Recommend
3 
 Thumb up
 Hide
16 Posts

Fire in the Lake» Forums » Strategy

Subject: How can VC/NVA beat US/ARVN? rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Eric Whitman
United States
Cambridge
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
I'm looking specifically at the 2-Player short scenario, but I think the same reasoning applies to the other scenarios and partially applies to 4-Player games. It seems to me that the US/ARVN have a nearly insurmountable advantage. Since I don't think the game is actually that unbalanced, what am I missing?

For simplicity, let's say the US faces off against the VC and the ARVN against the NVA. It to me like the US has a massive advantage over VC and ARVN has a small advantage over NVA.

The US can use Sweeps + Air Strikes to activate VC Guerrillas and destroy VC bases. Most of the bases have active opposition, so the Air Strike isn't such a big deal, and degrading the trail should cripple the NVA. Once the bases are mostly gone, I don't see how the VC can replace losses fast enough to keep up.

The ARVN and NVA seem the most similar factions to me, except that the ARVN have more money (assuming the US keeps the Trail in check), more mobility, and can get masses of new guys more cheaply. The ARVN can just Train/Govern until the NVA makes a move, then counter that move with a larger number of troops.


So what am I missing?
Is there some combination of Rally/Terror/Tax/Subvert that allows the VC to produce guys (without running out of Resources) faster than the US can kill them? Maybe replacing destroyed bases by trading in your Activated Guerrillas helps?

It looks like if the NVA could keep the Trail high, they can slug it out with ARVN, but I don't see how to do that. Just undoing the damage from US Air Strikes uses something like half the NVA resources.

Can you really degrade US forces enough with Bombard/Ambush to make a difference? But if the NVA tries to contribute against the US with Bombard, they can't Infiltrate and probably fall behind ARVN in numbers.


I appreciate any advice. This looks like an awesome game, and I'd hate for it to be ruined by not being competitive.

1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Malcolm Cameron
Australia
Sydney
NSW
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I am no expert, but my experience (in 4 player games) was that the US in particular was easier to play when our group first started playing. Its strategy can be a bit more direct.

But after a few games, the other factions "caught up". Their advantages are less direct than the US.

One of the key dynamics is that control of territory does not actually advance the US towards victory. Instead it advances the ARVN towards victory. And the ARVN likes to Govern when it can - which chews up Support, to the disadvantage of the US.

So US-ARVN rivalry is one of the things that complicates US strategy.

And that rivalry then has an adverse impact on the Counter Insurgent factions' collective efforts against the Insurgents.

I can't say how balanced the game is - but it certainly feels to me like anyone can win.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Carey
United States
Woodinville
Washington
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
You are correct in that the VC can run low on resources, which is where a helpful NVA player can help. However the US does not win by destroying VC bases and guerillas. The must convert the population to their side. So even if the VC have few guerillas, having a lot of opposition means they are really winning, or the US, for all its search and destroy, is not winning.

When the US starts to settle down and pacify, then poof, a guerilla appears, and if the US does not sweep it, then it pulls a terror op and reverses the US efforts. Every time the US does not pacify is a turn they have not moved towards victory.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Oerjan Ariander
Sweden
HUDDINGE
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmb
As Malcolm says, rivalry between US and ARVN is a major weakness for the COIN side in the 4-player game. Unfortunately this rivalry disappears when a single player plays both US and ARVN, giving the COIN side a major advantage in 2-player games.

However, the situation isn't quite as bleak as Eric sees it. First of all, remember that the VC/NVA in a 2-player game uses their highest Victory Margin during Victory Checks (though not after thd final Coup), whereas the combined US/ARVN uses their lowest margin. This means that the VC/NVA can concentrate on hammering a single COIN Faction, but the US/NVA must keep down both Insurgent Factions. Also keep in mind that you don't need a positive Victory Margin to win at the end of the game; I've won a 2-player game as VC/NVA where my lowest margin (VC) was -12... because the lowest COIN Victory Margin (US) was -15. (IIRC the NVA margin was -8 and ARVN +8 or so; Patronage had reached ridiculous levels in that game, but Support was low.)

Second, play the historical "option". Yes, I know it is presented as a mere "option" in the rules, but it really is the basic game; and getting the shaded AAA Capability from the start is a major boon for the NVA.

Third, Volko and Mark has posted a bunch of variants that mostly tone the US down a bit. (They were first posted here on BGG; the InsideGMT article includes feedback they got here.)

