By Sword and Flames – Hohei Chutai Tactics

Banzai – Imperial Japanese Forces in the Pacific

By Sword and Flames
Hohei Chutai Tactics
With Miguel Tapia-Ruano

Tired of playing always playing the same old tactics with your infantry? Tired of always trying to kill those heavy tanks with tank destroyers or heavier tanks? Trying to find something new, strange and cool? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, it may be time to try the new Japanese armies that you can find in Banzai, the book that covers the Imperial Japanese Forces in the Pacific – specifically, the Hohei Chutai, the infantry company.

But before you begin your first Japanese infantry army, you may need to change the way you think about building and playing Flames Of War armies. 

The orthodoxy in Flames Of War is that your tanks, anti-tank guns and artillery will try to destroy the enemy’s tanks, while your infantry platoons deal with the enemy’s infantry. Well, that may work for most armies, but not necessarily for the Japanese. Is that something negative? Of course not. It gives this army its own unique charm. 

By Sword and Flames - Hohei Chutai Tactics
Part 1: Building your Hohei Chutai
First of all, we’ll look at the strengths of the Japanese infantry in Flames Of War, how they have improved from Rising Sun, and then we’ll discuss how to make the best use of their rules in the game.

Headquarters

The first proof of how cool this army is, is in the Company HQ. By default, you have two teams; they can be Fearless Veteran or Confident Trained, depending on whether you choose to play with experienced troops or newly raised divisions. Whichever you choose, the rest of the list must have the same rating.

The HQ are Sword teams, and have a special rule, ‘Kendo’. If there are no enemy Tank teams nor bunkers within 2”/5cm of these teams, the Sword team hits on 2+ in Assaults. Every infantry command team in the army, even those from gun platoons, is a Sword team. Don’t forget that, especially if they could be assaulted by the enemy’s infantry.

By Sword and Flames - Hohei Chutai Tactics

But the coolness doesn't end there. For 75 points your 2iC can have a Regimental Standard. This team will provide a unique rule in the game: A Hohei platoon (could be the infantry, but also the Weapons, Battalion Gun, Rapid Fire Gun or Machine Gun platoons) joined by the Regimental Standard automatically passes all Motivation Tests. That means that if you assault, they will fight until there’s no one alive if you want, as long as they pass every roll to counterattack. Or, if you want to hold an objective until the reserves come to reinforce, they will not need to roll any platoon morale checks, and will never be pinned down in your turns.

As General Tadamichi Kuribayashi said in Letters From Iwo Jima, "For our homeland. Until the very last man. Our duty is to stop the enemy right here. Do not expect to return home alive." 75 points for this rule? Damn good deal!

By Sword and Flames - Hohei Chutai Tactics

The Infantry

The infantry of the Hohei Platoon is the core the Hohei Chutai. You can choose two or three squads, and may also add an extra light mortar to the HQ section.

Each squad consists of a light mortar and three rifle teams, and you can replace one rifle in each squad with a Nikihaku team, which is any enemy tank platoon's worst enemy. They have the rule 'Human Bullet', which allows them to assault even if the platoon falls back from defensive fire. And if there are enemy tank teams within 2”/5cm, they roll 4 dice per team to hit in the assault.

These hits must be assigned to Tank teams, and are rated as Improvised Tank Assault 5, so every successful skill test has an excellent chance of destroying a tank.  

By Sword and Flames - Hohei Chutai Tactics

But, on the other hand, each roll of 1 means the Nikuhaku team dies, but hopefully thay can take some of the enemy tanks with them!

And, compared with the Japanese armies from Rising Sun, the infantry has an interesting improvement. The light mortars now can fire smoke, something that can help a lot, as we will see later. The infantry platoons, and also the Scout and Engineer platoons, can be modelled with Banners for +25 points: another interesting rule which ignores the first hit from enemy in their shooting step or in defensive fire. So your infantry must receive six hits to be pinned down, or two from artillery, air support or flame-throwers (but still only one from snipers).

