||Face to Face
It’s been a while, but finally on to the twelfth battle of the Kokoda campaign, Road to Oivi Part 2. It’s actually the thirteenth scenario, but we are currently skipping Scenario 19, the mother of all Kokoda scenarios. In this scenario the Japanese are trying to defend hills and village hexes, 33 all total, against a superior Australian force. The Australians have about 50% more units, whereas the Japanese must defend 33 hexes with only 20 units for a time period of 24 turns. The instructions allow the Australians to use hidden movement (vice just setup), which is a logistical nightmare given the size of their force. I also suspect that the hidden movement gives the Australians a massive advantage as the Japanese cannot create a cordon around the hexes that need to be defended since it would take at least 21 units to do so, and the Australians have all day at 24 turns. Due to logistics of running such a large force hidden (we find mistakes begin to happen once you're above around 12 units) and the desire to not play until 1AM (hidden movement creates a huge time addition), my opponent chose to forego that advantage and play his troops open.
The Japanese set up across the north-south trail, with HMGs on the intersection and everything else pretty much in the v-formation the trail forms. The flanks are spread thinner to one unit per hex in order to try and cover the ends and prevent a flanking movement. Several Japanese platoons immediately advance up the trail in an attempt to slow down the Australian advance, and the Australians come in on the south end of their side of the board. Unlike my normal Japanese play of assault, assault, and when in doubt assault, I have instructed the troops to maintain discipline and not be drawn into hasty assault opportunities. In fact, I've already written down three fallback positions for each platoon so as to slow the Australian advance with a decreasing perimeter around the hills to encourage the Australians to assault me in the heavy jungle. I expect to fall back to the first position after three turns. The Aussies advance mostly to the south of the trail, and push a few stacks to the north. My advance up the trail stymies the Aussies, who seem unwilling to make contact, and they advance slowly through the jungle. My troops slowly walk back up the path to their starting positions, yielding the trail once the pressure of so many Australians in a small area becomes untenable. Fog of war becomes an issues for the Aussies, and I hold the initial position for eight turns. The Aussies finally make first contact, and I hit them with heavy opfire, and score a 2X result on an infantry platoon. That becomes the extent of my effective direct fire for the entire scenario.
The Japanese begin moving to their first fallback position, yielding the N/S trail to the Australians, who quickly occupy it. More opfire is a joke, and I can't even force a morale check. But the trail has a few not that strong Australian stacks north of the intersection while fog of war has separated the first Australian line from the second. Discipline collapses on my right flank, and the Japanese go banzai all over the Australians. And it is highly effective. The Australian center hunkers down and begins firing against my center, and the Australian right continues to advance slowly through the jungle. But the Australian left is in disarray. The Australians shift more forces to the left, and the Japanese in the center can no longer maintain discipline and, excepting the HMGs, they launch more assaults. The Japanese are pounding the Australians in the assault hexes, but they cannot pull out and have started to leave gaps in the line. The few mobile units try to cover those gaps, and the Australians decide to go head to head in the assault hexes and launch more troops into the fray. At this point they are even drawing troops from their right to shore up the center, while the Japanese left continues to maintain discipline. Then the unthinkable happens, and the Japanese that have tried so hard to maintain discipline in the center finally can resist no longer. They assault the hex with the Australian Colonel, and kill him. The Aussies freeze. Those units not in the assault continue to slowly push in the center and right, causing far more direct fire issues to the Japanese than they receive. The Japanese units not in assaults hexes slowly pull back to fallback position three, while those in assaults either clear their hexes or proceed to recover, with a few units fleeing. But the Aussies are still taking more than they are giving in the assault hexes.
Finally the Aussies recover from the shock of the death of their Colonel. By now we're two thirds through the scenario, and the Aussies keep throwing more troops into the assault hexes while the Japanese try desperately to avoid becoming over-committed and leaving large gaps. As the last few turns approach, the Australians begin pushing towards the Japanese left and pull units from center assaults to try and break through. The Aussie right is so thin the Japanese finally break discipline and launch the assault. While the casualties are light on both sides, it ties the Aussies down as Japanese troops begin surrounding the hex. The Aussies do break through the center and begin racing down the trail on turn 22. But the force, led by the commanding Lt Col, is small, and the Japanese commanding major leads a weak assault team of recovered single step troops in on turn 23. The assault does very little to either side, but it pins the last Australian mobile force capable of reaching an objective.
In the end, the Japanese still control all 33 objective hexes, paying a toll of 14 steps lost to an Australian count of 27 steps lost. Final score, 93 to 14, a major Japanese victory.
The scenario was much closer than the score. The reality was the breaking of Japanese discipline gave the Japanese an early benefit by inflicting more steps than they took, but the Japanese came very close to over commitment. Had they committed many more troops, the Australians could have circled around and ran for the objectives. As it was, had the Australians given up on the assaults and pushed hard on the center, or concentrated everything on the center to begin with, they probably would have punched a hole in the line and started grabbing objectives. They were doing well with direct fire where the Japanese were not, but choosing instead to fight the Japanese in the assault hexes was a losing strategy. The rate of loss was shifting, but by then it was already too late. The Japanese were largely exhausted, but the Australians were already beaten. I give this one a 4 because despite the score difference it was an action packed scenario with maneuver opportunities pitting a larger attacking force against a desperate positional defense. With hidden movement I'm not sure how the Japanese would have defended against an end-run. Punch one hidden stack through the line and they can rack the score. With all the troops on the board it was a heck of a battle, and the winner was in doubt through the first 18 turns, with the Australian threat still real through turn 20. A little different Australian approach, or a smaller fog of war impact, could have yielded significantly different results.
Campaign score: Japanese 452, Australians 90.