Here are a few possible scenarios for online multiplayer games that include historic backdrops and/or Japanese ground vehicles. Note that any or all of these could include air support from Japanese forces including planes such as the Ki-51 (in China) or even bomb-equipped A6M “Zeroes” with additional strafing attacks. Since Japanese naval air power is often considered its primary asset, the addition of Japanese air attacks, even if not directly controlled by the player, could add more of a “fear factor” for the Japanese side.
(U.S. vs. Japanese) Guadalcanal Assault (Balanced): (12x M2A4 Light Tanks versus 12x Ha-Go Light Tanks, Infantry on both sides possible), Guadalcanal is the only place where the American M2(A4) tank saw battle overseas with the US Marine Corps. The M2A4 and Ha-Go Light Tanks were well matched in guns if not armor, since the American tanks were newer. This can be evened out by fortified positions, cover such as sandbags and palm tree logs and a few other light fortified positions for the older Ha-Go tanks. The fighting should take place amid rough dirt jungle roads near an airstrip that must be defended by the Japanese. This map will be an example of the Japanese using terrain to their advantage, with U.S. forces needing to overcome that terrain. If infantry (even AI infantry) are involved, the Japanese forces would rush out from cover in an aggressive manner, while U.S. Marine forces might try to use the cover behind and to the sides of their tanks.
(U.S. vs. Japan) First Strike: (3x M3 Stuart Light Tanks vs. 3x Ha-Go Light Tanks) A historical replay of the first battle between Japanese and American tanks. In this actual first encounter near the Bataan Peninsula, M3 tanks and Ha-Go Light Tanks, the Ha-Go tanks and M3 Stuarts are both armed with 37mm guns. Historically the Japanese won this first battle with the somewhat more heavily-armored American tanks by striking first and destroying the lead American tank, hitting the others as they retreated. Could a game rematch end differently for the more heavily-armored M3 tanks? Suggest a scenario where the IJA forces “see” the M3 Stuarts coming briefly in advance and have the opportunity for a first strike. This could be achieved easily in “fog of war” type games or where terrain otherwise obscures the Japanese tanks from view, if only briefly enough to supply the opportunity to make a difference.
(U.S. vs. Japan) Chance Encounter off the Phillipines – Amtank Battle (4 Ka-Mi, 2 Ka-Chi versus 8 LVT(A)-1): A force of IJN Type 2 Ka-Mi amphibious “amtanks” and a couple of larger Type 3 Ka-Chi amphibious tanks are pitted by chance against a mixed force of American LVT(A)-1 tanks. The LVT(A)-1 and Ka-Mi had similar armor thickness and weaponry so they are well matched, they also were reportedly involved in the only actual amtank vs. amtank action in history, so there is some precedent for this type of engagement. In this scenario the Americans are approaching in their LVT(A)1s, just as a group of Ka-Chi and Ka-Mi tanks have arrived with four (NPC / AI-controlled) Ka-Tsu ampjhibious supply transports. All amtanks still have their pontoons. The Ka-Tsu supply transports and the Amtanks are all there to support Japanese infantry that are running low on supplies and have no armored vehicles. The arrival of those tanks and supplies could change the tide of battle for the Japanese, so the American LVT(A)1 Amtanks that arrived on the scene in an attempted surprise attack of their own on the entrenched infantry must do whatever possible to destroy the Japanese amphibious vehicles. The LVT model here, the LVT(A)-1 is lightly armored and was fitted with a turret nearly identical to that of the Light Tank M3, with a 37 mm Gun M6 , and also carried two rear-mounted machine guns. The U.S. infantry forces may also have a few rounds of bazooka fire to support them against the “surprise” of the monstrous Ka-Chi amtanks. The battle should be reasonably balanced.
(U.S. vs Japan) Tokyo Assault: (Japan: 2x Type 4 Chi-To, 2x Type 2 Ke-To, 2x Type 3 Chi-Nu, 2x Type 3 Ho-Ni III, 2x Type 5 Na-To, 4x Chi-Ha “Shinhoto” vs. USA: 4x M3 Stuart, 1x M4A3R3 Flame Tank, 8x M4 Sherman, 2x M-10 Tank Destroyer). This “what if” scenario where Americans make a ground attack in Tokyo pits an assortment of homeland defense-type Japanese tanks against an assortment of American tanks on the streets of Tokyo.
