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    NKL Aerotom

    Finished the book “Bury Him” (which didn’t really contain much in the way of combat), and started a new one “Marines in Hue City”, which has some very good blow-by-blow accounts of the city fighting in Hue. City fighting has been one of the aspects I’ve been meaning to try out, to see if the rules can handle it without any extra rules.

    I will type up an “Allied City Fight List”, which will contain US Marines, ARVN, and some of the vehicles used by marines in Hue, such as the M50 Ontos, M42 Dusters, and suchlike.

    I did a small scale playtest of a city fight tonight, just to see how it would go. Just using the small table in my room, and using yellow paper squares as buildings:

    Start of the test – NVA holed up in buildings as Marines attempt to advance. an NVA heavy machine gun is well placed to cover the road, and RPGs await any tanks that get too close…

    The US get the initiative, but the infantry aren’t able to detect any enemy forces. Neither is the M48 tank, but that’s expected – detection for tanks is harder, so they need to rely on infantry to be their eyes.
    The NVA HMG opens up on the squad taking cover behind the M48 tank, suppressing them.

    The US aren’t able to work out where the fire is coming from, and attempt to bring infantry out into the street to pinpoint where the fire is coming from, now that the only squad with a sight to the street are suppressed, making it even more difficult to detect anything. The NVA HMG quickly sees the US forces crossing the open ground, and is able to suppress almost the whole company, as well as inflicting some casualties on the squad behind the tank, and the squad to the left. The left hand US squad becomes combat-ineffective due to casualties, but during the fray the US M60 106mm recoilless rifle has been able to set up in the street, even if they get suppressed doing so…

    Now that the HMG has been firing for a few turns, the 106mm recoilless rifle crew are finally able to detect it, and they quickly relay the information to the tank crew. The recoilless rifle crew are still suppressed, but the tank isn’t, and fires the 90mm cannon into the building, suppressing the HMG for a turn.

    It looks like the tables are turning, as the M48 tank is now able to continue pouring fire into the building with the NVA HMG, and is able to suppress it and cause some casualties. The M60 recoilless rifle crew get back up, and are able to get a round off at the HMG as well, which does enough casualties to destroy / incapacitate the HMG.

    So all in all not a bad playtest, it seems detection is really hard in the city, but once you know where the enemy is you can eventually take them down. It also looks like infantry play a vital role in directing fire from support like tanks, which is in line with what I’ve been reading so far.

    NKL Aerotom

    Now that we’ve passed the busy holiday period, I have a lot more time on my hands to work on this game!
    I’ve been doing some small-scale testing of the Helicopter rules – making sure detection and attacking from and against helicopters is working well.

    I put my nice game mat on the small table in my room, so while it may be my own personal hell of small-scale playtesting, it can at least look nice(er) in photos.

    There were some clarifications needed – some old rules that didn’t fit with the new cover / damage system, and so I’m straightening those out.

    I also typed up the “Troop Quality” section of the rules defining what the qualities mean, what real-world troops they describe, and the in-game effect of each of the 4 qualities.

    I finished reading “Marines in Hue City: A Portrait of Urban Combat Tet 1968”, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and would recommend to anyone interested in the subject – quite a good overview of the city fighting from both the US marine and some of the ARVN side too. Lots of photos too, which help to back up the text.

    Next up I’m reading “The Gunpowder Prince: How Marine Corps Captain Mirza Munir Baig Saved Khe Sanh”, which is an almost complete change of pace from any of the Vietnam books I’ve read. So far the Cambridge-educated Pakistani immigrant with a British accent, known as “Harry” seems completely out of place in Khe Sahn among the US Marines, and yet, with his knowledge of French he is able to read the same books that NVA General Giáp was able to, and use an experimental electronic intelligence network and his extensive knowledge of NVA operating procedures to interdict NVA forces and staging areas with artillery. It will be interesting to see how this one pans out, although I’m not sure how useful it will be to the game.

    Hope you all had a good festive season, I’m looking forward to some larger scale playtests once the helicopter rules are running nicely.

    NKL Aerotom

    On holiday at the moment, so not able to do any playtesting, but I am able to get some good reading in. Low Level Hell is giving me some good insights into scout helicopter tactics and ability, while Jungle Dragoon (memoir of an armored cavalry platoon leader) is showing me the mechanized / cavalry side in more depth. These are both newish areas for me to delve into more deeply, and I’m taking notes as I go.

    Am interesting mention of RPGs going right through M113s from the Jungle Dragoon book:


    Looking forward to getting back into playtests when I return!

    Darkest Star Games

    Ooooo, haven’t read Jungle Dargoon, will have to find that!  Ya, M113s had a lot of space in them for rounds to just pass through, and the armor was so thin that it wasn’t unusual for the molten jet from an RPG-7 to burn through both sides.  RPG-2 (B-40) are different story though as they had a much more fragmentary effect and much less effect on armor.  Vs. boats though, the B-40 could put a good hole in an ATC, though PBRs could take a lot of hits before sinking due to the compartmentalized foam.

    During 2 tours in VN with USMC tanks, my uncle on lost 1 crewman to an RPG hit to his M-48s turret.  He lost another to a mortar attack while laagered and his TC (when he was the gunner, before he was a TC) to direct fire when he couldn’t depress the .50 in the cupula turret mount enough to engage close VC (which is why they went to sky-mounts after that).  Of course, USMC tanks were used differently from Army tanks, as they were “penny packetted” out in 1s, 2 and 3s rather than used in full platoons and Companies (unlike Cavalry troops and squadrons).

