The difficulty settings available are Regular and Veteran, and I have been progressing through the Regular setting so far. There is a major update to the game on the near horizon that while I am looking forward to I also want to complete the game (Steam based achievement wise) before this update so it doesn’t shift how I have been playing too much. The myriad of changes coming are all exciting, however the game in its current condition is a damn fine product.
This is my current shadowbox from the beginning of the scenario. The various decorations, medals, tabs, rank, etc. all relate to the cumulative success of the gameplay to date.
This is the situation I am dealt with at the beginning (I am not sure if these maps are procedurally generated with a set number of pieces, however I have yet to encounter a duplication that I am aware of).
The Vietcong and the NVA come from the west, while the US and ARVN forces come from the east. The name of the game is to increase the Hearts and Minds rating (currently at a value of 50) to the point that it shifts in favor of the US (60) which will result in a Decisive Victory outcome.
There are 10 villages on the map that largely influence the Hearts and Minds rating (along with success in combat), however not all of them have to be addressed or occupied.
The large jungle terrain area running diagonally through the map will prove to be one of the toughest challenges yet for me in this game.
The USA Main Base starts out with a Deploy Reinforcements bar which lets you shop for additional forces which cost Political Support (currently at 12,500). At the start of each scenario you are given three Huey helicopters, three Infantry units, one Green Beret unit, one M113 Engineer unit, and one Howitzer.
The infantry is the primary ground force as they can set ambushes against the enemy while the Green Beret cannot, however the special forces unit has its own unique capability in that it can stay in the field longer before resupply making it a great long range scouting tool. In Forward Operating Bases they can train ARVN units (which take three turns) at no cost to Political Support (basically training up a free Infantry unit).
While not as robust as the American Infantry unit, the ARVN unit can plug holes out in the field. I have found though that they do get injured in combat a lot, which requires medical evacuation all the way to the USA Main Base for triage.
The first thing that I do in any scenario is to evaluate the map and determine where I want to set my Fire Base (you only are allowed one), and typically this has been towards the center of any map orientated to service as many villages as possible (as I will park the bulk of my air transport there).
Here I send the Engineer unit out first which will take three turns to reach the desired tile where they will begin construction.
Next up I deploy all infantry units by Huey helicopter to enter the closest villages to the USA Main Base. This particular flight will take one additional turn to reach the LZ and offload the troops. The fire burning in the village signifies that there may be some intelligence available.
Using some of the Political Support available at the outset I purchase a Chinook helicopter for 4,000 and use it to transport the Green Beret unit into the field. The Chinook has a greater range than the Huey and can be invaluable in resolving some resupply and medivac challenges in the jungle.
I then purchase an AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter for 3,000 and send it out on a sortie to be available to strike the enemy once intelligence reveals known locations. I have come to depend on fielding at least two of these units per scenario to prosecute the majority of targets.
Once the Fire Base (FB here on out) is constructed, I order the Chinook to transport the Howitzer unit forward. If I wanted to, I could then purchase another artillery piece for the USA Main Base but I did not have a need to in this scenario.
The Engineer unit is ordered to construct a Forward Operating Base (FOB here on out) to the far west, situated nicely between three villages (two of which are connected by a road which greatly increases travel ability for ground units).
Unfortunately the Engineer unit has to navigate through the thick jungle terrain and will take several turns to arrive at the desired tile where they will begin construction.
A set of NVA Infantry is revealed by the Green Beret scouting advance and is dealt with by an Air Strike. These kills increase Political Support and can improve the Hearts and Minds rating (currently at 49 which would be a Defeat outcome at this point if the scenario were to end here, however all games go 45 turns).
In this instance the infantry come into contact with a VC Cadre unit and have a 71% chance to successfully engage them. I opt to use the Howitzer at the Fire Base to the west which has an 80% chance, and they are able to kill the enemy unit.
The blue cubes on the various units indicate that they are down to two turns worth of supply and have to be dealt with, otherwise the unit will be permanently lost. Note the location of the Engineer unit below the FB: I had earlier canceled its order to construct a FOB and instead used it to clear some jungle in front of another village, for which I purchased a new Infantry unit at the USA Main Base for 1,000 Political Support (PS here on out) and are transporting them forward with the Chinook.
The Green Beret unit has made it to the village in the center of the western edge of the map and their supply cube is colored red indicating that if they are not serviced this turn they will be lost. In this case I have no air asset that can obtain supplies from the FB and get them there in one turn, so I have to use the Air Supply option at the cost of 500 PS.
