Thursday, 27 February 2014

Flames of War - Tactics of Japan

A good start for those looking at the force:

No pictures yet, but I may add some for those who like to look. 

Unfortunately Flames of War has taken a backseat for me but im hoping to get in a game next week. My Early War Japanese are due for a paint job after my fantasy army is done. So until then I cant yet show you the amazement of a fully done up Flames of War force!

It wasn't so long ago I ended up coming into the flames of war community but I had long been longing to join. As a lover of cavalry and early war armies my choices where limited for a long time and everyone else only played late war. I waited and then one day I looked on the site to find Japanese forces. They where perfect! Cavalry, light fast tanks, rushing infantry and the overall style of warfare was drastically different to that of the more "traditional" army. 

So although I didn't end up with my cavalry I did end up with a sizable infantry force backed up by tanks and arty. Amazingly my backward and ill equipped forces have taken on armies from mid-war and still won. Granted my friends and I are all still learning but the feats my army achieve amaze me all the time. Since when I started out there was little real info on how to use such a flavoured force I thought Id share my experiences so that others looking at the army can see roughly what they are in for. 

I will cover:

Light Artillery
Suicide Teams

I think the above makes a great starting army and so far it works well.  But see more at the end.


Infantry should be the focus of your army. Its common for many players to want to do an all tank force but I cant fathom how well an all tank Japanese force will do against any other tank force. So in my opinion if you are looking to start an army get the Japanese infantry box set as your first purchase. 

So these guys have great stats initially (fearless and veteran) but only have rifles. But they make up for this by having 1 knee mortar per 3 rifles (which ends up being a lot by the end of it). The Japanese have a few special rules to help them do their job which I will touch on next. But their job is literally to get as close to the enemy as fast as possible and stab them. How you say? Read on... 

Pinning Japanese? Seeing the Japanese? I think not!

A vital part of the Japanese force is assaulting. So a pinned unit is a useless unit! But there are a host of protections against this for your infantry.

The first thing to remember it takes one extra shot to pin a Japanese Platoon (saved me so many times from pesky Germans). Use this to your advantage, do not forget it! So if they manage to get enough hits on you to force a pin, you then get to opt to charge again, but the enemy get another round of shooting in to you. Your command team may take a banner which makes you immune to these checks, its expensive points wise but he will save your bacon. So pinning the Japanese is very hard. They have fearless, take an extra hit, get a second chance, or are immune to it all together! 

Then the most important rule of all! Attack at dawn. 

This rule is a winner. Imagine having safety for the first 3 turns minimum from most of the enemies fire power while you rush up close. Oh did I mention that you can move at the double at night even through terrain! (this includes HMGs and the like too) and tanks can move at full speed at night as well. 


My Platoons end up repeating this process when assaulting: (read further on for support options)

Knee Mortars stay to fire, their ability to fire over troops and kill just a couple more enemy teams is vital. Avoid charging these guys if at all possible.The riflemen go first (read later for suicide teams), they take the hits and do the bulk of the fighting. If the riflemen fail the command teams come up next, these command teams hit on 2+ during an assault so they can turn the tide if your main troops aren't doing their job. The last to come in are the Suicide teams, ill touch on this later but these guys are vital to try keep alive. I will not lie your platoon will be devastated after the assault, but generally the enemy are wiped out.

After an assault I always have little to nothing left of my platoon, but they always end up on the objective. Whats left of the platoon is the mortars and suicide teams and maybe a rifle team and commander here and there. This is important because generally after taking an objective the enemy are rushing for it, sometimes with tanks! If the tanks fail to break my last few men they will be in trouble. Suicide teams (and this is important) always make it to the enemy tanks or die trying. Even 2 teams can be deadly, these guys end up killing themselves frequently but tank assault 4 generally makes a mess of armour. 

I always have 2 platoons of rifles on standby so I can repeat the above twice if need be. Generally im assaulting in 2 places at once hoping that the enemy lacks the final punch to take them both out. 

I know it seems pretty "well duh" but it is so important not to engage in a gun fight with the enemy who will always outgun you. Open ground? Charge like mad!, Dense bush? Even better! Always charge at all times whenever possible. You have the means and the need to do so. You will loose men, whole platoons even. But so will the enemy and they cannot afford to loose firepower. 


