Tank vs. Pistol?

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It’s hard to understand how a ‘peasant’ army of lightly armed soldiers managed to defeat the most modern force on earth in a matter of days. Yet it did happen. How?

Chinese soldiers were briefed by their superiors about each operation in great detail. Even the overall strategic plan was reviewed by EVERY soldier.

The Chinese honestly felt they were not just fighting for brother Communists but but to save the revolution and nation of China making the sacrifice an act of Chinese patriotism not just a show of faith in Communism.

Chinese reconnaissance was excellent throughout their initial operations. Posing as Korean peasants trying to flee, ROK Soldiers or even Korean porters carrying supplies of the US Army and Marines gave the CCF an amazing amount of information about defender dispositions and terrain. The CCF was able to hit weak areas because they knew these areas WERE weak before they attacked.

The CCF had made night attacks a specialty when fighting the Chaing Ke-Shek’s nationalists army. This experience was put to very good use against the USA. In fact the obsession with night fighting for the US Army stems directly from American soldiers experience in 1950.

American soldiers in particular but practically all UN troops were road bound for the most part, their vehicles neatly lined up on narrow mountain roads guarded by foot soldiers who were too tired and frightened to move into the surrounding hill country and block the Chinese attack columns. This made getting behind the traffic jammed US army a piece of cake for the CCF.

A persistent myth is that the Chinese only hit ROK units and the Americans were forced to fall back after the Koreans broke. This is not true, CCF divisions hit American formations just as often as they hit the Koreans throughout the 1950 offensive. Using the same tactics they used against the Koreans they achieved excellent results, albeit with higher loss rates.

Raven Games
Raven Games

 

Roman In One Da…Lifetime

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We’ve all heard the old saw ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ and this is true. Of course this is true of every city ever built anywhere, but there is something massive about ancient Rome both in a literal sense and in a spiritual sense. But what is generally forgotten is that the empire was created in a lifetime. From the end of the Second Punic War through the smashing victories over the Greeks, Phillip the V, the Seleucid Empire, and others, Rome carved a bloody track that led from regional Italian power to world super power. Less than 70 years was all it took, but why?

Most empires emerge in a power vacuum, old powers become weak or cease to exists and a new comer picks up the pieces. This was how the Persian empire rose from the ashes of old empires like Assyria and Egypt. And Egypt rose where no empire had ever existed.  But the Roman empire was unique. There were powers all around the Mediterranean basin at the time of Rome’s ascendancy and Rome beat them all in direct conflict. True, Alexander beat Persia but he never smashed another empire afterward, Rome did, more than once. And after all the Greeks had struck down the power of Persia long before Alexander.

Part was the revolution in military science created by Rome. The legion was more flexible and capable over a broader range of terrain types than any other competing army.

Roman strategic thinking was in the main clear: Find, fix and defeat the enemy. This simple prescription meant that any tactical finesse by the enemy availed them nothing while Roman Legions were beating on the gates of their capital city. And Roman victories were complete. The Romans thought in terms of campaigns, let me re-emphasize this last point: Rome thought in terms of CAMPAIGNS not single battles, NEVER single battles. The Romans would bleed and suffer for years, even decades to gain the victory. No other ancient nation was as prepared to carry on war for the length of time and use whatever resources or manpower needed to win.

Manpower was another Roman ace in the hole. During the first eight months of the Second Punic War, Rome lost some 100,000 legionaries. No other nation could have sustained such loss and continued to fight on. No ancient nation could have sustained a Cannae; 60,000 causalities in ONE DAY, more causalities than the British lost in the first day of the Somme offensive in 1916; and continue. This may have been in the mind of Hannibal as he waited around Cannae for Roman peace offerings that never came. By being able to create Legions even after terrible defeats meant Rome could sustain wars until if nothing else the enemy was exhausted from winning.

