Saturday, 26 March 2022

Vietnam 1962 – Chain of Command

I have always enjoyed playing Chain of Command (CoC) by the Two Fat Lardies. Originally written for
late World War Two, I have enjoyed playing CoC games ranging from the First World War to Vietnam. Today I organised a CoC game set in Vietnam using the rules supplement “Chain of Command DMZ- Second Tour”, by Jason Sendjirdjian of 

Jason’s supplements cover both the war in South Vietnam and the earlier French Indo-China war; there is other material of interest on Jason’s blog too.

Our game was set in South Vietnam in 1962, the time of Premier Diem, when there were about 15,000 US military “advisors” in South Vietnam’ the crashed light aircraft represents one such US intervention “Operation Farm-Gate”. 

The USA had long been involved with Vietnam in some way or other. In WW2 the US supporting the Vietnamese nationalists/communists against the Japanese and then the French against the same nationalist/communists. The protagonists in our game however, were strictly The Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and the communist Viet Cong (VC). 

At this stage of the Vietnam conflict, engagements were mostly of a small scale, unlike those following the deployment of thousands of US troops to South Vietnam.

Senator John F Kennedy (in the rear right) visiting French Indo China in 1951. Kennedy was critical of US support for the French saying “We have allied ourselves to the desperate effort of a French regime to hang onto the remnants of empire”, but once he became The US President he supported The South Vietnamese Government, in their struggle against the same foe. After President Kennedy was assassinated (1963), his successor President LB Johnson committed US troops directly to the support of South Vietnam. By 1967 there were around 525,000 US military personnel in South Vietnam.

1953, US Vice President Richard Nixon visits French Union forces south of the Red River Delta, near Hanoi. The VP said he was impressed with the high morale of the French Union troops and this was a rugged and rough war. President Nixon ended Americas involvement in Vietnam in 1973.

The Game
All four players in our game were familiar with the main CoC rules, which made being the GM much easier, once the Vietnam specific rules had been explained. 

The army lists for both armies are available on Jason’s site, for those interested. 

The ARVN is based along reasonably conventional military lines, equipped with US military equipment. The VC are equipped with Soviet/ Chinese weapons mostly the SKS automatic rifle, rocket propelled grenades and light machine guns. The ARVN use the conventional morale system in the main rules set, but the VC, being irregular troops (farmers by day, soldiers by night) use the CoC irregular forces morale rules. 

The ARVN morale is pretty flaky as they have to take a morale text for every figure killed; this represents the problem of building-up a national army while a conflict was already underway. 

As a side note, President Diem of Vietnam, while deeply anti-communist was also deeply anti-French. Once Vietnam was divided into north and south, Diem insisted the French depart South Vietnam without delay, which did not allow much time to build up a new national army to replace the departing French forces. The result was an urban franco-phone, Christian officer corps commanding Buddhist, Vietnamese speaking soldiers recruited in rural area. 

Corruption was a persistent problem too, the US Embassy called The President “Per-Diem”, the Latin for “daily rate of pay”. The communists had, on the other hand, a simple and consistent message based around national reunification and social/economic equity of the Marxist/Leninist brand, though much of the latter went over the heads of the rural folk.

Our game was set amongst the paddy fields in the Mekong Delta region, a tranquil and bountiful region of the world. The players rolled to select the scenario and it was scenario four, a delaying action by the VC (page 77 of the main rules book). 

The ARVN morale was pretty good and the patrol phase quickly completed. The ARVN players had selected an extra section from their support points, along with a sniper and one round of off-table support fire. 

The VC selected…well that was for the VC to know and the ARVN to worry about. The ARVN advanced quite rapidly through the paddy fields enjoying good movement dice rolls and a double phase too (2 x D6 command dice), despite the terrain being heavy going. 

The ARVN wisely kept off the paths between the fields and made good use of the field bunds to give them hard cover wherever possible. The ARVN sniper took up position under a farmer’s hooch to keep watch but the VC were not to be seen.

After several phases of command dice rolling, all hell broke loose as two large groups of VC appeared from their hide-out Jump off points. As irregulars the VC didn’t have a formal unit structure, their force consisted of 27 figures armed with SKS rifles and two NCO’s, to be basically organised as the VC players wished. 

The VC support options allowed some rifle armed figures to be swopped for RPG and light machine guns and the VC had taken these support options. 

The VC are considered poor shots, so they deduct one from the to hit dice roll, but the volume of fire directed at the ARVN meant shots were finding their mark and ARVN troops going down. The effect on the ARVN’s flaky morale was soon felt, despite their returning fire and inflicting losses on the VC. 

The VC, using the irregular rules for morale absorbed these casualties, especially when the VC’s motivation increased as they saw the ARVN casualties pile up. Not withstanding their casualties, the ARVN players took full advantage of the extra infantry section they had used their support points for, to push forward. 

Once the VC had exhausted their three RPG rounds carried, they disappeared from view, back down their JOP’s.

The ARVN’s victory condition was to capture two VC JOP’s and now the field was clear for them to do so. The ARVN used a chain of command dice that they had now accumulated to relocate their sniper forward to a position within four inches of a VC JOP, shutting the JOP down so the VC could no longer deploy from it. 

Elsewhere the ARVN advanced as fast as possible, taking advantage of the VC’s temporary absence, to seize a second JOP. Alas the earlier good movement dice rolling for movement seemed to have deserted the ARVN, just when it was needed. 