Well not much here except you knee mortars should be firing from behind your men. Always put them near the back so that they can pop men out of cover. These guys will be doing a lot of the shooting work so keep the load on them whenever possible. 


Sick of the game ending when all your men start to flee? Do not fear. I will sum this up nicely. If you fail a moral check, your army runs towards the nearest objective or charges the nearest enemy. So even if your men are close to the objective or if you have cleared the objective and happen to fail a company check, you have still won. They need to kill EVERY MODEL ON THE FIELD to win. This is so important I cannot stress it enough.

Infantry Summery:
  • Attack at Dawn: Run right to the enemy from turn one with everything.
  • Pinning defense: You are hard to pin so don't be afraid to take risks. 
  • Deceptively important: Infantry are the only thing that will win you games. Not rows of tanks or big guns. Seriously if you are doing this army be prepared to leave your comfort zone. Not to say tanks aren't needed (ill get to that soon) but their role is not what is expected. 
  • Knee Mortars: These guys should be at the back lobbing grenades. Remember they aren't game changing but they aren't something to throw away either. 
  • Always Charge: In almost all situations try to charge your men. 
  • Death: Your men will suffer, they will die perhaps in numbers or speeds beyond what you imagined but it will happen. After a fight you will question your skills as you see scattered survivors clinging to vital objectives. So remember, without your men dying, you will not win. 
 As you can see already the Japanese are not your run of the mill western forces at all. 


For a long time I relied on these for support. My only supprt. They pulled their weight well. Remember these guys have the same special rules of the infantry so get them in position and get them firing. I have one full platoon personally and they take on the strongest flank to help out the Infantry platoon destined for that area. 


Move them at the double during the night with the other infantry and get them into cover. Remember these guys are for support rather than killing power. They can kill but your ultimate goal is to support the infantry.


So the main goal of the HMGs is to keep the enemy pinned. Its not hard to do with 4 teams but overkill is vital. This takes away the pressure of your knee mortars to do all the pinning for you. It also makes up for the lack of LMGs in the army. Once it has pinned its target and the target is dead then have it engage enemy teams and threats. Support is primary. 


This one is pretty simple really. just remember you have speed and skill, so get them in the best place to support a platoon. If you are lucky you can spread your support over 2 platoons but that is secondary. 

 (this is for the type 95 "Ha Go")

These guys are amazing at nothing much. Ok well I lie. This one will be set out a bit differently because they never get used the same way twice usually. 

  • Speed 
  • Veteran
  • Small mobile teams
  • Like everything else excels up close
  • Low armour
  • Mediocre main gun
  • Poor design (rules affect this)
  • Vulnerable to most weapons
Some pretty huge cons there, but one pro when combined with the others makes these tanks potentially deadly. The term cat and mouse comes to mind here. Every time I use these guys (I use 2 teams of 3) they end up in a battle of maneuverability. Popping in and out of corners, out turning guns, distracting enemy armour and at the very least a last ditch attempt at pinning an enemy. 

For example one of my opponents uses 4 pack guns (the German ones) and 3 or more Stugs. Thats a lot of anti armour for 6 armour 1 vehicles. But my vehicles prevail by fighting on my terms. I usually have them moving around tanks dodging fire using superior skill and forcing the enemy to move and shoot. This keeps my tanks alive. In the case of the enemy tanks I just fire at distant targets hoping to survive. In the case of pack guns I flank around to get at that juicy unprotected crew. 

Like the infantry they will suffer. But their role is less of a killy role (huh constant theme going there) and more of a make him decide to ignore the potentially dangerous tanks or try to kill them slowly. 

Beware though I have not engaged them against tanks with turrets yet... but soon some finish tanks may change that. 

Things to remember 

  • The tanks get re rolls when up close, so don't worry about moving and shooting as you will get that vital re roll. 
  • Full speed at night will help you get these guys where they need to be
  • Very elite tanks
  • Don't try win against anything covered in wood or more, you will loose that gun fight. 
  • Distraction, distraction, distraction
  • Mobility keeps it alive and keeps it doing its job. 
This makes them very important when facing defensive armies. With an army like this they will very frequently be on the offensive. Also their size makes people laugh to the point where they fail to see the threat.

