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Citadel: The Battle of Dien Bien Phu» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Citadel: After 35 years still a good game rss

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Pete
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General Dominique-Joseph René Vandamme, Count of Unseburg (5 November 1770, Cassel, Nord – 15 July 1830)
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Why am I playing a wargame published the year I was born, when there are so many great modern games to play? Well for starters it simulates an interesting battle that had far reaching consequences. Secondly, there are not many other wargames that cover this topic. And thirdly it’s a fine game designed by Frank Alan Chadwick and published by Game Designers’ Workshop (GDW) in 1977, Citadel lets players try and recreate the siege of Dien Bien Phu.

In 1954 France was desperately trying to hold onto its colonial outposts in Indochina. The Communist Viet Minh forces had cornered French forces in the fortress of Dien Bien Phu, and here two elite armies would clash to decide the future of the region.

The game itself is quite elegant. There are no overly complex rules getting in the way of the action. Each turn represents one day of fighting with each hex representing 200 yards. Once set up the first thing that will strike you is the high density of units crammed into a small space. The Viet Minh player begins with all but one unit on the map in the campaign game and receives no other reinforcements, but does get replacements. The French player receives a steady trickle of reinforcements but also has a fair number on the map at the beginning as well.

While the French set up is somewhat constrained by the scenario rules, the Viet Minh have a lot more freedom in how they will set up. You could easily spend hours just trying to devise the best set up, depending on what you are trying to do. Looking at all these units makes you quickly realise that there is not much room for manoeuvre. This is going to be a stand-up, toe-to-toe, slugging match.

Looking at the rules, one of the unique mechanics Chadwick uses is that none of the units have a movement allowance. Each unit can move as far as its owner desires with certain conditions. For example every third hex of clear ground it crosses makes the unit vulnerable to opportunity fire if an enemy unit is in range and has a line of sight, this can lead to a pinned result which would cause the unit to stop, entering an enemy zone of control also stops a units movement.

Combat is perhaps the most fiddly mechanic because it involves working out a combat odds ratio as well as working out the average morale for both sides which can lead to units routing before battle if certain conditions are met. This can get a tad tedious when there are lots of attacks to resolve, and this game is all about assaulting prepared positions so there will be lots of attacks, and also because I played solo.

The advanced rules add supply issues to the game. Both armies consume a certain amount of supply points a turn and the players have to make sure they have enough in reserve to cover this, which can become a challenge latter in the game. The French are supplied through the air, and the Viet Minh over land. Both sides can attempt to disrupt their opponents supply efforts, the French through strategic bombing off map and the Viet Minh by shooting down planes.

Overall this is a very interesting game, yes the map is quite pedestrian but you can read it, and at a glance tell what type of terrain is in each hex. The victory conditions are straight forward, and the onus is on the Viet Minh player to make the running. Basically the Viet Minh player has to capture all the French strong-points without losing too many strength points. This provides a nice dilemma for the Viet Minh player, you have to push and assault strong-points but you have to watch that you aren’t too reckless with your units. Citadel is a great game that is fun to play and provides plenty to think about. A special mention must be made of the excellent designer notes provided with this game. In them Chadwick discusses the design process and the reasons behind his use of certain mechanics over others.

As an aside I’m currently reading The Last Valley by Martin Windrow which focuses on this battle but also provides lots of background information on the French in Indochina as well.
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Chris Buhl
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That's a very nice write up. I'd never heard of this game until you posted about it in one of the other lists I follow (rules on table or one of those). I agree with you, this is an interesting battle that I'd like to know more about.

The game is quite highly rated for such and old wargame (compared to others here on BGG), which made me immediately think "This must be pretty good." It's not a huge sample size, but over 8 with 35 raters seems signficantly above the norm for late 70's war games here on the geek.

Your account makes me even more interested. I have a feeling that I'd not want to play without the supply rules - otherwise it sounds like it would devovle into a true WWI style battle of massive assaults all the time, and I'd expect the French to get steam rolled. Does that seem accurate? Someone else's comments seem to verify this.

I like the way you describe some of the mechanics you enjoy about the game. Things like that help me decide about adding games to my "want to play some day" list, and to prioritize them. This will go on the list, but I'm not too likely to acquire a copy soon. Do you have any idea if there's a vassal / cyberboard module available?

Thanks for the nice write up, I thought you did a good job covering lots of relevant points without getting too bogged down in details.

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Kim Meints
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Citadel has always been a favorite of mine and I added in the variant units/rules that GDW had in the Grenadier magazine.I also made up some "What If" units for the French.

The only thing that bummed me out was the green on the map where the hills were.GDW did such a great job with the Avalanche map and the contour levels for the hills that Citadel should of had the same thing done to it.It just looks like flat jungle hexes where as it should be very hilly ground.

I had bought the original ziplock edition of the game when it came out but when GDW offered it in a flatbox edition I bought one of those and a extra empty box for my ziplock copy. Love Roger McGowen's box art which was taken from a photo during the battle.

