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"Spearhead for Dien Bien Phu?" Topic

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darthfozzywig Supporting Member of TMP06 Mar 2018 9:31 a.m. PST

I'm reading Martin Winslow's "The Last Valley" and once again pondering some Dien Bien Phu gaming.

I saw this thread:

TMP link

…and I'm wondering if anyone's used Spearhead to game this?

You could fit the core of the French defenses and surrounding area on a 4' x 6' board (sorry, Isabelle, you get ignored once again).

The French weren't completely passive during the siege, launching counterattacks to recapture strongpoints and at least one large-scale raid on Viet Minh artillery. That should inspire a French player to do more than passively await his demise.

Some of the French strongpoints are small (2"x1" or 2"x2") BUT are in clusters that work within Spearhead's battalion formation rules.

It's still a lot of Viet Minh miniatures, and a high unit density (it's Hell in a very small place, after all!), but appears workable.

I saw some supply rules here: but could probably abstract the supplies down to number of allowed fire missions, etc.

The more I look at this, the more doable it appears.

Am I crazy? Anyone else do this crazy thing?

MajorB06 Mar 2018 11:40 a.m. PST

Sure, why not?

darthfozzywig Supporting Member of TMP07 Mar 2018 9:48 a.m. PST

I guess that's my question: why not? Am I missing something about the game/scale/etc that makes this unworkable?

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP07 Mar 2018 9:59 a.m. PST

DBP has been one of my Grails, but I've never found a way to do what I want. I think the only way to get the game(s) I want is a mini campaign. So do the isolated strongpoints as more tactical games. Units being maybe platoons.

Somehow just having two stands in a strongpoint get blasted by 8 stands outside in a melee or two doesn;t scratch my itch.

But the game you outlined above should work fine. Just put Isabelle on a separate table off to the side.

darthfozzywig Supporting Member of TMP07 Mar 2018 4:53 p.m. PST

Somehow just having two stands in a strongpoint get blasted by 8 stands outside in a melee or two doesn;t scratch my itch.

Totally get that. Looked at in isolation you lose something, for sure.

This might be a "break out the counters and improvise some terrain" project to get a feel for it before I go nuts.

Joes Shop Supporting Member of TMP07 Mar 2018 4:56 p.m. PST

Interesting: what scale are you thinking of using – ?

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP08 Mar 2018 7:49 a.m. PST

I bought a bunch of board games for the battle as inspiration, and am now selling them off on BoardgameGeek:


Definitely a project that you need to run a small game or two with counters for feel.

Problem 1: If a position is 2x1" how many stands of what size fit inside it?

darthfozzywig Supporting Member of TMP08 Mar 2018 10:26 a.m. PST

It's always comforting to find someone else who shares your madness – we can all be crazy together!

Problem 1: If a position is 2x1" how many stands of what size fit inside it?</a>

Right. Because at Spearhead's scale, that's enough physical space for two platoons.

I'm okay with (in that example), 2 stands in a bunker in the same way I'm okay with 2 individually mounted infantry defending a slit trench/fighting position in a smaller scale game.

The problems might be the overall unit density and whether or not you have an active defense.

The French certainly attempted local counterattacks, so there's something for the French player to do besides sit there and get chewed up. They can attack and get chewed up faster. :)

The unit density is definitely a thing. I think the French force is something like 200 platoon stands (or their equivalents) in a 3' x 5' space. That's "hell in a very small place" indeed.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP08 Mar 2018 7:44 p.m. PST

That's why I had the "mini-campaign" idea.

darthfozzywig Supporting Member of TMP09 Mar 2018 9:28 p.m. PST

Far more practicable, for sure. Back to the drawing board!

monk2002uk10 Mar 2018 11:14 p.m. PST

I have been looking at Dien Bien Phu from a Spearhead perspective for a while now. The scale of the battlefield lends itself very well, along with the sizes of the respective forces. Ground scale is a potential issue, as has been discussed. I have been experimenting with a ground scale of 1" = 120 yards. This has worked well with some of the larger WW1 battlefields that I have modelled (see link for some examples, specifically First Battle of the Marne and Battle of the Somme):


The issue of Isabelle is an interesting one. Spearhead and its relatives are all about planning fundamentally. The on-table game mechanics flow from the way that a general would plan and execute a battle. Isabelle is so far from the main strongpoints that it could be considered out-of-scope from the planning perspective in any case, so long as the Vietnamese commander could not benefit from 'shifting' forces north. The scenario would have to reflect the fact that some Vietnamese forces were tied up around Isabelle.

I can put together a Spearhead map with the revised ground scale, based on exact terrain contours if that would help.


Thomas Nissvik Inactive Member13 Mar 2018 2:17 a.m. PST

Wehave done ti at very low level using Chain of Command to fight a single platoon. Bringing it up to the sometime battallion level sorties and assaults would be very tempting indeed. Try it out and let us know what you find!

Virginia Tory13 Mar 2018 8:29 a.m. PST

I've done a bit of it with Bolt Action. Doing the whole thing would be a challenge (and require a lot of terrain).

I was only doing the attempted relief of Gabrielle.

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