As Dan notes, the VC don't need a lot of forces on the map, especially not Bases. I've often seen them beat their victory threshold with only 1 or 2 Bases on the map, and on a few occasions I've seen them win with zero Bases. Tax pulls in more Resources than even maxed-out Bases could, and Opposition creates far more VC VPs. Are the US Air Striking you? Move your units into Provinces that aren't already at Active Opposition and dare them to Air Strike you there!

And as Dan also notes, if the US spend too much effort hunting the VC, they aren't creating many US victory points. Of course the ARVN can do it for them (though not as easily as the US themselves could), and in a 2-player game they might do that (less likely in a 4-player game!); but building Support for US VPs distracts the ARVN both from racking up the Patronage needed for ARVN VPs and from fighting the NVA.

Speaking of the NVA - Eric, you may want to take another look at the balance between them and the ARVN, because in my experience an ARVN that tries to take on the NVA without massive US backup (including US Troop Assaults) will lose hands down:

- ARVN technically has more Resources, that's true, but their Operations cost three times as much as NVA Ops. In addition both ARVN and US usually need to spend a LOT of ARVN Resources on Pacification, whereas the NVA doesn't Agitate at all (that's the VC's job). As a result, ARVN Resources tend to melt away very quickly.

- Getting lots of new guys cheaply, well... Train Ops (regardless of which COIN Faction executes them) pay 3 Resources for each set of 6 ARVN cubes. Depending on the Trail level and the number of NVA Bases in a space the NVA can get up to 12 new Troops for 1 Resource, though 6 NVA Troops for 1 Resource is more normal (especially if shaded AAA is in play).

- ARVN has more cubes than the NVA (in the Short scenario 50 to the NVA's 40), but 30 of those ARVN cubes are Police that can neither move nor fight in the Provinces. Since most of the Population lives in the Provinces, that effectively leaves the ARVN in the Short scenario with 20 Troops and 3 Rangers against up to 40 NVA Troops and assorted Guerrillas.

- ARVN has several different long-range mobility options, but all of them depend on having LoCs free from Insurgent units to move on. It isn't that hard for the Insurgents to temporarily cut the LoCs to where the ARVN would like to move their forces. NVA OTOH has the Trail, which is usually more expensive to use (relatively speaking) but harder to block... and watch out for Events that grant the NVA free Marches!

Getting the US involved against the NVA changes the balance dramatically, of course - but that distracts them from their VC hunt, as well as from building up Support for US VPs. Air Strikes are dangerous, but again moving NVA Troops into Support spaces is a useful tactic. If the COIN Factions fail to remove those Troops, Terrorize the Support away so the VC can move in mote easily (and also so the US VP level drops, of course).

Bombard and Ambush are useful to create a steady dribble of US Casualties. They don't normally reduce the US combat power or VPs all that much (although I have seen it happen occasionally), but they degrade Aid and force the COIN Factions to spend more Special Activities restoring/increasing the Aid level instead of moving around, Air Striking or building Patronage networks. If you can send some US Troops Out of Play, that's a bonus.

Kill Special Forces whenever you can. Rangers are very dangerous if they're Underground, and they are also quite expensive to replace. Irregulars are less dangerous (but still much more so than ARVN cubes!); and while they are very cheap to place, they go to Casualties when killed so removing them both reduces Aid and keeps them out of play until the next Campaign.

For the VC, Tax if you must, Ambush to kill SF when you can or - if you can't Subvert anything - to kill US or reduce garrisons below 3 COIN units (so you can March in Guerrillas without being Activated), but otherwise Subvert as much as you can. Subvert has four main uses:
- Placing additional VC Guerrillas for free.
- Removing Police from Provinces with no COIN Bases to make it harder to Pacify there. With no Police in a space ARVN can't Pacify there at all, and US can only Pacify there during Train Ops.
- Removing COIN Control (both reducing ARVN VPs and enabling VC Agitation).
- Reducing Patronage.
Which of these is the most urgent depends on the situation, but all of them give the ARVN major headaches.

I could go on almost forever, but I'd better stop...

Regards,
Oerjan
9 
 Thumb up
0.25
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jason Sherlock
United States
Anaheim Hills
California
flag msg tools
badge
Admin @ www.cigargeeks.com
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
ewhitman wrote:

For simplicity, let's say the US faces off against the VC and the ARVN against the NVA. It to me like the US has a massive advantage over VC and ARVN has a small advantage over NVA.


