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Vietnam: 1965-1975 – After Action Report (NLF)

Vietnam: 1965-1975 - After Action Report (NLF)

An NLF Commander Reports

By Scott Cameron

NLF Point of View

I was the NLF commander in a recently completed Vietnam: 1965-1975 campaign game, as Mark D’s opponent. Fortunately, my troops came crashing into Ho Chi Minh city to end this war in the Spring of 1972…


Developing a strategy for playing this game as the NLF can be difficult. Since they won historically, there is a tendency to do what they did but that’s not necessarily a good idea since the Allies will most likely be expecting that & will have their own strategy primed to defeat it. But going with something different risks ignominious defeat as there is likely some reason your “good” ideas weren’t followed by the real NLF!

What I eventually decided to do was to follow a much more passive path than the NLF had historically. I would try to maintain & build up my armies & replacement points, using them to get population shifts, while forcing the Allies to come after me. Historically, the NLF launched repeated offensives which were devastating to Allied morale but also led to massive NLF losses & gave the Allies breathing space to recover their population levels. I wanted to maintain an army for the entire game, keeping a constant downward pressure on the population, while forcing the Allies to come after me. And I wanted to be able to keep units in heavy terrain, in Hold status if I could, to force maximum losses when they did. As his population slipped away he would be forced to attack me & the extra units he’d have to buy & the replacement points he would lose would somewhat offset the morale points he wouldn’t lose to offensives. The I-go, You-go, I-go sequence of the game was a big help here since it would allow me to run units out of the mountains down into the rice paddies at the end of a season where possible & then run them right back out again at the start of the next season. I also wanted to concentrate my “population offensive” on individual provinces, rather than spread out & diffuse the effect. It’s much better to run a few provinces down to 0- than it is to try to get a lot of them down to the mid-range. Once they’re at 0-, they tend to stay there & then the units can be moved to another province to start degrading the population there. So eventually, the map will be checkerboarded with provinces at 0- & others at the maximum with a few “battleground” provinces which are flooded with NLF units & which are headed for 0-. Lastly, I positioned as many VC battalions adjacent to roads as I could, putting them into “Patrol” where possible to keep the Allies from being able fully to use their advantage of mobility.

Mark made a couple of mistakes that tended to play into my strategy but they are both mistakes I had made myself in my previous attempts to play this game. As he noted in his review, he overlooked the importance of sending economic aid to SVN in the early going to drive their morale up. This would have put him on a better column of the population chart & greatly slowed the shifts of population, although at a cost in commitment. He also degraded the effectiveness of the ARVN, using them as cannon fodder for American attacks, something else I’ve tended to do myself in my attempts at playing this game. I think there’s a tendency to disbelieve that you’ll ever get to the point of American withdrawal, since the game is so long, & so you tend to ignore what the ARVN will be like in 1970 because who expects to still be playing then? On the other hand, I have to give him a lot of credit for hanging on so long. The game looked to be over in 1970 with the Americans leaving & the ARVN down to a handful of replacements while several divisions worth of NVA & a big stack of artillery moved inexorably down the coast. But he found a way to slow us down & made it to 1972 & was even picking up population at the end! He ran his search & destroy operations very effectively & was usually able to kill what he went after, or at least make us pay in replacement points. I think the only really important error he made was the one he mentioned about leaving IV Corps after having pacified it. At the end of that turn, with the Corps area flooded with Allied units & with only a scant few VC hiding in the weeds, I was pretty depressed since I foresaw a war that could last till 1975. It would be hard to put any NLF units into IV Corps with all that Allied strength there & the population would gradually shift back to him over time. Had he stayed there, even for a year or so, things could have turned out differently since the NLF would have been almost forced to come out of the hills & start confronting him for territory & I might have had to start the big offensives I was trying to avoid. But instead Mark transferred most of the units out of IV Corps to battlefields in the north & the VC came back right away. Of course, this is what the Americans did historically, at least early in this war–not to mention early in the Iraq War(!), so he had some good company in doing it!

The political rules didn’t play much of a role in our game. SVN was lucky to have few coups & mostly decent leaders. They had the “?” guy for a long time & followed him with Big Minh & Bao Dai. His commanders were very loyal &, in fact, at the end of the game, it would have required a roll of box cars to have a coup. But he was greatly hampered by the utter incompetence of his Chief of Staff. I think Mark did a very good job of moving his divisions around to keep the incompetent commanders in military backwaters or in areas where they could defend in place while the good commanders could attack the bad guys. He always seemed to have lots of ARVN units to throw at us no matter where we were. But his Chief of Staff was a millstone that helped to thwart all of the best efforts of the ARVN.

One thing I disagree with in Mark’s after-action report is about the ARVN Rangers. Even though they’re expensive, I think they’re worthwhile. The +2 movement across the border was a big annoyance throughout the game & definitely had an effect on NLF strategy. Without it, there would have likely been more units in IV Corps & more battles there as well.


I think we all had a good time & I’m already missing playing the game (Vietnam withdrawal!). Victory Games was one of the best game companies ever & this was one of their best games & it was a pleasure to have had the experience to have played it all the way through at least once. Thank you to Mark for suggesting it & to Ron, my co-general, for helping to lead our side to victory. Mark, count me in the next time you want to play it.

Vietnam: 1965-1975 – “Highlanders” (Scenario)

Highlanders – A New Scenario for Vietnam: 1965-1975


The Quest to Control the Central Highlands

Vietnam: 1965-1975 - Scenario

This article contains a new scenario for Victory Games 1984 title Vietnam: 1965-1975. This scenario is not based on any historical Vietnam action or operation, but is meant to provide a fresh introduction to this great game. Unlike many of the original scenarios, it contains some of the strategic aspects of the game as well as providing a challenging and unique operational situation. A few entirely new ideas and victory conditions have been thrown in as well. It is designed to be played to completion in a single sitting, which eradicates the only remaining legitimate reason for not giving this game a try.The Situation
The NLF have decided to make a major push in the Central Highlands, hoping to be able to build upon success there and expand their drive down to the South Central Coastal area, and the populous Binh Dinh province. US Intelligence has caught wind of a pending enemy operation but, lacking  any specific information regarding the objectives or the forces assigned, MACV HQ must make their best guess of enemy intentions and deploy friendly forces accordingly.  US/ARVN friendly towns in Kontum province have been threatened with NVA/VC reprisals and ARVN commanders have been targeted for capture or assassination. The outcome of this deadly contest will decide the allegiance of the Highlanders for years to come…Click here to  download scenario instructions and tables in PDF format.