Weapons Platoons

As usual for infantry lists in Flames Of War, the Hohei Chutai has support available in the form of weapons platoons. You can take the usual heavy MG's, alone or mixed with anti-tank rifles, that can be attached to the Hohei platoons.

Also there is the Battalion Gun Platoon, a kind of cheaper mortar platoon. As with the light mortars, this platoon now can fire smoke in direct fire or in bombardment. If you have to attack or assault without concealment from the night or terrain area, this platoon provides the necessary help.

By Sword and Flames - Hohei Chutai Tactics

At last but not at least, there are the Rapid Fire and Regimental Gun Platoons. The first is the usual anti-tank platoon, with only a couple of guns. You can choose between guns with an anti-tank rating of 6, 7 or 8. Whatever you choose, they all have ROF 3 and firepower of 4+. The second is a kind of light artillery, also consisting of two guns. They have FOR 2, anti-tank 6 and firepower of 3+ in direct fire, and anti-tank 3 and firepower of 6+ in bombardments.

By Sword and Flames - Hohei Chutai Tactics By Sword and Flames - Hohei Chutai Tactics
They are not as powerful as the traditional Pak 40, or the 57mm or 6-pounder, and must be used in a different way. They should be used to destroy light or recce teams, and placed behind your infantry, providing them some good defensive fire against tanks or even infantry. Any tank below a Jumbo, Churchill, IS-2 or Tiger must think twice before launching an assault with those rapid-fire guns alive, especially if they are not pinned down.

Divisional Support

Once again, the Hohei Chutai has the usual support of most infantry companies in Flames Of War. But how to play them is a different issue! First of all, the fully armoured support. The best front armor you are going to have is 3, and the best anti-tank rating will be 8, so you have to use them carefully.

You can choose in the first box between any tank available, including captured M3 Stuarts or the new Ka-Mi amphibious tanks. The second box is for the anti-tank, giving you another rapid-fire platoon or some intersting self-propelled guns. You have the Ho-Ni, the Ho-Ro and the captured M3 75mm. The first has ROF 2, anti-tank 10, firepower 3 in direct fire and anti-tank 3, firepower 6 in bombardment, while the Ho-Ro has ROF 1, anti-tank 13, firepower 1 (rated as bunker buster) in direct fire and anti-tank 5, firepower 2 in bombardment. Both have also smoke and smoke bombardment.

In my honest opinion, you really should take one of them, or at least the captured Stuarts. They are a superb help to support your advance if you are going to attack, or placed in ambush if you are defending.

By Sword and Flames - Hohei Chutai Tactics

As infantry support, you can have another Hohei Platoon or the Engineer Platoon, with pioneer teams of tank assault 3, up to 4 Nikuhaku teams(one per squad) and also up to 2 flame-throwers, which makes a great assaulting platoon. In the recce options, there are the Scout and the Recon tankette platoons. The first is made by infantry, between 3 to 5 teams, while the second is made by three fully armored tankettes that can fire MGs or – if you pay it – a 37mm gun which, combined with Eyes and Ears, could really help blow up guns that might stop your advance.

As artillery options you can pick up to three platoons. These can be Medium Mortars, with an interesting firepower of 5+; the field artillery with the Type 38 75mm gun (AT 3, FP 6 firing bombardment) or the Type 91 105mm howitzer (AT 4, FP 4); and the heavy field artillery, with the Type 91 105mm gun (AT 4, FP 4 in bombardment, but ROF 1, AT 14 and FP 1 in direct fire) or the Type 96 150mm Howitzer (AT 5, FP 2). All of them, except the Type 92 105mm gun, firesmoke and smoke bombardments.
Instead of the heavy artillery you can also choose the Heavy Anti-aircraft Platoon or Naval Gunfire Support. The first is the Japanese equivalent of the German 88, but has a range only of 32”/80cm, ROF 2 or 3 if you pay for the extra crew, AT 10 and firepower 3. These teams can be replaced with Nests, making them area defenses. The NGFS, a battery of 4 Confident Trained naval guns non-deployed on-table, is reduced to 3 options: Heavy Cruiser (AT 6, FP 1), Light Cruiser (AT 5, FP 2), or Destroyer (AT 4, FP 3). As another box, you can field the Light Anti-aircraft Platoon, which can also be replaced with Nests.
By Sword and Flames - Hohei Chutai Tactics

