Friday, March 16, 2007

Storm Over Taierzhuang: Samuari Stalingrad!

My name is Terence Co and I am the designer of Storm Over Taierzhuang, the Samurai Stalingrad which is going to be published by Firefight games.


I was born and raised in the Phillipines and started my wargaming there. I have been wargaming for more than 20 years.


This is my first wargame design and hopefully not my last as I intend to bring esoteric topics to the wargaming field. By 1938, the Second Sino-Japanese war was not going well for the Chinese. Since July 7, 1937, the Japanese conquered huge swathes of Northern and Eastern China and were steadily pushing deeper into China.


With the conquest of Shanghai, Beijing and Nanjing in 1937. Jiang Jie Shi(Chang Kai Shek) had moved his headquarters to Wu Han. The Japanese seeing an opportunity would strike to capture the important rail junction of Xuzhou thus endangering Wu Han and forcing a Chinese capitulation.


The KMT generals also seeing an opportunity would lure Japanese forces to a cul de sac and then encircle them with numerically superior Chinese forces.


The town of Taierzhuang was chosen as the site for this trap as it was an important rail terminus on the way to Xuzhou.


Li Tsung Jen, the KMT general of the 5th war area(with around 100,000 men in 9 divisions) which was given the task of defending Xuzhou was familar  with the area and terrain would channel the attacking Japanese into attacking Taierzhuang. The terrain and populace would then cut tenous Japanese supply and communications lines then when the time is right, the Japanese would be encircled and destroyed.


On January 26, 1938. The Japanese launched their offensive towards Xuzhou and by the evening of March 24, 1938, the Japanese 10th division(with around 25,000 men and around 100 tanks and armored cars) had reached Taierzhuang.


The Japanese opened their attack on Taierzhuang on the evening of March 24, 1938 with a massive artillery bombardment on Chinese positions. The Chinese defenders weeks before had heavily fortified the town and the villages in the Taierzhuang district. In addition to the fortifications, the heavy rock which was used in the construction of the building in Taerizhuang made them virtual castles. Confronted by this grim defense, the Japanese were forced to slog through these heavy defenses and incurred horrendous casualties in the process while being constantly harried by Chinese forces in their flanks. The Chinese casualties were probably worse as the huge Japanese advantage in artillery, air and tanks caused large number of losses.


By April 3, 1938. The Japanese were in possession of four-fifths of the main town of Taierzhuang. The  Chinese defenders had by this time been reduced to one fourth its strength and had clung on the important west gate of the town which was only means for communication between his force in Taierzhuang and the outside. The Japanese themselves were in no better shape, General Sun Lien Chung(the commander of the 2nd army group) defending Taierzhuang had launched the majority of his forces in attacking the Japanese flanks and rear to divert and lessen the Japanese frontal attacks on the town of Taierzhuang. This was compounded by the arrival of General Tang En Po's 20th army which proceeded to close the noose, completing the encirclement of the Japanese 10th division. Japanese supplies were also rapidly dwindling and air drops mostly failed to make it through to their recipients. Most important of all was the general collapse of Japanese command, the Japanese units were stabbing in the dark since they were cut off from accurate intelligence but they still fought on since they had nowhere to go.


On April 6, 1938. The Chinese forces launched a major night assault and crushed the Japanese defenders in the town of Taierzhuang in several hours of desperate and furious combat.   At the same time, units of the 20th army starting crossing the grand canal, drawing the noose tighter on the Japanese. The Japanese seeing their predicament chose to flee the town and its environs. It was all over by April 7, 1938. Taierzhuang looked like a scene of utter carnage as tanks, armored cars, trucks, and thousands of dead Japanese were strewn around the landscape like so many toys.  The Japanese had lost 16,000 men(including all of their armor) at Taierzhuang and the Chinese lost around 30,000 men. General Li Tsung Jen did not pursue the Japanese since not only was his army severely depleted but ten Japanese divisions were pouring into the area. This action of non pursuit saved a good portion of his army so that it would fight again another day.


The battle of Taierzhuang is considered the first major Chinese victory in the Second Sino Japanese war. Xuzhou was eventually taken by the Japanese on May 20, 1938. The Battle of Taierzhuang was significant since not only did it seriously delay the Japanese but it broke the Japanese air of invincibility(their first major defeat in 300 years). and proved to the Chinese that they can win the war against the Japanese invaders.


The battle of Taierzhuang nagged me for a long time. It nagged me that in the thousands of wargames published, nobody has done a wargame on a battle in the Second Sino Japanese war(apart from a few ASL scenarios). This war is one of the most important wars in the 20th century. Inspiration for the system came to me after reading and playing Tetsuya Nakamura's Storm Over Stalingrad. After this, I became immediately convinced that this is the system that I wanted to use for the game. I wanted a game on the battle to be easy, to learn, simple to play but effectively showing the flow of the battle.


Now some players might ask why the subtitle: "Samurai Stalingrad"? I answer that the Battle of Taierzhuang eerily resembles that ofStalingrad, . It is interesting to note that Vasily Chuikov, the commander of the Stalingrad defenders was sent to China to be a military advisor to Jiang Jie Shi in 1940. Its not substantiated, but its rumored that Chuikov got the inspiration for his strategy at Stalingrad from viewing records on the Battle of Taierzhuang.


Some players may be mystified on how a lone Japanese reinforced division could hold off, led alone do an offensive vs. hordes of Chinese divisions. Japanese divisions in this era were large square formations of 20 to 25,000 men. A Chinese KMT division on paper has 10,000 men but  usually had 5,000 men(or less). The Japanese also had huge advantages in tanks, aircraft and artillery. For the KMT, it only had a few of these and these were reserved for the best divisions. In Taierzhuang, the Chinese defenders had no tanks and air support and had little artillery.Anti tank capabilities were only limited to a few German Pak 36s(which were really effective vs. the Japanese tanks) and fanatical "Dare to Die" units of men equipped with bundles of dynamite and grenades charging at oncoming tanks. The  Chinese main advantage was in manpower. The Chinese heavily outnumbered their Japanese opponents. Also China has a huge landmass and the Chinese forces had room to retreat and maneuver. There are two views on the battle, the Japanese sources portray this battle to be a minor one with the Japanese forces having only 10,000 men and few tanks. The Chinese and U.S. sources are the official historical sources. I based this game on the official sources which are backed by eyewitness accounts by American and German officers but I also wanted to give the Japanese account their due as an optional rule( as you will see when you buy the game).


Hopefully this game opens up the floodgates for more designers to do more wargames on battles of the Second Sino Japanese war, so as Paul Rohrbaugh would say, let the dice roll!!!!!


1 comment:

Arnie said...

Nice game. I am going to pick up a copy. Seems similar to Storm over Stalingrad which I really enjoy. How about doing the Battle of Tali-Ihantala? Great battle and one not well know and seems like it would fit nicely for this type of system.