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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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
Good progress over the last 2 weeks, I’ve re-formatted all the army lists, and am gathering information to do a US marines list. Reading “Bury Him”, a book written by a marine company commander in Vietnam, which is giving some good insights. The book started slowly, being in a rear unit and sorting out drug and discipline issues, but after 2/3rds of the book we’re finally getting into some intense company firefights, involving close support from tanks.
Here’s a look at some of the new army lists, should be much clearer now, and I added in options for different unit qualities where necessary:
And just for reference, this is what the army lists used to look like:
Not shown are the 2 other NVA and VC lists (the early and late war ones), the US Mechanized company, and the 2 other ARVN lists for early and late war.
The new troop qualities allow for interesting fights to take place, such as ARVN being better quality than early VC, representing the period around 1961 – 1962 where the ARVN were doing very well against the early VC combatants (before they received AK-47s and NVA reinforcement).
So next up I pretty much just need to do playtesting and get the rules working without any issues, and test a few different mission types and army types. Looking forward to trying ANZACs out!
I will also put together a US Marine list, including things like Amtraks, Tanks and Recoilless Rifles on jeeps so they can be used for things like Hue battles.
Making some good progress over the past week, have ANZACs typed up, solved some of my issues with hidden movement (overthinking it a bit – resorted to older, simpler rules).
Some of the photos of testing and typing over the past month or so:
Small scale tests – done wherever you can find a little space…
Small scale testing cover and detection rules.
Typing up rules on the kitchen table, fueled by tea and chocolate… sometimes work there to keep my fiancé company – beats working in my room and means I can still type some things and be social
Next job is to get to grips with troop qualities, as suggested by a recent playtester, I needed to be able to distinguish between properly motivated and trained army regulars (such as ANZACs or US Marines) and the conscripts / FNG-mixed units of the US or ARVN (or Viet Cong for that matter). – I’ll need more granularity than the current “elite” and “not elite”. At very least I’ll need different activation for these different qualities, but I’ll take a look at the whole task system too to see if I can fit more granularity without adding too much clutter and modifiers…
I had a think about this today, and came up with a simple solution (sometimes you just have to get out some paper and write down what you want – often the answer to your question is not as complex or difficult as you might think):
If you can read my scribbling, I essentially listed the 4 qualities I wanted in the game:
Poor Quality (RF/PF and low quality ARVN units – very unreliable)
Average Quality (most US units – due to veterans leaving and FNGs constantly coming through the units)
Good Quality (ANZACs due to being regulars and keeping units together, US Marines due to their extra training. Hac Bao ARVN would be here too)
Elites (US Recon, ANZAC SAS and suchlike)
Essentially I needed to give them different activation scores, to allow better units to activate more regularly, and lower qualities to be less reliable. This will be easy enough to implement as I can just list the activation score for each unit in the army list. Its pretty easy to remember “Marines Activate on a 4+”, “RF/PF activate on a 7+”
A big issue with trying to get more granularity like this is adding too much complexity and attempting to re-write things that are already working well. This was a big danger for the next issue, which was how troop quality will interact with the task difficulty system which already exists in the game. This has been well established and tested in the rules and something I really don’t want to change – it allows things to be harder and easier to do, but keeps modifiers and adding beyond 1 or 2 numbers to a minimum.
The system looks like this:
So I already have a modifier for “Elite units” – that’s enough to distinguish elites from everyone else. It would be easy to implement a modifier for the Poor quality troops, just applying an opposite modifier. So all tasks are -1 difficulty for Elites, and +1 difficulty for Poor Quality troops. This was along the original ideas I had for implementing poor quality troops, so makes no difference to the complexity of the rules.
Then all I need to do is distinguish the Good Quality from the Average Quality troops – which doesn’t really need much considering Good Quality already have a bonus to how often they activate. My solution: Give Good Quality troops a +1 to their dice rolls when making skill checks.
This allows Good Quality units to be slightly better at doing things (a +1 on 2D6 is quite significant at times), without altering the Skill Check / Difficulty system. It will be simple to remember, as if you’re playing a faction such as the ANZACs or US Marines, all you need to remember is you get a +1 to all skill check rolls. No other units or factions need to worry about changes.
So I’m feeling pretty good about that solution, I can go through the army lists and add in Activation scores for each unit, maybe even make some tables for each unit, so things are visually more like a Bolt Action / Flames of War army list than a nestled word document list. It will clean up the army lists a bit and allow me to have activation scores in a sensible and easy to scan place.
We’ll see how this all holds up in playtesting!
Book-wise I finished listening to 19 Minutes to Live, and got a new book on Kindle – Bury Him, from a US Marine company commander, so should have some nice viewpoints on company command and the decisions faced – might help me with the upcoming Hue / City Battle scenario that I’ll need to write at some point.
Some incredible anecdotes there Darkest Star! thanks for sharing (I meant to reply to this much earlier! must have slipped my mind 🙂 )
Had a good playtest this weekend with an Australian Army veteran, we had a quick game and then talked about ANZAC tactics and formations in Vietnam, which was very helpful and I learned a lot from our discussion. This helped me crystalize my ideas about how ANZACs will work in the game, and we also came up with some interesting ideas for the main game mechanics, which I will test out over the next few weeks.
Here’s a screenshots from the game (done on Tabletop Simulator). VC/NVA Ambush a US Platoon, while a US Mortar attempts to suppress an NVA HMG detachment, of which they can only see the tracers, so they’re forced to fire inaccurately until the closer US platoon can call in adjustments.
In the weeks leading up to the playtest I typed up my edits from the last game, simplifying detection, and re-writing the “Attacking Helicopters” section to be simpler and more in line with infantry attacks.
We did expose a few issues with “eye of god” abilities of the player to target enemy HQ units, and so I’ll have a think about how to prevent such a thing. One option might be an HQ can only be attacked if its the closest unit, or that the player being attacked can choose which squads / HQ are targeted or affected by fire.
Another interesting idea was having numbered tracer markers, where the longer a unit is firing (over multiple turns), the easier it becomes to detect – worth trying out although I need to weigh up the extra player load of tracking this with the effect in-game.
A few details needed such as units being able to re-establish comms, which is something they could certainly do – the whole “Comms down” effect isn’t well documented in the rules, being combined with the “Lost” effect – so I’ll need to clarify / separate those out.
All in all things are coming together, no game-breaking issues discovered, although I still would like to playtest helicopters and how they detect and attack / get attacked before making a judgement there.
