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Subject: First Clash - 1973 rss

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Curt Chambers

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This is the next installment in the series "First Clash - Erik vs Curt". The previous report covered 1972, in which after a mere 6 month buildup the NVA launched a major invasion of South Vietnam. This report will cover 1973 which began with the U.S. conducting final withdrawal and ended with the NLF tightening the noose on Saigon.

Year start vital stats:

U.S. Morale - 215
Committment - 211
SVN Morale - 92
SVN Draft level - 180
SVN Replacements - 98
Controlled Population - 270
NVA Morale - 941
Committment - ? (est. > 900)
VC Draft Level - ? (est. > 900)
Controlled Population - 90
Captured Capitals - 5

SPRING

Pacification brought some welcome relief. Against all odds SVN picked up 3 population points. The NLF were not able to stack the captured capitals as high last turn due to being more spread out. Thus, the U.S. actually gained a morale point (+2 for population, -1 for captured capitals). I don't expect this to hold. The NLF currently occupy 5 capitals and certainly more will be lost next season. Controlled population will resume its downward trend, though probably not as dramatically as the last year. The ARVN lost about 50 replacements during each of the last two seasons and they can't sustain that level of combat without a huge influx of supplies. I would have to withdraw 3 U.S. battalions just to replace last seasons losses. And that is not even replacing any of my air losses (I was able to catch one of his regiments in open terrain last season, thereby increasing air attacks but also increasing air losses).

Everything added up to pulling the plug on U.S. involvement in South Vietnam, so during the recruitment phase I declared Final Withdrawal. This is ominously close to the historical occurance (January 1973), but with 450 replacements now in the pool I'd like to think my ARVN is in better shape then our real life counterpart. We'll see. Erik later told me that had I not withdrawn U.S. forces this season he would have launched another offensive to force them out. If I had known that I wouldn't have done it. I think a VC offensive at this point in the war would have hurt the NLF more than the Allies. Speculation only.

The first half of the season was relatively quiet. I'm sure the NLF were just adjusting their plans now that they didn't have the U.S. to worry about. The NVA around Hue marched south and drove back the ARVN regiment guarding the approaches to Da Nang, a completely expected maneuver. In II Corps the NVA launched their 4th assault against Kontum, and for the 4th time it held. The funny thing is I never intended to defend Kontum city. My defense was instead anchored in Pleiku but he bypassed that and trapped a couple regiments in Kontum before they could move out. Now they are ineffective and can't escape. I would gladly evacuate the town if the NVA would grant safe passage. But we're locked in a fierce fight now and that's not going to happen.

In IV Corps the NVA captured the capital of Ba Xuyen, continuing their march through the region. An HQ was left by itself at the end of the operation... an opportunity rarely presented to me by my opponent. So I threw together an ARVN security op with an 83% chance of eliminating the HQ. So I rolled a 1 and it survived. I kicked myself for not assigning another 12 air points to guarantee the outcome. Then I proceeded with my air attacks for the turn and rolled a 3 (air point loss) followed by three misses in a row (83% chance of hits on those). You know, sometimes things are just not going to work out no matter what you do. So I left 30 air points on the board and passed the initiative back to Erik, who promptly ended the turn. It was a good time to call it a night.

The 2nd turn of the Spring season saw a string of capitals fall to NVA forces. The capitals in An Giang, Ba Xuyen, Bac Lieu, and An Xuyen were all captured (or re-captured in some cases). Kontum finally fell also. But at least the ARVN 2nd division was able to retreat back to the Pleiku-Qui Nhon highway, so they'll have a shot at redeploying next season.

Not all the news was bad this turn. ARVN forces in Kien Phong, Kien Tuong, and Tay Ninh all held their ground against NVA attacks. Even the ARVN regiment guarding the Mekong River bridge in Sa Dec was able to prevent the NVA from forcing an early crossing.

The big battle of the turn occured in Da Nang. Seven NVA divisions are now steamrolling down the coast. I fought a delaying action at Da Nang and then retreated after the first round. Additional NVA units followed up with another attack against my rearguard, forcing them back as well. The losses in those 2 battles were heavy (about 15 ARVN replacements). But if I can keep the NVA slugging its way down the coastal highway, instead of hurling shells into Saigon, then it's worth a few replacements.



