Saturday, 8 October 2016

Tour of Darkness: Monkey Business

Cuter than you thought they were...?
Back to Tour of Darkness this week, where we had left our patrol of Marines under fire in the jungle. Luckily, Lieutenant 'Coop' Cooper had smelled tobacco smoke (from a hastily stubbed out cigarette) and alerted the rest of the unit, allowing some of the men to get off the trail. Ahead of them, a Viet Cong unit was opening fire.

This proved to be an interesting engagement. The VC plan was to ambush the Americans, then fall back down a trail, and hopefully the Marines would pursue them. They had thoughtfully dug a pit with punji stakes which would be waiting for the pursuers when they gave chase.

Things did not go entirely to plan for Charlie. Firstly, only the point man of the US patrol was hit, although he was badly hit and collapsed from multiple wounds. Everybody else managed to vacate the trail, and some Marines began returning fire. Plus, with all the jungle vegetation and long grass, once the Marines were off the trail, they got a lot harder to hit (in game terms, the target number to hit went from a 4 to an 8). Most of the Americans prudently hugged the dirt and stayed down, making them very hard to hit.

The VC were in a clearing, although taking advantage of long grass. However, they did not reckon with Billy Bob and his grenade launcher, which again quickly started doing considerable damage as he began dropping grenades into the middle of the VC unit. The Viet Cong commander gave the order to retreat, but the Americans still managed to kill most of the guerillas before they disappeared up the trail. Corpsman Arnie Seine managed to stabilise the badly wounded PFC Niese, while Coop called in a chopper for a medevac.

Coop ordered Sergeant Massie to search the bodies of the dead VC - no effort was made to pursue them. Rat and Billy Bob both climbed trees to go on overwatch. Massie found a gold medallion on one of the dead, but Rat spotted him trying to conceal it in his boot (rolling an 11 on his Notice), and Coop forced him to hand it over. Coop recognised the image as being similar to the foul elephant god they had encountered in statue form at Sau Vang, so hastily passed it on to Jugula.

As the helicopter approached to evacuate Niese, Billy Bob was suddenly attacked by wild monkeys while still in the tree. Altogether, five attacked him, but he lashed around himself with his machete, eventually killing three while he tried to climb down the tree. Three more monkeys converged on Rat, but this time the Marines spotted them, and they were quickly gunned down before they could attack the sniper. As the surviving monkeys tried to chase Billy Bob down the tree, the Marines managed to pick them off. Billy Bob survived with just one bite. I was a bit disappointed with this encounter - I had expected the monkeys to do more damage, and when Billy Bob climbed up a tree, I couldn't believe my luck. If he had taken a Shaken result, he was looking at 3d6 damage when he hit the ground, and his player knew it.
Not as cute as you thought they were...!

The helicopter arrived to pick up Niese, while Rat marveled at the uncharacteristic behaviour of the monkeys. Coop, realising that he had now lost his best point man, moved Rat up on to point. Which was lucky, because the sharp-eyed Rat spotted the punji trap easily once the soldiers moved 300 metres up the trail. The Viet Cong had already decided to prudently avoid further engagement.

The rest of the patrol went according to plan, with no further enemy contact, and the Marines made it back to Firebase Tripoli in one piece. Rat persuaded Jugula to give him the medallion, but could not figure out what it represented. Niese was sent to hospital in Japan, while Gee returned to the unit from Da Nang.

The Marines rested up at FB Tripoli for a few days, before Captain Veneziano sent them out again, this time to set up a night ambush on one of the trails intel suspected the North Vietnamese were using to infiltrate into the South. En route to the ambush location, they received orders by radio to rendezvous with a Major Schuler from Army intelligence. The major duly met them in a clearing, arriving by helicopter. He quickly briefed Coop on a fast developing situation across the border in Laos.

Apparently a reconnaissance flight - an F4 Phantom - had been shot down while taking photos over Laos, a couple of hours previous. As the nearest unit to the border (less than an hour away on foot), the Marines were ordered to go into Laos and retrieve any survivors and the camera from the plane. Officially, they were not meant to be there, but the intelligence the plane may have acquired was considered vital. The Marines were given the likely location of the crash site. No assets would be available to support them once they crossed into Laos. They would be on their own.

To be continued...

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