Hi Carlos, the dice under the aircraft show the speed and altitude:
Green dice: speed
White dice: altitude.
Hope that helps!
Yeah I vividly remember the issues with larger AA, especially the 23mms and radar guided 31mms – a lot of helis got shot down when they first encountered those in the A Shau. This was covered in Undaunted Valour iirc.
From what I’ve read in 19 Minutes to Live the cobras got low and slow enough to see and fire rockets into bunker firing ports, which I would guess is below 500 feet. What you said about tactics was what I read in most books though, so might have been a unit (or even pilot) specific tactic.
There was even one story in that book about a cobra pilot busting a bunker, then seeing the US infantry unsure about advancing towards it, and so he landed in front of it and waved them on – seems pretty fantastic, but the writer was adamant
Cheers Darkest Star, glad you’re enjoying following development – can’t be too far now until its released!
With regards to realism vs. playability, I’m still aiming for realism, just in a more playable way, without taking notes and having roster cards and suchlike. It’s been an interesting design challenge to meet the same end results only using dice, without adding extra markers or tokens.
Good point about forced retreats, at this point the unit attacked needs to succeed a skill check, if they fail they are forced to retreat. I have read about units of all kinds having to make withdrawals from combat, even VC / NVA. My main concern was to prevent units in bunkers or trenches from being forced to retreat, as they would know their position is incredibly strong – it would require close combat and grenades / flamethrowers / point blank firing through gun ports to dislodge them.
Had a great playtest yesterday, US rifle platoons on foot supported by a pink team (OH-6 Loach and AH-1 Cobra) and a further Huey and Loach.
This would be the first full test of our new streamlined infantry rules, and it went very well!
Sticking with out standard “Search and Destroy” mission, where the US need to search village buildings. The US came from opposite sides of the table, with the NVA / VC deploying in the center.
One of the US platoons, supported by a Pink Team
The game started badly for the US – while attempting to detect enemies, the loach of the pink team misidentified the US platoon as enemies, and both the loach and cobra started strafing them, inflicting casualties on the platoon’s HQ. It wasn’t enough to wipe out the HQ unit, who were able to call off the attack, even while suppressed by rockets from the cobra.
AH-1 Cobra strafing the US 3rd platoon HQ – “CHARLIES IN THE OPEN!” The helicopters were given to the VC player to control after rolling snake eyes on a detection attempt.
Actual VC then appeared from the treelines around the beleaguered US 3rd platoon, with one squad charging against the exposed HQ unit. 1st squad was able to blunt the assault, and the HQ remained in action, although still suppressed. On 3rd platoons right flank, more VC appeared, but quick actions from the right-most squad allowed the US to flank the VC through the forest, and cause them to retreat.
VC appear from the treelines around US 3rd platoon
Meanwhile the Loach was providing covering fire for 3rd platoon, now realizing who the enemies were, when 2 RPGs streaked past his canopy BREAK RIGHT!
The loach was immediately pummeled with small arms fire, and it turned out he was in the middle of an NVA bunker complex! a full strength NVA platoon, heavily armed with LMGs and RPGs opened up on the loach, and one crew member was killed outright. The other was badly shaken and the Loach immediately RTB’d, leaving the battle.
OH-6 Loach under fire “SCOUT 12 TAKING FIRE! ITS TOO HOT!”
Now realizing what lay ahead, as the loach drew fire (just like in real life) the Cobra attempted to get a bead on the bunker complex, although couldn’t work out exactly where the openings were, even while hovering low and slow.
Probably not a good idea hovering around a full strength NVA platoon, as 3 RPGs and a multitude of small arms fire rained into the cobra, killing one crew member, disabling the weapons systems, and causing engine damage, which later led to the engine cutting out. The cobra executed an autorotation and made a controlled crash landing (oxymoron?), albeit in the center of the NVA bunker complex – that isn’t going to end well for the 1 remaining crew member!
The Cobra taking fire
The core mechanics are going well – the detection and fighting of infantry seems solid and almost no notes needed to be taken. The main thing I had an issue with was the Cobra being shot down – I didn’t read anything about cobras being shot down by RPGs, and the loss rate of Cobras was relatively (!) low, compared to Loaches and Hueys. I will do some small scale tests with bunkers, detection, and cobras to get it feeling right. An easy fix might be to allow cobras “direct HE” fire without having to hover low and slow, as the rules currently work, this would completely prevent RPG fire from effecting them, and still allow them to make attacks on bunkers, as I read in 19 minutes to Live.
Have actually made some very good progress over the past week or so. Now that university is winding down, I have more time to work on these rules. Can’t be far to go now!
I’ve been reading this book ^ and getting some good ideas about AH-1 Cobra capabilities, and the way they would work together with Loaches to form “Pink teams” (combination of Red for Attack Teams [Cobras], and White for Scout Teams [loaches]).
One of the main takeaways from the book has been the fact that Cobras could actually fire directly into bunker openings, while flying low and slow – something I will certainly represent. There is already a “hovering” mechanic for helicopters, representing them being low and slow, and all I need to do is say that when cobras are Hovering, their HE counts as Direct instead of Indirect (Direct HE being more capable at taking out Bunkers: weapons like LAWs and Recoilless rifles).
After reading 16 or 17 Vietnam books, it seems rare that new information comes to light, but in this case I did learn something new I can apply to the game!
My direction for the game over the past month has changed from my original “Accurately represent a day in the life of a Vietnam platoon”, to “Lets have a fun game with these Vietnam miniatures”.
I think this is a very important shift in my thinking for this game, away from simulating everything and lots of record-keeping, and towards streamlined mechanics and something that moves quickly and is fun to play.
I’ve had the main changes in my head for a few weeks, but over the past week I’ve been able to really work through the most important part of the rules – the first 15 – 20 pages – which deal with the terms used, detection and infantry combat.
First Hurdle: The Lexicon
The terms (or “Lexicon” to use the correct word) were giving me an absolute headache, what is a “unit”, what’s the difference between a Base, a Squad and a “unit”, etc. So I had to really sit down and try to prune out any unnecessary terms, and see how the terms were used in the rules. I did some juggling and difficult soul searching (eventually resorting to pen and paper), and eventually settled on some hard rules for what things should be called.
This is what I came up with:
My main issue was that infantry squads can consist of multiple bases (squads and weapon teams), but they all operate together, and so are a single “unit”, that always moves and attacks together. I needed to have the same term for an infantry squad as for a single vehicle or helicopter, so I decided to call them all “units” (before I had been using the word “unit” to mean a group of bases that activate together – such as a platoon or flight of helicopters).