Finally, the iconic Mitsubishi Zero is another option, with the usual MG and bomb ratings, but with the option for Close Air Support. If you pay 25 points you roll two dice to see how many aircraft are available.

Also take a look at the Naval Air & Sea Support, in the same box as the Zero. Basically, it works as an interceptor, either against the enemy’s aircraft or NGFS.


Part 2: Tactical tips for the Hohei Chutai

As I said earlier, you must change the way you usually play with other Flames Of War armies.

The lack of powerful direct anti-tank seems to be a fault, but it is just the way that Japanese can win. There are several rules which, if you know how to exploit them, will give you a great advantage. Let’s see how can we use them.

Smoke

One of the greatest improvements for the Japanese lists is the use of smoke in direct fire with almost every gun or light mortar, as well as in Smoke Bombardments. If you are attacking without concealment, the Smoke bombardment will be your best friend, covering the advance and helping in the assault. Don’t forget that smoke bombardments are the first to be rolled, but if you fail you still have the chance to make some smoke with your light mortars. As the shooting player chooses the targets (p. 107 of the rulebook), they can smoke teams such as light or heavy MG's or tanks, forcing them to make defensive fire through the smoke.

In the defensive role, they can cover key tanks such as the Jumbo, the commander, bailed-out tanks, etc, making the rest of the tanks in that platoon easier to hit, meaning they must be allocated the first hits from your tanks, anti-tank, heavy artillery in direct shooting, heavy anti-aircraft guns. Combine this with those cheap ‘8.8 Japanese-style’ guns, and you can really give the enemy a headache.

By Sword and Flames - Hohei Chutai Tactics

Night Attack

When the Hohei Chutai is the attacking force, even in Fair Fights, they can choose to make a Night Attack. And all of the infantry, man-packed, light guns can move at the double even through Rough terrain. And Japanese tanks can move as usual, up to 12”/30 cm. That provides not only a superb concealment against your enemy, but also gives to your Japanese a manoeuvre that your enemy won’t have. The best way to take all the advantage of this rule is by moving at the double in the first turn, trying to get cover with woods, houses or any terrain area that could block the enemy’s line of sight, and trying to assault in the second turn. As long as the night is in place – at least until the defender’s third turn – you may even get an extra turn or two to launch the assault.

Assaults

Playing Japanese infantry means that you will assault, or you are going to be assaulted (or maybe both!) The winner will be decided by the result of the assaults, so you have to plan them carefully.

If your Hohei platoon is the attacker, and have any tank support, you can launch an assault with them first, pinning down that infantry, and making it easier for your own infantry to assault. Japanese tanks have an interesting rule for the assault, ‘Duty to the End’, meaning any Japanese tank, even those bailed out or bogged down, can fight in assaults. And, if they have to counterattack through Rough terrain they don’t have to roll again to move – something really useful if you’re assaulting through rough terrain at night.

But the ones who will have to do the hard work and assault their way to victory are the infantry platoons. If your force has the Regimental Standard you should split your HQ, letting each warrior support one Hohei platoon.

With this, you have one platoon that will automatically pass every roll of tank terror or counterattack, and another that can re-roll thanks to the Commander. So, if you plan your assault carefully, you have a great chance of pushing the enemy out. Remember that all of the command teams are Swords teams, so they hit on a roll of 2+ in assaults against infantry, whether your troops are Trained or Veteran. And if you have paid for Banners, you will forget the first hit in defensive fire.

