Last weekend, I took the first scenario from the Surf’s Up booklet out to Millenniumcon 14 in Austin, Texas to run two games. I had scheduled the games to run on Saturday afternoon and then the Sunday morning ‘extended slot,’ which would run from 0930-1600. I decided to do this because it seems that at many conventions the four hour time slot is not enough time to come to a conclusion with the game. As we all know, it’s never just the game; it’s also the storytelling and general camaraderie around the table that sometimes drags a game out past the intended time.
The Saturday afternoon game was full, even though we had one person drop out due to illness. I could certainly understand that, having been sick myself the previous week, so I am sending him pictures of the Saturday game. I was afraid that the game was not going to go well at first; for some reason Saturday, I had trouble explaining the game concepts in a way that made sense to me, much less the players (many of whom were new to TFL games). Finally, in frustration I said, “Let’s just start playing and you will pick it up as we go along.”
The US players came on from long edge of the board, stumbling through the jungle for the first couple of turns. Then, they quickly spotted a VC squad dug into a trench right in the middle of the road! This allowed the US to immediately ask for authorization to use their off-board assets. Apparently the District Chief didn’t like this village very much, as the card came up very quickly on the next turn.
At this point the fight was on, and the US forces on this end of the table rapidly began coming off blinds so that they could shoot. Much to their surprise however, the US troops auto-spotted a platoon of Main Force VC in trenches just inside the tree line where they deployed. In the ensuing shootout on the next turn, the US troops got to fire first and applied a lot of shock to the platoon, but not many kills. This was something that would continue throughout the game, with both sides making excellent saving throws resulting in a lot of shock, but few KIAs. After a couple of turns of fire, the VC in the jungle trench routed out of the position and across the road. One of the American commanders decided to pursue the VC across the road in an attempt to capture them in close combat since they were suppressed and carrying a great deal of shock. Much to his surprise, there was another VC platoon across the road, and they caught him with a great shot at close range which resulted in 37 hits on his platoon. Of those 37 hits, only 5 were kills though and 4 of them were on one squad. This put them into Awe, and they dropped their dead and retreated back into the jungle.
Luckily for the Americans, it was not an ambush, since the blinds card had already come up earlier in the turn and the second VC platoon had reserved all their dice. Also, by being pinned down where they were, they were able to prevent the VC platoon from coming out and removing the dead US troops. Even with all their shock, they were able to keep up a hot enough fire to prevent any VC units from coming out and engaging them in close combat. They also were able to allow the troops coming up behind them to start searching the huts without interference, and one of the rice caches was found.
Now, the VC player decided to see if he could mess with the US player’s minds, and put out several blinds on the opposite end of the table. The US did not, however, take the bait.
While all this was going on, a half battery of 105mm guns was bombarding the trench in the middle of the road. They had a bit of trouble getting on target at first, but even when they hit a hut with civilians in it, no one was killed. After a few turns of being fired on, the MG squad in that trench succumbed to Shock so they bugged out but were able to take their dead with them. In the last turn of the game, the FO moved the artillery fire into the jungle so as to cover everyone there, and the US forces suffered a critical wound which caused them to mark a position for the Dustoff bird.
Militarily, the scenario was a draw. The US found one rice cache out of three, and while they inflicted a lot of shock on the VC, there weren’t a lot of dead. Politically speaking, the VC dead and one cache was enough to give the Americans a 5 point political victory even with 9 US dead. So, the US pulls out a close one. What was most interesting was that, even with my poor explanations of how the game worked, after about 2-3 turns the system “clicked” for everyone. The US players, especially, were using fire and manoeuvre, and coordinating their off-board artillery quite well for players with no experience. Unfortunately, my list of players was thrown away so I don’t have names for everyone, but their pictures have been uploaded onto the Yahoo group.
Sunday, however, was a completely different game. I had only two players, so they played the Americans and I played the VC. Because of this, I didn’t take as many pictures on Sunday as I should have.
Both of these players were ex-military, so they understood the necessity of cover, and moving carefully. They came up with a simple plan, stuck to it, and it resulted in a resounding political victory for the US forces. They came in on the same board edge as the Saturday group did, came out of the jungle, came off blinds and started searching the huts. My setup was different from the one on Saturday though, and the searching troops quickly came under fire from a bunker with an MMG in it. The US players quickly concentrated fire on the bunker, pinned it repeatedly, and forced the survivors to run into the jungle leaving their dead behind. What is interesting here is that the player who came under fire said, “play the period not the rules, right?”, and quite searching the hut to return fire with the rest of the platoon. This caused him to miss the rice cache there, since he moved out of the hut after the bunker was silenced.
The Americans continued their advance slowly, and it was a good thing they did, because once again they auto-spotted a large dug-in VC force in the tree line. This was a full platoon of Main Force VC, with entrenchments. Once again, the US got the drop on the VC in the gunfight, and were able to inflict massive amounts of shock and casualties on them. My dice rolling was not as good as the VC player from Saturday, and the dead piled up in the trench as each of the units fled. While most of the US platoon cleared out the trench, one squad actually went into the jungle after one of the retreating squads to try and capture it. After a couple of rounds of close combat, the remainder of the VC fled deeper into the jungle. Over on the American right, the local hamlet level VC were engaging the US forces, but bolt-action rifles against M16s are not a fair fight, regardless of how you look at it. The hamlet level VC left about 6 bodies on the ground when they decided to get away from the Americans.
Unfortunately, both of the players had time constraints so we had to cut the game short after this photo was taken. There was still a Main Force platoon out there, and I think that possibly I could have done some more damage to the US, but probably not enough. Militarily, the game was truly a wash. He inflicted large casualties on me, but did not find any rice caches. I kept the rice caches intact, but definitely did not inflict 30% casualties on the US forces. Politically, the game was a disaster for the VC. There were at least 10-12 bodies left on the field, and possibly more. Because of that, the US players easily scored the political points needed for a major victory. I did not get a picture of the players on Sunday, but fortunately the convention photographer did, and I’ve uploaded that into the Yahoo group with the other pictures. Interestingly enough, the balding player in the picture played in all three of the Lardies games that were put on!