Second Hurdle: Detection
With the lexicon sorted, I moved on to detection. The main issues with detection were having to track “awareness”, and trying to remember who had detected what. The solution: remove both of these things. No more awareness (units assumed to be aware enough, unless they fail a detection check, in which case they’re clearly not aware in the right places…), and no more having to track who had detected what: Targets within line of sight are assumed to already be detected if they have been suppressed last turn, or if there is a tracer marker pointing at them, from the unit attempting to detect. If neither of these are true, you must roll to detect. Once detected, everyone on your side is assumed to have detected the target, assuming they have line of sight.
This allows for the scenario I read over and over again in infantry combat books, where a unit fires at where they think the enemy is, then eventually stops and isn’t sure if the enemy is still there – they need to detect them again before firing again.
I also finished typing up my terrain rules around this time.
Third Hurdle: Combat Rules
With detection organized, the last part that needed my attention was the Infantry combat rules, which would extrapolate out into the vehicle and helicopter combat rules – all using the same system.
Essentially when you attack an infantry unit, you roll a D6 for each weapon:
1-3 : No Effect
5: Suppressed + Casualties
6: Casualties + Forced to Retreat
Originally things like cover would cause this roll to be -1 or -2, but my main issue with this system was having to remember the modifiers: I didn’t want to have to remember anything, or modify anything.
I tossed up ideas such as throwing more dice for each weapon, and having things like cover reduce the amount of dice, but the issue there was that a unit in heavy cover could be forced to retreat if you rolled a 6 when attacking them – completely unrealistic: A unit in heavy cover such as a bunker would often stay there until the bunker was destroyed and they were killed. Either that or they would sneak off during the night when you weren’t attacking…
And so I came upon the solution of cover simply negating one of the results on the table. Light Cover would negate any rolls of a 6. So a unit in a trench or in a forest wouldn’t retreat if you attacked them. They could still be forced to retreat by taking casualties, but not directly by the attack roll.
Then Heavy cover would negate any results of 5 or 6. So a unit in Heavy Cover like a Bunker would never take casualties from small arms or indirect HE, only become suppressed. (perhaps not exactly realistic, but it will work in the “game” sense).
The last part of the puzzle is how different types of weapons interact with this system: Small Arms, Large Caliber and Indirect HE treat these cover rules as normal, while Direct HE such as LAWs, RPGs, Recoilless Rifles, Grenades and Direct rocket fire from gunships would only ever allow a target to be in Light Cover – so you could always inflict casualties on a target, even if they were in a bunker. This would mean things like Direct HE are incredibly important for bunker busting, which was exactly what I read from Sons of Kolchak (where they busted bunkers with massed LAW fire or grenades), and Vietnam’s Forgotten Army: Heroism and Betrayal in the ARVN (where they complained about the lack of Recoilless rifles and other direct HE weapons when city-fighting and bunker-busting in Hue.).
Right now I’m going through the infantry rules, cleaning things up (do you really need to be able to conduct “Cloverleaf Searches”?) and once the basics of infantry are sorted I will type up the combat rules.
All that remains after that is to get the vehicle and helicopter attack rules in line with the infantry (not much to change, just some wording and a table each), and then to apply the detection mechanics to the Hidden movement system – trying to keep them the same.
This last week has felt like trimming up a big beef rump: I know there’s a good game in there, but I need to cut away a bunch of fat, and isolate the best parts, then cook them right.
Once this version is all typed up, I’ll re-send it to those who have volunteered to playtest, and hopefully it will be much simpler and game-ready. I have 2 or 3 people ready to personally playtest with me, so I’ll be putting the rules to the test both online and in person, hopefully in the next week or so.
ARVN in Saigon, 1968
Had a small playtest today on Tabletop Simulator, got some good ideas and the new streamlining seems to be working well. still plenty of wrinkles to be ironed out, but we’re getting there.
US Airmobile infiltrate into an NLF-held village, one of the hueys spotting a platoon in the treeline then calling in a Gunship to strafe them…
Sometimes this feels like the most difficult game to get right – especially since its just the core mechanics I’m working on. Usually the core mechanics are relatively easy and are worked out within the first few months (or weeks) of the games life, but with this game I suspect once I get the core functioning correctly, it will be ready to release – as everything else has already been typed up!
I still think a lot about these rules, even if I’m not able to work on them as much as I’d like. Also started reading a new book “19 minutes to live”, about a cobra pilot.
Had a breakthrough playtest yesterday. Over the past weeks I’ve been concerned about the combat rules being too static and clunky, so today my playtester and I brainstormed some much simpler, more effective rules that don’t require tracking anything on a platoon roster. So your head stays ‘in the game’ the whole time, rather than having to jump to a piece of cardboard and track some ammo or casualties.
We quickly scribbled some ideas on a piece of paper: There would be 1 damage table, that would include results like “casualties”, “suppressed + casualties” and “retreat! + casualties”, and each small arms weapon would roll on it when attacking. Large caliber and HE weapons would roll more dice.
When a platoon took casualties, it would roll a check based on its quality. A failure would result in losing a unit from the platoon. Multiple casualties at the same time would increase the difficulty of the check.
We threw some miniatures on the table and tried it out, not worrying about points values or the hidden movement / deployment systems (as the hidden deployment and movement system works great – its just combat we needed to revive).
US hueys and 2 platoons search the area, knowing that 2 NLF platoons are nearby
A firefight erupts as NLF detect and attack US 1st platoon, pinning the HQ and inflicting several casualties. Overhead the hueys detect the green tracers and NLF in the treelines, and attempt to call in air support, but to no avail! Next turn their request is finally answered and fast movers are on inbound with napalm…
NLF emerge from the treeline, 2 platoons attempting to overrun US 1st platoon. They fire on the move, inflicting some casualties.
US 1st platoon HQ then tries to reposition itself, and provokes opportunity fire from the entire (heavily armed) NLF platoon – RPGs and LMG fire tears into the HQ and they are completely cut down – the rest of the platoon is either dead or fleeing, causing disorder in the mortar squad to the rear as they run through. US 1nd platoon is still too far away to intervene, but air strikes are imminent…
FWoooooom! 2 canisters of napalm engulf the entire area, a direct hit on the 2 NLF platoons, and just missing a squad from US 2nd platoon. Both NLF platoons are decimated, with the scattered survivors running for the woods to the south…
Lancer-2 we have scattered VC heading in your direction, get ready to mop up down there
The test was a huge success, the new rules make the game much more fun to play, and they will be simpler to learn (the complexity of the old rules likely part of the reason I’ve never heard back from any of the overseas playtesters).
