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The Perfume River, 1968


Misc., Vietnam, Vietnam Skirmish, 28mm

One evening someone pointed out that several of us had Vietnam figures, yet we haven’t played a Vietnam game for a year or more. Well, Dave O’Brien went away and dreamed up a nasty little scenario, designed to let the Americans use all their nice toys, while giving them a fiendishly hard time of it.DSCF3666 It all centred around a small outpost near Hue, on the banks of the Perfume River. It was the Tet Offensive, and the outpost had been cut off for several days. A three-pronged relief attempt was launched, involving a river force, a land column, and an airborne unit. The idea was that all (or at least one) of the three forces would fight their way through before the hard-pressed outpost was overrun.DSCF3685Things began to go wrong from the start. Colin Jack’s river force came under heavy fire from both banks, and soon his leading monitor was a set ablaze, and forced to beach along the river bank. The airborne assault didn’t do so well either, as the lead Huey was shot down, and its team of Special Forces went down with it. They had planned to reinforce the outpost, but never even made it to the LZ. Two Huey gunships did their best to pepper the surrounding area, but when the lumbering C-46 Sea Knight appeared, it was driven from the table with well-aimed AA fire (and some darned lucky dice rolling by Comrade Gilchrist).DSCF3670The land column was now the great American hope. It dealt with its first two ambushes quite successfully, losing a reconnaissance jeep, but hosing down the VC who stood in their way. However, all this took time, and an impatient American commander (er.. me) decided to drive his tanks and APCs down the road in an attempt to reach the outpost. Inevitably the lead M48 was despatched by an RPG, and once again the column ground to a standstill as the infantry deployed to protect the remaining vehicles and armour. As the game ended a firefight had broken out between the leading marines and another group of Viet Cong. It was clear that my guys weren’t going anywhere fast.DSCF3676While all this was going on the fiendish Viet Cong were massing for an assault on the outpost itself. When the attack came it took the Americans by surprise – and (rather inexplicably) they never got a chance to react. This may sound like sour grapes – which it is – but the upshot is that they managed to close assault the defences, supported by a North Vietnamese T-34, without any real opposition from the garrison. I must point out that for the most part Dave O’Brien proved a highly capable umpire, but it was also clear which side he was really on! Anyway, by that stage it was clear that the Americans had no real chance to break through, and so a veil was drawn over the whole sorry venture, and a victory was duly declared to the Viet Cong, played with gleeful enthusiasm by Bill Gilchrist and Dougie Trail.DSCF3677What went wrong was that we never co-ordinated our three attacks – individually none of them had any real chance of achieving success on its own. We should have used the airmobile assets to support either the river or the land column rather than go it alone – but then we’ll also learn from our mistakes…DSCF3665This was my first game with these rules, and they worked fairly well, despite a few minor problems. For instance, to hit a target low dice are good, while to cause damage you need high dice. It isn’t very intuitive, but it would be simple enough to switch the factors round. It was also card driven, with each squad moving when its card turns up. While this was fine for a small game, it didn’t work so well on a 16 foot long table! Also there weren’t any rules covering river craft, while the artillery and air rules were also a bit ropey. However, the basic system worked well, and we’ll certainly use them again – despite my whining about being overrun without getting a chance to fire back!DSCF3696The rules themselves can be found on-line: Andy Watkins’ Vietnam Skirmish rules, so judge for yourself if you think they’ll work for you. The main thing is that they were fairly simple, easy to pick up, and with a bit of work the system should serve us well for future Vietnam outings.

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