Recommend
29 
 Thumb up
 Hide
6 Posts

Tet Offensive» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A ‘Tete-a-tete’ In ‘68. rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
David G. Cox Esq.
Australia
Lighthouse Beach
NSW
flag msg tools
badge
Do what you can, with what you've got, where you are.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
TET Offensive


Two-player Game Of The 1968 NVA Offensive in Vietnam
Designed by Frank Chadwick
Published by Game Designers’ Workshop (1991)



It is quite appropriate that a game such as TET Offensive, which was a watershed game, simulates a watershed event such as the 1968 NVA (North Vietnamese Army) Offensive in Vietnam.


Historical Perspective


In his 1967 annual report, General Westmoreland stated that the Communists had not won a major battle in 1967 and this was because U.S. troops had been able to detect build-up in enemy strength in specific areas and then launched spoiling attacks. He also indicated, very strongly, that the U.S. were winning and that the Communists were demoralized as well as beaten. The American public took his annual report to indicate that all was going well.

In February 1968 the NVA launched a major offensive which resulted in the NVA attacking 36 of the 44 provincial capitals and, for a short time, capturing 10 of them.

In military terms TET was a major disaster for the NVA as they lost close to half of their troops involved in the offensive while killing only 1,500 U.S. and 2,800 ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) troops. The Allied victory also resulted in 14,000 South Vietnamese civilians lost their lives, another 24,000 were wounded and a further 630,000 were left homeless.

In political terms TET was a major victory for the NVA and the turning point in the war. There was a significant public backlash in the U.S.A. which saw public opposition to the war become more vocal and grow in strength. The TET Offensive came as a major shock, especially in light of Westmoreland’s report which was only a few weeks old and fresh in the public memory. Rather than being on the brink of victory it turned out that the enemy were far from demoralised. When news leaked that Westmoreland was requesting more than 200,000 additional troops be sent to Vietnam (virtually doubling the current strength) both Westmorland’s and the governments credibility were seriously weakened. Many consider the TET Offensive to be a key factor in President Johnson’s decision not to stand for re-election.


A Watershed Moment In Wargames

TET Offensive marked a change in the marketing approach adopted by GDW. Following TSR’s lead GDW made an attempt to capture a segment of the wider gaming market. Following the approach taken by TSR with games such as Battle of Britain, Hunt for the Red October, Onslaught and Buck Rogers, GDW also tried to make their games more appealing to the general public. This is epitomised by large boxes, garish colours and sometimes pieces that are placed in plastic stands. As a result of this marketing change it is very easy to disregard and perhaps even ridicule TET Offensive as a “Milton Bradley wanna’ be”. Upon closer inspection you can see that TET Offensive contains the traditional qualities of a Frank Chadwick design.


What’s In The Box?

Before we look inside the box, let’s look at the box itself. It is big. To call the box oversized would not be an exaggeration. The box is much bigger than is necessary, hence my earlier comment that it was a direct marketing attempt to compete with the Milton Bradley Gamemaster Series games (Axis & Allies, Fortress America, Shogun, etc.).

Inside the fairly empty box we find cardboard inserts to stop the game components from rattling around too much.


There is a 19” by 29” mounted map showing all of South Vietnam and some parts of Laos and Cambodia. The mounting of the map was also new for GDW and is, again, in my opinion, part of the marketing drive to get a larger market share. South Vietnam divided into provinces – the divisions are generally made via straight lines and consequently the map doesn’t give the impression of accurate historical detail. Terrain in each province is highland, lowland or delta. Highland is marked by various shades of brown. Lowland is marked by various shades of green. Delta provinces are indicated by patterned green – unfortunately the green used in the delta is so dark as to make it difficult to see the pattern in the province and so it is fairly easy to mistake delta as lowland. Each provinces has been allocated to one of four tactical zones used by the United States during the war. There are 41 large grey squares which represent the provincial capitals and Saigon. These are the NVA objectives and each one is worth a certain amount of points at the end of the game – Saigon is the most valuable city, being worth 8 points. There is a significant road network present on the map, as well as clearly marked NVA/VC sanctuaries. The initial impression upon looking at the map is, “Oh my gosh! Why didn’t they get a professional graphics designer to do the map?” It is functional and once the game begins it probably won’t annoy you very much.

