Thursday, December 19, 2013

Forgotten Heroes - Assault on Ben Suc

So I got down to playing LnLP's Forgotten Heroes during the past week and out came the great scenario, "Assault at Ben Suc".  The background here is the US Army and South Vietnamese troops were conducting search and destroy missions in the Iron Triangle as part of Operation Cedar Falls in January of 1967.

This was a huge ground operation that used up a huge number of resources in an attempt to trap and hopefully eliminate Viet Cong resistance in the south in one fell swoop.  A key part of this plan was to conduct an air assault into the village of Ben Suc, which was thought to be an important VC base of operations.  As it turned out, the Viet Cong were largely able to evade the US and South Vietnamese forces, who found a tunnel network and a large number of supplies in the village but no enemy.  The American commanders at the time ordered Ben Suc destroyed and the subsequent relocation of the villagers became yet another controversial event in a very controversial conflict.  

The Forgotten Heroes scenario, "The Assault at Ben Suc" offers an alternate take on the events of January 8th, 1967.  It imagines that the Americans face off against the Viet Cong in the village after being dropped off by Hueys.

The scenario starts with the VC setting up in and around the village.  The VC player is unaware of where the Americans will drop off their two platoons.  Playing this game solo, there was a bit of a challenge to this kind of setup, but I determined the LZs by rolling for them after the VC setup (rolling a 1d6:  1-3 = both platoons stick together and land on one side of the village, 4-6= the platoons split up, 1 of them is landed to the east of Ben Suc while the other goes to the west).  If you look at boards 1 and 5, the best landing zones are pretty self-evident.  I decided to be predictable in my landings.  The Americans get a couple of Huey gunships to help out along with reinforcements in the form of another platoon available on Turn 4.

The inital landings went well for the Americans.  The VC held their fire and waited for the US forces to land.  The VC held back one platoon to the southeast of the village with a 12.7mm MG team sitting in a bunker to the northeast.  On the west side of the village, mines were planted to slow down the Americans from advancing too quickly.  Two foxholes were set up in the light jungle to the north and south of the main road going into the village.  Although the platoon was not full strength, I felt the addition of mines and foxholes in this area more than made up for the lack of manpower.

As Lt. Walker and his platoon made their way into the heavy jungle to the southeast of the village, they came under fire from one squad of VC, followed by a massive melee assault by two squads and a VC leader.  With the VC's huge advantage in ambush tactics in heavy terrain, the results were devastating for the Americans.  In the space of two turns, Lt. Walker and his platoon were completely wiped out (Sorry Mark!) and the Americans were left with only one platoon making its way slowly and carefully towards the village from the west.  To say the least, things did not look good for the Americans at this point.  The VC had yet to lose a single man.

By Turn 4, I almost packed up the game and I had put my camera away after deleting all my photos of the early game.  What a mistake.  Carefully, I eyed the board and looked for the ideal spot to plunk down the American reinforcements.  Desperation led to inspiration and I set the new guys' LZ right behind the VC bunker.  It was foolish and reckless but with the bulk of the VC forces concentrated on the west side of the village, it seemed like the best way to try and turn this thing around.

The 12.7mm fired on the American Hueys as they entered the board and, rolling poorly, the Americans managed to shake off the fire and get their guys on the ground.  I even managed to get one of the squads right off the helicopter and on top of the adjacent bunker.


American reinforcements land to the northeast of the village while the US platoon to the west moves in.

Lt. Anders and his group could possibly save the day.  All I needed to do was to squeeze the vice until something popped.

Another shot of Lt. Anders and his men, possibly coming to the rescue.
This was all helped along immensely when the US forces to the west came under fire from an adjacent VC squad.  A US hero emerged from the firefight and made its way into the village to take out the VC 60mm mortars.  The next turn, the VC was forced to use its assault team to eliminate the hero, which freed up American options for advances into the village.

At the same time, one of the US Huey gunships was on fire (not literally) as I continued to roll "3" for its "to hit" roll after suffering from frustrating misses all game.  Around turn 6, it manages to take out a VC squad and wound Dobie-san, a VC leader.


Lt. Jenson and his squad start to move up north towards the village while Arnat (under "Stealthy") waits for her chance.


The VC were slowly starting to get things under control in some small ways at this point.  They still had Arnat, who was simply deadly with her "Stealthy" ability.  The threat of a sudden VC ambush kept both American squads at bay until finally, Lt. Jenson and two squads raced up and jumped into melee with Arnat and her squad with an RPD.  They eliminated each other in brutal fashion, but this allowed Lt. Anders and his platoon to make their way into the village virtually unopposed.

Lt. Jenson and Arnat are both eliminated in a melee.  A VC hero is created when another squad tries to retreat.

One of the VC squads pulls back and is fired on by US forces, which results in a VC hero.  At the same time, the Americans encounter other problems due to an event in the village.  It seems Anders isn't going to just waltz into the village after all.  To top it all off, the VC player places a sniper just outside the village.  He manages to shake up the US squads as they attempt to close in on the remaining VC.  Turn 8 is quickly approaching at this point.

Huey Gunships approach the village and work to eliminate remaining VC.
At this point, Lt. Anders' platoon had been shaken up pretty badly so Huey Gunships were called in close to the village and fire at the remaining VC leader and his squads, hitting them with rockets and machinegun fire.  In one impulse, they are completely eliminated.  The VC sniper is still active, however, and shaked one American squad.  Lt. Anders rallies his squad on the last turn and they move in to take the village.

End Game.
By the end of the game, the US occupies all of the bamboo huts in the village, fulfilling the scenario's victory conditions.  This was quite a surprising ending, especially since the Americans had such a poor start to things.  I think this shows how the back and forth ebb and flow of each scenario in LnL can provide some interesting narratives.  This scenario shows how difficult it is for the VC to assume a task that they are not accustomed to, which is standing and defending.  I think the key for the VC player is to suck the US in near the village and outmaneuver the US forces, setting up ambushes at every opportunity.  The US player needs to find ways to be unpredictable with its choice of LZs and keep the VC player guessing.