Setup

This scenario begins with the 1st Game Turn of Summer 1966 and ends with the 2nd Game Turn of Summer 1966; it lasts two turns. The play area includes Kontum and Binh Dinh provinces, Laos and Cambodia. Only the northern map, which includes the General Record Track, is required.

There are no fixed starting forces in this scenario. The US player is allowed to spend a certain amount of US Commitment and ARVN supplies to build forces as he sees fit. The NLF player may spend NVA commitment and VC supplies to do the same. Both players secretly allocate their Commitment/Supplies at the same time. However, the US/ARVN player must deploy units first.

1. Turn 1 Purchases– Both players secretly record Turn 1 expenditures on their Highlanders Scenario Record Sheet. Each player should refer to the correct Unit Charts for valid purchases and Turn 1 costs. Commitment/Supplies available at the start are as follows:

  • US Commitment = 15
  • ARVN Supplies =  28
  • NVA Commitment = 10
  • VC Supplies = 12
Note: For both ARVN and VC, ignore “Personnel” costs mentioned in the game rules. Only Supply Points matter in this scenario.

When both players declare they are done recording Turn 1 expenditures, no further changes may be made. Proceed to the next step.

2. US Deployment – The US/ARVN player may deploy purchased units anywhere in Binh Dinh or Kontum provinces. US Air, US Airmobile, US Riverine, and US and ARVN Replacement Point markers are placed on the General Record Track, as necessary.

3. Assign ARVN Leaders – If any ARVN forces have been deployed, leaders must be chosen. For each ARVN division, or part thereof, randomly select a Division Commander (1-Star General) to command it. Each general must initially be placed in the same hex with at least one of their divisional units. If any non-divisional ARVN units (i.e. independent battalions and artillery) have been deployed, a Corps Commander (2-Star General) must be randomly chosen to command them. The Corps Commander can be placed in the same hex with any ARVN or US unit on the map.

4. Perform ARVN Effectiveness Check – For each ARVN leader, roll one 6-sided die (for Corps Commander ONLY, subtract 1 from the die roll). If the leader’s rating is greater than or equal to this number, then the units under his command are “effective” for the Game Turn. Otherwise they are “ineffective” (see the game rules for the effects of this condition). Turn ineffective leader counters over so that only their ineffective side is face up (i.e the side with only the 1-star or 2-star indicator, without the rating number).

5. NLF Deployment – The NVA/VC player may deploy purchased units anywhere in Laos, Cambodia or Kontum province only (may NOT initially deploy in Binh Dinh). NVA and VC Replacement Point markers are placed on the General Record Track, as necessary.

6. NLF Selects Reprisal Target – The NLF player must now secretly choose, and record on the Highlanders Scenario Record Sheet, one town in Kontum province as their “Reprisal Target” (either Kontum, Pleiku or Dak To). This town will be an important victory objective.

7. Play Game Turn 1 – Begin and play Game Turn normally (however, see “Special Rules”, below).

8. Game Turn 1 Scoring – When Game Turn is complete, each player scores the Game Turn using the “Turn 1 Scoring (VP)” column on their Victory Point Schedule.


Game Turn 2

Vietnam: 1965-1975

1. Turn 2 Purchases – Both players now secretly record Turn 2 expenditures on their Highlanders Scenario Record Sheet. Only Commitment and Supplies not spent on Game Turn 1 are available to spend now. Each player should again refer to the Unit Charts for valid purchases and Turn 2 costs (note that Turn 2 costs are double the Turn 1 costs). When both players declare they are done recording Turn 2 expenditures, no further changes may be made. Proceed to the next step.

2. US Deployment – Newly purchased US ground units may enter the play area via any northern border hex (i.e. the I Corps/II Corps border) that is not enemy occupied or in Qui Nhon city if not enemy occupied. Newly purchased ARVN units may enter the map via any road hex in South Vietnam that enters the play area (hexes 5634, 5436, 4435, 5324, 4824, 3922), if not enemy occupied. Units are placed directly on one of these border hexes and begin movement from there. Newly purchased US Air, US Airmobile, US Riverine, and US and ARVN Replacement Point markers are placed on the General Record Track, if necessary.

3. Assign ARVN Leaders – If any new ARVN leaders are required, due to the purchase of new divisional units, or the initial purchase of non-divisional units, choose and place leaders exactly as in Game Turn 1.

4. ARVN Effectiveness – Perform ARVN effectiveness check again for all existing and newly placed ARVN leaders.

5. NLF Deployment – The NVA/VC player may deploy purchased units anywhere in either Kontum or Binh Dinh provinces. Newly purchased NVA and VC Replacement Point markers are placed on the General Record Track, as necessary.

6. Play Game Turn 2 – Begin and play Game Turn 2 normally (again referring to “Special Rules”, below).

7. Game End Scoring – When Game Turn is complete, complete Game End Scoring (see Victory Point schedules).


Special Rules

    • Skip the Strategic Movement Phase in Game Turn 1 (gives NLF surprise advantage). Perform this Phase in Game Turn 2 normally.
vietnam_sc1_fig5
    • ARVN Rangers – Rangers are purchased and used normally. However, for combat assignment, treat as if there are 5 Rangers in play (i.e. all available Rangers can be assigned to an operation on an unmodified six-sided die roll of 1 to 5. Restrictions on placement (i.e. one Ranger per operating unit hex) still apply.
vietnam_sc1_fig3
  • ARVN Leaders – In this scenario, ARVN leaders actually appear on the map. Leaders move along with the unit they are “attached” to when placed. They may never end movement in the same hex with another ARVN leader, and they must remain attached to a subordinate unit (or U.S. unit, in the case of the Corps Commander) for the entire scenario. If they end up alone in a hex they are considered captured/assassinated for victory point purposes.