Note that were no counterattacks this season. The ARVN fought as well as can be expected but without the FWA we just don't have a lot of offensive potential. The NLF sees that as well and is leaving more units exposed now. No respect.

SUMMER

SVN controlled population dropped 5 points during pacification. I guess that is to be expected with 12 capitals under the communist yoke right now. Whatever hope I might have had for a continued trickle of supplies from the U.S. is certainly erased now. More forboding is the fact that Erik augmented 4 NVA regiments (two each in I and II Corps) during recruitment. It's clear that they plan to pick up the pace. No reason not to. I've only got token garrisons and a handful of regiments between them and Saigon.

In the north, and now aided by mechanized forces, the NVA's battlefield achievements continued to exceed my estimates. For example, if I hoped to limit them to 2 capitals they capture 3. If I planned on keeping my losses to 15 RPs they eliminate 25. One would think that having their units strung out from Hue to Quang Ngai would weaken the spearhead. But so far that has not been the case. The lead elements have reached the II Corps boundary. To its credit, the ARVN retreat has been controlled and orderly. Not a rout. But how many more repeated hammer blows can it withstand before disinigrating?

In the Central Highlands the NLF surrounded Pleiku and destroyed an ARVN regiment from the 2nd Division, an armored cav btn, and a 105mm artillery btn. After the capture of Pleiku I expected the NVA to drive east to the coast, to help speed up the advance of their northern army. Instead they turned south into Phu Bon. I guess Qui Nhon was too well defended and the NLF objective for the turn appeared to have been to take down as many capitals as possible.

The battle for Ban Me Thout was quick and lethal. Enemy interdiction prevented me from executing a clean disengagement. An expensive running battle in southern II Corps was not something I wanted at this time so I took the regiment to satisfy 1st round losses. That's three ARVN regiments lost this turn. There was a bright side to this battle however. The NVA's quick success left them unable to garrison their two HQs with more than a single VC battalion. When Erik passed the initiative later in the turn my first attack was a large air raid on that stack. I was able to KIA both HQs in a single bombardment. Not quite worth an ARVN regiment but I'll take any good news I can get at this point. Hopefully that slows down his two mechanized units, which are now within a turn's march of Saigon’s outer defense perimeter.

Down south the front has stabilized somewhat. The ARVN beat back repeated assaults on Tay Ninh. They held off a combined NVA-VC attack on Con Tho (Phong Dinh) during the 1st game turn, but were finally overwhelmed during the 2nd turn (burning the bridges over the river as they retreated into Vinh Long). In An Giang the NVA pushed back the ARVN regiment defending the "crossroads", but were unable to exploit their success and cross the river. All ARVN regimental sized units have now been cleared from the western Mekong Delta area. However, I still have numerous armored battalions operating behind enemy lines, re-capturing capitals as fast as the NVA can take them. My goal was to cause the NVA to keep re-fighting the same battles over and over. At first it worked. But now they seem content to ignore these nuisance raiders.




FALL

Not much drama during the interphase. SVN lost 3 more population points, the U.S. dropped 4 more morale points due to captured capitals, and the NVA augmented 7 more regiments and added 2 new ones. The new ones moved down the trail to III Corps, presumably to assist the struggling NVA units in the parrot's beak.

The northern NVA army launched repeated blows against the retreating ARVN 1st division in Binh Dinh, with mixed results. The HQ and a regiment were able to jump on some choppers and fly out to sea, turning north instead of south and landing on the Quang Nam-Thua Thien border. The other regiment, after a couple successful delaying actions, was simply overwhelmed and became a casualty. I could have saved them had I been wiling to risk an incidental attack in a reaction move. The road to Qui Nhon was open to the enemy now. During the 2nd game turn of the season the NVA followed up with the capture of Qui Nhon. No surprise there. The artillery was cornered and destroyed but the ARVN regiment airmobilized out to the little pennisula southeast of the city. I thought the regiment would get another round of retreat (to end up in Phu Yen) but I hadn't noticed it's an all-water hexside so combat ended and he's stuck there for now.