The counters in the game are very colourful and come in four different sizes. The primary combat units are 5/8” and allied counters are colour-coded by corps (tactical area). There are some 1” counters which live in cities – they represent regional forces and insurrection. There are some very large counters, which fit into the plastic stands – these are NLF flags and show control of cities. There are also a whole pile of small counters which are used as markers for victory points and other things. The size of the larger counters a the size of some of the provinces causes a cluttered feeling on much of the map for much of the game.

Matching other components, the rule book is quite large – 32 pages. 16 pages cover the rules themselves. 6 pages are counter-sheet reproductions. The remaining 10 pages are Frank Chadwick’s commentary on the orders of battle of the opposing sides and the politics of the situation. For those interested in the Vietnam War these commentaries may be the highlight of the game.


Playing the Game

TET runs for only five turns. Both players control two separate armies in the game.

Each turn the NVA/VC player moves his units and attacks wherever he wants to. Both sides may place replacement troops onto the map, assuming that they have some available. The Allied player moves ‘special forces’, searches for ‘undetected’ enemy units, has combat and then moves the rest of the forces. At the very end of each turn players check their morale (compare casualties for the turn). Each turn the NVA/VC units may only move to an adjacent area while the Allied forces have much greater movement potential (except for the first two turns where Allied movement is greatly restricted due to surprise).

Given the NVA/VC movement limitations planning and allocating your initial attacks is most crucial. It takes their units THREE turns to move from one city to another city via a mutually adjacent area. In a five turn game this is a significant factor to keep in mind. Allied units of each corps are restricted to their own tactical area but can move fairly freely within this area for the final three turns of the game.

Combat is unusual but fairly simple – any number of attackers may attack a single defending unit. Attacking units may attack only one defending unit. Not all defending units need be attacked. The attack strength is compared to the defence strength, the odds calculated, a die is rolled – the higher the odds the better the chance of success although there is always the chance of missing. During the NVA/VC combat phase the NVA/VC player decides which units will be face-up (and involved in combat) and which will be face-down (undetected and uninvolved in the combat). During the combat both players get the chance to allocate their forces to an attack – both players will attack and defend during the combat phase. Combat is simultaneous (losses will not be removed until the end of the second player’s combat phase).

If the NVA/VC player clears a city of Allied units AND has any VC units in the city, the city will go into ‘insurrection’.

The object of the game is to demoralize BOTH enemy armies before your armies are demoralized. The four armies have different schedules to determine morale. The NVA/VC player benefits from placing cities into insurrection but their morale will suffer from the loss of troops. The Allied moral is more complicated as there are more factors to consider. It is probably enough to say that at the start of the game the Allies are winning and it is up to the NVA/VC player to bring the fight to the Allies.

The NVA/VC player dictates how the Allied player will fight the game. The NVA/VC player basically has the choice to trying to take all or most of the provincial capitals – doing this leaves the Communist forces spread out and vulnerable. The alternative is to concentrate on the more important cities and take them with stronger forces – this allows the Allied forces to concentrate against a smaller number of target areas. Both strategies can work for the Communists.


Westmoreland's Annual Report - 1967


The game is interactive, fast moving and fun to play. There are some minor ambiguities in the rules. There may also be some imbalance – based on my playings of the game it is unusual to see the Allied player win unless using the Allied Free Set-up Optional rule.

The mechanics are fairly simple and yet have a couple of unusual touches that seem to give the game a feel different to other games that I have played and seem to suit the situation as I understand it to have been.

This is an interesting game but it may not have a great deal of replayability in it.


arrrh “Dead Men Tell No Tales!”