We also had some ideas about giving the NLF some ‘equally devastating’ ambushes to compare to the US air strikes, and we figured with the new faster and easier rules we could play much larger battles – which would mean air strikes and suchlike aren’t the end of the game, just one small section of a battle. Digging in and Bunkers as well would provide protection from air strikes to some extent – the main issue here was the NLF were caught in the open.
Here’s the original scribble of rules before the game. We added a “heavy ordnance” column too when we needed the air strike
Did the VC cease to exist as a fighting force after the Tet offensive? would love to know people’s thoughts on this, as my sources vary. Some say the VC ceased to exist, some mention them fighting alongside the NVA even after the US left the war…
Actually got quite a lot done over the past 2 weeks: I’ve typed up the ARVN lists, and added ANZACs, after some reading on the subject.
Very interesting to see how differently they operate to the US (being a New Zealander myself) and their stealth and hunting methods: learn the VC routes, then ambush them for maximum effect. I wrote their army list and assets to reflect this:
I believe having all ANZAC units as elite (around the quality of a US Recon or LRRP squad) makes sense, as their field-craft and discipline was pretty superb from what I’ve read (even a US recon soldier said he learned a lot from them, even just on a 10 day patrol).
I’ve also split all the army lists up into periods and factions, to more accurately match each period, so in the early years, there are only VC, while later they get more NVA support, and finally after Tet there are only NVA remaining (although as I mentioned above, I’m not 100% sure about that).
Along with the new lists and splits, come the more varied weapons:
I also added an “AT” column to more easily show a weapon’s AT capabilities.
Planned over the next few weeks is to test out some alterations to Infantry attacks, such as causing a target unit to retreat away from the attacker, as well as some bonuses for flanking attacks. Both of these will hopefully give players incentive to move and outflank more, as gameplay tends to be quite static once battle is joined and all the units have deployed (although the terrain point system allows units to outflank nicely). Causing a target squad to retreat could also make for some interesting situations where you flush a unit into a waiting ambush – a tactic I know was used when possible.
Still reading Vietnam’s Forgotten Army: Heroism and Betrayal in the ARVN, and learning a lot about the ARVN. Just finished reading about Operation Lam Son 719, which was fought primarily by the ARVN, and had one of the largest airmobile lifts of the entire war (210 helicopters If I recall correctly). It was a bit of a disaster due to the NVA knowing well in advance what was happening, and various ARVN generals losing initiative. Interesting to see the extent of the operations the ARVN conducted though. Their efforts on Hamburger hill also surprised me (ARVN 2/3 were first to the top!).
Glad you’re enjoying gamegonegod!
Making some steady progress over the past week, have typed up the ARVN army list for 1960 – 1968:
As well as typing up the terrain rules in more detail.
I have also done a mock up cover for a potential new title – I’m interested in which people prefer – “Boocoo Fire Mission” or “Khang Chien” (which means “resistance” in Vietnamese):
The book I’m reading Vietnam’s Forgotten Army: Heroism and Betrayal in the ARVN is finally getting to some combat descriptions, centering around the 1968 Tet fighting in Hue. This is good inspiration for some potential army lists for city fighting, allowing people to game Hue and other city fights. My plan is to have 2 extra lists available for this purpose:
- ARVN army list with Hac Bao on foot, with 105mm recoilless rifle support (albeit quite expensive as they were rare in the ARVN) as well as more stable air and artillery support.
- US Marine list with M50 Ontos, Tanks and 105 recoilless rifles, some mounted on jeeps. (Usual US list does not have tanks or M50 Ontos unless as called in, randomized reinforcements).
I also plan on finally splitting up the VC and NVA lists – with VC focusing more on hit-and-run and booby traps, and without fortifications such as bunkers and the more heavy support like anti-air platoons. The NVA by comparison would have no booby traps, more heavy support such as AA platoons (with units like radar-guided 31mm AA cannons and 23mm AA cannons), and fortifications such as bunkers. This would also be the time in the rules where I finally give the VC their SKS rifles rather than AK-47s and give NVA their AK-47s.
The other potential army list might be an ANZAC mechanized company, mounted in M113s in order to distinguish them from the regular US.
Would love to know people’s thoughts on potential new names for the game, and if my plans for the army lists sound good.
Its been a good couple of weeks for these rules, typing up and editing, getting things straightened out and making sure things like capitalization are consistent.
I made some example firefight images, showing how things work, which is always a good idea:
I’ve started reading “Vietnam’s Forgotten Army: Heroism and Betrayal in the ARVN”, which is giving me some insights into the ARVN and their operations – lots of interesting information, although not too much on the actual battles, mostly on organization and the challenges involved with things like the “Struggle Movement”. Interesting to note that the ARVN had a dedicated airmobile “Hac Bao” Company, which were elite and used US helicopters to get into battle, and that they could fit up to 12 solders into a Huey, rather than the US 6 or 7.
We also had our first real-life playtest since the lockdown, so it was good to get the miniatures out!
The game involved the “Cat & Mouse” mission, where 2 forces are stalking each other and on a direct collision course. The battle started at night, with both sides unsure where the enemy was. An NLF/VC light machinegun detachment stumbled into a US platoon in the dark, and was able to set up on their flanks, then open fire- causing chaos with the US platoon.
A 2nd NLF platoon then deployed nearby, but was having trouble working out where the US were due to night time and the terrrain.
The US platoon was able to work out where the fire was coming from, and starting directing mortar and small arms fire into the LMG teams on their flank, but snipers in the trees caused the entire platoon to be suppressed for a short time…
At dawn the US had a surprise of their own, with a heavily armed platoon outflanking the NLF platoon, getting close enough to throw grenades and causing a lot of casualties.
A 2nd NLF platoon then assaulted the rear of the US 1st platoon, running across open ground and taking some opportunity fire from the US in their forest night position. The US redeployed some squads to meet this new threat, while others were still trying to overcome the disorder of the initial attack.
US 1st platoon commander attempted to call in gunship support, but couldn’t get through on the radio…
The game was very fun and interesting, both playesters enjoyed and it flowed nicely. Still some kinks to work out, and the terrain rules could use some clarifications, but I feel like we’re getting closer to release. The game definitely needs a quick reference sheet, and now that the mechanics are pretty solid, I will look at doing that.
I will write up another mission (a rescue mission) and perhaps a Firebase assault mission, and the game should be pretty much good to go.
