VG Vietnam Faithful Version (Full Version)

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Goodmongo -> VG Vietnam Faithful Version (10/9/2011 8:09:20 PM)

Many old board games were remade into computer games over the years. Some succeeded but most failed. It was usually due to trying to fit a square peg into a round hole situation. All too often a central theme was left out. When it worked it was because both the original board game and the computer version were basically the same. They were tactical or operation or strategic. But if that board game had multiple components the port was much more difficult to achieve.

In 1984 Victory Games released a board game called Vietnam 1965-1975. There have been a number of attempts to do this on the computer. To date I think all have failed. The reasons why is because the original game had a strategic level, operational level and tactical level. And to make things worse the war was unlike all wars before it. There were no front lines. Many of the decisions were abstract but had a huge impact on play. And of course the I Go, You Go of games just didnít seem to fit well with the board game.

A couple of attempts came close. For example there is a Vietnam scenario for TOAW game. But this is really just a tactical combat scenario with modified victory points. The square peg of the board game had issues fitting into the round hole of the TOAW system.

A more recent attempt using the ATG game came much closer. But it also failed to accurately capture the feel and flavor of the board game. It failed because it also tried to force the board game to fit into the confines of the ATG system. I am NOT here to bash that attempt. In fact it was the inspiration for me to try and do it over. That said I will throughout this thread reference it and compare it to what Iím trying to accomplish and why they are different.

I think for the first time there is a system (ATG) that will allow us to put the round peg (the bases system) into the square hole (the original game). It wonít be a perfect fit. But it should be real darn close. Closer than ever before possible.

Now if you did not like the original game you may not like this scenario. I intend to change ATG to fit into the concepts and requirements of the board game. That means less focus on tactical fighting and more focus on operational planning. I suggest you try one of the other scenarios. As I mentioned Grymme has done a real nice job and that may be your cup of tea.

Each post will be focused on rules or sections concerning the board game. I then will discuss what the game did and why. After that I will layout my thoughts on how the ATG system could handle it. When things donít fit I will outline the pros and cons of the possible choices. Sometimes common aspects of ATG will be changed and at other times the board game rules will have to be modified as it just might not be possible to implement them.

Now a little background on me. I started playing the board game shortly after it was released. I completed 6 full campaigns of the game (3 wins, 3 losses) and played it solo. Iíve been into war games almost all my life. First board games and then on the computer. I also have a background in programming and did coding all the way back to 1986. But Iím really new to ATG. To make matters worse there seems to be a big lack of documentation for the functions and rules. That means two things. The first is that it will take time to overcome the learning curve. The nuggets in any programming language are buried deep and well hidden. It will just take time to learn the nuances and all there is to the editor. The second issue is that my best laid plans may not be possible to actually implement. But only time and effort will answer that question.

As I go forward I want your feedback. I want your input and advice. Plus your thoughts and even your concerns. It will not be my way or the highway. That said I will give great weight to decisions that try to capture the flavor and spirit of the original game. Probably the only thing that might change that is the fun factor. If implementing something is so obtrusive and convoluted that it makes it a pain, when a much simpler alternative is available Iíll go with easy and more fun. Unless of course if it goes completely against the purpose and intent of the game design.

Goodmongo -> RE: VG Vietnam Faithful Version (10/9/2011 8:11:30 PM)

The first topic I would like to address is how air power is handled in both ATG and in the board game. In ATG air has three missions, recon, tactical bombing and location or strategic bombing. Planes fly from an air base and conduct one of these missions, then fly back. ATG does not allow planes and ground troops to be part of the same battle (at least Iím not aware or how to do this). Planes were also represented by SFTís or to put it another way they were actual units on the map.

In the board game air power is more abstract. Air power has four missions in the game. The first is strategic bombing of the north or the trail. But air power could also conduct tactical bombing or interdiction which made movement through a hex harder for both sides. The fourth mission was using air power in direct support of ground troops during operations like search and destroy. This direct support could happen during offensive operations or while defending. Air power was also abstracted in that there were no air bases, they had unlimited range and their losses, even in a tactical bombing where handled differently. For example, during a search and destroy operation you could only lose a maximum of one air point during the entire operation. If you lost it on the first combat the air power would not be deducted till the operation was over.

ATG is a much more tactical type game and is best suited for relatively short time periods. Vietnam has turns that actually represent about 6 weeks. A future post will discuss this aspect. During the real war many planes like the B52ís werenít even based in country. They flew from bases like Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and hit targets anywhere in the operational zone. A design that wants to stay true to this must modify how ATG does things.

The first change I would make is to move all air units off the actual map. Remember we are not trying to model the actual war, but instead this design goal is to capture how the board game worked. I would create one or more airbases on a fictitious island a few hexes away from the Vietnam map. The number of bases depends on how stacking is handled which I need to review. I would then lower the AP cost of movement to 0 if possible or the lowest number possible. Air power needs to have unlimited range.

Both ATG and the board game had strategic bombing. ATGís method is to take some units and attack a location. That location then suffers structural damage. The board game handled things much differently. First off there were three types of bombings. They were restrained bombing of the north, unrestrained bombings of the north and finally bombing of the Ho Chi Minh trail.

The mechanics of how this worked is the US player would set aside a number of air points for strategic use. This was done just once a season and not during the actual game turns, but instead during a special strategic war phase. He would then declare which targets he intended to bomb. He could bomb both the trail and the north, but had to pick restrained or unrestrained for bombings of the north. These air points were looked up on a chart and cross referenced to the air defense and a number of hits found. The US player could lose from 0 to 2 air points for each bombing.

The hits where then used to temporarily (and a slim chance for a permanent hit) lower the effective level of the trail or as direct losses in commitment allocated by the NVN player for VC supplies. So all of this was done in a very abstract manner. Bombing of the north also resulted in changes to US and SVN morale. I think this can easily be recreated using action cards in ATG.

The map can list the status of the trail and the level of NVN air defenses. The US player picks an action card for the bombing mission he wants to use. A number of air units are assigned to the operation and a result based on the games bombing table is returned. Of course some player aids need to be given so the player can make an informed decision. And I need to research exactly how ATG can use up these air points so they would not be available for other things during that phase or during the upcoming turn.

