Rising Sun Fun Under The Sun: Part One
Tactical Tips on Fielding Japanese Forces in Flames Of War

with Andrew Duncan

The Japanese began the war with the European powers in the Pacific with a string of successes as stunning as those of the Blitzkrieg and ultimately as illusory. These were founded on rapid manoeuvring into a position of advantage. Once attaining a position of advantage the Japanese deployed rapidly and executed attacks with vigour and ferocity. The Allies were caught off guard both at the front and in the command echelons.

However, the Japanese forces focus on attack and culture of rapidly moving to assault with little preparation or consideration of losses floundered once the Allies resolve stiffened.  Their armed forces were not equipped to deal with a determined enemy well dug in, lacking as they were in artillery and tanks with which to effect a breakthrough.  Losses soon mounted on the battlefield, and strategically.  Once the Allies held their ground as at Kohima and Imphal ill prepared frontal assaults were rebuffed with heavy losses.
Rising Sun
Rising Sun brings you into the Soviet Union’s wars with the Japanese and Finns on its borders in 1939. Take command of the Red Army’s tank forces, infantry or cavalry forces as you throw the Japanese back into Manchuria or fight the stubborn Finns to expand the Soviet border.

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However, in the Early-war period their weaknesses had not been exposed and they were a fearsome fighting force. The Special Rules for this force and its composition allows the Japanese player to play them as they performed in their initial engagements with the west, rapidly deploying to strike brutal blows to an unsuspecting enemy. Striking an off balance enemy with ferocity.

Your force needs to reflect this and all be capable of moving fast and delivering rapid flanking blows and devastating assaults. Accordingly it needs to be built around their solid infantry platoons backed up by mobile support units.

Tactical Tips on Fielding Japanese Forces in Flames Of War
My preferred army list is therefore based on the Fearless Veteran Hohei Chutai. For 1500 points I’d take the following:
Hohei Chutai
7th Infantry Division (Fearless Veteran)
Company HQ
with Company Command Sword team & 2iC Command Sword team.
50 points
Combat Platoons
Hohei Platoon
with Command Sword team, three Rifle Squads, Light mortar team & Banners.
360 points
Hohei Platoon  
with Command Sword team, two Rifle Squads, Light mortar team & Banners. 255 points
Weapons Platoons
Hohei Machine-gun Platoon
with Command Sword team & two Machine-gun Sections.
160 points
Hohei Battalion Gun Platoon
with Command Sword team & two Gun Sections. 70 points
Regimental Support Platoons
Hohei Rapid Fire Gun Platoon
with Command Sword team, one Type 94 37mm & one Captured 45mm obr 1937.
110 points
Divisional Support Platoon
Light Sensha Platoon  
with two Light Sensha Platoons each with three Type 95 Ha-Go.
490 points
Total Points: 1495 points
To reflect the way in which the Japanese Army fought at the start of the war not only is the force Fearless but it has access to some Special Rules. The key is that they can attack if they wish whoever the opponent is, unless they also have the Always Attack rule in which case you dice off if you still want to attack. In addition they may choose the time of day the battle takes place getting to fight at night in both attack and defence. This nullifies any technical disadvantage they have against more modern and better equipped forces.
Tactical Tips on Fielding Japanese Forces in Flames Of War
The force is great once it gets stuck in to the enemy so I always want to attack if I can. I’ll also want to use the cover of night. The Japanese really made use of surprise to catch the enemy off guard and their infantry and man-packed guns teams can move at the double in darkness and in rough terrain.

In addition their tanks can move at full speed at night not just 8"/20cm. For this reason I’ve chosen the faster moving Type 95 Ha-Gos.

Using the cover of darkness allows this low tech force to quickly engage the enemy at close quarters where the lighter tanks and lack of heavy guns is mitigated. At close range the Japanese can take advantage of their veteran status and excellence in assault. Their speed also allows them to concentrate their effort on the weaker more exposed elements of the enemy force. They can also use speed and manoeuvre to avoid any high rate of fire weapons during the advance to contact.

Given their excellence in close combat you really need to get into assault. Speed and darkness are part of this but they are also aided by equipping the units with Banners and the Banzai charge rules. A platoon equipped with Banners needs six hits to pin it down, which will be pretty hard to get on Veterans at night. They also need to take two hits from artillery or air attacks. In addition the Banzai charge rule means if they are unlucky enough to be pinned by defensive fire, it’ll take six hits on 5+ at night, they must take a motivation test. If they pass this they will rise up from no-mans land and try again to press home.

