Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Walk in the Sun – Force on Force - Ambush Valley

As I’d alluded to more than a few times over the last week or so I’ve picked up Force on Force and have been quite anxious to have a go at it. I wanted something simple to start with; not a lot of elements, a straight up infantry fight between regulars (a kinetic engagement). Unfortunately I don’t’ HAVE more than a squad or two of  28mm Moderns… or appropriate opponents or terrain. A lot of the published scenarios seem to have a whole lot of stuff that I don’t have… in 28mm… I do have an awful lot of 20mm modern-ish stuff and a massive re-basing operation is currently underway… but that’s a whole different story…

Then I got to thinking and realized I DO have a fair number of 28mm Vietnam War toys (most of the PAVN have been painted since that was posted)… and most of the Vietnam War was straight up infantry engagements… and I did happen to also pick up Ambush Valley (er… and Cold War Gone Hot… and… um… Bush Wars - what can I say I’m a bit of a completist...). But none of the scenarios in there looked like they were what I was looking for either… Then I remembered this Skirmish Campaigns book I had on the “Screaming Eagles at Hamburger Hill” and decided the scenarios in there might be a good place to start as I seemed to recall they were straight up infantry battles – US Army vs. PAVN.

The first scenario, “A Walk in the Sun”, I previously played using Savage Worlds four years ago this week…!?

I’d kind of figured one person might show up to play it with me (as usually happens when I have a wargame night)but in the end THREE showed up – Christian, Rick and Gary (who I played this same scenario with four years ago!)

A Walk in the Sun

600 metres east of the peak of Dong Ap Bia, 10 May 1969, 16:30


The lead elements of B Company, 3/187 Airborne has been tasked with securing the peak of Dong Ap Bia for the new battalion CP. 2nd Platoon is leading the way. They are not expecting any enemy forces in the area.


US forces must control both cross roads by the end of the game – ie. Have friendly troops adjacent with no active enemy troops within 10” OR control one cross road and exit 3 troops off the east board edge.

North Vietnamese forces must prevent the US forces from completing their objectives.

This is what we went with for victory conditions. If I were to do it again I’d use something more in line with Force or Force victory conditions – points to the US for holding those and exiting guys off the table – plus points for killing capturing PAVN and the PAVN would get points for denying objectives and killing or capturing Americans….

The entire table was to be covered with triple canopy jungle so I called it all Dense Forest (which gives everyone solid cover +1 Defence die and should have reduced visibility to half optimum range – but I said it reduced it to optimum range – and reduced movement to only being able to use Tactical Movement).

I wasn’t sure whether to just give the US the initiative for the whole game or just the first turn and then dice for it after. To limit the new mechanics I’d have to remember I went with giving the US the initiative for the whole game which I think worked out just fine.


US Forces
2nd squad, 2nd Platoon, B Company, 3/187 Airborne, 101st Airborne Division

Confidence Level: Confident
Supply Level: Abundant
Troop Quality/Morale: D10/D8

Squad Leaders Team
1x Squad Leader with M-16 and M1911
1x  Rifleman with radio with M-16
1x Medic with M1911

Point Team
2x riflemen with M-16s

Fireteam #1
1x Assistant squad leader with M-16
1x Rifleman with M-16
1x Grenadier with M-79 and M1911

Fireteams #2
1x Assistant squad leader with M-16
1x Rifleman with M-16
1x Grenadier with M-79 and M1911

North Vietnamese Forces
Trail watchers from the 29th PAVN Regiment

Confidence Level: Confident
Supply Level: Normal
Troop Quality/Morale: D8/D10

1x Team leader with AK-47
3x Riflemen with AK-47

Sniper with SKS

RPG teams #1
1x Grenadier with RPG
1x Loader with SKS

RPG teams #2
1x Grenadier with RPG
1x Loader with SKS


(Remember: click on the pictures for a bigger version)

It was decided that that Christian and Gary would play the Americans and Rick would play the Vietnamese.