Winning the Game

To prevent players from trying radical strategies, such as saving all their commitment/supply points for use on turn 2 or for conversion to victory points at game end (i.e. effectively spending nothing and deploying no units at all), victory points are earned after each Game Turn. A player who does not play aggressively in Game Turn 1 will incur such a large victory point deficit they’ll never be able to dig out of it during scoring at the end of the scenario.

At the end of Game Turn 1, calculate scores based on the “Turn 1 Scoring (VP)” column on their Victory Point Schedule. Again, at the end of Game Turn 2 (and the scenario), follow the “Game End Scoring (VP)” Victory Point schedule. The winner is the player with the most victory points.

NOTE: SCENARIO VICTORY CONDITIONS ARE STILL BEING PLAY TESTED and may be amended in the near future. Please email feedback, comments or suggestions to The Boardgaming Life. We’d love to hear from you.

Highlanders Scenario Record Sheet – US/ARVN

US/ARVN Unit Chart 1st TURN 2nd TURN
US Starting Commitment 15
US Expenditures Cost: Turn1 / Turn 2
Any Battalion 1 / 2
Headquarters 1 / 2
2 x 105mm Artillery 1 / 2
1 x 155mm Artillery 1 / 2
2 x 175mm Artillery 3 / 6
3 Air Points 1 / 2
2 x Airmobile Points 1 / 2
1 Riverine Point 1 / 2
3 Replacement Points 1 / 2
7 SVN Military Supplies 1 / 2
Cruiser 1 / 2
Battleship 3 / 6
Total US Commitment Spent:
US Commitment Remaining:
ARVN Starting Supply 28
ARVN Supply Recv’d from US
ARVN Expenditures Cost: Turn1 / Turn 2
Infantry Regiment 2:3 / 4:6
Division Headquarters 3:2 / 6:4
Armored Cavalry Squadron 1:1 / 2:2
Armored Battalion 1:1 / 2:2
1 x 105mm Artillery 4 / 8
1 x 155mm Artillery 7 / 14
1 x 175mm Artillery 11 / 22
4 Replacement Points 2 / 4
Ranger Group 9 / 18
3 Infantry Battalions 2:2 / 4:4
Total ARVN Supply Spent:
ARVN Supply Remaining (Starting Supply + Supply Recv’d from US – Expenditures):

US/ARVN Victory Point Schedule
Condition/Event Turn 1 Scoring (VP) Game End Scoring (VP)
Unspent US Commitment 3 each
Unspent ARVN Supply 1/4 each
VC Unit Eliminated/Dispersed 1 each
NVA Unit Eliminated 2 each
No NLF Units in Kontum Province 5 5
No NLF Units in Binh Dinh Province 5
“Reprisal Target” Not NLF Controlled 10
No ARVN Leaders Captured/Killed 10
US Repl Point Expended 3

Highlanders Scenario Record Sheet – NVA/VC

“Reprisal Town”
Enter Town Name:

NVA/VC Unit Chart 1st TURN 2nd TURN
NVA Starting Commitment 10
NVA Expenditures Cost: Turn1 / Turn 2
Regiment 3:2 / 6:4
Division Headquarters 1 / 2
Artillery 2 / 4
3 Replacement Points 1 / 2
6 VC Military Supplies 1 / 2
Total NVA Commitment Spent:
NVA Commitment Remaining:
VC Starting Supply 12
VC Supply Recv’d from NVA
VC Expenditures Cost: Turn1 / Turn 2
Battalion 2 / 4
Regiment 10 / 20
Division Headquarters 6 / 12
3 Replacement Points 3 / 6
Political Section (max 2 per turn) 0
Total VC Supply Spent:
VC Supply Remaining (Starting Supply + Supply Recv’d from NVA – Expenditures):
NVA Unit Chart costs such as “3:2” indicate a cost of 3 to create the unit and a cost of 2 to upgrade the unit to its “augmented” (or mechanized) side. Or the unit can be purchased augmented for a cost of 5 (see game rules if any additional clarification is required).

NLF Victory Point Schedule
Condition/Event Turn 1 Scoring (VP) Game End Scoring (VP)
Unspent NVA Commitment 2 each
Unspent VC Supply 1/4 each
Captured/Killed ARVN Leaders 10 each
NLF Occupies “Reprisal Target” 10 15
Other Town Occupied by NLF 2 each 1 each
Qui Nhon city Occupied by NLF 5 10
Cultivated Hex Occupied by NLF 2 each 1 each
US Counter Eliminated 5 each
US Repl Point Expended 3

Vietnam: 1965-1975 – After Action Report

Another campaign game in the books! The NVA rolled into Saigon in the Spring of 1972!

Vietnam: 1965-1975 After Action Report

By Mark D.

