LnL Forgotten Heroes: Vietnam – Tread Heads – The Convoy

Yesterday, I talked about setup for the NVA ambush in the scenario “Tread Heads” from Forgotten Heroes:  Vietnam.  Basically, the US player rolls through three map boards with six vehicles (three M-113s and three M-48s) mounted with infantry.  The Americans cannot spot the NVA ambush unless they move adjacent to the NVA or are fired upon (or, of course from movement).

Taking this into account, the NVA set up slightly away from the road, sacrificing accuracy for surprise.

Attempting to set up an effective convoy that you know is going to get ambushed is no small proposition.  I tried to follow some of the basic principles from this website on convoy vulnerability.

First off, heavy armor should always serve as an advance guard in the convoy to detect ambushes.  Since we only have three tanks to play with here, that means that one of the M-48s will be going ahead of the convoy.

Secondly, the rear guard of the convoy should also be heavy armor.  Right, another M48 goes in the back.

Every third or fourth vehicle in the convoy should be heavy armor.  Okay, our last M48 goes right in the middle of the main body of the convoy.

So that’s:

Lead vehicle (recon):  M48  *5 hexes ahead of main body* (2-6-4 riding on top)

Main body:
M113 (2-6-4 squad inside)
M48  (2-6-4 on top)
M113 (Medic and 2-6-4 w/ LAW anti-tank inside)
M113 (Lt. Anders, 2-6-4 w/ M-60 LMG inside)

Rear guard:  M48  *4 hexes behind main body* (Lt. Jenson, 2-6-4 w/ M-60 riding on top)

M-48 lead vehicle (left) w/ 2-6-4 passengers.  M-48 main body vehicle (right) w/2-6-4 passengers.

Rear guard armor M-48 tank w/ Jenson and squads (left) and main body lead M-113 w/ 2-6-4 squad inside.

A medic and a 2-6-4 squad will ride inside the M-113 (third vehicle in main body of the convoy) while Lt. Anders and squad will ride inside the last vehicle in the main body.

Having the vehicles spread out slightly with a rear and advance guard should give the US player enough time to respond to any ambush after the initial damage is done. However, there is a tactical mistake being made here in our convoy plans, which will play out later in the coming turns.  Can you spot the error?

I’ll be posting the results in a couple of days.

LnL: Forgotten Heroes – Tread Heads: Ambush Setup

“Tread Heads” is a nice scenario from LnL’s “Forgotten Heroes: Vietnam” whereby a group of NVA have to nail a US convoy coming through a small village.  At first, it seems a bit of a turkey shoot.  The US has a group of six armored vehicles traveling in a single file convoy.  The NVA can’t be spotted until they open fire or a US tank is adjacent to them.
I tried this scenario earlier with some disastrous results for the US when they pushed through the village with no recon vehicle in the lead.  I tried it a second time with a recon vehicle, which managed to ferret out the NVA quite early as they had set up units adjacent to the road.  The main body of the convoy just stopped, leisurely disembarked their men and took on the NVA with full armor support.  
This time, I’m trying something a little different to test out some better tactics to see if I can get a closer game out of it.  
I set up the NVA in the village on board 2 again but this time, I put them a little bit further off the road so they can’t be detected by any US recon vehicles.  The NVA plan is to let any recon vehicles pass by and then nail the main body of the US armored column.  

The US gets three M113 armored personnel carriers and three M48 tanks.  The infantry starts off embarked and the American vehicles must move in a single file column until the NVA open fire or are otherwise detected.

Here are a few pics of the convoy and its passengers.  There are two leaders and 6 US Army squads.

Considering the last scenario was a cakewalk for the US due to its use of a lead vehicle to recon the village, the NVA opts to set up further off the road in the light jungle and bamboo huts.  It’s not as much protection as the heavy buildings but it keeps everyone hidden until the trap is ready to be sprung.

The NVA also have 2 leaders and 6 NVA squads.  Lt. Thien sets up with his platoon and an RPG-2 near the center of the village where the US vehicles must pass by.

Lt. Khai sets up a bit further north.  Again, he has an RPG-2 ready to fire towards the convoy as it comes from the east down the road.  Both leaders are set up on the eastern outskirts of the village, hoping to hit the main body of the convoy.  The M113s have very little armor, so they will be the main targets of the ambush. Any lead vehicles will be allowed to pass through so as to avoid detection.  The NVA player will even allow the lead vehicle to exit the map (and thus net the US player 4 victory points) if it means a better chance at hitting those APCs.