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."

    NKL Aerotom

    Ooooo, haven’t read Jungle Dargoon, will have to find that!

    Definitely recommend so far – lots of action, vehicles blown up left and right, lots of interesting tactics and the leader himself is pretty hardcore – wounded multiple times, personally saving soldiers while under fire…


    Interesting point about the Army vs. Marine Tank fitouts – I’ll have to look into that – any chance you can give me the quick and dirty on the weapons on each?

    Iirc I have the M48 armed with the 90mm, a .50cal, and a .30 cal

    NKL Aerotom

    Well I’m back from our 3 week holiday, and managed to finish reading Jungle Dragoon while I was away:

    I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes first-hand accounts of Vietnam, its straight-to-the-point, and full of tactics and action.

    A few things were eye-opening to me about Armored Cavalry units:

    • Crews can and did dismount to conduct patrols, ambushes and even attacks on foot. Often a single crew member was left behind to man the .50 cal.
    • The M113 Tracks were fairly maneuverable and light, while the M48s were heavy and hard to maneuver (I kinda already knew this, but I think I will implement Tracks having fewer limitations on movement, while tanks retain a more “Clunky” movement system.)
    • Tracks could be set up around a disabled tank, and then the crew dismounted (except the .50 cal gunner) in order to create a larger defensive position – tank in the middle, then track around it, then the crew / infantry squads on the outside.
    • Tracks and Tanks regularly fired everything they had while moving, if in a dire situation and needed to try to break out – this will be implemented, allowing vehicles to suppress targets while on the move.
    • Armored Cavalry would often plan bait attacks where a single platoon (perhaps 3 or 4 tracks and a tank) was sent out, after much noisy helicopter “recon” of an area (alerting the NVA/VC of an upcoming attack). The single platoon would be the bait, while heliborne troops and the rest of the unit were waiting nearby. As soon as the small unit started taking fire, the rest of the company would be mobilized to attack. The small unit would take high casualties, but usually the much larger NVA/VC force would take even more casualties once the rest of the company and the heliborne troops arrived. This would be implemented by allowing Cavalry to have heliborne troops in reserve that could be called up at any time, without any friction, as every would be waiting for that radio call of contact, and then quickly scramble to the rescue.
    • M42 Dusters and Flame tracks occasionally taken
    • Tracks were used to “clear” areas around Night Defensive Positions – running down the surrounding bush (when possible) to give better fields of fire if attacked.

    I don’t know how true these are of Mechanized units as well, but I’ll definitely implement quite a few of these ideas, while still trying to keep things as simple as possible. The idea that Armored Cavalry were a lot more flexible than just “some tracks and tanks”, especially the fact that they dismounted their crews, I think will add a lot more depth to how they are played on the tabletop.

    Today I continued my work on the helicopter damage tables, and I will conduct some small scale tests on helicopter damage, as well as start looking at how Vehicles function in the game over the coming weeks.

    NKL Aerotom

    Working away on helicopters and how line of sight works to and from them. I’ve been struggling a bit with this over the past few days, so today just put together a quick image to try to organize my thoughts – once again, its never as complicated as I thought it was:

    • Helicopters that are high and fast (called “At high speed”), have line of sight to any units in a forest, although detection is more difficult due to the cover.
    • Hovering helicopters have line of sight blocked by 1″ or more of forest, just like infantry, unless they are within 3″ of a target, in which case they have clear line of sight (no cover from the trees) Infantry on the ground also have clear line of sight to Hovering helicopters within 3″.

    I’ve set up the testing table, and am working away on testing helicopters vs. infantry to make sure the systems of detection, attack and damage are feeling right.

    NKL Aerotom

    Had a real life playtest today, first in a few months. Went very well:

    Game start – 2 US platoons enter the area, with a Cobra overhead for cover

    A heavily armed NVA platoon ambushes both platoons, attacking the squads out of cover

    Both US squads take casualties and are suppressed, as RPGs and LMG fire tears out of the treeline. The Cobra overhead needs someone to pop smoke to work out where the enemy are – its too close and too many friendlies nearby!

    Green Smoke! The US call in reinforcements, and 3 M113s arrive to help out
    Unengaged US squads flank the NVA through the jungle, catching them unaware and suppressing the right-flank unit. Meanwhile the US units in the forest open up on the NVA, suppressing the other squad. A second NVA ambush is sprung from the top-left of this image, although only armed with AKs…

    The US fan out, bringing a mortar squad up and zeroing in on the NVA position – combined mortar and small arms fire causes the NVA to retreat. Meanwhile the US on the top left move to engage the 2nd ambush position.

    The NVA Platoon HQ melts into the forest, dragging the casualties with them… (an “Asset” used by the NVA commander)
    A third NVA ambush position opens up on the right flank US platoon, with snipers taking out that units RTO. the radio is soon back in operation, however.
    The M113s move to flank the top-left NVA ambush site, causing massive casualties with their .50 cals and wiping out an NVA squad

    The cobra makes rocket and minigun runs on the 3rd NVA ambush position, forcing a squad to retreat among heavy casualties.
    The top-left NVA unit is crushed, and the HQ retreats, attempting to drag the casualties with them…

    In the confusion of tracking down the fleeing NVA, the cobra mistakenly fires on a friendly HQ unit, badly damaging them (essentially wiping them out) – call them off! call them off!
    On the top left the NVA HQ is captured, as they attempt to flee from the M113 .50 cals, right into the US infantry behind them. A heavily armed NVA squad is able to get back into the fight, having retreated earlier, but its too late – the US have secured a minor victory, the Capture of the NVA HQ and the various casualties not recovered by the enemy putting them ahead of the NVA, who gained points for US casualties and the wiped out HQ unit.

