The characters for this session, their fitness and arms:
Cpl Bryn Williams, knocked about, swapping back to a Lee-Enfield
LCpl Pinko McLean, in fine fettle, trusty Bren to hand
Pte Harding, tired, armed with Tommy gun
Pte Cade, nothing a good cuppa won’t fix, armed with Lee-Enfield
The NPCs of the scratch force ‘Mitting Bridge’ and their fitness and arms:
Bombardier Postlethwaite, tired, armed with Tommy gun
Gnrs Hitchcock, Withers, Thomas, Crane, Campbell and McDuff, tired, armed with Lee-Enfield
Ptes Staples, White, Jimbo and Paddy, fit, armed with Lee-Enfield
Ptes Lou and Ward, nothing a good cuppa won’t fix, armed with Lee-Enfield
Driver Fishburn, nothing a good cuppa won’t fix, hot char and a fire
A reminder about the field:
The cutting through the kidney hill is defensible. Williams has chosen to lay trenches along the crest of the kidney hill, the south flank, and the north flank – above the cutting though not directly above it. Pinko has added a bug-out trench one run-move away from the furthest, on the south-east side of the bridge. It covers the bridge and the cutting.
Three bashas line the hilltop, west of the crest itself. They are not in use.
West of the river a village spreads in an untidy sprawl.
At extreme rifle-shot east of the kidney hill a larger hill rises on the road’s north flank and another, larger village sprawls south of the road there. Both are obvious threats to the bridge (as muster points and dead ground for mortars) but lacking a sniper and a means of communicating, Williams cannot reasonably station a picket there.
That one special cup
Refugees have been coming through all this time a few at a time, some in bigger groups but none as looks like fit military age lads. I’m down by the Mitting river getting that trench deep enough, when up comes Fishburn with a good pot of char. Nothing like it when you’ve sweated across a few miles of dust and scrub. It does Lou a world of good.
“How’s Taffy doing – should be good at digging, being Welsh an all” – Fishburn
“He’s doing well – at telling us ‘you do it’” – Pinko
Off Fishburn toddles and later I see the char has done Corp no end of good too.
[This effect relates to the firearm/ordnance damage house-rules. Since until a character hits zero hp damage is taken to be stress and fatigue, things like tea and cigarettes help. The house rule for recovery in this manner:
Once per day that special cuppa char will restore 2xLVL hp
A quiet smoko will restore 1xLVL hp
Example: Williams is down 11hp after the incident with the kicked grenade last session. The cuppa restores twice his level in hp, or 6hp.]
By this time our two lads below the bridge, Cade and Harding, have had plenty of time to wire charges so I make sure to keep my eye on them as best I can. I can see up the cutting through the hill that both concertinas of barbwire have been laid and Corp has a couple of the lads on duty letting refugees by.
A staff car brings a brass hat
Back to the blunt end of my idiot stick and sweating away, I hear a bit of fuss on the hill. Some brass hat arrives in a staff car, Jimbo points him up to Corp, and I can see he’s disappointed to find a Welsh Corporal is in charge of the shoot. All he has to say is, wounded will come through first, then some Chinese outfit that sounds a fierce gypsy caravan, and 7th Armoured. He reminds Corp as we are not to blow the bridge before they are safe on the west side, as though we would forget.
Harding the ever watchful
A whiles later I’ve rounded up Corp and the Bom for a smoke and a chat. Mind you he don’t smoke, funny that way is Corp, a chapel thing I suppose. I’ve had a nasty feeling about Daphne and the village and Corp, who looks as though he could do with forty winks, tells me go ahead man. I take the Bom, Postlethwaite, and explain my idea.
Finally Harding and Cade have finished and I catch them up quick smart. I am about to get my plan for the village sorted when Corp whistles Harding up the hill.
“It’s getting dark. You’re on watch” – Williams
“Oh righto then” – Harding, who has been on watch in Daphne, engaged in a firefight, and wiring explosives, since his early start the same day.