Here’s the final setup.  The NVA have placed themselves in good cover and await the US convoy.

This gave me a good setup with nice interlocking fields of fire.

Next up:  The Convoy Setup.

Forgotten Heroes: Vietnam – Stay Behind

In this scenario from Lock ‘n Load Publishing’s Forgotten Heroes:  Vietnam, an American LRRP (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol) tries to ambush a group of Viet Cong approaching an American helicopter landing zone (LZ).  This scenario, called “Stay Behind” was created by Jeff Lewis, who based it around the events from a book by Michael Lee Lanning.  It’s a very short scenario (only four turns) and the Americans must eliminate two VC squads and extract via Huey by the end of the last turn.

To start off, we get 2 VC squads, led by Lt. Diem:

The Americans get a single LRRP squad with claymore mines:

This doesn’t seem like much but the US gets an attack helicopter fly-by on Turn 3 and the extraction helo comes in on the same turn.

The scenario starts with Lt. Diem and his squads running into an ambush by the LRRP.  The M-18 claymore mines deployed by the Americans are detonated but Diem and his men are unscathed.

The LRRP opens up at close range on Diem and his squads, wounding Diem, killing an entire squad and causing serious casualties among the other squad.

On Turn 2, the Americans win initiative and enter melee with Lt. Diem, eliminating him and his squads entirely.  The LRRP captures an RPG and a light machine gun.

Another VC squad with an RPG enters the board from the west and approaches the site of the melee.

On Turn 3, the Americans withdraw further to the east as the NVA reinforcements close in.  The LRRP also has to get ready for extraction.  The VC hold their fire, opting to instead move close enough to hit the incoming American helicopters from the edge of the treeline on the next turn.

A Huey gunship is called in and tries to eliminate the pursuing Viet Cong and although it lets off several rockets and hoses down the jungle with machine gun fire, the VC remain unshaken.

Another group of VC moves in from the west.  Armed with an RPG, they hope to close in quickly and shoot down the incoming Huey transport.

The Huey lands just east of the LRRP.  It’s still in small-arms range of one of the VC squads.  This is extremely dangerous as the nearby enemy units also have RPGs and will almost certainly attempt to shoot down the helicopter if they win initiative next turn.

On Turn 4, the US is lucky enough to win initiative.  The LRRP team moves towards the extraction helicopter with no time left to spare.  The VC units take opportunity fire to shoot at the fleeing US squad.  Rockets impact the ground around the Americans and bullets whiz by.  The LRRP squad boards the helicopter.  There is one VC reinforcement squad far to the west – too far to be able to do much about what’s happening.

And by the next American impulse, they’re headed east over the jungle…

…leaving the VC far behind.

Result:  US – Major Victory

Forgotten Heroes: Vietnam – A Short Review

Forgotten Heroes:  Vietnam 2nd edition has recently (well, within the last six months or so) been released and it seems to have gotten a very good reception among players of the LnL series.  Personally, I would agree that this is one of the better products released by Lock ‘n Load Publishing (LnLP) and it is a big step up in many ways in the whole evolution of the Lock ‘n Load game series. There are a few minor things that bugged me about the game but overall, I think it delivers a nice experience for LnL veterans and newbies alike.

Things I really liked:

Components:

The components for FH:V are top notch.  LnLP has taken the 1st edition and updated almost everything about it, from the maps to the counter art, scenario cards, player aid cards and rules.  Everything has been laminated and put on a nice thick stock of board and all the information is in color (except, of course, the rulebook) and quite easy to read.  The map hex halos, which were a sore spot for some players of the 1st edition, are gone while the scenario cards, counter illustrations, and skill cards are nicely done.  I’ve covered all this in my unboxing comments from last week if you’re interested in more information about this aspect of the game.

Scenarios:

The  scenarios are tight and include lots of interesting events and situations.  They cover a great breadth of the Vietnam War in terms of years and also include five different fighting forces to play with (Viet Cong, NVA, ARVN, US Army, US Marines).  The historical setups are nice with lots of good information and the events really do feel like you’re watching a good movie scene unfold.  Every scenario I’ve played so far has come down to the wire.  Lastly, there are nice and short scenarios you can run through in an evening (e.g. “River of Perfume”) while other scenarios are much longer and intricate.  They’re all quite enjoyable and it’s all killer, no filler.

Equipment & Weapons

There’s a huge variety of stuff here to play with, from the Ontos tanks to flamethrowers, RPGs,  grenade launchers (with The Thumper card), M113s APCs, claymores, and Huey gunships.  Once you get used to how the rules for these things work, you’ll have a blast seeing how they all coalesce together to wreak havoc on the enemy.