Lastly the Roman character admitted no equal let alone a superior to themselves. Anyone that has traveled to Italy as I have, has noted the tone of Rome and Romans. In their hearts they are still the seat of a great empire.  This attitude meant that Romans where never intimidated by anyone. Carthaginian quinqueremes with trained rowers simply had to be imitated.   The grandeur of the Alexander the Great and his Macedonians meant nothing to the Legions as they smashed through the Phalangists, Sarissa’s or no.

If a term can be used for this mindset it is this: The Romans carried the warrior virtues at all times. And it won them an empire.

Raven Games
Raven Games

 

 

Rome and Britain

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Britain was a last minute entry into the Roman Empire. It had been ‘invaded’ by Julius Caesar twice during his Gaul Campaign, his stated reason was to carry the Aquila to the end of the world and to punish the British for giving aid to the Gauls. It’s doubtful whether the British did anything in a formal way, hardly ‘aiding the enemy’ as we understand the term. Both invasions were fiascos for Caesar and ended almost as quickly as they began. Though Caesar did manage to install a friendly King over the Trinovantes.  Caligula assembled 200,000 men (so he claimed) to invade the island then had his men collect sea shells instead. It took Claudius to bring Britain under Roman rule and he did it to prove his ability to rule the Empire during peace or war. Boudica’s revolt was the last native revolt we hear of  within Britain proper for years, but there must have been a few as a legion was always kept within the province for years after Boudica.

But from the very start Britain was a pain in the backside of every Emperor onward. So remote and hard to reach Britain became a perfect starting point for many a pretender. Hadrian and Antonius Pius both had walls built, partly to define the end of the empire, to defend the province against the northern tribes living in what today is Scotland, and to give the legions something to do besides revolting. The last may have been the most important benefit as far as the emperors could see.

And for all, that Britain was profitable to the Empire for at least two centuries.  Hadrian’s wall shows it was a magnet for trade, many a village, or town was created along it’s length by a mixing of retired legionaries and natives. Grave markers show merchants and their family migrated to the fog bound island to trade from as far away as Syria.

When the last legion left Britain to defend the Rhine against German tribes Britain was still nominally a Roman Province. Never-the-less the empire never returned. A series of petty tribal chiefs, know as ‘Kinglets’, ruled in the name of Rome. It is not easy to know when Britain finally broke free and it’s leaders rule in their own name, but surely the loss of Britain was not a great hardship to the Emperor’s. The locals however took a great deal of convincing, caches of coins treasures and goods have been found; these are thought to be hordes held for the day the legions and their Emperor returned. Some of these caches are almost 100 AFTER the empire had left.

Raven Games
Raven Games

Rome vs. Everyone

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The Roman Army had many assets as it marched to battle. So many in fact, that later writers have had a hard time trying to pin down the abilities and assets that lead to victory. Yet no army in history has ever been as successful as the Roman. For 600 years the empire smashed one threat after another. But how? That is the real question and one not easily answered. In this article I will numerate three of those vital assets. These three I feel are the more important factors during that long stretch of Pax Romana. They are not in order of priority or value, but simply a list:

1) Power vacuum: It’s easy to keep the peace if no one arises to challenge your military dominance with a realistic chance of strategic victory over you. During a 600 year span of time no civilization arose that was in anyway able to dictate terms to the Roman’s. Parthia is a frequent offering as a ‘real’ enemy to Rome. This is based on Carrhae, and the smashing nature of that defeat. Yet, Parthia never threatened Rome, in fact their infrequent invasions of Roman provinces always ended in the Parthian’s retreating back to the interior of their empire. Rome burnt Ctesiphon three and possibly five times, no similar event was ever caused by the Parthian’s to Rome. Roman expansion into Parthia was prevented by there being nothing worth conquering. The German barbarians also inflicted a devastating defeat on Varus in the Teutoburg Wald, bad enough that the Roman’s never tried to conquer the Germanic tribes again. But Teutoburg was a battle in line with the Little Big Horn, in that the victor was looking to remove a threat from their territory not to conquer the enemy’s territory. It’s doubtful even with Arminius leading them, the tribes could have retained their solidarity long enough to enter and conquer imperial holdings. As for all other enemy’s: ‘revolt’ against Roman rules was the order of the day.