US/ARVN Point of View

Unfortunately, I was the US/ARVN player…


Some Lessons Learned (for the US Player):

  • Watch ARVN Morale! – US allocations in the very beginning of the game (Summer of ’65) are critical. It is imperative that SVN morale be raised above 70 as soon as possible. Allocate Economic Aid, bomb the North, inject new commitment… whatever it takes to get the SVN Morale above 70. Otherwise, you’ll receive a detrimental column shift on the Pacification Table. This can leave you with a Pacification deficit that might be difficult bring back into balance.
  • Let the ARVN Slack Off! – I know it’s tempting to try to make the ARVN stand up and fight for themselves right from the beginning, but I think it’s a terrible mistake. No matter how judicious you are with your US allocations, there’s no doubt that the US will be leaving SVN long before 1975. Once the US is gone, the ARVN must have enough reserves left to duke it out with the NVA. I made the mistake of putting the ARVN to work, turn after turn, starting right from 1965, but they’re just not effective against the VC. So hundreds of ARVN Replacement points were squandered, for very little return. Let the Americans win the Pacification battle, build up ARVN replacement points to as close to 200 as possible, and then go home. 200 ARVN Replacement points can last a LONG time. I actually lasted over a year with about 25 ARVN Replacement points; I kept rebuilding the ARVN armor/cav battalions, which cost Supply but no Personnel, and used them to absorb losses.
  • Don’t let your large American EGO influence your decisions! – I can think of at least a dozen occasions when I stayed in a battle far too long just because I didn’t want to leave the enemy in command of the battlefield, and it cost me quite a few precious US Replacement points. Fighting the NVA in the mountains is a brutal business. If that first round combat die roll does not go your way (leaving you with a negative pursuit modified), just let it go and live to fight another day.
  • “Special” Forces, my ass! – The ARVN Rangers are a waste of resources in the early stages of the game. You can get 100 ARVN Replacement points for the same Personnel cost as 5 ARVN Ranger Battalions. The Rangers are primarily useful in helping hunt VC, but if you let your ARVN slack off (see above), you won’t need them for that purpose. If, during the later stages of the game, you find that you can spare the resources, the ARVN Rangers actually perform a more valuable service by inflicting a +2 movement point penalty on NVA units entering a SVN national boundary hex (if all 5 Rangers are present; only +1 for 3 Rangers). In many cases this forced the NVA units to use strategic movement to get from Cambodia/Laos into SVN, meaning that they could not attack in the same turn they crossed the border. This small heads up comes in handy since the US has considerable capabilities for quickly redeploying units to meet any new threat.

I’m going to see if I can convince my opponent to post some lessons learned, from the NLF point of view.


I kept loose track of time spent and figure it took about 125 hours to complete this game (over the course of 13 months!). All involved thought it was time well spent.

Gulf Strike: Player Aid

A General Information Tracking Sheet for Gulf Strike

This Game Record Sheet allows for tracking of the following important Gulf Strike information:

  • U.S. Special Forces Detachment Missions – Space is provided for up to 30 Game Turns of missions for all 9 Detachments of the 1/75 Special Forces unit and the 9 Detachments of the 5th Special Forces Group unit. For example, entering “A 1316” in the GT6 space for Detachment 1 of the 1/75 Special Forces unit indicates that 1 Detachment is assigned to an “Ambush” mission in hex 1316 starting with Game Turn 6.
  • Continue reading “Gulf Strike: Player Aid”

Making Special Forces “Special” in Gulf Strike

Tactics for Proper Employment of U.S. Special Forces in Victory Games Gulf Strike


Overview

One of the most overlooked and misused U.S. assets in Gulf Strike are the U.S. Special Forces (specifically, in this game, 5th Special Forces Group and a Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment). Until you’ve actually played your way through the entire Scenario 2 or 3, it’s hard to understand the full impact of the Soviet “avalanche comin’ down the mountain” towards the hapless Iranians and light American ground forces. As the U.S. player you need to maximize each advantage the game presents you. One such advantage in Gulf Strike is the U.S. Special Forces. Provided that they’re used correctly. This article examines the various usages of U.S. Special Forces and provides some specific examples of how they can be put to best use in Scenarios 2 and 3.
Continue reading “Making Special Forces “Special” in Gulf Strike”

Aegean Strike: Review

Introduction

The central scenarios of Victory Games Aegean Strike are hypothetical World War III contests, pitting the mid-1980s U.S. military against the powerful conventional forces of the Soviet Union, specifically covering the eastern Mediterranean theater of operations. The second tier combatants in this game are Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria. There are scenarios that cover other potential situations in the region, such as a war between Greece and Turkey, a Soviet attempt to remove NATO Pershing Two missiles from Turkish soil by force, and a scenario that links up with Gulf Strike. The situations described in the scenarios are interesting enough to attract gamer attention.

Aegean Strike Board Game - Title Graphic

Victory Games Gulf Strike is such a favorite of mine that I had a positive bias before even opening the Aegean Strike box, making the writing of an objective review difficult. But, not so fast… even though both games share a common rule set, Aegean Strike is a very different game with a very different feel and tempo.

Components

Overall, the game components are excellent by 1980s standards. The map is clear and legible, as are the unit counters. Some common complaints:

  • Airbases, and associated Air Defense units, are printed directly on the map – In Gulf Strike, airbases were distinct counters. Each airbase counter had a corresponding box on the Airbase Display. It was a bit difficult to keep track of where all your air units were based, but not excessively so. Aegean Strike has the airbases printed directly on the map. The Airbase Display has a box for each Airbase on the map. The first problem is that the Airbase display, in most cases, doesn’t even show the name of the city; it only shows a hex number. It would be so much easier to see “Larisa” on the Airbase Display, rather than just seeing “1615” and having to look on the map to find out that the city of “Larisa” in Greece is located in hex 1615.
  • Unit counter colors – Everyone I speak to expresses a problem with the choice of colors for the unit counters. Nobody likes the red U.S. units. Why would the U.S. army be red and the Red Army be yellow? I suspect one of the Victory Games suppliers was running a special on red card stock…
    Aegean Strike - The Red Army is yellow?
  • Marker shortages – The number of informational markers included in the game is inadequate. Many of the scenarios list units that start the game with hits already accrued (i.e. units that are not fully “mobilized”). Division sized units will have 6 hits accrued, but there are insufficient “6” hit markers to cover all the divisions that require them. Because a “7 turn” (or “20 turn”) game means 7 turns (or 20 turns) after hostilities actually commence, the game could use a marker to indicate this turn of commencement. “Undetected” markers commonly run out early in the game (before the Soviet navy is decimated). Also, it would be helpful to have markers to indicate successful Close Air Support missions, Declared Combat situations, and Interdiction markers, rather than having to use markers from another game. No markers are provided to identify Turkish Strait hexes that have had their Bombardment Rating permanently eliminated. There are other examples of markers that I had to devise on my own, but I don’t want to beat the subject to death. Suffice it to say that a business decision was likely made to save costs by reducing the number of counters. Fair enough.

