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London, United Kingdom
A mythical beast - a female wargamer! I got back into wargaming in the summer of 2011 after a very, very long break. My current interests are Ancients, ACW, 30YW and SciFi gaming.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Imjin War Battle: Part 1 - The Campaign

This is going to be a rather long post I'm afraid, with not many pics. I'm splitting the battle report over two days - the pre-battle campaign tonight, the battle itself tomorrow.

Reduced size pic of the campaign map

Sunday saw a group of us from the club gather for another of Gordon's "Foggy Sunday" multi-player events. However, that wasn't when the game started - for the previous two weeks we had been playing a pre-battle campaign by email. Each of us had been given the role of a major character one one side of the war; mine was the Reverend Hyujeong (aka SongUn), the leader of the Army of Sangha. Also on my side were Chris (playing Li RuSong, the Ming general), Martin (Song YingChang, the Chinese superintendent, a Court bureaucrat) and Clive (Eon Go-baek, the Korean general who was my main enemy. OK, my main enemy after the Japanese).

The Japanese also had 4 commanders - Phil (Ukita Hidae, CinC and commander of their 8th division); Andy (Konishi Yukinaga, commander of the 1st division), Mark (Kobayakawa Takakage, commander of the 6th Division) and Adam (Kuroda Nagamasa, commander of the 3rd division).

Each of us had been given our own briefing document giving background of our character and outlining their aims. If there were any special rules relating to our forces, these were also in the briefing.

Gordon was the umpire and had come up with a rather interesting set of rules for logistics, movement and attrition which would link in to each other. Logistics was in two parts: supplies (food and animal fodder) and "CATFOOD".

Yes, you read that right.

"CATFOOD" - Commissariat Ability to Transport Food for One for One Day".

Luckily for me, I didn't have to worry about that too much after a couple of days.

But time for some historical background...

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General Li...oh, no, wrong one - General Lee!

The game was originally intended to be the Battle of Byeokjegwan, 27 February 1593. Having recaptured P'yongyang from the Japanese a few days before, quickly followed by Kaesong, the Koreans and their Ming allies were moving South to recapture Seoul.

The hungry and somewhat demoralised Japanese in Seoul were preparing to retreat South, but one of the daimyo - Kobayakawa Takakage - decided that he preferred a glorious death on the battlefield to the humiliation of retreat (not to mention the likely wrath of an increasingly unstable Shogun). He led his part of the Japanese forces out North of the city. His rearguard had done a very good job of shadowing the advancing Ming army as it crossed the Imjin river. The Ming (and Korean field army) conversely had been incredibly inept in keeping track on where the Japanese forces were and ignored the reports willingly provided by the local Korean peasants.

Early on the morning of the 27th, General Li set off from Paju with a vanguard of the allied forces comprising about 20,000 troops from the Ming and Korean field armies, mostly armoured cavalry. It is likely that the monks of the Army of the Sangha were also in this force. The morning was cold, with a dense freezing fog that made it very difficult to follow the roads, let alone spot any enemy forces. The bulk of the Chinese army had still not crossed the Imjin, but were moving towards Seoul from Kaesong.

The Chinese advance guard ran into a flying column of about 800 Japanese and after a fierce fight recoiled until they met with the forward elements of the main Chinese army. The Japanese had pursued them. Many were killed and the Chinese in turn pursued them...

...and ran into fresh Japanese troops deploying on a small hill. The Chinese were doing quite well, but realised that more Japanese infantry were deploying from the wooded hills and would soon surround them. General Li gave ground (or possibly routed) back to the North where the main army was trying to deploy. At one point, he had been pulled from his horse, but was rescued by his brothers.

About noon the fog lifted, to be replaced by rain which turned the ground into a quagmire, forcing the Chinese cavalry to dismount. The battle continued for about two hours, with the Chinese army continually being attacked on both flanks by fresh Japanese units deploying out of the forests and hills. Despite all this, they held.

That is, until one of the Japanese generals called for his men to fall back and create a clear field of fire for the Teppo troops. The musketry was the beginning of the end for the Chinese forces and they soon began to retreat, pursued for a few miles by the Japanese.