A disturbance at the barricade nearly proves fatal
I’ve still got Cade Lou and Paddy and gunners, so I explain as how I want defences under the western two bashas in the village. And, I want the cushiest basha found so we can get some good kip, or put wounded up safe.
I’m thinking over how to keep Daphne safe from air attack – that’s another wee gem the brass mentioned to Corp – when there’s a shout from the hill. Harding the sleepless eye has seen aught. [Harding makes 27 Notice] The Corp yells to Ward to close the barricade, where an oxcart is wanting to get through, and firing and great fun for a few moments!
Round 1: As the ‘Burmans’ begin digging things out of their ox-cart Harding swings his Tommy gun onto them and shares out a full magazine. And prudently sidesteps towards the trench. Only one appears to be affected. Williams, now regretting swapping back to a Lee-Enfield, aims down into the cutting but just misses in the gathering dusk. One infiltrator swings up a Japanese SMG and sprays the bank around Williams and Harding, forcing Harding to dive hastily into the trench he’s beside. The other infiltrators level rifles and the ox, alarmed by the gunfire, galumphs west, barbed wire or no barbed wire. Jimbo fires wildly and plunges to cover behind the curve of the northern hill-end, and Ward dives for cover first and readies his rifle second.
Round 2: Harding rights himself inside the trench and reloads. Williams remains defiantly upright and misses again. In reply bullets whip through his khakis and ping off his helmet! [He is on 3hp!] Neither Jimbo nor Ward are hit. The ox blunders through the wire, dragging it along. Staples Jimbo and Ward fire and dust leaps off one infiltrator’s trouser leg.
(Cade hurries to the bridge and Pinko swings his Bren to the ready and advances to the nearest bridge parapet, to brace the bipod.)
Round 3: Harding leans up over the trench side and puts a burst into the infiltrator with the SMG. Williams fires across his body from the hip as he dives into Harding’s trench. The SMG, seeking cover, pulls back right next to Jimbo (but around the cutting’s corner) while other infiltrators also seek some cover and miss their shots. Jimbo and Staples fire again and Ward tosses a grenade, not entirely accurately.
(Cade is now at the bridge end and Pinko has now set the Bren up. Cade calls ‘there’s firing – in the cutting’ to make sure Pinko knows where the problem is, shoots at the ox, and misses.)
Round 4: Harding has a chance for another burst at the leg-wounded infiltrator, takes it, and puts the man down. Williams surfaces cautiously and scans the entire area [Notice 21] getting a good picture of who’s where. There seems no need to call for reinforcements, and he can see Cade on the bridge. One infiltrator shouts a battlecry and charges Ward, bayonet extended! Ward parries him off with difficulty [FORT SV 20] but is struggling. One of the two remaining infiltrators with rifles nicks Jimbo, but the youngster bravely holds his ground and finishes off the SMG wielder. Ward’s grenade goes off, injuring the ox, damaging the cart, and killing one infiltrator outright leaving one still in the cutting. At his end, Ward tries to disengage and shoot his man, but fails, and is saved by a miracle shot from Cade who picks out the infiltrator from Ward in the dusk and puts a round into him.
Round 5: Harding vaults up out of his trench to get line of sight and misses with a burst. Williams does still have line of sight and manages to nick the lone infiltrator. Who runs west past Ward! Staples and Ward both shoot him and he drops. As the ox lumbers on, bleeding, Cade finishes it off.
Setting watch in two camps is a camp too many
Well after all that fuss we put the wire to rights and it’s lovely fresh beef for dinner, and dinners after that. The cart had a few odds and ends of Jap kit and Corp takes some papers and sketch maps away. He’s all in by this time – shaking he is and I don’t wonder, the silly sod could have got his head shot off – so I go on with my idea about the village. Turns out it’s not such a good one!
