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The Orkney Wargames Club meets

in Kirkwall on Thursday evenings.


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Probing towards Buna, 1942

The Second World War, Chain of Command, 28mm

Over the past few months, while we’ve been playing games set in the Pacific we’ve tended to focus on the Buna campaign in New Guinea. So, this one is set on the track leading to Buna, where it skirts the Girua River.  The Americans, played by Sean 2, are advancing across the river from the east to take and hold the track, to secure it for the advance of the rest of the US 32nd Division. The Japanese of course, are out to stop them. We played the game on a 6×4 foot table, with some challenging terrain – marshes, jungle, and patches of boggy grass or reeds. Oh, and it was raining – a lot. In this, Sean 1 played the Japanese, while I umpired. It began with the patrol phase, with essentially both sides spacing their three jump-off points on either side of the track. The game proper began with the Americans deploying a squad and their platoon commander on the north side of the table, and began advancing into the jungle. The Japanese replied by deploying across their path, meaning a fight was all but guaranteed. The American objective was to get a team off the opposite (western) long table edge. SO, they deployed their next squad behind the river, and began splashing across. This though, let to Sean 1 deploying a Japanese section on the tree line beyond them, which was within rifle range. So, a firefight started, which the Japanese had the better of, badly chewing up Sean 1’s squad. Over on the right the two sides also came into contact, with both lots causing casualties on the enemy. To break the impasse though Sean 1 brought up his bazooka team – not too useful in the tank-less jungle – and his rather more handy flamethrower team. By then though, it was fast becoming clear that reaching the western table edge was going to be very tricky. To help, Sean deployed his observer team, attached to a mortar battery No sooner had he started getting his radio link set up that the rain started pouring down. This tropical torrent cut visibility to 18″, and made everyone move more slowly in the soggy ground. This saved the American squad on the river bank, but it didn’t help the rest of the platoon advance very far. Over on the Japanese right another section began crossing the river well to the south of the Americans, and then advancing through the swampy ground to get behind the Americans hugging the river bank. The soggy ground though, also hindered the outflanking Japanese. It soon became clear that they weren’t  going to get very far through all that swampy ground. Still, it was a good idea. At that point the rain got even worse… and so too did the already boggy ground. It was clearly set in for the rest of the game. The flamethrower team on the right though, did its bit, and cleared a gap in the Japanese line, The Americans, having brought on their last squad on the right, began their advance again, although they soon got bogged down in a heavy and costly firefight in the jungle.The one bright spot for Sean 2 was the Japanese sniper. He’d been taking potshots at the survivors of the squad clinging to the river bank in the centre of the table. So, he sent his third squad in against it. They took a few hits, but survived, and bayoneted the poor Japanese sniper. It was a little victory, and something of a morale-booster, but it didn’t achieve much more than that. Back on the Japanese left and centre the defenders proved adept at holding their ground, and so both sides pretty much ground themselves down. In the end, pretty much nobody on the table had the strength to continue the fight – apart from the outflanking Japanese squad of course,  squelching on through the swamp, but never firing a shot in anger. So, in the end we called it a draw and packed up. It was quite a frenetic game, but in the end neither side could snatch a victory.  Everyone was really too battered to do anything. Sean 2 had high hopes of his flamethrower team though, and claims that with more time, he could have got them off the north-west side of the table. Next time though, closer to Buna, it’ll all be very different!



4 Responses “Probing towards Buna, 1942”

  1. Sean Page
    23rd September 2023 at 11:56 am

    The table always looks amazing when playing a WW2 jungle encounter – especially when you consider that these games have to be completed within a few hours at a wargames club night. Not sure if any aquarium accessory shop within hundred miles had any stock left !

    This game had the feeling of combat in such a hostile environment but, through the nuances of the Chain of Command rules, allowed the players to react to the rapidly deteriorating conditions – could it rain any more !!!

    I must admit that I was in Spanish Civil War CofC mode when I charged forward with my Americans and paid the price for advancing into a hail of fire. Only moving forward tactically with the flamethrower very late in the day. I nearly reached the objective of the edge of the table, but in all honesty my combat group would have been surrounded by the Japanese unit moving ever so slowly along the river and so would have lost in any event.

    As with all our games, the winning or losing is not the objective (good job because I lose most weeks!) and as ever I thoroughly enjoyed the game. Thanks Angus for providing the toys and the amazing scenery.

    • 23rd September 2023 at 4:35 pm

      Well, the torrential rain made the game all the more entertaining.
      I like the way it started the moment your forward observer got his binoculars out!

  2. Will
    27th September 2023 at 5:10 pm

    Another great looking table. Your wargaming buddies are very fortunate that you are willing to umpire so many games.

    • 27th September 2023 at 5:18 pm

      I only do it Will, when I’m too knackered after a hard day of working. It’s the lazy option..!

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