The Last Yankee on the Yangtzee

A Banana Wars After-Action Report

The "Last Yank" became famous for his escapades during the Fall of Singapore, when he escaped the invading Japanese in the company of almost an entire brothel's worth of sex workers and the wife of an English barrister. Earlier in his career - before he went AWOL and earned his moniker while hiding out in Singapore's Red Light District - he had some less well-known adventures as a simple Marine private on the Yangtze Patrol. This is the story of that earlier chapter of his career.

The Game

This was a playtest of the app-driven miniatures system Banana Wars, to be released on the Application of Force site in due course. It was the first time the game has been used in a Warlord China setting, but it seemed to work fairly well, as you shall see. Figures are 25mm/28mm from Copplestone, Stan Johansen, Pulp Figures, Old Glory, Gringo 40s, Redoubt, and Wargames Foundry (and likely others). The game was played remotely using Skype (all the pictures were captured off the player screens during the game). It is a coop play system: players commanded all US and British forces - the Chinese and Japanese were run by the game app. You can find the scenario here.

The set-up involved a landing party of US Marines, with the mission of rescuing a stranded US diplomat and his wife and secretary, and a party of British troops who are looking for evidence that the "accidental" bombing of one of their gunboats by the Japanese was anything but (they would love to poke the Japanese in the eye, basically, by hitting their Chinese warlord proxies). The British and Americans are ordered to work together, and sail together upstream from the International Settlement.

Here are some shots of the table, before play starts:

The ambassador and his wife and secretary, along with a detachment of sailors, holed up in the Standard Petroleum Compound after the foundering of their aging gunboat, the USS Monadnock.

The Standard Petroleum facility, including a warehouse and docks. The workers have been evacuated as a result of local unrest.

The Mount of the Yen Chin Buddhas, a local monastery that reportedly has been taken over by a Maoist faction. The only visible inhabitant is one of the massive, venemous snakes that infest the area.

A full-table view, with an incident from local legend taking place on the island in the foreground: a blue water dragon had attacked the village on the island, and was driven off by the courageous villagers with well-placed Mauser fire. (This is patently ridiculous - the villagers don't have Mausers!)

The Action

The US and British landing party comes ashore at the Standard Petroleum docking facility, pursued by a group of warlord soldiers on their crude raft who have set up a fortified post on the island. There is a bit of a firefight, and the Chinese soldiers are wiped out, but one of the courageous Tommies is also killed. The warehouse has been booby-trapped, but is abandoned and empty.

The US Marines come ashore just to the south, and investigate the local village. It is inhabited by a gang of bandits, and the US Marines immediately find themselves in action. As they clear the village house-by-house, a warlord and his personal guard flee the village and make an attempt to steal the Marine's aging steam launch, but are gunned down as they leave the shore.

Acting on a tip from a local villager, the British set out to capture a wanted warlord general who has a hidden encampment in the jungle (you can see his tent, surrounded by body-guards). As they proceed down the road, lead by the most-capable Captain Smithers-Jones, they are eyed by a ferocious man-eating tiger. It proceeds to pounce on the good Captain, but fails to kill him. A man-versus-tiger struggle ensues...

The US Marines, having cleared the village on the banks of the Yangtze, are now working their way through the rice paddies. The last of the bandits snipes at them from the undergrowth, but to no effect. Of greater interest, a massive python emerges from a small tributary (possibly attracted by the sounds of gunfire and Captain Smithers-Jones' cries of pain as he is rent by the tiger's claws).

The python, with a range of victims to choose from, selects the tiger (honestly - I diced for it fair and square!). Grabbing it from behind, he pulls it away from the Captain and - to the amazement of all the Europeans present - slowly swallows it. (No one has ever even heard of a python big enough to eat a tiger, but the locals say this is a fairly common occurence. Of course, they also claim to have Mausers, so you can't really take them at their word...). Captain Smithers-Jones, having survived the tiger's attack in a miraculous fashion (and commenting that he had "really been hoping for a rug"), proceeds to fall to his death in a pit full of sharpened bamboo stakes a few minutes afterward - probably a trap laid by the villagers for the marauding soldiers of the warlords.

After having spent the morning doing nothing more exciting than shooting a handful of the local "Red Spear" villagers from a distance, and drinking a surprising number of martinis (there is still an hour or two to go before lunch), the ambassador and his party venture forth to meet up with their rescuers. As they press forward, they spot what seems to be a detachment of Japanese soldiers emerging from the jungle to their right (not visible in the photo). An inaccurate smattering of gunfire confirms their suspicion.

As they flee across the bridge to safety, a stray Japanese bullet manages to hit the ambassador's wife (he is heard to mutter someting like "That will save me a bit on alimony" as he exchanges a meaningful glance with his secretary, but everyone puts it down to the shock of seeing his dear wife killed in front of him). The British manage to defeat the guards and surround the warlord general they have targeted. They search his tent before putting it to the torch, and proceed to escort him and the ambassador's party rapidly back to the docks. They then sail off down the river to safety, exchanging no more than incidental fire with some warlord troops while so doing.

Meanwhile, the US Marines press forward to engage the Japanese, who are acting aggressively. They come under fire not only from the Japanese, but also from a gang of the local bandits, who are coming to sack the now-abandoned Standard Petroleum Compound, and fear that the Marines will beat them to it. It is a hard-fought battle, and the Marines take several casualties, but in the end they are able to clear the area, searching a nearby village to make sure that everything is safe.

After calling it a day, the Marines head back to their steam launch, only to find that another gang of bandits is approaching them in a fleet of sampans, and has shot one of the guards who has been left at the boat.

A single volley from the BAR and their rifles manages to set the first sampan alight, killing its crew and discouraging their fellows from further bothering the Marines. The ambassador has been rescued and British honour has been restored - the mission is a success all round! (The "Last Yankee," having escaped without a scratch, but having witnessed the death of many of his comrades-in-arms, has started to question his career choices. He is soon to disappear, only to resurface some years later in extremely mixed company. But that is a tale for another day...)