Friday, May 8, 2015

Battlegroup: 'NAM Scenario Planning Considerations: Air Assault!

Harking back to my 12 April post regarding Fireteam and Squad level organization during the Vietnam war, I am finally ready to sit down and play a game of "Battlegroup: 'NAM" which I've really been looking forward to ever since I finished both my US Army infantry platoon and my NVA regulars in 15mm.

Paul OG was generous enough to provide me with weapon-conversion data from the actual  Battlegroup series and we came to the conclusion that the North Vietnamese will operate within a squad as their base unit.  As Paul said on the 12 April post: "For the NVA it might be worth considering having them fielded as one big group.  Less flexibility but also less points to activate so it's easier for the Communist player to get the human wave effect"  The US side will operate with fireteams as the basic unit of maneuver, within the context of their squad and platoon.  There will be a US Artillery Fire Support Officer present to act as FO and coordinate fires as well as helicopter gunship support.

So my basic scenario plan is a US Army infantry platoon conducting a patrol with the mission of searching for 2 weapons caches located within a very rural area of responsibility.  Basically, the US Infantry will Air Assault in, and I will dice for helo arrival as the size of the LZ is variable and can only accomodate a certain amount of helicopters so the remainder are "orbiting."

From the I Corps Commander's Morning Brief.

"Clash of Reconnaissance" was the first scenario that came to mind with escalating forces on the table which seemed appropriate until I thought about hidden NVA units.  The Communist forces the United States faced from the 1950s through the early 1970s in SE Asia (NKPA, ChiCom, NVA, and VC) were literally THE masters of battlefield deception and camouflage.  (read SLA Marshall's "Pork Chop Hill" if you want an example of Chinese battlefield infiltration and camouflage.  It will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up how they could mass entire companies and remain unseen).  They should have an inherent ability to ambush American forces at will.  Therefore the "Ambush Fire" rule from the Battlegroup series will also result in unit placement on the table as well, with the NVA units being placed on the table when their ambush is sprung.

US "recon by fire" will also be a rule I want to try out.  Suspected NVA positions can be fire upon and if they fail a morale check, they return fire (much like Arty Conliffe's infamous rule in Crossfire).

Some Considerations for Battlegroup during this time period:

  • Communications are much better than WW2.
  • Helicopters!  Jets!
  • Fireteams and Squad Firepower
  • Hidden Units and "Ambush" placement
  • Jungle Terrain and Difficult terrain (rice paddies, deep fast moving creeks, mud)
  • Recoil-less Rifles.  If you want to play 1950's Korea using Battlegroup, there's no way around these.

So for this scenario aptly called "Air Assault!" here is how things should go:

  • Determine Table Edges.  The NVA player chooses the US table edge for this scenario.  The LZ is located nearest the US player's table edge.
  • Place Objectives (the suspected caches)
  • Deploy Reconaissance Troops.  This includes aero-scouts, Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols, and US Cavalry scouts, although I don't have any at the moment...
  • Main Force Arrival
  • First Turn

Battle size is "Squad"

Orders of Battle:

US Infantry Platoon 283 Points, BP 21, 2 Officers.

  • Company Commander / Fire Support Officer (forward headquarters)
  • Infantry Platoon Command Squad:
    • PL / RTO / FO / PSG / Rifleman
  • 3 x US Infantry Squads
  • 3 x 105mm Howitzers Off Board on standby.  Request is Second Priority 4+
  • UH-1C Gunship orbiting
  • UH-1D "slicks" for troop transport (free for scenario purposes.  Once they drop off troops, they are not called for again until it's time to exit the battlefield)

NVA Regulars 269 points, BP 18, 2 Officers.

  • NVA Forward Headquarters
  • NVA Platoon Command Squad
  • 5 NVA Infantry Squads (for detailed laydown including weapons and equipment see 12 April post, linked in the paragraph at top)
  • Recoil-less Rifles, HMG
  • NVA Sapper Squad
  • AAMG Section
  • 82mm Mortar Battery off table

The "AO" US Forces will start off-picture in the upper left.  That is the LZ location.  The NVA player can set up anywhere after the US player sets up.

Suspected Weapons Cache!  Been wanting to use this marker for awhile.

The orchard, paddy fields, and an old, collapsed French structure.

US Gunship swoops in for a closer look!

Cue The Doors' "This is the End"


  1. Excellent! Needless to say, I am loving where this is going :-)

    My only suggestions would be that the NVA need some sort of scout sections and maybe a sniper or two. This could be balanced by a pre-planned artillery barrage of the LZ, which was SOP.

    Of course, as a solo game this is difficult to game. I suggest that you designate 3 different LZs, then setup the NVA, roll a die to determine which LZ will be active, and then resolve the artillery prep barrage. Puts a bit more uncertainty into the NVA setup too.

    Looking forward to seeing how this goes!

    1. Paul,
      I played the first 5 or 6 turns before I saw your comments. I diced for NVA starting locations and it turned out pretty well. 1 NVA platoon on each side of the creek. The sappers are in reserve!

      One issue I had was the helicopter gunship. I didn't want it to buzz around killing everything in sight so ground troops have to call for it kind of like tac-air. It's made 2 MG runs already, waxing the NVA only scout section on turn 1 (the recce turn), and helping mop up an NVA squad in the rubble pile. Guns are almost dry and then they will switch to rockets! AAA fire physically hit the bird twice but she kept flying with no damage sustained. I'm using the aircraft rules from BGK and am tracking gun runs and rocket ammo.

      Other than that, Arty has not showed up for either side, and the infantry have been doing most of the work. The NVA have a re-trans section and still couldn't make the rolls for their own mortars. The US player has second priority for the 105s and they haven't made the roll yet! So the FSO is high-tailing it over to the command section.

      The US player lost both of his M60 LMG sections and 1 fireteam, and the NVA have already lost 3 squads but it's been a brutal slug-fest. The US forces are just starting to push over to "the blue line" to search for an destroy those cache sites. The NVA attack failed but they have some aces still up their sleeves. (oh and the Recoilless rifle missed each time!)

      I have LOTS of pictures and will post Part I of the AAR tomorrow morning sometime. It has been a really good time so far.

  2. My only experience in Vietnam wargames was the boardgame called Vietnam...and your report is very atmospheric, very tempting to play again this period Steven, on this great looking terrain...

    1. Phil, I owned the boardgame "Vietnam" and it was very complicated if I remember correctly! I only ever played the "Operation Starlight" game. I bought a boardgame called "Silver Bayonet" from GMT and that was platoon / company level. A real treasure.