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Torbung: Gurkhas vs Imperial Japanese

Off in nowhereville Burma, a lone road snakes through a deep valley alongside a key airstrip and impossible river. The British Gurkhas, sensing weakness and looking for a fight, set up a roadblock to stop the flow of supplies. The Japanese accept the challenge as they converge from all sides. The ensuing battle rapidly turns chaotic as both sides bring in reinforcements…

Intro
So we’re giving some thanks this holiday season by getting some gaming in. My friend likes the Breakthroughs so I thought I’d set up this interesting scenario with the crazy reinforcement rules—gotta get to these Equipment Pack scenarios sometime and I’ve had my eye on this one for awhile. Then we’re just finishing up as my other friend shows up to drop his cat off for the weekend. He starts drooling at the game board, peppering us with questions and asks if I want to play again, ‘since it’s already set up’. Hmm, ‘but aren’t you going to LA?’ ‘Yes, but I have time for this…..’ Who am I to say no… Another random selection has me repeating as the Brits. Jolly good. I still don’t know what a Gurkha is (elite Indian fighter for the British), but they make a fine pickle (Gherkin—get it, ha, ha)! And since there’s no session report on this wonderful scenario…



Victory Conditions
7 Medals wins this scenario and both sides have an Objective Medal available: for the Brits, it’s the Field Bunker; for the Japs, it’s the roadblock.

Special Rules
Axis have only 4 cards and moves first while the Allies have 6! The river is impassible, which effectively divides the board into two halves. Both the Imperial Japanese Army (ignore Flag, move 2 and Close Combat, +1 die if full strength and Close Combat) and British Commonwealth Forces (battle back if 1 figure survives in Close Combat) rules are in effect. In addition, British infantry are badass Gurkhas (+1 die in Close Combat) and there are 3 Jap single Supply Trucks.

Finally, both sides can resupply using their ‘On the Move’ portion of the Breakthrough cards. Each OtM order is a die roll to bring in 1 additional guy per turn. ‘Infantry’ is an Infantry, ‘Armor’ is Armor, and ‘Star’ is Artillery. The Brits can enter on their side of the board, or the air field if it is friendly while the Japs can enter on either side of the board!

Sessions
So it’s a little disjointed talking about 2 sessions at once, but they tracked pretty well together so I’ll do that despite any confusing ping-pong effects.

Initial assault on the Airfield
So both games started with attacks on the Jap’s Right to try and take control the Airfield. I am quite happy to see fighting anywhere other than the roadblock, although this does put pressure on to get in some reinforcements at the optimal reinforcement area for the British. Landing units under fire must be the British speciality.

Game 1 begins with 2 Japs advancing to the Jungle, followed by an Assault. I managed to airdrop in an Artillery (later followed by a 2nd Artillery and Infantry) as I moved my 2 Center Infantry over with my only Section Card (yikes, Dig In, 2 Armor Assaults, Infantry Assault and Behind Enemy Lines). Then we have some fierce battles over the Airfield and Hills as we both have plenty of Left cards thanks to double Attack draws by me. Eventually, my Artillery and Gurkhas come out on top, in part thanks to 2 Ambushes, but those extra Gurkha rolls really pack some punch.

Game 2 opens with just an Assault! Again I airdrop in an Artillery (later followed by 2 tanks) with my Center Probe as I’ve no Left cards but 3 Rights. Then he Digs In?! WTF?? Apparently the Japanese Bonzai mentality comes with an eternal sense of optimism in spite of his good card sense and we proceed to have this tortured battle on the Left Flank with Center cards. Finally I draw Their Finest Hour and 2 Infantry and a Tank clean up the mess with 2 kills.

Attacking the Roadblock
After the Airfield is relatively secured, the battle crosses the river and focuses on the roadblock. Here it gets tricky as the road crisscrosses the left/center boarder so it’s tough to have a well-coordinated attack. The minefield is a pretty effective deterrent to a straight-out frontal assault, but the sandbagged Brits are still very vulnerable to the Jap arty and possibly the Tank coming up the road from the rear!

So game 1 sees the pincer start to close as both the arty and the tank have 2 dice on the roadblock. This is what I was afraid of. I brace myself, but it’s double flags from the arty, which leads to 3 hits from the tank. Ouch, but he’s still alive. Medics to the rescue (+2) and now he charges the Tank in true Gurkha fashion. And just like that, the game turns on a dime as the tank vanishes. He then starts to organize his infantry for an attack, but now it’s too late.

Game 2 sees a combined Jap infantry-tank brutal attack which destroys my right-most infantry. With no Center cards left but plenty of Right, a Probe allows me to On-the-Move the 2 center guys over and kill his tank. He kills another infantry, but then so do I as well as crippling another in some fierce fighting. His last guy limps back in very un-Japanese style to Resupply with a Truck and I withdraw a bit as well. It’s a wash Medal-wise, but I count that as a win for the Brits since the Roadblock remains intact.

