds are too high, and there’s no chance for a Banzai charge from people who eat cucumber sandwiches.
The result is a 3, the same exact result as we saw last time: 1-1r. The Japanese flip the spearhead unit and move one orange Batt to Losses, as well as take a Lament. The Brits lose one step, and only have one left in the hex. No bunkers to lose. Nobody is satisfied with a 3.
Now we consider retreat. The Japanese use the other full strength infantry regiment to enforce, and the Brits use the only choice they have to refuse. The Japanese aren’t required to lose steps to enforce, and the defender chooses to retreat rather than lose the unit. Their only real option is 0611, even though they will be very vulnerable in that position. The enforcing infantry regiment and the engineer unit advance (arty and the transporter can’t).
The Japanese took an Objective! Hooray! This is a little wonky, but it will make sense over time. Because there is no flag in the hex, the Japanese get the full value in Sat points, or 2. This is because this is an originally Allied objective. If there had been a flag on the space (and we place a meatball on that hex when we take it, or flip a flag if one was there), we would only get half the points, largely because at that point you’re just taking back an objective you controlled at one point.
If we look at Michel’s Track Management aid, we notice the Sat points for conquest, and also that because the Japanese took it, the Allies will be getting some resources to help them take it back. Res goes to 1 on it’s track.
Had the space had a star, it would have generated 3 Laments for the Allies. And, while not important just yet, you will generate Lament for your opponent by having flags on the map. I really like that the game differentiates between original control and how much you can get trading control. It encourages focusing on your objectives rather than trying to get yours back when there’s no other reason to (usually supply net factors), although good to not have enemy flags on the map.
Here’s that area after the Japanese attacks:
All in all, the Japanese are in pretty good shape here. They can tie these units down so that there are fewer Allies to go after the units interrupting supply to the south. I suspect the Allies will pull back to the relative safety of the mountains to protect Palel, gateway to the Imphal Valley (with appropriately larger Sat gain).
That combat took a lot less time and descriptive space, and we still looked at a few new things. Let’s see how fast we can manage the combat in the north:
Wow, Ukhrul even sounds Tolkienesque. Die, orcs, die!
Spearhead unit is either infantry regiment, barricades is the paratroopers. What the hell are paratroopers even doing here. At least they have a better Quality than we’ve seen from the British to this point. Initial odds are 14-4, but there is no support to be seen. Hey, we’ve got an air unit. Which makes me worry that I wasn’t using air units defensively before for the Allies. No problem, you can’t. So it’s just as well we found a use for the Japanese air unit. This will add 3 support to the combat and 3 more combat factors.
Odds are now 17:4, so 4-1 down to 3-1 since there’s no 4-1 column. No changes to Quality for either side, and both are at 3 so no shifts. The Japanese get a shift for support, but the Brits get one for terrain. No Massive Attack, no Banzai. The die roll at 3-1 is a 5, so the Japanese get a Sat point! Mutaguchi advances to the 3 slot. the result is a 0-1r, so even better for the Japanese. The paras lose an irreplaceable step and choose to retreat to the 0507. Sometimes, you can see pretty quickly if it’s worth it to deal with the retreat enforce/refuse part of the combat, in this case there’s no way they’re sticking around. One of the two infantry regiments advances, they gain 4 Sat for the objective (now at 7!) and flag it. They will still be in supply when the chit gets drawn because of the mule in 0709. No one gains Lament in this combat as nothing was eliminated, but the Allied do get another Resource point, bringing them to 2.
This was an excellent result for the Japanese, no losses, five Sat, and a clear road to Imphal. Let’s look quickly at the general situation in the west before we call this entry and the first Japanese Assault Phase.
The Green division is looking like they may be spearheading toward Imphal, and little is currently in their way. The Orange division got a good start, but it will take another attack to break through. In the south, the Brits have a supply issue. It won’t affect their Assault Phase, coming up next, but it will be a problem when the Supply chit gets drawn, and we will definitely see how Quality affects units when it comes to supply. If the Japanese have a problem, it’s that their big 33rd Div is a bit spread out. That said, those support units in the middle have some options. They could continue to press in the center, or zip down the valley road to press in the south and try to take the main road up to Imphal.
Of course, the Allies won’t just sit on their hands, and X Force will be doing some attacking (I strongly suspect). There is even a small chance Y Force will enter, which would not be great but not terrible for the Japanese. Those diversions mostly act to draw resources away from the primary offensive push.
So far so good. And this is just one type of activation phase! The Allies will go quickly, and I suspect we’ll also get into at least one more chit pull after their turn. I think Assaults are the most involved, as a lot of things happen. Attack Phases have much more limited movement and no dropping of Ambushes or Bunkers. Supply will be relatively easy, Reinforcements/Replacements less so because we’ll be seeing that for the first time. In fact, other than the End Phase, that’s pretty much all the rules we have left to explore, leaving us more time for play. I feel pretty good about getting through the entire game by the end of the month, so hurray!