And so, more than two years after I decided to dive into this project, the day finally arrived – yesterday, I’ve run my first game with ‘Charlie Don’t Surf’, Too Fat Lardies’ company level ruleset for Vietnam war. T. took charge of Americans, L. run the local VC forces, while yours truly took upon the ungrateful role of game-master.
While ‘Charlie Don’t Surf’ has a full-fledged scenario generator, I’ve decided to keep things to bare minimum for this first try and put together a simple scenario without any bells and whistles – a reduced strength U.S. company with 3 x platoons with two squads each and a weapon platoon of two M60’s was to perform a search of a village suspected to contain a VC store. Local VC company of two platoons (3 squads each), an MG and a recoilless rifle stood for the opposition.
Once again, I’ll rely on the pictures for the ‘meat’ in the AAR, with supplementary text providing the details. Quick comment about the pictures; for this first game I wanted as little distractions as possible, so I didn’t take any pictures while it played out. Instead, the pictures were ‘arranged’ today, while my memory of the game was still fresh. Mistakes were however committed, the most serious one consisting of me forgetting to deploy MG bases that were attached to two of U.S. squads, thereby augmenting their firepower. Furthermore, I didn’t bother with placing the ‘shock’, ‘pin’ or ‘suppression’ markers that were present during the game.
The picture above shows the terrain where the engagement took place. Once again, with goal of keeping things as simple as possible, the jungle was designated as ‘light terrain’. Clumps of vegetation are also ‘light terrain’ although they do block LOS. Elephant grass is designated in CDS as ‘light terrain’, but I’ve read multiple personal memoirs of how exhausting it was to get through them, so until further notice I’ll regard it as ‘hard terrain’. Rice paddies, hills and houses are self-explanatory.
The game started with L. deploying his forces. 1:st platoon and recoilless rifle took up position in the woods and on the height above the village. 2:nd platoon was deployed in the woods on the other side of the road, while the machine gun was placed on the height nearby, guarding the flank (I guess).
In CDS, units of platoon size initially have to be placed under so called ‘blinds’, effectively disguising the type and strength of the units. Furthermore, each terrain feature can act as a ‘blind’, thereby making units placed in such manner totally hidden – so in our game, initially there was no indication of 1st platoon and recoilless rifle at the beginning of our game.
Additionally, each side has the right to deploy a number of dummy blinds. Number of such dummies varies depending on ‘fraction’, with local VC being the extreme case. They’re authorised to deploy one dummy blind for each real unit in their OOB. Transparent red rectangles indicate where L deployed his dummies (although I do believe there weren’t as many as in the picture! :-).
Finally, L. marked a grand total of five tunnel entries on the board, or rather on a snapshot of the board I took before the game and printed out for this very purpose; isn’t modern technology grand?!! Four of those secret entries were in the area where his 1st platoon was hidden. One entry was placed just beside the lone house near the road.
With L. ready to receive his ‘guests’, we were ready to start! Events of initial four or five rounds are shown in the picture – T. entered the board from the right, with two platoons above the road and one below. T. had to spend some time on spotting and removing of fake blinds L. placed in path of his advance. This was done without problems, but T. had to disclose content of his own blinds while doing it – false blinds can spot as well as real ones!
Meanwhile, the local villagers minded their own business, doing their best to ignore American patrol.
Contact! In fifth round, L. took advantage of the fact that T.’s 1:st platoon came into close range of his own 1:st platoon hidden in the woods at the end of the turn. This gave him the right to open fire and he blasted forward squad of T’s exposed platoon with massed fire from two squads that were in range. This could have had fatal consequences, but luckily for T., L.’s ‘famous’ bad luck with dices restricted the casualties to one KIA and some ‘shock’ points.
T.’s luck held in round that followed, with his 1:st platoon being activated before its assailants. His return fire managed to cause several ‘shock’ points on one of VC squads, but no casualties. Next, he called on 2:nd platoon for support – the rushed at top speed into the woods, their goal clearly being the flank of VC position.
L. had opportunity to continue the engagement, but decided that discretion was the better part of the valour. When his platoon was activated later in same turn, he broke contact and directed his troops to the tunnel entrance conveniently placed behind his position. In subsequent round T. managed to drop one of the retreating opponents , but that was all he managed to achieve before the VC platoon disappeared from sight.
With VC vanishing into thin air, T.’s 1:st platoon headed for the edge of village. As soon as one of the squads got inside the hutch, L.’s recoilless rifle pumped couple of 57mm shells into it. Yet again, the results of the fire were limited to couple of points of ‘shock’, although one of the civilians taking cover inside the hutch was instantly killed.
T:s response was rapid and similar to that of the reaction to the initial VC attack – concentrated fire from two squads suppressed the gun’s crew and caused two casualties. Next, 2:nd platoon came into firing position, opened up and killed two more crew members. With single VC soldier remaining standing, we removed the gun from the play, even though there are rules in CDS for handling such situations with a bit more detail.
This ended the game in this sector, even though T. took advantage of the lull in combat and tested the rules for interrogation of civilians. The peasant in question was however, as the ruleset expressed it, ‘not interested in conversation’. :-D
Meanwhile on the other side of the road, T.:s 3rd platoon advanced slowly forward against one of L.’s dummy blinds after another, until they unwittingly got in range of L.’s hidden machine gun. It opened up on one of the squads and managed to kill one American soldier before extremly effective return fire from his comrades almost instantly eliminated machine gun’s crew to the last man.
With 1:st VC platoon skulking in the tunnels and 2:nd never being able to get into position, we decided that it was quite enough excitement for this time and called it a night.
Musings after the battle
What did the ‘combatants’ think of this first experience with ‘Charlie Don’t Surf’? Well… T. has never been a big fan of rulesets from Too Fat Lardies and ‘I Ain’t Been Shot Yet, Mom’ in particular has become something of his pet peeve during the years when we used it for our WWII games. So, considering the fact that CDS is a derivative of IABSM, it’s hardly surprising that his impression of the ruleset was lukewarm. As far as I understood it, his initial opinion could be summarised with single word –overcomplicated.
L.’s initial impression, while restrained due to the basic character of the scenario, was definitely more positive.
As for me, the goal of this game was for me quite simple and clear – I wanted to get familiar the core rules for command and control of troops, basic infantry combat mechanics, and if we managed it, get a taste of some of the rules specifically designed to handle peculiarities of Vietnam conflict. I feel that this little scenario gave me what I was looking for, but at the same time it hadn’t provided me with enough ‘data’ to form a definite opinion about the ruleset. Of course it won’t stop me from writing another, more detailed post about my initial thoughts of ‘Charlie Don’t Surf’ in next couple of days, so stay tuned! :-)