The Fall of South Vietnam Review

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The Fall of South Vietnam

The Fall of South Vietnam
A Game of Combat in South Vietnam: 1973-1975
Review by David Lent

The Fall of South Vietnam is an album game by Yaquinto Games. It covers the final years of the Vietnam War where the NVA is trying to gain complete control of South Vietnam. The United States had left Vietnam by this phase in the war and the ARVN was on its own. Each turn represents one season and the NVA wins the game if they control Saigon by the end of the eighth turn. The ARVN win if they maintain control of Saigon province until the end of the game.

TFSVN comes in a deluxe record album box. The inside of the album box is the map and it shows South Vietnam and Cambodia. South Vietnam is partitioned into provinces and each one has the provincial capital inside it. The map also has combat results tables, air holding boxes, unit availability tables, turn track and a desertion table printed on it. Having the tables on the map makes the game play more fluid, since you don’t have to pass charts back and forth.

The counters in TFSVN represent ARVN, NVA, NLF[1] and Militia[1] units. The ARVN regimental units are armored, armored infantry, Rangers, marines and paratroopers. ARVN divisions are standard infantry divisions. The specialist ARVN regiments outperform ARVN divisions on the combat results table. This is probably historically accurate due to the poor leadership ARVN divisions usually had. The specialist regiments such as the Rangers and Airborne conducted promotions based on merit, whereas the infantry divisions often conducted promotions based on politics or bribery. North Vietnamese units consist of infantry divisons, NLF regiments and militia. I suspect NLF regiments are what are normally called “Main Force VC Regiments” and militias are what are more commonly known as “Local Force VC.”

One problem with the counters is they are not double-sided. Thus, divisional units are printed on two separate counters that must operate together during the game. If one is retreated, they may not move on future turns unless they both move to the same province.

Setting up the game begins with the players choosing sides. Next, the South Vietnamese player sets up all of his units in the provinces of South Vietnam. Each province contains a capital inside it. The stacking limit for the ARVN is 5 units per province with up to 2 additional units inside its capital. If the capital is Saigon, it can hold 4 units instead. North Vietnam’s stacking limit is almost the same, but with the exception that only four may go in a province. North Vietnam starts the game with all of its units off the board and assumed to be in Cambodia.

TFSVN’s sequence of play:

North Vietnam:
1) Available Unit Determination Phase
2) Movement Phase
3) Attack Phase
4) Adjustment
   a. Move units into or out of cities
   b. Place militia into newly controlled provinces

South Vietnam:
1) Available Unit Determination Phase
2) Movement Phase
3) Attack Phase
   a. Air strikes
   b. Ground
4) Adjustment Phase
   a. Move units into or out of cities
   b. Move attacking Marine Regiments to a Coastal Province
5) Desertion Phase

The available unit determination phase is where the phasing player rolls a dice and checks his unit availability table to see how many units of each type is available. During 1973 turns, South Vietnam gets a +1 to their die roll and North Vietnam gets a -1. Only available units can move or attack in the following phases.

During movement, most units can only move to an adjacent province. However, some ARVN regiments have special movement. Armored regiments may move 3 provinces, while armored infantry regiments may move 2 provinces. Parachute regiments may move to any province in South Vietnam, while Rangers may do the same, but only if you designate an air unit to carry them. Riverboats may only move on rivers. North Vietnamese militias may not leave the province they entered. One complaint I have about movement though, is the North Vietnamese may enter anywhere along the Cambodia border. This gives them unlimited movement in Cambodia. It would have been better if Cambodia was partitioned into provinces and the North Vietnamese units started the game in those sections. I’m sure units on the Ho Chi Minh trail could move fast, but I doubt they could move faster than on roads in South Vietnam.

Combat has two phases: air strikes and ground combat. Only the South Vietnamese get airpower in this game and airstrikes may not be made against a city. After an airstrike, a roll is made to see if the aircraft is eliminated. The same roll is done if an aircraft was used to transport Rangers that turn. Ground combat is simultaneous between units not in the city and continues to happen until only one side has units in a province. If there are units in the city, ground combat may then occur between the attackers and city units.

During the adjustment phase, units may move into or out of a city. In addition marine regiments can move to a coastal province. If the North Vietnamese control a province and there is no militia there, they must place one there.

The desertion phase has the South Vietnamese player roll on the desertion table if the North Vietnamese control at least 5 provinces in South Vietnam. The more provinces the North Vietnamese control, the more likely a South Vietnamese unit will desert. Each South Vietnamese unit must roll on the desertion table and be removed from the game if it fails its roll. Ranger, Marine and Airborne units are just as likely as poor infantry divisions to desert with this method. I felt the game would have been more realistic if either these elite units did not take desertion checks until all the infantry divisions were gone or they used a different desertion table where they were less likely to desert. There was a severe desertion problem in South Vietnam during this time period though.


TFSVN is a very balanced game. All the games I played lasted until the last turn. In most cases, the North Vietnamese won, but they were really hard fought games. The South Vietnamese airpower didn’t do well when conducting airstrikes, but they were very useful for transporting Ranger units to points of contention. When the South Vietnamese ground units were in combat, they fought like lions. The NVA divisions are powerful and ALWAYS retreat or destroy a South Vietnamese unit in combat due to their powerful CRT. Even so, the South Vietnamese usually held their own in combat and in many cases prevailed. South Vietnam’s best starting strategy is to do everything possible to delay the enemy from controlling 5 provinces by using the superior movement of the Rangers, Airborne and armored units to attack NVA controlled provinces in South Vietnam. Once the North Vietnamese control 5 provinces, the South Vietnamese have to do a desertion check each turn and they then need to protect Saigon at all costs. The North Vietnamese strategy is of course to control 5 provinces as fast as they can and then send everything toward Saigon.

I really have had a ton of fun playing this game and highly recommend it. The game play feels “right” for a simulation of this period of the war. Sure, it could be made more historically accurate by adding a lot more complexity but then it would only be suitable for a small segment of the wargame community. As it is, it’s great for beginners, novices or players who just want to have fun. Players looking for high complexity/detail or super historical accuracy should look elsewhere though.

Author’s note: There is a belief in the academic community that the term Viet Cong is a derogatory term invented by the United States and you should use the politically correct term National Liberation Front “NLF” instead. I’m not an academic, so I don’t know which term is appropriate. However, I’ll tell you where the term in question really originated. The term Viet Cong “Viet Nam Cong San” a.k.a. “Vietnamese Communists” was invented by the Vietnamese newspaper Tieng Goi in 1948 when the French were still running the show in Vietnam (17 years before U.S. conventional units entered South Vietnam).

View the components and rulebook in the unboxing video below:


Good

  • Very balanced
  • Combat results tables are good
  • Good mix of unit types for the ARVN
  • The game play feels right for this period of the war
  • Very easy to learn
  • Plays fast
  • The tables are on the map.

Bad

  • Counters are not double sided
  • Elite units desert just as readily as non-elite units
  • Cambodia should have had provinces so the NVA do not just enter anywhere on the South Vietnam border
  • May not be complex or historically accurate enough for some players
7.1

Good

Rulebook Clarity - 8
Fun - 8.5
Originality - 6
Component Quality - 6
Replayability - 7
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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for taking the time to read the review. Please feel free to leave any comments about the review here.

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