Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Going Chinese!

No sadly, I have not charmed a PLA beauty (not yet…) but it is time to unveil the big 2013 project!

Red Dragon Struggling

The year is 2025.< play music from Ghost Recon!>

10 years before a Russian conventional invasion of China coupled with a limited nuclear exchange had left the once powerful People Republic of China weakened and in need of international assistance. A multinational force came to the rescue but accepted only a stalemate as result and a temporary cease fire leaving the Russians in control of the industrialized northern China and some of its restless western regions .  Now in a land beset by local warlords, bandits, occupation forces, and squabbling and rapacious  allies the fate of the world hinges again on the balance. Accompanied by a failed nuclear strike the Russian Army and its proxies, the Uighur National Army, the Korean People Army, and the newly established Chinese Party of Peasant and Workers are again on the offensive.
Facing them is a shaky coalition made of the People Republic of China, the United States and its Nato allies, Australian, Vietnam, Japan, and South Korea, former enemies turned allies of convenience. With a political leadership in far away countries in denial of the crisis it is one shoulders of the soldiers on the grounds, leftover of an unfinished war to held the tide at bay. Undermanned units with outdated equipment, heirs of budgets cuts and botched programs are thrown in the fire in an arrogant display of strength to hide their real weaknesses.
Will the Allies held the line? Will the Russian Army remove the Chinese threat once for all and restore the dreams of the Czars and the Soviets?

The Setting:
Well it looks far fetched… but what hypothetical campaign does not look this way? Well, the recent PLA releases from GHQ, Heroic&Ros, Rebel Miniatures and the announcement of the new Kick starter from Empress  had made me thinking. I like East Asia, in my day ‘job’ I pretend to be an East Asia specialist. Still I am becoming a bit uneasy with the idea of PRC being the source of all evil… well, I have friends in the PLA, friends in China at large, it made me uneasy casting the stunning young woman with whom I had the pleasure to have a lunch in the part of the villain of my games. It would also meant that I have to cast a lot of people in that part, some of my old students, some of the people I have helped in revising essays and even writing doctoral proposal. People who have been guest at my home too… let’s face it I am not overly anti-PRC. Despite what the US Navy and some other people are saying the PRC has shown a large amount of strategic (but not operational or tactical sadly) restraint in the past decades. One of the thing wargamers (especially the bunch of idiotic pundits that often frequent TMP…)  and policy makers forget is that Russia and China have their own spats for centuries. I am also willing to cast the Russian government in a more villainous roles (Georgia anyone?). There is also an historical titbit that had always puzzled me. Russia often has regarded areas we now associate with China has its own. As recently as 1945 Josif Stalin had forced a Sino-Soviet friendship treaty (what a name) on Jiang Shie-ji (Chiang Kai-Scheck) giving Sinkiang and Manchuria to Soviet Union and retaking Port Arthur, these areas stayed Russians more or less until the Stalin’s death and the end of the Korean War. I am not overly persuaded Russia  Two superpowers sharing a land borders are quite interesting and create a quite volatile situation.
Thus I have a good background for a campaign setting. Now… I wanted to distance it a bit more from today because… because I do not want to be too pessimist.  I wanted also to accommodate two kind of warfare, high speed high intensity armoured clashes (smaller scales involved) and more infantry actions (28mm). This for two reasons. First, if you will ever read my academic flights of fancy you will realize I am quite enthralled by the idea of hybrid warfare were you shift between full conventional and small scale patrols. It is much more common than we thinks. Second I like 28mm miniatures but I am not so rich to deploy full tank supported mechanized companies and have a table to give them the proper combat space, I also think 28mm battles, at least contemporary ones, are better if kept small, because you can then put more effort in the miniatures.  So my setting has to have place for both tank clashes and small patrols. I am also interested in the interwar period in China. I watched the Sand Pebbles, read books and did serious research. Thus is created a setting were Foreign forces are in china, formally doing ‘peacekeeping’ or ‘supporting’ roles but, until the campaign starts, also doing what their historical counterparts did in the interwar period, supporting their countries interests in China.  

Is this situation possible? Why not? We have seen a rise on conventional and semi-conventional warfare despite what the outspoken prophets of COIN tell us. We have also seen assertive Russia and the fact that the US conventional and nuclear deterrence is taken less seriously than before (Korea). We have also a quite instructive example of what this could lead us in the form of 1950’s invasion of South Korea. And if people want to debate that US and Russia have never fought head to head… non one has ever heard of the Black Tuesday over Nam-si?  Well I find my scenario possible, not highly probable now, and not even auspicable (even if I think that if we have a global war I will prefer to side with the PRC than with the Russians).  As far the nuclear element goes… well I ma not so sure about deterrence as I was five years ago. Hopefully I am wrong, but if deterrence fails nuclear weapons become just an additional part of an arsenal.

One last word is required on the Japanese… I like Japan, I have Japanese friends, I like the Self Defense Force, I had also meet some JSDF officers, including a former Chief of the Fleet. I have also studied the Imperial Japanese Army, read Chang’s Rape of Nanking and Drea’s Japan Imperial Army. I know what they did in China, but the idea of having them uneasy allies with the Chinese (albeit with some less than pleasant traits in the background stories) is interesting. I am also a bit uneasy with the continued awful portrayal of the Japanese in Chinese Media (varying from utterly evil bloodthirsty people, to utterly evil bunch of incompetent extras ready to be butchered by the hero… it is interesting that they always complain on anything Tokyo’s government said  and then continually bashing the Japanese). Having them side by side it is my answer.

