Regimen: The Lions of Bukit Chandu Review (Updated with Solitaire and Shelf Worthiness at the bottom of the review)

This one came out of left field for me, but I’m glad I stumbled upon it. Regimen: The lions of Bukit Chandu is a cooperative board game for 2 to 4 players that recreates the desperate defense of the Malay Regiment C Company around Bukit Chandu, part of the Battle of Pasir Panjang and the Fall of Singapore in 1942.

Each player takes on the role of an especially heroic Malay soldier as they receive wave after wave of Japanese attackers hell bent on taking the hill. Players must cooperate to move their soldiers around the board, attack Japanese forces, and prevent as many enemies as they can from penetrating the inner defenses and inflicting casualties on their unit.

Trying to stem the tide, a heroic Malay soldier faces off against overwhelming odds.

How does Regimen: The Lions of Bukit Chandu play?

On each turn, cards are drawn from a deck that dictate which forces appear and from which direction, followed by another card indicating which enemy sector moves. The Japanese will eventually make their way to the center of the board, killing a number of Malay defenders equal to their combat rating before cycling around again. If enough defenders are lost, there are too many Japanese units on the board, or all player characters are out of commission, the game ends.

Regimen is entertaining and forces a good deal of cooperation between players. If players are wounded by the Japanese, they’re down for the count until another player can get to them and spend a medical token to bring them back up. Things can quickly go south if a lucky attack knocks a player out early, but coming back from the brink is all the more exciting.

The track that details friendly and enemy positions. If the top row of friendlies is eliminated, the game is lost. As enemies enter the board, they reveal spaces that damage terrain and prevent movement.

Players are doomed from the start. The Japanese will eventually overrun Bukit Chandu, but victory comes from a single player earning 5 total respect tokens. These tokens are acquired as players defeat enough Japanese soldiers, tanks, and even airplanes. For each new respect token, a player gains a new action, but an extra enemy card will be drawn each turn as well. Winning is staving off defeat long enough to go down in history as a heroic last stand. Pretty grim stuff.

Combat is handled by rolling dice and trying to score a number of hits that can be directed against different units in the same space. the lowest die value is taken, but something like a 3 is required to shoot down enemy air units. A 3, however, is also able to deal 3 points of damage to infantry units at the rate of 1 per unit. So trying to spread out attacks or concentrate on a key enemy unit is an important consideration. Ammo counters can be spent to alter rolls, and having other heroes in the same space does the same. Enemies that survive fight back (unless there is an airplane, in which case the enemy fires first!) and have the potential to knock down a hero, requiring another to come running to help them to their feet. It’s a difficult prospect to pull a win in Regimen, and I think that’s a good thing.

Regimen is a filler game, lasting only about 20-30 minutes per play, and light on traditional wargaming but heavy on the strategy. There are a lot of ways to lose and using each player character’s special ability, (The scout’s ability to move diagonally, the gunner’s ability to reroll two dice, etc.) is fundamental to surviving long enough to claim a victory.

Sandbags stop the Japanese advance for a turn, but are destroyed as a result. The tide will keep flowing.

The Battle of Pasir Panjang

This battle, part of the doomed defense of Singapore in early 1942, has gone down in Singaporean history as a heroic last stand, and the soldiers of the Malay regiment who died on the hill, especially Lt. Adnan Saidi, have become national heroes.

A memorial on the hill today.

Bukit Chandu, Opium Hill in Malay, was a crucial stepping stone in Japan’s invasion of Western Singapore. The hill overlooks a good deal of the island and opened the way to the Alexandria depot and hospital. C Company managed to hold off several attacks before finally falling on February 15, being almost killed to a man. Lt. Adnan, who had been a major part of leading this last stand, was captured and reportedly tortured to death.

Now, there is a historical center located on Bukit Chandu with a memorial to the soldiers who died there. The legend of Lt. Adnan and the defense of the hill has seen memorialization in film, literature, and now this board game. This battle is a key part of Singapore’s national history, and the fates of the remaining defenders is still in the news. Tragically, Private Ujang Mormin, the last survivor of Battle of Pasir Panjang, recently died as a result of complications due to Covid-19.

As a product of Singapore, and made in conjunction with the Singapore National Library, and with clever core mechanics, there’s a lot to recommend checking out Regimen, at the very least, to get your fellow players interested in learning more about this fascinating and nation-building battle.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A fine strategy game covering a relatively unknown battle in the west. Makes a good filler game between heavier fare or a good introduction to cooperative boardgames. Light on traditional wargame elements, but a lot of fun to play.



UPDATE: Solitaire Suitability

Regimen is built from the ground up as an open cooperative game, but can be played solitaire with a single hero if that is something the player would like. Since the amount of enemies and their movements are tied to a player character’s fame level, it does scale. In practice though, I’d recommend playing solitaire with 2 or 4 heroes. Having more special abilities makes the game easier to actually win, and there is very little micromanagement so controlling more than one character doesn’t overwhelm. I think this fits in with the “States of Siege” type games as a light solitaire game one could bang out in half an hour and end with a fun, heroic, and depressing last stand.

UPDATE: Earning a Place on the Shelf?

This one is pretty much a no brainer. I love the idea of supporting small independent designers trying to get information out about a key, but underrepresented battle in world history. As a lighter cooperative game, it is perfectly playable and enjoyable for non-wargamers, but is also solid enough that it makes its way into my regular solitaire rotation, when I don’t have time for something big but don’t want to look at a screen for a minute longer. Definitely a keeper.

Boardgamegeek Link (I don’t have a link to an official page at the moment.) Let’s Talk About Wargames doesn’t earn anything from anyone buying this game. Though I do recommend it. Also, I purchased this copy myself.