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Monday, October 28, 2013

AAR "Blocking Force" - ARVN vs. PAVN in Tour of Duty

by Tom Burgess

Following our “Road Block” game where my PAVN Battalion defeated Charles’ ARVN Cavalry Squadron, in a high action game of Tour of Duty, Flames of War's Vietnam rule set, it seemed natural that the ARVN forces would try to breakthrough and reopen the main supply route by pushing back the PAVN forces. So we chose “Blocking Force” as our next mission to play from Tour of Duty.

The board we played on was similar to our last set up, but this time the area between the “jungle” was head high elephant grass. This meant that everything was concealed and line of sight from inf/gun teams to inf/gun teams was limited to 6.”

The battlefield.

My PAVN Tiêu Ðôàn Bô Binh (Infantry) Battalion used the exact same TO&E as my last mission/AAR (insert link) and consisted of the following:

The PAVN Battalion

Charles slightly modified his Cavalry Squadron by dropping his off board 155mm Artillery and replacing them with Fearless Trained ARVN Paratroopers to support his ACAV horde. Most of his units had “Professional” platoon leaders, save one “Crony,” and one “Palace Guard” platoon leader. The ARVN OOB was:

The ARVN Cavalry Squadron

The ARVN Cavalry Commander

The ARVN M41 Walker Bulldogs

The way “Blocking Force” reads in “Tour of Duty” one would assume that all PAVN Guerrilla troops would be in Guerrilla Reserve leaving nothing on the table at the start of the game for the Nationalist force. However, the “Our Man in Saigon” errata clarified that at least one “Company” would be on the board in Ambush. So I selected the 1st Company with attached Bn HQ 75mm Recoilless Rifles to be the ambush unit. This unit would be able to “pop” closer to the ARVN forces as the stand-off distance for Ambush is generally not as far as the Guerrilla Reserve entry stand off. This unit would also be dug in at placement, unlike Guerrilla Reserves.

Another bit of confusion was B-41s having Salvo fire coming out of Ambush. The Tour of duty book stated they did not in Ambuscade, but that’s not exactly the same thing as Ambush. I decided that the intent was, as with other Soviet Volley Fire systems, that they were not meant to have Salvo Fire in Ambush.

Charles started with all of his ARVN forces on the board. He placed his M41s on his right, and his dismounted airborne infantry on his left and all his M113 variants in the middle.

The ARVN assault on line.

Though the PAVN started with no units deployed initially on board, the ARVN could not force march without great risk from my ambush. Charles also ensured that no units of his advanced in
to the PAVN deployment zone on turn one. We were not sure on bobby trap and minefield placing limits and so played them in this game as being limited to the defending deployment area. This is why Charles held back his forces just a little bit.

Charles left the Loach he had behind his force to help mitigate the chances of any PAVN forces entering from Guerrilla Reserve close behind his battle line. This later came into play.

The initial ARVN move.

I felt that I had to deploy the PAVN 1st Company all across the board to delay the ARVN advance. So the unit came out of ambush and unfortunately no additional forces came out of reserve.

The PAVN 1st Company comes out of Ambush.

Fires from the ambush were not that great. They mostly resulted in bailed out tanks or ACAVs, but the Zippo platoon lost two tracks and failed morale following two PAVN 75mm Recoilless Rifle hits.

The Zippo M113s lose two vehicles and fail platoon morale, 1.66 Battle
Points for the PAVN, but most importantly Flame Thrower attacks had been eliminated
from the ARVN arsenal.

Charles then concentrated most of his fire on the ambushing PAVN 1st Company. He knocked out all three 75mm Recoilless Rifles two dying to “Breakthrough Gun” hits from 106mm Recoilless Rifles mounted on ACAVs (one/platoon). This pretty much cleared out the center of the PAVN 1st Company.

 ARVN firepower opens hole on the center of the PAVN 1st Company, but
the Nationalists hold their ground.

In the second Nationalist turn, two units came in from Guerilla Reserve, both in the left side of the Nationalist deployment area. I chose the separate 75mm Recoilless Rifle unit and the 2nd Company.

The Separate Recoilless Rifles sets up to deny the ARVN forces use of the
main road while the 2nd Company advances on the right to support the hard pressed 1st

B-41 fire from the 1st PAVN Company nearly bails out all the M-41’s, but
no destroyed tanks means no platoon morale check!

In the ARVN turn three, Charles continued to pour fire on to the PAVN 1st Company. The unit held its ground but it lost the rest of its B-41 teams and would be ineffective against armored vehicles moving forward. I started to debate if this was time to attempt a withdraw and bring in a fresher unit?

ARVN 4.2” Mortars cause heavy damage to the PAVN 1st Company.
With the PAVN 1st Company below half-strength and with no AT systems left in it, I
decided to go ahead and withdraw the company and bring in the “PAVN 3rd Company” from Guerilla Reserves. This gave the ARVN one Battle Point.

Unfortunately the 3rd Company came in behind Charles’ battle line and thanks to the Loach’s placement it had to be deployed so far back that it was going to have a hard time actually getting into the fight.

The PAVN 3rd Company’s attempt to close in on the rear of the ARVN battle
line is thwarted by a US Loach supporting their ARVN partners.