The NVA should be concentrating in the highlands (Central highlands and Quang Tri. These are all adjacent to North Vietnam/ Laos/ Cambodia spaces where the NVA can bring in unlimited troops for nearly free. A good infiltrate (at trail = 4)can bring in as many as 24 troops in a turn for only 2 resources. Once the NVA establishes a base in the highlands, they are very hard to remove.

I keep harping on the highlands. The reason for this is that in highlands the NVA are equivalent to US forces in a stand up fight, and superior to ARVN (2 units for one kill for NVA or US vs 3 for a kill against the ARVN).


ewhitman wrote:
The US can use Sweeps + Air Strikes to activate VC Guerrillas and destroy VC bases. Most of the bases have active opposition, so the Air Strike isn't such a big deal, and degrading the trail should cripple the NVA. Once the bases are mostly gone, I don't see how the VC can replace losses fast enough to keep up.


If the US want to chase down VC, they get stuck in a game of sweep/ airstrike to take out a base here or there, while the VC build up. Unlike the NVA, the VC want to hang out in the jungles, where sweeps require significant US numbers.

The VC just need to attrit the US (as do the NVA). 3 US troop kills = 1 US VP. The VC can kill 2 US troops a turn with Ambush (at a cost of 0 with movement on an LOC), and/ or, if the US and VC are playing the sweep/ rebuild game, the VC often will have 4+ guerillas where the US is sweeping. Conventional attack can remove 2 troops in those spaces.

ewhitman wrote:
The ARVN and NVA seem the most similar factions to me, except that the ARVN have more money (assuming the US keeps the Trail in check), more mobility, and can get masses of new guys more cheaply. The ARVN can just Train/Govern until the NVA makes a move, then counter that move with a larger number of troops.


Using 2 bots (one for each side) will fix this. The US cannot allow the ARVN to just keep draining aid to Patronage, or the ARVN will win and the US will be left out in the cold.

If you are playing 2 players with no bots, then the VC need to go after the ARVN while the NVA focuses on the US. The NVA is much better suited to fight the US, as they can send unlimited troops to wear out the US. Keep throwing bodies at them. You can outlast the US in a war of attrition.

The VC can subvert and kill Patronage about as fast as it is being generated, and with terror can lower support, get into the cities and disrupt the ARVN economy. LOCs are the VC's friend Use them as much as you can.


2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jason Sherlock
United States
Anaheim Hills
California
flag msg tools
badge
Admin @ www.cigargeeks.com
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
SeattleDan wrote:
You are correct in that the VC can run low on resources, which is where a helpful NVA player can help.


Except in extreme cases, I wouldn't float resources from NVA to VC; the NVA needs it too much, and cannot easily or reliably get more.

The VC can tax to get resources at almost any time. Sure it costs support, but they can get that back during coup rounds. 2 pop locations are the best, especially in the delta. A shift of one support level gains 4 resources. It only costs 1 resource to get it back via terror or coup agitate.

Newer VC players often worry too much about losing opposition to gain resource. It is just part of the game, and my experience is that in most games, the VC rarely agitates in all 4 of their allowed spaces during coup rounds. Also, getting valuable spaces from active opposition to passive, forces the US to make tougher choices as to whether to declare the space a free fire zone in regards to airstrikes or assaults when "Search and Destroy" is working against them.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Oerjan Ariander
Sweden
HUDDINGE
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmb
That's one of the problems in 2-player FitL, though: per 1.5.2 VC and NVA are only allowed to transfer Resources when they're controlled by separate players...

/Oerjan
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Eric Whitman
United States
Cambridge
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
Thanks for all the prompt/helpful advice everyone. I'll report back after I've gotten a chance to give it another go.

A few people have hinted at something I've been wondering about: Is the 2-Player (2v2) mode as balanced as the 4-Player?

It seems the US/ARVN side benefits more from being combined than the NVA/VC. I did catch the rule about Max vs. Min score, but is that enough compensation? The rules imply that it's a fully-supported version, but maybe that's just salesmanship?

Is there a play-by-play of a fairly typical game somewhere so I can see how the game is supposed to flow? Do the bots play with a similar style to decent player? Is it worth playing against bots to see what they do? I'd planned on waiting until I've internalized the rules better before trying to operate the bots to avoid severe tedium.

Thanks.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Malcolm Cameron
Australia
Sydney
NSW
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I reckon the best way to learn is to jump into a VASSAL game by email and muddle through.

It took me quite a few games to get the hang of things (and my strategic grasp is still pretty weak).

By playing the same faction a few times (the NVA was my choice) I started to see not only mechanically how its various operations and special activities worked, but how they could be combined and sequenced to some advantage.