16 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Larz Welo
United States
Las Cruces
New Mexico
flag msg tools
No more stones. No more spears. No more slings. No more swords. No more weapons! NO MORE SYSTEMS!
badge
You can fire your arrows from the Tower of Babel, but you can never strike God!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Good review. It's nice to see this game get a review. Maybe it'll raise up a little bit more interest in this much neglected subject as well as a much neglected game.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Steve Herron
United States
Johnson City
Tennessee
flag msg tools
badge
Never play block wargames with a dentist, they have those little mirrors to peek behind the block.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
it was a direct marketing attempt to compete with the Milton Bradley Gamemaster Series games (Axis & Allies, Fortress America, Shogun, etc.).


One can tell that in the box cover art work. I might have played it more if the rulebook had been done better. I think it was due to it being rushed to get it out for Origins that year. I got my copy then. It would be a good choice for a makeover. Great job on the review.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Marco Arnaudo
United States
Bloomington
Indiana
flag msg tools
designer
badge
"My spoon is too big!"
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
great review, man!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bill Eldard
United States
Burke
Virginia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
An excellent review. I just have a number of comments.

da pyrate wrote:
In military terms TET was a major disaster for the NVA as they lost close to half of their troops involved in the offensive while killing only 1,500 U.S. and 2,800 ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) troops. . . .


Not to mention the virtual destruction of the NLF forces (Viet Cong). Ordered to surge out of their normal opareas to attack the cities, the NLF was decimiated by Allied forces. After Tet, the VC losses would be filled by NVA soldiers, and never be quite as effective as they had been between 1960 and 1967.

I think the game reflects the destruction of the NLF very well.

da pyrate wrote:
“Oh my gosh! Why didn’t they get a professional graphics designer to do the map?” It is functional and once the game begins it probably won’t annoy you very much.


Agreed. And I like the area movement v. hexgrid in a Vietnam War game.

da pyrate wrote:
There are some very large counters, which fit into the plastic stands – these are NLF flags and show control of cities.


We never use these as it is apparent by the Insurrection marker on the city that the NVA/VC are controlling it.

da pyrate wrote:
Each turn the NVA/VC player moves his units and attacks wherever he wants to. Both sides may place replacement troops onto the map, assuming that they have some available. The Allied player moves ‘special forces’, searches for ‘undetected’ enemy units, has combat and then moves the rest of the forces.


It should be noted that all Communist units from NVA divisions with a strength of 18, 24, or 30 points to the dozens of NLF battalions with strengths of 2, are black-colored blanks on their reverse side. They remain with that side up until (a) they enter city spaces (automatically located), or (b) they have been located by Allied units searching for them.

To locate the Communist units, a die is rolled and compared to the highest Search Value among the Allied units in the province. ARVN infantry regiments typically have a Search Value of 1, while elite units such as USMC regiments and Special Forces-led "Mike" Forces have Search Values of 4. If the die roll is equal to or less than the high Search Value, a number of Communist units equal to the number of Allied units in the province are revealed. Optional rules cover the use of US strategic recon units (i.e. MACV-SOG; Projects 404, Delta, and Gamma) to locate Copmmunist units in South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia; each strategic recon unit automatically locates one Communist unit. Only after Communist units have been located can they be attacked by air and ground.

This creates a real panic situation for the Allies, as they watch dozens of unidentified units pushing across the board toward their cities from the DMZ all the way to the Mekong Delta. In many cases, the Communist sanctuaries holding NVA and VC units are close enough to allow the Communist player to jump right into cities like Saigon with massive force. Slowed Allied reaction on the first two turns makes it even more tense.

da pyrate wrote:
Allied units of each corps are restricted to their own tactical area but can move fairly freely within this area for the final three turns of the game.