So far 5 people have contacted me about playtesting, I sent them the rules, but haven’t had any replies about their thoughts (yet). This could be a good or a bad thing!
I will need to focus on my studies for the next few months, but I should still find time to type a few things up, and do playtesting every 2 weeks or so.
Had a great playtest last Saturday, which was very illuminating and helped me simplify a lot of the mechanics down, and clarify a bunch of things. As this game is Company scale – some things just aren’t so much in the scope of your control, and I’ve had to choose the things that matter, and remove and clutter.
The playtest in action – the US this time holding out much better, using Artillery preparation combined with an airmobile landing, then calling in cobra support to keep the heads of the NLF down.
I’ve spent the past week going through my notes from the playtest, doing some small scale tests and working out some of the new mechanics. Today I put all the markers and unit rosters into the ruleset, as well as adding a table of contents, and I’m at the point where I can offer the rules for playtesting for anyone who is interested.
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN PLAYTESTING
Give me an email at:
and I’ll send you a copy of the rules.
Since university is back for the semester, I’ll need to focus on my studies for the rest of the year, but since most of the heavy lifting for this ruleset is done (I’m at a point where I could almost release – just need to type a few description texts), It will be easy enough to make the (hopefully) small changes based on playtesting feedback. I also have another playtest planned this weekend, so if that goes well I might start to think about releasing.
I’ve had to kill a few darlings in order to get the game in shape – Civilians are gone, fatigue is gone, and the suppression and attack system has been significantly simplified (although still feeling realistic). I spent today making sure my lexicon for the rules is correct – that words are capitalized consistently and that redundant terms and and rules from older versions are removed. There is likely still some proof-reading to do, but I think I’m most of the way there.
Over the past week I’ve been porting Boocoo Fire Mission into Tabletop Simulator, which allows me to playtest with people on the other side of the world. It took some setting up, but with some help from a guy in our Game Design discord server, I was able to get it done within a day or so.
I got the rules typed up, all my re-writes and suchlike, ready for a playtest, and yesterday we actually got a playtest done, using Tabletop Simulator (TTS).
Setting up TTS:
Its hard to find the exact 3D moodels for Vietnam, but Black hawks and Apaches will do fine for Hueys and Cobras respectively.
Nearly complete set up, miniatures and markers imported, just needed to do the Terrain Points
And so with all my rules printed out and TTS set up, I was able to do a test with guy from the US (I’m in NZ) rather than my usual ‘real life’ playtesting:
The game panned out as follows
US airmobile landed to check a nearby village, and was immediately ambushed and thrown into chaos – most of the squads were pinned down by a combination of mortar and small arms fire (the NLF/VC initially suppressing their own men as well with area mortar fire), and while 1 US squad was able to outflank and hit the NLF pretty hard, the NLF wore down the US platoon, who were unable to call in support (especially after a sniper hit their radio man). The NLF used their opportunity to sprint out of the forest and overwhelm the US HQ, capturing them – A solid win for the NLF!
Some shots of the game:
US units are on the left, while VC/NLF units are on the right, in the treeline. At this point the US were starting to turn things around, suppressing some NLF squads, and outflanking (near the pile of suppression markers).
End of the game, the NLF squads rush the US HQ, capturing it.
As with any early playtest, I took a lot of notes and we made a bunch of changes on the fly. Mortars were toned down, being a bit too powerful, and helicopters were found to be far too unwieldy, so today I re-wrote their movement rules to be much more free form when they’re not landing. The core mechanics worked pretty well – the fog of war and detection rules were fine, although some clarifications are needed, and the main attack / suppression rules worked fine.
Main concerns from the playtest is that the game is a bit bogged down with placing and removing multiple Suppression markers – I need to simplify this and get things flowing faster, but without losing the dynamics of how suppression works in real life. “Suppression” and “Disorder” both need to be examined and potentially collapsed into a single marker / condition.
The Asset system also needs tweaked to make assets easier to access, as in our game during 6 turns no one could use any support. It should also be simplified, as its overly complex.
Over the past week I’ve still been reading through Sons of Kolchak, and getting lots of good ideas about how a Company Commander thinks and acts – what kind of things they expect their platoons to do, and how they work to “unpin” platoons that are tied down. I also discovered I should probably distinguish between aimed fire (generally semi-auto) and area suppression (generally full automatic) – one will inflict more casualties, while the other will not, but will keep heads down more effectively.
Another thing I’ve had brought to my attention (by the same guy who helped me set up TTS) is that the “VC” label is actually derogatory, and that “NLF” – ‘National Liberation Front’ would be more suitable. I changed all the instances of VC in the ruleset to NLF, and you’ll notice I’ve been trying to use NLF in these reports as well.
The same person also made a good case for including ARVN forces, perhaps as a 1960 – 1968 period force. While I initially wanted to keep things simple with the factions until the game was running smoothly, there’s no harm in doing some research – as adding in ARVN and perhaps the various other US allies (As well as NVA) are good additions to the game, once its running well.
And so I skimmed through the Osprey ARVN book, took some notes on weaponry and vehicles used, and also ordered “Vietnam’s Forgotten Army: Heroism and Betrayal in the ARVN”, which I will read after I finish Sons of Kolchak. It will hopefully give me a good insight into ARVN operations, as its an aspect of the war that is often ignored in the west and a very important aspect of the war. As games are a good way to teach people, it is my duty as a game designer to get the names of factions correct (usually using their point of view, rather than the opponents), as well as representing important factions and giving players the ability to game important battles. The ARVN forces have enough difference to be distinguished from the US, as they generally used M-2 Carbines and WW2 era scout cars and half tracks until around 1968 when things started getting phased out in favor of M113s, Chaffees, and M-16s. They also had very limited Artillery and helicopter support at times.
And I almost forgot, I designed a Time of Day Roundel – for keeping track of the time:
I still need to fix the arrows and borders of the inner areas a bit, but it should be mostly done.
Making good progress over the past week, have pretty much sorted out the new casualty tracking rules, to fit the smaller new Platoon rosters, and did some very small scale play-testing to see how they worked:
Not even worth setting up a table, just needed to know how 2 platoons going head to head would ‘feel’ with the new casualty tracking.