I had boonie hats for the Americans and rick got to wear the PAVN sun helmet… But then Christian spotted my new(-ish) Pickelhaube and decided it had to be worn. During the game he decided to start calling it the “Lucky Pickelhaube” and determined he would wear it always when we played games…. Gary did wear his boonie hat, but I didn’t manage to get a picture of him even remotely in focus…

We rolled for the variable attachments and the Americans got an M60 MG team and the Vietnamese got a two-man bunker.

I used the sandbags to mark the location of the bunker – though in actuality it would be a much smaller well-camouflaged two-man log bunker (I classified is as Fortified Cover +3 Defence Dice). All the other PAVN started hidden in spider-holes which (Which I classified as Improved Cover +2 Defence Dice). I wasn’t sure if this “stacked” with the cover from the woods… I guessed no, and didn’t’ allow it…


The point team moves up the trail and the Americans enter on the trail. The point team was blissfully anware of the PAVN lurking so nearby in the woods. In the Skirmish Campaigns scenario is stated that the PAVN in the spider-holes could not be spotted until the fired or US troops were within 1 inch?! I just said they were “hidden” and said their position was camouflages (-1)  - I said the sniper was also “Elusive” (for a further -1).

The rest of the US squad moseying down the trail.

Oh this looks like it’s going to be bad…


One thing I’m not entirely clear on is exactly HOW MANY actions an initiative team can do in one turn, and which can be combined? It says you can move, or fire, or move then fire, or fire then move… and then there’s a whole bunch of others listed – one of which is attempt to spot hidden units… another is spot hidden units and fire at them… but it doesn’t say Move, then attempt to spot hidden units and fire at them if spotted…? OR Attempt to spot hidden units and fire at them if spotted and if not them move?! Looking under “Spotting Hidden Units” I found making a rapid move modified spotting attempts so presumably the CAN move and spot.

Another question that came up was HOW MANY hidden units can a single unit attempt to spot in a turn? I can’t imagine a unit ever being in a position where there’d be THAT MANY with int their Optimum Distance that they could… but I let them spot any that were within LOS/Optimum Distance.

I’m sure a lot of the questions that came up are there in the rules… it’s been a week since I read them and I didn’t’ get a chance to re-read them before the game so there was a lot of time spent looking things up… reading… re-reading… I’ll have another read through them before the next game and hopefully everything will become much more clear…

Anyway, in turn two the Americans all moved up and attempted to spot the PAVN lurking nearby and all failed to do so! Not having to react to any shooting, Rick opened up on the Americans in the End Phase.

First of all the PAVN lit up the Fireteam #1 taking out the two riflemen. The remaining Grenadier failed morale and was pinned. Ruturning fire, however, he found a flechette round in his pouches and blasted away at the PAVN fire team , knocking them both out!?

Next, RPG team #2 fired on the Point Team… and totally missed!? The Point team returned fire taking out the loader! The PAVN fire team tehn lit up the Point Team, taking them both out.


The US medic rushed forward to Fire Team #1 and got the two riflemen back on their feet with light wounds.

The PAVN RPG Gunner in the Bunker checked on his loader and discovered him to be seriously injured and spent the rest of the turn trying to staunch his wounds.

Fire Team #1 and the M60 MG Team rushed off to the left overrunning the RPG #1 Teams’ position.

Fire Team #2 and the Squad Leader and his Radio Operator Flanked off the right.


As the US medic was in RPG Team #1’s position, he checked on them and found one to be lightly wounded and the other to be okay. They were taken prisoner. That’s one thing I LOVE about this game: Prisoners… people surrender, you have to take prisoners… It happens in real life, why does it happen in so few wargames…?

After taking their prisoners, the rest of Fire Team #1 lit up the Log Bunker and took out the RPG gunner. After that the M60 MG Team flanked around the side of the bunker – wanting to stay well out of view of the PAVN Fire Team across the trail on the other side of the bunker.

Fire Team #2 and the Squad Leader continued to maneuver on the other flank.


The PAVN Fire Team successfully hid.

Part of Fire Team #1 (Assistant Squad Leader, the Grenadier, and the Medic) split from the rest of the Fire Team (the Riflemen) and left him in charge of the two prisoners. They rushed the bunker hoping to check on and hopefully capture the PAVN casualties within. They were joined by the M60 MG Team.

