A pair of A.A.R.s of scenario "Maggot hill", A117, appeared in ASL Annual 97 with historical map Nhpum Ga.


Nhpum Ga main scenario,
played in Foligno (Italy), June, 11 and 12, 2005.


I visited our friend Daniele Dal Bello in his hometown, to play a big scenario on historical map and get practiced with the Japanese in ASL. Daniele had had the Nhpum Ga map printed oversize and we had two runs on the "Maggot Hill" scenario.

The situation pits Americans entrenched in the jungle against concentric Japanese attacks.

The map:

The american position is on raising terrain topped with a big clearing (10x7 hexes) sided by two sharp hills - East Hill, West Hill. In the middle the sparse huts of Nhpum Ga village, some palms and kunai. There is jungle all around and ravines departing from the center area running downhill and offmap. There are two paths, one leading N, one leading S; W of the american position there is a large clearing with kunai and a small knoll, while E of East Hill the jungle is thicker - dense jungle and bamboo.

The forces and situation:

U.S. Merrill's Marauders. 22 squads (4 assault engineers), 5 leaders (9-2, 9-1, 8-1), four HMG, four MMG, six 60mm LMTR, three 81mm MTR with a radio-connected spotter. Balanced firepower 232.

Japanese. 33 squads (20 elite), 9 leaders (10-1, two 9-1), two .50 HMG, three HMG, three MMG, eight LMG, eight 50mm LMTR. Pre game bombardment. Balanced firepower 262.

The japanese player wins assaulting the american set up area and conquering the top hill hexes, unless the US forces exit a certain amount of victory points from the N side of the map. So the Americans' options are to "resist" or "flee."  The Imperial forces are divided in two groups, one setting up in the N, the other in the S, both with the option of entering E & W. The S setup area is just one hex away from the Americans'. Besides the two paths, easily deniable by American forces in foxholes, the Japanese player can use the clearings flanking the ravines as an avenue of approach (check it out: in several points bypass is negated by jungle protuding into the hexspines' intersection!) and has the choice of several angles of attack. His problem is timing, how to negate the American advantage of interior lines. With six light mortars and four "potato diggers," plus other heavy weapons, the US firepower is enough to break any uncoordinated Japanese attack.  From the two hills, and the small knoll between them, wide fields of fire are possible; if the Japanese arrive in an uncoordinated, piecemeal fashion, they will be decimated.

First game (US player: Dal Bello; Japanese player: Lombardi)

Daniele sets up a string of foxholes to block the S path; light mortars, 81mm mortars and HMGs on the wider East Hill, MMGs in foxholes on the West Hill, some troops in the middle as reserve. Roughly an all-around defence centered on East Hill.

According to set up rules of the scenario, it is possible to have all the imperial troops entering from E or W, or both. I see speed as as need, so I make a large group of infantry with all LMG and light mortars and best leaders to enter the W side, lighter to cross, whith secundary forces pinning the US troops blocking the path S and screening the N side of the map, and heavy weapons entering alonside the ravines with leaders. The plan is to overrun the West Hill with the big group, taking cover from fire arriving from the East Hill from the jungle on West Hill, having the flanking forces infiltrate and harrass the retreat of the S american force, while the HWs negotiate the walk in the jungle. Taking the West hill, it'd have been possible to set the ligth mortars as a light battery behind it throwing spotted fire on East Hill, while the HMG's would have been eventually assembled all around the clearing to counter american fire. After killing some US firebase and troops of the blocking forces, the surviving Japanese were expected to make the final banzai charge against East Hill to finish off the "long noses".

My bombardment was utmostly ineffective.
At start, seeing weak points in the fields of fire, I probed with the N screen for some infiltration: Daniele's reaction was a critical hit with 60mm mortar. Other tries finished in similar way, his mortars and HMG rates decimated the N screen, I was going against my own plan... The entry of the big group from W was lucky, while the troops S failed to infiltrate the american bloking force. In his turn Daniele shooted from the external pickets of West Hill, eroding some jap MMC. Return fire from me was ineffective. On the S front some of his troops breaked and retreated, anyway his line held. At my time I shooted with mortars and advanced firing the whole company from the kunai against a foxhole on the hill, breaking the
US occupants, who retreated.

I formed the Jap company at the feet of West Hill, while setting the five mortars in the light battery. In the meanwhile the HWs were assembled to be put in firing position and the S screen engaged in minor brawls the Americans,  that abandoned the foxholes and retreated too.
Two fire phases of the mortars brang no result, and two mortars malfunctioned. I received losses on all pressure points, on the heavy weapons teams and the pinning force got the worst side in the running engagements with retreating bloking force - I lost several ambushes, fire was ineffective.
At the right moment I launched a banzai charge with a reinforced platoon, uphill toward the foxhole on top of West Hill manned by a squad with a MMG and a leader. The outcome was disaster: backing fire from East Hill, the squad with the MMG surviving three FPF reduced the japanese platoon to scattered remains of broken half squads.
My force was reduced to an half before I put a foot on the top of the first hill, taking the second was impossible. My main mistake was taking too much losses from the start, mishandling attack timing - the very thing I wanted to avoid from start. I concede.
Play with the Japanese asks for three absolute things: solidity of will, clearness of vision and purity of act. Banzai!