All of this action took place near to a village North of Seoul called Byeokjegwan. The battle had a severe psychological effect on the Ming generals, leading them to become overly cautious. For the Japanese, it boosted their morale significantly and encouraged them to assault the Haengju fortress to the West of Seoul, which had been occupied by about 2-3000 Righteous army troops under Kwon Yul. This proved to be disastrous for them.


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SongUn lead his brigade into battle


So, that's the history lesson over. Now to return to the campaign. Despite being in the last 2 weeks of the Painting Challenge, I decided to go full throttle on the role play element. I started by writing a letter to General Li suggesting that my monks should depart Kaesong straight away to demonstrate support for our brothers at Haengju and gather intelligence on Japanese troop movements to be passed back to the main army. I requested enough food to be able to keep my force busy scouting - my monks weren't allowed to forage in the same way as field army troops, they could only beg for alms which would mean moving very slowly. I also warned the most excellent general not to trust Eon Go-baek and went into some detail as to his corrupt and untrustworthy nature.

Note - one of my aims was to traduce the character of eon Go-baek who is a member of the "Western" faction in the Korean court.

When I hadn't received any reply or general orders within 2 days, I privately emailed some orders to Gordon. One of my sub commanders had discovered a monk with an incredible talent for writing in the style of other people and suggested that we might be able to acquire enough supplies using documents in the handwriting of Li RuSong. My monks would slip quietly out of Kaesong in the evening and head South east as fast as possible to the village on the Imjin where the transport fleets had gathered. If necessary, we would use more documents to obtain use of the fleets to cross the river.

Gordon appreciated this plan immensely and reported back that the merchants in Kaeson had been most generous when they heard we were going to support the gallant defenders of Haengju and provided us with 30,000 units of food and the CATFOOD (carts etc) to transport it. We marched through the night and the following morning to the fleets. The garrison commander and fleet captains fell over themselves to assist us. We offered blessings.

My original plan had been to just cross the Imjin and head down overland. However, the fleet captains insisted on taking us much further down the Han and landing us at a village on the Western end of the peninsula. We gratefully accepted as this would bring us much nearer to Haengju. We also sent one fleet with 300 monks and 7000 food supplies to the fortress.

The forced march had taken a slight toll on some of my troops. I decided to rest up for the rest of that day. We left those who weren't fit at the village with some more monks who would fortify the village and establish it as a forward supply base.

It is possible that I may have suggested to the fleet captains that if they didn't receive orders to transport supplies to this base or to Hanegju that some boats might accidentally drift down the Han. They seemed to be very open to this suggestion.

The following morning my three brigades headed north and were begging for alms in the villages when our scouts alerted us to an approaching Japanese column. We slipped into the woods and waited. The Japanese stopped at one of the villages, Kyoha-ri, and began to fortify it. Having ascertained that they were an isolated force, I prepared for a night assault. During the afternoon we had slipped some monks in disguised as peasant labourers who reported on Japanese troop strengths and identified weak points in the defences.

The assault was a great success.Perhaps not too surprising considering we outnumbered them about 10-1. We killed all 380 Japanese having only lost about 200 of our own, plus about 300 injured. Sadly 80 of the Korean peasants in the village (some villagers, some from other villages who the Japanese had pressed into carrying foraged supplies and constructing the fortifications).

We captured 300 firearms and some ammunition and a party of (mostly injured) monks was sent with these, the 380 Japanese helmets and about 120 captured horses North to General Li with tidings of our victory.

Note - one of my character's aims was to get into combat as soon as possible. Successfully achieved; doubly so as apart from some scouts, the rest of the army was still North of the Imjin.

My three brigades then split up to approach Haengju from different directions, begging for alms from villages along the way. Each village could only support one brigade doing this, which is one reason for splitting up*. The other was the need to gather information on Japanese activity.

*I later discovered that I could have put the brigades on half rations and had half the brigade "foraging" whilst the other half stayed "formed" and ready for action if needed.

One of my brigades was to approach Haengju from the West along the north bank of the Han. They'd found all the villages pillaged and burned to the ground. Just West of Haengju, their scouts reported a large body of Japanese troops had fortified a village and were camped there. There were too many to take on, so the brigade commander forbade an assault. Unfortunately it seems that some of the monks in his brigade were from the area and decided to disobey orders to seek revenge. They slipped out during the night and attacked the camp, most of them being killed in the process.

