Sunday, October 27, 2013

Rumble in the Jungle, Flames of War Vietnam Style

I got together recently with my friend John, whom I have known for years but somehow only just now managed to play a game with.  John graciously agreed to host, and I was very happy to play on his excellent gaming table and check out his great collection of models. Our choice of conflict was Vietnam, and we chose the most basic scenario from the Tour of Duty book: Stand-Up Fight.  This scenario requires a player to seize an objective in enemy territory, and uses the Vietnam victory points table, which is quite different from standard Flames of War scoring.  It also uses the Meeting Engagement, Fire Support Base, and Guerilla reserves special rules.  We played the game using 1500 point armies.  

I took a PAVN Infantry Battalion with 2 Companies of Infantry with two platoons each.  In addition, I took 2 Recoiless rifle platoons (85mm w/3 tubes, 75mm w/6), a 3-gun 12.7mm AA platoon, and for grins my freshly painted PT-76 platoon.  Also I took two minefields and two HMG nests which could be placed in ambush. 

John's list was the Blackhorse Cavalry, and as best I recall consisted of two cavalry troops with 4 ACAVs and 3 Sheridans apiece, alone with a platoon of 2 Patton tanks, and a squadron of 2 Loach helicopters.  He also had his CO and XO in tracks.  That was a lot of armor but at least I wouldn't have to deal with the un-killable US infantry.  

John set up his armor as seen below: Cav troops on the left and center, Pattons on the right, choppers in the rear.  I set up a PAVN battalion on my left  objective, and the PT-76s in a wood on my far left.  I kept everything else off the table in Guerilla Reserve.  

See those well-camouflaged PT-76 tanks?  I chose that area to deploy them as it seemed "fluffy" to put amphibious, wide-tracked tanks in the woods near a river.  

Winning the roll for the first turn, I also made a roll for a Guerilla Reserve unit.  I chose the 85mm Recoilless unit and I rolled a 5, allowing me to choose a table quarter in which I had placed an objective.  Estimating that this was my one chance to deal with the Pattons, I placed the guns within 16" of the Patton platoon and blazed away!  I managed to roll 3 hits. The guns are AT 13 and the side armor of a Patton is 8, so odds were I was going to do some damage!  

Oh look, 3 sixes!  John bounced all 3 of the side armor shots on his Pattons.  Oh boy.  I was, shall we say, slightly disappointed. 

I also deployed my two HMG bunkers and my two minefields in the most inconvenient manner I could imagine.  The mines lay under the nice neat rows of John's armor.  We placed them adjacent below for convenience, but they are under the armor for game purposes.  My bunkers opened up on the two Loaches and despite getting 4 hits failed to make any firepower rolls.

My rather foolishly deployed PT-76s advance to the river edge, one of them getting bogged down by the woods despite its wide tracks.

 On turn 1, John attempted to advance his armor, with his central platoon navigating the mines without difficulty.  His left platoon got stuck on the mines and failed to move, however.

John's armor advances, with a single track getting bailed out by a mine blast.  

John's armor on his left is stuck in the NVA mines.  

 Both Pattons and Loaches deploy to punish the impudent and impotent AT guns...

...and wipe them out posthaste.  John also whacked one of my HMG nests with his Sheridans.

On Turn 2 I had no reinforcements arrive, so my infantry attempted to dig in on the objective to weather the coming storm.  They failed.  

On Turn 2 John advanced again with his central armor platoon, but his other armor stayed stuck on the mines.  That was nice but I was in no position to take advantage.  

John's Loaches shoot up my company, inflicting several losses and pinning them.

On turn 3, I tried to bring in my AAA to answer the choppers, but I rolled a 5 again, and they had to deploy in a quarter where I placed an objective.  The ability of the ACAvs and the Loaches to prevent me from placing Guerilla units within 16" started to be a real problem for me here.  I had to place the AA in a useless position on my left, nowhere near the choppers.    I brought the PT-76 platoon over to the edge of the hedges to support my infantry against a possible armor assault.  One remained stuck in the woods.

With the choppers hovering menacingly nearby, my infantry failed to dig in once again.  

On John's turn 3, he destroyed the exposed AA guns and managed to bail out a PT-76, as well as continue to punish my infantry who seemed unable to dig holes in the ground.  He advanced his central armor platoon forward to threaten my infantry and finally got his other platoon out of the mines.

On my turn 4 I got reinforcements in the form of another company of infantry.  I was only able to deploy them on my left and tried to position them to make a run at my other objective which John's previously stuck armor platoon had a clear path to.

In the center, my PT-76 tanks and infantry RPGs manage to finally bloody the Americans, claiming two ACAVs with their fire.

Undaunted, John advanced on turn 4 toward my open right flank with his undamaged platoon.

In the center, the Sheridans and Pattons destroy two PT tanks, including the platoon leader, and a few more infantry teams with heavy fire.  Off camera the Loaches pepper my reinforcing company with minigun and door-gun fire, pinning them and destroying a number of teams.  