Attacking the Field Bunker
Both games saw the Field Bunker fall to the Allies. In game 1 I had to shell the Bunker with 2 Arty (2 hits), Behind Enemy Lines (1 hit), and a follow-up close assault to finally take it. It’s tough to dislodge a full-strength infantry, but the free Medal is worth it.

In game 2, well I pretty much just took a leap of faith and then walked into it. He did have a 2nd Artillery down there as a reinforcement, but it remained unfired. This is a nice way to end the game as the Allies. I don’t know what’s in that bunker that’s so valuable, but I’ll take a free medal any day. I think both games ended at 7-4.

Aftermath
Interestingly both games played out pretty similarly. There was plenty of differences in the details (for starters I had radically different hand compositions), but overall they followed the same basic outline. Both Jap players went after the airfield initially, dictated in part by their puny 4-card hands and the desire to shut down the airfield reinforcements. In theory this is sound, but in practice maybe not as I still was able to fly in 3 guys and come out decisively ahead in the fighting there. I think this plays to the Allies strength since their artillery is there as well as the quick reinforcements and the Objective Medal. That said, if you could shut down the airfield, well maybe this works. I need to flip sides to see just how painful that 4-card hand is.

In contrast, the Roadblock really is vulnerable to the Jap Arty—just move it up 1 to the line and start firing 2 dice at any of the 5 infantry with no real reprisals. With enough bombs, you could easily turn this into a rout just with your original troops, not to mention a couple of reinforcements. I think this is where the Japs should focus their attack.

Which leads us to the Reinforcements. First off, wow, they are really fun as they definitely added to the excitement for me. What a great idea using the ‘On the Move’ orders to bring them in. I thought maybe we’d have even more troops brought in, but at only 7 Medals, there really wasn’t alot of time to do so—well, given the aggressive Jap plays I faced. I brought in 3 reinforcements each game (arty/arty/inf; arty/tank/tank), and all saw critical action so they were all well worth it. In contrast, in game 1 the axis brought in 2 units (arty and infantry next to his tank) while in game 2, only the 1 (arty next to his bunker), and none of these units saw an action at all. Thus either the Japs need to play a bit more passively at the start to allow for more time to advance these reinforcements up to the battle line, or maybe they don’t bring any in (or just 1) and just try to attack the Roadblock using all OtMs to quickly bring guys up the road. I guess this all comes back to that 4-card hand and how it dictates game play.

Finally, even though I definitely like the Imperial Japanese Army powers as they can really kick ass if you can get them going, those Gurkhas are even better since they never lose their +1 bonus for close assault. 5 dice on a TFH or BEL is just devastating and 2 dice on a Stiff Upper Lip is also brutal. These guys are amazing. I won the close fights because of that extra dice and thus I give the overall advantage to the Brits in this scenario.

Conclusion
Torbung is definitely a worthy scenario with several unique special rules. There's extra big strategic decisions to be made concerning reinforcements on top of basic tactical decisions. I can't wait to have my shot as the Imperial Japanese!

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Re: Torbung: Gurkhas vs Imperial Japanese
Ok, it took a month but we finally got around to the flip-side of Torbung so I got to test my Japanese strategy:
(1) Attack the Roadblock!
(2) Don’t worry about the airfield/right flank and just keep attacking that roadblock.
(3) Just get a couple of reinforcements and then use your On-The-Moves to advance towards the Roadblock.
(4) And the Gurkhas Close Combat +1 bonus is powerful (both attacking and stiff-upper-lipping), so don’t get into a pissing match with them.
(5) Hope for the best with that 4-card hand.
(6) And don’t forget about attacking that Roadblock!

Figure 1: Game start. Note: The Japanese bunker should have 4 figures (corrected soon after the game started).

Initial Skirmishes Around the Air Field
So I’m dealt Center and Left Probes, but a Right Attack and a Recon In Force. Ok, not horrible I’ll start with the Attack and advance that Artillery and make a half-hearted sweep to the right with the infantry. As to the On-The-Move (OTM) Reinforcement—‘What I need is a Tank.’ Done. Artillery Bombard draw—excellent, now to get both Artys in 2-dice attack positions.


The Brits responds with a Probe and plops his own Tank in on the airfield while shelling an infantry and advancing a guy. My Recon In Force brings up my Left Arty to zero in on the Roadblock, positions a guy into the center jungle, and fires some blank shells around the airstrip. Another Brit Probe airdrops an Infantry and he dings me again.

I’ve drawn a Right Probe, so why not, I’ll bring in a 2nd reinforcement and make a move on his Tank. Now with Artillery Bombardment, what I need is another Arty. Done and done. Ok, now for my 5 possible shots on his tank. 2/2 hits from my Arty! Awesome, as one of the dice lands right next to his armor figure. I smile as it looks like it’s going to be one of those nights.