2) Adaptation: The Roman army was never proud, or at least never too proud to adopt a good idea. The Romans used the best of everything they could find. From Balearic slingers to the finest siege machines from Greece and Persia, the Imperial Army took whatever worked. The Roman’s never believed in ‘silver bullets’ preferring to take a holistic approach to warfare. Rome may have been the first military in the world to study and adopt foreign ideas in such a systematized way, it could be argued that the Romans were the first professionals to take a scientific approach to warfare.

3) Discipline: Few militaries have ever maintained such a high level of discipline and training as the Roman army. This does not mean the Legions were at the peak of readiness at all times. The Legions often took a drubbing before they toughened up and starting winning.  But the average Legion needed far less time toughening up to be battle ready.

So if the army was all conquering and able to maintain it’s dominance for 600 years, what on earth beat the Romans? After all the empire did ‘fall’. In the end what ended the dominance of Roman armies was the only enemy capable of consistently defeating a Roman army: The Romans themselves.  For two centuries the Roman army fought it’s self as one Roman General after another aimed at the purple. Enough generals were successful that the attempt was worth the blood and treasure spent trying. In the second century civil war became a way of life within the Empire. Emperor after emperor tried to put a system together that kept them on top and the army too busy elsewhere to engage in civil war. It never worked, and in the end the Empire tore itself apart.

Raven Games
Raven Games

 

Friends, Romans and Plastic Pushers!

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Well another month and another game. Wonder how I do it? Me too! I spend waaaay to much time in front of this machine. So, what is Invictus all about? Well, obviously it’s about the Roman Empire! After all there is the Aquila (Eagle) with Senātus Populusque Rōmānus right in the logo bar. Still stirs the heart!~ Makes the fingers itch to push legionnaires into the jaws of Tyche (god of chance) don’t it?

This game is designed for 1/72nd scale (HO) plastic and there is a HUGE range of ancients in this scale. The price and quality make a great alternative to metal. 15mm and 25mm can be easily substituted.

Now the question is of course ‘Why Rome?’ and why Rome after the pacific world war II? Well, my answer to that is ‘Why not?’ and the Roman army is one piece of land history I have studied as voraciously as sea warfare.  The Legion was the best fighting machine for two millennia and faced Parthians, Sassinids, Germans, Brits, Picts, Celts and more. No force in world history has faced such a variety of enemies and for the most part won. While the Romans often faced a terrible tactical defeat at the start of the war (not unlike the British Army) they would win the war. Just ask Hannibal. It was the ability of the Romans to adapt their force to fit the situation and enemy. This mission packaging was not unique or new but the Romans did it better than anyone else. Invictus reflects this with a system of customization to allow for infinite play possibles.  All the major forms of units are here Heavy Cavalry, Light Cavalry Archers, Elephants, Chariots, Auxili, and of course the war winners the Legionaries themselves.–enjoy

 

Raven Games
Raven Games

 

Why Battleships?

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One of the oddities of the Guadalcanal campaign is the fact that battleships were used by both sides in restricted waters, in small numbers, and for very different reasons. Unquestionably the warship with the greatest impact on the campaign was the cruiser. There are many good arguments for saying the destroyer, but destroyers could not perform the multi-functions of a cruiser. Cruisers were for the most part the ‘big guns’ of the battle when battleships weren’t around. And most often battleships weren’t around. Cruisers made good platforms for admiral’s headquarters. Cruisers provided combat information from radar, sea plane, radio intercept and visual spotting to their fleet. Cruisers could more easily control the movement of ships and defend themselves from air attack in daylight. Cruisers were more often used as patrol and first line defense ships than any other type. Cruisers used their big 8 and 6 inch guns in a bombardment function often very close to shore. And yet even with all these reasons, both sides felt compelled to commit battleships from time to time, and the reasons why these commitments were made tells a great deal about the psychology of both the IJN and the USN in this campaign.