After clearing some jungle earlier, the Engineer unit has advanced on new orders to build the FOB between the three villages in the west however they came under heavy fire and suffered damage. In an attempt to address this I brought forward a Cobra to engage a VC Cadre unit that also showed up.
Subsequently an NVA Infantry unit also joined the fray and in the ensuing combat I ended up losing the Engineer unit which costs 4,000 PS to replace (and incrementally increases for additional purchases as do all units).
Sometime later the new Engineer unit makes it to the FB as the Howitzer is engaging a VC RPG unit at the edge of the jungle. The artillery have four rounds available that can only be fired one per turn and require resupply from the USA Main Base which takes a helicopter out of the logistical resupply cycle that has been churning all game.
The SSW area of the map is turning into a hot zone with multiple enemy contacts. I had already lost an Engineer unit here (and have subsequently purchased two more), and my Green Beret unit is in some trouble as they are poor at direct action against other units.
One of the threats is put down by an Air Strike from an F4 Phantom dropping Napalm (which oddly enough can only be used against an enemy target, and not to clear jungle).
In an effort to save my battered Green Beret unit I deploy two Cobra attack helicopters to screen a medivac from a Chinook coming from the FB.
Later on I use one of the new Engineer units to construct an FOB to train up some ARVN units, and to clear a path through the jungle to a village buried deep in the SE corner of the map. While operating in the thick foliage they are attacked and take damage, which causes me to route them back to the FB for repairs (although I later changed this to the FOB which was closer).
At turn 21 the map filters indicate the massive amount of VC and NVA contacts to the west. During the attempted extraction of the Green Beret unit, my Chinook was shot down and lost along with the troops they were trying to medivac. At that point I said the hell with this and abandoned any hope of building an FOB in that area.
This requires me to purchase a new Green Beret and Chinook at the USA Main Base and transport them to the FOB so that I can train an ARVN unit.
Once the ARVN unit is available, I order them to the village deep in the SE jungle area of the map that was partially cleared by an Engineer unit earlier.
The Green Beret unit trains another ARVN unit at the FOB and I redeploy the forces to cover both villages (helicopters cannot offload in anything that is not a clear tile or base, which the farmland below the village on the left of the image is not).
The Hearts and Minds rating has turned in my favor, here up to 61 while one of the replacement Engineer units is engaged and damaged while trying to clear a path through the jungle.
There was some notable VC activity to the immediate east of my Fire Base which was dealt with by whatever unit available had the highest percentage of success, and here in a rare occasion I use infantry to directly engage and destroy the threat (yypically I would defer to artillery or attack helicopter).
The Howitzer takes no damage from a ranged attack, where the Cobra can fly back to a base if it is damaged. Infantry however require a helicopter to be taken out the of the supply cycle to transport them all the way back to the USA Main Base for medical attention.
Depending on location, this can take both the helicopter and the troops out of combat for several turns.
Here an Air Strike fails to kill an NVA Base and I mistakenly take two Cobras that have been loitering in the area too long to engage the enemy, which proves to be a costly mistake on my part for one of the birds.
So close yet so far away. This Cobra was one tile away from being able to land in the same turn, and I had no closer Engineer unit to rush to it any earlier to construct an FOB for it to land at.
Although I had given up on the idea of constructing an FOB out there, I still tried to maneuver or deliver troops to the area to enter the villages. Here an Infantry unit is offloaded directly into a minefield and takes damage immediately negating their effectiveness.
This side of the map has been a bitch.
During the last turns I have been deploying all air assets across the map to uncover any enemy that may be lurking so I could nail them with artillery, attack helicopter, or the Air Strike capability. Additionally I take all ground troops off ambush and have them sweep for mines, which can allow for a bump up in the Hearts and Minds ratings if some are cleared.
I have achieved a Hearts and Minds rating of 69 (my best to date has been 83 but this was a very tough map to draw for an AAR), the Foreign Service 3 rating (for playing 13 games), and a promotion to Major General, all of which results in a Decisive Victory outcome.
The shadowbox is updated with the additional star on the shoulders and the FS3 is the additional hash on the right lower arm.
This was one of the hardest scenarios that I have played due to how the map was configured. The swath of jungle running diagonally forced the vast majority of my operations to the NE, and whenever I ventured to the SW I would suffer casualties that proved costly to address.
While I ultimately secured a Decisive Victory outcome, it was significantly lower than many other recent victories.