I ref'd for Andrew and Doc Neodynium, both relative newcomers to wargaming. Cutting to the chase, their first experience of CDS left them asking if we could replay the scenario, only with them swapping roles.
They particularly liked the air of tension created by various game mechanics and the lack of abstraction/degree of simulation. Not too shabby considering I was doing my usual multi-tasking (collect subs and take my turns in the ongoing Civ campaign being run) and also making various cock-ups in terms of the rules (but at least I realised, confessed and made good my errors).
It was in all honesty a fairly bloodless and very cautious game, but the newbies left with a clear idea of how CDS (and by extension other TFL rules) worked, and the thinking behind various mechanisms.
Captain Martin reflected on his company's part in Operation Attleboro thus far. Listening to Captain Neatherway's experiences had paid off, with Martin's extremely cautious advance through the jungle south of the hamlet enabling to ascertain the approximate location of some of the VC forces arrayed against him. He'd had a further stroke of luck when a VC squad gave its position away with its poor fire discipline.
However, the VC as a whole proved to be very elusive, if not particularly aggressive. They managed to evade various US platoons lumbering amidst the jungle in search of them, and gave the distinct impression that they had been expecting the UD to arrive from some other direction. A brief spate of opportunistic fire saw some US squads to take shock, and in some very lucky shooting, casualties, but fortunately medics were on hand. Remembering his secondary objective was to search for VC supplies, Martin ordered a squad to search one of the hooches close to the treeline. This was fortuitous, as a very thorough search revealed one of the sought-for caches. Perhaps this prompted the VC's unexpected withdrawal at this point.
Captain Manh Ng wondered what fate awaited him. True, he had failed to both protect vital military supplies and press home his limited attacks on the Americans, but he felt confident that the limited losses inflicted upon those same Americans would not play well in Peoria politically...
Third time's the charm with this scenario as I continue to familiarise myself with the rules, and we have our bloodiest game yet. Doc Neodynium was once again the VC (putting to use some of the experience he gained 9 days ago) whilst The Div led two junior and until-recently-junior AWC members into battle as US FNGs. So, onto the lengthy After Action Report...
The US company approached the Da Ban creek confidently from the east, covering the ground in rapid leaps and bounds. Realising this might prove their undoing, Sgt. O'Cooch (3rd Platoon) cast an eye into the treeline to his left. "It's probably just a monkey" muttered one of his more insubordinate charges.
Clearly anxious not to waste time, 3rd Platoon decided to resort to reconnaissance by fire, futilely emptying their firearms into the area recently scanned by O'Cooch. As 3rd Platoon pounded forward, O'Cooch took a final close look at this enigmatic piece of real estate. This was a smart move, as a recently vacated trench system was revealed, with the platoon agreeing that this was indeed bigger than a monkey. Charlie was close by...
In fact, Charlie had been able to identify the strength and composition of the US force by now, and was waiting to strike...
Captain Crick cursed the headstrong CO of 3rd Platoon as he attempted to get 1st Platoon to fill the gap emerging between 3rd and 2nd Platoon. 2nd Platoon's initial rush had now slowed as they came upon the first hooch they were to search, north of the trail. By comparison, 3rd Platoon continued to rush forward into the cluster of hooches; one squad even managed to ford the creek and was all but out of the hamlet on its western side. Crick's cursing was interupted by the sudden chatter of a light machine-gun ahead, and the crackle of rifle-fire (not automatic, thankfully) to the rear. As their platoons began to take casualties, Lieutenants McColl and Bowmen acted to steel the resolve of their men, and smoke was called for...
Captain Manh Ng took stock; his LMG team had opened as planned, but the enemy had been just little too far away, whilst the local cadre in the lee of the ruins to the east had showed absolutely no discipline in taking potshots at the nearest enemy unit in defiance of all orders...
By now, the final US junior officer, "Monterey" Jack had moved his platoon up to the creek in support of McColl and O'Cooch, whilst Bowmen and most of 2nd Platoon began to search hooches as their third squad fired back at the muzzle flashes in the tree line behind them, and were rewarded with a sound of a VC falling to their marksmanship.
Having stuck his head through a doorway and decided there was nothing of importance within, O'Cooch now realised his "orphaned" squad on the creek's far side might not be able to fend for itself. With a pithy epithet or two, his accompanying MG squad splashed their way forward. They were in time to see the orphaned squad lose more men to the LMG fire coming down from a hitherto unspotted bunker concealed in the trees of the high ground on the left, before smoke began to fall around the MG squad.
To the rear, the situation was worsening for Lieutenant Bowman as his trailing and already blooded squad also came under MMG fire to its rear. Caught in the open, the squad was massacred. Desperate to avenge their comrades, 2nd Platoon's MG squad returned fire, but to no avail.
Lieutenant Jack's platoon now split into two, two squads searching hooches and two squads advancing into the jungle ahead, hoping to approach the flank of the LMG bunker cutting up McColl's leading squad. This Good Samaritan act was clearly missed by McColl's men as they advanced in the same direction and chose to open fire perilously closely to Jack's squads. There was little that Sergeant O'Cooch could do about his misinformed troops as he rushed to join the MG squad covering 3rd Platoon's orphans. Elsewhere, Bowmen's MG squad was shooting at the right people (black pyjama'd and manning an MMG) and managed to suppress them.