However, there are some strategic ground units (color-coded with yellow unit symbols) which can operate in any corps tactical zones (CTZs). They are the 173rd Airborne Brigade, the 6 individual brigades of the 1st Cavalry and 101st Airborne Divisions, one of the "Mike" Forces, and ARVN airborne and ranger units. This affords the Allied player some flexibility in allocation of forces as the battle rages, particularly in the first two turns since they are not effected by the slow Allied reaction.

da pyrate wrote:
Combat is unusual but fairly simple – any number of attackers may attack a single defending unit. Attacking units may attack only one defending unit. Not all defending units need be attacked. The attack strength is compared to the defence strength, the odds calculated, a die is rolled – the higher the odds the better the chance of success although there is always the chance of missing. During the NVA/VC combat phase the NVA/VC player decides which units will be face-up (and involved in combat) and which will be face-down (undetected and uninvolved in the combat).[/q[]

But Communist units in a city are all always face-up.

[q="da pyrate"] During the combat both players get the chance to allocate their forces to an attack – both players will attack and defend during the combat phase. Combat is simultaneous (losses will not be removed until the end of the second player’s combat phase).


CORRECTION:

Combat is only simultaneous in the region areas.

In the cities, the Allied player always shoots first, with casualties removed before the Communist player shoots. The exception is Communist sapper battalions, which shoot before the Allied player on the first round of combat, after which they are treated as normal Communist units.

In the Communist sanctuaries (e.g. the Parrot's Beak, A Shau Valley, and the Iron Triangle), the Communists shoot first and remove Allied casualties before the Allied player shoots. This can be devastating if the Allied player stumbles on an NVA division in the sanctuary he/she is attacking.

da pyrate wrote:
The NVA/VC player dictates how the Allied player will fight the game. The NVA/VC player basically has the choice to trying to take all or most of the provincial capitals – doing this leaves the Communist forces spread out and vulnerable. The alternative is to concentrate on the more important cities and take them with stronger forces – this allows the Allied forces to concentrate against a smaller number of target areas. Both strategies can work for the Communists.


I've found that it is always optimum for the Communist player to attack every city he/she possibly can while the Allies are spread out and responding slowly during the first two turns. That's because the US and ARVN earn demoralization points every turn for each city that remains in Insurrection. Also, all the cities except Saigon have a RFPF unit whose combat strength is not revealed to the players until they come under attack; several have a strength of 0. Since many cities have only RFPFs defending them, it's worthwhile to attack and probe everywhere. A single VC battalion with a combat value of 2 may take a city defended by a RFPF units with combat value of 0.

da pyrate wrote:
This is an interesting game but it may not have a great deal of replayability in it.


I think this game has as much replayability as virtually any other historical wargame. For one thing, even using the fixed Allied Set Up, the Communist player may start NVA regiments and battalions in any sanctuary, any province in Laos and Cambodia, and any province in the I Corps CTZ, while NVA divisions can start in those same locations except the I Corps provinces. The NLF (VC) units are assigned to pre-designated CTZ areas, but the Communist player has great latitude regarding how he uses them.

There's much more to say about this game. Award-winning designer Frank Chadwick really captured the nature of the campaign, creating a tense struggle that captures the flavor of Tet and usually goes right down to the last turn. This is A House Divided on steroids.

Chadwick recognized the asymmetic capabilities of the opposing forces with his asymmetric turn sequence:

1. VC/NVA Movement Phase

2. VC/NVA Combat Phase

3. Replacement Phase (both players)

4. Allied Aero-Mech Movement Phase -- this is were the Allied player employs his airmobile units to set up for searchs, or reinforce friendly units. Mech and riverine units also move at this time. (Naval gunfire support and air strikes -- including TACAIR and B-52 Arc Light missions -- can only be carried out in the Combat Phase against revealed Communist units.)

5. Allied Search Phase

6. Allied Combat Phase - only located Communist units can be attacked, including by airstrikes. The Allied morale penalties for air strikes on cities are stark, but may be necessary if the Communists are resisting heavily.

7. Allied Movement Phase -- units which move during the Allied Aero-Mech Movement Phase may move again.

8. Morale Phase (both players) -- morale tracks are adjusted.

All in all, there's much more going on in Tet Offensive than one is likely to find in most beer and pretzels games.
9 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Juan Valdez
msg tools
Got a first play in today. We borked it up pretty good, but we're sold on game as a whole so will be playing it again.
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.