(this is for the battalion guns)

I run 2 of these guys (they have the mortar rule) and they serve a similar purpose to the HMGs. What these guys do is get spotters in range early in the game using the cover of night. The arty should be in a position to AT LEAST cover the area the HMGs cant cover. They are the supporter of the platoon without HMG support primarily. 

These guns have all the benefits of mortars so they are very efficient at doing their job. A bonus is that due to being the attacker generally your enemy will be reluctant to move. So once you have a target you can pound away to full effect with only 2 guns. 

Remember all it takes is one hit to pin the enemy. That pin is vital for the charge to be effective. That is all the arty is there for. To pin things. Dont expect miracles. Just Pin Away!

Not much more on the artillery as they aren't anything special. But an important part of the machine for an army that needs support to do its job. 


So the suicide teams. Unless you know for a fact there wont be any armour make sure these guys are with you. They are free and will cost you nothing to have them in the grand scheme of things. 

Some important things to note is that they will not fail a charge against armour unless they die. So don't be cautious with them, unleash them as soon as you can. They have improvised tank assault 4. So any roll of 1 on their attacks will kill them... and likely the poor tank too. 

If you haven't noticed the army lacks any anti tank overall (even dedicated tank killers are very below good) and I think its the main reason these teams where added to the game. Without them there is little hope to killing armour. 

If there are no tanks simply put them behind the rifle teams and have them act as normal infantry in assault. Its not like rifles are gonna add much at the end of the day. 

Not much more to say really just make sure survive everything else so that they can get at those pesky tanks that your own tanks have distracted. This is one of those (and i dare say it) Auto includes that these armies will suffer without. 

Japanese army summery:

 Nothing like any army I have seen played in my short time in this game. Infantry does all the work while everything else supports them. Your men are hard to stop and only in death can your enemy be sure they wont continue fighting. This is an army that relies on speed, night, fanaticism, pinning and assault more than any army out there. So play these strengths as most armies wont be prepared against it. 

Remember you can loose most of your men and still win in the eyes of your emperor, so shrug off your mens blood, block out their dying screams and wade through the bodies. For your men excel at going into hell and coming out victorious.

I recommend getting the following if you are looking at the army:

1X JBX01 Hohei Chutai
1X JBX03 Light Sensha Platoon
1X JP560 Type 92 70mm Gun
1X JP704 Hohei Machine-gun Platoon
1X JP706 Nikuhaku Teams

That gets you an army that works exactly like the strategies above and as time goes on you may branch out a bit more.     

So if you wanna play the army, open your mind and get out of the gun war mind set. Imagine you are an intelligent 40k ork and just get in there with a plan and bash em. 

I hope this is useful, I for one wish someone wrote something like this up for me when i started. The Flames of War website actually helped out a lot with their designer notes and they are a great read. Remember these guys can take on later armies (provided they aren't too tank heavy) and win. Just play it smart and keep cool when your men are getting mown down buy superior everything.

Final words:

"The Japanese spirit is superior to that of any gun! The enemy lack spirit, guidence and soul. The ability to win is inside you, do not fear, do not give up and die with honour!"



  1. Great stuff, I Love the Japanese! :)

    1. Thanks mate. You starting yourself are ya? I usually play the Japanese in all the history games I play.

    2. Yep_similar list but 8 type 89. Can you deploy 8 platoons?

    3. Since this post I have started using the Type 89 with 2 Tankettes. Very effective price wise but the little type 95s are still my favorite.

      Im not near a rule book so I cant check, but at a tournament I was at someone had an army of type 89's and he took first place with them. Definitely the superior choice.

  2. My official season is just starting, will bet in the Type 89, two ft platoons of 4

  3. My official season is just starting, will bet in the Type 89, two ft platoons of 4

  4. No I have yet to write a proper one up yet actually. I had a game last night, but in the next few weeks I will be fighting some Finnish Forces so I promise to do one for you then!