I had to really force myself to get to a decision on how these rules would work – the main issue being how KIA and wounded results would work when both are trying to be tracked on the same “Casualty Track” (a track of 10 boxes). Its still not 100%, but I only have a few small decisions to make on it. I also made Suppression a bit more intense – preventing a unit from being able to fire back at all, rather than just making attacks more difficult to ‘hit’. This is in line with the ethos on bob’s wargame website (which has some superb articles on firepower and infantry combat – well researched from military reports)
Bob’s Wargame website (the Essay section):
And the specific article I’m referring to:
His definition of Suppression is “not being able to fire”, and while that’s not always the case – it will be my definition for this game as well, for simplicity and because it feels right in-game – when a unit can still fire while “suppressed” it feels like suppression isn’t doing very much.
After fixing up these rules, I found myself jumping around the rules (its about 50 pages long) and typing random sections – which is not good. So today I decided I needed milestones in order to get these rules ready for a potential playtest this sunday. I scrawled the following milestones:
And today, I’ve stuck pretty much exclusively to this list – working primarily on the how the new Support Asset system (drawing cards the correspond to a certain type of support) works with the old “You can request anything” system. I made Medevacs and Requests for Extraction “Always available” as a request, not relying on having the right Asset cards in your hand, while everything else like air strikes, artillery, supply drops etc, would be dependent on which cards you had. Artillery for the US is weighted slightly higher than normal, so it would be more common to draw, as it really was the backbone of most infantry operations.
I tested drawing 4 cards for each faction, and it felt right – so that’s a good start.
Made some good progress over the past few days – the turn structure is sorted, and the detection, attack and casualty rules are nearing completion. I’ve managed to distill my ideas down to their simplest form (hopefully), and thanks to Stephen’s suggestions above, I’ve made good progress on the stance rules.
Stephen’s suggestions were along the lines of limiting how far a unit could move without provoking attacks, and I did something along the same lines in Cornered Wolf, where my MO was not to use any markers or tokens at all for the entire game. I had to get creative with the suppression rules for that game, and representing stance without markers also calls for simple creative solutions.
And so my solution was to have “Opportunity” attacks and detection if a unit moves while within line of sight of an enemy. Depending on how far they move, they could provoke opportunity detection attempts, or opportunity fire, or both. This is also tied into the Awareness of units – unit that aren’t aware won’t have the same options for opportunity fire.
The essence of my plan is broken down as follows:
The real core of this game is the detection, attack and casualty rules, with the movement rules tied into these, so now that I’ve made some good progress on this core, the rest of the rules I’ve already written will fall into place. I’m not planning to re-write the entire ruleset – just this core in order to simplify and clarify the core rules.
The main thing remaining of this ‘core’ is how casualties are tracked and when units will start to roll to “Scatter” (which essentially removes them from the game). I’m hoping to make these decisions tomorrow and maybe do some small scale playtests to see if they feel right.
After finishing this ‘core’, the next step will be to slightly re-word the Support section (Where you used to be able to call in air strikes, request artillery, reinforcements, extraction, etc.) in order to line up with the way Assets are used. I still want players to be adjusting artillery and calling in support, but it will be based on what is available via the Asset cards, rather than choosing any support and rolling each turn to see if it is available.
Good progress today, re-arranged the turn order so that there is an Asset phase at the end of the turn rather than rolling to determine what kind of turn takes place – this will keep the flow going and mean players can better manage their assets.
I also implemented a way to favor the assets you want to use, as well as a friction element, having to roll each turn for the asset you want to use until you succeed.
The Asset rules are shaping up as follows:
This way players can focus their attention on getting one asset off, discarding assets they don’t want / need. They will still be limited by the available options though.
I have quite a bit of work to do before I can get this to playtesting now, but I think it will be worth it – taking it from a quite static game into something much more fluid and with lots of give and take.
My MO for these next few weeks is to write a small core of simple-as-possible rules in order to playtest these basic mechanics. All the more advanced rules I’ve already written will be kept aside until the core is running nicely. Things like the weapons tables will stay the same, and its likely things like helicopters and vehicles won’t change. I’ll mostly be focusing on getting the platoons and infantry working right – which is the core of the game anyhow.
Plenty of work ahead, but well worth it to shape this game into something quicker and more fun – as fun should be at the forefront. If something aint fun, keep changing it until it is.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Stephen – lots of great ideas as always. You’re dead right that I need to choose the details I want to represent, and I shouldn’t try to represent everything…
Lots of good ideas on stance and activation there too.
I seem to be in the middle of a quite substantial re-write, simplifying a bunch of things and attempting to shape the game into something much faster and more fluid. Will post updates once I have things sorted out
Did some more “gutting” today – stripping out the old casualty rules so they will line up with the new platoon roster, and simplify things down so you don’t need to track different kinds of casualties on dice. Casualties will now be tracked using a pencil, with a / mark indicating a light wound, and a X mark indicating a severe wound / KIA. These marks will be made on the platoon roster, which will be small enough to sit next to the miniatures.
Speaking of which, here is my mock up for the platoon roster – this time using Gravit Designer (which is much better for this kind of mock up than paint.net).
The “aware” box will start off unchecked, then become checked once the unit detects enemy or gets fired upon.
Ammo will function as it did, but casualties will now show that the unit is in “Heavy Casualties” without needing a separate marker.
I also did quick tables for what the operational assets might be for the US and VC:
The effect of each card at this stage is just an idea, these things will be solidified during the next week and next playtests.
There’s a feeling of fresh air coming over the ruleset, as I discard some of the stuffy mechanics from earlier this year. I won’t throw out everything, as many mechanics are working well, but I’m hoping to make the rules faster, and more action-packed, with a bit more randomness in regards to what support you can call on. This will add an element of resource management to the command decisions.
I do need to be careful with the whole “Draw cards to do stuff” idea, as things like Air Strikes and Artillery played a huge part in the US tactical operations, especially if a unit was in contact. I will need to give the US ways to get the cards/assets they need, although perhaps sometimes having to wait a turn or two. Likewise for the VC – I don’t want to have it solely random as to what operational assets can be used, t here needs to be some kind of mitigating element to the randomness, whether this comes from being able to draw more cards, or look through the deck, or have some cards as multi-use, or combining together to create different effects (like a 5 and a 7 being able to combine to get an air strike).
Cheers Darkest Star, I’ll check that forum out and probably post my rules once they’re ready for wider playtesting (I’ll post them here too…)
Finally been able to do some typing on this project, and crystallize my thoughts on this project over the last few months. It’s always scary when you don’t write something for many months (will I actually finish this game? am I needlessly re-thinking the mechanics, over and over in a never-ending loop?) but once you’re back into it, that fear goes away.