Sections were stuck out in the middle of paddy fields, without adequate cover and the VC were ready to pounce. Having good local-knowledge the VC were allowed to relocate one JOP up to 18 inches, once in the game. The VC proceeded to move the JOP shut-down by the ARVN sniper, to an advantageous position on and behind the ARVN’s flank. Now deploying from this relocated JOP the VC poured fire into two ARVN sections that had previously enjoyed the hard cover of a rice paddy bund.

At the second JOP the ARVN were targeting; the VC deployed their master-stroke by ambushing the ARVN with a medium machine gun concealed in a bunker. This was a bit of a gamble by the VC as this
support option had used up most of their support points, but it paid off for them. Despite valiant attempts by the ARVN to fight back, the loss of command-dice due to declining morale, meant the engagement was over for the ARVN.

As everybody had enjoyed the game and it was decided to play another game on the same terrain to take advantage of lessons learned. This time Scenario 3 was selected form the main rules set – attack and defend, with the ARVN as the attacker. 

The ARVN pushed their patrol markers deep into VC territory concentrating on dominating one flank only. This time the ARVN had selected extra off-table support fire, rather than an extra section as their support options. Again the ARVN pushed forward quickly to seize the nearest VC JOP. 

This time there was no delay from the VC who deployed two groups of fighters, jointly commanded by their inferior senior leader. The nearest ARVN section was subjected to murderous VC fire, but put up a good fight with support fire from the other two sections. 

The ARVN senior leader called in the off-table support fire, but as soon as the VC realised what was to happen they surged forward to melee the hard pressed ARVN section, which by now was denuded in manpower and pinned down. 

So great was the VC’s advantage in the melee (more than four times as many combat dice) that the ARVN troops simply broke, before the melee took place. With so many morale rolls on the “Bad things happen” table, the ARVN morale collapsed again. Try as they might the ARVN couldn’t get the artillery right and the game was declared another VC win. I think it must have been the shortest CoC game I have ever seen.

Thanks to Jeremy and Colin for playing the ARVN and Bob and Nathan the VC. We all agreed that while we were playing CoC, the feel of the game was different and reflected the historical difficulties of the time and situation quite well. I look forward to more CoC games set in Vietnam and French Indo-China, where things are even more desperate! 

Saturday, 12 March 2022

Baron's War - "Conquest!"

The year is 1068, King William did not have full control of his new kingdom. Harold's sons are organising raids on the South West together with their Viking Allies. Local collaborator Saxons are organising the militia defence and fast moving Norman Lords are there to come to the aid of the militia.
This months game was a four player game set up to reflect this situation.

Saxon Militia had set themselves up in a village in the centre of the table, just before the attacking Saxon Exiles and Vikings arrived. On the opposite table edge the Normans were poised ready to support their loyal subjects.

This was to be our club's first game playing Barons War, none of us had played the rules before so each force was given different characteristics. 

Saxon Militia – third rate force. Thegn, Fyrd, Bows and Gebur.
Normans – first rate force. Knights, Death Squad, Milites and Crossbow.
Vikings – second rate force. Hirdmen, Berserker's. Bondi and Bow
Saxon Exiles – second rate force. Huscarl, Thegn, with Irish Kerns (Gebur with javelins), Irish Horse Boys (Saxon Mounted Scouts with javelins). It was assumed the exiles would have padded out their force with Irish.
It was also assumed that good Vikings and Saxons would have Dane Axe, the rest having spears.

The sides were picked randomly.
Jason (“I am happy as long as I don't get the Militia”) set the Militia in the village. Vince with the Exiles took the left flank of the attack and Chas with the Vikings the right. Steve H sat on the opposite base line with the Normans.

As this was a Medieval Game it was assumed there were a few grudges that needed to be settled, so each player was given a second objective which was to kill another character.

The attackers battle plan was simple, “lets charge the village”. On the left the Exiles sent the Irish around the flank of the village and the Saxons went straight ahead. On the right flank the Vikings swept around the flank with the Berserker's out in front. The Militia kept the spear-men in the village and the missile troops outside. The Normans sent the Milites into the village while the cavalry and crossbow descended on the Irish. 

Needless to say the Kerns got shot to pieces by the crossbow, the Horse Boys then thought better of it and retired behind the village.

The Berserker's did what Berserker do and laid into to the missile troops, but they were soon dead. The rest of the Vikings kept close together and pushed forwards all the time keeping in command distance of the leader.

By now the Horse Boys had moved close to the Viking leader and let go a hail of javelins, which did a lot of damage. The leader and the one other survivor of the attack broke (but soon rallied). The Vikings, who were not to impressed with this act of infamy, shot at the Horse Boys with their bows, braking them, so honours were even.

By now the Militia had had enough and were pulling back. The Normans were now moving into the village.

At this point the Exiles and Vikings thought they had run out of momentum and called it a day.

Technical Stuff
Like to thank Vince for providing the figures. In addition Steve H, Jason and Vince for playing a cracker of a game. Lots of laughs.

The rules play very well and recommend anyone reading this should give them a try. After the game Vince bought a set of rules, what better recommendation could there be.

The rules give a game that has a good skirmish feel and, as we found, as the game proceeded it pays to plan ahead. Off course like all rules we found things to disagree with but that's what wargamers do.

If you plan to play a game yourself, recommend you use a lot of scenery and keep the abilities to a minimum for the first game.