Design Commentary:

There are a lot of great design comments included in both the scenarios and the module rules pertaining to Forgotten Heroes.  Mark H. Walker talks about how he came up with the idea of for FH: Vietnam while playing the Platoon board game with his daughter (how awesome is that?!) and how it all seemed so easy at first until the real hard work began.  The notes on the scenario cards are interesting and quite funny at times.  You really do get a sense that this game is particularly special for the designer and why certain decisions were made.  It made me want to play the game even more.  I know Mark is a reader and perhaps in the future it would be nice to see a list of recommended books or articles for more information about certain battles or historical events portrayed in the scenarios.  I’m always interested in knowing more about how things worked out in real life.

Things that could have been better:

Like any game, FH:V has its faults but they are pretty minor and don’t take away from any real enjoyment of the game.

The text font on a couple of the scenario cards is a bit mixed up but in no way interferes with comprehension or readability.  It just seemed like someone missed this in the proofing stage.  There were some minor factual errors in terms of historical accuracy with one of the scenario cards.  It would have been nice if someone had caught that before the publishing stage.

Ordnance modifiers counters  Oh, how frustrated I was when a game that uses a big mix of ordnance such as LAWs, Bazookas, RPG-2, RPG-7, not to mention tanks doesn’t have ordnance modifier counters included in the counter mix.  Ordnance really does play quite a significant role in the game and the fact that units that are not destroyed by ordnance in a previous turn are already spotted by the unit firing the ordnance in subsequent turns is actually a pretty big deal as you can use it to force an opposing player to vacate key strong points.  Heroes of the Gap did an excellent job of providing ordnance modifier counters to help remind players of this. Even one or two of these counters would help me immensely.

Heroes:  This is really nitpicking but I really like it when heroes have names.  It sort of brings the action on the board to life a bit more.  It would have been nice to see a name on the hero counters instead of just “Hero”.

Air strike counters and rules:  Vietnam was definitely a war where air power was a deciding factor in many ground battles.  Although there are air strikes available in several scenarios, I wondered why there weren’t any air counters much like Heroes of the Gap used?  The air strike rules for cannons and bombs introduced in Heroes of the Gap (which I really liked) are not used here.  It would have been cool to see F-4 Phantom counters included in the mix.

Conclusion:

Overall, I’m quite happy about Forgotten Heroes: Vietnam.  It’s not just the subject matter that interests me but it also gives off a sense of a refined product.  The unit strengths, special rules, and scenarios beautifully  showcase an American force with superior equipment and training fighting desperately against more agile opponents.  In that respect, it felt a lot like the excellent “Day of Heroes” game from LnLP, which focused on the events in Somalia in October of 1993.  The variety of equipment and the quality of the counters, scenario cards, and other components are reminiscent of  “Heroes of the Gap”.  I think I’ll be playing Forgotten Heroes: Vietnam for quite some time and I’m sure the component durability will be tested thoroughly because I’ll be playing a lot of it.

LnL: Forgotten Heroes – Vietnam: River of Perfume

I took a short break from my current 6th Fleet campaign (don’t worry, it’s very much on my mind and I fully intend to complete it) to play around with my new copy of FH: Vietnam.  I’ve tried a few scenarios and one of my favorites is River of Perfume, which is a quick infantry only scenario that centers on the actions near Hue around the Tet offensive of 1968.  Here we have an engagement between the USMC and the Viet Cong.  The US is trying to capture five buildings while the VC are trying to deny the US their victory conditions.  This one turned out to be a real doozy and although I won’t remember everything that happened, I’ll hit all the major events that played out.

Setup:

The VC have 3 buildings at the start.  They get a hero with the Rage counter plus a couple of squads.

The charismatic Mr. Dobie is placed in the other stone building to the southeast with a few more squads.

The lovely Arnat and her squads get placed in the building to the southwest.

US Marines get placed in the northern buildings.  There’s a chaplain with some squads to the northwest.

Sgt. Ash gets a few squads with some serious firepower at the top of the board.

Lt. Reagin, with the Lucky Man skill card gets placed in the eastern part of the board.

Turn 1:

Lt. Reagin, taking advantage of his Lucky Man skill card, commits to some daring-do and infiltrates the northernmost building held by the VC.

Seeing his chance, Dobie-san sends a squad of VC to take over the just vacated building left behind by Lt. Reagin.  Unfortunately for them, a US sniper has been left behind and wreaks havoc on the VC squad as they approach the building.