    Overall a good game, things were working fairly well. we decided it needs to be easier to destroy units, especially at very close ranges, and I took an entire A4 page of notes for things that need to be clarified and/or fixed.

    So good progress, will have another playtest in a few weeks – which is also good incentive to keep working on the rules and trying to wrestle this game into something fun on the table.

    NKL Aerotom

    Over the last 6 months I haven’t been able to do very much on this project due to starting a new job, as well as doing my honours music degree, and working doing game music… thankfully my honours work is coming to a close, so I’ll have some time to continue writing and playtesting.

    I have still been reading about Vietnam, starting a few books that I didn’t find too interesting, or from angles I’ve already read widely about: Things I’ll Never Forget – regular grunt stuff, Open Wound – more grunt stuff, then I realized I needed to read more company commander books, so I found Your Sons — My Soldiers — Our War: A Vietnam Commander’s Struggle by George R. Mauldin, who served 2 tours in Vietnam.

    This book is great, and jumps straight into the action with an assault on some islands in the wetlands. It clearly details the units involved, their positions, and command decision. It was clear enough that I could “storyboard” this first battle and see who went where and what happened in each bound of action. Storyboarding was something I’ve learned from reading Philip Sabin’s Simulating War, which I picked up a few months back.

    An interesting excerpt about probing fire:

    “Unfortunately, men, we were inserted late today by helicopter. Therefore, any Viet Cong guerrillas within a large radius know that we haven’t had time to move very far from our insertion point. Some of you are just as experienced at arriving at these judgments as I am; however, I’ve got to say it my way, and I want you to do it my way. It’s quite predictable that we’ll receive probing fire tonight, and the VC might shoot some mortars at us. The probing fire will be directed at us to provoke us into returning the fire. If we sucker for their tactics and return the fire, they’ll know exactly where we’re located. And with that knowledge, they’ll have a distinct advantage over us, both tonight and tomorrow morning when we break camp. If they have the upper hand, they can avoid us completely; they can put their snipers in place to pick us off when we leave the area; or, they can assault us before daylight. If they shoot probing fire at us, no one, I mean no one, is to shoot back unless he can see the muzzle flash. Is that clear?”

    Would definitely recommend this one if people are interested in Vietnam commander perspectives. I have another commander’s book I purchased which is waiting for me to read once  I finish this one.

    Rule-wise I’ve done a few small playtests – at one point I wanted to kind of start from scratch just to get back into the game design process, and did some fooling around with making up a ‘simple as possible’ detection and attack system, as well as trying out activation by randomly drawn playing cards. Rest assured these were just tests to see what was possible, and to get my brain back in the game! I haven’t changed any of the actual game systems yet, was essentially just sketching.

    My plan when I get back into the project is to simplify some of the options down a bit, there are a few too many movement options for example that aren’t necessary. I’d also like to experiment a bit with the activation system, and maybe have it a bit more chaotic.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want the game to do, and I want something that is fairly chaotic and fun – so I may make use of the “enemy gets to control your unit” feature a bit more to simulate the dangers of friendly fire and the friction of poorly trained units not wanting to do what you want them to. Fun systems like that (which are already in place for the helicopters) add great variety to the gameplay and make for realistic friendly fire and friction situations without needing to randomize or use tables to control unit actions.

    Essentially I will try to simplify as much as I can of the rules without removing historical flavor, so players can do larger games and focus more on the tactics than the rules. I’d like to have moments of “GET TO THE CHOPPER!” and of the VC / NVA frantically trying to recover casualties and melt into the jungle after a successful ambush.

    Definitely looking forward to getting back into playtesting, cleaning up the rules, and experimenting with simple and fun systems to represent real history. Hope all of you out there are staying safe and getting some games in!


    NKL Aerotom

    Finished off  Your Sons — My Soldiers — Our War, which was a pretty good read. Now on to Comanche 6:

    Another book from the company commander’s perspective, so that’s always good – hopefully get some more good insight out of this.

    I’ve now finished off my university work for the year, so actually have time to get back into this project!

    First order of business is to get the game running with as simple as possible rules – get a good core running, and clear up my line of sight, cover, movement, attacking rules. I’ll also tidy up the rulebook and get rid of some of the extra actions that aren’t really needed for games, such as conducting cloverleaf searches. They tend to add too many options for a player, but I may add them back in once the basics are solid. Ideally the movement, attacks and assets (such as artillery / air support) alone should create an interesting and challenging game, and the extra details should just add to the ‘flavor’.

    Once the game is running smoothly with basic rules, I’ll start thinking about how I’m going to mix things up, throw a bit more chaos in. I’ll likely experiment with random events (52 different events that relate to a pack of playing cards?), friction via activation (perhaps uncertain activation), and maybe even a real-time movement phase (although this probably won’t work with the hidden movement mechanics where one player needs to turn away from the table).

