Lee takes a look at the options available to the North Vietnamese commander in Nam, and how things have changed since our first “tour”.
I’ve had a few goes with the NVA (courtesy of Simon being pretty much the one stop shop for Vietnam gaming in Brighton) and found them to be an interesting force to use in the Tour of Duty v3 edition game. This comes down more to their rules and style of fighting than any hi-tech toys that the capitalist dogs have to rely upon! Having a bunch of RPG wielding sappers suddenly deploy behind the enemies tanks always made for some anxious moments for the free-world player.
The switch to a v4 base for the ‘Nam edition shakes things up but also opens up some opportunities. We also have one new formation to look at to. So let’s make like Jane Fonda and take a look at the brave soldiers of the North.
With a technological imbalance on the battlefield, the NVA need something to give them an edge. That manifests itself mostly in three rules:
- Charlie Owns the Night – that let NVA auto-attack at night. NVA infantry and man-packed guns could move at the double at night (and in rough terrain) at 16″ as well.
- Born in the North to Die in the South – Infantry and Local Force Company get recycled when destroyed.
- Guerrilla Reserves/deployment – Units deployed on the board in random quarters (1/6 chance of choosing the quarter) and could be deployed 12″ away from the enemy, saving having to move on.
Happily, all three are still present.
- Charlie Owns the Night – much like v4 British Infantry – in missions with “minefields” special rule, NVA can attack at night. Only units in a formation with the rukle can move out of deployment zone (but not limited by type). NVA infantry don’t benefit from a faster double speed anymore though. Just the normal terrain dash restriction.
- Born in the North to Die in the South. Still recycle destroyed company but you have to pass a morale test first to recycle the unit. Units can still be voluntarily recycled.
- Guerrilla Fighters – Much the same, but you now choose the quarter on a 5 or 6.
So, night fighting is a little down played but otherwise the major rules are the same.
The Force Chart
The new formation/force structure will be familiar to anyone who has played Team Yankee or v4. What used to be the HQ, Combat and Weapon platoons of individual lists are now the “formations”. What used to be “Support” platoons still are, but now support the whole force. We can have any number of formations but are restricted to the same pool of force support platoons.
Existing players will wonder where their Ironclad Company that used to be in support have gone. Fear not, these are now covered by the formation “support platoon”. Formation support platoons lets us take a compulsory choice from another formation as a support choice, providing one doesn’t already exist in the army. This means you could have an Infantry Company, a Local Forces company, a Special task company, a K1 company, a K2 company and a K3 company all in support (no repetition, each a compulsory choice of its respective battalion) but we couldn’t have two K-2 company, for example. Similarly we couldn’t take a mechanised infantry company or a ZSU-57 platoon as neither is a compulsory choice. We’d need to take a K-2 formation for that!
This makes for a flexible way of building an army though one should always bear in mind the historical likeliness of different elements fighting together.
Right, lets look at the formations.
The core of the NVA is made up of the humble peasant soldier. Armed with either an AK-47 or an SKS semi-auto carbine, plus Chinese knock-off RPG rocket launchers, the soldiers are focused on the task of reuniting the two Vietnams. Whilst very much a conscript force, the NVA had the home field advantage, a clear war objective and no small advantage in not having to worry about free-press or Democratic process! What they don’t have a lot of is fancy kit.
The structure is more or less as it was; the biggest change is the move of the Battalion HQ platoons to being core platoons in their own right. This move seems to have also deleted the big six-gun 75mm recoiless company in favour of just the ex-HQ three gun-platoon. The pioneer company is also replaced by a Special Task company, presumably because there wasn’t a great deal of reason to take pioneers over the Special Task company in the old edition.
Additionally, the formation HQ gains the ability to take up to six booby traps. Booby traps are a localised mine field that doesn’t project a 2″ effect zone. Interestingly the rules state that they are like “Minefields” not “Guerrilla Minefields” so they have a bigger impact (AT5 vs top armour) but have to be placed at the start of the game rather than being placed as an ambushing unit under an enemy team for maximum hilarity. I wonder if that is a typo but, if deliberate, it does somewhat temper the concern that players can spam them out by taking min-maxed formations.
The Infantry Company itself is mostly unchanged. Its still basically a large platoon; good luck to the free world players in getting those “destroyed platoon” battle points. The infantry are still basically Fearless (pass morale and rally on 3+) and Trained (hit on 4’s in assaults and are themselves hit on 3’2 by enemy fire) but conscript when it comes to skill checks like ‘digging in’ or ‘blitzing’ – a new distinction.
