Sunday, July 25, 2021

Carnage at the Oasis (send your camel to bed): What a Tanker! AAR

We had another round of gaming recently on Dave Schueler's lawn. We played What a Tanker! from Too Fat Lardies. This was our second game since our debut WaT! game at Dave's two weeks ago. I'd played WaT! a few times before and picked up the rules at the time they were released. I've always liked them and we've talked about playing it as a group, but we never did until Dave ran a game last week. 

Dave's game was set in North Africa during Operation Crusader. The tanks we used were Crusader Is, Honeys, and a Matilda II for the British. The Axis had a short-lived PzIIf and some PzIIIjs (which historically weren't around for Crusader, not appearing until May '42). We followed that game with another using my Italians (M11/39s and M13/40s) and early cruiser tanks (A-9s, A-10s, A-13s) and Dave's Matilda.

Kevin Smyth was away for the game, but he was keen on playing WaT!, so he and I planned to play at Zulu's, but when I called to reserve the table, I learned that Zulu's was to be taken over all weekend by an event for the latest Magic: The Gathering release. Ack! At least it wasn't Pokemon. In any case, we were going to cancel the game unless we could find a new venue—and every game store on the planet was apparently having MTG events over the weekend. That's when Dave stepped up and offered his lawn again.

The game that I was planning with Kevin again featured my 1940 Brits and Italians, but was smaller scale as a 1:1 game. For a larger game with multiple players, I got to work finishing more tanks and planning an actual scenario.

I've had the tank models for many years. Once upon a time when we were younger, Kevin, Dave, and I ran an event at our Enfilade! convention that used the Advanced Tobruk board game rules adapted to miniatures. The scenario was the Battle of Mechili in 1940. I started several tank models for that and even made a model of the fort, although we used only a few tanks for the game. The rest sat in a bin half finished for years (and years). I kept meaning to get back to them, but I couldn't think of a reason why until WaT! came along. Even then, I procrastinated. It wasn't until Dave got the ball rolling that I committed myself to finishing the models I'd started.

A challenge with Playing WaT! in North Africa scenarios is that the kind of terrain that would feature in a game set in Europe isn't there in the Libyan desert. I'd been thinking for a while about how to do it and thought that bumps made from 1/2" foam insulation board could be laid under a cloth to represent the kind of micro contours that would be a feature of any "flat" battleground. I found what I wanted at Home Depot and carved/sanded out a series of small hills. The idea being that each contour would function as obstructing terrain for acquiring targets (+1 acquisition die per hill crossed by LOS) and for hitting them (-1 to hit per hill crossed by LOF).

I also created a 1" hill out of pinkboard to be a prominent feature in the scenario. I was intending to make a well and some ruins to use as the objective to be fought over, but I got lazy about buying the DAS air-dry clay I was going to use to make it. By the time I bought it, I realized that it would be dry sometime late in the day after the game. So, I improvised and created an oasis instead using a small pond from Wizard Kraft, some green lichen, and some of the cake-decoration palm trees I made into terrain for the 15mm Tarawa game Kevin Smyth and I did so long ago. They've sat in a box in my garage forever and now I have a use for them!

Finally, I ordered some of the natural lichen from Woodland Scenics to get some proper brownish scrub, which functioned as additional obstructions to acquiring and shooting.

By game day, I had three A-9s, four A-10s, and four A-13s available for the British (I also assumed I could call on Dave to provide a Matilda or additional A-13 if we needed them). 

For the Italians, I had five M13/40s, four M11/39s, and the pièces de résistance, two CV33 tankettes mounting 20mm Solothurn AT rifles. Molto formidabile!

I had to make up the stats for the CV33, since WaT! doesn't include it. I gave it a 1 for armor, a strike value of 2 for its ATR main armament, and made it fast, small, and low profile. In retrospect, I should have made it rapid fire as well, since the Solothurn ATR was semi-auto with a 10-round box magazine. I intended them to be a nuisance, not a potential tank-killer. They proved to be what I intended, so I'm good with my stats—though I will add rapid fire.

For the game on Saturday, Dave Schueler (who ran two tanks) and Bill Stewart were the British; Eric Donaldson, Kevin Smyth, and I were the Italians. 