    NKL Aerotom

    Made some good progress over the last few days, I had a review of the rules, and almost everything is looking pretty solid. There are still some sections highlighted for edit or removal, but the core of each section (infantry, helicopters, vehicles, terrain / fog of war, assets / support, army lists) is there and pretty much ready to roll.

    I’ve been examining the activation system carefully, as I think it feels a bit static, where units essentially:
    Roll to activate (either succeed or fail) – > Roll Detection – > Then do 1 action (move, attack, assault, dig in, etc.)

    I feel it would be better to have some flexibility, such as moving, detecting and attacking in any order. When I was playing around with activation via playing cards, I enjoyed having a pool of actions for a platoon that could be used on any squad or squads, so they could move multiple times, attempt detection multiple times (and at that stage attack multiple times, but I quickly discontinued that rule!).
    This allowed you to focus on one squad doing some kind of massive outflanking maneuver, or get your whole platoon to move, but not as far, or a balance between the two, so gave some good flexibility and made activation a bit of an interesting puzzle itself. I feel its important that the basics of moving and fighting infantry is an interesting and engaging game in itself, and vehicles, helicopters and support should just be an extension of this, rather than a way to try to make the game better.

    So I’ve been experimenting with ways to make this kind of flexibility happen and how I can have it scale with troop quality and platoon size. Lower quality troops should be less flexible, and/or have less action points (or command points as some rules call them), while better quality troops would be much more flexible and able to do more.

    This could also be a way to set the NVA/VC forces apart from the US et al., to make the NVA/VC a bit less flexible than the US.

    I tried a few options here, and wasn’t really happy with any of them – looking at rolling dice to generate action points (hard to get it to scale with platoon size without using lots of maths), using playing cards to generate action points (required a massive lookup table that was completely unwieldy – see below!), and a few other ideas like each base generates X action points or somesuch.

    A very unwieldy lookup table for activation based on quality and unit size…

    At this stage I’m thinking that I can just do a small change – allow units to detect, move and attack in any order, and then let a HQ unit provide additional actions at the cost of a skill check (which will reflect their quality) They could potentially keep rolling until they fail. This way units can still do things, you don’t need randomized action points, and you can still send a unit on a crazy flanking mission, provided you can keep succeeding command checks.

    Granted, outflanking already exists as an asset which an HQ unit can make use of, so maybe this whole train of thought is superfluous, and all that’s needed is some flexibility on detection / movement / attacking… but I’ll have a playtest and see what feels good and engaging in game, as that’s what’s really important!

    Also had a quick game with my Fiance in the weekend, she was able to conduct a textbook ambush as the VC, inflicting casualties (the red markers) causing a US squad to retreat through an HQ base, disordering them…

    We just used the old rules so she’d have a reference point to help me with discussing how the activation system could work.


    Thoughts on activations;

    Each squad of whatever quality or training gets a number. Just for example say poor=1 to elite=3. Then the commander’s quality and/or rank gets a die type. Say a poor 2nd lieutenant gets a 1D2 and so on. Roll the commander’s die and add all the squad numbers that is the number of cards you draw. Discard cards of the other side’s colour. Then every number card (you decide on aces) gets AN action and every face card gets either one or two actions or a special action.

    That way a specialized action (whatever you consider that to be) may or may not be available that turn. Also you never know how many actions you will get, just a maximum down to none with an average about halfway to two thirds of the way between that. You can also spread your actions over as many or few units as you like. As in push one or a few units to do a lot while ignoring the others.

    Just reacting to your above thoughts.

    NKL Aerotom

    Nice idea madman, there’s definitely lots of ways to handle this!

    Over the past week I’ve made great progress – had a bit of a breakthrough with regards to both activation and casualties.

    I recently watched a GDC talk about game design, and one of the main takeaways for me was that As you approach the end of the game, drama should increase. This is akin to film and stories, that there is usually a climax at the end of the film, and that drama there should be at an absolute peak. This is the moment where the last squad is heavy bloodied, one guy is carrying his wounded buddy and yelling GET TO THE CHOPPER! as hundreds of VC close on their position…
    With this idea in mind, I designed my activation and casualty systems to attempt to capture this kind of drama, as well as make things more fluid on the tabletop (more movement and outflanking, and closing with the enemy to really finish them off).

    I’ve done some testing and typed up a 3-page “core” document, just covering infantry (and without any special terrain point / fog of war rules).

    Typing up this core is something that I would always start a game with, (and indeed, did start this game that way, back in 2019) – but because so much has changed since the initial version of this game, I felt it was important to do it again. Not too much has changed, but this small re-type allowed me to focus on the important parts without having to make lots of decisions about legacy rules and options. Opening the original game document was a bit overwhelming at times, there’s so much in there. So its important to me to have a very clear core foundation of rules that I can then build on and re-introduce the rest of the rules on top of.

    Without a good foundation, this game isn’t going to work, and so that’s what I’ve been focusing on over the past 2 or 3 weeks.

    You can check out my 3 page “core” document here if you’re interested:

    I think I’ve solved my activation issue. A Platoon will still roll a skill check in order to activate, and double 1’s will still be a mishap for poor and average quality units. If this activation roll is successful, the Platoon will generate a number of action points (AP):

    This was a super simple system that allowed me (and the players) to not have to do anything beyond placing a D6 with the 6 facing up next to the platoon. By keeping this simple and not having to look up anything, or roll any dice to generate a number of AP, I allow the players to focus on the decisions they want to make, rather than how many decisions they’re allowed.
    I also tried out a system where the number you roll over your activation check number is how many actions you get, but this ended up giving only 1, 2 or 3 actions on average, which just wasn’t enough, and I didn’t want to add any more maths to correct those numbers.

