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Strategy & Tactics # 305 Armies of the White Sun The War in China, 1937-1945  Strategy & Tactics: wow, that...

Strategy & Tactics #305 Armies of The White Sun: The War In China, 1937-1945 Strategy & Tactics #305 Armies of The White Sun: The War In China, 1937-1945

Strategy & Tactics #305 Armies of The White Sun: The War In China, 1937-1945

Strategy & Tactics #305 Armies of The White Sun: The War In China, 1937-1945

 Strategy & Tactics: wow, that brings up a lot of gaming memories. I had played Battle Cry and Tactics II in the 1960s. I had even played Panzerblitz in 1970, but I had never really known how big the wargaming explosion had become. That is, until I stepped into a hobby store in 1976. I saw row upon row of SPI and Avalon Hill etc. boardgames. Among these was a bunch of magazines sold by SPI that was named Strategy & Tactics. These were a godsend. They were not only cheaper than the boxed wargames, they also had articles on warfare in history, etc. Lets be honest folks. We bought Strategy & Tactics for the games, not the articles. That argument was as specious as buying Playboys for the articles, yeah right. Just kidding, the articles were excellent also. Of the original run of the magazine, I probably owned 50 of them. After changing owners a few times, Decision games started to produce the magazine. They have been publishing it since 1991. The magazine is now, incredibly, in its 50th year. The one great thing about the magazine is it has never been afraid to publish obscure games for us history nuts. I believe Ty Bomba came up with the adage that "Nato, Nukes and Nazis" sell wargames. Well lucky for us, S&T has never followed that idea. I lost most of my collection of the magazines down through the years because of different reasons, but with the help of Ebay and actually having a subscription, I was able to bring my stable of S&Ts back up to about sixty of them. Almost all of these were released after Decision Games took over publishing it. 

Chinese Counters

 The magazine has only gotten better as the years have gone by. The games, like most wargames, have improved down through the years. The magazine is actually a wonder to behold. The articles and the physical quality of them are excellent.

Japanese counters

 The long and very comprehensive article, also named 'The Armies of The White Sun', is an excellent primer for the game and the history behind it. More than that, the article starts with end of the Chinese Empire and its subsequent fall into a bunch of petty states. The attempts of Sun Yat-sen and then Chiang Kai-shek (called 'peanut' by American general 'Vinegar Joe' Stilwell) to unify the country once more is also gone into at depth. 

Trying hard to capture every city

 We in the U.S. were never really taught much about World War II in Asia except for our involvement. Most people do not realize that WWII actually started with the Japanese invasion of the Chinese mainland in 1931. The battles for Northeast China had been going on for ten years before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The game starts in the year 1937. The Japanese had already stolen a large chunk of Northeast China and renamed it 'Manchukuo' and set it up as a puppet empire under the last emperor of China, Pu-Yi. The war for the rest of China broke out because of the Japanese attempt to grab its own 'lebensraum' on the Asian continent. 

 This is from the game information on the decision games site:

Armies of the White Sun is a solitaire wargame covering the fighting in China from the Marco Polo Bridge Incident through Pearl Harbor to the planned 1943 Operation Go-Go aimed at capturing Chongking and ending Chinese resistance at the national level. The single player actively commands the invading Japanese forces, while the rules system directs him in the deployment of the defending Chinese. The player wins by capturing key areas on the map. Throughout the game, the player selects units for an operational force, then maneuvers with that force to achieve objectives while fighting Chinese forces as they appear during operations.
Components: One 22" x 34" map & 280 counters

My big push for Nanking is on

 In this game you will take on the role of the Japanese player against the solitaire rules of the game. The Japanese player can attack pretty much anywhere, because of his naval might. The first turn is the hardest in my opinion. As the Japanese player, you MUST capture all of the Chinese cities in the FTMOL (First turn minimum objective line). You have plenty of units and the Chinese resistance is sometimes non-existent, but you still have to come up with a plan to capture all of the cities. The Japanese units are given twenty-two movement points for the first turn. There is also a second Japanese movement and combat phase on turn one and four. This is to simulate the Japanese initial invasion and their attempt in1943 to bring the war to a close. On turns two and three, there are no Japanese second phases. This is to replicate the logistical strain the Japanese were under when in China. The two phases on turns one and four really help with with trying to capture all of that territory, but it is still a hard nut to crack. To represent the free wheeling nature of the war and the up and down capabilities of the Chinese, the game has some interesting rules. For each hex entered by the Japanese player you must roll one six-sided die. You can get a Chinese response of from zero to six units for Shanghai and Chunking. This rule makes it so the Japanese player has no idea if by entering a hex he has stirred up a wasp's nest or just some dust. Even before deciding on whether there will be Chinese troops or not in the hex you will have to roll two die to determine if any random events happen. These could have the Japanese using gas to a 'fierce Nationalist counteroffensive', and anything in between. One random event is called the 'rape of' , and is meant to represent the Rape of Nanking. If the Japanese roll it you capture the city, but your entire stack is removed from game play for that turn. The maximum stacking for Japanese units is eight units to a hex. There are only four turns in the game, but since each separate hex movement by you could result in a battle, it is not a short game. There are also rules on  battles that take place in rough terrain or if the hex has fortifications. Japanese units can be no further than six hexes from the nearest railroad or friendly Yangtze river hex to be in supply, and each rough hex counts as two hexes when tracing supply. The Chinese communists are able to interdict your railroad supply. The AVG (American Volunteer Group or 'Flying Tigers') have their own counter and rules for its use.

Close up of my Japanese forces closing in

 The above rules make the game a real nail biter. Do you make many small stacks and hope the die is with you, or do you make large stacks just in  case you run into tough resistance? Conversely, where do you stop? Do you try for one more city with this stack, or hope that the city in the next hex will fall to your next invading stack? 

 It is a bit strange to be playing a game that really has no enemy forces on the map. The fog of war in this game really keeps you on your toes. You can be rolling along for a few hexes and meet minimal to no Chinese forces, and in the next run into a sizable force. The random event roll that you have to do for each hex, even before you roll for the possibility of Chinese forces, really brings home the variables the Japanese ran into during the campaign. No battle plan that you conceive lasts more than a few hexes at most. You can find your force destroyed or too weak to continue with almost every die roll. You want to use large stacks of your Japanese forces in order to avoid the above; the only problem is that it makes your ability to conquer more territory that much harder. This is especially true on turn one with the amount of China that you have to conquer or forfeit the game.

 Thank you Decision Games, and all of the various companies and people who have worked on Strategy & Tactics magazine for the last fifty years. Without you we would not have been able to game so many far flung battles and campaigns.