(Republic of China vs. Japan) Shanghai Street Warfare: (Japan: 2x Naval Type 90 Armored Cars, 4x Type 89 I-Go Otsu Medium Tanks, 6x Type 94 Tankettes, vs.China: 8 Single-turret Vickers Mk.E Type B tanks, 2x Vickers Amphibious tanks)between the Japanese and Chinese forces at Shanghai saw many more tanks on the invading Japanese side, but the Chinese were not without armor. They had several imported British Vickers tanks. Suggest for balance having artillery / anti-tank gun positions for the Chinese forces to enable them to potentially stop the old but still potent Type 89 I-Go Medium Tanks with their big 57mm guns capable of wiping out pillboxes and entrenched Chinese positions. The Chinese forces also had machine gun nests.
(Great Britain and Australia vs. Japanese) Here Comes Matilda: (3x Type 94 Tankettes, 1x Type 95 Ha-Go (hull-down), 1x Type 97 Chi-Ha Early Production, versus 1x Infantry Tank Mark II / Matilda II Mk IV and British and Australian Infantry with 1x Boys anti-tank rifle) – In this not improbable battle with the British and Australians toward the end of the war, the Japanese have mostly old tanks while the Australians have a single new British Matilda II with British tankers and a “Boys” anti-tank rifle carried by their infantry. The Matilda is too well-armored for the 1930s era Ha-Go or early Chi-Ha to do much against at range, so the Japanese troops must wait for a single Type 97 Chi-Ha Tank to ease within armor penetrating distance — which means waiting almost until the British are on top of them. Meanwhile their older tanks must be used to harrass and reduce the forces of the British infantry, avoiding the shells of the Matilda. In this scenario the Australian infantry number at 30 while the Japanese troops are either all in their tanks, or with a few more entrenched in a pair of pillboxes. The numbers can be adjusted for balance as required. One twist is that there is a particularly marshy and difficult to traverse terrain for the large Matilda, and the Australian troops must build a crossing by cutting palm trees and arranging them in a muddy dip to allow the Matilda to pass. The Japanese tankettes (only) are not affected by this terrain since they are small and lightweight enough to avoid sinking in. The Australian infantry will be highly vulnerable while they build the makeshift “bridge” over the swampy dip.
(Great Britain vs. Japanese) Battle for Malaya: (4x Type 95 Ha-Go, 2x Type 89 I-Go, 4x Type 97 TK vs. 8x Lanchester 6×4 Armoured Cars, Mark I, British Infantry with 1x “Boys” AT rifle) Western sources make much of the successes of American and British troops, but some of the battles they lost are just as interesting but often overlooked. One such battle is the Japanese invasion of Malaya, which included Japanese tanks used in tropical jungle with success. Though often mistakenly assumed to be “without armour” during these invasions, the British troops at Malaya actually had water-cooled .5 inch Vickers gun-equipped armored cars, the Lanchester 6×4 Mark I models, to be exact. It is unknown if there was armor v.s armor engagement in this battle that would have pitted the British Lanchester 6×4 vs. Japanese tanks, but it would make for more balance in a game and give a British player more variety of gameplay beyond sitting in entrenched positions waiting for the Japanese assault. As a point of historical interest, British and other Allies did not think up until the Japanese invasion of Malaya and other parts of Southeast Asia that traditional tracked tanks would be useful in often swampy jungle terrain, but the Japanese had no reason to think from their battle experience in China their relatively lightweight and narrow tanks and tankettes, built in part to traverse narrow berms between rice fields, could not perform just as well on dirt roads in the jungle. This battle is an example of Japan on the offensive, which provides good balance to games that often only have scenarios with Japan on the defensive toward the end of WW2. More about the Lanchester armored cars in Malaya can be read HERE.
Members of 2nd Bn, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, training with the Mark I Lanchester 6×4 armoured car in Malaya