    So now we have each platoon getting 6 actions, and these actions can be used on any squad, in any order. Most units can do things in any order (move, detect, move again, detect, attack, etc.), but once a unit attacks, it can no longer do anything else. This would represent units getting target fixation and the time it takes to actually get a unit to CEASE FIRE, CEASE FIRE!

    To differentiate the more rigid command structure of NVA/VC units, I decided to keep them in the old style of “detection first”. They still have some freedom, but as soon as they undertake any non-detection actions, they can no longer attempt detection. I also applied this to Poor Quality units, as this will make all these unit types just that little bit less flexible and static.

    This system is working nicely, as the less squads you have in your platoon, the more actions those squads can undertake, so it kinda balances out casualties, and represents commanders only having a certain amount of attention, so they can’t command 100 men as well as they can command 10.

    I came up with a counter-intuitive system for casualties, after trying out a bunch of ideas.
    My main idea was

    • The more damage a unit takes, the less likely it should be to get removed from the game

    This seems completely backwards to how most games do it, but hear me out. As a unit takes more casualties, the ones left alive will be taking more and more cover, trying to survive, until eventually you have 1 or 2 guys left, hiding under a dead body or some bush.
    This also gives two good results: one is that drama increases as you reach the end of the game, as units with more casualties actually become harder to destroy.
    The other is that once a unit has taken casualties, you can’t just keep shooting at them and expect them to die, you have to close with them and destroy them from close range, which encourages movement and outflanking rather than static shooting from a distance.

    I tested out this core system today, and it seems to be working great. Here’s the run down of the quick playtest I did:

    2 US platoons (bottom) vs 2 VC Platoons. US advance up to the treelines, while VC are waiting, hidden.
    left-hand US platoon is able to spot only 1 squad of the left hand VC platoon, and open fire, but with no effect.
    VC platoon on the right attempt to detect US platoon after it has moved up to the opposite treeline, but are unable to.

    US platoon on the right send a single squad to crawl across the open ground, they inch forwards, attempting detection as they go, but don’t find anything (even though they’re within spitting distance of a VC squad… the VC must have been well camouflaged and had excellent fire discipline…)
    Thinking everything is fine, the right hand US platoon sends 1 squad walking in the open towards the VC platoon on the opposite side of the clearing. In a regular game, the VC would often be hidden under terrain points, so the US wouldn’t actually know they were there. I role played this, because its not a move that a rational US force would take if they knew VC were watching the open ground.
    No surprises, the VC open up on the squad walking in the open, taking advantage of opportunity fire.
    On the left, all 3 lightly armed US squads open fire on the 1 detected VC squad, and are able to knock out the RPG team. The squad is now suppressed.

    The left hand VC platoon returns fire with AKs and RPGs, and annihilates one of the US squads. Meanwhile the US HQ unit attempts to outflank the rest of the VC platoon, moving multiple times and then hiding in the bushes nearby, in case the VC attempt a counter attack.

    I went for a few turns after this, and it was enough to be a good proof of concept. It felt fluid, exciting, there were lots of options for the commanders, and it was all based on dead simple mechanics. I especially like being able to get a squad to crawl up slowly, while the rest of the platoon waits, in order to reconnoiter an area.

    I will next look at trying out Recon by Fire / Probing fire, and maybe some suppression fire mechanics to make sure everything is looking good before I start adding in support and weapons like mortars and suchlike.

    I also have a playtest / ideas session organized for tomorrow with my old friend, who has helped me with many rule sets in the past and is very knowledgeable on military history and game design, so I’m hoping to see what he thinks about the activation and casualty systems.


    ian pillay

    Casualties I came up with a counter-intuitive system for casualties, after trying out a bunch of ideas. My main idea was The more damage a unit takes, the less likely it should be to get removed from the game This seems completely backwards to how most games do it, but hear me out. As a unit takes more casualties, the ones left alive will be taking more and more cover, trying to survive, until eventually you have 1 or 2 guys left, hiding under a dead body or some bush.

    Totally agree, makes loads of sense. It is what I would do.

    I think in the film Danger Close or Once where soliders (the film with Brave Heart in it) that is exactly what happens to the units that got cut off. (I do need to watch it again, it’s on Netflix at the moment) They take casualties and then dig deeper for cover using whatever they can.
    I think sometimes rules designers forget how certain situations would effect soldiers in real life.
    I think your approach is great. Keep up the fantastic work!

    Tally-Ho! Check out my blog at…..


    Sorry for the delay but I have only just had the time to go over this with some degree of attention.

    So if a unit fails it’s skill check it has no APs at all? I would think they should get, say half, but cannot perform some types of actions.

    Can a squad use 2 APs and move 8″? Or do any action more than once? Is there a limit to the number of times one action can be performed by a single squad?

    You have a task difficulty table but what is it used for? Detection only or are/will there be more tasks? Will you define the difficulty of tasks/ Will the troop quality affect the difficulty or roll?