Dinner time was close, I preferred to end the game and have a long evening at table with Daniele: salami, pasta, roasted rolled pork, red wine. We had a great dinner in a tipical place of a "contrada" (city quarter) during the Quintana of Foligno (like the Palio of Siena, without doped horses); nice girls in historical dresses, cheap genuine food. During the dinner we discussed about a lot of things, even about the afterlife. At that time I sweared that ASL is played in Heaven too - it is too a high an experience not to be present amongst mystical entertainment in the holy house of the Father. Today I think better that ASL is played in Hell by demons, for the envy of damned players; in Heaven beatitude is superior to any game - even ASL, but not from far.
After abundant feasting, we went back to start the second game.

Second game (US player: Lombardi; Japanese player: Dal Bello)

My set up as American was very similar to Daniele's. The main difference was that two 60mm LMRT went in foxholes on the small knoll between the two hills. For the rest, it was hinged on East Hill (HMGs & 81mm MRTs, 9-2). Troops with leaders on West Hill, a blocking force to front the Jap troops set S. I put also some troops in foxhole to have covering points during the movement N-ward in case I'd  chosen the "flee" option.
Pre game bombardment killed a crew manning a precious HMG and wounded the even more precious 9-2.

Daniele had read some article about this scenario, I surprised him studing photocopies. After setting up it was clear he wanted to unhinge my placement entering from the less expected side: East!
An effective attack force (group A) placed N of West Hill had to engage my forces there, while the bulk of his troops (group B) entered from te most wooded side, laden with heavy weapon. A thin screen between the two groups held the N side of the jungle. No japanese soldier set up S, or entered W. My "enemy" idea was to close slowly to East Hill with "B" and then unleash close range fire with large automatic wepons to overthrow the US line defending East Hill, then smash the troops manning the mortars and HMGs whit a big charge. During this time, unit "A" were expected to engage and pin my troops on West Hill.

I had to choose between the options and I thought that there were the right conditions to try the "flee" one. The most of enemy troops would have been busy in crossing the deep of the jungle on the map, so I'd have the opportunity of getting local superiority against group "A"; more, no troops pinned my movement from S and West Hill toward N. The other strategy, "resist", would have been feasible anyway, I needed to reorganize the deployment of the heavy weapons and take position with the troop of the S force to face the jap onslaught beyond the lip of the steep East Hill, but it'd been a long work. It was funnier and quicker to try a "run for safety".

On first turn imperial troops struggled with the jungle. US troops started to move slowly out of foxholes and I tried my best so that Daniele would not notice that I was preparing to leave. A rearguard with HMGs on East Hill was ordered to stay and delay the bulk of the Japanese. The US commander wanted to assault Japanese group "A" with the soldiers on and around West Hill.

On second turn, some imperial squad strayed in the deep of the forest and japanese group "A" stepped up on West Hill; US soldiers mocked going toward East Hill very slowly, and stacks were rearranged to form the rearguard and the "runners." On West Hill fire strips the concealment off the Japanese and Marauders move up to engage them in combat in the jungle.

Turn three. The big group "B" starts appearing out of the trees, some of the heaviest weapon is delayed, some troop is still strayed in the green. American fire from the rearguard is awfully ineffective. All my weapons fail to rate, their crews break under fire in Jap Def Fire Phase. Evacuees start to run and my intentions appear clear to Daniele. From the valley the mortars on the knoll dueled with the knee mortars. While US troops attack group "A", a squad with a leader 8-0 and a MMG is sent N to block the area around the North path and bar the screening troops from shifting W and reinforce the group "A", that had become the blocking force on my intended path of exit (depicted with a white arrow on the picture). I killed in CC ambush a three squad japanese platoon with a leader. In the firefight with group "A" some of my troops broke, the same the Jap group was pushed back with losses.

Daniele broke the blocking squad in the middle of his screen, reformed the survivors of group "A" around the heavy weapons - two MMG - and frantically moved everything of the screen W-wards. Group "B" started climbing on East Hill, where my rearguard crumbled very quickly. I paid little attention to that: group "B" was too far back and entangled with the survivors of the rearguard, to catch the tail of the people running away; behind the US spearhead attacking Japanese group "A" I still had several crews, leaders, and squads. My real concern was that I had not succeeded yet in breaking open the door N-wards. The remains of group "A" were in position to interfere with my progress and were getting reinforced; behind it other troops were forming in my path. I had to pass in front of one MMG to arrive first on the left side of a bamboo patch and stop the Japanese squads from taking a blocking position. The crew manning the MMG rated four times, breaking all Americans moving adjacent. I conceded; the following turns were set for a sure defeat.

My mistakes: I runned too slowly at start, perhaps, and my troops' morale failed far more often than I expected - or I asked too much from them, against an enemy superior in morale and resilient to sparse small arms fire.

Final words

I love playing on historical maps, and this situation has several approaches; sure, I'll try to play again A117 - maybe I'll win one day or the other.

You could lastly wait for Daniele's impressions about his part in these games: on the Italian Forum, in a brief description of the situation, he noticed that, beyond the number of counters involved, the scenario is playable in a single session. More about it we won't know in this world: Daniele left this one for a better place, six months after we played. He was a great gamer and a great friend.

Marco Lombardi