But still one of the best modern day siege games there is.
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Steve Herron
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Quote:
Why am I playing a wargame published the year I was born


You make me feel old, it would have been as bad if you had said you were born the year of the battle. laugh Good review
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Pete
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General Dominique-Joseph René Vandamme, Count of Unseburg (5 November 1770, Cassel, Nord – 15 July 1830)
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fatgreta wrote:
Your account makes me even more interested. I have a feeling that I'd not want to play without the supply rules - otherwise it sounds like it would devovle into a true WWI style battle of massive assaults all the time, and I'd expect the French to get steam rolled. Does that seem accurate? Someone else's comments seem to verify this.

I like the way you describe some of the mechanics you enjoy about the game. Things like that help me decide about adding games to my "want to play some day" list, and to prioritize them. This will go on the list, but I'm not too likely to acquire a copy soon. Do you have any idea if there's a vassal / cyberboard module available?

Thanks for the nice write up, I thought you did a good job covering lots of relevant points without getting too bogged down in details.



Thanks for the kind words Chris.
You are right, the supply rules do add an element to the game that is otherwise lacking. It's enough of a slog at times with waves of Viet Minh troops trying to push the small french forces out of the strong-points.

Not sure about Vassal etc.

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Pete
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General Dominique-Joseph René Vandamme, Count of Unseburg (5 November 1770, Cassel, Nord – 15 July 1830)
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jackiesavon wrote:
Citadel has always been a favorite of mine and I added in the variant units/rules that GDW had in the Grenadier magazine.I also made up some "What If" units for the French.

The only thing that bummed me out was the green on the map where the hills were.GDW did such a great job with the Avalanche map and the contour levels for the hills that Citadel should of had the same thing done to it.It just looks like flat jungle hexes where as it should be very hilly ground.

I had bought the original ziplock edition of the game when it came out but when GDW offered it in a flatbox edition I bought one of those and a extra empty box for my ziplock copy. Love Roger McGowen's box art which was taken from a photo during the battle.

But still one of the best modern day siege games there is.


I hear what you're saying about the map. For a battle that was fought in a valley, you'ld never know from the looking at it!

Just noticed on Web-Grognards have variants and strategy guide so I'll have to check it out.
 
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Chris Buhl
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petegs wrote:
fatgreta wrote:
Your account makes me even more interested. I have a feeling that I'd not want to play without the supply rules - otherwise it sounds like it would devovle into a true WWI style battle of massive assaults all the time, and I'd expect the French to get steam rolled. Does that seem accurate? Someone else's comments seem to verify this.

I like the way you describe some of the mechanics you enjoy about the game. Things like that help me decide about adding games to my "want to play some day" list, and to prioritize them. This will go on the list, but I'm not too likely to acquire a copy soon. Do you have any idea if there's a vassal / cyberboard module available?

Thanks for the nice write up, I thought you did a good job covering lots of relevant points without getting too bogged down in details.



Thanks for the kind words Chris.
You are right, the supply rules do add an element to the game that is otherwise lacking. It's enough of a slog at times with waves of Viet Minh troops trying to push the small french forces out of the strong-points.

Not sure about Vassal etc.



Well, Vassal wouldn't matter until I actually got a copy.
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Pete
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General Dominique-Joseph René Vandamme, Count of Unseburg (5 November 1770, Cassel, Nord – 15 July 1830)
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sherron wrote:
Quote:
Why am I playing a wargame published the year I was born


You make me feel old, it would have been as bad if you had said you were born the year of the battle. laugh Good review


Sorry about that Steve, I'll try not to mention my excessive youth in future reviews.

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herman
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The only problem with this game (and all battle games for that matter)is its limited replayability. Theres only so many ways to skin a cat as they say. Ive been playing it on and off since 83. But to me the great thing about this game is no matter how many times Ive been the VC or the French dam i feel the pain lol. Once you and your enemy understand the game tactics fully you do feel like Giap. Your like dam i just got 2 more battalions chewed up and spit out for just a hex of Claudine. Your like my god how much more of this can i take. And as the french your like dam ok i kicked him back out this time but im running out of bodies. Your trying to rob peter to pay paul to defend a hex just one more time.

There were some issues with the map being historicaly to short but for the most part theres not much errata on it. This is a great game of nerves. It is a slow grind. I tried to get slick and rush the wire one game and ooooh my when those french 105s opened up lolol. But if you like this type of game, its much bigger, its badder its Streets of Stalingrad.

Ive been gaming since 77 and if i was stuck on an island with just ten of my games this would be one.
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Eric Lai
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Thank you for the review. Now I want the game even more!
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Ethan McKinney
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El Segundo
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This game needs a map photo! Please help!

http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/74246/item/2079255#item207...
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Gary Cope

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This is still one of my favorite games of my collection.

I never get tired of pulling it out for a quick spin or just to gander at the components.

Yes the map is sub par but the game still stands the test of time with me.

Just my two cents.
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Nap George
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I have the ziploc version and still remember it being a great play. Read "Hell in a Very Small Place" by Bernard Fall and then play this, it captures the whole thing. Definitely a wargame I'd like to play again.
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