    NKL Aerotom

    Hi Madman – yep that’s correct, if activation is failed, the unit can’t do anything. might be an idea to try out half APs, will see how it feels.

    Not getting any activation isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world – as you can still shoot things with opportunity fire during the enemies turn, so you still have a chance to do ambushes and suchlike. Will definitely keep an eye on this mechanic though – although it hasn’t been an issue so far in playtesting.

    Squads can use as many APs as they like, which means yes you can get a squad to move 6 times at 4″, (24″) if you want to, but they would be completely isolated after that, and no longer able to rely on artillery or air support or suchlike goodies that the HQ provides. It would also mean the rest of the platoon essentially does nothing at all.

    I think this flexibility is really fun in-game, as you can devise lots of fun plans like getting a single squad to slowly crawl up to an area and scope it out, you can spend APs trying to remove disorder from units, or getting radios working, etc. and you can focus on mass advances, or fire-and-maneuver tactics, or anywhere in between as you like.

    I still limit squads to making one attack per turn, and that they can’t do anything else that turn after making an attack.

    Task difficulty is used for a variety of things, from detection to activation to removing disordered markers, calling in support, and suchlike. Troop quality does affect it, and the difficulty is defined throughout the rules, as well as a quick reference sheet for common tasks.

    NKL Aerotom

    Good progress over the past few weeks – my friend Eugene and I had a very good playtest, and his keen eye for what the game is and what it needs to do helped a lot. Eugene was instrumental in helping with some of my earlier games, namely our WW2 ruleset, and has a broad knowledge of history and warfare.

    We cleaned a few rules up, and discussed what the game is designed to do and how to best get those results. After going through the core mechanics, we had a small playtest, and will do another in the next week, this time with the fog of war mechanics in place.

    The playtest went well, with almost no changes to the activation system, just a few tweaks to casualties and retreat checks.

    Since then I’ve been going through the rules with a fine tooth comb, from the first page and clarifying each section, trying to remove unneeded rules and re-type some of the sections that have had major changes such as the Casualties and Retreat mechanics, which are now use an almost identical system of “instantaneous fire” – where a large amount of fire in an instant can be lethal (such as an ambush), but a large amount of fire spread over several turns will simply cause a target to take more cover, and be less affected in the end. This applies to retreats as well – so a withering fire that suddenly occurs is more likely to cause a unit to break, as opposed to a small amount of fire that carries on for multiple turns.

    I’ve gone through almost the entire core rules and infantry section, and am currently up to some of the mishap rules such as becoming “out of Comms”, or “lost”. I have some tough decisions ahead as to whether these mechanics should remain in place, or if they detract from the gameplay.

    Eugene seemed to think this game was more about generating narratives than your average “my army list vs your army list”, which I think suits the period nicely – I always wanted to create tension and have the game create stories for the players, rather than being a simple “lets see who wins” affair, although certainly it could also be played competitively.

    I typed up most of the Allied City Fight list, designed for Hue battles:

    As well as doing the stats for vehicles like the Duster and Ontos, and statting out their weapons. The Ontos required some special rules to cover the crew needing to dismount to reload, as well as the smoke created when firing.
    I’ll need to test these points values out, especially some of these vehicles to see just how powerful they are… the Ontos can put out a LOT of firepower… 6x 105mm Recoilless rifles firing all at once – don’t want to be on the wrong end of that (and NVA supposedly would flee just seeing one of these…)

    Aside from that, my book Comanche Six: Company Commander in Vietnam is going well – there was an interesting tactic where the US were sweeping a bunker complex used by the NVA –  they found a .50 cal in a bunker complex, and so after taking it, they rigged the entire area with trip flares, then set up a mortar team overwatching the hill with the bunkers from their NDP. The Mortar team had zeroed in on the area of the bunkers, and one man from each mortar had to stay awake all night, ready to fire should there be any trip flares triggered…
    The NVA showed up later on looking for their gun using flashlights, and the mortar teams instantly opened up. They didn’t go back to the area to check for bodies however

    NKL Aerotom

    Had a good playtest yesterday, the core seems to be functioning well, as well as mortar and hidden movement mechanics. We did some small tweaks to make units easier to remove from the game via casualties, but I’m re-thinking this today. While in many wargames you’re used to seeing enemy units removed as an indicator of your progress, in this game its more about inflicting casualty markers (and how the enemy deals with those markers) rather than wiping units out. You can still wipe out units with enough firepower, but the norm should be units taking casualties and trying to evacuate them, and (for the NVA) prevent the enemy getting a body count, or (for the US) evacuating wounded / recovering bodies.

    Here’s a photo – probably not much to look at as its just infantry carnage…

    I also noticed yesterday there was a lot of busy work with the casualty / retreat system, placing markers, making checks, removing markers – so I’m doing a bit of ‘start from scratch’ brainstorming to see if I can simplify these mechanics. The game should be about tactical decisions rather than spending time resolving casualty and retreat checks – that kind of resolution should be almost automatic.

    So I’ve opened a blank word file, and am typing up ideas and simple sentences about want from the game, as well as tying out simple mechanics.
    it looks a bit like this:

    I have two main factors I’m trying to balance:

    Intensity of incoming fire
    Quality of the troops under fire

    I feel like retreat / suppression and casualties should be much more likely for poor quality troops, and could happen at any time, even if poor quality troops are in a heavily fortified bunker.
    As the rules currently stand, cover completely prevents you from retreating, and makes it harder to cause casualties and suppression. While this is fine for average and good quality troops, I feel like poor quality should have a chance of retreating regardless of what kind of cover they’re in.