The major difference organisationally is that the formerly optional LMG teams are now mandatory. You can still upgrade the B40 RPG to the B41 and the fact that the B41 is still a higher AT but also now the same FP as the B40 makes it more of a no-brainer so long as you have the points. Remember – killing Free World tanks is easy points! Easier than destroying their infantry platoons anyway.
All in all, the Infantry are still as hardy as they were before and will no doubt form the core of any NVA army.
Local Forces Battalion
Jersey’s Local Forces
First introduced as a supporting company for the Tour of Duty Infantry battalion, then expanded into a list in its own right in Brown Water Navy, the VC remain as a formation in their own right. The Infantry company are joined by some MG, AA and mortar options, plus 57mm recoiless rifles for some light direct fire punch. Pus some HQ booby traps. They also can take an NVA Infantry and Special Task Company as support, giving some hardier infantry options without needing another formation or support unit.
The Local Forces Company is mostly unchanged from its earlier incarnation. The LMG is now mandatory, as is the swap out of some rifle teams for RPG leaving us with a 13 rifles, 3 RPG and 1 LMG company. The 60mm mortar is dropped entirely. They also still mostly act like confident trained. Their morale is better at 3+ but their counterattack is worse at 5+. Skill is, like the infantry, set at 5+ but again they hit on 4’s, and are hit, like trained on 3’s. All in all, the Local Forces Infantry Company is a low end infantry option, nearly half the cost of the NVA but still packing some resilience and punch.
Special Task Battalion
The only new list for the NVA, the Special task Company is no longer just a support company option, but a formation in its own right.
The Special Task Company was a unit of infiltrating fearless veteran pioneers that were generally used in game to clear the way through fortifications and to take out firebase defences using RPG, flame throwers and LMG, along with AK-47. As such they were always kind of handy in a fight.
The ‘Nam version is a little de-tuned. The “One slow, four quick” infiltrate is now basically Spearhead but without the ability to drag anyone along for the ride; The pioneer rating, flame throwers and LMG are gone; and the skill and “To hit” values are more akin to Trained (except the HQ which is hit on a 4+ – fairly unique in the game). But they are still fearless and they still hit on 3’s in an assault, meaning they are still the “go-to” assault force. Of course, now you are not limited to just one company, instead being able to take three!
The formation composition includes an NVA Infantry company for a big block of mid-range infantry. plus either MG, mortars or an AA MG platoon. Additionally it can take a six string company of 82mm recoilless rifles. The 82mm has an impressive AT of 14 (HEAT), a range of 20″, and can bombard up to 48″ away. This makes for some versatile fire support that is normally only available as force support. The formation HQ also gets up to six booby traps to deploy.
All in all the sappers are, by the standards of the NVA, expensive high quality troops with decent support options in formation. These are definitely worth a look, even if its just as a support company in another formation.
EDIT – Just reading the forums and I note that Phil has chimed in that the HQ’s to hit should be used for company too – that makes them bit more like their old selves!
The Ironclad Company is now split into three, one for each “K” type. However, each has the same base layout:
- 1-2 company of the specific “K” version.
- An either/or choice between the other two “K” types or a Mechanised Infantry Company
- A ZSU-57-2 Platoon
The drop of compulsory platoons to just one company makes having a small formation viable, though it may be somewhat brittle given the morale rules. This is offset by the fact that you can’t quite pick and choose tanks types as you were previously able – having another tank type will generally prevent you having mechanised infantry. Clever use of supporting formations shouldn’t leave you short of supporting infantry and its notable that there is nothing stopping Local Fighters and Ironclad battalions being in the same force anymore.
The tanks themselves have all had small tweaks. Firstly, all of them no longer have to worry about Hen and Chicks. That’s a big boon to fire on the move.
The T-34/85 (K1) has lost a pip of front armour and is now front armour 6. Still enough to give it a save from a LAW from the front. The 85mm gun still remains much as it was, with a useful range and fire power but an AT that is only going the threaten AVRN M48’s from the side. The old option of swapping up to three T-34/85 for PT-76 has gone, presumably because no-one ever bothered with it and its adds complication for no great gain.
The T-54 (K2) not only gets a shiney new plastic model, it also, like M48, gets a bump in front armour to FA13, SA9. The 100mm keeps its AT of 16 and Rate of Fire of 1, but this is classed as HEAT. The gun is also slow firing so will have a +1 to hit on the move. “Stabilisers” doesn’t appear as a rule but the IR equipment and AA MG of a later build T-54 is present by default.
Interestingly the T-54 only has a cross check of 4+, much like the East German T-55AM2 in Team Yankee. I had assumed that the latter was due to the extra armour and systems adding weightbut maybe BF see an inherent issue in T-52 cross country performance?
