This Sunday we played AIRCAV, the scenario 9 of Surf's Up, the companion book to the Vietnam-era rules Charlie Don't Surf of the TooFatLardies factory. This is probably a most typical wargame scenario for this period, where an heliborne US platoon must land in a village in an enemy-held area to evacuate the civilian population, depriving the Vietcong forces of new cadres as well as much needed food and other staple supplies.
The US player has some strong pre-game fire in the form of an aerial napalm attack, an artillery battery barrage and a smoke curtain laid out by a helicopter to protect the landing zone. In the map below I have marked all these actions.
They US player did not take risks and left nothing to chance; actually (unkown to him), outguessed the VC player and mazimize the effect of the attack: the napalm hit just straight into the position of a Vietcong reinforced platoon, which was forced to flee and to leave the table...
...while the artillery barrage suppressed for a couple of turns another platoon and an AA MG section, and finally the smoke blocked the line of sight of the thrid VC platoon and a support medium mortar section.
In this situation the first airlift landed without opposition on the table (to the great surprise of the US player), and the US squads deployed in a triangle to secure the landing zone.
The VC forces reacted in short time and a platoon-sized force crossed the smoke curatain, deploying from blinds at the edge of the hill in the west side of the map, causing up to 4 casualties to the Americans caught in the open in a first fire.
Although bold, this was a high-risk move: inmediately a gunship helicopter was called in support of the US forces and retaliated, causing several causalties and a large number of shocks on the VC force, fleeing back to the relative safety of the jungle behind. Once under cover, the VC player used the Didi Mau card to place the unit in blinds and recover a 50% of the shocks.
In the meantime another helicopter lift put a second platoon on the ground...
... while the (probably very scared by now) village inhabitants flocked into the landing zone to be airlifted to a secure area.
The VC player took no more risks and decided to pull back with his forces to fight another day; he moved the remaining platoons out of the table through the tactical edge and he only made another attempt to disrupt the evacuation of the civilians, directing the fire of his mortar section into the LZ...
...only to be the target of the gunship unit, which returned to the table in a record time after replenishing ammo at the base. After the arrival of the third lift with an additional infantry platoon, the security of the perimeter was 100% consolidated; the civilians were successfully evacuated in these helicopters, and the game was called to an end.
A full military and political victory to the US player, with 28 victory points vs 8 points of the Communist player. No prisioners were taken from the VC unit exiting the table at the opposing side of the tactical edge ( due to the napalm attack), otherwise the vitory would have been even more overwhelming.
In my opinion the key to success was the effective use of the pre-game bombardment, which came to fall exactly on the postions chosen by the VC player. I feel that he was disconcerted by it (this was the first game in which we have introduced napalm and artillery) and later the guship firepower only increased his discomfort, making him to pull out too early and leaving the control of the battlefield to the US player.
I conclude this post with some additional photos of the game.
The terrain and sceney used were the warmats (see here some photos and comments) and hooches commented in a previous post. The banana trees in the first photo are made from brass, also from the same scenery designer.