The Squad Battles: Vietnam scenario Back Door is dated May 20th, 1967. There does not seem to be any particular reason to use that date, as the scenario isn’t meant to even approximate any real encounter. It has the U.S. Marines facing off against a handful of infantry-supported armor in the hands of the NVA forces.
This is one of the scenarios – indeed the first of the Squad Battles: Vietnam scenarios – downloadable from the site I discussed almost a year ago. The author describes it as a “beginner scenario.” “By that I mean that there are all sorts of “support stuff” to use, so that a beginner can get the feel of the game,” he elaborates. What he meant by this is, I think, a little more clear to me now.
This is an interesting deviation from the usual fare given my propensity to complain about the American’s lack of support. This scenario supplies plenty of everything. There is off-board artillery and aircraft (including a AH-1 cobra available as an airstrike – haven’t seen that before). There are Claymores hidden at objective points. As more forces trickle in toward the front lines, they bring with them bazookas and, eventually, a pair of M-48 Patton tanks.
The scenario isn’t for the beginner because it’s easy. Although the scoring is generous, the U.S Marines (which is the recommended side for the player) is outnumbered and is going to take quite a pounding. Rather, the point is to give the player a try at using a bunch of different features, all in one scenario. You have to figure out (possibly the hard way) that you don’t go maneuvering your squads that start next to the Claymores, because they need to be there to activate them. It is also a reminder that a handful of RPG-7s can make short work of your armor. You learn that your off-board support is of greatly reduced value if you don’t have line-of-sight to your target. You’ll also learn how brittle your support is if you do have line-of-sight to your target – one lucky near-miss with enemy artillery can take out your commander, which will then completely nullify all your support. Because without a leader to call in strikes, you’re not gettin’ nothin’. Remember that in Squad Battles, there’s no platoon Sergeant to step up into the breach.
In this case, there is no “real life” to compare the results to. I still think that the way off-board support is modeled makes it overly difficult to use successfully. I can’t back that up, though.
Return to the master post for Vietnam War articles or go on to the next article, for some operational level thoughts at the end of May, 1967. Note also that the previous article, not linked to the Vietnam War posts, was written after I finished reading the Vietnam-related novel First Blood.