A Project is Born

The Plan

Well I love telling stories, but first of all you need to get the basics done. In our fields basics means, miniatures, terrain, and rules.  How I plan to proceed? Well this is my big 2013 project so I will devote a lot of my spare time to it. Also a lot of my meagre financial resources will go into it… It will also be an hybrid project, combining different scales and different medium. Rest assured that this will not be a metagaming experience, tried it in the past did not work, just I want to tackle several different aspects of the problem. I have several map based games involving the belligerent, including the very good Red Dragon Rising from Bruce Costello. Yet they are cast in the usual PLA versus the Blue team. Recently I scored an old used copy of S&T China War. It is a little nifty game that has a very nice map of china with population and resources and cover… well a Soviet invasion in the late seventies early eighties. I think that with minimal addition (like the one Brian Train did in his 2008 civil war scenario) it will be perfect.  It will be a quick way to test the strategic and operational setting. This is phase one. 

Phase two will involve my extensive 6mm collection. I have sizable forces for every nation involved in my plot except the PLA but GHQ and H&R will cover this void (incidentally I also need some additional French). We need Koreans, but I have been told something is moving on this area. I will use mainly Strike Legion: Planetary Ops taking material from their WW3 supplement. It is a battalion level game. Units are battalions composed by companies, 1inch to the kilometer. Why this approach? Well it allow me to have all the elements on the table, combat force, logistic and artillery, air-power. I also like the idea to be able to field a full division in a playable manner. I will have to add some PLA brigades to my force mix, but it will be reasonably easy. I will play the action along the ‘Corridor’ the thin line connecting  The ‘safe area’ of the Yangtze basin to Beijing. Here the bulk of the Russian offensive will unfold. There will be scenario covering large tank battles.
Farther south the 25th Infantry Division, the Marines,  and some allied units will push north from Shanghai to reinforce the Corridor, Phase 2. Strykers in action…  well the Stryker is cool, maybe not the best thing you want in a real war but despite its shortcoming it is here to stay.  Khurasan miniatures is releasing some nice new US Army troops and vehicles in 15mm and also a T-90. I have already a good collection of PP ones with some QRF and loads of vehicles, I have also French and British troops and Soviet/Russians. I can add some PLA from Rebel, but they will be simple leg infantry, there are no modern Chinese vehicle in 15mm… sadly. Some scenario here will scale down from massed action to smaller stuff in 15mm, using Cold War Commander. I plan to have company actions where one stand is a squad or weapons team and Vehicles represent 2 or three (as in Battlefront WW2) real vehicles. I have found this is a great way to use combined arms companies in 15mm. It will not only be a full conventional war. Troops will have also to keep the Line of Communication open… here the invention of the CPPW will become useful to have some nice convoy actions. 

Phase three will 28mm… It will not follow large units or companies, but squads and reduced platoons fighting to keep Shanghai secure and the so called ‘Blue Line’ of the Yangtze clear. The PLA and the multinational allies will be fighting their daily battles in rice paddies, canals, and small villages. Force on Force and Crossfire (with some little tweaks) will be used, I am also eyeing the new Chain of Command from TFL… it could be easily adapted. Some of the battles will overlap actions from Phase Two, but in smaller tactical scale, heroic and not so heroic character will made their appearance.  To support Phase three I have my Empress modern british that will play the part of the Royal Marines of the shanghai garrison and the Infantry Brigade from Hong Kong (I mentioned the help was not completely free). I am drooling for an Imprint Challenger but this time I will refrain (maybe next serious job). As much I love the Charlie 2 I want some gritty infantry focus. Also because I am afraid (more on that on another post) the British Army has, like some other European armies, embraced a twisted approach to lightness and flexibility.  The heavy force will be in a different area of China, defending Xian (and the house of one of my best friends) from the Uighur National Army.  Well I hace Charlie 2 in 6mm and 15mm I can re-role for a while. Next allied force will be the US Army. I have a decent Empress force, 1 M1A2, 2 Bradleys, plenty of hummers in 28mm, A Stryker would be nice… or not, again this year expense are to be controlled. I already have Strykers in 6mm, Acheson has a nice one in 15mm and Khurasan is also doing them shortly. Can afford only to ‘strykerize’ in 15mm or 28mm, have to decide, or maybe I can just infiltrate a single Stryker in 28mm. I have Eureka modern marines and SEALS. I want the new ones from Empress. Vehicles… at the moment the only 28mm vehicles for this project is the Imprint AAV7A1. You need the Tuna Boat, trust me you need it.  Plus I need PLA, I have a single squad from Colonel Stone Compound. Need the new Empress.  On the plus side I have some Eureka (small Kriegsspiel sub-brand) Japanese.  



  1. This sounds like a great project and one I will be following with great interest. I love you backgrounds as they are always so 'plausible' even when clearly fictitious.

    I also like the idea of the PRC being 'the good guys'. very interesting.

    I am also intrigued by the idea of mixing scales withing a campaign to simulate different types of battles ans that sound like a great idea. As a 28mm scale gamer myself I have always been fascinated, but never really tried microarmour. I might have to give it a go now.

  2. If you like tanks and want more than a couple per side in our normal table Microarmour is the only way forward.It also allow you to have different support elements on the table like SPG and stuff you do not use in 28mm or even 15mm. Plus I already have a lot of stuff and it is cheaper than 28mm...

    As PLA being good... well I am organizing a trip to Bovington with a PLA tanker who is also a colleague in King's, I have so many Chinese friends that I feel difficult to consider them evil anymore. some of my miniatures have also found their way to China...

    As far background goes, being plausible is quite easy, it is also a quite good exercise to interpret current news. 99% you miss, but in the end well... reality often is implausible (as when I told a friend on 28 July 1990 that Iraq was going to invade Kuwait and we would have gone to war for it and was ridiculed as 'fantasy').