Rules Organization

Aegean Strike - Game Box Cover

Like Gulf Strike, the rules are excellent. There are remarkably few omissions and ambiguities considering the complexity of the game. The “Charts, Tables and Examples Insert” provides a good range of examples for some of the trickier concepts and the charts are mostly understandable.

One notable exception is the “Troop Quality Effects Matrix” which probably doesn’t really need to exist. The matrix attempts to cover all possible combinations of troop quality (Elite, Line, Militia) for the attacker and cross-references that with all possible combinations of troop quality for the defender. The cross-reference then shows the final column shifts (+ or -) to be applied to the combat. A quick analysis of the matrix shows that it can be simplified to a comparison of the “worst” troop quality present among the attackers and the “worst” troop quality present in the defending stack. In other words, if the attacking stack contains both Elite and Line quality troops, the resulting column shifts will be the same, for each defender troop quality combination, as if the attacker only had Line quality troops. Spend a minute looking at it, and you’ll see what I mean.

A good case can be made that many of the Optional Rules listed should have been incorporated into the main rules set as they are always used in actual play. In particular, the “Variable Aircraft Speed” optional rule that debuted with Aegean Strike should be part of the core rules set for Aegean Strike and Gulf Strike, since it adds such value to the simulation. This new optional rule takes into account the differing speeds of the aircraft represented in the game. The idea that a Mig-29 just couldn’t seem to be able to catch up to a C-130 that had a 3-hex (i.e. 84 kilometer) head start always seemed kind of odd, so the new rule was well received and widely implemented.


Setup

Zoom in on Istanbul

As always, my #1 pet peeve is games with confusing Setup instructions. In this category, Aegean Strike scores very well, with the following exceptions:

  • Turkish Order of Battle (All Scenarios) – Several references to “within X contiguous land hexes of Istanbul” really shouldn’t include the Turkish mainland, because you would have to cross the Bosphorus Straits to get to the mainland. I guess the bridge might make it contiguous for ground unit movement purposes, but it would have been nice to have some clarity (i.e. “within X contiguous land hexes of Istanbul, considering the two hexes on opposite sides of the Bosphorus Straits to be contiguous”).
  • Soviet Order of Battle (All scenarios) – Several references to “any Soviet hex”. It’s not clear if that includes Soviet satellite hexes, such as Libya and Syria. The legend on the Strategic Map identifies red hexes as “USSR/Allied use”, but is that the same as a “Soviet” hex? The large Soviet ground reinforcement contingents that begin appearing on turn M+5 are directed to appear in “any Soviet Strategic Hex”, which leads me to believe that “Soviet” hex in this context means hex in the Soviet Union proper because I find it hard to believe that the Soviet 19th Army would be allowed to mysteriously originate in Syria. But, if “Soviet” does mean USSR proper, then would this apply also to Soviet naval units? If so, then it would make the Libyan and Syrian ports available only to Soviet naval units that can get through the Turkish Straits before the war breaks out. As a final word on this subject, Soviet Air Units are directed to appear on “any airbases on the Soviet Air Display”, which would clearly include Syria and Libya. Can you blame me for being a bit confused?

I know these are not really big deals, but I just despise even the slightest ambiguity in game Setup instructions.


Examples

There are many good examples in the rules book itself and the “Charts, Tables and Examples” insert (a 16-page insert that contains about 16 illustrated examples of the main game concepts); movement, detection, combat (air, naval and ground), supply, and amphibious operations. The charts provide quick reference for most of the frequently used information and the combat table is easily comprehended.


Playing the Game

Here’s that bias creeping in again, but it has to be noted that Gulf Strike is, in general, a better game. For several reasons which I’ll enumerate when it makes sense to do so (don’t want this to become an article about Gulf Strike!) but I suppose the main reason is that it lacks the sweeping grandeur of Gulf Strike (that’s right… I used “sweeping grandeur” in a sentence), where Soviet Armies maneuver over vast open areas of varying terrain, lay siege to major cities, and direct massive air armadas at enemy armies and navies.

Aegean Strike, by contrast, can be described as “Gulf Strike in a phone booth”. It’s a much more congested space, and the map becomes very crowded very quickly. Not that there isn’t any room at all to maneuver, but the victory conditions in the major scenarios channel all the combatants towards Istanbul; the center of the phone booth. In short order, Soviet and Bulgarian Divisions (and there’s a ton of them) find themselves tripping over each other to get near Istanbul.

However, Aegean Strike adds some elements that are not found in Gulf Strike, such as the uncertainty of knowing when the war will actually break out. This uncertainty factor should be given credit for adding a lot of replay value to the game. You’ll never know how many reinforcements will get in theater before hostilities commence and what shape your mobilization units will be in either. It’s actually one of my favorite aspects of the game. Some of my gaming colleagues see this differently. They say that if the war breaks out very early it favors the U.S. player because there will be more time for them to establish positions before the Soviet armies even arrive as reinforcements, and vice-versa if war breaks out late. Their complaint is that the winner is really decided by this luck element. I guess you’d have to play quite a few games in order to prove or disprove this theory.

The unusual terrain feature provided by the Turkish Straits also adds an interesting operational consideration to the game. How much of the Soviet Navy can get through the Straits and into the Aegean and/or Mediterranean before war breaks out and the Straits are closed?

Naval Operations

There isn’t a whole lot of cat-and-mouse action in naval operations in Aegean Strike. The Soviet subs try to position themselves to inflict maximum damage when war breaks out. The Soviet surface fleet makes a run for the Turkish Straits and hopes to not be trapped there or in the Black Sea when the music stops. But, in most cases, the U.S. Navy makes short work of the Soviet fleet. It’s just a matter of how much pain they inflict on the U.S. fleet before they go down. But it’s fast, furious naval combat. You have to like that.