The big gunner Hitchcock I think it is, has been told off by Corp as watch on the hill. Lou Ward Jimbo and Harding are all needing sleep, of course, not to mention Corp who is already turning in. I tell Staples Cade and White they are up with the gunner on trenches.
That leaves me Postlethwaite (who outranks me mind) and his other five Withers McDuff Campbell Crane and Thomas; and Paddy of course. Eight of us in the village sounds good to me so that’s one shift on, one off. Postlethwaite tells me Withers and McDuff have stood the journey best so they and we two are on watch first. Second watch will relieve us.
Up on the hill the sleeping beauties Corp Lou Ward Jimbo and Harding get shaken awake eventually, it would be a couple hours shy of dawn, and stand to, then what do they hear but naughty Nip mortars!
“Oh bugger our goose is cooked and I’m out of sauce” – Harding
“And you said we didn’t have an alarm clock” – Cade, rising quickly
As rounds drop along the hill crest all present brace themselves [make both FORT and WILL SV].
FORT: the three PCs present are OK.
WILL: Cade just makes it with a 10, Harding fails and is dazed.
In the village
Pinko checks where rounds are coming from (it could conceivably be from the west)
On the hill
Those not dazed [make Notice checks and] see a line of Japanese, already quite near the east slope of the hill!
- Bottom of round: Bren team
Round 1: General firing from the trenches results in one of the nine visible attackers dropping.
“Get that bloody Bren up here!” – Williams, now awake to how divided the section is
(The village section advances at the double across the bridge, ending spreading out towards the hill)
Round 2: Cade spots a Taisho and a Bren (or Bren lookalike) LMG amidst the attackers, yells the danger but misses his shot. The Japanese scream Banzai! And charge! Those charging the middle and southern trench get to bayonet length, but the northern trench is protected by a slightly steeper grade and they do not quite get there.
[Banzai charge is a feat in VfV. WILL SV for those reached: Harding fails. He can use his active defence but not attack.]
There is a nasty scrape for Cade as he parries a bayonet off his ribs, while the big gunner Hitchcock throws his man back and fires at him. Harding evades. Williams yanks a grenade clear, hurls it – wildly – and screams with the full power of his Command:
“Retreat!!!” – Williams, suiting deed to word
“Advance! Grenades!” – Pinko, suiting deed to word
Out of character: ‘hey, I’m still here you know’ – Cade’s player; ‘you’re a rogue, you’ll be fine’ – me
Round 3: Mills bombs patter down along the trenches. Cade leaps like a jackrabbit from his trench and keeps his footing all the way past the bashas, past Pinko’s line, safe behind the big men. Harding puts a burst down and retreats, weaving somewhat. Hitchcock and the riflemen retire.
“Spread out behind the NCOs!” – Williams makes Command 21 to restore some order
Pinko advances to the bashas on the hill, sees three Japanese above him south, and sends a burst into one, which by good fortune is the Taisho gunner. Postlethwaite leads his gunners (minus Hitchcock) towards the trenches, as with a BANGBANGBANGBANG the hurled grenades devastate the Japanese in the middle trench. The gunners tumble in on top of messy body parts.
Round 4: Harding and Williams hurl grenades accurately at the enemy occupied trenches as the rifles and remaining two gunners advance again, some firing. The ‘Japanese Bren’ is dropped.
“South west flank! Down the riverbank!” – Harding, shouting the alarm loudly
A smatter of fire, including LMG tracer rounds, comes from a sneak-attack party that has been advancing along the steep riverbank, missing completely.
Pinko advances over the hill crest and puts a burst into the south trench.
“Keep watching east – the rest of us will deal with these newcomers” – Williams to Staples
Round 5: Cade swings round and fires back at where the tracer came from and surprisingly, drops the gunner! He withdraws to what was the dangerous side of a basha only seconds ago. Harding tries a long-range burst, also retreating. His grenade (south trench) goes off, clearing the trench. Williams’ grenade (north trench) clears that trench. Other soldiers or gunners not yet in the trenches seek cover among the bashas, but more fire from the sneak-attack party hits Paddy solidly and he falls. Pinko, unaware of this or where Lou has got to, leaps on top of the bloody mess in the south trench and sends a hopeful burst into the dark along the riverbank, but misses.