 On turn 5, I got my last Guerilla Reserve unit, the 75mm Recoilless guns.  I actually rolled a 4 to place them on John's unguarded objective quarter, but in fact his ACAVs created an almost-perfect no-go zone, so I relocated them to the woodline on my far left to engage the damaged ACAV platoon at range. They were incapable of damaging the closer Pattons.  I also appointed a new command team for the PT-76s using my Battalion Commander.

The Recoilless guns rolled a total of 6 hits, and destroyed 3 Sheridans, leaving only 2 ACAVs functional in the platoon.  The armor platoon passed their morale check and fought on.  Off camera I advanced my reinforcing infantry company toward my right objective.  

On his turn 5 John did the smart thing and advanced to claim the objective on my right flank with his un-engaged armor.   He also destroyed 3 recoilless guns and bailed out a PT tank.

The Loaches also continued to punish the reinforcing company, leaving them under half strength, pinned, and far from the objective.  

 On my last turn (as I could not contest the objective John now held) I went for a few more VPs to make it look close.  My PT lead tank lined up a shot through the hedge and destroyed a Sheridan coming down the road.  

My remaining recoilless guns then shifted left and destroyed John's XO ACAV.  The soccer game in the background failed to spoil their aim.

At the start of John's turn 6, he won the game by holding the objective on my right flank!

So, John had won the game and all that was left was to determine the margin of victory.  Using the Vietnam victory points table, John scored 2 Battle Points for destroying my 85mm recoiless platoon and AA platoon. He also scored 1 Battle Point for destroying 3 PT tanks.   This gave John a total of 3 Battle Points. 

For my part, I had scored 2 Battle Points for destroying 6 tank teams.  I also scored a last Battle Point for killing the XO's track as a warrior team.  That gave me 3 Battle points overall, as well.  Looking at the Vietnam VP table, a Battle Point margin of 0 gave us a result of 4-3, or a "Propaganda Victory" in Vietnam terms.  

In retrospect I should have kept another platoon on the table at the beginning of the game to cover John's objective on my right.  I was thinking of maximizing my flexibility, however, and did not count on the massive amount of table space that an army full of ACAVs and Loaches could deny to me.   As a result of this error and John's good positioning of his models I simply could not get to the objective in time to prevent a loss.  

I really enjoyed the game and I think John did as well.  I think the final picture speaks volumes as to the hard fighting we had in the middle which was really exciting.  It was also really fun to field some PAVN armor after all my infantry-only outings with them.  Thanks again to John for hosting, and I look forward to more Vietnam FOW games to come.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Vietnam Contact! Contact! AAR

KayJay and I got together for a 1500 point game of Flames of War-Vietnam using the Tour of Duty book.  KayJay provided the terrain and table and I provided all the models.  As you can see I am a bit of an enthusiast for the period.  We played the Contact! Contact! mission from the Tour of Duty book, which involved the Free World forces being ambushed and reinforcements riding to the rescue.  The winner would be determined after Turn 6, barring a company morale break.  The US would win if it held either objective, and the PAVN if no enemy teams were within 16" of either objective. Alternatively if one side started with 6 or more victory points than the other side, that side would win. We played that the entire table, unless otherwise marked (woods, cleared village) was covered by waist-high elephant grass, giving all infantry concealment.  Vehicles would treat this as slow going.  

Here are our lists.

American Airmobile Rifle Company List:
Rifle Co. HQ w Medic
Rifle Platoon (Airmobile)
Rifle Platoon (Airmobile)
Aviation Platoon (Airmobile)
Aeroscout Platoon (2 Loaches)
Aeroweapons Platoon (2 Hogs)
Blackhorse Cavalry Platoon (3 M113 ACAv, 3 Sheridans)
Field Artillery Battery (Airmobile)

PAVN Infantry Battalion:
HQ w 2 HMG nests
Infantry Co w/2 Platoons
Infantry Co w/2 Platoons
Local Force Co w/3 Platoons
Mortar Co 82mm w 6 tubes
Recoiless Gun Co w/3 guns
Anti-Air Co w/3 12.7mm guns
Booby traps (2)
Mine Fields (1)
The US started with the Aeroscout Platoon on the table, and the Aviation Platoon and one Airmobile Infantry Co. off table.  All other forces were in delayed reserve. 

The PAVN delivered an ambuscade with the AA Platoon, doing no damage at all.  

US Airmobile Infantry drop on the LZ objective.

 A PAVN Company show up in the wrong place, too late to save the AA platoon which is annihilated by the Loaches (White Team).  1 VP to the US.

On Turn 2 the US sets up a perimeter on the LZ.  The company commander, 2IC and Medic are also present.  

Another PAVN company arrives, this time in the right place.  They head toward the objective.

Some long range LMG fire wounds a few US teams as the PAVN advance.

On Turn 3, the US dig in and the PAVN get a VC company, who deploy along a ridge and rain fire on the US LZ.  Now dug in and benefiting from the special Free World Medic rules, the US have become very hard to dislodge.  The Loaches do some damage to the PAVN company and pin them down.  Also, the US discover they have landed on a minefield, but pass their tests to dig in and avoid the mines!

 VC on the ridge are mostly ineffective, being armed only with rifles.