You would not see actual combat for this type of strategic bombings. It would be abstracted just like the board game and the results applied to various status levels and variables that the game would track. And just like the board game this would be done only during a seasonal turn.
Moving on to tactical bombing the board game used a unique method to calculate combat losses. What they did was add enemy air/naval/artillery strength to friendly ground combat strength. Here is the logic behind this. If I sent a sortie of planes to bomb a cultivated hex the chances of me killing people depends on the density of the people to land area. The more people the better chance Iíll hit something. Sometimes in the board game the NVA would make a mistake and group together a full division in a hex. As the US side you could send a single air point and get some decent strength losses against those troops. But if that hex had a single VC battalion the number killed would most likely be zero or at most one.

ATG on the other had uses a very standard and basic tactic of having a plane target a soldier and see if it kills it. If you had one plane the number of hits would probably be the same no matter if you had a defending unit of 10 guys or 1000 guys.

So I thought that a potential way to resolve this is to modify the chance of hitting/killing by the plane SFT based on the number of PPís in the target hex. I do not know if I can change the values of a SFT on the fly like this or not. But if it is possible when the US player selects his air units and then targets an enemy hex a n event is called to check the number of PPís in the hex. That even then changes the SFTís in the selected air units to lower or raise the kill ratio of the plane SFT. After combat these would be changed back and based on a random chance one of the air units might be destroyed by removing it from play. I would need to coordinate this with combat losses and replacements which is another big issue.

An alternative strategy is to abstract air power even in tactical attacks. A pool of air points can be tracked and you can play an action card to attack a hex using them. How to use more than one is an open issue. But you then select a target hex and the results are handled through an event. As with the above option combat losses and replacements need to be coordinated here, but since the option in tactical air attacks are either replacement losses or the destruction and removal of a unit I think it can be done. A very complicating factor is the attack and breaking down of a VC regiment into battalions due to this type of attack.

Free fire zones and interdiction on movement are topics that impact air points but they need to be left for another day.

The last thing for today that I want to touch on is air power in normal combat. Grymme had a great idea when he allowed SFTís that represented defensive air power to be placed in combat units. In one way he was abstracting the use of air power by doing this. To further expand on this thought this concept could also be used for offensive operations.

Letís say that I have a HQ off main map. Iím also tracking a variable of air points. At the start of each turn I give X number of air SFTís to the HQ based on air power. As I play action cards I remove some of the SFTís. I can also transfer SFTís to combat units for offensive or defensive combat. And of course at each turn phase I remove all SFTís and start over again. I need to figure out how to handle a potential air point loss doing this and also overcome a situation where in the board game an air point is assigned to an operation and not just a specific unit. Maybe some tradeoffs will be required to resolve this. More impact for a much shorter time of use.

Anyway those are my thoughts on air power and how we can use ATG concepts to fit into the requirements of the board game.

Grymme -> RE: VG Vietnam Faithful Version (10/9/2011 8:21:29 PM)

You are in your full rights to mod any and each scenario you like. In fact i welcome you doing it.

But i would like you to atleast show me enough respect and stop referencing me and my scenario.

JJKettunen -> RE: VG Vietnam Faithful Version (10/9/2011 8:35:57 PM)

Interesting topic! I've been contemplating boardgame conversion ideas to ATG myself lately. Have no ideas for this specific problem yet, but perhaps I'll come back with something later on.

Goodmongo -> RE: VG Vietnam Faithful Version (10/9/2011 10:12:16 PM)

I would like to discuss rangers for this topic. Rangers were a powerful tool to add some ground forces to any operation. They could be used over and over again. They also impacted movement along the borders into South Vietnam. Grymme came up with a cool concept in his version but changed the functionality from the board game in doing so.

In the board game you had a die roll chance to bring in rangers in search and destroy operations. They must be placed in a hex with ARVN units involved in the operation and at the end of the operation they were removed. The number used was limited to a percentage chance of placing the unit and to the number of hexes. At the end of the operation the rangers were removed and eligible for the next operation.

ATG has a limitation where you can only select one hex at a time. So the actual process will need to be changed somewhat. I plan to use action cards to place rangers. But rangers will not be a separate unit. Instead rangers will be a SFT added to an existing ARVN unit. I did this for two reasons. First off in the board game rangers could be reused over and over again. And as mentioned they had to be placed in a hex with units already there. I want to make sure that the US player does not abuse this system. The US player should not be able to place 5 rangers, use them in battle, remove them and place 5 more. They must be tied to other ARVN units existing on the map.

So my actual mechanics is to add a SFT to the ARVN unit that you are trying to assign a ranger to. If you succeed the ranger SFT is added and you get a big increase in power. But if it fails you get a SFT that has no combat powers. At the end of the turn all of these SFTís are removed from play. This is to prevent that unit from using rangers on defense which they were not intended to do.

There are a few issues that remain. Say the US player tried for a ranger unit. He fails the dice roll and I place a non-combat SFT with the unit. The first issue is to prevent the US player from disbanding the SFT and trying to place the ranger unit a second time. Another issue is placing more than one ranger per hex. And another issue is not allowing more than 5 rangers to take part in any one battle.

I am still trying to find a way to not allow a player to disable SFTís from a unit. If that can be done that solves one of the ranger issues and makes other plans of mine easier to implement. I think I can check all units in a selected hex to see if a SFT exists there. If I can that partially solves the placement of rangers in multiple units in the same hex. But there will be nothing that I can do to stop a player from moving a unit out of the hex and then placing a ranger in the hex with the units no longer containing the ranger SFT.

Probably the best way to handle these issues is to slightly increase the chances of the ranger unit not deploying. Itís a tradeoff but it might be the only way to handle it.

The other function of rangers is interdiction. Grymme does this by giving a percentage chance of changing a border hex back to the SVN side. The game increases the movement cost to ENTER a border hexes by 1 or 2 depending on the number of rangers the SVN side had.

NVN units had varying movement allowance. VC units had a movement allowance of 6 or 7. NVA units had between 7 and 10, but HQ's were pretty slow at only 5. So a flat increase of 2 could be as much as a 33% impact. Terrain did not matter as the increase was in addition to the terrain costs and possible ZOCís of enemy units.

