The Invasions of Japan Review by Len Krol
Operation Olympic , Strategy & Tactics #45
Design: James Dunnigan
Developer: Frank Davis
Invasions of Japan: World at War #27
Additional design: Christopher Cummins & Joe Youst
It’s good that Decision Games is reprinting some of the old Strategy and Tactics games. It gives them a chance to improve them and a chance for you to play them. A good example of this is The Invasions of Japan.
The Invasions of Japan is a simulation of the planned invasions of Japan. There are two maps. One is of the southern island of Kyushu, the other is part of the island of Honshu. There are 560 counters. This was originally published in S&T as Operation Olympic only. It would be republished in World at War #27 as the Invasions of Japan. This time they included Operation Coronet, the attack to take Tokyo. This is meant as a solo game, but there are optional rules for a two player game.
Sequence of play:
American player turn
A) American movement phase
B) American Amphibious Phase
C) American combat phase
D) American reinforcement phase
E) American Air Interdiction phase (Two player game only)
Japanese player turn
A) Japanese Doctrine Phase
B) Japanese movement phase
C) Japanese Combat Phase
D) Air interdiction removal phase (Two player game only)
The American units are two sided and at regimental strength. The infantry units have a strength of 4 and a movement of 12; the Marines have a strength of 5 and a movement of 12; while the armor units have a strength of 6 and movement of 12.
The Japanese units vary in size. While they are mostly regiments, there are a few brigades or battalions. The Japanese units also vary in both strength and movement. Some can move as fast as 10 while others move as few as 3 movement points. This reflects the quality of the units. Some units lack transport and supplies, so they cannot move as fast.
The Japanese have to move the slowest units first, then the next fastest units. Stacking limits are in effect at all times. As a result, sometimes the slow units can block faster units. It causes extra work, but is worth it. I am in favor of traffic jams and want more of it in wargames.
For combat, you move adjacent to the enemy, calculate the attack differential and roll a D6. Combat is optional for the most part. Japanese doctrine forces Japanese units to move towards the Americans and attack them. They have to attack even at unfavorable odds. It should be noted that even at the worse odds, there is a 33% chance of the American being forced to retreat or lose a step. Only rough, town, or city hexes modify combat.
The Japanese player must attack with individual units against individual American units. For example if three Japanese units attack a stack of three American units, you have to roll three times.
Each battle causes casualty points for the American player. The American player must keep track of the casualties. At the end of the game, this determines some of the victory points gained.
Japanese units can only attack the first six turns. The exception is the 36th Corps. The Japanese would have given one corps all the supplies it needs so that it would become a mobile reserve. This corps can attack until the last turn. The only limitation is that you have to roll on the first turn to determine which direction it will move on the first turn.
Japanese units have a letter on their back side that tells you where they can be placed. There are even dummy counters. The Americans never know how good the Japanese are until they are attacked.
The beginning American units start on the hexes for an amphibious landing. Each stack must endure a kamikaze attack. There is 33% chance of the stack losing a step. If the stack cannot move out of the landing hexes, it is lost. The reinforcements come in on the invasion hexes and must endure a kamikaze attack. Japanese reinforcements come in randomly at certain points on the map.
After setting up the Japanese units, I placed the America units on the map. I placed 18 Army regiments on Sendai beach and 9 Marine regiments on Tsuno beach. On turn 2, I landed six army regiments on the Izumi beach, and three on Mizaki beach. The Marines started moving west, but the 36 Corp and advancing units were threatening the supply line. The Marines had to retreat to protect the beachhead. Future reinforcements would be sent to this area. In the west, the eight army divisions grinded their way through rough terrain and towns to eventually take Kagoshima.
After ten turns, the battle was over and it was time to count points. The American player starts with a base of 500 points and subtracts from these if there are Japanese units south of the North/South line. The American player gets points for controlling all of Kagoshima. The American player also receives points for each city or town hex he holds. The Japanese player gets points for causing more than 300 ACP (American Casualty points.) To win, the American player must score more points than the Japanese did. I did, but the cost was high. I determined that I spread out my force too much. Then I looked at the historical plans. They were planning to spread out the forces even more. I only invaded two beaches on the first turn and two on later turns. The US was planning to land at every beach. It would have been a bloodbath.
Then I felt a cold breeze. Appearing in front of me was the master of the 20th century, Dugout Douglas McArthur. With his booming voice he said, “That’s not how I would have done it.” With his corncob pipe, he pointed at the beaches of Fukuoka and Yawata and said, “I would have landed there.” While the beaches are narrow, there are many city hexes close by and the reinforcements come in here. The Kamikazes have a 50% chance of causing a step loss, and one American division is deployed elsewhere. The only advantage is that there was only a thin line of weak units in the area.
“Remember the lessons of Inchon”, said Dugout Doug as he faded away. I had 9 Marine regiments invading at Yawata, 9 army regiments at Fukuoka and nine at Izumi. The Yawata and Fukuoka were very tight the first two turns. Then there was very little ahead of me. The Japanese could only send a few sacrificial units to slow me down. The 9 nine units at Izumi would end up being wiped out. It would receive 9 more army regiments on turn two. Due to the movement rules the entire Japanese force in the southern part of the island would march against them. Eventually this mob would grind down the American forces and destroy this beachhead. The American player scored more points and fewer ACPs than in the previous battle.
Next up is Operation Coronet, the invasion of Honshu to capture Tokyo. This time I get armored divisions, an airborne drop, and if I give up victory points, British or Soviet soldiers. The historical plan was to invade one beach with half the forces and march northeast to Tokyo. The other half would invade another beach and march northwest to Tokyo. I didn’t need the advice of Dugout Doug to know that this is wrong. I instead landed at Ishohama. Not only were there few units in front of me, but you get bonus victory points for capturing cities and towns in this area. The disadvantage is that the beachhead is crowded. I had to leave one division behind. There were two turns of heavy fighting, but soon there was nothing in front of me. Two divisions were left behind to deal with the Japanese reinforcements. I marched to Tokyo. Except for a few towns, there was not much defensive terrain. I rolled over the enemy easily. The last few Japanese units tried to defend Tokyo. It only took three turns to destroy them. Operation Coronet was an easier battle than Olympic. I wiped out the entire Japanese force.
This is a fun game. After setting up, it only takes about two hours to play. The movement rules that allow units to cause traffic jams and the ACPs are extra work, but worthwhile. They bring out the uniqueness of this game. The only real change I would do is in combat. They should allow an entire Japanese stack to attack an American one. You could use a step loss CRT like you have in Korean War battles. The counters are easy to read and the map has clearly defined terrain. Both make it easy to play.
The rules were clear and I did not have any problems. However, I had to look at the rules when I rolled for reinforcements or when replacement points come in.
It is hard to judge balance. I barely won the first one. I took a chance and easily won the second one. The terrain favored the offense, so Operation Coronet was an easy victory. These campaigns did not happen, so it is hard to judge if I had an easy or harder time than in real life.
There are a number of optional rules that I have not tried. I have not followed the attacks that were planned. The two player game looks like it could be an interesting challenge. I could see playing this a few more times.
Overall, this is a good game and is worth a try.
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