British Cromwell hunts Whittman!

British Cromwell hunts Whittman!
A pic from a Fireball game at Fall In 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Japanese Invade Philippines 1941

Yesterday we playtested "A Filipino Welcome" - the first scenario of a series about the fall of the Philippines. What a blast! Here's the historical setup:

Date: December 22, 1941
At dawn the main Japanese invasion forces began hitting the beaches at five separate sites in Lingayen Gulf. Four of these were completely undefended, allowing the Japanese to race inland and cut the coastal road. Only at Bauang were Filipino troops waiting at the beach. Here the Headquarters Battalion, 12th Infantry (Philippine Army, led by American officers), with one .50-caliber and several .30-caliber machine guns, faced the oncoming Japanese. As the Kamijima Detachment approached the shore, the Filipinos opened fire.

And it was effective fire indeed! The Fil-Am forces had gambled and placed their .50 cal in a patch of scrub well forward - right on the beach - and it paid off. Lt. Col. Kamijima's Daihatsu landing barges were hit before they even reached the beach, and when the troops finally began spilling out, the majority were left cowering in the surf... or floating face down.

Only a handful of troops made it off the boats in good order. Unfortunately for the Filipinos, that's all the Japanese needed. Right away, they launched a Banzai charge against the .50 cal. (designer's note: the Banzai rules are VERY lively and a definite high point. A leader initiates Banzai, and he brings along with him all good-order subordinate troops in contact whether these have already moved or not. So it's extremely dangerous, and the feel of it matches the "suddenness" so often mentioned by defenders in written accounts.) This Banzai charge consisted of two squads and one platoon leader, and it suffered withering fire on the way in which killed the leader. However, both squads pressed onward (perhaps inspired by the late platoon leader's example), and they closed into contact with the Filipinos...

Next, by miraculous luck, the Filipinos prevailed in close combat! (thanks to Adrian Reen-Schuler rolling snake-eyes for his Japanese). What a wild fight!

The Filipinos now sensed blood in the water. Defenders from inland converged onto the landing site and pinned down the IJA with small arms, plus two .30 cal Browning machineguns. With losses mounting, the IJA scrambled to get troops off the beach. In ones & twos, their teams began to make it to a blind zone behind some scrub, hidden from Filipino fire. They gathered there and launched another Banzai charge inland toward one of the Brownings...

Despite more withering fire on the way in, this charge carried the position, wiping out both the Browning and another Fil-Am position immediately behind it. The Japanese were finally on the move. The bulk of the troops back in the surf were finally able to rally & get off the beach, and a battle of manuever developed in the dunes. There were 3 or 4 Banzai charges in total (I can't recall), but ultimately, the Japanese controlled only two of the three victory locations they need to establish the beachhead. Honors went to the Filipinos. Everyone had a blast with this one. The "feel" of the engagement seemed just right, and there were loads of tough tactical choices to be made on both sides.

Historically, Lt. Col. Kamijima suffered terrible losses at Bauang, and he might have been thrown back into the gulf entirely, but the Fil-Am defenders ultimately had to withdraw because other Japanese elements were threatening to cut the coast road behind them. In this scenario, that dynamic is represented through initiative chips. The Fil-Am forces have one permanent chip, but it's lost as soon as a good-order Japanese squad exits the board behind them, toward the coastal road.

We kicked around various refinements to the rules which might make the game better, (seemingly an endless process, but the results are worth it). Next time we play this one, we'll see how it goes.

This is the first of eight scenarios covering the Fall of the Philippines. The next represents the very first tank-on-tank fight for US forces in WWII, when M3 Stuarts of the 192nd Tank Rgt. faced Japanese armor at Agoo. This link has that story:

In a later scenario, Lt. Ramsey's famous charge at Morong (the U.S. Army's final horse-cavalry charge ever) will be represented.

Jonathan Tristram Miller.


  1. The Banzai charge should be effective against undisciplined troops. Chinese conscript formations fell apart due to these charges. I don’t know how well, historically, the Filipino discipline is but I’d say they were a candidate for the Banzai being really effective on. Note that this effect comes into play before the Japanese even make contact!

    American’s weren’t usually so shaken by this kind of attack unless it was an ambush. The Banzai attack was mainly an assault on enemy morale. An enemy who stands can have a good time cutting the Japanese down. The tactic was very effective in China which is why they used it so much.

  2. I think your rules will make quite an impact on the 15mm WWII company/platoon rules market - lots of good ideas. When will the rules be available? Please abort the idea of printing separate rules and scenarios together and stick to the idea of a general rulebook covering 1939-45, it will have a much greater appeal and market potential, IMHO.
    Are the labels attached to bases with unit ID obligatory or only for easy reference? Is there a manufacturer selling the square bases for 3 and 2 figs used in the Filipino scenario? And one last question: Is a table measuring 2 m x 0.9 m big enough for a small game of Fireball Forward? Really looking forward to this ruleset. Good luck with further development.
    Cheers, Jan - a potential gamer from Copenhagen