The board game assigned movement points and each terrain has a cost based on foot or mobile based unit type. ATG on the other hand gives APís which are expended for movement and combat. I plan to have two more detailed posts for movement and combat in the near future. See the game basically allows you to move your full allowance and then attack for your full capability. It then continues on with pursuit or other things depending on the operation. I highly doubt I will ever be able to exactly mimic this so changes are required. But I would love to allow a unit the chance to conduct a full attack even after it expended its full movement allowance.

So my goal is if I can assign movement costs for landscape types that accurately reflect the games costs while taking into consideration the different movement point allowances for units, I then could just add a percentage increase to the border landscape hexes based on the ranger count. What I donít know is if I can do this for very specific hexes or if all hexes are impacted. Hex control and ownership is just one more varying thing that will impact these tests.

As for ranger losses from combat I am holding off on that one. Combat losses are a huge and complex topic that varies by unit type and side. Plus replacements need to be tied into the mix. That said, I am thinking on the lines of removing an ARVN replacement point based on a certain percentage loss in the rangerís SFT combat PPís. If there are no ARVN replacements then the ranger unit would be eliminated. Adding ranger SFTís during a turn is always done at full strength.

Goodmongo -> RE: VG Vietnam Faithful Version (10/9/2011 10:26:18 PM)

Grymme I have nothing but respect for your scenarios. I suggest everyone go and try them out. I am only referencing it to show how this one will be differeent. After all why have two scenarios about the exact same subject matter unless there really is a difference. And for the record I'm mainly referring to it and how the original board game played to show why the choices I'm making are being done. Oh and you are free to take any of these ideas and incorporate them into your scenario if you so wish.

Goodmongo -> RE: VG Vietnam Faithful Version (10/9/2011 10:27:43 PM)

For this post I would like to cover the Ho Chi Minh trail in detail. In the board game the trail represented both a physical landscape and had an impact on VC supplies. There was a trail tracking box and movement boxes. There are five topics that the trail can or will impact. These are NLF supply/draft levels. Trail status including actual and effective levels. Infiltration which includes entering, leaving and movement along the trail. Blocking of the trail by Free World side units. And finally combat on the trail.

Supply and draft levels can easily be handled simply by keeping track of the overall and effective level of the trail. A small table will be included on the map to show these levels and the expected amount of NLF supply and draft population levels that the NLF player will receive.

When it comes to the optimal and effective status of the trail actions by both sides will impact this. The trail will start out at a specified optimal status level for the scenario. The NVN player can spend commitment to raise this level by any amount per seasonal turn. My guess is that the action card will need to be played multiple times to accomplish this as the cost increases as the optimal level goes higher. Strategic bombing of the trail by the US side has the chance to lower the optimal level by at most one per seasonal turn provided a certain level of air power is assigned to bombing of the trail.

The effective level is set to the optimal level at the start of every seasonal turn. Strategic bombing can lower this effective level by up to 4 levels. Also, Free World combat units on the trail will lower the effectiveness by 1 for units in each of Cambodia and Laos trail boxes for a maximum reduction of two more. A major issue needs to be resolved as the movement and combat of US units on the trial is very different than NVN units. I need to be able to represent Free World units on the trail without actually being on the trail. This might be resolved by having the units next to actual trail hexes and then playing an action card to represent them in the trail box. But since trail boxes in the game are much larger then single hexes this still has issues that need to be resolved.

The trail is like a super highway for NVN units to get into South Vietnam at a fast pace. A VC unit can be created in any trail box and NVA units can be created in the most northern trail box. Most of the trail activity is done outside of the normal turn and handled during seasonal turns. The best solution to resolve this would be to have a seasonal turn where NVN units on the trail could conduct movement and only units within a certain area code were allowed to move. When it comes to normal turns units in these special parts would not be eligible for any movement. Another possible solution is to create a ďseaĒ hex that separates the trail from the rest of the map. An action card is then played and a type of naval transport is done to move units to or from the trail. Only some testing and seeing how it works can answer which is better.

But movement on the trail should be at a much faster rate. The key is somehow tying it to the effective level of the trail box. So simply have a low AP cost doesnít resolve the issue. It has to be a variable that changes based on other factors. To complicate things the game allows NVN units to enter the trail boxes but their movement is limited to their unmodified MP and not a strategic MP amount that the trail provides. If there are Free World units in a trail box the NVN player pays 5 additional movement points to move through that trail box. And Free World units that are on the trail are limited to moving a single box during the normal turn segments.

When it comes to combat only the NVN play can conduct combat on the trail. This combat is done during the NVN playerís seasonal infiltration phase and any NVN units that take part in the attack cannot be used for the rest of the whole season. The Free World player needs to be prohibited from conducting any type of attack or bombardment of the trail hexes.

So as you can see there are some major differences in how the board game handles things from what most games do. My thoughts on this are to have a couple of different landscape types. One type is the trail itself. Since this is a special landscape type I think I might be able to modify the AP cost of movement through an event that is based on strategic bombings and enemy units. Only the NVN player will actually end up having units here as they will be separated by a sea type hex.

Leaving the trail is done through an action card on a special turn. I hope to have a special seasonal turn where only certain things can be done. More on this though in a future post. Anyway, leaving the trail will allow the NVN unit to be used normally during the other turns. To be eligible the NVN unit must have full AP meaning it did not move along the trail or participate in any combat.

Entering the trail is also done through an action card. The unit must start in a hex adjacent to the trail, or in this case one of a number of specified hexes. Iím thinking of giving that unit a special SFT with a reduced AP amount. This allows the unit to move to additional trail boxes but not as many as would be allowed if a unit started on the trail.

As an example of how the game works say a unit has a movement point allowance of 6 and the effective trail status of 5 changes this to a grand total of 18 movement points. The trail in the game is actually just 19 boxes long from the very north to the last box in the south. So if this unit started in box one it could actually reach the end box during a single seasonal infiltration turn. So you can see the big impact that the trail has in the game. A full NVA division can be created and placed in box one. Then it moves along the trail. During the next seasonal turn it can leave the trail and conduct normal operations. Other attempts at converting the board game fall short in this area as it can take 6 months to a year for a NVA division to move all the way down their trail routes.