Air Operations

The air war is also quite intense in this game. In Gulf Strike, actual air-to-air combat happens a lot less frequently than you might think. There’s a huge amount of air space to maneuver in. Since ground combat actions occur on several widely separated fronts, even most close air support missions tend to go un-intercepted. Aegean Strike is a totally different kettle of fish. It’s air combat in a phone booth as well. No sooner does an air unit go “wheels up” than it is immediately detected and fighting for its life. Again, the action is intense.

Ground Operations

The ground war is where the game bogs down. You literally end up with Russians and Bulgarians tripping over each other to get at the Turks and Greeks. In both Scenarios 2 and 3, the larger scenarios, control of all the Turkish Strait hexes is a prerequisite for victory. Which leads to… you guessed it… ground combat in a phone booth. Scenario 2 has a “Short Game” (7 war game turns) and a “Long Game” (20 war game turns). In the long game, control of either Ankara or Athens is a second prerequisite for Soviet victory which widens the game out a bit as the NATO player cannot be sure towards which direction the Soviets will make their major push. But there will also be lots of crowded, intense ground combat in and around the Turkish Straits. Get your game tweezers out, unless you’ve got tiny fingers because there’s not going to be a lot of daylight between those units.

All of this phone booth combat makes for a slow playing game (relative to Gulf Strike). I don’t mean that as a negative at all. It’s just a fact. If you prefer a faster moving game, then Aegean Strike may not be for you. You’ll spend a lot of time looking up detection ranges for various aircraft and naval units, and varying standoff attack ranges as well. It’s too much to remember off the top of your head, but some are worth remembering. For example, U.S. strike aircraft using their ASM rating can fire at Soviet surface naval units from 4 operational hexes away; Soviet surface naval units can’t try to detect enemy air units until they’re within 3 operational hexes. Write that little tidbit down immediately before you forget it, U.S. player.


Special Forces

Aegean Strike Board Game - Special Forces unit

Another key, but often overlooked, aspect of the game is Special Forces. The Soviets have an overwhelming advantage here (30 Spetsnaz detachments compared to only 9 U.S. Special Forces detachments). But it comes down to resource management again. Running Special Ops is like a full time job in Aegean Strike. You must stay focused on where your detachments have been assigned and to what task they’ve been assigned.

Without going into a detailed explanation of how Special Forces work, let’s just assume you’ve got each of the 30 Spetsnaz (Soviet Special Ops) detachments assigned to Ambush missions. There are no game counters to represent these detachments, but there is a “Warsaw Pact Player Record” where you will write down the 30 hex numbers to which these detachments have been secretly assigned. Then you have to watch every movement of enemy units to see if they stumble into any of your Ambush hexes. It’s really quite a job to stay focused on this while simultaneously managing all the other aspects of the game. But Special Forces can make the difference between victory and defeat, so you must focus.


Play Balance

On one of the gaming sites (maybe ConsimWorld?), I saw a post by Mark Herman (the designer) where he said that he never gave a thought to play balance. He was just trying to create a great simulation. If that means one side or the other get stomped every time, then so be it. You’ll find, however, that the realism of the game system puts the burden of success squarely on the shoulders of the players. Just as in real life, it won’t matter how high tech U.S. weapons systems are, if you put a bungling U.S. commander in charge against a very competent Soviet commander. The Soviet commander would still wipe the floor with him. So it is in this game. If you can manage your resources better, and devise a better operational plan than your opponent, you’re going to win.

The rules suggest reducing available supply points as a handicap when players of differing skill levels play, which should work well as it makes it tough for even a great manager to allocate resources. But, ultimately, the great planner/manager will end up with the win.


Scenarios

A quick summary of the available game scenarios:

  • Scenario 1: Battle for North Africa is definitely worth playing since it’s a bit more interesting than the average mini “learning” scenario, and it’s actually quite competitive. This is not a strategy article so I won’t go into detail, but the initial setup positions in this scenario are really critical, particularly for the U.S. player. It will also give new players a good feel for the Naval and Air movement and combat systems.
    Aegean Strike Stragegic Map
  • Scenario 2: World War III, Southwestern Theater of Operations is the heart of the game. If the game could only have one scenario, this would be it. Much of this review is based on my play of this scenario.
  • Scenario 3: Turkish Missile Crisis is much like Scenario 2 except that Greece is neutral, leaving the Turks to their fate against the Soviets. Probably a much more realistic scenario, but I have not actually played it.
  • Scenario 4: The Greco-Turkish War is your “taken from real world headlines” scenario (much like Gulf Strike’s scenario portraying the Iran-Iraq War), where the Greeks and Turks slug it out with each other. The “Game Length” paragraph is comical: “The game continues until both sides agree to a draw or either player achieves his victory conditions.” I’ll leave it to you to figure out how the scenario ends 99.9% of the time. Without Superpower assistance, nobody’s winning this war. There’s a bit of uncertainty in that the breakout of hostilities is randomly decided, as is the setup order (i.e. who has the disadvantage of having to set their units up first). Play this scenario to gain insight into why these two nations (both NATO allies) have not fought a war even though there’s such animosity between them. The Soviet Union may be long gone, and the Cold War may be over, but Scenario 4 is just as topical in 2010 as it was in 1986.
  • Scenario 5: World War III is a scenario that links Aegean Strike with Gulf Strike. I have not played this scenario, but I’ll bet it’s a monster. So, if you like monster games, Scenario 5 is for you, I’m sure. If anyone’s actually played this Scenario, we’d love to hear from you at The Boardgaming Life, to get your feedback, scenario notes, series replay… whatever, for posting on this site.

Summary

Overall, Aegean Strike an interesting game to play, but I would stop short of calling it a “fun” game. Victory Games was just not able to re-capture the magic of Gulf Strike. It also ranks pretty high on the complexity scale so if that puts you off, then you should definitely look elsewhere. It demands attention to detail and lots of planning. You need to be a great manager, book keeper and general to play well. Again, if that’s not your cup of tea, then you won’t like Aegean Strike.