So, if you are the attacker and have to push the enemy off an objective, you can launch an assault with the first platoon, reinforced by the Regimental Standard, fighting (if you want) until everybody is destroyed. After that, you can launch another assault against the abandoned positions (p. 150 of the rulebook) with the second platoon, reinforced by the Commander.

By Sword and Flames - Hohei Chutai Tactics
If you’re the defender, there’s one rule that could really help you, especially against tanks. The sneaking up on tanks (p. 153) says that a vehicle will not Defensive Fire if your infantry didn’t move, nor shoot, and starts their charge concealed by terrain. If you’re the defender, try to place your objectives in areas with concealment to take advantage of this, forcing the enemy to approach your infantry waiting in concealment. And if you mix this rule with the smoke or smoke bombardment covering the tanks that could Defensive fire, and the mighty Nikuhaku teams (people will either ove or hate that tank assault 5!), you can often easily destroy any tank platoon in one turn.

Part 3: building Hohei Chutai lists for Pacific and Late War
Now it’s time to see how we can make the most of our Kendos and Nikuhakus and build some interesting lists for both theatres, using both the points totals for The 2015 - 2016 North American Tournament Season, and a usual points level:
Pacific 1500 points
Hohei Chutai (Infantry Company – Fearless Veteran) Pacific War
Headquarters
Hohei Chutai HQ
With 2 x Command Sword teams 50 points
   With Regimental Standard 75 points
   With Sniper team 50 points
Combat Platoons
Hohei Platoon
With 3 x Rifle Squads 335 points
   With Banners 25 points
Hohei Platoon
With 2 x Rifle Squads 335 points
   With Banners 25 points
Regimental Support Platoons
Hohei Rapid-Fire Gun Platoon
With 2 x Type 1 37mm guns 115 points
Divisional Support Platoons
Tank Platoon
With 3 x Type 95 Ha-Go tanks 245 points
Recon Tankette Platoon
With 2 x Type 97 Te-Ke (MG) tankettes 95 points
Medium Mortar Platoon
With 4 x Type 97 81mm Mortar teams 145 points
Total: 1495 Points

Using this Force

The infantry is the core of the list, and must deal with the enemy’s infantry and the odd Sherman. Combining the smoke from light and medium mortars, and the assaulting ability of Nikuhaku teams, is fairly easy to destroy them. You have also the support of five tanks to take out Gone to Ground and assault, and also two 37mm guns, which you should use carefully. If the mission has an ambush, use it with them. In one round they could destroy a US tank platoon of LVTs or Stuarts. On the other hand, if they fail it will be very easy for the US to kill them.


Pacific 1770 points
Hohei Chutai (Infantry Company – Fearless Veteran) Pacific War
Headquarters
Hohei Chutai HQ
With 2 x Command Sword teams 50 points
   With Regimental Standard 75 points
Combat Platoons
Hohei Platoon
With 2 x Rifle Squads 335 points
   With Banners 25 points
Hohei Platoon
With 2 x Rifle Squads 335 points
   With Banners 25 points
Weapons Platoons
Hohei Weapons Platoon
With 2 x Type 92 HMG teams & 2 x Type 97 20mm Anti-tank Rifle teams 135 points
Regimental Support Platoons
Hohei Rapid-Fire Gun Platoon
With 2 x Type 1 37mm guns 155 points
Divisional Support Platoons
Tank Platoon
With 4 x Type 95 Ha-Ho tanks 325 points
Recon Tankette Platoon
With 2 x Type 97 Te-Ke (MG) tankettes 95 points
Medium Mortar Platoon
With 4 x Type 97 81mm Mortar teams 145 points
Light Anti-aircraft Platoon
With 2 x Type 98 20mm gun 70 points
Total: 1770 Points

Using this Force

The infantry is still the core of the list, but now it is reinforced with better support: two HMGs or two AT rifles to be attached to the Hohei, depending on whether you are the attacker or the defender against infantry or tanks. Instead of the two 37mm guns, now you have 2 47mm guns, which can destroy even a Sherman against its front armor. You get one more Ha-Go to assault, and also the support from two AA guns – perfect to destroy air support, AOP, or even light tanks or infantry.