As for trail combat the issues are many. Iím almost of the mind to not even go down this route. But something needs to be done to lessen the impact that Free World units have on effective status and trail movement. So my thought was that some of the hexes near the trail would also have a special landscape. These would mimic trail hexes but the US could get to them. The terrain defense bonus would be 0 as per the game. The NVN player could attack units here and force a retreat out of the hex. And since there is no practical reason for the NVN player to be in these hexes it would solve the problem of no US combat on the trail. As for units in this special hex they could not target the actual trail and the surrounding hexes are all normal hexes that allow US attacks to take place. I think this gets us 90-95% of the way to mimicking the game mechanics.

Magpius -> RE: VG Vietnam Faithful Version (10/10/2011 2:02:51 AM)

Should make for a very interesting read.

Goodmongo -> RE: VG Vietnam Faithful Version (10/10/2011 5:31:33 PM)

I made a list of topics that Iíll eventually have to cover.† Some of them will be extremely intricate and lengthy, like movement, combat and combat losses.† Others will be much shorter where Iíll combine a couple into a single post.† Having said that I have around 30-35 topics to discuss in future posts.† I previously mentioned that I had past experience programming and designing business applications.† One of the things I always tried to do was to lay out as complete a design as possible before the actual coding started.† I would do proof of concepts and test codes samples, but the actual coding usually didnít start till the design was about 90% complete.† Iím taking that same approach here.† And the reason for this is simple.† Some of the big topics like combat/movement etc are going to have a huge impact on other things like terrain, ZOCís etc.† And to make units or terrain at this point just invites me doing the work over again when decisions†made in the future†force changes to things discussed now.

For todayís post I would like to discuss limited intelligence, holding/patrol operations and the seasonal interphase and game turns.† Limited intelligence is classically known to us as a fog of war.† The original board game, being a board game had some limitations.† After all placing a unit on the map means both sides can see it.† But since we are talking about Vietnam this made sense and was explained in detail to us by the orginal designers.† All US and ARVN units are known in full to the NVN player.† This represented the spies and infiltration of the South Vietnamese army.† The NVA units were also known in detail to the US playerís side.† I guess this was done through spy satellites, recon planes etc.† The VC were a different situation.† The US could tell where VC activity was taking place but had no clue as to the strength or numbers involved.† After all if a road was†attacked you knew the enemy was there but had no clue if it was 10 guys or 500.† So the game represented this by having VC counters that were turned upside down.

ATG has a couple of tools available to help me duplicate these mechanics.† There are recon points and hide values for both units and terrain.† As per my stated goal I want to stay true to the original game as much as possible.† So my plan is to allow full examination of all units EXCEPT VC units.† By using regimes, peoples, unique SFTís and terrain I hope to reproduce this.† The key goal is that as the US player you will see a unit representing the VC but not see any details or SFTís for that unit.† In fact if you moved next to it you still wouldnít see the details.† That way when you attack it you have no clue if you are attacking a regiment, battalion or a political section.† I plan to represent the political sections not as real combat units but as something that has a ZOC and acts like a combat unit.† However, when attacked they are completely destroyed.† Doing this means that as the US player you run a great risk in attacking the VC without sufficient forces.

One of the potential larger issues should actually work out.† Iím talking about attacking a VC unit with a small force and setting your retreat value very high.† This means you know the forces and can attack again or add more forces if necessary.† I have to verify this but the attacking force will most likely have a stalled attack and take a big hit to readiness so the tradeoff should balance out the advantage to US units.† What will most likely happen is the US player uses a single air point or artillery unit and conducts a bombardment.† This then shows what the hex contains and then a real operation can be conducted.† BTW this was done very often in the original game.† It was one reason playing as the US†side you bought 100+ air points.

Moving on I would like to discuss holding and patrol operations.† In the board game these two operations were conducted during the Special Operations Phase of the game turn.† A holding operation prevented a unit from moving or attacking.† The units also exerted no ZOC on the surrounding hexes.† What it got in return was a doubling of its combat power.† A special marker was placed on the unit to identify which ones were on holding operations.† Both sides made great use of this operation.† As the NLF player you capture a capital city and then next turn place your units on holding operations.† This just changed that one unit into two for combat purposes.† Or the US player may use a single ARVN battalion unit and do the same thing in a city near the border.

Doing this with ATG is not really that hard.† To place a unit on hold operations would require an action card to be played.† But to get the results required I figure I have a couple of choices here.† I can add a unique SFT with zero AP to the unit.† Or I might also be able to adjust the entrench value of the unit.† Doing away with the ZOC will be harder to accomplish.† ARVN battalions are not a problem as they have no ZOC anyway, so SFT's won't have them.† But other units are an issue.† After all how do you remove a ZOC value†that is ingrained in the SFT?† Another issue that Iím trying to work out is VC units on holding operations.† In the game you knew they were on the operation but had no clue about their strength.† So far in ATG I can do one or the other.† Iím leaning toward keeping the unit hidden.† After all the US player could just bombard the unit and that will reveal the units there.

The other strategic operation is a patrol operation.† Units on patrol may not move or attack and defend normally.† But they exert a special ZOC where it takes two additional movement points for the enemy to LEAVE a ZOC of a unit on patrol.† ARVN battalion sized units, HQís, political sections, supply conduits and artillery could not be placed on patrol.† And patrol units also had a marker to designate them.

The how is not an issue.† Iím thinking of an action card and then checking to see if the unit is eligible.† What I havenít been able to fully work out is ZOCís and entering a hex vs. leaving the hex and applying the appropriate movement costs.† Since this is all integrated into movement I will put it off till then.

As for why you want units on patrol it comes down to pacification.† The best provinces are along the coast.† Placing of VC units was much more restricted in the original game than the other version offered here.† You were lucky to place two units in any given province.† Most units had to come from the trail and cross over Laos or Cambodia and move to the coast.† Anything that slows this down means more time for the US player to intercept the units and destroy them.† So placing ineffective ARVN regiments on patrol is a win-win situation.† After all they canít attack anyway so why not increase their one capability which is to slow down the enemy.† And a pesky VC battalion near a road with a patrol operation means the US player has a much lower chance of getting units to where they are needed.† These two operations offer some chess like strategy that previous computer versions of the game lacked.

