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Subject: BURMA - A SLIM GREEN SHAVE FROM GDW (incl. counter manifest) rss

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Brian Train
British Columbia
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-- by Brian R. Train --


Burma was released in 1976 by Game Designers' Workshop. Designed by Bob Fowler and developed by Marc Miller, it was the second game to cover this theater of the Second World War, the only continuously active land front of the Pacific War. The game attracted polite attention when it came out and has always been sought after by collectors and people interested in the campaign.


Like most GDW products of the mid-1970s, Burma was packaged in a large Ziploc bag. There is no cover sheet: the only art is on the front cover of the rules booklet, a Rodger MacGowan tracing of the famous photo of a bearded Merrill's Marauder. Components include:

- 1 22x28" hex map of all Burma, with slices of India, China and Siam (Thailand). Ground scale is not given.
- 240 die-cut counters, printed on one side only
- 1 8-page rules booklet with green cover and one page of "clarifications and addenda" printed on the inside back cover. Charts and tables necessary for play are in the booklet.
- 1 set of three player aid cards: one Order of Battle/Appearance card each for the Allied and Japanese, and one Turn Record card.

Counter Manifest

There are 240 counters. There is one blank.

Japanese Units

Imperial Japanese Army (black on mustard) (78 units)
54 infantry "butai": 2 x 4-10; 40 x 3-10; 11 x 2-10; 1 x 1-10
3 x garrison "butai": 2 x 2-10; 1 x 1-10
3 x 1-10 artillery regt
2 x 1-10 engineer regt
2 x 1-10 anti-tank regt
1 x 2-10 tank bn
2 x 1-10 "base" counters
8 x 0-8 supply counters

Indian National Army (brown on mustard) (3 units)
3 x 1-8 infantry regt

Allied Units

British Army (black on light brown) (28 units)
6 x infantry bde: 3 x 4-12; 3 x 4-10
1 x 1-10 engineer bde
3 x 2-12 tank bn
2 x 1-12 light tank bn
6 x airfield markers
10 Air Transport Point (ATP) markers: 5 x "3", 3 x "2", 2 x "1"

US Army (black on olive) (4 units)
3 x glider infantry regt: 1 x 3-11; 2 x 2-11
1 x 1-10 engineer bde

US-trained Chinese (yellow on olive) (10 units)
3 x 3-6 infantry div
6 x infantry regt: 3 x 3-8; 3 x 2-8
1 x 1-10 light tank bn

Yunnan Chinese (black on yellow) (16 units)
12 x infantry div: 1 x 3-8; 11 x 3-6
4 x 0-6 supply counters

British African troops (white on brown) (8 units)
8 x infantry bde: 2 x 3-8; 2 x 3-6; 3 x 2-8; 1 x 2-6

Indian Army (black on brown) (52 units)
32 x infantry bde: 2 x 5-10; 3 x 4-12; 22 x 4-10; 1 x 3-12; 2 x 3-10; 2 x 2-8
2 x 2-12 tank bn
1 x 1-12 light tank bn
3 x 1-10 artillery regt
13 x 0-8 supply counters
1 x airhead marker

Chindits (white on blue) (16 units)
9 x 2-11 glider infantry LRP (Long Range Patrol) groups
4 x 1-8 parachute infantry bn
3 x air-drop symbols

Markers (28 units)
16 pieces of the Burma Road (12 straight, 4 curved)
3 x glider assault counters
3 x captured 0-8 supply counters
2 x airhead markers
2 x beachhead markers
1 x "T" (training) marker
1 x blank

Collector's Value

GDW, as the perennial #3 in the lineup of professional wargame publishing companies, never had anything like the press runs of SPI or Avalon Hill products. This combined with the relative obscurity of the topic, makes copies of Burma an uncommon but not really exotic find.

Player's Value

This is an operational-scale game. Most units are brigades or regiments, with a few battalions and divisions to round out the extremes. The time scale is one month per turn, and there are 26 turns in the game (there is only one scenario). The game runs from December 1942, after the initial Japanese invasion, to May 1945, the time by which the Allies had shoved the Japanese out of the country.

The game requires a fair amount of time to play, between five and ten hours, and play tends to proceed in fits and starts. This is quite realistic: there are five monsoon turns, some of them two months in length, that prevent movement or combat - and if you have read anything about the campaign, you know the best thing to do during the monsoon is to stay indoors. The extremely rugged nature of the terrain and the tenuous supply situation result in a game of maneuver and logistics. The Japanese power to infiltrate the Allied lines is balanced by the Allied ability to shower goodies from the air.

Both sides have to attack during the game to get anywhere: the Japanese player must punch through to India, while the Allied player must complete building the Burma Road through to China and take Rangoon. The supply rules are involved without being too much of a load, and there are the usual special rules for things like the unreliability of the Yunnan Chinese troops, amphibious assaults, and creating the Chindits from brigades of ordinary infantry that have to be withdrawn from the front line.

Support Material

Not much has appeared on this game. Fire and Movement #4 had a review and Designer's Notes, and Wargamer #8 had a "Briefing" (a short, unsigned review).

Other Games by this Designer.

I mentioned that Burma was the second game ever published on the subject. Bob Fowler also designed the first one, March on India 1944, the issue game in Jagdpanther magazine #11.

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Dan Blum
United States
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I really appreciate your posts like this. But, I just wanted to point out a small error - there are actually 75 Imperial Japanese Army counters, not 78 (the numbers for each type of counter are correct).
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Brian Train
British Columbia
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Whopops, sorry, you are right = 75 Japanese Army counters plus 3 Indian counters makes 78, which is what I meant.
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