An NVA regiment from the Ban Me Thout operation (during the previous season) doubled back to the north to attack and destroy an ARVN battalion that had snuck back into Pleiku. I expected him to stay there to take care of the battalion in Kontum but instead used his pursuit movement to return to Phu Bon. All other NVA regiments operating in the central highlands eventually turned east towards the coast and captured capitals in Phu Yen and Khanh Hoa. Now only a handful of armored battalions stands between their northern army and Saigon.

The two NVA divisions in the parrot's beak just can't seem to make any progress against some well-entrenched ARVN units. I have a feeling this will change next season, with fresh NVA reinforcements infiltrating in from the Trail.



The NVA's efforts to cross the Mekong River were facilitated by a successful attack on the ARVN position in Sa Dec. I could have brought in reserves and had a good chance at holding that position, but again I didn't want to risk a costly battle for second-tier terrain. So they fell back after the first round and a mechanized regiment from the NVA 324th was able to establish a bridgehead. The NVA then launched a couple more attacks in the Sa Dec-Vinh Long region, pushing me back on all fronts. I was finally able to stop their advance at the Vinh Long capital. However, the cumulative effect of their operations this season prompted me to pull nearly everything back into Dinh Tuong, leaving only a single hedgehog in the capital of Vinh Long and a small garrison in Sa Dec.



This was a good season for me. I lost 28 repl to the NVA's 73. Half of his northern army got distracted running down ARVN units. The battlegroup in the parrot's beak hasn't moved in 3 seasons. The army in IV Corps is still making foward progress, but now it's down to a hex at a time.

WINTER

Erik knew last turn's operations set him back because he made some radical changes for this season. He withdrew 6 HQ's and 4 regiments from the northern army and used the committment to augment the remaining regiments in the south and purchase 141 replacements. At first I saw this move as a lucky break. With the pressure on my northern flank now relieved I could adjust my defenses accordingly. However, as you’ll see below those newly augmented units made some tremendous gains in the south. So one can make the argument that it was worth it.

Accordingly, during strategic movement phase I started skimming off units from the Saigon defense perimeter and deployed them along the 2 main roads coming in through the Iron Triangle. Due to another lousy effectiveness roll my entire army save one division was ineffective this season. That obviously limited my choices for placement. By lining the roads with ARVN units I'm hoping to keep the NVA out of bombardment range of Saigon until Fall '74. If I can do that and still have 200 repl in the pool I'll have a fighting chance during the battle for Saigon.

Operations Phase...

Erik continued to show his mastery of battlefield maneuver. Taking advantage of my DR6 effectiveness roll, NLF units in IV Corps forced a river crossing north of the main road and strat moved through several stacks of ineffective ARVN infantry. Thus in one sweeping move he cut the distance to Saigon in half and isolated three ARVN divisions in the central delta. I didn't even think such a move was possible and never considered it (I had forgot that ineffective units can’t call for an incidental attack). It's akin to the Germans bypassing the Maginot Line and breaking through at Sedan. Mechanized units are now a mere 50km from Saigon.

On the bright side, my air force caught two more of his HQs in the open without adequate support and destroyed them. It took all my airpower however. Some players may question using 80 air points to destroy 2 HQs when so much more commitment could be destroyed with numerous replacement hits on regiments. But I’m not interested in economics at this point. I’m fighting a delaying action everywhere. It’s the key to my whole defensive plan. Fight-delay-withdraw. Each destroyed HQ takes a season and a half to rebuild, work its way down the trail, cross the border, and reengage the ARVN. That kind of delay to NVA operations, repeated over and over, is more valuable to me at this point than a few replacements. I could be wrong. But that’s how I look at it.

In III Corps, the 2 seperate battlegroups crossed the border and launched attacks. Tay Ninh was finally captured. Over in Phuoc Long the units coming off the trail drove through my thin border screen and headed due south.

Up north all of his remaining units, both VC and NVA, broke contact with the ARVN and strat moved down towards Saigon. The lead mechanized units reached Bien Hoa province. My optimism of the previous turn faded as I realized he'll be within bombardment range of Saigon in a couple turns.