Late War 1420 points
Hohei Chutai (Infantry Company – Confident Trained) Late War
Headquarters
Hohei Chutai HQ
With 2 x Command Sword teams 30 points
   With Regimental Standard 75 points
Combat Platoons
Hohei Platoon
With 3 x Rifle Squads 215 points
   With Banners 25 points
Hohei Platoon
With 3 x Rifle Squads 215 points
   With Banners 25 points
Weapons Platoons
Hohei Weapons Platoon
With 2 x Type 92 HMG teams & 2 x Type 97 20mm Anti-tank Rifle teams 80 points
Hohei Battalion Gun Platoon
With 2 x Type 92 70mm guns 45 points
   With Observer Rifle team 15 points
Regimental Support Platoons
Hohei Rapid-Fire Gun Platoon
With 2 x Type 1 47mm guns 40 points
Divisional Support Platoons
Tank Platoon (Fearless Trained)
With 4 x Captured M3 Stuart tanks 140 points
Self-propelled Gun Platoon
With 3 x Type 1 Ho-Ni self-propelled guns 140 points
Recon Tankette Platoon
With 2 x Type 97 Te-Ke (MG) & 1 x Type 97 Te-Ke (37mm) tankettes  95 points
Medium Mortar Platoon
With 4 x Type 97 81mm Mortar teams 95 points
Heavy Anti-aircraft Platoon
With 2 x Type 88 75mm gun teams with 8 crew 70 points
Limited Air Support
With Mitsubishi Zeros 115 points
Total: 1420 Points

Using this Force

Now the poor infantry doesn’t have to deal with everything. Playing Confident Trained troops instead of the previous Fearless Veteran, allows you to tank 10 platoons, making this army hard to destroy. This is a more defensive list, but you still have to consider your movements and shooting wisely. Don’t forget that now you have firepower to destroy any tank, with your ‘Japanese 88’, the Air Support and those cool captured M3 Stuarts. If you want a ‘heavier’ AT support from your tanks, you can change the Stuarts, for the same points, with 3 self-propelled Type 1 Ho-Ni).


Late War 1770 points
Hohei Chutai (Infantry Company – Fearless Veteran) Late War
Headquarters
Hohei Chutai HQ
With 2 x Command Sword teams 50 points
   With Regimental Standard 75 points
Combat Platoons
Hohei Platoon
With 3 x Rifle Squads 335 points
   With Banners 25 points
Hohei Platoon
With 3 x Rifle Squads 335 points
   With Banners 25 points
Weapons Platoons
Hohei Weapons Platoon
With 2 x Type 92 HMG teams & 2 x Type 97 20mm Anti-tank Rifle teams 120 points
Hohei Battalion Gun Platoon
With 2 x Type 92 70mm guns 65 points
   With Observer Rifle team 15 points
Divisional Support Platoons
Tank Platoon
With 4 x Captured M3 Stuart tanks 215 points
Recon Tankette Platoon
With 2 x Type 97 Te-Ke (MG) & 1 x Type 97 Te-Ke (37mm) tankettes  145 points
Medium Mortar Platoon
With 4 x Type 97 81mm Mortar teams 145 points
Heavy Anti-aircraft Platoon
With 2 x Type 88 75mm gun teams with 8 crew 105 points
Limited Air Support
With Mitsubishi Zeros 115 points
Total: 1770 Points

Using this Force

If the previous list was based on the power of quantity over quality, here’s the mix of good quality troops (Fearless Veteran) with a good quantity (8 platoons). You keep the Stuarts (or the Ho-Nis), the ‘88s’ and the Zero, and also both smoke bombardment templates. While this list is similar to the previous one, the skill and the motivation of this troops allows them to play more aggressively against almost any enemy.


Yonde kurete arigatō, to gēmu-nai no kōun!
Thanks for reading, and good luck in the game!

~ Miguel.