    And so I’m trying to think outside the box and come up with a simple and effective casualty/retreat/suppression mechanic that allows for troop quality and intensity of incoming fire. It might seem like a lot to put together, but if I can find an elegant way to handle this, the game will suddenly flow much better.

    Next playtest we plan to introduce helicopters and the support assets such as artillery and air strikes, so having these casualty mechanics sorted by then will hopefully help a lot as we add more complexity and facets to the game.

    NKL Aerotom

    Last week has seen good progress, I’ve solved the casualties / retreat / suppression issues in a simple way that allows cover and quality to make a difference, and so lower quality units can retreat regardless of what kind of cover they’re in.

    Essentially when an attack is made, a number of D6s are rolled, depending on the weapon. We compare the result of the D6s to the Infantry Attack table (shown below), which will cause suppression / casualties / retreat, or combinations of those effects. Previously I had factored in cover here, which would ignore results of 6 or 5 and 6 for heavier cover. Now cover no longer applies here.

    When a unit takes a “Casualties” or “Retreat” result, they must make a skill check (one for each) group of results, which is modified by their quality and the cover they’re in, as well as how many of these casualties and retreat results they received from the current attack. If they fail, they start losing bases on the table, and/or being forced to retreat.

    This way the system functions using the usual skill check / difficulty system that already exists in the game, and allows quality and cover to make a big difference to casualties and retreating, but we still get more random results from the initial D6 rolls on the infantry damage table.
    The system is done in a way that multiple markers don’t need to be placed, but rather a single marker on the task difficulty table is moved left or right depending on the modifiers (shown below)


    With that hopefully solved, I moved on to cleaning up the rest of the infantry rules, incorporating the edits from the playtest, and then moving to the Support Asset systems. These systems required a bit of re-typing and organizing all my notes (as well as a bit more research on NVA / VC battle tactics)

    I came up with this for the NVA (note there is a separate sheet for the VC, with booby traps, more reinforcements and less ambushe)s:

    And this for the US (which has since been filled out / complete):

    These sheets will allow a quick reference for assets and their effects in game, so players don’t have to sift through a bunch of pages to find the artillery rules.

    With the assets mostly done for the purpose of playesting (still ARVN and ANZAC asset sheets to fill out, but can leave those until later), I tidied up the recon / LRRPs / SAS rules, and reduced some of the clutter there.

    Next up – Helicopters!

    Progress so far:

    • Core Rules   
    • Infantry 
    • Terrain Points / Hidden movement 
    • Support Assets 
    • Recon Squads 
    • Helicopters 
    • Vehicles 
    • Scenarios / Missions 
    • Playtesting / filling out ARVN / ANZACs 
    • City Fight Test 
    • Tidying Up / proof reading 
    NKL Aerotom

    Good progress over the holiday period, I’ve finished looking over and re-typing the helicopter and vehicle sections, and done some small scale playtests of helicopter and vehicle damage / detection / line of sight, so that all seems to be working nicely.
    Photos of playtesting:
    Cobra attack runs and attacks against Cobras:

    I’ve also tried out hunter killer teams (1x Loach and 1x Cobra) and they operate together nicely.
    I put some time into making sure the Loaches worked correctly, as they operate differently to the two modes of flight assumed in this game. I assume helicopters are either “High and Fast” or “Low and Slow” for simplicity, meaning you don’t need to track altitude or speed. Essentially helicopters moving more than 4″ are assumed to be high and fast, and don’t need any marker (and also receive reductions to damage), while helicopters moving less than 4″ are considered to be “Hovering”, and place a “Hovering” marker.

    The only problem with this is that Loaches tended to fly low and fast, and their pilots learned to very quickly asses situations. Actual hovering on the spot was usually fatal for a Loach in close proximity to the enemy. And so I allowed them to move further while hovering, and take the reductions to damage as if they were “high and Fast”.

    More small scale playtesting – looking at dropping troops and ground fire vs. hueys. Line of sight to Hovering helicopters is blocked by terrain features, and so they can hover down low and use stretches of forest to give themselves cover from known threats.

    While looking at helicopter line of sight, I used this time to make some example images for line of sight and cover in general, especially jungle terrain:

    This image is accompanied by example text describing the situation of each unit both to and from the US squad, and showing players the best positions to fire out of forest in order to get cover and not give the target any.

    My current work is the vehicle damage system, which was incredibly simple (and brutal), whereby units simply rolled a number of D6s against a vehicle damage table, so 1 dice roll could destroy / immobilize / disorder the vehicle.
    This seemed to work ok (although led to a lot of destroyed vehicles), but incorporating cover into the system proved problematic. Usually in games in the past when I had a damage table and needed to incorporate cover I would simply just implement a -1 or -2 modifier to the roll on the damage table, however I decided early on that I didn’t want to use modifiers to dice rolls, and instead rely on the Skill Check and Task Difficulty system, where the target 2D6 roll increases or decreases based on modifiers (you can see this system in the post above (Task Difficulty Table).

    At this road-block I thought about a few options for quick and simple fixes, but eventually decided I should have the vehicle damage system be identical to the Helicopter damage system, which has large parallels to the infantry damage system. Having just the one system for all three is the most logical choice, and it works well for infantry and helicopters.