The second game turn did not see a lot of action. The Saigon perimeter was further conscricted. Some NVA backtracked to go after more capitals, continuing their capital-focused strategy. By the end of the turn the NLF accumulated 24 captured capitals. Overall, it was a light turn for casualties but a significant one for maneuver. Without hardly firing a shot Erik closed the distance on Saigon by a significant amount this seeason, and the three separate fronts merged into one.



Summary

The year began with final U.S. witdrawal and ended with the ARVN squeezed into a 30km perimeter around Saigon. The closest NVA units are a mere 20km away. But we've still got plenty of replacements so the battle for Saigon promises to be a bloody one.

Year end vital stats:

U.S. Morale - 214
Committment - 226
SVN Morale - 81
SVN Draft level - 273
SVN Replacements - 336
Controlled Population - 259
NVA Morale - 1056
Committment - ? (est. > 1040)
VC Draft Level - ? (est. > 940)
Controlled Population - 97
Captured Capitals - 24
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chris99 chris99
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Wow! As always, it is great to watch from the sidelines. This one is coming down to the wire...
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Petri P
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The mechanized regiments..devil
 
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Erik P
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NLF After Action Report – Erik (NLF) vs Curt (FWA)

Spring 1973

The year 1972 delivered on the promise of bloodshed. The ARVN lost approximately 120 RPs during 1972. The NVA lost approximately 240 RPs. The NVA lost many HQs and artillery pieces due to airstrikes while the ARVN took a few regiments, independent artillery and several battalions. The artillery of the US/FWA forces continued to punish the NVA for every attack launched. The NVA made modest in-roads in Quang Tri/Thau Thien, Kontum and in Chau Doc/southern IV corps. Population control is completely out of reach. The war has come down to Saigon.

The Spring 1973 interphase brought the final withdraw of the US/FWA forces. This was the moment the NLF has been working towards since Winter 1965 when the 1st offensive was launched. The relief of seeing so much US firepower leave the battlefield was quickly replaced with disdain after watching Curt max out his ARVN RP pool – swelling to ~ 450 RPs. That’s a lot of ARVN RPs.

The country is now defended solely by the ARVN. My plans for a future offensive are nixed (I agree with Curt this might have been detrimental overall to the NLF – I just wanted the US out so badly). My 1st objective is now to cut off any further expenditure of US commitment by keeping US morale heading south. I don’t want new ARVN supply to trickle in. US morale will grow +2 each season due to population control as things stand right now (273 population under SVN control). Since population control (and dice rolls) can be fickle in the short term, I determine the surest way to drop US morale is to capture capitals - lots of capitals. My 2nd objective is to inflict ARVN unit and RP losses. My task forces are instructed to capture anything in sight. However, I am still very mindful of US airpower – so my attacks cannot leave me in awful defensive positions if a security op comes-a-calling. I am less concerned about leaving behind-the-lines NVA regiments in the open though, so long as they are not stacked with another regiment.

The plan: Task Force North (near Hue) will move down the coast in I and II corps until taking Qui Nohn. Task Force Central (near Pleiku) will secure the capitals on the roads in Kontum and Phu Bon. Task Force South (in IV corps) will change from random assaults in IV corps to securing the southern-most IV corps to prevent security ops and attacks against my lightly fortified (VC) rear flanks while slowly moving toward Saigon. Task Force Futile (outside Tay Ninh) will bombard and try to be a threat – occupying ARVN units near Saigon.
Very slow going with TF North as the defenders of Da Nang successfully delayed any rapid advances. I will have to pick up the pace in the North dramatically. Good results in IV Corps by TF South. Average results, but slow advances by TF Central in II Corps. TF Futile near Tay Ninh is an embarrassment to the NVA. Their generals have been re-educated twice to no avail. They complain they don’t receive enough forces to get the job done (Fidel – Where are you with my cash? Sell more sugar and cigars!). I pick up about 12 capitals.

Summer 1973

The pacification result was a relief – back under 271 for a +1 morale benefit for the US (rather than +2). The captured capitals and new supply penalty (for net commitment excess during final W/D) drives the net commitment (morale – commitment) to -5 or so. The pace of advance in the spring was painfully slow for the NVA. I augment 4 NVA regiments to help with the advances in I and II corps. I see the III and IV corps task forces fighting on static fronts for a while.