At the start of the game, the two CV33s, which I ran, were on the one hill, which overlooked the oasis. I assumed that their presence in the game would be short lived and that I would be running a different tank within a few turns.

All the other tanks entered on turn 1.  Kevin and Eric both chose M11/39s to start. Bill chose an A-13 and Dave, who ran two tanks, chose an A-9 and an A-10. Victory conditions depended on points gained from tanks being knocked out as well as holding the oasis at the end of the game.

Eric had a slow start, being unable to roll any drive dice to allow him to move. Kevin plowed in and headed straight for the oasis. Bill charged in with his fast A-13 (I made the A-13s fast because they were at 30 mph top speed, even though WaT! doesn't give them this trait.) Dave sent his two towards the hill where the proud Italian vanguard stood ready to repel them.

Rather than sit and wait exposed on the hill, I decided to run the CV33s forward and use the terrain to my advantage—which was already pretty good given that even in the open the tankettes were hard to acquire and hard to hit. 

But, as expected, Dave quickly knocked out one of the CV33s. 

The other, however, eluded destruction and Guido and Luigi's Excellent Adventure began. Try as he might, Dave couldn't manage to kill the remaining CV33. At first, he had me at 2:1 (or more considering the disparity of the tank stats).

We played cat and mouse behind the micro-contours and around the scrub.

He even used his A-9 to ram me.

I managed a number of pings against his A-9 and IIRC inflicted one permanent command die damage. I didn't come off unscathed, however. My CV33 was eventually down to one command die, the rest being permanent damage with concomitant losses in mobility and sighting. It was a basket case. 

The uncanny survivability of my CV3 was part luck (both with Dave's bad dice and my tendency to bounce hits even with a '1' armor value) and part the nature of the CV33 being small and low profile. It was just harder to see and hit.

While still entangled with my CV33 after ramming it, Dave's A-9 took a hit from Kevin (or was it Eric from across the table) that knocked it out. 

At this point, Guido and Luigi abandoned their all but useless tankette (claiming, of course, to have gloriously defeated the A-9 that was stalking them) and I took up a new tank to run, an M13/40, whose adventures I will relate farther below.

While my CV33 was battling Dave's tanks, Kevin—and eventually Eric—came up to the oasis and started stalking around it against Bill's A-13, which had come up along one side of it.

Bill managed to knock out Eric's M11/39 and proceeded to go past him and around the oasis. Kevin moved his M11/39 towards the hill just as Dave was moving his A-10 that direction. The clash was inevitable.

Kevin's M11/39 was eventually worn down with temporary damage until he had no dice left and had to abandon his tank. This turn of events lead to all three Italian players bringing on M13/40s—not a tank most rivet-heads think of as formidable, but against the early British cruisers, it's pretty decent with '4' armor and a '5' strike value. For a few minutes, it looked like the italians would sweep the field. Most of the melee swirled around the "Hill of Death" and the landscape there was quickly strewn with knocked out or abandoned tanks.

I had my one actual success of the game when I brewed up Bill's moribund A-13. Bill's tank had seen the wars and was fairly knackered by the time I hit it with a flank shot., although he'd knocked out one tank and assisted in reducing another.

The second to the last turn was a bit catastrophic for l'Esercito Italiano. Eric and I both lost our M14/40s, which left Kevin the sole running Italian tank on the board. My poor M13/40 went from hero to zero in one turn, although the crew survived to carry forward their one kill.

At the end of the game, Kevin and his M13/40 were hunkered down in sole possession of the oasis, which was the main victory condition. The Italians had lost two M11/39s, two CV33s, and two M13/40s to give the British 38 points. The British lost one A-9, one A-10, and 2 A-13s to give the Italians 24 points.

If we'd played out the game longer, it's unclear whether the Italians could have kept the oasis. Even without playing further it would have been only a Pyrrhic victory. Eric and I were both bringing on fresh M13/40s, but they were the last we had. The only other Italian tanks in our reserve were another two M11/39s. The British reserve was pretty good. They had another two A-10s, two A-9s, and one A-13 that they could bring on as replacements for tanks lost.

