By Jim Rohrer
Wargames Soldiers and Strategy Magazine No. 111 (Dec/Jan 2021) contains a few articles about the Vietnam War. The editor expressed some reservations about this theme, since some readers may feel it is too soon to game a conflict when so many survivors are still living. Still, 45 years have passed since the end of the war, so it is (perhaps) less sensitive than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The articles contain some useful perspective and background information. One obvious point is that while US forces were technologically superior, they may not have been as motivated as the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong. Napoleon used conscripts with great success but draftees cannot be expected to be as enthusiastic and committed as local combatants. Lessons can be learned by governments; rumor has it that private armies of professional soldiers are widely used today, just as they were before conscription came along. Using citizen armies for defense and mercenaries for offense has a certain pragmatic logic to it.
The article about the Battle of Long Tan. 18 August 1966, “The Kangaroo Shoot” begins on page 46. Paul Eaglestone has written a nice essay about the ANZAC units involved. He strikes a nice balance between necessary detail and sparse writing to produce a fast-moving and enjoyable story. The game was designed for solo play but the rules also work for multiple players, if each takes control of one or two Aussie platoons.
Eaglestone says many Vietnam war games work well for solo play because one side can be automatically controlled. Both sides are hidden in jungle terrain. Cards can be used to allow sudden action on any part of the board. Eaglestone observes that Vietnam is similar to colonial games because often a small beleaguered force faces long odds of survival.
Rules were based on Danger Close with some modifications. Eaglestone played it as a large skirmish game with 28mm figures. The Australian army was ‘D’ company with HQ and three platoons. Reinforcements could arrive (if the card is turned) in the form of a squadron of M113 APCs. This was composed of four vehicles, each armed with a 50-cal and able to carry one platoon. Artillery was off-table. Requests were sent by radio via a forward observer. They also had fixed-wing air support called in the same way. A Huey brings ammo resupply.
The other side had a North Vietnamese regiment and a VC battalion. In total they may have had seven battalions, an overwhelming force of well-trained, well-equipped veterans who knew the terrain well. The NVA units arrive in random groups.
The game was played in 20 turns on a 8′ x 6′ table covered with rugged terrain. Much of the action takes place on a rubber plantation. Only one building was present. The terrain was flat.
Chance cards were used. He applied labels to standard playing cards, which is a nice idea. Nine cards were labeled as No Effect. Other cards were Rain Starts, Rain Stops, NVA Sniper, Ammunition Running Low, Ammo Huey Arrives. ANZAC Radio Knocked out, Fixed Wing Card, and M113s Arrive. Other cards can be included, such as delays in APC arrival and NVA mortar rounds.
I enjoyed the article and recommend it to others. The magazine was priced at $10 US.