Tactical Tips on Fielding Japanese Forces in Flames Of War
Your HMGs, Man-packed Battalion guns and Rapid Fire light guns are essential to the attack. They should move up at the double for the man-packed and as fast as possible for the light guns to lay down supporting fire. Against the mainly trained troops you’ll be facing the HMGs can help to pin the enemy and to then delay and interdict troops moving to provide support. The Battalion and Rapid Fire guns can be used for either a barrage in the case of the former to get a pin, or in combination with the latter to take out any HMGs or high rate of fire AA weapons being used to cover defending infantry.

Type 92 70mm Battalion Guns have the special rule of the same name that means they get to reroll the first ranging in attempt like other nations mortars. They also get the Fire Bursts special rule meaning they don’t reroll hits with a two gun battery nor should you lose a gun do they suffer the plus one to hit for a single gun.

When manoeuvring for an assault focus on the enemy’s flanks to reduce covering fire as you advance and defensive fire in the assault. If they don’t have any HMG support they will struggle to stop your initial assault.  Given your infantry can move so fast at night even their mobile support may struggle to come to their aid moving at only 8"/20cm per turn.

Tactical Tips on Fielding Japanese Forces in Flames Of War
The assault should also be planned to be as devastating as possible so you get as many chances for your Veterans to hit on a 3+ and you Sword teams on a 2+. But this does have to be balanced against the risks of a higher volume of defensive fire. However, a defensive force without HMGs, or who have had them knocked out, will struggle to stop any assault especially if they are pinned down. Pinned rifles will be hitting you on sixes at night and needing six hits to pin if you have Banners.

Enemy tanks appear to present this force with some problems. However, they’ll struggle to dig out large Veteran platoons even with the limited Japanese anti-tank options. If they risk an assault they’ll be in for a surprise.  The Japanese relied on the bravery of small teams equipped with Molotov cocktails and mines to close quickly with enemy tanks. These Nikuhaku teams will continue to assault tanks even if the rest of their unit falls back under defensive fire.  They get four attacks each at Anti-tank 4. This is an improvised attack so beware any dice rolls of one!

Your infantry platoons can therefore also take on defending tanks unless they are present in large numbers. As each Hohei Chutai infantry platoon can exchange one rifle team per rifle squad for a Nikuhaku team before deployment. Each platoon can have three of these deadly teams. At night a tank platoon will needs fives to hit and will have to be causing a lot of casualties before they stop a Nikuhaku assault as they keep coming even if the rest of the platoon is pinned down.  With four attacks each, against tanks only, hitting on 3+ with Anti-tank 4 in Early-war will see three Nikuhaku teams take out on average four tanks in an assault.

Tactical Tips on Fielding Japanese Forces in Flames Of War
Even in counterattack the Nikuhaku teams will fight on if their comrades fall back. They are deadly against tanks and this will affect how your opponent plays giving you more freedom on the battlefield and the opportunity to exploit mistakes and hesitancy on their part.

Your own tanks are of a much lower technology than your opponents, at least outside the Pacific Theatre, even in Early-war.  However, they are Veteran and can move fast at night. They reroll misses at close range so should be looking to get at side armour with their Anti-tank 5, Firepower 4+ gun. However, they have One-man turrets limiting their firepower in the turn they move.

Despite this drawback I prefer them for their superior speed over the other Japanese vehicles. The use of night and their Veteran status means they can fill several important roles in this force. They can keep pace with the doubling infantry to provide fire support for assaults and to move to intercept enemy reinforcements. Whilst only light tanks their manoeuvrability and Veteran status make them a threat that can divert attention from your main assault.

The Ha-Gos are also good in assault and will continue to fight even if bailed out or bogged down. However, this is only if their operational colleagues stick around, which they’ll probably do being Fearless.

Tactical Tips on Fielding Japanese Forces in Flames Of War
Overall this force lacks only recce.  I really like recce in all my forces but with the Japanese focus on assault and manoeuvre the reliance on the need to remove gone to ground and to limit ambushes is reduced by the use of night and speed.

This is a great fast moving brutal assault force that brings to life the Japanese style of warfare in Early-war.

~ Andrew.

Last Updated On Thursday, August 8, 2013 by Blake at Battlefront