Of course, that had the disadvantage of delaying my understanding of those same subtleties in the other factions. "Oh - I didn't realise you could do THAT".

But that is why I call it muddling through.

I think the system really shines in the way it shows the intra-faction rivalries. Your partner really ain't on your side much of the time. But kind of is. For that reason I am not all that attracted to the two player version.

There are plenty of players around here, so you should be able to jump into a game.

Playing by email also gives you the time, when it is your turn, to figure out what your options are without the pressure of three opponents sitting across the table tapping their fingers.

I also find the bots less fun than real opponents, mainly because working out what the bot's move is involves a series of if-then propositions which drives me a bit crazy (but, on the positive side, in my limited experience the bots are tough opponents so you learn a few things being beaten up by them).

2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jason Sherlock
United States
Anaheim Hills
California
flag msg tools
badge
Admin @ www.cigargeeks.com
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I love the bots. They are great for really learning the game. Oerjan put a lot of work into them to make them play quite well. By watching what they do, you can pick up some interesting insight into the strtegies of the game.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Eric Guttag
United States
West Chester
Ohio
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
One Eric to Another,

As Oerjan points out, there are ways for the VC/NVA to succeed against the ARVN/US, even in a 2-player game. What is particularly critical for the NVA (and even the VC) is to have shaded AAA. Without that (and I've played a Long Scenario game where AAA didn't show up), the Trail value will be continually pounded downwardly by US Air Strikes. And sneaking VC (or even NVA) Guerillas into spaces where its Passive Opposition, Neutral, or Passive/Active Support will cause the US player to pause and consider the downside of Air Strikes. Also helpful are shaded Top Gun (Air Strike degrades Trail only on die roll of 4-6), shaded Arc Light (Air Strike spaces removing more than 1 piece shift 2 levels toward Active Opposition), shaded Laser Guided Bombs (Air Strike removes no more than 4 pieces), shaded MiGs (unless unshaded Top Gun, whenever Air Strike Degrades Trail, US removes 1 Available Troop to Casualties), and shaded SA-2s (NVA Rally Improves Trail 2 boxes not 1, removed by Wild Weasels). And if the US/ARVN get Assault happy, try shaded Search & Destroy (each US and ARVN Assault Province shifts by 1 level toward Active Opposition).
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Eric Whitman
United States
Cambridge
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
Finally got a chance to play again. This time it was a comfortable, but not blow-out, VC/NVA victory.

The biggest differences were:
1) Not starting the game with Wild Weasels. Having that as the opening card in my first game really colored my perception of NVA. How can the NVA recover from that (or Rolling Thunder) in time to be effective in the short scenario? Assuming you build the trail back up, that one card removes 13/15 resources.

2) Better card luck in general and better card management. Rather than the US going first every turn, I was able to mostly keep them to Limited Operations. How often is it worthwhile to pass?

3) We played the rules correctly this time. I had previously misread the Sweep rules to think you could move indefinitely down LoC's and through cities like for Patrol. This misunderstanding was a large part of why the VC cause originally seemed hopeless to me.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tully Elliston
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
ewhitman wrote:
How can the NVA recover from that (or Rolling Thunder) in time to be effective in the short scenario? Assuming you build the trail back up, that one card removes 13/15 resources.


This happened to me like 3nd card in my current VASSAL game - it basically made my NVA a non-player for a whole campaign.

8 resources or 2 trail would be bad enough as just one or the other - the combination is equivalent resource loss of 12! Ridiculously brutal.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jason Sherlock
United States
Anaheim Hills
California
flag msg tools
badge
Admin @ www.cigargeeks.com
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
This seems to be a big problem with the short scenario. It just doesn't give enough time for proper buildup, and hard hitting evens can skew things way too much.

These types of setbacks happen in the Campaign game (often to all every player), but they are mitigated by the much longer time frame.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tully Elliston
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
I feel like there should be a couple of cards excluded from the short game, as its no fun to have a faction blown out the water when you only have 20-odd cards to act on.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jason Sherlock
United States
Anaheim Hills
California
flag msg tools
badge
Admin @ www.cigargeeks.com
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
ivoryking wrote:
I feel like there should be a couple of cards excluded from the short game, as its no fun to have a faction blown out the water when you only have 20-odd cards to act on.


When you have the time to do it, try the full game (with historical deck construction). It is so much more satisfying, and plays out like a narrative. After doing so, I never went back to the short or medium game.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.