 In the distance, the ill-deployed PAVN company approach the LZ.  The US appear to be in dire trouble.

However, an early assault by the red PAVN company fails miserably.

 The US Cavalry arrive to save the day!  However they are slowed by the woods and by waist-high elephant grass, with is slow going and limits them to 6" movement.

The armor advanced line abreast and rained MG fire on the rear elements of PAVN yellow company.

 The US remain dug-in on the LZ objective and mostly unharmed.  The 2IC is killed, however, and two wounded teams become casualties of the Medic!  

PAVN yellow platoon withdraws, failing their motivation check and thus being worth 1 VP to the US and also count as 1 platoon toward company morale.  Red company also withdraws but passes their morale check.  

Que the Wagner music!  Here come the Huey Hogs to even up the score.  Both Hogs rain destruction on the PAVN, heavily damage on the PAVN.  A new Red company has "reappeared" behind the Hogs and Yellow company appears closer to the LZ.  The noose is tightening but US firepower is holding off the worst the PAVN can do.

The PAVN swarm underneath the Hogs and fire everything at them they can!

The full firepower of an infantry company only downs one chopper, however.  Score 2-1 for the US.

More PAVN reinforcements arrive as the mortar company deploys on the table to rain shells onto the LZ.

Just in time, more Air Cav land.  The LZ is pretty hot and their deployment options are quite limited. KayJay picks the optimal spot to place them in order to avoid being chased off by enemy infantry approaching within 4".

The full might of the Air Cav is on display as choppers swarm the battlefield and lay down heavy fire on the PAVN.

Meanwhile the Blackhorse slowly trudge forward.  They are really wishing that Vietnam had more roads!

The US still cling to the LZ despite taking enormous amounts of fire from the PAVN.  Bulletproof cover plus the medic rules make them extraordinarily hard to dig out.  

 The PAVN recoilless rifle teams and MGs damage and drive off three of the Huey slicks, preventing them from deploying their passengers.  Only two teams make it off the choppers to aid the LZ defenders.  The large PAVN yellow company prepares to assault, but fail their motivation test to go through their own minefield!  A crucial opportunity passes them by.  One turn later, they try again but the two new teams add 8 dice of defensive fire and the assault is beaten back with heavy casualties for the PAVN.  

KayJay measures out where his choppers can land.  

 And they try returning again to unload more infantry.  PAVN red platoon is now within 4" of teh objective and contesting it.  So the game continues past turn 6.  

Yellow company abandons the field, passing morale, and reappears conveniently close to the objective.  They rush to the relief of Red Company, which cannot abandon the field as they contest the objective.  The gunship and Loaches continue to live a charmed life, shrugging off the fire of all PAVN weapons.  The fire from two revealed HMG bunkers also fails to down them.

More PAVN fire drives off one more Huey, but two disgorge their passengers to reinforce the LZ!  PAVN fire has destroyed 5 choppers so far, making the VP score 2-2.

US armor finally approaches the LZ, and the PAVN are running out of time to destroy the US infantry.

The VC retire, failing morale and a new company appears near the LZ.  Their inferior weaponry means they cannot help very much, however.  

Desultory VC fire fails to harm the US reinforcements.

The PAVN bunkers finally down a second Hog, giving the PAVN 2 more victory points, making the score 3-4 for the PAVN.  The brittle state of several PAVN units makes this a tenuous lead, however.

The US armor now seizes the central ground of the battlefield.  They lay down heavy fire on the VC platoon, pinning them and destroying several teams.  Loaches mop up the remaining mortar platoons, making the VP tally 4-4.

Taking a risk at the top of turn 8, the PAVN attempt to withdraw Red company in order to generate a new platoon, but they fail their morale check and are destroyed for VP and morale purposes.  This means the PAVN have now lost the minimum 3 infantry companies and must take a morale check.  Having lost 5 platoon with only two on the board, they roll for morale and get a "1"!  The PAVN have had enough and retreat from the battlefield.

The US is the victor, and the VP tally is 5-4 in their favor.  Checking the Vietnam VP chart, this gives the US a minor 5-2 win by tourney scoring.  I have played this scenario a few times now and it seems very difficult for the PAVN.  If the US can entrench on the LZ, the PAVN are forced to contest it or lose the game.  But ejecting the US from a dug-in position is quite difficult.  In this game, the PAVN also had a very hard time making infantry saves so casualties were high and the chance to launch a decisive assault elusive.  KayJay and I agreed that the APVN could use more AA and AT assets, probably instead of the mortars, which did little.  We also noticed that there are lots of little questions about the interaction of the Vietnam-only special rules (of which there are many) and the basic FOW rules. Some reasonable agreements are necessary between the players to solve all the little issues that can crop up.  We had a great time, though, and I am sure we will be playing a Vietnam game again soon.

EDIT:  The actual tally was 7 VPs for US (5 Infantry co's withdrawn or destroyed plus the AA and Mortars and 5 VPs for PAVN (6 helicopters is 3, plus 1 for the Hog platoon, plus 1 for the 2iC, actually!)  But the result is the same, 5-2 minor victory.