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"Vietnam in 3mm" Topic

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Action Log

02 Jun 2017 8:37 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Removed from Modern Discussion (1946 to 2006) board
  • Crossposted to Scale board
  • Crossposted to Vietnam War board

768 hits since 12 May 2016
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

jsans73 Inactive Member12 May 2016 7:40 a.m. PST

Hi, I am looking for some advice with regards to the Charlie don't surf set of rules I have never played any TFL rules so not sure if they are my thing or not, can anyone give me a brief overview?

Also as I intend to play with 3mm minis and I have read that the above rules will work fine can someone give me any pointers as to basing them, is it 1 squad per stand or a fireteam per stand, what size bases would you recommend? Do I need load of Helo's or are they more of a marker? any advice about these rules in this scale would be appreciated.

Pattus Magnus Inactive Member12 May 2016 9:58 a.m. PST

What you're describing is exactly what I did when I put together my forces for Charlie don't Surf (aka CDS). At that time I also wanted to keep the basing a bit 'rules agnostic' so that I could use the figs for other games (specifically the Vietnam variant of Flames of War… which I never ended up actually playing).

I based my infantry in the following way:

Each squad is split into several stands (I used 10mm by 15mm rectangles).

The number of stands per squad corresponds with the "break points" in CDS for actions so a squad that is at full strength and has 4 actions has 4 bases. In practice, most squads have 3 bases at full strength and drop quickly from there…

The number of 3mm figs on each stand is roughly according to the break-points in the CDS squad attrition chart typically 2, 3 or 4 figs, depending on how quickly attrition wears down their number of actions.

In game, I put a coloured bead next to a stand for each man lost in the squad once the number lost reaches the point where the squad would lose an action, then a stand comes off, along with the beads.

The last stand in the squad represents the point where the squad is about to become fully ineffective typically losing 1 more man from that base puts it at the 'zero-actions' threshold. Depending on the scenario, I usually remove the last stand at that point, but sometimes they stay on in case a big man gets an opportunity to pull them into another squad.

I've found that there are pros and cons to that approach the pro is that it fits with the game mechanics and lets me spread a squad out a bit in a fairly realistic manner.

The cons are that it is finicky modelling team-level bases and moving them in-game occasionally a team has accidentally 'migrated' from one squad to another during action.

Also, if you're using O8 3mm figs, the metal they are cast from is darn hard and a bit brittle I found that when cutting up the strips to make the team bases I often broke a few figs off at the ankles… there might be less of that aggravation if basing them with 1 full squad per stand.

As for helos, they are kind of like markers in games, especially for Huey 'slicks', which don't hang around after the infantry deploy. BUT the O8 3mm helos look so good and are so inexpensive I just had to paint the full number of helos to put on the table to represent the full unit!

For advice, I would say, there are several ways to make the 3mm figs fit well with the CDS rules go with what you'll be happiest with for your own vision of aesthetics and game play.

jsans73 Inactive Member12 May 2016 11:17 a.m. PST

Hi, thanks for the detailed response, very helpful :-) I think basing 2-3 3mm minis a base would be a bit finicky for me, but if the rules allow i'd be all for splitting each squad into 2 fireteams of 5 minis, so that roughly 6 or so bases was a platoon.

Glad to hear the Helos arnt pointless as they will look great enmasse.

I have some O8 stuff and have broken a pair of cutters on their high Zinc content strips in the past, I know better these days ;-)

what do you do to represent jungle scenery at this scale.

Finally can anyone point me to a synopsis of the rules, i know its card driven but that's about it?

Todd63612 May 2016 6:58 p.m. PST

O8 has a Vietnam range?

boy wundyr x Inactive Member13 May 2016 7:26 a.m. PST

Wow, not one but two other people also doing Charlie Don't Surf in 3mm!

When I was heavily into this (the project tailed off a couple of years ago), I had some blog posts about what I was doing, here's probably the best general collection of posts: link

And here's a post just about the troops:

IIRC, I did my US squads as 8s, either 4+4 or 3+5, with some odd ones for "change". The NVA were 10s, 2x5 usually.

I also have a series of posts there about making bamboo stands, and I've done a few things for jungle, either O8's palm trees for detail, or bigger clumps of foliage when I needed a mass of jungle. There's more posts on huts, bunkers, elephant grass, rubber tree orchards, etc. too.

