VG Vietnam 1965-1975

Victory Games publish the best strategic game on the Vietnam war back in the 1980s, in a design that has held up very well and was ahead of its time in many ways.  It is on the complex end of the spectrum with a considerable learning curve, but it repays the investment if you master the game.  That said, it does have some realism “holes” that have been found over the years, with various “exploits” to min max its incentives and so on.  Several of these need to be “plugged” to keep the game realistic.  The combat system also featured a “pursuit” mechanic and innovative firepower-attrition systems that are quite clever and worth keeping, but require some tweaks to remain realistic.

The full revised rules in Word format are attached here –


Some additional revisions to charts and to scenarios –

There is also an edited version of the charts and table in Excel, with e.g. reduction in the Mountain DRM to -2 with a further -1 to pursuit results vs defenders in Mountain, -1 to all pursuit results, 2 “point” edits to the CRT (1 to 3.5 row 8 becomes 1/0 from 0/0, 4 to 7.5 row 0 result becomes 0/1 from 0/0).

The standard errata change that all Sea Supply is raised by 2x NVN commitment sent that way is also in effect as a standard “charts and tables” change, and the standard errata/clarification that the terrain DRM for wooded hills is -2 (which some maps had misprinted in the original).

For the scenarios, NLF augments should be reduced in the Tet, Easter Offensive, and Fall of South Vietnam scenarios (Tet becomes no PAVN augments yet; Easter uses the Tet amounts, and Fall of South Vietnam uses the Easter Offensive amounts of augmented PAVN units).

After Tet SVN population controlled is 250 in line with VC controlled 110. VC draft level is 245%, in line with the new reductions in recruit efficiency at 200, 300, and 400% of VC controlled population, so -1 recruit efficiency is already in effect and -2 will be hit at 300% VC draft level. The After Tet NVN morale and commitment are both 270. Reduce PAVN forces for Tet to 2 divisions each in NVN, Laos and Cambodia plus independent regiments 1 NVN, 2 Laos, 4 Cambodia, and 4 anywhere in SVN.

(The Tet force and VC draft level given in the scenario rules written require 420 NVN commitment, which is not possible on the historical US commitment track).

I hope that helps. Feedback welcome and especially playtest reports.

The game’s BGG page can be found here –

VG’s Vietnam

I’ve found some aspects of this classic game not terribly believable, and I have variants to propose to fix some of these to my liking. My goal is to get rid of “gamey” while leaving the core of the game.

These changes were first published on BGG in the following 2 threads –

New Vietnam Rules

Solo play system with these variants –

The NLF “Bot”

The following are designers notes about the main changes – the above rules document contains the full system revision.

The first issue I had was with the way the replacement mechanic effectively allows small forces to cycle through massive amounts of virtual manpower. This couples to unlimited rounds per operation and the snowballing pursuit bonus mechanics, but the basic issue arises on its own. With sufficient replacement pools, unit elimination effectively becomes optional, and I simply Don’t Believe It (TM).

So, first revision – the number of replacement points that a unit can use in a single operation is limited to its printed combat strength minus 1. If the losses to that unit hit its full printed strength, in other words, unit elimination isn’t optional.

You assign the replacement points to units when the loss is incurred and keep tracking it until the operation is over. Then that unit’s “loss tolerance” for replacement purposes “resets”, and it can again “use” up to its full strength minus 1 worth of replacements “again”.

Clarification or variant – the “limits to artillery support” says only 3 times ground combat strength can be contributed by fire support for odds determination purposes; the free fire rule says without a free fire zone fire support is halved. Neither rule says which order these limits apply, so some may think you can e.g. support a 3 strength ground unit with 18 firepower in a non-free fire zone to get 12 combat strength for odds purposes. I say “no” because I Don’t Believe It (TM). That 3 times from firepower *depends* on the firepower being full effectiveness, so I want the limit to apply *before* “not free fire” “halving”. 7.5 strength from 3 ground and 9/2 firepower is the most you can get to support just 1 battalion in a non-free fire zone, for odds determination purposes.

There is no attacker break off or retreat rule beyond using pursuit points to move away from the enemy. This means if you are in the same hex and don’t get enough pursuit points you must continue additional rounds of combat even at progressively worse pursuit modifiers. I Don’t Believe It (TM) and I want a different attacker retreat procedure. Specifically, an attacker can return to the hex from which that unit entered if it is clear of enemy units after any round of combat, breaking off the combat. If it started in the enemy unit’s hex, it can move to any adjacent hex clear of enemy units instead, again breaking off the combat. This is called attacker retreat. It is only not available if the unit entered a new enemy occupied hex from one also enemy occupied or if it is completely surrounded by enemy units.

