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This is the sixty-third in a series of posts on the Vietnam War. See here for the previous post in the series or go back to the master post.

I managed to finish Happy Valley on the last possible night, a night I also completed Volume V of the Vietnam Combat Operations series. This, having just finished, in a marathon effort, another project in right before Covid-19 shut everything down.

Now the rest of the world is finally granting me the social distance that I’ve always craved. Is it wrong to feel a measure of contentedness as the world burns? Probably.

I’ll say, first, about Happy Valley that it was well worth pressing onward and finishing both seasons. The biggest downside is that I struggled sometimes with the northern accent but I refrained from using any subtitles. I think that would have been wrong. That aside, this was a top-notch police drama. Heartily recommended.

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The last turn brought with it some of the biggest and most interesting “battles” I’ve yet fought.

As for Vietnam Combat Operations, my final couple of turns provided more action than much of the game so far. There were several areas, particularly near Pleiku (as pictured above, showing part of Operation Francis Marion) and in the Quang Nam/Quang Tin area (Operation Union II), where sizable-looking NVA forces popped up just at the end.

While both these operations saw fairly significant engagement with the enemy, there were no large-scale, conventional-style battles. In both cases, the U.S. command was aware of significant enemy formations in the area, prompting sweeping actions to pin them down and destroy them. Still, as a rule, the communists were able to dictate the terms of engagement. U.S. losses were mostly due to ambush and bombardment rather than set piece battles. As with the war in general, communist losses substantially exceeded U.S. losses, but it was a price that the enemy was willing to pay for victory in the longer term.

mayend2

As always a draw. The flavor text tastes about right.

TOAW is not, as far as I know, capable of explicitly modeling asymmetric warfare. Neither, however, is it explicitly modelling specific tactics of conventional warfare. I did not try to analyze how the casualty rates compare between this scenario and the historical estimates, nor do I think that would be a worthwhile exercise. As I play, I suspect that I react a lot more vigorously than would be historically accurate. When I see an enemy formation on the map, I try to surround and destroy it, even if that means drawing in units from outside the engaged command. As a result, I should probably see higher casualties, in many cases, relative to the actual battles. I actually suspect, if I were to dig into it, that the modelling isn’t doing that badly.

In the end, Vietnam Combat Operations is not trying to predict casualty rates and probably shouldn’t be seen as doing so. Getting lethality wrong, even systematically wrong, doesn’t necessarily destroy the scenario suite’s concept. Every six months (at least at this point in the series) there is a “reset” to bring everything back in line with historical reality. As I’ve said before, from the standpoint of the (U.S.) player, the results do appear correct. Even as an enemy “counter” disappears, what does that mean? PAVN units were rarely “wiped out.” They did, however, get “removed from the map” sometimes for the better part of a year. This wasn’t destruction or surrender – it was the soldiers scattering and then reforming in a remote area or in Cambodia/Laos, to refit and reinforce. The scenario seems to get this right, particularly once you’re willing to interpret what you are seeing in just that way.

As you see from my lower screenshot, I once again scored a draw. As I’ve said earlier, I’ve come to play this series by focusing on the suggested goals first and foremost. While wargaming as a whole is enjoyed as a “what if” exercise, keeping mostly to the script insures that I engage in those fights that the scenario author has prepared for me. As I said, I think I’m a little more vigorous that my historical counterparts. I also try to grab easy victory point locations (if they are nearby), even if they aren’t identified in the historical operations. As such, I think I should be doing better than average, points-wise. It is hard to see how this scenario is “winnable” without breaking the game, but then I sometimes lack imagination.

One thing I can imagine, moving abruptly to my third point of happiness, is the scenario pitched by a Wall St. Journal editorial in this morning’s paper. The authors, who do have a dog in this particular fight*, argue that remote work activity was already in our future. The current lockdowns and precautions will mean that companies and workers are forced to rapidly adopt telecommuting, even if they would have otherwise found it unthinkable. Give everyone a few months and they will learn that the unthinkable is, in fact, reasonable and (for many, even) an improvement over the status quo. They predict that once we all get used to a distributed workplace, nobody will want to go back.

As I stated at the outset, I’ve been social distancing before it was cool, although I probably moved too far ahead of the curve to be good for me. I suspect that while the “new normal” will include a lot more telecommuting, employers will be most likely to trust those with which they’ve had a traditional, cubicle-centered relationship up until recent events. But this isn’t all about me. I will say that, in my experience, a (purely) virtual workplace is healthy, happier, and more productive all at the same time. I wouldn’t be surprised if many more people come to this same conclusion. Let us wait until next fall and see if the authors are right.

Return to the master post or proceed to the next article, somewhat out of order, where I watched (or maybe rewatched) the 1987 film Hamburger Hill.

*They are management at a company called Nomadic Learning, which has been advocating for the shift for some time.