Thursday, July 29, 2010

We venture into Vietnam...

So back in the X-mas season of '09, the Consul and I took the plunge into Battlefront's Vietnam range.  They came out with some interesting rules via Wargames Illustrated and we were excited.  Real life got in the way and we pushed back the project into July of 2010.  I managed to get the PAVN "Army Deal" all painted up, and the Consul made a good effort toward finishing up the 7th Cav army deal.  Alas, the Consul was struck low with illness for the week prior to our gaming engagement, so he was not quite finished.  But the minis were close enough to done to justify a battle report, and we were chomping at the bit to play.

For our first game, we decided to play the LZ X-ray scenario, "Hot LZ" from the WI article.  By the way, all the Vietnam-specific rules from WI are available for FREE at the following location:

The basic rules are identical to Regular Flames of War, so the fundamentals should be familiar to those of you who have played it.  

The Consul's force consisted of HQ including Moore and Plumley, including a medic and 3 mortar teams, 3 full platoons of airmobile infantry, 4 Huey slicks, 1 Huey Hog, and a full6-tube battery of 105mm artillery.  

My force consisted of PAVN HQ with 3 HMGs, 2 companies of 2 PAVN infantry platoons each, 2 AA platoons, 1 recoilless rifle platoon, and 1 mortar platoon.  

Both forces weighed in around 1250 points.  

In this mission, each side has an objective to defend.  The US objective is the main LZ, and the Vietnamese have an objective off in the bush.  We put the PAVN objective on the spur of a corner hill to represent the edge of the Chu Pong Massif.  The board counts as "open woods" throughout excepting the landing zones.   

The US gets the first turn, and the Vietnamese all start in "guerrilla reserve" arriving on a random roll and capable of deploying 12" or more from a US infantry team.

The Consul deployed his copters in the main LZ, landing a full platoon and his HQ elements:  

On turn 1, no PAVN arrive so the US hastily reinforces with another air mobile platoon.

On the turn 2, PAVN infantry arrive to challenge the perimeter: 

US troops prepare for the onslaught:  

The PAVN advance on turn 3, as the US digs in and the Huey hog engages the enemy:

Turns 4-8 follow.  Hueys deliver more reinforcements as the lone PAVN company advances under fire:

The PAVN company's fire is ineffectual, while the US hammers them with artillery and Hog MG fire:

The US establishes a strong perimeter as PAVN reinforcements are slow to arrive.  Continuous artillery strikes, Hog MG fire,and small arms fire break the PAVN company and the score becomes 1-0.  

PAVN reinforcements finally arrive in the form of 12.7mm AA guns.  These promptly engage the US choppers, felling the Huey hog but doing no damage to the Huey slicks:  

The score is now 1-1.  PAVN "Heroes of the Revolution" survey their handiwork: 

But, one downed chopper can't disguise the fact that the PAVN have little to contest the field:

Finally another PAVN company arrives to give battle to the foreign invader.  The PAVN infantry platoons can return to play after being destroyed, and PAVN battalions only take morale checks when they have lost more platoons than they have on the table.  

This time PAVN fire causes heavy casualties on the Americans, who have failed to dig in.  Note the red wound markers.  In the Vietnam Flames of War "Medevac" rules, US teams are not destroyed automatically when they would ordinarily be once they fail a save.  Instead, a dice roll determines if the team is truly destroyed or wounded.  A wounded team can only fight in self-defense, but can be healed by a medic team or unload the wounded onto Hueys and thereby return to normal status.  

Another view of the PAVN attack.  The US troops are bloodied but unbroken.  
Another PAVN platoon arrives to assault the opposite flank.  The US are now feeling the pressure.  
One US platoon has failed to dig in.  The PAVN aim to make them pay.
Emboldened by the proliferation of wound markers, the PAVN advance to contact.  US fire has eliminated the AA platoon.  The score is now 2-1 for the US.  
Huey Slicks arrive to take off the wounded and hose down the advancing PAVN with their M-60s.  PAVN recoiless rifles arrive but fail to damage the landed Slicks. 
A fine job of Huey shooting and defensive fire from the revitalized US platoon eliminate the PAVN infantry company as they launch an assault.  The score is now 3-1 for the US.  

But on the other flank heavy PAVN fire causes serious and a number of permanent US casualties.  
Another wave of PAVN infantry arrive to replace the one just lost.  They were "Born in the North to Die in the South", after all. That is the special rule that allows the PAVN infantry to recycle onto the battlefield, representing PAVN willingness to throw additional troops into the fray.  
The PAVN infantry advance on the LZ objective.  The US has still not lost a single infantry platoon.  The PAVN mortar company arrives to add some much-needed fire support.  
Hal Moore looks on as his platoon turns to face the threat.  
PAVN infantry seize the objective and destroy another US platoon.  The score is now 3-2 but the US is in danger of losing the objective.  
The "Ride of the Valkyries" plays in the background as the Hueys fly in to the rescue.

A hail of fire rains down on the PAVN infantry holding the objective.  All 4 helicopters, the US artillery, and Hal Moore's platoon fire everything they have, and the PAVN are annihilated.  Moore's platoon consolidates on to the objective.  The score is now 4-2 for the US.

The loss of a third PAVN infantry platoon makes the PAVN battalion subject to morale checks.  The PAVN now have more platoons destroyed than on the table, and must pass a test or abandon the field.  I roll a "2" and the PAVN break.  The US is victorious.  

The following views show how precarious the US position was at the end of the game.  The US sustained serious casualties but held on just long enough to force a PAVN retreat.  The final score is 4-2, a 2 point difference and therefore a "marginal victory" under the scenario victory chart. 

Two armchair generals enjoy a rare day of good gaming:

In summary, Flames of War Vietnam is an exciting variation on the system and an interesting foray into another historical conflict.  The "Hot LZ" mission did a good job of turning the LZ X-ray battle into a playable wargame scenario.  We took a long time to play this game, about 4 hours, due to unfamiliarity with the rules and a few distractions.  But in my view it was very interesting and riveting in the final moments as both sides teetered on the edge of oblivion.  The PAVN units are powerful and have great morale, but their lower training rating (Trained as opposed to Veteran) make them susceptible to casualties.  This is offset somewhat by the "Quality of Quantity" rule which means they are not pinned unless they take 10 hits as long as the have more than 10 teams. Also, "Guerrilla Reserve" allows them to appear all over the battlefield, although usually in a random fashion, stretching the US defense.  PAVN weaponry is deadly at short range, and effective on the move, but are generally inferior to US weapons.  

The US, on the other hand, play a bit like WWII Flames of War Germans: individually superior in training and weaponry, but easily outnumbered and highly sensitive to heavy casualties.  They are more resilient than any other troop type in Flames of War, however.  The medic rules mean that 75% of US casualties will remain on the table, able to be "fixed up" by the medic or the Hueys.  In addition, the "Surrounded" rule means that US platoons who fail a morale check or would lose multiple teams to being surrounded after losing an assault, lose only a single team instead.  They are therefore "hard as nails" and can take enormous punishment.  The helicopters are very effective, but are worth 1 VP each if shot down.  My PAVN were unlucky with their AA fire, but it could have been different.

We really enjoyed the game and look forward to bringing you more Flames of War Vietnam reports.  In fact, since both the Consul and I bought both US and PAVN army deals, we plan on consolidating our collections for a large (2500 points a side) participation game at Fall-In! this October.