Vietnam: Operation Starlite (Part 2)

In my previous report on the Vietnam scenario, Operation Starlite, the US Marines had just uncovered and eliminated a VC political support section near Chu Lai.  With that out of the way, the Americans now have bigger fish to fry as they attempt to hunt down and destroy an entire VC regiment.  Reports have indicated that the unit has pulled back inland towards the more rugged terrain.  The rest of the Marines in Quang Ngai province are about to come down hard on the enemy.

Casualties are evacuated by helicopter during Operation Starlite.  August 1965.


Search and Destroy #2

The US player declares a Search and Destroy operation in which the rest of the available Marine battalions (2/4 Marines in hex 5118 and 1st Marines in hex 5220) and the HQ will participate.  He then chooses 4921 as the Target Hex.  All available support is on call for this operation  - the 4 air points, the cruiser, and the airmobile point.

Marines target 4921 for Search and Destroy mission.


2/4 Marines move from Chu Lai in towards the west, ending its movement in 4921.  We don't have enough available air points for an interdiction mission so the plan is to use it for close air support instead.

The Alert

The VC now get an alert roll.  The roll is 2 and the current terrain modifier is 3, which comes to 5.  The scenario's rules modify the VC movement by minus 2 for a total of 3 MPA.  The VC unit slips into the cultivated hex directly to the north in 4920.  It may be a stupid mistake to have a Marine battalion take on an entire VC regiment but I have faith in air power to help even up the odds a bit here.

The VC regiment is alerted and slips north to hex 4920.

Combat!

The USMC combat strength is 3 while the VC has a strength of 8 (6 inherent +2 for its artillery).  The combat is taking place in cultivated terrain, which offers no real modifiers for either side.  All 4 points of air power are assigned to help the Marines in their attack (this becomes the equivalent of 2 artillery points due to a non-free fire zone), which boosts the total combat strength of the Marines to a total of 5.  The combat ratio is still at a 1:2, which will result in a -2 modifier on the combat roll.

We roll a six-sided die for the combat results and get a 5, which is modified to 3.  It's time to determine casualties.  We check the combat table and look at the column which corresponds to the combat strength of each side, modified by the enemy's support.  Checking for the Americans, we look under the 4 to 7.5 column and find a "0" on the left side of the slash for the attacker.  The Americans take no casualties.



The VC have a combat strength of 6 modified by 2 (for the American air support) so we're looking under the "8 to 13.5" column and on the right side of the slash, we get a 0 for the defender.  This round of combat ends and no one has taken any casualties.  Interestingly, the Americans have lost one air point in the battle.  I guess some Phantoms got shot down on their way back from the target.

Retreat and Pursuit

Now the VC unit gets a chance (entirely up to the VC player's discretion) to retreat its full Movement Point Allowance (of 4 MP).  It moves into 5020, a cultivated terrain hex.

VC Regiment retreats into 5020 as the Marines pursue.

The 2/4 Marines now get a chance to pursue.  The Movement Point Allowance of the pursuing units is determined by the combat result of the previous battle (which was a zero) and the pursuit allowance modifier for the unit (+3) for a total of 3 Movement Points.  The 2/4 unit moves into hex 5020 along with the VC regiment.  Because this move cost 2 MP of our 3 MPA for Pursuit, the unused 1 movement point can be used to increase the combat die roll for the attacker.  The American player wants a higher combat odds ratio against the VC regiment so we decide to move in the 3/7 Marines from the east.  They move to 5120, adjacent to the VC regiment's hex so it can participate in the upcoming combat.

2/4 in same hex as VC regiment while 3/7 moves in adjacent to help with pursuit.  Cruiser adds in support.

This time, we can throw in the 6 points from the cruiser as support for the Americans.  This results in a 9:8 or 1:1 combat odds ratio with a +1 pursuit bonus modifier to the roll.

The American player rolls a 5, which is modified to 6.  We check out the casualty result by looking along the 6 line and cross referencing each side's combat strength plus enemy support.  The VC regiment suffers 2 hits while the Marines take 1.  The VC have 4 replacement points, so they use two of them to keep the regiment intact.  The Americans use up 1 of their replacement points to cover their casualties.

The turn is over and the VC regiment has managed to survive.   This scenario ends up as a win for the VC.

Some Final Thoughts

This was my very first game of Vietnam 1965 - 1975.  Wow!  There is so much going on here in terms of rules and the fluidity of the operational situation but I really enjoyed it.  The VC are incredibly slippery thanks to their alert movement ability.

By sending out lone battalions of Marines to find and attack an entire regiment, the Americans used a really risky approach to the whole operation.  I was definitely relying on support to be able to even the odds a bit (which it did in the end) but I really needed way more support and ground units moving in there and getting dirty in order to really defeat the VC.

I was hoping to get enough of a pursuit modifier in my first battle with the VC regiment so I could airmobilize the HQ and send it into battle with the rest of the Marines.  Unfortunately, things didn't happen that way and the best I could do was rush the 3/7 Marines in there and call in lots of naval fire support.  Speaking of which, I should have used the naval fire for interdiction in the previous operation and saved the 2/12 artillery for ground support in this one.  That would have brought much more firepower to bear against the VC regiment.

If I had to do this operation over again,  I would have sent in 3/7 with the HQ in the same hex as the VC right away and moved up the 2/4 Marines adjacent in order to help with post-combat pursuit.  With both Marine regiments attacking along with the air support, naval gunfire, and HQ artillery, this may have been enough to defeat the VC regiment.  As it turned out, we had a running gun battle across the province that didn't do much in the end.  I'll have to try this scenario again and see how different approaches might work out.

Comments

  1. Really interesting analysis, Brad. Looking forward to reading more! Cheers, Aaron

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    Replies
    1. Thanks man! This was my first proper play of the game so I knew I wouldn't fair well as the US player. However, I certainly get the sense of frustration the US is supposed to have with trying to bring a large force down on an elusive enemy. I think Nick Karp hit the nail on the head with this game.

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