The last topic for this post covers the seasonal interphase and game turn.† The original board game had a seasonal turn followed by two complete game turns.† Each of the turns were further broken down into specific phases.† The seasonal turn had these specific phases.

Recordkeeping Ė A computer is very good at this and I plan to have many tracks or tables to show current status of key statistics.
Pacification Ė A key phase that will be duplicated.
Strategic War Ė This was further broken down into mission declaration, bombing execution, trail status and blockade segments.† All of these will be included.† The one good thing about ATGís I-go You-go is that these segments are still based on that style.
Political Ė Just like the strategic phase this was also broken down into segments that handled SVN officer replacements, coup determination, SVN morale, US morale and NVN morale.† The only thing that may not be possible is officer replacements.† A future post will cover this in detail.
Recruitment Ė This had a Free World side, NVN side, infiltration and offensive declaration segments.† I think all of this can be implemented and will discuss in another post.† I do touch on offensives below.
Unit Status Ė This phase had US organization, ARVN effectiveness and VC breakdown segments.

The game turn had support, special operations designation, strategic movement and operations phases.† The operations phase was where the original game no longer followed an I-go You-go structure.
My thoughts are to have seasons play out 4 times a year just like the board game.† But while ATG uses months I want to take the first month and change what can and needs to be done.† Special action cards will be available only during this month.† Action cards will handle the strategic bombings and recruitment of new units.† You can place new units but you wonít be able to move them.

In fact the only movement that will be allowed is along the Ho Chi Minh trail.† The method Iím thinking about using is changing the terrain movement costs of all terrain except the ones that represent the Ho Chi Minh trail.† I raise the cost where no units can move in standard terrain.† I will need to disable strategic movement by using HQís, while at the same time allowing units to leave the trail and enter a standard hex on the map next to the trail hex.

Newly created units cannot move along the trail or on the map till their operation phase.† But this creates one enormous issue.† In the original game the NVN player decides who gets the first operation.† That means the NVN player gets to place units and then move them, or even attack with them before the US player ever gets to react.

Most of the seasonal interphase is straight forward and wonít be an issue to duplicate.† It also fits in nicely with the I-go You-go flow.† But I would like to talk a little more about some of the phases.
The NVN offensive phase is supposed to last for two complete game turns.† I would really like to duplicate this and set a game variable when an offensive is declared.† Then every time the NVN player conducts an attack another variable is incremented by one.† I need to research if there is a combat event that fires after each combat.† If there is one I should be able to track attacks that way.† If not I may have to fall back on value of combat losses which in my opinion is a poor indicator of the actual Tet Offensive and how the game duplicates it.

ARVN effectiveness will be handled in another topic, but it will be random based as was the game.

US organizational changes allowed you to combine US battalions that belonged to the same formation into a brigade sized unit.† This unit was around 30-50% stronger than the individual battalions.† It made for a very powerful force in fighting augmented NVA units.† I see no reason why this could not be done in the game.† The units need to all be in the same hex and would be replaced with the brigade unit.† And you could play another action card to break them all down into their battalion sized units.† These action cards only apply to US units.† The original game did offer a third alternative where the HQ was not placed on the map and the artillery was given out to the individual units.† While I understand why the game offered this option I will not be including it.† One reason was that in my 6 complete games played I think I saw it done only twice.† When coupled to ATGís HQ structure it just makes for more trouble than the benefits provided.† But I'm willing to listen to arguments for including that option.

The other unit combination is for VC units.† There were a limited number of VC battalions and regiments that could be in play at any one time.† This offered the NVN player some flexibility in managing the unit counts.† Of course breaking down a regiment into three battalions gave away what units where in that hex to the US player.† And placing a regiment where 3 battalions were also was a dead giveaway.†† A smart NVN player would have one or two other units in the hex so that when they were eventually moved you werenít sure which were which.† But offering an action card that allows this is not an issue and will be included in the game.

Before closing out this post I want to briefly touch on the game turns.† The game had two game turns per season of which the operations phase was the key.† But the operations phase was not an I-go You-go flow.† The NVN player dictated who would take the next operation.† This was a key chess like strategy as the NVN player could decline the operation and then the US player would have the choice.† If the US player declined the NVN player had one more chance to conduct an operation.† If they declined the turn was over.† Since each side had limited resources it came down to doing what you needed to do but maintaining reserves to counter the other side.† Many turns might result in lots of forces doing nothing and just sitting there.

I would love to duplicate this but the chances are slim to none for that to happen.† ATG is just not built that way.† Not to mention the coding for the AI of either side would be a nightmare.† BTW, I plan on both US and NVN AIís and I have some cool thoughts on them.† Anyway, we will be forced to follow the standard flow of the I-go You-go system.

So Iím thinking of making a new phase in the seasonal interphase.† The VC player during their seasonal interphase can place their units and then get a free movement phase.† No attacks are allowed, but they would get a slight bonus to movement.† They would also be allowed to place units on hold or patrol operations.† I may, and this is a BIG IF, allow artillery bombardment by the NVN player.

Playing this very special action card removes other action cards so no new units could be created, trail status changes, or commitment converted to supply.††Plus it changes the SFTís, terrain movement and other things that were restricted during the seasonal interphase turn.† I think I can make the units, with the possible exception†of artillery 100% combat ineffective.† Doing this mimics the game allowing the VC player the chance to conduct certain operations and gives them a pseudo first move choice.† This way they can setup their defensives and get units into or out of harmís way.

Then when we move into a normal turn sequence the US player would go first.† All NVN units that need to be on hold or patrol are on those operations already.† This also means that the US player runs a risk of having no units to fight on the first turn as they ran away†to Cambodia, only to see them appear on the very last NVN turn to be counted in the pacification rolls.† If it works this will be a cool way to get the feel for changing operations while still following the ATGís system of I-go You-go.

You thoughts as always will be appreciated.

