Bonus Game: Brothers by My Side
Getting the Game
Please click on the link below to grab the bonus game! This game comes in the form of a PDF file and is a tabletop wargame. You will need to print the map and units (counters) before you can play the game (examples of map board and counter art located below). When printing Brothers DO NOT scale the images to fit the pages. Print the game at 100% (no more, no less). Scaling the pages will resize the counters, stretch the map, and end the world as we know it. It’s very bad stuff.
You will need this information to access the bonus game;
Missed the issue? Missed the game? Try Mark H. Walker’s website for an expanded version of this game. Click here!
Discuss Brothers By My Side on the Armchair General forums.
Designed by Mark H. Walker
Artwork by Nicolas Eskubi
The fight for Landing Zone (LZ) X-Ray and the Ia Drang campaign have received more than their fair share of Vietnam War ink. It was not only the first significant battle between the Americans and NVA, but also the first test of our new airmobile infantry. Of course Americans love an underdog, and the troopers of the 7th Cavalry certainly seemed that. In fact, they were outnumbered by at least five to one. But that, of course, was before the great equalizer —America’s artillery and air support— were taken into account.
Colonel Moore and the men of the 1-7th choppered in to LZ X-Ray below the Chu Pong Massif (mountain) on the morning of November 14th, 1965 looking for a fight. There were enemy rumored to be in the area, and the Americans hoped to bring them to battle. It would be a battle a bit larger than the Americans had bargained for —three regular North Vietnamese Army regiments and a Vietcong infantry battalion to be exact. Over the next twenty-four hours, the North Vietnamese and Vietcong would launch a series of attacks, all of which were beaten back, but only by the smallest of margins. Both sides leaned much and both sides bled.
Since the release of Saving Private Ryan, blood has been all the rage at the movies. Seems like producers, directors, and actors who have never been closer to a battlefield than their TV screen feel that all it takes to make a realistic war movie is blood. Blood and a bit of slow motion video. So it was with Mel Gibson’s We Were Young.
I hope that such is not the case with Brothers by my Side. As with all my games, I designed Brothers by my Side for two reasons (three, if you count the pay). Reason one, and always the most important motive for designing or playing a game —to entertain its players. If a game isn’t fun, it fails on the most basic level. Kind of like an incomplete pass.
To capture the feeling of the battle is reason number two. Notice that I say capture the feeling, not replicate the battle. Frequently the two go hand in hand, sometimes they do not. When I think of Ia Drang I think of a small band of outnumbered, yet heroic, Americans facing a formidable foe with courage and perseverance. I think of men fighting desperately, almost overwhelmed, saved by their own discipline and America’s awesome air and artillery support. But that isn’t all I think of. I also remember the NVA and Vietcong soldiers who went forward in spite of the curtain of hot steel they faced to carry their attack to the Americans. So it is these two things —outnumbered yet disciplined Americans and the courage/skill of both armies that I wanted to capture.
I felt that this was best captured at the platoon level. A squad level game would have been too large for The Armchair General, and a company level would have been no fun. I mean who wants to play with 5-6 counters on a side? The platoon level captures the personal feel of the battle and well places the gamer in the combatant’s shoes.
Some folks might be curious about where the units values came from. Is there a correlation to firepower and range values that the combatants used? Obviously, the answer is yes, but again I’m more concerned with evoking a feel than a straight statistical conversion. Truth be known, the biggest difference in the NVA and Americans were their machine guns. The RPD had a magazine; the M-60 was belt fed, making it capable of a higher rate of sustained fire. Furthermore, I wanted the Americans to met out some serious punishment. After all, they has triumphed over some serious odds, they must have been doing something right with their trigger fingers.
First and foremost, keep your companies together. Brothers by my Side mimics real life… if you split your companies, your firepower will be less effective. Try to position your companies so that the entire company has a solid field of fire, even if they may only see a couple of hexes in front of themselves. Neither the NVA nor Americans will have the opportunity to engage the enemy from afar.
Of course, this is much easier said than done when you are the Communist player. The Americans can fit their entire company into two hexes. So can the NVA/VC; but if they do, they risk being pounded by American air strikes. Conversely, if the NVA spread their company into three or four hexes, it’s likely that one or more of the platoons will not have a LOS to the target. Solution? Close assault. Once adjacent to the enemy you can attack from three sides, utilizing all your firepower, and minimizing the risk of an American air strike. After all, if the Americans want to call the heat 100 yards in from of their position, they stand a good chance of also being hit.
Finally, don’t fire everyone during the fire phase. Doing so let’s your adversary move with impunity. Holding back some units to interdict enemy movement will slow the enemy down, and opportunity fire —due to its column shift on the FRT— often does more harm than a straight-up Fire Phase attack.
A couple of words on overall tactics: Disrupt and assault. The NVA should use a base of fire to disrupt American units, and then finish them off with a Close Assault. The Close Assault Table provides a huge (two-column) shift in the attacker’s favor when attacking disrupted units, even if only one of the defenders is disrupted. Both sides should use their mortars and artillery judiciously. They often work best as a force multiplier, providing the necessary factors to push an attack into the deadly 24 firepower (or higher) column.
And last, but by no means least. Need it be said that the Communist player should keep his forces either in cover or adjacent to American units? If an air strike catches a two-platoon stack in the open, it will decimate it.
Not Enough: The 1-7th choppered in to LZ X-Ray on the morning of the 14th. At first it was quite; they captured an NVA point man who told them the area was teaming with NVA, but they initially met no opposition. As Bravo Company attempted to expand the cavalry’s perimeter they ran into a few NVA. The fighting rapidly escalated, and before Colonel Moore had two full companies on the ground he was involved with a fierce firefight with the NVA.
Not Enough depicts this firefight, with two companies (-) of the 1-7th squaring off against the better part of two battalions of NVA. Fortunately, they don’t have to fight both battalions at once. The American needs to use his attack choppers and artillery wisely.
Duck and Run: About 2 PM on the 14th, the NVA launched their first major assault on LZ X-Ray. Three battalions (more or less) confronted Colonel Moore’s men. The NVA pushed hard, and would have turned the 7th’s eastern flank had it not been for the timely arrival of Moore’s last companies. Nevertheless, it was a close thing.
The American air and artillery play a significant part in this scenario. The Yanks should never miss a chance to chew up an NVA formation that he catches in the open, and the NVA should never miss a chance to close with the American. Adjacent to an American unit is often the safest place for an NVA platoon.
By My Side: On the morning of November 15th the Communists launched an all out assault against the 7th Cavalry’s position. By this time Moore had all of his companies on the ground, in addition to Bravo Company form the 2-7th. The NVA hit the Americans with everything that they had, including elements of a recently arrived Vietcong Battalion. The Communists pressed the American’s hard and were only repulsed when Moore called “Broken Arrow,” which summoned all available air support, and committed his reserve —the battalion’s scout platoon.
Once again, the key to American victory in By My Side is the artillery and air power. You must punish the NVA when they are in the open. Attempt to concentrate all your power against a single NVA or VC battalion, shatter it, and then defend against the other two.
The NVA/VC must keep constant pressure against the Americans to prevent them from switching men to threatened sectors. Make EVERY sector a threatened sector! And, as always, stay close the Americans.
The Final Hint
Brothers by my Side has been great fun to design, and even more fun to play. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I have. And oh yeah, we’ll post a special bonus scenario after the first person guesses the origin of the scenario’s names.