Japan’s reason for bringing the battle wagons in, was to ‘soften up’ marines on Guadalcanal island for a land attack to be launched after the bombardment. The failure of the IJN Cruisers and Destroyers to hit meaningful targets and to hit these targets hard enough encouraged the use of battleships. Maybe even as a sort of ‘last resort’ tactic after everything else had failed. The American reason was because the Japanese had brought in battleships. And that in a nut shells tells the whole story of Guadalcanal.

The Japanese spent six very long bloody months trying to pry the allies loose from Guadalcanal using very weapon in their arsenal in the attempt. Hampered by distance and allied air superiority, the Japanese were forced to confine their attempts to take the island to night time. Japanese sailor learned to operate cargo runs at night, sweep the area for enemy ships at night, use spotting planes to detect enemy ships at night, and to attack the island with warships at night. As good as the IJN was at night fighting their inability to perform any function in daylight doomed their mission right from the start.

All the allies had to do was respond meaningfully to any Japanese attempt. And this the allies did brilliantly. The allies never ‘upped the ante’  by introducing new elements into the sea fight, they just kept even with IJN. The allies met Japanese force with force. It cost the allies an Aircraft carrier, several cruisers and destroyers, in fact the allies lost more fighting ships than the IJN did, and yet the Japanese experienced that peculiar aliment of winning the battles and losing the war. The blood shed by the allies on and around Guadalcanal saved thousands of lives later in the war, as a broken Japan stumbled from one loosing battle to another.

Raven Games
Raven Games

To Fire or Not to Fire?

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If you fire your weapons at night in pitch black you create a self imposed signal as to your position. If you don’t fire you may miss the opportunity to destroy or at least hurt your enemy. Now imagine facing this conundrum EVERY night! Captains faced this every night that they faced their foe around Guadalcanal. The flash and smoke would give you away for only a second and you could change direction, reverse course, something, anything, to throw off your opponent. You could also reverse course or change direction and lose the most important targets or lose your position within your own fleet and take the chance of being destroyed by your own side. This problem is the answer to one great question about the sea fights around Guadalcanal, why did the Japanese never go after the landing craft, merchant men etc. supporting the USA ground forces?

This conundrum plagued the Japanese more so than the Americans. NOT because of radar; as has been assumed through the years; but because they were defending the waters of Guadalcanal. AMERICAN’S KNEW they had friends surrounding them and if they could hold out until dawn their own CAP (Combat Air Patrol)  would defend them in daylight. American CAP flew out of Henderson field every morning weather permitting consisting of fighters (F4F) and (P-40s) along with dive bombers (SBDs) and the occasional army bomber. The target these pilots were looking for? Fat, juicy, Japanese fighting ships racing up the slot, laying on every once of steam to get away.

The Japanese by October 1942 KNEW the waters of Guadalcanal did not belong to them, further they had little choice but to run away after only limited time in enemy waters, or face the wraith American CAP’s.  So this lead more often than not to the conundrum: To Fire or Not to Fire?  The Imperial Navy realized it needed to hit priority targets like landing craft, merchant men, troopships and the like. They understood that the loss of a hand full of American destroyers would not bring victory. But there in lay the trap: The Japanese fighting ships had to either sneak past the patrolling enemy ships; and this got progressively harder as the USN (United States Navy) got better at it’s job; or batter their way through the Americans with enough time remaining to hit the priority targets which lay closer; and therefore deeper in enemy territory; to Guadalcanal. As the Americans coordinated their visual detection and radar detection of the Japanese and as the Japanese had only limited; and therefore predictable; window in which to conduct operations, it got easier for the American to defend the islands and waters off Guadalcanal.

Raven Games
Raven Games

Scenario 2 Steam & Steel

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Theoretical Battle: September 1942 Night 02:23

IJN Forces are trying to exit Iron Bottom Sound after landing supplies to the Japanese garrison on Guadalcanal. A forgotten mine field left behind by Japanese subs is in the path of both the IJN and USN unknown to both fleets. The USN has been given advance knowledge of the Japanese task force but failed to intercept them before they landed their cargo.