Next issue – unlimited combat rounds in each operation until the defenders successfully run away farther than the pursuit can chase them or the attackers snowball such high pursuit modifiers that it is suicide not to take full unit losses instead of using replacement points. I Don’t Believe It (TM); not realistic op tempo in terms of losses compared to strengths engaged.

My house rule – 3 rounds of combat maximum in one operation. That makes ordinary ground unit strength smacking each other before adjustments for higher firepower than ground strength top out at 1/3 losses of those engaged as the expectation for an operation’s losses. This can happen in 2 turns per season and in 8 turns a year, and firepower arms could raise that further. But one division doesn’t “bleed” unlimited amounts or break down to avoid the same inside 6 weeks.

Now the big one on the pursuit mechanic. First notice that attacker and defender losses are equal in expectation at 3-2 odds or +1 modifier in cultivated or grassland terrain, and 2-1 odds in jungle or town terrain. Historically that loss crossover happens at 2-1 odds as an average across battles, but I’m fine with open ground being better for attackers than that average.

This does means that the +1 range on the CRT should be thought of as historically normal odds for even exchange. OK, but it has 0,0,1,2,2,3 pursuit modifiers, and US units add +3 to that across the board. That makes a second round move upward from 2-1 in terrain to 3-1 plus, and almost laughably US infantry battalions get 5-1 plus for their second round unless the enemy runs away enough to make them spend MPs chasing.

I get that the game’s expectation is that a side losing a tactical fight should have to retreat, and that the pursuit system is the incentive to retreat. But it is way too strong that the second round is normally +4 or +5, when that takes *4 or 5 to 1* to get from maneuver unit numbers or firepower.

To be clear, I’m fine with US units getting to *move* more to catch running enemies; I’m not OK with them getting the equivalent of 3-5 times the number equivalent fighting power just because its the second combat round.

Here’s my fix – first, reduce all the Pursuit column entries on the combat results table by -1. Notice, this means a +1 combat now has entries -1, -1, +0, +1, +1 , +2 with expectation +1/3rd. Second, the maximum combat modifier from pursuit bonus is equal to 1 more than this new rolled Pursuit column entry, regardless of the unit bonuses or MPs remaining for the lowest remaining pursuer.

So a +3 US unit on that +1 initial combat might have 2, 2, 3, 4, 4, 5 MPs to spend trying to chase after the enemy unit. But if it doesn’t spend many MPs on the chase, its pursuit bonus for round 2 is capped at 0, 0, 1, 2, 2, 3 depending on its first round roll. If they rolled “1-2” they may not want a second round, or the target might have gotten away, or both. If they can maintain contact with 2 MPs, they may have a decent second round combat. But they aren’t just “normally”, all the time, go from a +2 first round to a +5 second at the same odds just because Americans are Fast and Eat Their Wheaties.

Terrain effects on combat – wooded hills and mountains are  only a a -2 combat modifier, the same as major cities.  In addition, the combat pursuit modifier is reduced by 1 when the defender is in a mountain hex.  This also reduces the maximum combat add for subsequent combat rounds.

Games of commitment – getting free commitment back for sending home the divisional armor battalion or accumulating armies of free HQs – gamey, ridiculous, I Don’t Believe It (TM). If you send home parts of a full division, you must Pay for any of the extras that came for free when you decided to commit the whole division. The free units discount is exclusively for having the full formation active and committed in theater. To be clear, all units of the formation must be either in theater or in the eliminated units box or you have to pay for each HQ and extra armor battalion per the “any battalion”, “any HQ” costs.

HQs and formations – HQs should activate with units of their own formation, not independently running around to “earn” free support additional “fires”.  So the rule here is that you can only declare an HQ an active unit in an operation – initial or as a support reserve – if at least 1 maneuver unit from the same formation is an active unit in that operation (including as one of its targets for defenders).  Inactive HQs can support units of the same formation in range, but not units of other formations.  This makes the independent artillery units more useful because they can support any units, while HQs are limited to supporting units of their own formation.

Notice also that the new rule for replacements being limited to ground combat strength minus 1 over  a whole operation now means that you need maneuver units to spend replacements to absorb combat results.  HQs or artillery units on their own are only 1 combat strength, and therefore any positive result against them will require unit elimination.  This is a new strong incentive to keep HQs with at least one maneuver element of their own formation.