The summer goes well in I and II corps. Generally good advances were made. The highlight for me was the lightning capture of Ban Me Thout. This was my near-term II corps objective to secure the in-land capitals in II corps. The mechanized NVA are very, very good. I regret not augmenting sooner – even if with fewer units. My worry was that mechanized units would be confined to roads and could be trapped/security opp’d easily. Recall my use of the NVA has erred on safety in this campaign game – except for my HQs – which continue to be picked off by air strikes. Curt is literally a sniper looking down at the map for quality targets. He always finds his man – or HQ.

Fall 1973

The interphases have settled down nicely. Steady, though modest, population losses and steady US morale loss. With the ARVN supply pool near zero and net commitment at -8 or so I am thinking that the forces on the board are it. I just have to find a way to defeat them.
I continue augmenting the I corps and IV corps units and spawn a new batch of NVA regiments and destroyed HQs and send them down the trail. The 1973 plan is coming along nicely. Captured capitals are piling up – many cut off from re-capture by ARVN mechanized units. I am making nice gains in I and II corps while advancing hex by hex in IV corps. I am able to secure my I and II corps objectives (the capitals of Qui Nohn and Ban Me Thout and all points north, cut off with VC ZOC along roads) - except for the refugee 1st division ARVN units that escaped and probably will re-capture a few capitals back when they become effective. Their escape from Northern Binh Dinh was my lowlight for the Fall.

ARVN losses are not nearly as great as I’d hoped though. US airpower allows Curt to pick his strong defenses and airmobile allows escape of doomed units. He’s conceded capitals as needed to minimize losses – it’s working well. I will need to find a way to inflict greater losses on the ARVN. There is only one place where the ARVN has to stay and fight – Saigon. As the Fall comes to a close, I calculate a plan for TF North and Central to bypass capitals in II and III corps and head directly to Saigon. TF South may have to be withdrawn as I don’t see a way to get to Saigon quickly from their location – at least they are occupying 2 full ARVN divisions. TF Futile continues to bombard Tay Ninh and not answer the telephone.

Winter 1973

The interphase continues the way the previous two have gone - modest population loss (+1 US morale) and -5 US morale for captured capitals. US net commitment is about -12.

I withdraw all HQs (7) around Qui Nohn and their unmechanized regiments as the road to Saigon is a long one from there at 15 or 21 MP per turn. I plan to rebuild them and send them down the trail at a much faster rate. This is a mistake as withdrawn HQs cannot be rebuilt. I somehow mistakenly thought this only applied to US HQs (due to the commitment bonus) but the rules do not distinguish. Game and learn.
I augment all remaining NVA regiments on the map – boy they are fun on the open road. I put a whopping number of NVA RPs in the pool (141) as I cannot rebuild withdrawn units on the turn they are withdrawn. Plan was to rebuild them in the spring with their regiments.

Finally the effectiveness roll – a 6. This is awesome. All but the 23rd ARVN division is ineffective. No incidental attacks! No counterattacks! Without the US/FWA presence the effectiveness roll becomes HUGE. I make plans for a big maneuver season.

TF Central arrives in Phuoc Long/Binh Duong and the remnants of TF North (largely W/D) arrives in Bien Hoa province. TF Futile finally takes Tay Ninh – their commanders still do not answer the phone. The surprise move, perhaps, was TF South. Rather than assault the heavily fortified Vinh Long I chose to blow up an ARVN battalion opposite the river hexside with VC units, then cross there with the NVA, eventually moving up to Hau Nghia and Long An provinces. The ineffective units in IV corps were able to make it back to just south of Saigon, however, as I failed to block the road effectively. I expected them to get to Saigon no matter what via boat as soon as they regained effectiveness – but they got there quicker than I wanted.

I was pleased with Winter 1973 (before and after maps attached). I was able to take up positions around Saigon – especially to the West and North. The downside is that RP losses for the ARVN were light for 1973. They began with ~ 450 RP and ended with ~ 336 RP. I end 1973 in good geographical position and on paper (US net commitment at -12 and falling and SVN pop falling (no more ARVN RP or units)), but Curt still has LOTs of RPs and time is against me. Only 5 seasons (10 turns) left to take one hex that is two hexes away. A bridge too far?



