Vietnam Project 2005
Originally I wanted to do a game involving hidden movement but I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted. Eventually I stumbled across the Chiltern miniatures Vietnam range and liked the look of them. Vietnam it was going to be then, but what exactly was I going to do with them?
Many years ago I had a copy of the Avalon Hill Platoon board game, which had a clever hidden movement mechanic and, if the hexes on the board were 4” across, would fit exactly on a 4’ x 8’ table. It also had a low counter density, which would mean fewer figures. Making this into a miniatures game would be an interesting challenge. I bought a copy of the game off E-bay and began to work out what figures I’d need and how to do the terrain without actually using hexes.
It soon became clear that Chiltern’s range wasn’t complete enough to accommodate the needs of the project, which was a problem. The size of their figures means that they don’t mix with any other range so I couldn’t go elsewhere to fill the gaps. It was time to reassess.
Plan two was to still go with translating the Platoon board game to a miniatures game but to use another manufacturer’s figures. I looked around and decided on the range from The Assault Group. The one problem with TAG is their abominable website. Their figures and service are really excellent.
Chiltern’s Vietnam range includes many of the personalities from the Platoon film, which would have made it easy to transfer the board game data to the tabletop. TAG’s range doesn’t have these figures and I spent some time deciding if I could go with a game that had oversize personality figures and smaller basic troops. In principle I’m happy with this approach but, as things worked out, it wasn’t to be.
I needed to come up with some combat rules to slot into the Platoon rules as I wasn’t happy with the existing ones from the game; they relied on the hexes which I wanted to ditch. It was as I was trawling the net for information about existing Vietnam games that I stumbled across a review of the Men of Company B published by Peter Pig. I was already a fan of the Rules for the Common man publications thanks to the excellent results I’d got with Patrols in the Sudan and the review of
made them sound very good indeed.
I ordered a set and, once they’d arrived and I’d read them, the whole project changed.
I would do Men of company B in 28mm using TAG figures.
I didn’t want to do what I’d done with Patrols in the Sudan, which was to substitute a single 28mm figure for a group of 15mm ones. Because of the way the groups move in the game this would have left me with single figures operating alone in the middle of nowhere. This didn’t sit well aesthetically for the period so I went for groups of 28mm figures on necessarily larger bases. Consequently the ranges, zone areas and movement rates for the game would need to be increased to accommodate them.
I made a list of what figures I’d need, cutting corners where I could so that everything could be done in the time I had allocated.
Players build forces from an available pool of figures up to a points total. I would need to prepare more figures than would be used at one time but didn’t want to waste time and money by doing too many, especially if they were never used.
The first economy I decided on was to not have any NVA. I don’t like the uniforms and I would have to find AFVs for them too which were not going to be easy to come by. Likewise, I dropped the ARVN options; this was going to be a US vs. VC game only.
The VC are split into militia and hard core units they must have at least 5 bases of small arms, may have up to 3 heavy weapons and at least 2/3 of the force must be militia quality.
They will need:
Militia max 15 stands 45 figures
Hard Core small arms max 4 stands 0 figures*
Hard Core RPG max 3 stands 6 figures
Hard Core HMG max 2 8 figures
Hard Core mortar max 2 8 figures
*All the infantry bases will be numbered underneath and numbers 1-4 will be the hard core troops if any are bought. This saves buying and painting up 12 figures that, anyway, look the same as the militia.
Total figures: 67
The Americans are split into regular and elite troops. Regulars and elites cannot be mixed in a single force so I decided to just paint the total needed if everyone doubled up. I can cope with ‘regulars’ having some Special Forces equipment on them; it still looks like Vietnam to me.
The American regulars must have at least 4 bases of small arms, a maximum of 2 Company commander stands and up to 4 heavy weapons.
American elite troops get no vehicles, only 2 heavy weapons. They look the same as the regulars but cost more points.
Infantry max 15 stands 45 figures
Mortar max 2 8 figures
HMG max 2 8 figures
CC max 2 stands 4 figures
Total figures: 65
Bodies are very important in this game. The Americans only score victory points from recovered enemy bodies and lose points if they don’t evacuate their own dead so some form of casualty markers are a must. Initially I was going to buy 30 casualty figures from Baker Company but they were £1.00 each plus postage so I went for an idea I found on a Wild West site, which was to make gravestones. These have the advantage that they can be used in a variety of settings but are still visually appealing unlike coloured beads or similar. I made 30 gravestones from the ends of lolly sticks for almost no cost.
Vietnamese civilians are also needed to be porters for the VC. I bought a set of 20 from West wind.
Total figures for project: 152
I based the figures on 60mm round wooden bases from Litko Aerosystems. They are decent sturdy bases made from 3mm plywood. I wanted to something a bit special for the bases because the figures themselves are a bit drab and samey. I went to Antenocitti’s Workshop where I found the items I needed. I bought some leaf litter and some creeper/vines packs from there and a small pack of palm fronds from an aquarium shop.
The Basing Process
First I selected which three figures I wanted to base together and arranged them in a pleasing manner. The figures were glued to the base with superglue. Once the superglue was fully dried the bases were covered in a layer of green Basetex. To this were added the vines, lichen, fronds and any rocks or fallen tree branches that were needed. The rocks were stones of course and the branches twigs. Some bases had some height added with long grass made from a badger bristle shaving brush. I’ve been using the same shaving brush for scenery since my father gave it to me over twenty years ago and it still hasn’t run out. The Basetex is all that’s needed to hold these items in place; once it’s dried they’ll be held firmly. Finally the leaf litter was sprinkled liberally over everything and the base was set aside to dry. I could only manage about four or five bases in an evening, they were very time consuming. I spent a full weekend doing the final thirty bases at the end of the project.
Once the bases had dried overnight the extra leaf litter was knocked off into its container and the creepers were trimmed with scissors. Finally the base edges were painted with Foundry 11A Rawhide. The surface of the bases were drybrushed with Foundry 11C Rawhide, going over some of the creepers and leaf litter as needed and making sure to cover all the rocks so they had a uniform appearance.
The civilians were based individually on 25mm round bases as is normal with my single figures.
Looking at the finished figures it is apparent that there are really only three colours, green, black and flesh, in both armies. From a design point of view a limited palette like this is a good thing and the figures do indeed look striking en masse.
What is a Vietnam game without jungle? I went out and bought a box load of plastic plants from an aquarium shop intending to turn all those free cds you end up with into gorgeous clumps of verdant foliage. I bought some jungle palm trees from a company at Colours too.
As it transpired I never got round to making any of my own jungle because I found that Todd McQuaid (Bravo Six on various forums) was selling off his jungle scenery. I bought it all, and as you can see from the photos, it’s wonderful stuff. I will still need to make some of my own as well for a really overgrown table though.
Todd was making me some hooches as well but was unable to complete them due to illness so I'll get some of the Chiltern ones as soon as finances allow.
(Actually I made my own Vietnam buildings about a year later.)