Goodmongo -> RE: VG Vietnam Faithful Version (10/10/2011 7:37:36 PM)

This discussion will be more philosophically based and not detail with actual specifics.† In my first post on this thread I said that I would make changes to ATG before making changes to the mechanisms or the look and feel of the original board game.

The original game basically had two combat types.† There was ground combat strength and artillery strength.† When it came to combat it was one or the other.† Air and naval were really just artillery strength.† ATG on the other had has many different types of SFTís.† Units are made up through the combination of different SFTís.† It can be said that a major selling point of AT/ATG is the SFT concept.† You can create a real life type unit that includes rifle units, machineguns, trucks and other stuff.

One of the issues I was having was a Ďdisbandí button on the units SFT screen.† I could place a SFT in a unit that limited movement or APís and all the player had to do was disband the SFT.† This was a type of cheating that would be very hard to catch in PBEM games.† After all most of these SFTís would have been removed by the program as the round advanced.

The solution seems to be to go back to how the original board game did things.† In other words create a very limited number of SFTís.† Letís say I have a VC unit.† I can have a single SFT in that unit.† It would have various stats for movement, combat, AP etc.† Behind the scenes there is an almost duplicate SFT for that VC unit.† Letís say I play the holding operation action card.† A holding operation gives the benefit of double combat strength but canít move or attack and no ZOC.† I simply swap out the existing SFT and replace it with a SFT that has these stats.† This way if the player does disband the SFT they would have gotten rid of the actual unit!† The unit would have no combat SFTís left in it.

This idea should be able to work across the board.† ATG will still require some ďsupportĒ SFTís like trucks or helicopters to facilitate movement, but I think all combat related SFTís can have different versions that meet the various requirements of operations or effects from action cards.

To tie it all together will force one other big change to ATG.† That is combat losses.† I will discuss that in detail in a future post but let me say for now that combat losses in the game vs. ATG were handled very differently.† In the original board game units were always at full strength.† You took losses by expending replacements or by removing the whole unit.† In ATG you suffer losses based on each individual soldier.† Units could easily be above or below starting strength.† I plan to implement a strategy that mimics the original board games combat losses.† Exactly how depends on some tests I need to run and if an event can be fired off right after a combat.† If an event is fired and if I can determine which units were in the combat I can write code that handles losses almost exactly like the original game would.† I could also apply AI logic at this point to handle VC dispersals.† But as I said that is for the future.

Some additional thoughts. Why even have trucks or helicopters? Just make a SFT with different movement rates for each terrain. As I think about it this seems like the way to go.

Jeffrey H. -> RE: VG Vietnam Faithful Version (10/10/2011 7:54:23 PM)

I was wondering if you plan on having an AI option for both sides. One thing to keep in mind, I don't think the AI can navigate through action cards.

Goodmongo -> RE: VG Vietnam Faithful Version (10/10/2011 8:17:25 PM)

Hi Jeffrey.† You are right as far as I know that the AI can't handle action cards.† But my thoughts about AI would be to vary the priorities, targets and defensive/attack stances based on various variables including units controlled, offensive operations, enemy units, population etc.† Where a human would play an action card the AI would have loops, checks and if statments on when it would do so.† The downside is that a human could change strategy based on facts as they changed.† Most of the AI would follow a specific plan for an entire turn or maybe even a whole season.

Take a simple example, the choice on playing the holding operation action card.† I would do an evaluation of the untis involved and the enemy strength that is near-by.† I would also check to see what hex I'm in.† So if I'm VC and I occuply a capital city hex I will use logic to mimic the playing of an action card for that unit.† Because I swapped out the SFT and it has no AP left the AI could not and will not move the unit out of the city.† So the ATG portion of the AI can't mess up my defensive AI decision in this example.

The AI will get complex.† I'm currently writing down various decisions that need to be made and giving some priority weight to them.† I can change AI rules and general rules.† I can also change AI SFT's.† But one thing I can never ever change is getting the AI to coordinate attacks better.

For the NVN AI I think the most difficult AI decisions will be to determine when and where to get units off the trail.† They are somewhat safe there so you want to wait till you have a strategic reason but you also want to keep the pressure on the US side.† As for the US AI it comes down to deciding where to fight and when to fight.† I don't want all units moving to I Corps area.† I need for some to stay put and wait for when the VC eventually do show up.† I think I can do that by assigning logic to various divisions and giving them logic to stay in a certain area to protect it.† While at the same time letting other divisions go to where the action is.† I don't want the human player simply over loading a province or corps area while the bulk of the US forces sit doing nothing.

Magpius -> RE: VG Vietnam Faithful Version (10/10/2011 9:49:52 PM)

I really like the ambiguous nature of the VC units. Not knowing the strength of the unit until you engage, will certainly play on your mind prior to combat.

Goodmongo -> RE: VG Vietnam Faithful Version (10/11/2011 5:49:34 PM)

Combat and movement has been taking up much of my thoughts lately.† I do not yet have answers or made any decisions but want to lay out my thoughts on the subject.† Near the end of the post Iíll cover regional forces and also list out some ATG features that I will not be using at all.

The original game had a very unique movement system.† Enemy units could even move through each other, maybe even starting an incidental attack sequence.† Reaction movement was an important function.† This meant that every time an enemy unit moved next to your unit, you had the option to move that unit up to its full movement point allowance wherever you wanted.† However, reaction movement could not trigger other reactions.† And there was also alert movement that the VC could use.† This is where the dispersal rule came into play.† The VC unit could just go away with the supply cost being refunded, but not the draft cost.

The bottom line was that the defender could sometimes escape the trap and avoid combat entirely.† You could chase them away but it was hard to catch the enemy units.† On top of this after each combat round there were retreat and pursuit movements.† A single operation could take the units far and wide from their original starting positions.

Iíve been researching some events in the ATG system that might mimic reaction moves.† But these would be very complex and may never achieve the goal of being like the original game, especially since it is impossible to move through enemy units.† When it comes to NVA units I think it will be OK to treat them like normal army units and do away with reaction movement.† Same goes for US or ARVN units.† Itís the VC units that Iím concerned about.† I donít want to make it easy to engage the VC units.† I think the best thing would be for the VC units to cause limited casualties to the US units but hard for the US units to actually fight them.† If they were trapped the VC units could them be killed without too much problems or losses.