Over on the other flank, Fire Team #2 moved up and attempted to spot the hidden PAVN Fire Team. Rick decided to interrupt, but failed to do so, so the US Fire team lit them up…

Wow… Those airborne dudes don’t mess around! That took out the whole PAVN Fire Team!?

It was at THIS point that Christian said he would wear the “Lucky Pickelhaube” for evey game he ever played at my place…

Shot up PAVN Fire Team.

This left only the PAVN Sniper and with three to five more turns to flush him out we called it there saying the sniper bugged out.

Checking on the rest of the casualties The medic found the RPG gunner to be lightly wounded. The PAVN Fireteam was pretty messed up; two seriously injured and two lightly injured. The Point Team was in a bad way as well; one was seriously wounded and the other lightly wounded.

Amazingly there were no KIAs.

I like the game.

I’d definitely like to try a game with some LOS greater than 8-10”

One question that came up was what if the Americans (with an LOS of 10”) marched up to within 10” – but beyond the 8” of the PAVN’s LOS – successfully spotted the PAVN, and shot at them, would the PAVN be able to shoot back…? Technically they US guys would be beyond their LOS in the woods…? But that doesn’t seem quite right… I guess perhaps to avoid this I could have made the US teams Unit Quality D8 as well. But I had wanted to try a Higher Unit Quality force against a Higher Morale force, so…

Not sure if I’m going to carry on with the next scenario in the Screaming Eagles book or just do something entirely different. I think I’ll just play another infantry engagement with regulars versus regulars before adding vehicles or irregulars.

Coming soon on Tim’s Miniature Wargaming Blog:

I’ve got a schwack of other Moderns on the workbench and after this game I’m feeling pretty pumped to get at them.

Hopefully next week we’ll get some more Force on Force gaming in!

This weekend I’m running a Savage Worlds Weird War Two game at ToonCon 2012. I’ll probably post the AAR of that action over at Savage Timmy’s Playhouse


  1. I've always liked Ambush Alley and also have FoF, which is not quite so solo-friendly IMHO, but a great game nonetheless ;)
    Look forward to more of your AARs Tim ;)

    1. Thanks Monty! I'm looking forward to playing more games!

  2. This was fun, and the rules as we played them seemed to make sense. Regarding the measurement quandry, I would suggest that the team being fired on by an 'unseen' enemy be allowed to fire back, but at a penalty due to not being able to actually see the source of the incoming fire, or with a quality test, move forward to a point where they can establish LOS and fire back. Or, after surviving the fire, retreat. Although it seems that the best way to handle this as the non-initiative player would be to suck up the fire, then move and fire in the non-initiative phase.

    I love the pickelhaube, but I know it will betray me eventually.

    1. Glad you made it out! I'm hoping a re-read of the rules now that I've actually played it will clear things up...

  3. Great AAR- love the hats too. Are you planning to play through the whole campaign?



    1. Thanks!

      Originally I thought I might play through the campaign... but the Dense Forest turned to a bit trickier than I'd imagined in terms of figuring out LOS, etc. So I may try something else for the next couple games and later return to the campaign.

      I'd started playing through it a few years back using Savage Worlds but abandoned it after the third game. I can't remember if it was being dissatisfied with how it worked with Savage Worlds or if, as happens all too often, no one can make it for a few weeks and I lose momentum and move on to other things...?

    2. My biggest stumbling block with the games is how to represent the very varied elevations in some of the scenarios... I'm leaning towards ignoring it for the scenarios set in dense woodland but not so sure about the others... Sadly I know completely what you mean about losing momentum, very rarely does a campaign get finished round here.



  4. Hey guys - nice report!

    my first solution on the jungle LOS-problem would be to use the Night-Fighting rules as the problem is very similar - you´re trying to shoot at an enemy you can´t make out clearly. Night fighting rules state that units that are being shot at might fire back even if the enemy is beyond effective LOS (Optimum Range) - they do so with half their normal firepower.
    Alternately, you could just try to use your reaction to get closer to the US-Troops in order to fire back.