Round 6: Cade can see the Taisho’s loader struggling with the piece and ends his dreams of promotion with another fine shot. Harding puts his last burst down at very long range as Hitchcock begins moving Paddy uphill under a basha. The rifles (and one or two gunners, though they are mainly content to occupy the trenches) fire on Williams’ command and one scores despite the poor light and target. The sneak-attack party pushes on along the bank towards the bridge. Pinko’s Bren jams. [Natural 1]
“Aye, could be they have suicide charges to blow the bridge too” – Pinko, upset
Round 7: Cade tiger-crawls forward downhill and partway toward the river. Harding makes a prodigious throw with his last grenade, to the furthest distance possible (and well clear of Cade). Another hit is scored by rifle fire.
“Grab that enemy Bren, bring it south to Pinko” – Williams to Staples
As the sneakers continue towards the bridge Pinko clears the jam and reloads.
Round 8: Cade manages the classic grenade throw while prone, then hares back towards the hill and cover among the bashas. Hitchcock has now manoeuvred Paddy into a trench. Harding’s grenade goes off and two attackers fall into the river, but the group pushes on.
“Up and at them lads, clear the river” – Williams, concerned about satchel charges
As the rifles fire and advance out of their trenches another Japanese drops but return fire drops Ward. Staples jumps into Pinko’s trench, slams the bipod down and delivers everything in the magazine, while Pinko advances and hurls a second grenade.
Round 9: Cade’s grenade knocks another sneaker away into the water and he makes yet another fine shot to drop another one. The picking-off continues as Harding empties a full mag and rifles fire. The last two surviving sneakers lose their nerve and retreat, but by that time Pinko is above them with a full magazine…
Checking wounded: Ward and Paddy are badly shaken and a number of others have scrapes from bayonets or near-misses. Harding Fishburn and Hitchcock see to bandaging where need be. Grenades are re-distributed but no more than 2 per rifleman can be found now.
Looting: The captured Bren is a real Bren and has three remaining magazines, and they go to Pinko and his team. No satchel charges are found among the sneakers that are not washed away, but apart from worthless paper currency there are some Japanese orders and more sketch maps, and a curved officer’s sword. Williams believes he has confiscated it [Convince] but Harding ensures it mysteriously appears in his equipment [Sleight of hand].
Well after a bit of a fright from the east, to-and-fro with grenades and bayonets, then nearly being caught by a flank party, we see Tojo off and dawn’s light sees the mortars retreating out of sight. Let’s hope the next lot we see are our lads! Now I must say ta-ta for now, some more digging to do.
Highs and lows: Cade had a stellar session with his rifle. His DEX is very high so most shots will be good, but after the first dud shot all of his were great. Pinko rolled natural 1s with Notice, twice, but that is routine for him, barely worth a mention. As long as my Bren hits I’m not bothered, so rolling a nat 1 for a shot was sad. Finally Williams’ panic was funny, no two ways about it. Deadly dangerous of course, but still funny.
Aside from the humour of the situation there are a couple of things that struck me about the main combat set-piece, which lasted a good long time as D&D 3.0 combats do.
Not even one minute of ‘real’ time. I know Japanese rush attacks were sudden, but this is ridiculous. Can’t be helped, these are the rules.
The minis need better organisation or identification or ownership. Every session the GM proposes some random figures as section C members, except for Pinko whose Bren held at the hip is distinctive. The gunners are even less distinctive. The result seen in the vital rounds was that no-one was too sure who was who, and Campbell went missing.
If you are wondering if I, as Pinko, was being deliberately obtuse about the danger of splitting our detachment, yes I was. I’m confident next session we’ll have sentries, pickets and fire-teams standing-to.