Last weekend we got a chance to run through the Battle of Hoa Tan using the Charlie Don't Surf rules. For this game we had four platoons of Americans assault the south of the village and the adjacent terraced rice paddies.
I was able to obtain some very nice maps from a Charlie Troop website and it's webmaster, who kindly sent me a copy of the real battle's after action report. These allowed us to have a good order of battle and orient the game. The map shows how two of the platoons proceeded. In our game we also included the other two platoons and told the players they had to sweep the village and also relieve a reaction force on the paddies.
I had envisioned the Americans splitting into two groups to tackle the village and paddies simultaneously. I also imagined the NVA setting up bunkers and snipers to blunt the force of the American advance early on. Of course, neither happened. The Americans swept up the Eastern half of the board en masse and the NVA player committed whole platoons piecemeal into face to face firefights. The encounter was a bit of a rout for the NVA, even more so than in history.
Largely I blame my game parameters for the scope of the rout. Next time I'll mandate that the American players split their forces as was done historically. I'm also going to take the NVA players aside and offer some tips that the actual participants would have been aware of. A time limit may also encourage the American player to move more quickly and take some risks.
On the whole we were happy with the rules. They are fundamentally sound. Full strength American squads will completely outgun their opponents in a face to face encounter. The NVA and VC can avoid such encounters and concentrate on ambush, sniping, and fire from cover. Helicopters can be very effective but become bullet magnets and if they are shot down get the NVA huge amounts of political victory points. Overall the rules reward historically accurate behaviour. Further, the political victory points encourage the Americans to limit casualties and evacuate the wounded whenever possible.
My table setup was a fair success as a test of concept. I'll need to mark out field boundaries better and set up the hedges with more space in between. The trees with pins at their bases stood up perfectly. That technique is going to be heavily used in the future. The board now needs to be coloured in varying shades of green, flooded rice paddies added, and the field boundaries marked. I was able to find some amazing colour photos taken before the battle and they have been invaluable in designing the board.
Perhaps the only real criticism to the event is in relation to how the rules are written. As with many of the Too Fat Lardies products, the concepts are sound but the writing and editing lend themselves to long minutes trying to sort out specifics. I think these rules are the best on the market for the period and scale and I would recommend them to anyone with an interest, but I do wish TFL would bring in an editor.That aside, though, I'm looking forward to finishing the terrain and giving the game another go.