Bowmen's martyred squad then took a critical wound, prompting an understated "That's not good, is it?" from Bowmen. With the signal Dust Off hitting the airwaves, Captain Crick made his way to the rear of his forces to see what he could salvage from the situation. From a certain point of view, this was a lucky move, as a second VC LMG bunker to the north of the hamlet opened up, catching yet another of 2nd Platoon's squads...
Opportunity not taken is opportunity lost, thought Captain Ng, as he watched his forces go to work. His bunkers to the north and south of the hamlet had opened up, his MMG team and local cadre had tied up the rear of the enemy and now his infantry to the west of Da Ban creek were joining the fray...
Despite the automatic fire coming in, 3rd Platoon's MG squad decided the time was ideal to search the hooches to the north-west. Perhaps this was the distraction that enabled "Monterey" Jack's boys to close with the southern VC bunker and successfully "bust it to G--damn H-ck!"* Finally the VC had been bloodied, and not just pinned and suppressed!
Captain Crick grinned grimly as he heard the news of this, and received authorisation to bring in support from elsewhere. Inspired by this, 2nd Platoon engaged in a little successful bunker busting themselves, whilst another of their squads finally reached the martyrs who were being cut to pieces. Crick and 2nd Platoon's medic set about their business, preparing the platoon for the arrival of the MEDEVAC 'copter. The run of good luck continued for 2nd Platoon, as more smoke arrived to obscure the MMG harrassing them to the south-east and the MEDEVAC 'copter began to drop altitude.
The local VC cadre were not prepared to let them withdraw easily, and burst out of the jungle intent on assaulting the squad before them. Both sides were bloodied and battered even before this, but sustaining another critical wound, the men of 2nd Platoon began to withdraw to the nearby "LZ Buddha", but tragically lost one of their two wounded comrades en-route. At this point, there some discussion between Captain Crick and the valiant if unlucky Lieutenant about evacuating all of 2nd Platoon, and not just their wounded.
To the west, 3rd Platoon had realised the error of their earlier lacklustre searching, and took the hooches to pieces, finally uncovering VC supplies. However, it was fair to say that these supplies were naught compared to the VC supplies that had been spitting out of various barrels and muzzles at the US forces for some time. 1st Platoon by now had swept the high ground to the south of the hamlet and emerged from the treeline with their sleeves rolled up and ready to engage the VC infantry in the jungle beyond the trail before them...
Sensing that the US were beginning to get a grip - no matter to what extent - on the situation, Captain Ng began to withdraw his forces, although by a far more torturous route than the one he planned for. Once again, he had failed to prevent precious resources fall into enemy hands, but surely the horrendous losses inflicted upon the US would count for something?...
Crouching down as the MEDEVAC 'copter bore the critically wounded away, Crick contemplated the outcome of the day's operations. The hamlet had been secured, VC supplies had been seized, but this had cost the equivalent of a platoon. At least the press weren't anywhere nearby...
Very enjoyable, very tense, and (if not apparent from the above) a lot of back and forth in player perceptions of what was and was not going well for the respective forces. The VC were greatly aided by the large quantities of shock that they inflicted (and were allowed to remain) on US squads, and with hindsight the fortuitous lack of discipline shown by the cadre.
By contrast, the US played the price for advancing so quickly with one platoon at the expense of others, and for not initially making good use of Big Men to remove Shock. Other lessons learned involved friendly fire, the fact that searching does not involve popping one's head through a door and then leaving and finally that methodically sticking to a plan is probably better than rushing back and forth (3rd Platoon, we're looking at you).
Despite little mention above, 1st Platoon nevertheless managed an orderly sweep amidst the chaos, and were just unlucky that there weren't really enemy in their path to contact. 2nd Platoon were not as headstrong as 3rd Platoon, but soon found themselves trying to rectify being strung out and fired upon from all sides, and almost came back from the brink.
Still, it was great to see some of the other rules/cards/mechanisms start to come into play, such as off-table support and particularly the evacuation of critically wounded. It definitely focussed the Free World players' minds, and they (understandbly) prioritised evacuation over their primary and secondary military objectives.
On to Scenario Two (well, for this particular group of players, at least)!
*Bear in mind, we had juniors playing!
Game #5 of 2011- Charlie Don't Surf and the scenario that just won't die, The Great Rice Hunt from theSurf's Up scenario booklet.
"Not again?" you cry, but hold! Tonight saw the US forces finally get to grips with their cunning foe, and deal him a mighty pair of blows, political and military!
Given the number of times this scenario has come now been rolled out, it's best to cut to the chase and highlight what seemed to be the breakthrough(s) for the US.
Firstly, they approached the hamlet from the west, and in a considerably more measured and potentially mutually supportive manner.
Secondly, the three US players very quickly grasped the importance of the Big Men in motivating squads, and coordinating actions. Incidentally, the players were two Lard newbies and Luke of "It's only a monkey" fame, who got hammered last time.
Thirdly, the US players stuck to a simple but nonetheless clear plan, and from the ref's point of view, the US consequently spent very little reacting to events- instead, they forced the VC to react.
Finally, (and perhaps in light of the previous point) the VC either shot their bolt too early or were too confident after recent successes (post-game discussion didn't resolve this one!). To be precise, the argument was whether the VC had crippled themselves by opening up too early and from a considerable distance, allowing the US to gradually bring their firepower to bear on the VC, or whether the locating of VC squads in the hamlet itself was a crucial mistake, reducing their ability to hit the US and fade away.
The US fightback has begun...