The main thing I wanted to change was the flow of the turns – players needed more control over being able to move troops longer distances and organize air support / tunnel movements, etc. without having to place markers and wait a number of turns. Reading “Sons of Kolchak” helped to give inspiration on how a Company Commander thinks and what he’s able to do. Its not so much about the “day in the life” of an infantryman (which was the way I had been writing the game), but its more a selection of engagements, movements and reactions.
So over the past 2 days I’ve been typing up how the turns should work: I knew I wanted 2 distinct phases – a tactical phase (with troop movements on the ground) and an operational phase (with air support called in, more ‘strategic’ long distance troop movements, and so forth). These 2 phases could be interchanged at a cost to the commander (so they could use an operational asset during a tactical phase, but it would cost them perhaps an extra operational asset discarded).
I thought how to determine what kind of phase would take place – a simple D6 based system, or using playing cards drawn from a deck to determine turn order and which player could activate (like our Cornered Wolf game), but eventually settled on a simple D6 system at the start of each turn: – 1-4 the turn would be Tactical, 5-6 the turn would be Operational.
I also needed a way to change the time of day without doing it completely randomly – I though about different types of randomness and decided I needed a track on which a marker would advance randomly, it would spend a at least a few turns in daytime, then at least a few turns in night time. The changes can be seen below:
The Idea of Operational Assets came to me today – instead of players purchasing tunnels or waiting for their troops to call in air strikes, why not have a deck of cards, from which they can choose which asset to use in-game. This would play right into the hand of the Friction that I desire in the game play – you might really need an air strike, but all you have is mechanized infantry reinforcements, which will take time to get across the table. Or you might really need a tunnel system to get out, but its not there…
I’m also looking at making the Platoon / Unit Roster much smaller and more compact (only showing the ammunition and casualties of a unit) so it can be placed next to the unit instead of being a large thing which tracks a bunch of stuff off the side of the table. This will help keep players immersed and show directly the condition of a platoon.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to get rid of a lot of the game markers – for example instead of using markers to show prone / running / etc. , using a reaction fire system, where depending on how far you move, the enemies fire has a different effect. For example if you crawl 2″, the enemy will not be able to inflict casualties, but if you move at a full run, the enemy can inflict casualties, disorder, and suppression.
I don’t know if the reaction fire system will work, as its quite alien to the current system, but I will attempt to get rid of unnecessary markers. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I thought about having markers showing stance, so that individual squads could have their own stance rather than tracking it on the platoon roster. There would only need to be 3 states – prone, cautious-upright, and oblivious / running. This could be represented with a triangular piece of cardboard (like an A-frame house – although this would become a mess in larger games) or by only representing 2 of the 3 states with markers, so that the most common state would require no marker. I will need to think about this further…
To do in the future: I need to design the Time Marker track, a circular track with 4 spaces, and I also need to design the new, more compact, Unit Roster.
Our wargames club reopens this sunday, so I might be able to get a playtest in, but 2 of my playtesters can’t make it, so I’ll have to check with another.
While I Haven’t actually typed anything to do with this game for a while, I have been thinking a lot about it – primarily about what my game does vs. what I want my game to do. It does represent a ‘realistic / slice of life’ simulation at the moment, but I personally wanted something more chaotic and abstracted – and faster playing, with less note-keeping and more maneuver and tactical decisions.
In light of that, I’ve been thinking about simplifying the platoon roster, to cover just casualties and ammo, and to come up with a better stance / awareness system that could be represented with markers, and allow more flexibility to squads, rather than having to set your stance as an entire platoon, which is unrealistic has already been earmarked for altering.
Our country is coming out of COVID-19 lockdown, so should be able to get our wargame club going again in a few weeks, which means playtesting can continue, and that will give some impetus for getting the next draft of rules ready, and whipping up some simplified platoon rosters.
I’ve also began reading “Sons of Kolchak”, which is a company commander’s view of the war, and providing some good inspiration for the kind of maneuver warfare and chaos (as well as small details) I’d like to see on the tabletop.
I’ve also been thinking about variable platoon leader quality, so you could have a green platoon leader who gets lost and accidentally shoots friendlies, while a veteran leader would be much more effective.
Re awareness: the state of each unit – oblivious, aware, or some kind of heightened awareness such as when on ambush. Each would have a different effect on detection and friendly fire too – jumpy units on ambush in the middle of the night are likely to open fire on anything that wanders into their line of sight…
As for the concerto, the first movement is finished, you can listen to it here:
Been a while since I’ve had a chance to do much work on this, what with university and the current virus lockdown. Without playtesting to motivate me to get a new version of the rules ready every 2 weeks, I’ve been working on other projects instead (namely a piano concerto and some uni assignments).
Over the last week I’ve been thinking about ways to potentially streamline the detection and spotting system, perhaps having 3 levels of “Situational Awareness” that will determine what can be detected and attacked. Now that the rules are functioning and we’ve done some tests, I think the detection and some of the tracking systems such as the detailed casualties tracking are a bit much, so I’ll look at scaling them back – perhaps down to a simple tally sheet for casualties.
Having some distance from the rule set allows me to think about my original intentions with the game, and if the current rules are serving that vision. I imagined a clear, clean game with plenty of friction, with the players attempting to struggle control back from chaos (coming from the rules themselves, and the opponent). I definitely think I have a way to go to achieve this goal, although many of the systems are working very nicely so far.
Hope everyone reading stays safe in this time and is able to get some painting done, or even some solo gaming or getting some roll20 / VASSAL / tabletop simulator games in.
Hi whirlwind, the mat is from Deep Cut Studio, it’s a 6′ x 4′, pvc with a custom image I asked for – “european fields with no water, suitable for ww1 or WW2 air combat”. It works great for Vietnam too, thankfully. I would order the neoprene version if I bought it again, as they sit perfectly flat
Made some good progress on the rules, have typed up all the edits from last playtest, and hope to get in another playtest this sunday.
Also added some rules for deployment in smaller games (using half the table), and in larger games (allow the US to enter from multiple table edges and split their forces) at the request of my playtester, so we’ll see how those work next time.
These rules are almost at the point where I can invite people to playtest them – usually I would make a post on The Wargames Website or certain facebook groups and get people to email me if they are interested in getting a copy of the rules and trying them out.
Another good playtest on sunday – I played the VC and my opponent took a US patrol on foot to check some villages. I placed a LMG ambush team near the village, and the ambush gameplay – suppressing and disordering the US platoon initially, but then recovering, working out where the fire was coming from, then calling in accurate mortar fire on the LMGs – worked perfectly.