Maps: 6

2 Shallow Maps All shallow squares (Yellow) are mined. 1 Mine or Decoy counter in each square.

3 Deep Maps

1 Shore Map

Total Rounds of Play: 6

Place the Shore on the north/east corner of the square. The shallow maps are set below the coast line.  Along the west end of the board are the deep water boards.The IJN enters the board from the North West Board and must exit the Shallow board on the South East Corner. USN forces are placed on any East board including the coastal map and must stop the Japanese player from leaving the map.

theoretical map 1

Forces

Imperial Japanese Navy

6 DD

3 CL

2 CA

1 Float Plane 3 Star Shells 10 torpedoes

United States Navy

4 DD

2 CL

2 CA

2 Float Planes 6 Star Shells 8 Torpedoes

For every Japanese ship sunk USN gains 1VP. USN loses 1VP for every USN ship sunk

USN Wins marginal victory with   4 VP

USN Wins moderate victory with  6 VP

USN Wins crushing victory with   8 VP

Notes: There were many encounters as above, the use of mines by either side was sporadic and often lead to more problems than they solved.  In September of 1942 both the IJN and USN were trying to gain advantage around Guadalcanal but didn’t truly understand the other side’s commitment to the battle.  The Japanese constantly underrated the American resolve and committed forces far to small to do the job of driving the USN out of Guadalcanal waters even temporarily. –Enjoy

Raven Games
Raven Games

 

 

Why Korea?

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So Red Charge is a game of combat in Korea in 1950? REALLY?? Why on earth would you do Korea? After all what happened in Korea?

A peasant army representing under half the total population of a country the size of Utah, pushed back and humiliated the United States Army, Marines, Air Force, and Navy. It did this with only equipment backing from the USSR and Red China. As the North Korean Peoples Army (NKPA) pushed down the traditional invasion route of the Uijeonbu river valley they used North Korean tactics, command structures, doctrine and above all blood to achieve their surprise and success. In the end the NKPA took on the world.

It was not meant to be that way, the NKPA had been designed to destroy the Republic of Korea forces in few weeks and present the world with a fait accompli. American forces however were quickly inserted into the fighting. The United States Army and Marines truly felt; at least in some commands; the mere sight of American soldiers would give the NKPA and Kim Il Sung pause…it did not, and the US Army and Marines found themselves fighting a terrible ground conflict against a better prepared, equipped and trained enemy. Never the less young men from Iowa, Colorado, New York, and elsewhere toughened up.  They fought a tidal wave, winning out after a tenacious campaign against the onrushing enemy at Pusan.  The ground combat was vicious no holds bared and ideological in its nature.

That is Why Korea…enjoy

Raven Games
Raven Games

Building the Parts II

The counters to my games need to be printed and cut out, but there is an order to this process that saves time and grey matter…

1) Print the counters on glossy paper to give them a professional look and feel.

2) Cut out the front side of counters in bulk. DO NOT attempt to glue each counter front to poster board individually.

3) Cut out the back side of the counters and then separate them into individual counters.

4) Glue the bulk front counters to the poster board. Give yourself plenty of room between counter bulks. Take your time and arrange the counter bulks on the poster board BEFORE gluing. A goodly layer of adhesive spray glue should be used on each bulk. Smooth the counter bulk gently with your hands only. When using newspaper or such for spraying onto, change the paper often, sticky newsprint gets onto the counters and ruins them.

5) Cut out the counters using an Xacto knifeXacto KnifeMake sure you start with a fresh blade and change the blade as needed. DO NOT USE A DULL BLADE.

6) Lay out the now cut bulk counters upside down (blank side up) in even rows on fresh newspaper or paper and apply another layer of  adhesive spray and gently one at a time place the back of the counters on. Make sure the back is in the same direction (top to top) as the front. Counters are done.

If you make a mistake or ruin some counters: Reprint ant start again.

 

Raven Games
Raven Games