When Mike and I resumed our game, I had moved past most of the outer strongpoints and was approaching the main encampment. Mike had deftly abandoned each outer strongpoint before I could encircle them, saving his Legionnaires for further fighting later on. I was right on, or just ahead of the pace I needed to have to avoid morale loss. Mike was using a ‘bodies’ defense, placing strings of units together, both in the trenches and out to keep me from getting around him.
Regiments 312 and 316 were taking it on the chin. The French artillery went through a period of turns where it seemed they couldn’t miss. Each time the French guns hit an attacking unit, that unit would be reduced and it would make my assault all the more difficult. I was doing damage with my artillery also. With the French units so spread out, it created an illusion of strength: it looked like there were more French units, but they were actually pretty brittle.
My attack on Dominique and Eliane would have to wait a couple of turns so I could build up morale, so it was up to 308 Regiment to begin their assault on Huguette and Claudine. These strongpoints were more separated from the main camp, but close enough that Mike would be able to defend them better.
We entered the monsoon turns with both of us feeling understrength. Mike’s Frenchmen were starting to run low on ammo and fuel and spares. He was also having trouble getting his reinforcements. The commander back in Hanoi was having none of Mike’s pleading for more troops. To add insult to injury, when Mike finally got his reinforcements to come in, they would be eliminated on the supply planes that didn’t make it in. All told, he would only get 4 reinforcement units the whole game.
Somewhat rested I re-upped for my assault on the main French encampment. 308 had gotten chewed up at the Huguette stronpoint. The French artillery was still raining down and still couldn’t miss. The turns were whittling away, and I was now behind my required pace. 312 and 316 kicked off.
My reinforcements were unlocked and I brought them in to help 308 regiment who needed a break. The fields were harder to move through in the rain and monsoon season, so they took longer to get to the other French flank at the Claudine strongpoints. It was at this point that I started having real problems just taking individual hexes. Claudine and Dominique held out far longer than I could afford, with a single unit in Dominique staying in place almost to the end of the game. I finally gained the trenches of Eliane and turned the north flank.
Finally, I get the unit at Dominique cut off. I lost a lot of replacements to that unit. Mike backs off the Eliane hill, allowing me to push up to the river. The Isabelle strongpoint (6km away in real life) stays put, but the Laos relief force attempts to break through to Dien Bien Phu were rebuffed, no reinforcements would come from that direction for the French.
At this point I have two Regiments down to 2 morale. One at 3 morale and the 304 at 4 morale. It’s go time though, I recovered earlier in the monsoon season to get my strongpoints taken pace back on track. The French are slowly being forced back. Mike FINALLY runs out of artillery ammo, his trucks are gone and the tanks can’t move. I have gained a foothold in the main camp itself but the turns are fading away.
At the end of the last turn, I have the French Legionnaires at Dien Bien Phu surrounded and just need Mike to fail the surrender roll.
The surrender number is based on strongpoints taken and then modified. Had I done enough? After doing the math, Mike determined that he had to roll a 4 or less on two dice to avoid a French surrender. It came up 9 for a Vietminh victory. The French casualties were reminiscent of the pile of units I had in the dead and wounded box when I had them.
This game is really good. We are impressed with how Kim Kanger brought his own ideas to a fight that has been done in wargaming many times. The replacement track for the Vietminh is a nifty method to keep only the units on the board in play, without adding to the counter clutter. The French supply table is genius, both sides are hoping for different things when that player makes his roll to see how many supplies make it to the embattled troops at Dien Bien Phu.
We made some rules mistakes both times we played it. One of which probably could have been a game changer.
Lastly, Mike, who has much more experience with wargaming outside of ASL than I do, thinks there are a few things that show the difference between a more seasoned game company and a newer one like Legion Games. Small things like record keeping tracks that would be more intuitive if they were switched around or gameplay aids that could be better placed on the map.
Overall, however. Those small complaints don’t add up enough to detract from the overall gameplay. Dien Bien Phu: The Final Gamble is fun, entertaining, interesting and plays close to the actual event while making sure both sides could win.
The Vietminh are played in a game management mode, where finding a balance between the need to keep up morale and the ability to reinforce against a constantly fluctuating morale for each regiment is not easy.
For the French, a finesse game of resource management: Food and bullets, Ammo, Fuel and Spares and the all important Medicine is a balancing act. What do you put on your planes that still might not get there? When do you decide that bringing in reinforcements from Isabelle is worth the risk of possibly losing that stronghold altogether?
Mike and I have each played both sides now. We’ve got a feel for how it should go. We are setting it up for a third playing. This time, we diced for sides and I got the Legionnaires. Mike has ideas for what he wants to do with the VM and I’m not looking forward to being on the receiving end of it, but it’s going to be fun.
Thanks for reading.