For those who have played Gulf Strike and don’t mind this type of challenge, you shouldn’t feel that, since you already own and have played Gulf Strike, you don’t need to bother with Aegean Strike. As mentioned earlier the two are very different games and you’ll find that you need a completely different mind-set (and battle plan) to succeed in Aegean Strike. Just because I didn’t find this game as engaging as Gulf Strike doesn’t mean that you won’t. Just have your game tweezers ready.

Getting Ashore: Naval Transport in “Gulf Strike”

Techniques for Safely Delivering Heavy U.S. Ground Reinforcements to Iran in Gulf Strike

Gulf Strike Board Game

Gulf Strike is a game of planning. Let me repeat that. Gulf Strike is a game of planning. I could probably just end the article right here and consider it a great public service to the Gulf Strike playing community, but ego compels me to expound. Planning, at all levels, is essential to winning this game, from “big picture” theater-wide planning all the way down to planning missions for Special Forces detachments. This article examines the challenge of safely delivering heavy U.S. ground reinforcements via naval transport to the theater of operations covered by Gulf Strike Scenario 2.
Continue reading “Getting Ashore: Naval Transport in “Gulf Strike””

Vietnam: 1965-1975 – Designer Responses to Game Questions

Rules Questions

Nick Karp (Designer) Responses to Vietnam: 1965-1975 Rules Questions

Q: Rule “5.5 Casualties”, under the section “Allocating Losses” states that “a player may not expend replacement points in excess of his force’s combat strength”. Does that limit apply per round of combat, or during the course of the entire operation? (assume a hypothetical VC 2-strength point battalion)

A: The restriction is per combat round, not per operation. The VC could thus expend up to 2 replacement points per round.

Q: In the introductory scenario (Operation Starlite), the VC regiment sustains 2 losses in the first combat round, and then sustains 3 more losses in the second round, for a total of 5 lost points. It sustains 4 of them by expending all available VC replacement points and the fifth one by eliminating the regiment and increasing the replacement pool by 5 (the remaining strength points in the regiment). Suppose this had been a force of three VC battalions each with combat strength of 2. Would the same sequence be possible?

A: The same result would be possible, but the route would be different. The first 2 losses would have been taken from replacements, then the three point loss would have been parceled out as three one-point losses, assigned to each of the individual battalions. The battalions would then all be removed, recovering 3 replacements. Since two remain unexpended in the pool, five would remain.

Q: If the US player commits offensive reserves to an operation in progress, but the newly assigned unit is not actually attacking the target unit (used as a blocking force, let’s say), does the maximum replacement point expenditure still increase?

A: No. A unit must actually allocate ground strength points to an attack if its strength is to be counted towards maximum replacement expenditure. But even if a unit splits its ground strength between attacks, its full strength counts toward maximum replacement expenditure in each of the attacks.

Q: Rule “6.3 Security” states that “if all the defending units in the hex have retreated or been destroyed, the operating units may continue their movement, perhaps entering and attacking other enemy-occupied road hexes.” Yet the Operations Flow Chart indicates that after the enemy has vacated the hex, the operation ends. Which is correct?

A: The rules are correct. The security operation should have another decision point, allowing the operating player to continue, provided that the hex currently occupied contains no enemy units and provided that the units that continue moving would not exceed their movement allowance (by exiting a ZOC).

Q: If a US Security Operation results in more than one attack (on multiple target units along the roads), does the enemy get a Reaction Move after each successful road clearing by the attacker, before moving on to the next target unit, or does the enemy only get one reaction move after the Security Operation ends?

A: Only one reaction, after all movement.

Q: Are city and town hexes that have a road passing through them considered “road hexes” for purposes of Security Operations? Can a US Security Operation be used to clear a captured city of NLF units during the Strategic Movement Phase?

A: Yes, absolutely, to both questions.

Vietnam: 1965-1975 (Errata)

Errata for “Vietnam: 1965-1975”, as of October 1984

By Victory Games (Victory Insider #6, The General 21-5)

Counters

  • The US Armored Cavalry battalions designated 1/1 and 2/1 are independent units; they are not associated with the 1st Division.

Charts and Tables

  • The Terrain key lists incorrect Combat Modifiers for three terrain types. The correct values are: Mountains -3; Forested Hills -2; Cultivated -(RF).
  • Coastal hexes lightly outlined in yellow are landing beaches (see 3.4).
  • VC Suppply Conduits cost 0 personnel points (the value given on the NLF Player’s Chart and Table Sheet is incorrect). The map is correct.
  • US Riverine points cost 1 US commitment point each (the value given on the US Player’s Chart and Table Sheet is incorrect). The map is correct.
  • The Population Control Sheet has incorrect identifier codes for three regions: Vinh Binh (pop. 8) should have code IV-8, Vinh Long (pop. 11) should have code IV-6, and Kien Hoa (pop. 12) should have code IV-7.