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jorge sancho
Spain
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Fascinating game, its seems as both of you are concentrating solely on taking/defending Saigon and ignoring the battle to control the South Vietnam population, any reason for such approach?
 
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Curt Chambers

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The NLF lost the battle for the population a looooooong time ago. With 24 capitals under their control they still have < 100 population. They might control the government offices, but they can't win the hearts and minds.

Actually, the focus on Saigon is only a recent development. The invasion started in Spring 1972 and until last turn 90% of the action had been in I,II, and IV Corps.
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jorge sancho
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There are still five interphases till the game ends, SVN is about to get bellow 70 morale (-3 for Thieu and -8 for captured capitals every turn), the ARVN is limited to the Saigon perimeter and seems to have little hope for recovering any ground.

If the NLF player makes any effort to effectively ocuppy those capitals (which can mean up to a -11 modifier in the pacification chart)he can easily reach a 20+ increase in population every interpahse... its certainly an easiest way to victory than depleting almost 400 ARVN replacement points.
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Curt Chambers

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You make a good point Jorge. I wonder if anyone has tried that method in the end-game? Spend a year with the NVA capturing capitals, then focus back on the VC to occupy capitals and convert provinces. It's certainly an interesting possibility. We just finished the Spring '74 season last night and the NLF is going to have in excess of 30 capitals. Yet they all sit vacant and the population continues to trickle down at 4 points per season.
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Erik P
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Hmmm. The occupation thought truly never crossed my mind in the last few years - despite it being my desired win condition in summer 1965. My instinct is that, at this point (winter 1973), population control as the win condition for the NLF is not viable. It's worth a check though.

I would need to hit 200 population control. I stand at ~100 now. I need 100 population to swing to my side. There are about 20 "controllable" captured capitals on the map in provinces that have "winnable" population - IE not already 100% NLF controlled.

At the end of winter 1973, there would be 5 seasons left for NLF pacification. The most efficient way to gain population is capital occupation. I could manage a -11 DRM (-1 for captured capital and 5 units in the capital) for each province. I would need 20 capitals x 5 units each = 100 units to do this. That would require 70 VC battalions plus 15 political sections plus 15 VC HQs/Regiments and NVA units. I'd probably want to patrol certain roads to make defense of the rear capitals (held by VC battalions and political sections) much easier, so we'll bump the number to 120 units. I would need to spend ~60 commitment for VC battalion personnel, VC supply, and about 40 more for NVA units (100 total commitment) - but this is feasible.

Some of these front-line capitals would have to be very well garrisoned (IE, NVA) as the effective ARVN units would come knocking pretty quickly. Airstrikes would be a concern as well as security ops, not to mention your rank & file S&D. I would expect to defend on the 100 casualty line at least a few times a season. Ouch.

Assuming all this is "doable" and logistics are a snap, there is the issue of time. I can very reasonably expect to swing a minimum of 1 population point per province per season with a DRM = -11. 20 provinces * 1 point per season * 5 seasons = 100 population points. This assumes none of the unoccupied provinces lose current NLF population control, of course.

Altogether the plan is "feasible", but 5 seasons does not give ANY margin for error. If an ARVN stack got behind my front lines (containing legitimate NVA/VC regimental combat troops) the plan could be easily foiled. ARVN security ops would shatter behind-the-lines VC-held capitals.

I think there is considerable risk to the pacification plan of attack - though it might be fun to play out. In my opinion, it's very difficult to "hold the line" as the NLF player since the US player can concentrate firepower so easily - think 40 artillery plus 50 air points with a 30 ground strength on a security op. 5-1 odds minus 1 for capital terrain equals +4 DRM on the 100-line - yikes!

If I had 9 seasons to go I might have tried this (if I'd thought of it). But 5 seasons is pretty hairy - too much could go wrong I think.

We've just finished Spring 74 so the season count is down to 4 for me. I am focused on Saigon.

Thanks for the alternate thinking vantage point...!

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