The key here is somehow allowing the VC to retreat while not suffering any losses.† If more and more US units are brought into the battle they could cut off this retreat and eventually force a fight or dispersal.† Encirclement is another issue that complicates things.† I would really like to be able to let the VC player disperse his unit if it is ever surrounded and has no escape route.††† This results in the US player wasting movement for up to 6 units and getting almost nothing in return.† But Iím not sure how this could be checked for.

As for retreats Iím thinking about the VC side being allowed to retreat and not suffer the big losses that panic retreats or the free 2 rounds of combat that normal retreats result in.† But on the other hand if I attack that 1 strength VC battalion with enough air and artillery there is a decent chance that it will be completely destroyed in the original game.† For example say there is a 1 strength VC unit that is attacked by 2 US battalions of ground strength 6 along with 7 artillery points.† The combat modifiers are -1 for terrain and +5 for odds.† The VC unit has an 89% chance of being destroyed and only an 11% chance of taking 1 replacement loss and retreating.† Either way in 99.99% of the time the VC player would just remove the unit.† So you can see that IF the US player gets to attack he will usually wipe out the VC unit.

One of my biggest complaints about other attempts at the game was the unbalanced combat.† Maybe they represented real life fairly well.† But they did not represent the game well at all.† Those two US battalions with no artillery against that lone 1 strength VC battalion would result in no US losses 83% of the time and at least one loss for the VC side 86% of the time.

So how the heck do I make it hard to engage but once you do the VC are facing a real heap of hurt?† That is the big question that Iím still trying to resolve.

Now on to a new topic. Regional forces were ARVN units that were like local militia.† They helped any US side unit when defending a city, town or cultivated hex.† The ground strength bonus was 2 in cities and towns and 1 for cultivated hexes.† They were not required but seldom ignored.† Only careful analysis of the combat results table would sometimes make the US player not take them.† BTW 2 ground strength points were twice the original un-augmented ARVN infantry battalionís ground strength. So they were fairly strong.

During the NVN playerís turn Iím thinking of adding enough combat strength via a SFT to represent this.† The priority will be the strongest ARVN unit in the hex followed by the strongest US unit.† There can only be one RF SFT per hex and these are removed at the start of the US players turn.† If a capital city or town does not contain US units then no RF forces appear there.† So this forces the US player (and US AI) to garrison every single capital city on the map with at least one ARVN battalion.

The final topic for this post is some of ATGís functionality that I will not be using at all in the game.† Or at least I plan not to use them as they were not part of the original board game.† The first thing is experience points.† None will be gained from combat or earned per turn.† A unitís strength is exactly what you see.† It will not be modified by experience if at all possible.

I am also going to ignore supply.† Units wonít have to carry it, consume it nor suffer from being out of supply.† The game and the actual war really didnít have supply issues.† Even when cut off, units in fire bases still were kept in full supply.† So Iím doing away with it for the game and none will be produced.

Production is another thing that wonít be turned on or used.† The only way to get troops, replacements or other things is through buying them by spending commitment.† Total unit counters are limited to what appeared in the board game.† Using production can result in very strange things like a 30 SFT 155mm artillery unit.† Being able to produce things defeats the game mechanic of being forced to spend commitment on replacements.

Morale will be kept in the game but I plan to reset it every single turn to its base value.† Units will not be able to gain or lose morale.† Iím even going to experiment with changing morale losses during combat.† This will be very tricky since retreats are based on morale but Iím still going to try and minimize its impact on combat.

Finally, readiness will be 100% whenever possible.† I will reset it each turn so units donít have to fight at less than 100% readiness.† Air bombardment and artillery attacks need to be looked at in more detail especially in how they change readiness.† As for ARVN units being ineffective I plan to use a SFT with zero combat strength and zero APís.† This allows the unit to defend at full strength while stopping it from attacking or moving which is what the original game also did.† To help in this situation I discovered rule variable 518 which is supposed to disallow the player from disbanding SFTís.† If it works it will be great help to getting this project done.

In closing please give me some feedback on your thoughts concerning combat and movement, especially related to VC units as I discussed above.† Iíve spent many hours on the subject and it looks like it will take many more hours to get it right.

Goodmongo -> RE: VG Vietnam Faithful Version (10/12/2011 5:26:50 PM)

Yesterday I was discussing my issues and thoughts about movement and combat.† I would like to further expand on that by discussing losses and artillery.† I know other designers claim that the ATG system is better but before I have to settle on it I want to make sure it works.† The ATG system is a WW2 system at its heart and soul.† But it also has some flexibility to recreate wars other than WW2.† Here is an example of what Iím referring to.† In ATG you have an artillery unit and it basically has only one function.† That is to bombard a hex.† This is what artillery did in WW2.† But in Vietnam artillery was used as close support in defense and offensive operations.† It was used to interdict movement.† The original board game had a great feature for the VC called alert movement.† In ATG I target a VC unit and use 10 artillery units and the VC unit is toast.† Thatís not only NOT representative of the feel of the game itís NOT realistic.† In the board game if the US player was stupid to target a VC unit with artillery the VC player would conduct alert movement and leave the hex.† The artillery would be wasted as it bombs an empty hex.† This represents the real life VC of mixing in with town people or hiding in jungle caves and tunnels.† The so called body count was fictitious in real life and in how ATG artillery is used duplicating Vietnam.

But as I mentioned I spent about 4 hours thinking over how ATG and Vietnam can be wedded together.† There are two types of fights in the game.† US side vs. NVA units and US side vs. VC units.† What happens in a typical game is that at the start the US is mainly fighting VC units.† They are cheaper and can cause more problems with pacification.† If the US side plays correctly they eventually start winning this part of the pacification war.† They do that through concentration on specific provinces.† With losses the VC units pretty soon become more expensive then NVA units do.† See the US forces are the absolute strongest in the game.† This is followed by NVA forces, Free World units, augmented ARVN regiments, VC units and finally standard independent ARVN battalions.† Artillery and firepower is one BIG factor in the rankings.