Post mortem

It turned out to be a pretty good game. It was slow at first and was beginning to feel a bit like the complaints some people have made about WaT!, i.e., that it's not deadly enough, too hard to kill tanks—especially early war. However, things got hot and we had several tanks knocked out in rapid succession.

The desert terrain scheme worked out well. It didn't play like we were on a billiard table and acquiring, aiming, and hitting across the microcontours was properly trickey, complicated as well by the oasis and "Hill of Death," which blocked LOS/LOF.

I'll fine-tune this scenario and play it at our upcoming Enfilade! convention, which we pushed out from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend. I'll also be continuing with the Desert War as I expand my collection. I picked up a box of M14/4s and Semoventes and just ordered box sets for M3 Grants, M3 Honeys, and Crusader IIs. These tanks will let me do games for the Gazala battles. I don't need to worry about Afrika Korps at this point since Bill has piles of PzIIs, PzIIIs, PzIVs, etc. I'd like to eventually expand to Tunisia '43 and get some Tigers in the game against American Lees and Stuarts. Lots more desert gaming to come.

Let's slip off to a sand dune, real soon
And kick up a little dust

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Roundhead Ruin - a Pikeman's Lament AAR

Now that real life is slowly returning to our formerly COVID-cloistered world, unmasked face-to-face gaming has come back—in some places. I had a chance to play a game of The Pikeman's Lament against Ryan Haskell at Zulu's Board Game Cafe in Bothell. We pitted our ECW forces against each other.

Get the full-resolution PDF version of this comic.

Friday, April 30, 2021

I live with cat

I'm down to one cat now.

I've been a standard-issue bipedal humanoid cat-minder unit for nearly 15 years. I started with one (Grendel), which soon became two (+ Rhiannon), and then three six months after that (+ Maebh). For the next 9 1/2 years, they were my little fur family. During that time, all were healthy and happy and—for the most part—got along well. (Although there was that intermittent unpleasantness between Grendel and Rhiannon.) 

Losing Grendel to cancer in 2016 was hard. He was my first 'adult' cat (i.e., the first after the two we had when I was a kid). He carried on for six weeks after being diagnosed, but in the end I called a vet for in-home euthanasia. He died by the fireplace where he loved to sit. I got to tell him how much I loved him as he went gentle into that good night.

Less than a week after Grendel died, I adopted Bogart, whom I loved, but whom the other cats hated (especially Maebh). For four years, it's been like Cyprus at Chez Dave in beautiful, formerly bucolic Lynnwood, WA. I think it was hard on them to be alternately with me and kept away from me. I had to divide my time between Bogey and the girls, with each being jealous of my time spent with the other. Plus there was the need to keep litter boxes and feeding spaces in multiple rooms, so I could isolate Bogey or the girls alternately.

I lost Rhiannon two years after Grendel died. She was my sweetheart. Very fussy and very loving. She was the frowner I doted on. Her loss, too, was hard even though I was better prepared for it. At 18, she'd been in decline for a long time and I knew her time left was short. I took her into the vet hoping to get some info about geriatric care in her waning days, which I figured may be months, but in the course of the examination, she collapsed after the vet found (and manipulated) a lump in her belly: cancer. She spent the day in the vet with an IV drip. I took her home later that day. I knew she was dying and I wanted her to die at home, not in a steel cage with tubes in her. A week later, she died in my arms just before 4:00 am. I had arranged the day before to take her in to be put to sleep. Dying in my arms at home was better. It was what I hoped for. I called in the vet for Grendel because I wanted him to die at home. I'm happy that Rhiannon was able to do that as well.

Last year, Maebh was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. I treated her (not easily or consistently) with methimazole and planned to give her the iodine treatment to zap her thyroid. She hates being medicated and fought every attempt to dose her, which needed to be done twice a day. Before I was to have the iodine treatment done, another examination discovered cancer in her mammaries. She was also diagnosed with kidney disease and heart disease. That canceled the iodine treatment; they wouldn't do it unless she was free of comorbidities. I didn't think she'd survive for long. I kept looking for signs of decline. Every morning I dreaded waking up to find her dead or dying, but every morning I was happy to see her come to me with her jaunty trot.

