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Vietnam 1965-1975

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Thread for PBF game of Vietnam 1965-1975 between myself and drep.

I've set up as the US player and now Dan is up to set up the initial NLF units.

The VASSAL module put the NVA division that can start anywhere in Laos of NVN in NVN (I was confused at first as to why any NVA started on the map.)

I'm going to watch this one - I'm curious to see how it goes :)

Me too. looks good.

Since there's some interest in the game, let me see if I can give an overview of the game.

We're attempting the campaign game, which covers '65-'75. Each year is divided into 4 seasons, and each season consists of 2 turns. During a turn, both players conduct operations. The NVA/VC player always has the option to conduct his own operation or let the US/ARVN player conduct an operation. Play continues until the NVA player gives the option to the US player and the US passes.

Victory and Pacification
The communists win the game if they either a) capture Saigon or b) if VC-controlled population exceeds 200. The VC starts out controlling 133 population. (The entire population of South Vietnam is 350, with each population point representing roughly 50,000 people). Population control is adjusted once per season during the Pacification Phase. During the Pacification Phase, each region in South Vietnam will be tested by a pacification die roll to see if the population control is adjusted. The map is divided into 35 separate regions of varying populations. (See image below.) The Pacification roll is modified by several factors:  1) presence of VC/NVA units in the regions, whether the US has declared "Free Fire" in the region during the previous season, and South Vietnam Morale.  Each region has a capital (in the set up of the game in my 1st post, I've placed a SVN unit in each of the capitals). If the communists control the capital hex at any point during a turn, "captured capital" marker is placed. Even if the US recaptures the hes later in the turn, the communists will get a DRM in their favor during the next pacification phase. In addition, the communist player gets DRMs in his favor (from most valuable to least) for units actually in a capital, units occupying towns, units in cultivated hexes, and for other units occupying the region. In addition, if SVN morale is below a certain threshold, the communist player will get a column shift in his favor on the pacification table.

Because control of population drives victory, which is driven by pacification, which is in turn driven by the presence of communist units, the US player's goal in conducting operations is to get communist units out of South Vietnam. As should become clear when I explain combat, this is easier said than done. As a result the US has to prioritize population centers and the geography to protect (primarily capitals).

Other Political Factors

In addition to tracking the control of the population, morale for the US, South Vietnam, and North Vietnam are each tracked. Morale is a measure of each nation's willingness to continue to prosecute the war. For South Vietnam, morale indirectly impacts their ability to continue to wage the war. As noted above, it impacts the pacification efforts. Pacification impacts population control. The population that is controlled by SVN sets an upper limit on the manpower they can commit to the war. Population control is also the ultimate determinate of the winner.

For the US and NVN, morale more directly impacts their willingness to continue their war effort. In addition to morale, each side tracks their "commitment." Commitment is essentially the currency of the game for these sides, as they have to increase their commitment when they bring new units onto the map, allocate more men to the war, and allocate other resources to the effort. If commitment ever exceeds morale for a nation, that nation has to withdraw units from the map until their commitment drops below morale.

For the US, morale will adjust based on the population controlled by SVN (both positive and negative, depending on # controlled), US commitment (the higher the commitment, the bigger the decrease to US morale), US or allied units in Laos or Cambodia, capitals captured by the communists, number of "attacks" by the communist during a communist offensive, and a positive morale boost for destroying a certain number of communist units during the preceding season.

The NVN morale adjustments are more straight forward...and all positive. They get an ever-increasing morale boost as US commitment goes up and an ever-increasing morale boost based on their own morale.

Combat and Operations

During a turn, the players can conduct a variety of operations. The most common are Holding, Patrol, Search and Destroy, and Clear and Secure. Holding missions are declared before the operations phase. A unit put on a holding mission cannot move, but its combat strength is doubled if attacked. Patrol missions are similar, but instead of increasing defensive strength, they increase movement point costs for enemy units travelling through their Zones of Control.

Search and Destroy and Clear and Secure missions are virtually identical. The primary difference is at the end of a Clear and Secure mission, a unit can be put on a Holding or Patrol mission. The trade off is that units on Clear and Secure missions have their ability to pursue limited.

Before discussing Search and Destroy missions, it's worth noting that all VC units (but not NVA) are set up with their combat values hidden from the US player. VC units range from 1- and 2-strength Battalions to 6-strength Regiments. In addition there are 0-strength "Political Sections" (The political sections impact pacification just as a regular VC unit would, but they obviously have no value in combat). It is during combat that the asymmetry between the two sides becomes very clear. The US and ARVN have a huge amount of firepower available for their use. The rub is that actually bringing that firepower to bear is very difficult. 

Both sides can declare a Search and Destroy mission, but US missions are more detailed, so I'll discuss the mission from their perspective. When the US declares a S&D mission, they have to declare 1) the units that will be involved in the mission and 2) the support that they are going to dedicate to the mission. "Support" includes air support, air mobile capability, and riverine support (essentially boats to speed movement through watery terrain). Air support can be used for both bombardment and interdiction, the US player does not have to declare which he will use the support for at this point, just the total amount of support. The US also has the option of declaring the region a "Free Fire" zone. Without doing so, all artillery and air support values only count 1/2 their normal strength. Declaring "Free Fire" allows these to be used at their full value. The trade off is that

Once the US player has declared units and support, it declares a "target" hex. The target hex determines which units can be attacked during a turn. The US player then moves operational units as he sees fit. Units do not have end up in the target hex. ZOCs are not sticky, they just impose an increased MP cost to move through. Moreover, units can move through a hex containing enemy units (But if it's not the target hex, they can't stop there). Enemy units in a non-target hex can choose to attack a unit moving through their hex, however. Once movement is completed, all US and allied units in a target hex have to attack opposing units in the target hex. In addition, friendly units adjacent to the target hex can also attack.

