Sunday, January 19, 2014

Charlie Company After Action Report

We ended up playing the two scenarios over roughly two hours, which for wargames is almost lightning fast. The rules themselves are pretty minimal and the players started up with only a brief tutorial.

Battlefront US
The first game was based on Mines and Men. The players start on a road having just taken two mine related casualties. To the left are rice paddies and then a small hamlet. On the right are fields and then a tree line. As the turns progress the players begin to take sniper fire from the tree line and small arms and light machine gun fire from the hamlet. The players need to protect the wounded and deal with the attack.

Quality Castings VC
This game ran smoothly and the players had fun. They got to experiment with mortar fire, medevac, and fire and maneuver. They also got to fire bazookas at hooches and in the end drive an M113 ACAV through the hamlet. The enemy force was VC and more pesky than flat out dangerous. The players did think to avoid driving across the mine-filled field and the outcome matched the historical notes, with organized regulars advancing to the hamlet and vehicles providing the punch required to rout the attackers.

The second game demonstrated some of the difficulties with Viet Nam gaming. The players were tracing a trail up the Ngok Kom Leat range prior to the battles at Dak To. In the scenario the second platoon stumbles into a NVA company and has to pull back in an organized fashion and call in artillery and air support. None of the players had that reflex to pull back and drop supporting fire and so I had to step in and suggest that this might be second nature to soldiers in 1967. The players felt that if their mission was to follow a trail then they should absolutely follow it even as bullets begin to fly. It's striking and reminds one that skills learned in Napoleonic and Second World War gaming may not apply here. They players reluctantly pulled back, weathered two human wave attacks, and then sat back as Company B at hill 823 took the worst of it.

Flashpoint Hooch
The game system as a whole worked well. A squad of Americans has fair firepower but not enough to deal with entrenched enemies. That's appropriate. VC fire causes damage through attrition, NVA fire is more likely to quickly devastate a unit. Air support is quite spectacular but tough to use at close range. IN sum I felt the game design was sound and period appropriate.

My main concern is that to play Viet Nam you either have to think period appropriately or spend several games being decimated until you learn. The latter is probably historically accurate and educational but demoralizing and time consuming. Weekend gamers may not be up for several sessions of calamity even if they learn from it.

Overall we were pleased with the rules and the games. I'm not sure I'd run this with casual gamers but for people with an interest in the period Charlie Company is well done.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Charlie Company After Action Report

So after some months of painting and planning we had our test run of RAFM's Charlie Company rules. We had a good time and I was happy with the rules.

Initially I had liked these rules for a number of reasons. For one, they are designed to take into account the fact that free world forces rarely saw their opponents. Opposition forces in Charlie Company are identified by muzzle flashes and the miniatures may never appear on the table. Further, I like the fact that opposition forces are run by the game master. The Viet Nam conflict is marked by free world forces searching for targets or being attacked in static bases. If a human player is in charge of NVA or VC units there is really no reason for that player to ever end up in a less than ideal encounter.

I did have some concerns with the rule system. They are based on one player running a squad or platoon. There is some question about the depth of decision making a squad leader would be expected to make. A platoon leader might have more autonomy but it seems like the company is a good level to control in this theater. I also wondered how well the rules would portray the war itself- would they just simulate a postwar/modern battle or would they carry period flavour?

For the purposes of the game I ran two historical encounters. The first was from Small Unit Action in Viet Nam: Summer, 1966, the chapter called Mines and Men.  The second scenario was based on Three Companies at Dak To, from Seven Firefights in Vietnam. This is also available online. The former involves three squads and some armor fending off a weak ambush by Viet Cong. I was hoping to use it to teach basic rules and give the players a sense of the game. The Three Companies game involves a platoon stumbling into an aggressive company of NVA regulars. This was designed to illustrate the value of a quick withdrawal followed by lots of air and artillery support.

Preparing for the games was very satisfying. It's very striking that we engaged in a huge undertaking not too long ago, one with a terrible human and financial cost, and one that changed our country dramatically, and that it's largely forgotten today. People remember The Doors, a band with maybe two good albums to their name, but they're forgotten a ten year war that had mammoth ramifications, both on a macro and a micro scale. The emotional impetus to forget the conflict makes sense, but the success in execution is amazing. And the price paid by vets and by future generations who repeat the war's mistakes is far too high. For the Dak To scenario I was able to find military maps of the area and view it on Google Satellite. There are veterans around us today who fought and sacrificed in those forests (veterans of two sides I might add) and I can say "yeah, I know you did that, I know when, and I know where. That experience isn't forgotten. It's not been erased."

Next- the game and after action.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bang! The Dice Game

I think one of my first posts ever was in regards to the game Bang! It's strange to be writing about an expansion to a post made literally years ago. So much has changed personally and professionally it feels like another life.

However, as this is not Dr. Fischer's Introspection Night, let's talk about Bang! The Dice Game. In this game each player takes a role- sheriff, deputy, outlaw or renegade. Your victory conditions will depend on your role. The outlaws win if the sheriff dies. The sheriff and deputy win if the sheriff lives. The renegade has to be the last player standing. And with the exception of the sheriff, everyone's role is secret.

Two Wounds Healed
The game itself involves rolling five dice and potentially then re-rolling them once or twice. The results may allow you to "shoot" other players, heal yourself, or take damage from dynamite or arrows. The more you re-roll the better you can fine tune your results, but also the risk of arrows and dynamite increases as well. This simple system makes Bang! The Dice Game a "push your luck" game combined with a "hidden victory objective" game. Finally, the whole thing takes about twenty minutes to play.

Those qualities hit all my favorite spots. I like push your luck, I like hidden roles, I like rolling dice and I like a quick game. Bang! is just tactical enough to reward some thought but it's hardly a brain burner. If you win you feel clever but if you lose it's hardly crushing.

Other highlights- it's affordable, it's appropriate for younger players and non-hardcore gamers. There's lots of good natured yelling at the table. It's portable as well. Basically a nice, light family game.