Fearing Maebh's death had only one real silver lining: that Bogart would finally have a house where he could roam freely without being shut in some room and shut out of another. The cats want to hang with me wherever I am. Denying them that at any point in the day is frustrating for them (that's why cats can never let you use the bathroom in peace) and for me, since being surrounded with my cats has always been a blessing. With Grendel, Rhiannon, and Maebh, there was always a cat-pile somewhere, mostly near wherever I was sitting or working. If I was home, the cats always had access. For the last four years, that hasn't been true.

The separation has also been trying on me just because I was as restricted as the cats in where I went. If I was working in the den, I might be locked in with Bogart or the girls. Going into and out of the room could be perilous. Maebh hated to be locked in, and I had to foil escapes when I came in or out by using a baby gate (which was an early attempt at socializing Bogey and the girls) to block her attempt. Being able to move free through my own house was a secondary silver lining.

But the silver linings could only come at the cost of losing Maebh. She was always the most cuddly of my cats and my mornings—especially the last two years when it was just Bogey and Maebh in the house—have always featured coffee with Maebh where I'd sit on the couch and she'd curl up by me or sit on me in my recliner purring wildly as I sipped and read from my iPad.

On Wednesday, after coffee with Maebh, I spent the day working in my den with Bogart. Maebh came and vocalized at the door a few times, but mostly settled in the hallway. I spent some time with her downstairs on occasion, but then around midday, I brought her food up to my bedroom and closed her in there so Bogey could be out and about, although he continued to hang with me in the den.

I went out to get cat food for Maebh, some more litter (I've been maintaining three litter boxes in the hall bathroom, the den, and my master bathroom), and a few things for myself. I also noted that I had to go on Thursday to restock on Bogart's prescription UR food that I can only get from the vet. The rest of the day I completed working and then spent time on the couch with Bogart, who was ensconced in the dimple in the right back that Grendel formed years ago. Bogart found that dimple right off and it's been his go-to spot.

As usual, when Bogart is out and Maebh is in, I have 'beddy-by' time somewhere between 8:30 and 9:00. That's when I put Bogart into the den for the night or into my bedroom. I've had to alternate having Bogart shut in my bedroom with me at night or Maebh. It's usually a few nights in a row for each, but each gets their turn snuggling with me overnight.

On Wednesday evening, I was going to put Bogey in the den because he'd been with me in the bedroom the last few night. I usually had to carry him up, because he's always resisted 'beddy-by,' even if he was going to spend it in the bedroom with me. That night, I gave him his furosemide pill and he shortly followed me up to then den, where his food was.

I had started working on something on my computer when Bogey sauntered into the room. He took a few nibbles at his food and then sat down on the floor near me. I was planning to get up and close him him in and then let Maebh out of the bedroom, where she'd been for most of the day.

Suddenly, I saw Bogart scuttle quickly out of the room walking as if he was half-dragging himself. I went to see what was up and he was in pain. I carried him back to the den, but he was becoming frantic. His back legs appeared to have gone out on him and he dragged himself around as if he were trying to escape something. He was yowling in pain and clearly frightened.

I immediately called the 24-hour vet in Lynnwood. As Bogart continued to scream and yowl, I talked to the woman on the line and arranged to take Bogart in. He eagerly dragged himself into the pet carrier when I brought it up to him (oddly, he's always liked going into it). I headed down to the vet. It was around 9:00 pm. Bogey was alternately quiet and frantic as we went. I stuck my fingers in the cage several times so he could rub his face against me; that was typical for car rides. With all the COVID protocols, I had to call in from the parking lot and have them come out and take him in. The doctor would call me on my cell phone after he'd examined Bogart. I waited in my car praying the Rosary.

When the doctor called, the news was grim. Bogart had had a blood clot from his heart break off and go down into his hips where it blocked the blood flow to his rear legs. The vet didn't use the term, but I subsequently learned that the condition is called saddle thrombosis. As the vet explained to me, the feeling for the cat is like the pain we feel when one of our limbs has gone to sleep, only much, much more intense: the blood stops flowing and the nerves are screaming back to the brain about it. As I listened, hoping to hear some positive news, the news kept getting worse. It's very rare for a cat to survive this. It may be possible to dissolve the clot through blood thinners, which will restore blood flow to the legs, however, when the blood flow is cut off, even for a short while, necrosis begins, i.e., cells start dying with resulting nerve and muscle damage. Cats who have the thrombus cleared may never be able to use the limbs again.