But before combat takes place, VC units (and only VC units) have the ability to take an "alert" roll. This alert roll determines the VC unit's movement allowance. It can then move that MA before any combat can take place. This is where interdiction comes in for the US player. Before the alert roll, the attacking player can use artillery and air support for interdiction. Depending on the amount of points spent on a hex, a "1" or "2" marker can be placed on the hex, representing the increased MP cost for both sides to move into the hex during an operation. The hope of the US player is that he can increase the MP allowance in the hexes adjacent to the target hex by enough, that the units in the target hex cannot move out. But even if the US player succeeds in doing this, VC units have the option of "dispersing" before combat. Dispersing the unit removes it from the board and back in the communist player's pool. The player also gets a number of replacement points (discussed below) equivalent to the units combat strength. This deprives the US of the benefits of actually destroying the VC manpower. If after all this no defending units are left in the target hex, the operation is over. But if there is a defending unit left, it's on to combat.

Combat itself is pretty simple, but I'm not sure I've encountered anything quite like it before. To start with, both players determine their combat strength. The ratio of attacking combat strength to defending combat strength gives a DRM. The other primary DRM is for terrain. Combat strength consists of each participating unit's combat strength plus its artillery value and any air support allocated. 1D6 is rolled and the modifiers applied. Based on this modified die roll, a "pursuit" value is determined, as are casualties. The casualties determination is where things get interesting. Casualties are determined for each side separately by cross-referencing that forces ground strength (basic combat strength of each unit) plus the opponents artillery and air support. As a result, the US is a lot better off committing artillery and air support and a minimum amount of ground forces to an actual attack. This will maximize the casualties inflicted to the opposing side while minimizing its own exposure to casualties.

Casualties can be taken in one of two ways. A player can either remove units with combat strength equal to the casualties inflicted, or they can use available "replacement points." (Replacement points are "purchased" at the start of each season at a cost of commitment.) The maximum number of replacement points that can be used, however, is equal to the combat strength of the unit. So if a 2-strength unit suffers 3+ casualties, the unit must be removed because the casualties cannot be fully satisfied through replacement points. (Though removing the unit fully satisfies the loss--i.e., they don't have to come up with another from a replacement point).

After combat, any defending units left may retreat their full MA. The attacking player can then pursue. Pursuit MPs are based on the value determined during the original combat plus an intrinsic pursuit value noted on the unit's counter. (Units without this number cannot pursue). Any hex that a defending unit moves into now becomes a "target hex" and is eligible to be attacked in the ensuing pursuit phase. If a pursuing unit has unused MPs left, this remaining "pursuit" is a positive DRM in the follow-on attack. The lowest value of any attacking unit to participate in the attack is used. Note that any unit that had been involved in the operation is able to purse (if it has a pursuit value), regardless of whether it actually participated in the attack. The combat procedure is the repeated except that the VC no longer has the option of "alerting" out of the hex or dispersing.

This process continues until there are no attacks that are conducted to generate new pursuit. 

The US player also has the ability to use offensive and defensive reserves. Offensive reserves are used after the first combat of an operation. Any unit eligible to conduct an operation can be used. They get to move their full MA just as if it were the first round of an operation. They do not, however, get any pursuit bonus. Defensive reserves work similarly, but after the first round of combat when the US player has been attacked.

North Vietnam and the Trail

The US player has the option of bombing North Vietnam and the Trail. The results of the bombing impacts the level of supply available to the communist player. Supply determines what units can be built, etc. The communist player can also move actual units down the trail from the north to later infiltrate into the south. When placing new units, the communist player is severely restricted in how many units can be placed directly into the South and where they can be placed. Infiltration is a means to get more units in position to move across the border.

Other Chrome
In addition to the political aspects outlined above, the ARVN command is modeled and tracked. There are 1-, 2-, and 3-Star generals that randomly come into play. The 1- and 2-Star generals have a loyalty and effectiveness. Depending on loyalty, a coup may occur, which will replace the 3-Star leader. Effectiveness determines whether ARVN units under their command are effective. Ineffective units are severely limited in what they can do during a turn. The US player can try to replace leaders, especially if the leader's effectiveness modifier is bad.

Each player has fairly broad discretion in determining the order of battle. The US player has a variety of US units available to be brought in, as well as ARVN units. The same is true for the North. This gives the players flexibility in determining how fast the war ramps up, and how he wants to fight the war. The US has the option of bringing in a lot of American ground units, or focusing on things like air power and providing the ARVN with the supplies it needs to build units. The NVA has similar choices with how he will use the VC. As a result, there's no fixed OOB. The US can bring in a lot of US units at the very beginning or try to fight with ARVN units. But the more US units brought in, the bigger hit to the US morale and thus it's ability to stay in country later in the war.

Nice overview. Thanks  O0


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