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My long-suffering opponent, Neil, and I got together on one of the hottest evenings of the year to play the first scenario from the first Charlie Don't Surf scenario book: Surf's Up. Neil would lead a strong company of US infantry into a small village searching for insurgents and caches of rice. The scenario dictates that the NVA/VC player selects where he will hide his forces (and the rice!), including two bunkers and some trenches, and then the US player will come on to the table on any one edge of his choosing.

Neil entered the table with a Dummy Blind backed up by two platoons of infantry. With an incredible roll, the Dummy Blind sped right into the centre of the village, but unfortunately was then spotted and removed from the table before it could spot anything itself.

With their scouts not reporting anything to worry about in the village, the two platoons of US infantry divided the table into left side and right side, and advanced forward strongly. Behind them was their reserve platoon. Unfortunately, Neil had chosen just about the worst table edge possible for his entrance, and his left-side platoon literally walked into an NVA-manned bunker concealed just in front of the hut in the far corner of the village (the furthest hut in the photo above).

As fire from an LMG team erupted from the ground almost under their feet, the US soldiers from the first two squads dived for cover, but a lucky roll on my part killed three of them outright. So great was their surprise, even the war photographer's hands were shaking, hence the out of focus picture, right!

Quick as a flash, the commander of the third squad, in a moment that was pure Hollywood, leapt to his feet and led his men in an all out charge at the bunker over the prone bodies of the first two squads. Unfortunately, his heroic actions turned out to be the last he would ever make...he died, and the remains of his squad fled the table after being soundly repulsed from the walls of the bunker.

The NVA weapons team in the bunker were, however, also on their last legs. There had only been five of them to begin with, and the delicate attentions of a whole platoon of heavily armed US infantry (less casualties!) soon dealt with the two who now remained.

Meanwhile, the right-side US platoon had been probing through the jungle on that edge of the table, looking to work their way round the side of the open ground that formed the village itself. Again a bit unfortunately, the lead US squad (the platoon was in column of squads) bumped into the left hand squad of a full NVA platoon that was already in a position covering the village. Ten NVA soldiers led by a Big Man poured a hail of fire into the US soldiers as they strolled through the trees: more bodies fell.

At the same time, fire began to arrive from a position on the far side of the village. The fire was ineffectual (two squads of local force VC armed with ancient rifles in trenches) but it seemed to have a disproportionate effect on the US troops from the left-side platoon, who promptly went to ground. More confusion ensued when the third US platoon came forward a bit far, and bumped into the rear of the left-side platoon, with some squads almost intermingling. The NVA commander must have cursed the fact that he had no artillery, as the hoardes of western imperialist lackeys would have made a superb target!

Meanwhile, right-side platoon had extended its line, using the curve of jungle to get their weapons squad into a position where they could spray the flank of the lone NVA squad engaged with the platoon's lead squad. Eventually, the NVA retreated, leaving five or so of their number dead on the ground...the rest of the NVA platoon having melted back into the jungle rather than risk a confrontation with their heavily armed enemy.

Back with left-side platoon. They advanced forward a bit, intending to move through the jungle to outflank the VC in the trenches, who were still firing somewhat ineffectually at anything US that they could target. Unfortunately, the NVA had another bunker almost right next to the first one, and another squad from left-side platoon found itself ambushed and under fire. More bodies and a Critical Wound...and as no dust-off site had yet been secured (the US troops hadn't even got into the village yet!) the platoon's Medic dragged the wounded soldier off-table, with neither returning during the battle.

A fierce fire-fight again led to the eventual annihilation of the NVA position (another LMG team: four dead) but the US troops had been halted again, and more casualties taken. At this point, Neil got a bit annoyed with the VC firing from the trenches: despite the fact that they hadn't actually hit anything yet, he saw them as enough of a threat to prevent his men entering the village, so he called in artillery. It was with deep regret that I informed him that his leading elements were within 18" of the trenches, so no fire could be called in. Well, that was enough:  the reserve platoon withdrew almost to the table's edge; left-side platoon pulled right back to past the point where they had encountered the first bunker, and right-side platoon was ordered to start digging in!

Once all that had been done, artillery was called in. Luckily it arrived quite quickly, and two VC were killed by the hail of high explosives landing directly on top of the trenches. Unfortunately for Neil, however, we had now just about reached our time limit for the battle...with no US trooper actually having set foot in the village! The US commander's radio squawked that it was now time to move out, before night fell and, mumbling dire imprecations right left and centre, the US force retreated.

A word from our sponsors

A word from our sponsors

This was a colossal military victory for the Communist forces. No rice caches had been discovered, even though two of them were underneath the huts just by the two bunkers (we had ruled that no proper searches could take place whilst directly under fire). Not only that, but the US had suffered thirteen killed, including our Hollywood officer from left-side platoon. Five out of six NVA squads hadn't even needed to engage the enemy, so would be fully available to create mayhem at a later date. Much celebration in the village later that night, accompanied by some jolly nice rice dishes.

We then, however, looked at the political side of things. Here I was dismayed to find that I had lost the political battle 26 points to 28. Although I had lost less men than Neil, my NVA were worth more to him politically than the US soldiers that I killed. Thinking about it, I suppose the rationale is that he could show off two blown up bunkers and some dead bodies whilst I chomped on rice! The US commander was doubtless awarded some sort of medal for the action...before being sidelined off to permanent latrine duty before getting fragged by his own men! 

All in all, it was a very good game, redolent with the feel of the many, many AARs I read whilst helping Rich produce CDS. Neil felt very frustrated for much of the battle, and never really managed to properly apply his far superior firepower. I was pleased with my military victory, but somewhat disappointed that I hadn't won the political battle as well.

Robert Avery