Today Sunday we played our third Vietnam game this month (....breaking records!!), as usual with Charlie Don't Surf, the Vietnam era rules from the TooFatLardies factory. The scenario selected was "Firebase" included in the companion book Surf's Up.
The US army has been surveying an area next to a road to build an artillery firebase, sending for several days in a row a helicopter with some engineer surveyors to find a suitable spot. The VC has been observing the US forces work with growing suspicion and has finally decided to strike a blow, planning to ambush the surveyors party and hopefully to shooting down the helicopter too. However and unknown to them, the surveyors work ended a fortnight ago; and before sending the seabees with the bulldozers to prepare the site, a force consisting of an infantry platoon supported by an armoured platoon in M 113 ACAVs has been detached to secure the area.
The VC has two platoons and a RPG team; the victory conditions are to ambush the US forces at least twice, causing as many casualties as possible, and then to leave the area through its tactical edge (a "Three Strongs Mission" class).
The US player must thoroughly sweep the jungle area around the perimeter of the planned firebase and have a clear control of the field. Note that based on the initial briefing, the VC is expecting only a weak resistance and a helicopter, but no AFVs. It is not a surprise that the VC units deployed (hidden) in the fringes of the open elevated space in the center of the table (a very suitable LZ area!) as shown in the map below.
The US units entered on the road at the east edge of the table and after considering some options (remember, no visible VC activity initially), moved the three infantry platoons in the direction showed in the above map, while the M 113s were sent to the northwest to cover the flanks by disembarking the foot units (the vehicles could not cross heavy terrain areas) and to sweep from north to south the jungle area.
The VC player called the attention of the US forces by releasing some of the dummy blinds they hold, which in due time attracted some of the American units into well laid traps despite advancing very cautiously.
In the area to the north of the hill, the first ambush was released but due to the layout of the VC platoon (deployed along the side of the hill and facing north west), only one ot its squads was in a position to put some fire on the GIs... and with relatively little effect. The VC decided then to pull back and to try reaching the tactical edge (the west side of the table).
The US platoon decided to pursue, and over the next turns we saw an exchange of fire in the woods, with the VC taking a significant amount of shocks but light casualties. A balanced game so far, slightly in favour of the American team. However, the situation changed radically as a result of three events until the end of the game.
The first was a blunder when calling the artillery. After all the permission requests cleared (this was NOT a free fire zone) and successfully contacting a nearby 105mm battery, the shells finally fell just in the center ...of the 1st US platoon (a blue on blue hit!!) who inadvertently got too close to the killing zone, causing several GI casualties and a fair amount of shock on the surprised American squads This happend in the area south of the hill in the verge of the jungle area.
The US player sent the senior Big Man (a Captain Level IV) to take command, and together with the platoon Lt (a level III BM) they could recover the unit and put them in motion to close up with a VC blind hovering nearby. And here came the second event: they got to close to the blind enabling the VC to trigger a second ambush, therefore fulfilling the the victory conditions of the scenario, in addition to making a few more casualties to the US forces.
The ambushing VC unit pulled back and remained in blinds thanks to DiDi Mau card. It moved north around the hill and thanks to a Human Wave card, could now charge on the flank of the second US platoon (the one suffering the first ambush of the game).
As a result a full rifle squad was overrun and the independent LMG squad suffered 8 shock points and was reduced to 3 men, breaking and flying away. The US player countercharged in its activation with the remaining two squads, but were also beaten, putting the second platoon hors combat.
At this stage I decided to call the game concluded and the VC player was declared winner: the military victory conditions had been achieved (two ambushes) while on the political front the US had suffered already 20 casualties vs 3 of the Vietnamese, therefore they also achieved victory.
Another excellent game although the M 113s were of very little use in this scenario, as they had to stop at the edge of the jungle area and could not participate actively in the game. My initial intention today was to get introduced to the us of AFVs, but clearly this is not a right scenario for that... a shame, really.
On the tactical front, after three games the VC player seems now in full control of the mechanisms available in Charlie Don't Surf and made good use of them today. The US artillery blunder helped, but it was not decisive. The US played more carefully this time, but it is difficult not to get caught by surprise in the jungle; lessons learned today:
1/ Do not place artillery fire so close to your units (i.e. at least 20" from your positions)
2/ Watch your flanks