    Furthermore, for the next session I´d suggest using more OPFOR for the Americans, especially if they are rated 1 TQ higher than their foes. But of course I can see how that poses a problem with your restricted figure pool ;)

    1. Thanks BG!

      That's kind of what we had figured allow anyone being fired at to fire back - I knew there was some sort of allowance for shooting back at someone you couldn't see in the dark (shooting at muzzle flashes, etc.) but couldn't quickly find it and forgot that it was at half normal fire power. We'd also thought of using reaction to bug out or move up... Luckily Christian and Gary didn't bother with resorting to that sort of gamey play, so it didn't really come up.

      I probably should have had both at D8 - the US troops had recently been beat up in combat the previous week and probably wouldn't have been up to form. The scenarios in the book, however, have the US soldiers being much, MUCH better quality troops - so I decided to go with them being D10 just to see how much of a different one level of TQ would do. I'm guessing it's a fairly significant difference. I'm not sure this game really showed that - the devastating effects of the US fire was more due to Christian's insanely lucky dice rolling (I wonder if that pickelhaube was forged from melted down horseshoes?!) and when Rick rolls nothing but a handful of ones and twos things are going south no matter what dice your opponent is rolling!

      More OPFOR in 28mm Vietnamese won't be a problem... I have quite a few.

      Thanks again for your suggestions!

    2. Another way to "degrade" the US Troops while keeping their TQ at 10 would be to reduce them to "Low Confidence" - which forces them to make a Morale Check every time they come under fire (even if suffering no casualties). This greatly increases their chances of becoming pinned. However, I can see how you wouldn´t want to do this in the first games - I still remember how hard it was to not forget some crucial step in my initial games :D

      If enough Vietnamese are available, I´d suggest fielding them in the next scenario. Using approx. twice the numbers for 1 level of TQ difference works quite well for me, if the victory conditions do not heavily favour the low-TQ-force. And don´t forget to use the Reinforcement-rules. This adds some nice uncertainty to the scenarios and can simulate hordes of enemies emerging from the jungle quite well.

      And believe me, even without exceptionally lucky rolls (you should consider to lock that Pickelhaube away from Christian ;) ) the TQ difference causes the inferior forces to get hit a lot more. Just look at the last Die-Roll: there´s no way D8-troops could counter those 9s and 10s. The fact that they rolled nothing but 1s and 2s is thus meaningless and nothing put pure mockery from fortuna!

  5. Hey,

    Great AAR! I'm one of the oddballs fascinated with the Vietnam period, I'm Blessed to know quite a few of the vets from that war. I've enjoyed Ambush Valley quite a bit. You should try the Dong Nai River scenario...I've played it twice, and ran it once at a local convention, it was quite a nail biter in the end, but everyone enjoyed it.

    Just my 2cents worth.


    1. Thanks Brian! I did at the Dong Nai scenario and thought it looked like a good one - it had what I wanted (a simple straightforward infantry fire fight) and certainly looked challenging, but I've been planning to batch build a bunch of bunkers (how's that for alliteration!?) and thought I'd wait until then. Maybe I should get on that this weekend!

  6. I used crayola air dry clay for the heavy bunkers (covered with a tooth pick roof and lichen/foliage)...for the "improved positions", I just used some pre-painted defensive positions (made up of logs, dirt/debris).

    I'm totally with you on the batch building bunkers, I did that as well!

    It is a fairly straight forward scenario...that is until FOG rears its ugly head, the first game we got a monsoon...pretty much killed the NVA visibility from the bunkers!


    1. My firend Bob had suggested Crayola Air Dry Clay recently for a similar project, I'll definitely have to check it out! I have a whole bunch of DAS to use up at the moment though...

      I try to batch build everything when it comes to terrain. Easier to get a lot done in a reasonable amount of time.

      That's something that didnt' really come up in this game - Fog of War (Which looks like it could be real game changers!) - I think it was because there were few reactions. At first Rick chose to not react as the US troops didn't spot him, and then later he didn't have a chance to react at the US troops obliterated his guys!?

  7. Very interesting report Tim. I'm addicted to them as well, and always appreciate the good ones.

  8. Good report Tim. A wargames room should always be stocked with hats. Great stuff.
    Cheers, Mike