A collection of photos (in Powerpoint) for painting inspiration is in this post: link

The CDS rules are very similar to TFL's I Ain't Been Shot Mum, with the additional of scenario and campaign victory conditions more reflective of the "hearts and minds" nature of the Vietnam War. The Free World Forces are trying to win military victories and avoiding giving the communists a political victory, and vice versa.

If you aren't familiar with IABSM, the game's cards activate platoons, special weapons teams, vehicles, and commanders, plus there are a few special event cards (ammo shortage, for example). It isn't IGO-UGO, and there's a lot of friction built into the game.

The game rates several types of US, communist, South Vietnamese, and Australian forces (I think maybe South Korea too). Some of the TFL specials have additional scenarios and more rules for airpower and riverine actions.

Along with O8's boats, there's someone on Shapeways making 1/600 Vietnam-era riverine boats for the US, they're much better than the lousy resin ones available at one time from Picoarmor.

Hope this helps, let me know if you need more info on the rules, I can see what I can dig up. The TFL blog has some CDS AARs and things too:

boy wundyr x Inactive Member13 May 2016 7:30 a.m. PST

Oh, and for cutting the strips, I use small cutters known as side-cutters here – they're flush on one end to give you a flat cut on one side.

When I'm cutting, I find it works best to really cradle the strip in the free hand, supporting both of the (future) pieces with my fingers, so they don't fly off and so they don't whack into the side-cutters when the cut happens.

Pattus Magnus Inactive Member13 May 2016 7:36 a.m. PST


The O8 Modern range covers pretty well the entire Cold War period, including the Vietnam War. They even have NVA infantry packs. I haven't found much Vietnam War kit that isn't available from O8.


You should have no problem using 2 stands to represent a squad, then tracking casualties with markers (beads, or whatever).

As for the rules, tracking individual casualties does matter the number of actions a squad can take when it activates is directly related to the number of effectives remaining. That said, the amount of firepower a squad generates is based on the number of actions used for firing, rather than on the number of men remaining in the squad.

You're right that the game is card-based. A very simplified description is that each force has a number of cards in the deck, representing the opportunities for the assets on the cards to act. Each force has cards for "big men" (officers and NCOs), who activate assets under their command (squads, heavy weapons, calls for fire support, etc), cards for specific assets that can activate, and (sometimes) cards for characteristics specific to a force (extra moves, additional firing, etc). The deck also has a card which ends the turn, so in any given turn some assets may not activate and having more Big Men (better leadership) increases the odds that the force will be able to activate units in key parts of the battle. To me, that's one of the best things about the CDS rules it is about effectively using opportunities as they come up in order to dominate the flow of the battle, but without knowing exactly what will be available so having a flexible plan makes a difference.

As well, the game uses a set of markers (blinds) for each side to represent everything that has not yet been identified by the opponent. Generally all units on both sides start represented by blinds, rather than with the figures on the table, and each side may have a number of dummy blinds. That creates a lot of fog of war around where the enemy is and what the strengths are, so it is important to work recce into plans for completing the mission.

The game mechanics for combat and movement when a unit activates are pretty straightforward and intuitive the magic is in the turn sequence, IMO.

Finally, CDS gets a lot of Vietnam War flavour from having different victory conditions for each side the goals of the North and the South/US weren't the same and the game shows that. For some players the drawback to that is CDS is very much scenario-based and not really suited for pick-up games. Personally, I think that's an advantage and I get a lot out of the scenario-based approach, but then I'm a history nut at heart.

As for making jungle terrain, there are lots of good ways to go about it. What I did was make a number of forest 'sections' in irregular shapes about 4-6 inches across. Each has a textured base and a black removable top (I used black foamcore) the same size that is covered in clump foliage (real jungle in SEAsia is mostly leafy trees, rather than palms, so clump foliage looks right). The sections look fairly convincing when the tops are in place and when troops move into an area I lift the top off and they can stand on the base. I also have a bunch of small single-based and small groups of trees and palms that I put around the edges of the forest sections, to represent more open areas. I think it looks pretty sharp.

I hope you have fun with your CDS project, I know I have enjoyed mine!

Pattus Magnus Inactive Member13 May 2016 7:46 a.m. PST


That's a pretty great assortment of 3mm VN stuff on your blog!

boy wundyr x Inactive Member13 May 2016 9:04 a.m. PST

Thanks Pattus – I really need to finish the stuff off, I got sidetracked while making the rubber tree orchards – way too many rows of trees!

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