As my heart pounded, we talked a bit more. Bogart was still too frantic to be adequately examined and they were waiting for the pain medication to take effect. We ended the call and he said he'd call me again after he was able to better examine Bogey. Several anxious minutes later,  the doctor called back and we started to talk about treatment options. He mentioned that at this point, euthanasia was not unwarranted, given the vary low expectations from treatment. I couldn't make that decision. Treatment would be between 3000 and 5000 dollars. I guardedly decided to proceed and hope for the best.

Bogart had a near brush with death four years earlier when he had a urinary tract infection. Several days in care brought him back, though I think it left lingering health issues. A year later, he was diagnosed with heart disease. This is what ultimately lead to his thrombosis. His heart had an arrhythmia and beat very fast, so fast that its ventricles never filled with enough blood to get a good circulation going. He'd been taking furosemide daily, which is a diuretic and helps to reduce fluid buildup, but his breathing was always faster than normal. I spent years fearing sudden cardiac arrest; I had never heard of saddle thrombosis.

I was able to talk the vet into letting me visit with Bogey in his cage before I went home. He was still pretty frightened and frantic. I only had a couple minutes with him. You always hope in these moments that your presence will have a calming effect, but cats are animals and their animal instincts take over in times like these. He didn't settle down when I petted him. He flailed around the cage, still trying to escape the pain in his useless legs. 

I went home deeply somber and frightened. When the clinician first asked whether I wanted Bogart resuscitated if he went into cardiac arrest, I said yes. After talking with the doctor, I hesitantly said no when asked a second time. I felt, despite some hope for the best—really, hope for a miracle—that Bogart wouldn't survive this. I slept that night with the phone by me. I usually don't on the assumption that texts and calls in the middle of the night can wait till the morning, but the vet said they'd call if anything happened.

I barely slept. My waking moments were filled with prayer and anxiety—and most of the night was just a long waking moment with too-brief intermittent naps. Maebh spent a good deal of the waking moments beside my head purring loudly. She hated Bogart, so his sudden departure wasn't a bad thing for her, but she loves me and she was happy to have me all to herself that night.

Morning came with no news. I waited until the doctor called just after 7:00 am. He said he'd be going home by 4:00 am, but he was still there with Bogart hours after that. He told me that Bogart was much calmer and alert. Another vet was coming on duty and she'd call me later when there was more news. They'd contacted their cardiologist, who wasn't normally there on Thursdays and were waiting to see if she could come. I got a call later in the morning saying that the cardiologist had come and they were waiting on her report.

The other vet, Dr. Long, called me around 11:00 to discuss plans going forward. At this point, I had indicated that I wanted to pursue options to get Bogart through this. The talk was sobering. While not impossible, the margin of success for Bogart was very limited. After a lot of soul searching, I blubbed out (I was weeping as I said it) that I wanted to put him to sleep. We set the time for 1:00 pm.

When I came, I was brought to a room to wait until they brought him in to me. I picked out options for private cremation, which meant that I'd have his ashes back in an urn to put beside Grendel's and Rhiannon's. A technician brought him in and explained to me the process, which I already knew from my experience with Grendel. Bogart already had a catheter in him. With Grendel, they had to put that in while I was holding him. He snarled at me when they did. I didn't want Bogey to snarl at me.

He was bundled up in a blanket with his head and shoulders exposed. I took him and sat down in a chair while the technician who brought him in went out to give me time alone. He was alert enough, though I could tell that he was on pain meds. I held him and petted him and told him over an over how much I loved him. After about 15-20 minutes, the technician came in to ask if I was ready. I said I was, though I felt that if I could have spent forever with him it would have been too brief.

The doctor wanted to be sure I wanted to be there for both injections. The first was a sedative that would put him under; the second would stop his heart. Some people don't want to be there for that. I wanted him to die in my arms, as Grendel and Rhiannon had, so we proceeded. While the sedative was taking effect, I petted his head and told him I loved him. When the second injection came, I told him goodbye and kissed him. He didn't die at home, but he died in my arms, which was enough. 