Not that that seemed to stop it crossing, say, presidential palace gates…
The T-54 presents a very real threat to AVRN M41 Bulldogs and M48 Pattons as the NVA continue their push into South Vietnam post-US withdrawal.
The PT-76 (K-3) is the third choice and is the only tank that the US ground forces actually encountered in ‘Nam, a battalion sized raiding party attacking a special forces base and a company later engaging a M48 platoon at a firebase. The PT-76 has about the same speed as a T-34/85, lower armour (.50 are a threat!) but is amphibious. It’s 76mm gun is shorter ranged but has an AT of 13 thanks to HEAT rounds. It still won’t penetrate a MBT from the front but side is always an option. More importantly it is stabilised so whilst its only ROF1 it can make use of a 14” tactical move so long as the extra +1 penalty is not much of a burden. The K-3 is a good, cheap fire support option for the NVA, especially for those that want to stay true to what the US would have likely encountered. I’ve had some good fun doing 1972 Easter Offensive Vietnam on Vietnam tank battles too.
The formation non-tank platoons are both present. The ZSU-57 gets a boost in front armour to 2, but loses out on anti-tank performance dropping from AT11 to 9 – still enough to slice through a M41 or M113! The RoF drops from 5 to 3, halted. I also note that the 12.7, 14.5 and 37mm AA guns also all lose a point of RoF too so I’m not sure if that is some re-balancing now helicopters are a little more fragile in this version of the game.
The Mechanised company and its BTR-50PK stay largely the same, excepting that the the LMG teams are mandatory, as are the B41 RPG (the stat card in teh book says optional but you’ll note no B40 are mentioned in the unit organisation). The infantry resemble their non-mounted equivalent in all stats. This makes for a mobile infantry platoon to support the tanks but the transports and mandatory B41 make for a more expensive platoon and the fact that they don’t have “guerrilla fighter” or “die in the north” may lessen their impact for some. Thankfully there’s always some foot infantry in the support choices
The NVA have the benefit of on and off table artillery. On table, the 82mm mortars in the formations are bolstered by 120mm heavy mortars. The 120m suffers a little by the FP boost of the 82mm. Its only gota slightly better range (8″ difference) a pip better in fire power and its anti-tank of 2 is only a threat to open topped vehicles. More importantly its hit on a 2+ f0r some reason so, even with a 3+ save its something of a liability. Its a struggle to see why you’d want it over a six gun 82mm mortar platoon for the same points so its really only useful for the Local Forces (who have a smaller platoon) or the Ironclads (who dont have in-formation mortars).
The other on-board choice is the the 82mm recoilless as discussed in the sappers section. Combining hard hitting direct fire with a decent artillery fire, its a real swiss army knife unit.
The off-board artillery consists of 130mm guns or 122 rockets. The “jet artillery” now no longer lose shots as they take longer to range in and just act as any other “salvo” rocket artillery. The 130mm gun unit is marginally ore expensive and has smaller template but better (AT3 vs AT2) and FP (3+ compared to 4). I think I favour the guns as the Infantry closing up with the enemy will drive a need for a smaller “keep out” zone around the template.
All can be bolstered by an OP which will be very handy when truing to deal with the low skill otherwise present.
Joining the 12.7mm in the formations is an either/or choice of 14.5mm heavy AAMG or the 37mm AA cannon. It looks like all NVA anti-air has lost a point of ROF compared to the Tour of Duty versions.
The 14.5mm has a better range, at 20″, than the 12.7mm but identical ROF, similar FP of 5+ and a lower save. You can have a big platoon of six guns so its useful for dealing with the enemy air.
The 37mm is a fixed position nest which gives it a better save but no mobility. It has an identical RoF and a similar range to the 14.5mm, but higher firepower, These could be useful area denial weapons versus the enemy air through the lack of mobility will allow the imperialist aircraft to stay out of range if there is o gain to entering the threat zone.
Jersey’s Resistance Fighters
Of course, the local resistance fighter teams have a presence in the game. They can only be take if one of the three infantry formations is present but having Ironclads does not prevent their use.
The local resistance moves randomly but can not be targeted by enemy fire (note, they don’t seem to stop enemy artillery barrages though…). They can either fire a single rifle shot (being destroyed after firing) or, perhaps more usefully, they can move an objective. On a 4+, in the starting phase when ambushes are deployed, they can move an objective within 8″ to their locations. this destroys the team but obviously steals it away to a more advantageous position.
The North Vietnamese and insurgent forces are still the plucky under dogs of Tour of Duty/Brown Water, relying more on sneaky tricks than the finest kit a bloated Military Industrial Complex can provide. There’s no new surprises other than the Special Task Company being expanded to a battalion, but also there’s no great losers in the switch to the v4 style.