But the US luck doesn’t completely hold out for the end of the turn.  Sgt. Ash sends a squad of Marines to help clear the nearby building.  Unfortunately, the VC hero and the squad in the second floor of the building inflict heavy casualties on the approaching Marines.

Turns 2 and 3:

Thanks to Sgt. Ash, the two Viet Cong squads on the second floor above Lt. Reagin are shaken.  Another VC squad sacrifices itself so that these squads can pull back.  The VC hero moves in to cover their retreat.

The US Marine casualties pull back towards Sgt. Ash’s position.  Ash also sends one of his squads to take the flank and protect the building where the US sniper is sitting.

Lt. Reagin finally manages to take out the two retreating VC squads when the VC hero is forced to pull back to protect yet another shaken VC squad on the flank!  Sgt. Ash’s firepower is devastating.

A VC squad rushes at the US sniper.  The VC squad take casualties but a hero emerges!  The hero is multi-faceted and gets two cards:  Ambusher and Healer.  The VC hero melees the American sniper, killing him.

Turn 4: 

With little choice left, the USMC 2-6-4 squad goes ahead and melees the adjacent VC hero.  The USMC squad wins the melee soundly and the VC hero goes back in the box.

Taking the northernmost VC position has been a thorny problem for the Americans.  Going through the rear of the building exposes them to Dobie-san’s machine-gun team while going in front of the building (as seen below) puts them out in the open where the VC hero can fire on them.  The USMC decides to tackle the problem with lots and lots of machinegun fire, which successfully eliminates the VC hero protecting the shaken VC squads.  After that, Lt. Reagin moves in with his men and the building is finally theirs.

Throughout the first four turns, there has been an ongoing firefight between the US and VC elements in the west as both of them take turns spotting the other and exchanging machinegun fire, hoping to cause as many problems as they can for the other side.  The only real result has been the creation of a US hero with the “Veteran” skill card.  

 Turns 5 and 6:

The USMC squads move up into the building.  Sgt. Ash, Lt. Reagin, and the US hero take their positions and prep for the final push on Dobie-san to the south.

Sgt. Ash almost completely blows it as there is no one covering the US advance.  Dobie-san fires on him and inflicts major casualties on the Americans.  The USMC squad which melee’d the VC hero a couple of turns prior now moves down into the building where Dobie-san and his men make a final stand.

Arnat is unable to  do much except keep part of the USMC force at bay with opportunity fire.  Her LOS to the other American squads is blocked by a series of  walls to her right.

Sgt. Ash, whose squads have dished out a lot of pain and been on the receiving end as well, fire at Dobie-san after the USMC 2-6-4 that had infiltrated the building earlier is shot to pieces closing in on the enemy.  Ash and his men shake up Dobie-san’s squads and Lt. Reagin and his men move in for the melee.

As part of a last ditch effort, Arnat moves up to the American-held building in the north, hoping to gain a foothold before the scenario ends.

Turn 7:  

She gets adjacent to the building but the US wins initiative.  The USMC hero enters melee with Arnat and her VC squad. The hero loses but Arnat is locked in melee for the rest of the turn.  The Viet Cong are defeated as the Americans retain their hold on the five buildings they have under their control.

Conclusion:

Great scenario!  It is fairly small and easy to play through in an hour or so.  The forces are nicely balanced and although the report may give you the impression that the US won easily, the truth is that it was very much up in the air until about Turn 6.  The US took a lot of casualties assaulting the first building with just brute force.  There was very little finesse involved and the VC were doing quite well until they had  a couple of lousy defensive rolls.  The inclusion of snipers in this scenario makes everything very tense.  There was a VC sniper who did very little (so I didn’t mention him in the report) but the US sniper managed a very good lone defense of one of the buildings on his own.

As the US player, you’ve got to really coordinate your attack and make sure that you stay out of range of the VC’s inherent firepower when moving.  You’re going to take casualties no matter what so be prepared to keep pulling back guys who need to be rallied.  The VC player should definitely set up in the upper floor of the buildings and bunch up your guys a bit to prevent them from being eliminated in melee.  Perhaps it would go much better if the VC gave up one of the positions and pulled forces back to protect the remaining buildings? It’s something I might try in a later playthrough.

The VC took some poor gambles here and ended up doing one thing it should never do, which is get into a stand-up fight with the US forces.   Those VC squads should pull back as soon as they bloody the US player’s nose.  I also couldn’t get the left flank (Arnat’s position) and the US right flank (with the Chaplain) going throughout the game.  I wonder what would have happened if I had pushed one side at the other.