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.
< Message edited by Goodmongo -- 10/10/2011 5:33:19 PM >