The entire force pool of VC units has 3 HQ of 4 artillery strength and 15 regiments with 2 organic artillery points per unit.† There are also 20 independent VC battalions with 1 artillery point.† That is a grand total of 62 artillery points.† The ARVN alone has 129 artillery points in just their independent artillery battalions.

So with VC units being more expensive then NVA units and US units leaving due to morale issues the NVA defeats the ARVN side through normal combat (ATG style).† But the fights before this are far from ATG style battles.† In the original game if you played the NVN side and brought a single division of NVA units into I Corps you were a stupid player.† Smart NVN players used the division to try and capture a capital city in a border province far away from US units.† Then run away back into Laos.† Other representations of the game force you to play as a stupid player because they reward this style of play.† Now maybe there is no choice and the design must be this way.† But before settling I want to explore all options.

Artillery in Vietnam is a force multiplier.† On defense any artillery unit can fire multiple times to support every defense within range.† Dedicated artillery (battalion and division HQís) can support every unitís operation that also belongs to the same formation.† In other words artillery can fire many times during a single turn.

I mentioned yesterday that in the original game a single US unit could easily defeat a VC unit and completely destroy it.† Of course that is if it catches it which might not happen as alert movement would allow the VC to escape.† Basically alert movement is one dice roll plus the terrain movement.† So a single US battalion occupying the same hex (this was allowed in the game) would mean that a VC unit had a 50/50 chance of completely escaping from a cultivated hex into another cultivated hex that is not adjacent to the original hex.† If you added 6 air points (no free fire) you added one interdiction point and dropped the odds to 33% which is still OK for the potential waste of a US unit and 6 air points.† That means you had to actually use 3 and usually 4 units just to make sure you had a chance at combat.† Clearly the US side does not have this amount of forces available to cover the whole map.† This is where you picked specific provinces for pacification.† Most of your forces were placed in specific provinces and checker boarded those areas.† The ZOCís made movement hard for the NVN player.† In the other provinces you used free fire (you already lost these for pacification so why not), and a smaller number of troops to try and do maximum damage.

I spent more time looking over the combat results table from the original game and played out a number of what-if operations.† In one example I played as a stupid US player to show what happens in the original game if the US side used up its air points and had ground units out of range of artillery.† If a US unit is ever destroyed there is an immediate loss of 3 US morale points.† But this is almost impossible to do.† Take a single US battalion all alone.† To actually have any chance of destroying it outright means the combat losses need to be 4 or more.† Otherwise replacement points can be used.† That means the NVN player must commit 11 artillery points to the fight.† That is 2 of the 8 independent artillery units or a HQ and one independent unit.† The US will suffer losses but retreats closer to the US positions and artillery support.† Three morale points are worth 9 replacement points so it can fight several rounds.† If the US player had 6 ground combat strength points it would take 25 NVN artillery points to have a chance at its complete destruction.† The NVN player has a grand total of 40 independent artillery points that it can produce.† There is also organic artillery and a HQ if a subunit is taking part in the battle.

You may be thinking whatís the point and how can the US lose?† The point is the NVN side always gets more commitment every turn while the US side at some point runs out.† The US will lose a war of attrition.† So 3 NVA regiments (a full division) with a HQ unit and 2 artillery battalions are attacking 2 US battalions with HQ and one independent artillery unit will result in the following losses (assuming a cultivated hex no free fire).† The US side suffers on average 3.86 replacement losses with a high/low of 2/6 while the NVN player suffers an average of 1.33 with a high/low of 2/1.† Now it looks like the US will soon lose the war.† Except the US can call in defensive reserves or retreat the units to a hex where other units exist and in range of more artillery which is the real key.† If they do that the NVN player is now suffering 3 to 7 losses for each 2-3 on the US side.† BTW one of the losses is taken in very cheap ARVN replacements due to the RF point.

So what can we do?† I want artillery to be used multiple times and be as strong as it was in the game, VC units to have a chance to avoid combat but weak if forced into combat against US troops and all units but especially US units hard to actually destroy.

I could make VC units almost impervious to artillery attacks.† I can also grant a super big HQ bonus to units.† I somehow need to prevent changing of HQís to do this.† I wish I could adjust the kill into retreat ratio based on concentric hex attacks for VC only units.† In other words if attacked from a single hex say 80% of kills are reverted to retreats instead.† But with 4 hexes this is down to more kills over retreats.† And of course encirclement is just that with the defending unit being eliminated if it loses.† For defense I wonder if I could check the distance of units to friendly artillery and add a SFT to each of them to increase their combat capability to represent this.

All the other topics are falling into place pretty well.† I will use action card events on cities to keep track of then during a full seasonal turn.† Pacification and even ARVN politics are doing fine design wise.† But the real meat is still combat, movement and losses for the various units.† And this is exactly where all previous attempts at this board game have also failed miserably.

Jeffrey H. -> RE: VG Vietnam Faithful Version (10/15/2011 3:33:48 AM)

So what's the ETA of your mod ? I'm keen to see how it turns out.

Mad Russian -> RE: VG Vietnam Faithful Version (6/6/2012 6:34:34 PM)

Me too and since this thread is now more than six months since the last post I hope something is happening with it.

Good Hunting.


Jeffrey H. -> RE: VG Vietnam Faithful Version (6/6/2012 7:41:14 PM)

I'll bet he's given up and moved on, he hasn't posted since Oct 21 or so in 2011.

Grymme -> RE: VG Vietnam Faithful Version (6/18/2012 5:51:38 PM)

In my opinion he was never going to develop this mod. He only started this thread to piss me off and to keep posting what he disliked about my mod after i asked him to stop posting in my threads (which he had promised to do).

He never modded anything in AT before this and has never since.

Jeffrey H. -> RE: VG Vietnam Faithful Version (6/20/2012 3:58:53 AM)

Things got rather personal between you two. He did seem to have a strong knowledge of the boardgame but didn't make much an effort to be constructive with it.

Kraftwerk -> RE: VG Vietnam Faithful Version (6/20/2012 3:04:58 PM)

Youd think he'd have better luck recreating it in Vassal if he was so worried about the limitations of the ATG engine.

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