The vet left me with Bogey after that. I cried and the tears flowed down my face. I'm crying now as I write this. I can't begin to say how much I loved him. He had brought healing to me after Grendel died and became so well-beloved that I couldn't imagine my home without him. The years of living in a divided household with other cats who hated the newcomer were no matter compared to the joy he brought me.

I loved his quirks and unique personality. He had a way of looking at me that was priceless. He was less playful after his heart condition developed, but he still loved a good romp and Da Bird was his favorite toy, along with various catnip toys, especially his catnip bananas. 

He would go through the big tub of cat toys I have in the living room and pull out several until the floor was covered with them. He always seemed less interested in playing with the toys than with dragging them all out. When I cleaned up and put all the toys back, he'd pull them out again.

I could spend a lot more words going through his personality and all he meant to me—and I plan to in a future post. Like Grendel and Rhiannon before him, Bogart has left an indelible mark on my heart, which will never diminish even in eternity. It's one of those theological questions that no one can definitively resolve, whether we'll see our pets in heaven (assuming we make it ourselves). I opt for optimism on this point, even if it puts me opposed to redoubtable theologians like Aquinas and confirmed ailurophile Benedict XVI. Yet Francis takes a more hopeful tack. I think that heaven without our pets is no less heaven, but somehow in a mystical paradox, while heaven can never be less without them, it can be infinitely more with. Animate, but without the free will to sin and exclude themselves from God, yet, too, without immortal souls, it's anyone's guess or learned opinion whether the bliss they brought us in life will be part of our bliss of heaven.

Although I don't always agree with our present Pontiff, I hold the same opinion as Francis that the new creation promised in Revelation, " not an annihilation of the universe and all that surrounds us. Rather it brings everything to its fullness of being, truth and beauty."

And he who sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new (καινος)." (Rev 21:5)

Within its variations of meaning, καινος can be seen a a renewal or transformation, as in one being a new creation (καινὴ κτίσις) in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are not obliterated, but transformed into this new creature and the indelible marks of the sacraments (e.g., baptism) remain with us. Perhaps, too, those indelible marks of love remain. As the Pope further said, "The holy scripture teaches us that the fulfilment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us," and that "what lies ahead … is therefore a new creation." I'm holding onto that hope, even if it seems maudlin.

So now it's just Maebh and me, and Maebh is still ailing. I don't expect her to last through the year—or even the summer—but then I thought the same last year and here she remains. It's marvelous to think that Maebh the Merciless is left to me now as an agent of mercy, to comfort my loss and bring healing to my soul.

The events of Wednesday and Thursday completely turned on its head my expectation of the future. When Maebh is gone, I'll address the question of more cats. I wanted the next several years to be just me and my Bogey Boy, but that won't happen now. If only to keep from having to rename this blog, my disposition is that I'll have cats (or cat) until the day I die, if God is merciful.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Fire in the paddies: Flying Lead AAR


Our much-anticipated limited return to FTF gaming happened on Saturday. Kevin Smyth and I played our first game with our freshly-painted 28mm Vietnam minis from Gringo40s. The venue was Zulu's Board Game Cafe in charming, renaiscent Bothell, WA. This was our first gaming since Kevin hosted a redo of the Battle of Manilla Bay in his garage in subfreezing weather on December 12.

I loaded up the car on Saturday morning, something I haven't done in what seems a very long time, and headed south to Bothell, which is just a short distance from me (St. Brendan, my home parish, is just north of the main street area of Bothell, where Zulu's is). 

For Kevin it was a longer trek up from Puyallup. Yes, readers from beyond the region, Washington state has a town named Puyallup, which is just a bit less odd a moniker than Humptulips, which is also in Washington.

We reserved the space at Zulu's for 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. Zulu's has been expanding since its opening. The building was formerly a residence right on Main St. What was once the basement now has some larger tables that can be used for miniature gaming, although they're not as large as the 8' x 6' (or 12' x 6') we were used to at The Panzer Depot. 

The table we used is custom built for gaming and has a 4' x 6' recessed well. That worked fine for us. I used my 8' x 6' relish green felt folded in half. I finally got to use the roads I bought a year ago from the UK, just as COVID was shutting down our gaming activities. Kevin brought some buildings, his rice paddies, and some bamboo stands—all terrain he has for his 1898 Philippines project.