Roadblock? What about the Roadblock? Who needs to worry about the Roadblock. Lock and load—I don’t need any stinking strategy. Of course I just totally jinx myself as the next 10 shots on that freaking tank either just retreat him or bounce harmless off. SOTB. And then I keep drawing Right cards, going further and further down this rabbit hole. He brings in another Armor and concentrates his fire to kill my lead guys while retreating weakened units. I end up killing 5 infantry figures and 2 tanks, but Zero medals, while he gets 2 kills. 0-2. Dammit, can we get back to our strategy please?!? [Facepalm] Isn’t the first rule of ‘Holes’ is to just stop digging?!? Well I did have a bunch of Right cards to play and did keep him from advancing, but I didn’t need to advance the way I did, leading 2 guys to slaughter.

Figure 2: Analysis map. White figures indicate Reinforcements. Numbers indicate the order of medals awarded.

The Roadblock
Meanwhile, my Artillery Bombard had killed 2 figures from the middle infantry (who subsequently took refuge in the hills) and brought up my 2nd Arty as well. In addition a beautiful Brit Firefight had already killed my lead infantry in the center (shooting across the river with tanks and artillery—what? No fair!) so now it’s 0-3.

F’ this. Fine, let’s see if a 4-dice Their Finest Hour can turn things around. But I can’t complain as an infantry and tank combo finally kills my first gherkin. He responds with his own 6-dice TFH, and thankfully only gets an infantry and star (+GGGF) and he takes vengeance, killing another center infantry. 1-4. Getting uglier.

But now here’s where things finally turn around for me. I’m sitting with a Left Assault, so I probe in the Center and do some shelling and set myself up for a massive ASSAULT. Ha! My Ambush! stymies a potential Gurkha 4-dice roll on my tank on the line. Now I’m all set up to even things out with 3 kills, but my rear Tank chokes (25% for an 0/2) and can’t overrun a single figure to then blast another single-figure gherkin. Instead Stiff-Upper-Lip fire dings him. Oh well, I’ve got enough redundant fire to kill them anyways and we’ll get to that last guy next turn. 3-4.

Now with his loss of his guys, it gets really expensive for him to fight back unless he’s able to order units in multiple sections. He does fight, but I’ve positioned my units that he keeps facing fresh guys and he just can’t quite get the leverage to finish anybody off. 2 cards latter the road is open and very secure as there’s no enemy units on this side of the river. 6-4.

And my General Advance almost kills that armor that’s been shooting across the river—yes, the bullets can fly both ways buddy. Unfortunately I just get him down to 1 figure as I flag him back across the hills. You can run, but you can’t hide as a final Barrage puts an end to that. 7-4.

Figure 3: Board at the end. Hurray, the road is clear!

Aftermath
WTF, how did that happen exactly? 6 unanswered goals to come back from 1-4. This might be my best comeback ever as usually things just keep getting worse as you lose guys. And I think it all comes back to me actually following my strategy of focusing on the Roadblock. My Tank and Arty reinforcements were key to softening up his line before moving in to finish him off. Once you start to pick apart that 5 man line, it can fall apart quite rapidly which is 6 points for the Japanese.

Gurkhas
As to the Gurkhas, I kept my distance and I think he only got a single bonus shot. Of course my 2 successful Ambushes (one at the very end that didn’t much matter) also helped. You just can’t get into a close combat pissing match with these guys as they well just kill you. The Brits were holding Close Assault for most of the game too so it would have be 5-dice rolls. I think this is the optimal defense which then forces the Brits to move and attack aggressively, which is problematic because of the minefield.

Supply Trucks
And just a digression about the Supply Trucks. We didn’t use them much in any of the 3 games (I used one to resupply a 1-figure tank near the end of this game), but that was in part because we had a slight misunderstanding of the rules. You need to kill all 3 Supply Trucks in order to get a Medal, not just a single Truck (that really should be on the reference card). This caused us to always keep our Trucks in the backfield so they wouldn’t get killed. However, why not use these Trucks, or at least 1 of them, offensively—however unrealistic that might be. For instance, take a truck to test out the minefield, or use them as a shield by blocking line of sight and attack positions, or even just parking them right next to a Gurkha to provide a mandatory target unless they move out of their comfy sandbags. Even if all 3 Trucks get killed, well that’s 3 shots that didn’t shoot your attacking men, so that might be a positive as well. Anyways, just some musing on Trucks.

Conclusion
Well my Roadblock strategy worked pretty well in spite of the first half-dozen cards where I was messing around the air field. The Japanese 4-card hand is pretty limiting, but it wasn’t the disaster that I thought it might be. Anyways, Torbung is yet another really fun scenario and the special reinforcements add a nice layer of strategic considerations. Definitely worth playing if you haven't.



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