Paul and I had a go at Force on Force using the Ambush Valley rules for Vietnam. We’ve both been looking at this ruleset for a while so it was good to get a game in to try the mechanics.
I set up a scenario with a US army patrol watching a suspected NVA trail for troop movements – observation post with other patrol members further away. An NVA recce group approaches the post and trips some alarms – mayhem ensues!
We kept the game as a reg vs reg to get used to the rules and I aimed for balanced forces – a platoon each side with the US getting claymores around the observation post and the NVA commander able to call in an off table mortar.
We knew that the action/reaction mechanic was going to take some getting used to, and so it proved. The first few rounds of action had us flicking back and forth trying to figure out initiative player, opportunity fire, overwatch and so on. Thankfully the basic ‘beat a 4′ system means that once you have figured out what you need to do, getting a resolution and outcome is realtively simple.
By turn 3 we were getting the hang of the action/reaction process and things were speeding up. We managed to get quite a few types of action in which gave a decent feel for the opportunities of the system.
A few observations:
– this is totally a scenario and objectives game. The system will not reward casual hit each other type games. It needs a strong narrative and purpose to drive actions.
– the balance was interesting. The NVA had more men per fireteam, but the US could put out more firepower thanks to the availability of support weapons (machine guns and bloopers). The US benefited from better initiative management meaning their squads generally drove the engagement, but the NVA numbers meant that they were less fragile than the US and could sustain attacks for longer. The US suffered each time a soldier got hit, the NVA could ignore casualties. In writing this down I’m reflecting that this is totally spot on for the theatre – they nailed it
– Squads HAVE to work together. The troops in the observation post were on the back foot from the off as they had no supporting fire. The other Americans were too far back. The NVA were able to get multiple squads supporting each other and this gave them an edge, until the US managed to finally blow the claymores!
– We usually multibase 15mm, but this game needs individual basing. You need to have tactical flexibility to really make the most of your resources, so some of the subtleties are lost if you multibase
– The dice mechanic of beat a 4, plus the firepower/defence dice approach is nice. The quality of the troops is the critical factor rather than the weapons they carry. Support weapons adding dice works well and it was interesting to seek how attrition degraded fire effectiveness of forces.
We really liked the system, though it will take some getting use to in order to really draw out the nuances. We felt that the morale rolls were a bit off kilter, but the advanced rules around combat stress seemed to add the bit needed to make these more realistic. The casualty rules are something you have to really think about and have a significant influence on the game.
We’ll keep coming back to this.