    Upon implementing this kind of system I had a few issues however – firstly it makes it much more busy work (need to roll to hit, then make a damage check based on how many hits were inflicted, cover, troop quality, etc.), then roll on a damage table, and secondly because it made vehicles really hard to destroy. Vehicles are already immune to small arms fire, and so require an RPG or large caliber HMG or suchlike to damage them, so having all these extra stages to get through made it really difficult to actually bring one down.

    So I’ll need to re-think how I’m going to handle vehicle damage, I can tweak the numbers (make it easy to hit, and make the damage check more likely to inflict damage), or I could omit some of the stages, maybe just assume hits and then go to a Damage Check (which would allow us to immediately take cover and attacking units troop quality into account). I’ve been doing a few small scale vehicle tests and will continue until I find something that flows nicely and Isn’t too much work.

    One one hand I’d like vehicles to not be the focus of the game, and be relatively flimsy, but on the other hand mechanized players would probably like them to be a bit more robust, and certainly tanks should be a nice stonewall to hide behind in things like city fights. I will need to find a balance here that feels right.

    NKL Aerotom

    If anyone knows where to find images of VC or NVA with 57mm or 75mm Recoilless rifles – I’d love to be directed to some good photos… I’ve scoured through google image search (both on English and Vietnamese google, using google translate to search in Vietnamese…)
    If you’re interested in what came up on Vietnamese google image search, with a more general Vietnam war search:
    Check this Out

    Made good progress over the last few days, I’ve solved the vehicles issue (simply removing the “to hit” roll, and going straight to a damage check), and had a good small scale playtest with 3 M113s and 1 M48 vs a VC Platoon with 2 RPGs. The Vehicles were able to inflict significant casualties, but were unable to dislodge the VC completely, and RPGs continued to rain down on the vehicles, destroying one M113, immobilizing another, and immobilizing the M48. It seemed a pretty even affair, although I think the VC would have come out worse off from victory points.

    I’ve spent the last few days typing up quick reference sheets for the important parts of the game:
    -Skill Checks / Detection
    -Terrain Points (the fog of war system)

    So that now all the information you need for each of these systems is pretty much in one place.
    I’ve also typed up a “guided tour”, which outlines a good way to ease into the rules over the course of the first few games, telling players what to focus on when learning the infantry rules, then fog of war rules. This way players can get to grips with the rules correctly, and understand some of the differences to other systems which have quite a large impact on gameplay if done right.
    For example, when failing a detection roll, the target is considered “undetected”, and you can’t try to detect it again until you are within 3″. Small details like this make a huge difference, and so I thought it was a good idea to lead players through these details, as I would when introducing the game to someone in real life.

    This game has 3 main interacting systems – infantry rules, fog of war rules, and helicopter rules (vehicles function almost like simplified helicopters rules-wise) which on their own are fairly straight forward, but when combined could be a bit overwhelming to start with. Hence the idea of a guided tour to start with.

    I’ve also been typing up the Asset Mishap table, for the things that can go wrong if you roll double 1’s when attempting to call in support… you can see the allied one below. I had quite a lot of fun typing these up, and wanted a bit of comedy for some of them, such as failing an “Initiative” asset and being chewed out by command.

    So for example, if you’re trying to call in artillery, and you screw it up, the rounds are targeted at YOU, and then scatter away, rather than scattering from your target. Could create some realistic SNAFU situations.

    The Communist mishap table is below, you can see I’m still filling this one out:

    Since most of the rules are all sorted at this stage, I’m just typing up the last of the Support Asset system now – going into a bit more detail about how artillery works (beyond the basics of the quick reference asset sheets), and re-writing the sections about calling in medevac and requesting extraction.
    Hoping to have a large scale playtest either this weekend, or next week.

    NKL Aerotom

    Was reading about an early ARVN battle which game me some good ideas:
    >Lots of arguing between ARVN commanders on the ground and the supporting US helicopters
    >ARVN refuse to take orders from US
    >US refuse to listen to ARVN, and end up landing in a VC stronghold that the ARVN specifically told them not to land near
    >3 H-21 flying banana Helis down, 1 huey destroyed
    >Shit load of ARVN infantry deployed, but now totally pinned down and unable to move
    >Send in the ARVN M113s!
    >VC Keep sniping the exposed M113 crewmen – 14 in total killed
    >ARVN M113 commanders also act as the machine gunner
    >all the ARVN M113 commanders killed, replaced by less experienced soldiers
    >M113 attack falters as they try to rescue the stranded ARVN and helicopter crews
    >Try to break the VC line by sending in a flame M113
    >Flame supposed to have 200m range, but only gets 30m
    >ARVN mixed the wrong fuel for the flamethrower…
    >M113s withdraw with shattered morale
    >We have an entire battalion of airborne ARVN, lets drop them behind the VC so they can’t escape
    >ARVN commanders argue – “no lets drop the guys on the other side, so the VC have a clear place to escape”
    >Paratroopers draw fire on approach and plane alters course, so they end up dropping right in front of the VC.
    >VC pick off one paratrooper after another as they get stuck in the trees
    >Entire battle is bungled, VC escape at night, loading into sampans at the riverside

    Inspired me to allow VC and NVA snipers to pick off M113 crewmen…


    That is a very interesting account! Not much that could go wrong didn’t, it seems.


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