There are still some teething issues with when VC units can activate – I played them as if they needed some kind of message to activate, which would have relied on civilian lookouts, or orders from Company HQ. This resulted in most of the VC forces waiting around for the game, while the US conducted searches of a village, medevaced their wounded and generally had the run of the place.
We decided the VC should be able to activate whenever they liked, whether this would just happen automatically (as we played last game), or if we should get civilians in there, it makes for a much more interesting game – as the VC can re-position and set up new ambushes, which puts time pressure and stress on the US player. While the game we played felt like an accurate “day in the life” of US forces, it didn’t make for really engaging, exciting gameplay – and since this is a game, gameplay is the most important!
The playtester really enjoyed the more narrative elements of the game, especially the reasons why US units didn’t activate – such as being too lazy, expending ammo, or having accidental casualties. It caused us to come up with interesting stories, like the US platoon searching a village and shooting a bunch of dogs, or just wasting ammo while doing so. Or after a very small engagement (with the LMG ambush), one of the US soldiers shot himself in the foot to try to get out of duty.
We also had a US Recon squad for the first time, which caused us to work out some rules for Recon units moving around and what happens if they come across enemy forces while moving.
So this is the main thing I will be looking at over the next few weeks – how to integrate civilians with the Terrain Points without giving away the position of VC forces, and how to treat VC hidden movement – they should be able to move about, but it should take time to set up new ambushes.
Making good progress on typing up all the edits – everything is pretty much done! We’ll be looking at another playtest this Sunday.
Made quite a few substantial edits to how things work, completely removing the Hidden Movement phase, and instead incorporating it into regular Activation. We found the VC had too much freedom to move around when they had an entire phase to move everything, and so instead we will force them to choose only a few units to activate and move.
Posting some of the Line of Sight images I did recently too, just so this post has some image content!
Just took photos of my miniatures, then added annotations with paint.net.
I’m almost at the point where I would make some posts on various forums asking people if they would like to playtest these rules – I’m essentially almost at a “complete first draft” stage.
Now that the game is running well after having a lot of things stripped out (such as civilians, booby traps, and the US hidden movement / deployment / recon squads) I can begin to slowly add them back into the game one by one. This staggered approach allows us to work through the basics of the rules – seeing what needs to be altered in order to function correctly, and then add in the more advanced rules, testing and modifying them as we go.
If I started the game with Everything already in place, it would be much harder to learn and to work out what is causing the problems.
Next up I need to type up the booby trap rules, and provide some image examples of how platoon firefights function. I also need to look at the civilian rules, and how they interact with hidden units at Terrain Points, without giving away the position of those units.
Ok so now we’ve had 2 large-scale playtests, I have a lot of notes to go through and edits/clarifications to make. This is my actual notes sheet from the last game (there was this sheet + another half page in total) I just make a note every time something doesn’t make sense, or a rule is missing, or needs to be changed, or clarified:
Generally you take a lot of notes in the early playtests, then as the testing goes on, you take less and less notes, until eventually you’re playing games without make any changes to the rules (by that point you know the game’s pretty much done).
So I will be working through this list one by one, fleshing out or adding rules to accommodate or mitigate issues or situations we encountered. I also want to re-type or at least rearrange the infantry section so it flows better and gives the player more detail on exactly how combat functions. Because this is the heart of the game, it’s well worth spending a lot of time on that section; making sure it reads well and creates a clear understanding of how the game flows. I will likely take some example photos too for Line of Sight examples and suchlike.
Another thing I need to do is whip up some quick reference sheets – it feels like the kind of game where we’re have an infantry quick reference page, and a helicopters quick reference page, and then a section for making requests (like artillery, medevac, air support, etc.).
The basics of the game are working, but they still have some wrangling to keep them in line with the gameplay and fun I want out of the game, so still plenty of work ahead. We will have another playtest in just under 2 weeks, so everything should be clarified / filled out by then, and I’ll be expecting to play a much more coherent and balanced game.
Ok both playtests are done – the first was a bit rocky, being the very first full scale playtest with hidden movement, but we managed to have an interesting engagement. The second playtest was very successful, with a lot of crazy shit going down, and lots of fun (and friction!). Both games I took over a page of notes, and was able to type up the changes from playtest 1 before moving on to the next one (them having a day between them). I’m feeling pretty confident with the rules now – that they will be fun and engaging, and everything else is just playtesting, polishing, testing balance, and clarifying rules. It will still be a long process ahead, but at least the initial large scale playtest period has been successful – the proof of concept that its a fun game.
A few photos from the playtests:
1st playtest: 3 US platoons sweep through rural Vietnam, about to search 2 villages for stashes or VC activity
a Heavily armed VC platoon emerges in the treeline…
Springing a massive ambush, which initially did lots of casualties, but the US were able to immediately get accurate mortar fire onto the VC platoon, pinning it down while the other platoons nearby came up to assist.
An airmobile US platoon en route to an LZ near a village to be searched, the hueys hover in to insert…
…and the lead Huey is hit by an RPG from a nearby section of jungle! the US player (me) had their platoon HQ in there! that’s not good. The huey loses control and crashes nearby, although the pilots try their best to control the landing, there are no survivors… Lesson learned: don’t put the HQ in the lead helicopter! now the Platoon won’t be able to call in support…
The remaining 3 Hueys insert their squads, although the 2nd huey lands over a piece of jungle, and the aircraft catches a stray tree branch, sending it hurtling forward – it collides with the front huey and both go down in fiery balls! thats 3 / 4 helis down! Another lesson learned – always insert into open areas! – don’t try to land near jungle!
The cut off US platoon is strongly equipped with M60s and M79s, so can hold its own, they’re taking fire from a nearby the Sniper Valley Terrain Point… and they attempt to pin it down with help from the remaining huey:
A medium-sized VC platoon reveals from Sniper Valley, and a massive firefight ensues… 3rd US squad crawls frantically around the left side in order to flank the VC position….
The US, while taking a bunch of casualties on the way in, start to turn the tide on the VC platoon, even without any artillery or air support, although another VC platoon is in the nearby village, and starting closing in…
A Radar-guided 37mm opens fire on the remaining Huey, luckily only hitting the fuel tank and forcing the Huey to RTB…
The US platoon charge at the VC, running forwards with M16s blazing, and throwing grenades – causing massive casualties on the wavering VC platoon – who is attempting to break contact and retreat back to the village – although they also want to withdraw with their casualties, giving the US no body count, so the withdrawal is slow and fierce!