The next day, unaware that this had happened, the brigade was dispersed in the paddy fields when the Japanese began aggressive patrols, obviously searching for them. The brigade commander ordered them to hide and when safe to retreat to the village where the army had landed. Initially some 400 (about a quarter of the brigade made it), many using the columns of refugees as cover. More joined them over the following day. Fearing the Japanese would follow them, they moved North to a village called Paju where they encountered advance scouts of the Ming army.

My other brigades were heading North of Haengju. The scouts' reports indicated that all the villages in the area had been looted and the Japanese were present in large numbers. I wrote to the Haengju commander to say that as we were without supplies and not in large numbers we would not be able to relive them at this point but would urge General Li to support them and to hold on for as long as they could.

We then moved North-East with SongUn's brigade heading for the area around Byeokjegwan, the other brigade to the North of them. By now they were encountering advance scouts from the Chinese and Korean field armies. I kept my brigades moving and sending out scouts to gather intelligence. That enabled me to not be absorbed into the Chinese army who were establishing a base camp in the hills just outside Byeokjegwan.

Note - one of my aims was to retain independent control of the Army of the Sangha and not to accept being placed under Chinese or regular Korean control.

At this point we began to receive intelligence reports from my long range scouts. It appeared that the bulk of the Japanese forces were camped around Haengju and had fortified the villages and built siege fortifications near to the fortress.

Light Japanese forces had been encountered to the East of Byeokjegwan and driven off into the wooded hills, but it was unclear if they were advance parties of a larger force or operating independently.

In Seoul there was a small garrison, but not enough to keep control of the remaining populace who were starving and looting the houses of anybody they suspected of hoarding food. Graffiti was appearing on the walls referring to Kyoha-ri and the Army of the Sangha among other things.

Graffiti on the walls in Seoul.

More graffiti
Of course, these reports were a few days old.

It seemed that if there was to be a major battle, it would be somewhere around Haengju rather than Byeokjegwan.

As the Chinese troops at "Camp Byeokjegwan" weren't particularly well suited to scouring the wooded hills, I volunteered to do so with my monks. They would then scout/scour the woods and hills heading South in case the Japanese had stationed an ambushing force there to attack the Chinese army while it was crossing the river and vulnerable.

The third brigade near Paju would similarly scout/scour the woods on the peninsula to the West of Haengju as at least part of the Chinese army would advance along that route to Haengju or Seoul.

General Li wanted to allow Eon Go-baek to "liberate" Seoul, but he seemed to have been moving very slowly. I pointed out that the graffiti in the city suggested that they may be more open to an approach by me and suggested I send a small party of monks to slip into the city bearing messages calling on the population to rise up and retake the city from the small garrison themselves. He agreed to this suggestion.

Note - if this worked out, it would deny Eon Go-baek the glory of liberating the capital. 

This was the last set of orders before the battle on Sunday and they were issued on Friday night/Saturday morning - we'd have to wait until we saw the tables on the day to find out who was where and with what forces.


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Overall, the pre-battle campaign was time consuming but good fun. I really enjoyed the role-play element and Chris (General Li) said he really looked forward to my in-character missives. He also replied to me in character and his letters were fun to read.

Speaking to the others, it seems that everybody had entered into the spirit of things. Whilst on our side there was a degree of feuding between myself and Clive (Eon Go-baek), it appears that the Japanese commanders were much more engaged in squabbling with each other. From what I can gather, all of them at some point emailed Gordon outlining assassination plots against the rest!


That's it for tonight, tomorrow I'll do a write-up of the battle.









4 comments:

  1. Engrossing campaign! Interesting to read about one that requires Monks to "beg for alms" to keep up their supplies.

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  2. Should be a good campaign. Like the campaign map a lot. Nice

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  3. Some fun campaing ideas there and your write-up gives a good flavour of the shenanigans "off camera".

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  4. @ David - it was to differentiate their foraging from that of the field armies. The monks wouldn't use force to get food from the villages so would go to every house and farm in the area and ask for what the villagers could spare. The field armies would just go to the villages and bully the peasants into giving them everything they had in the village barns, ignoring the outlying farms.
    I suspect the Japanese were able to extract even more with their foraging
    @ Hendrid - it was a good campaign :)

    @ Joe - a flavour of the shenanigans is all I can give for now I'm afraid. Maybe when Gordon writes up his notes, I'll be able to post them.:)

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