Rules

  • (3.3) Units employing Strategic Movement can be forced into incidental attacks, just like any other units.
  • (4.2 and 5.6) The Combat Modifier for population centers is not cumulative with other terrain in a hex; the defender must choose which type of terrain he will receive the defensive benefit for, if there is more than one type of terrain in a hex.
  • (5.4) A defending stack has a minimum ground combat strength of 1, plus any relevant Regional Forces (e.g. an artillery unit by itself in a town would have an effective ground combat strength of 3 on defense).
  • (7.4) US naval units may never be used during NLF operations, for any purpose.
  • (11.1) Ineffective ARVN stacked with effective units do contribute to the combat odds if an incidental attack is forced upon units passing through their hex.
  • (12.0) Segment 4C incorrectly states that the SVN Draft Level influences SVN Morale. The Draft Level has no effect on Morale.
  • (12.0) Delete the reference to “Pacification Programs” in Segment 5A of the Seasonal Interphase. It refers to a rule that does not exist in the current version of the game.
  • (17.2) The rules refer to the Thai RTA (Royal Thai Army) division. This division was also called the “Black Panther” division; the counters bear the designation “BP”.
  • (17.5) Newly created VC units may be palced on the borders of the regions in which they are created; the production capacities of two (or more) regions may thus be combined to form a unit on borders.
  • (17.5) The heading “Placing VC Units” states that newly created VC units can be placed in any hex not occupied by enemy units. This is true, with the proviso that regional maximums (described earlier in 17.5) must also be observed.
  • (17.5) Sea transport of VC supplies is uneconomical (and virtually never undertaken) using the ratio of NVN Commitment:VC Supplies listed in the rules. Adopt the following correction: Calculate the amount of VC supply that gets through the US blockade normally (per the procedure given in the rules), then add 2 VC supply for each NVN commitment expended to determine how much supply is actually received.
  • (17.6) If 2 or more regiments in an NVA HQ are augmented, consider the division’s HQ augmented (at no additional cost). Once augmented, an NVA HQ moves at mechanized movement costs; its values do not change, however.
  • (18.0) NLF may not be set up in enemy-occupied hexes in any of the scenarios.
  • (18.1) In all of the scenarios, it is necessary for NLF units to capture a population center to receive victory points, not just enter it, as the rules incorrectly read.
  • Battle for I Corps Scenario: ARVN 1/1 was incorrectly listed in the set up as ARVN 2/1. Also US 1/2/1C was incorrectly listed in the set up as 2/2/1C. Play begins with the 1st turn of Spring, 1968 (not 1967). A special rule for this scenario was omitted: There is no Strategic Movement Phase during the first turn of the scenario.
  • Tet Scenario: US starting artillery is incorrectly listed as 8 155mm, 2 155mm, and 6 175mm. The actual initial artillery is 8 105mm, 2 155mm, and 6 175mm.
  • The total population of South Vietnam is 360 (not 350, as the rules incorrectly indicate in a few places). Starting SVN population in the Battle for South Vietnam campaign scenario is 217. Starting VC population is 143. Starting SVC population controlled in the After Tet scenario is 239; VC population should be 121.
  • After Tet Scenario: Add the following special rules:
    a) Begin play with the Unit Status Phase of the Seasonal Interphase of Spring 1968 (not with the 1st game-turn, as scenario instruction #9 incorrectly reads). Since phases 1-5 of the Interphase are skipped, there can be no Coups, bombing, or reinforcement during this Interphase. Future Seasonal Interphases are played normally.
    b) On Game Turn 1 of Spring 1968, skip the Strategic Movement Phase; on all future turns, this phase occurs normally.
  • NLF Morale is modified only during the Politics Phase of the Seasonal Interphase, never during the season (the NLF record sheet erroneously provides a line for morale modifications during the season).

The Civil War: Cavalry “Stone Wall” (Strategy)

“Cavalry Stone Wall” in The Civil War


Technique for Delaying an Enemy Army on the Move


Overview

Even though The Civil War,  published by Victory Games, is a strategic/grand operational level game, the clever movement and reaction rules make maneuver a more important aspect of the game than is usual for titles on this scale. Often times a key objective will be won without firing a shot, as one army or the other finds itself outmaneuvered and dangerously exposed and decides to wisely give up the objective to “fight another day”. This article offers a technique for effectively screening an enemy Army that does not have any Cavalry leaders present.


The Cavalry Stone Wall

An army’s Cavalry is the best source of information on enemy troop movements and can be used to great effect as a raiding force to destroy enemy supply depots and deny control of critical rail junctions. Cavalry, when properly used in this game, can also be quite effective in inhibiting movement of enemy forces. Given the right conditions a 1 strength point force under a Cavalry leader can halt the movement of an enemy army many times its own size.


The Civil War: 1861-1865 Strategy

Consider the following case:

Three contiguous hexes, in a straight line, identified as hexes A, B, and C, such that hex B lies between hexes A and C (see figure 1).

  • A 5 strength point Confederate Army, containing a Cavalry Leader, in hex C
  • A 20 strength point Union Army, with no Cavalry Leader, in hex A.
  • The Union force in hex A moves into hex B, attempting to either draw the Confederates into a fight they can’t win or, failing that, to bypass them entirely and drive deep into Mississippi.

The Confederates reaction needs to both preserve their small army, and prevent the rampaging Union army from driving any deeper into the South.


The Civil War: 1861-1865 Strategy

The Confederate Army in hex C executes a successful partial reaction (see “Partial Reaction Movement”, under rules section 9.3) by sending only the Cavalry force of 1 strength point and Cavalry Leader Forrest into hex B.

Since the reacting force is considered to have arrived before the force that caused the reaction, the reacting Cavalry force is considered to be the “defender”. Additionally, it is eligible for “Retreat Before Combat”, due to the fact that the moving Union force has no Cavalry Leader (see figure 2).


The Civil War: 1861-1865 Strategy

This, according to rules sections 4.1 and 10.1, will cause the “screening” of the moving force, thereby halting its movement.

And the best part of the maneuver is that the screening Cavalry unit can then retreat back into the hex with the Confederate army, regaining its original position (see figure 3).

Perfect.


The Civil War: 1861-1865 Strategy

Well, almost perfect. The retreat before combat maneuver can only fail if the commanding Cavalry leader fails his leader loss check by being killed or wounded.

There is only a 16.66% chance of this happening since 1-star leaders are only killed/wounded on a roll of 4 or 5 (rolling two dice), and 2-star leaders only fail on rolls of 3 or 4 (see figure 4). So the risk is minimal when weighed against the benefit.


Summary

In this example, a 5-strength point army completely stonewalled the movement of a much larger force with minimal risk to itself. You should always retain at least one Cavalry leader with each of your armies to prevent your opponent from running you into the “Cavalry Stone Wall”.