With the PAVN 1st Company now displaced, Charles’ ARVN Cavalry advanced on a broad front to cause maximum damage to the PAVN 2nd Company before it could dig in. Beehive shots from remounted M41s and six shots per ACAV pretty much wrecked the PAVN 2nd Company and it failed its following morale check. In addition, Charles finally moved the Loach forward of his battle line and behind the PAVN main line to try knock out the Separate Recoilless Rifle Company before it could dig in, but he only knocked out two of them.

M41 Walker Bulldogs unload Beehive rounds into the jungle.

With the 2nd Company now driven from the field, another Company, the “4th,” is able to enter from Guerilla Reserve. Again, this force comes in from behind the ARVN Battle line! This means the only units between the ARVN forces is some AAA platoons and the Separate Recoilless Rifle Platoon and all infantry was on the wrong side of the fight!

The “4th” PAVN Company comes in behind the left of the ARVN battle
line. It threatens the ARVN 81mm Mortars, but does no damage.

Meanwhile the PAVN 3rd Company puts the M41 Walker bulldogs
under B-41 fire and manages to destroy two of them, but not enough to force a morale

A brave 12.7mm AAMG team manhandles its gun to edge of the jungle and
manages to bag the Loach.

The ARVN forces attempting to push the around the right side of the
PAVN defense run into a mine field and are then hit by PAVN off-board 130mm fire but
only loose one ACAV.

The ARVN forces continue to push and in the center ACAVs press the last
remaining PAVN Recoilless ultimately knocking it out.

With the situation becoming desperate, I decided that I needed to Withdraw the 4th PAVN Company, even though it was still fresh, and bring in a “5th” PAVN Company from Guerilla Reserve. I really needed it to come in on the right side of the PAVN deployment area, but it came in on the left. Too far away from the objectives that two PAVN AAA platoons (both at 50% strength) were barely hanging on!

The ARVN 2IC and his escort ACAV, the smallest “Platoon” the ARVN
force has, assaults and destroys the last PAVN unit contesting the right objective and winning the
game for the Free World forces.

The game ended with six Battle Points for the PAVN (Three for ARVN Platoons destroyed; Zippos, one ACAV plt, and the Loach and three for the 10 “tanks” destroyed.  The victorious ARVN netted six battle points for six lost/withdrawn PAVN units (four infantry companies, the Separate Recoilless Rifle Co and an AAMG platoon).  This equated a “Propaganda Victory” or a “4-3” in normal Flames of War scoring.

The field at the battles culmination.

PAVN Commander’s Thoughts

Well, it was another great game. The game was great fun and very suspenseful for me as the Nationalist player. I was forced to make desperate decisions and take great gambles. This time they did not all work out, but at least I kept the Battle Points levels closes and limited it to a “Propaganda Victory” for the Imperialist Lackey ARVN forces!

I was a bit taken back by how many things needed additional clarification in this missions. Ambush unit, B-41 Salvo out of Ambush and minefield/fortification restrictions seemed confusing in this mission’s write up but I think we played them right.

Charles’ “Breakthrough Gun” 106mm Recoilless Rifles and mass of .50cal really tore through  my ambush company even though it was dug in. I must remember to try to “Gun Tank” those 106mm RRs in the future! Charles was, I think, greatly aided by the elephant grass height helping to reduce the hits he took. The biggest decision I wonder about was if I “popped” my ambush too early? Maybe I should have delayed it another turn and bring it in when I was sure I’d have other forces coming on to support it? Delaying would have at least kept it in the fight longer, but then how late is too late?

So this time it was a loss for my glorious Tiêu Ðôàn Bô Binh but we’ll regroup and come back… because that’s how the PAVN roll! Even now Divisional support and Local Forces are reinforcing my PAVN collection! The People’s Army will fight on until final victory!

ARVN Commander's Thoughts

When I first started working on Vietnam forces I had not really considered the ARVN cavalry.  I knew little enough about them, since they didn’t make the US news during the war very often, but the list looked interesting enough.  This engagement was the third time that I had them in the field and after two scenario’s of roadblock I knew that the PAVN was unpredictable, had large formations with plenty of track killing potential and that I needed to ensure I could hold objectives while also keeping my mobility in any scenario we chose to play. 

I decided that my off table artillery was good but some steady infantry was going to be more useful, so I brought along two platoons of ARVN airborne rangers.  I also found that the single gunship I often used was more of a target than an airborne tank so I traded it in favor of a LOACH to gain some recon capability, which the ARVN seems short of.  Using its standoff capability meant I could somewhat hold the guerrilla reserves from keeping me in reaction mode and the Loach would let me maneuver to bring the massive firepower of 22 tracks and 5 tanks to bear where I wanted. This kept Tom’s Nationalists reacting instead of herding me to another disaster. 

Instead of trying to assault into dense jungle to engage, I pushed, shot and moved away from large concentrations of hostiles with the focus on getting to the objectives and pushing the PAVN off them with the heavy firepower the cavalry offered.  This time it worked! 

Tom has been playing wargames since the late 70’s, and Flames of War since 2007. He maintains a gaming website for the BattleVault Gamers of Kentuckiana and posts and moderates as Iron-Tom on WWPD.

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