My oppo, Tim, and I finally got together for our first CDS game last night (sorry, forgot the camera). First impressions were pretty damned good: Tim doesn't tend to do a lot of 20th century stuff, but seemed pretty impressed with the rules, and thought they captured the period feel well, and I was pretty impressed too...

I figured it best not to be too ambitious first time, so we played scenario 7 from Surf's Up, with two weak US platoons and one of ARVN versus a Main Force platoon and a couple of local force squads. I played VC, and as I'd read the scenario downgraded the VC from local forces to acting on platoon cards. Additionally all units were 8-man sections, although I did let the locals be "local force" rather than "guerilla cadre". I ignored the VC trenches and booby trap, keeping it to a simple infantry encounter for this first outing.

For deployment, I was torn between occupying the village and going for the better cover offered by the much sturdier plantation buildings. In the end I opted for the latter, placing my main force in there, while the local security force were in the jungle to the south, with my tactical edge being the west. The US forces duly traipsed onto the western table edge (b*gger, bad start), advancing rather cautiously across the paddy fields, and thoroughly examining the (empty) village in the process. One of my dummy Blinds spotted the northern-most US platoon, but both of my dummies were spotted in return, with the southern-most US Blind getting very close to where my local force was concealed.

The US forces at this point came off Blinds, deciding the extra spotting attempts were sufficiently important at this stage: the two US platoons were approaching the village, while the ARVN occupied the paddy fields to the south-west. One ARVN squad made a dash across open ground towards the treeline, unaware that my local force was about 6" in from exactly that bit of terrain.

At this point I decided I'd have to act - ideally I'd have liked to wait another turn, but as well as the ARVN squad, there was a dummy Blind still sniffing around not too far from my local forces, so the risk of detection was looking too big. Accordingly they advanced with a single dice to bring the lone ARVN squad into view, and opened fire with their remaining 2 d6 (dropping to one due to their obsolete rifles). Fortunately for me they rolled decidedly well, and the ARVN squad was hammered with three dead. Even better, it was directly between the VC and the over-watching ARVN MG squad, preventing a response from them. This was to be the local force's only contribution: they fired one more volley into the hapless ARVN squad the next turn, causing awe but no more kills, and then melted back into the jungle and slipped away, with the ARVN platoon maintaining overwatch from then on, but not actually entering the jungle.

At about the same time as this, the two US platoons were entering and searching the village: they'd already done a thorough job observing from a distance, so were reasonably sure it was unoccupied, but were leapfrogging from hut to hut, double-checking and thoroughly searching in case there were any supply caches. It was as one section dashed between hooches that the VC main force (still hidden in the plantation buildings, and with dice reserved as their Blinds card had already been drawn) opened fire. Unfortunately for the US, the range turned out to be just under 9", so not only did it count as ambush, they had two squads with automatic weapons, plus an LMG team, catching them in the open. Five dead later, the survivors fled with massive shock, causing shock to two other squads as they fled through them.

This was the undoubted high point for the VC however:  with my forces now on the table, and the entire US force between the VC and their tactical edge, escape looked tricky at best, and while the Free World forces had received a bloody nose, they had significantly more firepower to bring to bear. With only one Big Man, I decided that even with the superior cover of the plantation buildings, the prospects of a prolonged firefight could only be grim, but that trying to leg it wouldn't work - with no remaining blinds to inject caution into the US advance, the likelihood was that they'd stream after me, herding my fleeing VC towards the eastern table edge (exactly opposite my tactical edge, and therefore with the prospect of being mopped up after the battle).

Accordingly I decided the least bad option was to leave a "stay behind" squad to keep the US forces pinned long enough for the rest of the main force VC to slip out the back of the buildings, before fleeing north through the rubber plantation. While this was going on, the local force melted away to the south. This more or less worked as planned - the stay-behind squad, bolstered with an LMG team, and occupying the best cover on the table, initially did very well, inflicting several more casualties on the US forces before they got properly organised. It was only a matter of time, however, and both casualties and shock mounted, while a US section dashed to the south of the plantation buildings to take the VC in the rear. The sole plus for me was that by the time this squad charged them, the VC were so shot to hell that they fled before contact, so couldn't be taken prisoner. After that we decided it was time to call it a wrap, and that the remainder of the VC squad would inevitably be gunned down.

When it came to victory conditions, our first thought was that the VC had probably done the business, but it wasn't to be. The locals had sensibly hunkered down when the shit hit the fan, and as Tim had refrained from panicked screams for artillery, which may well have caught a few, all civilians survived the encounter, while he'd thoroughly searched and secured the village, so 30 points for military objectives. I'd ambushed the Free World forces twice, and four out of five squads had gotten off table, but not by my tactical edge, so I had to dice for dispersed forces. This didn't go well at all, with 13 of the 33 survivors being dispersed, so I'd lost over 50% of my force, and Tim won the military victory 30-20.

Politically the bodycount wasn't good for the US, with eleven Americans and three ARVN dead, but they had the major plus that my stay-behind squad had been wiped out to a man, so they had ten bodies for the news cameras rather than just suspected kills. Political win to me, but by the barely existent margin of 28 to 26.5.

The rules played well for a first outing, and we're definitely up for another go. Additionally another of the lads said he fancied giving it a go, so I get to be the evil umpire some time! One lesson we definitely took was that the US forces superior command and control really does tell, even in a scenario where they don't necessarily have firepower on tap. The main force VC ambush devastated a US squad and inflicted heavy shock on three, but within two turns all shock was gone, as medics and no less than four Big Men rapidly dealt with it. The VC, with one Big Man for the whole force, never actually removed a single shock point, as he was too busy motivating units to get the hell out of there, so the stay-behind squad, necessarily left without a Big Man, was steadily shocked to the point where its only movement was fleeing from fire or melee.