The scenario I came up with pitted two equivalent squads of 10 men consisting of one NCO (leader), a LMG, a 'grenadier' (in my case a guy with a RPG, in Kevin's a guy with an M-79 "blooper"), and seven riflemen (AKs and M-16s).

We used Flying Lead by Ganesha Games for our rules. Because we use single-mounted figures, we can pretty much use any skirmish set and we have others to try.

I ran the NVA squad (I only have NVA painted at this time).

Kevin ran the Marines (Kevin has everything painted).

The Marines' mission was to search the three huts on the board for weapons and/or document caches. They got 1 point for each search successfully completed (a successful search required two actions in the same initiative), 2 points for finding anything (a D6 result of 6 after completing the search; a 1 result would be a booby trap!), and 1 point for every NVA casualty. To win they needed to get 10 points. The NVA got no points for nothin', they just had to keep the Marines from getting their 10 points.

We deployed on the short ends of the table and got right to it.

For reasons that I understand less now than I did at the time, I had most of my troops moving slowly through the woods. We were far enough away with intervening terrain that being in the open wasn't an issue. It took me a while—and several failed initiatives—to get my men forward.

Kevin got right in and searched the nearest hut to him. He found nothing, but nothing blew up, so 1 point for the Marines.

I soon learned—scratch that, I soon experienced what happens when you have men in the open. I learned nothing. Kevin made a long-range shot at a guy I had well forward crossing a road, which resulted in the first casualty of the game. In this case and Out of Action result, which is effectively WIA.

This would not be the first time I had men out in the open getting shot. I trusted too much to luck and luck buggered me. Indeed, my dice rolling was almost entirely ill favored. After my second initiative, I resorted to attempting only a single action per figure lest I tempt the angry dice gods to abort my activation phase. I was a bout 50% on single attempts, but whenever I tried to make two or more actions for a figure, disaster struck. I had a few snake-eyes results and a couple of the dreaded snake-eyes-with-a-third-eye results.

Kevin's rolling was a bit better, but not great. He, too, tended to stick to single action activations.

We soon got into a firefight in one section of the table that drew our other forces in. At one point, Kevin seemed poised to dash for the second building, but instead moved to consolidate his forces around the first hut. I had a few figures in some scrub and one in the third hut, which were facing Kevin's growing mass of men in a patch of scrub just in front of hut #1.

Kevin continued to advance his men through a rice paddy to reinforce his position.

I was able to put his M-60 gunner out of action, but that remained my sole success for a while.

Meanwhile, I got another two of my men shot in the open.

In all this, I never got my LMG into action. Several failed activations while he was deep in the woods, prevented me getting him anywhere where he could make any effect on the game. For few turns, the wood-creepers got the benefit of my NCO with a +1 to their activation attempts. That turned a few failures into single successes. However, I soon moved my NCO across the road and out of range so he could have some influence on the escalating firefight.

Getting him in soon made a difference. I managed one good shot using a group fire that resulted not only in a KIA, but a gruesome kill (tripling the defender's role along with a natural 6 on the die sort of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre version of a combat result).

The gruesome kill required everyone nearby (which was everyone) to check morale. This caused a lot of men to run backwards at least one move distance. Only one Marine held his position.

At this point, Kevin decided it was time to withdraw and call in a Thud strike.

The game went pretty well for a first try of the rules. Ganesha Games basic engine is pretty simple and easily modified if you want. The rules aren't well laid out, however, and we spent some time flipping through pages to find how to do a specific thing. I need to make up a cheat sheet that has the most encountered questions right at our fingertips.

Gaming at Zulu's was nice. They serve beer and some basic eats; we enjoyed chicken tenders and tater tots for lunch washed down with beers (a Belgian ale in my case). Their full kitchen has been shut down for COVID, but they say it will be reopening soon.

We'll return to 'Nam gaming soon. Our next game will feature the Giac My rules from 1978(!). They may be a bit more fiddly than we like, but it will be nice to give them a play.

I also uncovered WRG's old Infantry Action 1925 - 1975 rules from my stash. I'm keen to give these a try as well.