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Hearts and Minds: Vietnam 1965-1975» Forums » Reviews

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Christopher Donovan
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A strategic boardgame about the Vietnam conflict that you can play in an evening and the U.S. can actually win?? Madness you say!

CDG
It's a "Card-Driven Game", but it has a nice twist: you always get the "OPs", with the option to "buy" the event on the card, or not, with unspent OPs going into a stockpile for possible later use. This means you will always be able to do something. Another unique aspect: each player has his own deck of cards (with some special "mid-war" cards added in 1969), but there is also a neutral deck of cards that is randomly split and shuffled in with each player's deck before the game begins, making each game a little different.

Movement
Hearts & Minds is an area movement game with very liberal rules for moving through enemy areas. There generally is not a "front" but rather a series of "hot-spots" that flare up, fed on the one hand by the Allies' ability to land anywhere along the coast and on the other by the NVA's ability to infiltrate into Vietnam via the Ho Chi Minh trail. It costs an OP to activate all units in one area for movement, they can move together or split up, and units can be activated for movement more than once on your turn. So with enough expenditure you can be very mobile indeed. ARVN units are a little unreliable moving long distances overland but can be reliably moved amphibiously. Viet-Cong units operate face-down, with some being essentially dummies that can nonetheless operate as "real" VC until discovered, at which point a roll on the "Bush Events" table can cause all sorts of mayhem (or nothing at all...). VC units can also ambush Allied units moving into their area.

Combat
The battle system is similarly fluid and units of both sides can occupy an area. By spending an OP the active player may conduct a battle-round in a given area, or multiple battle-rounds by spending additional OPs (one per round...). Each round gives the defender a chance to try and evade with some or all of his units, and after each round he may spend stockpiled OPs to move in reinforcements. If the defender manages to evade, the attacker does not have to actually spend his OP. So sometimes you will want to attack and be unable to as your target slips away before combat, while other times an area will develop into a "meat-grinder" consisting of multiple battle-rounds with troops pouring in from both sides to feed it. At times you will see long pursuits through Vietnam as Allied groups try to come to grips with evading Viet-Cong. You will also see groups of NVA raiding into South Vietnam from Cambodia, striking at stacks of untried ARVN units then withdrawing beyond the reach of the Allies. The Allies have access to important assets - AirCav, the Blue Water Navy, and Gunboats (confined to the Mekong Delta), as well as Strategic Bombers. The Allies have the power to get what they want most of the time but have to watch their losses very carefully. Too many ARVN losses can cause a South Vietnamese coup d'etat, while too many US losses will erode domestic support for the war. The NVA on the other hand can sustain huge losses...

Politics
Provinces can be either NVA or Allied controlled, with a further level of Allied control called "pacification". NVA control gives the NVA player victory points, Pacification bolsters the South Vietnamese government, allowing it to sustain a stronger war-effort in the form of higher losses. Turns are yearly, with each side playing one card at a time, alternating, 4 times. At the start of each year hands are filled up to 5 cards, with each side having the option to take a "Zone Campaign" card as one of his draws, allowing a player the opportunity to score extra victory points by controlling one of the four specific zones of South Vietnam.

Laos and Cambodia also play a part in the game, with each side controlling a belligerent faction in each country with a strong incentive to destroy the opposing faction. The Ho Chi Minh trail can be blocked but usually not for very long, and the main body of Allied troops are disallowed from operating in Laotian or Cambodian provinces most of the time.

How the Game Plays
With all this going on the game often feels like a large rubber-band stretched over several different pressure-points, threatening to break on one side or another if an equilibrium is not maintained. It's a game that requires both a proactive strategic plan and a competent flexibility in reaction. To top it off there is a whole deck full of card-events that can dramatically alter the flow of the game from turn-to-turn, working in unison with other events or focusing the fight suddenly in one particular Zone or in one of the bordering countries. Several cards present opportunities to either force an engagement or avoid fighting. Some events can be played as "Response" cards during the opposing player's turn or even between turns to alter reinforcements or South Vietnamese stability. These cards can be particularly nasty surprises. Several cards escalate or limit the strategic bombing campaign, rounding out the range of options. Overall this is one of my favorite CDGs and one of my favorite wargames, period. It's relatively simple and quick yet highly thematic and "Deep Serious". The rulebook in the box is not great but a set of excellent "living rules" have been made available - download those, print them, and don't look back. http://hilinski.net/HeartsAndMinds/
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Courtney Malpas

Chambersburg
Pennsylvania
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I would definitely suggest this thread, with a download to a VERY nice map. I had this printed and laminated because of the poor map that came with the game. Cheers.


http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/568028/hm-redux-map
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Steven Goodknecht
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Bradley
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Great review. And as this is your third wargame review, you have just been added to the wargame reviewers Geeklist.
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Paul O'Connor
United States
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Fine review of a tremendous game -- I've enjoyed our plays of this, even though the game STRESSES ME OUT!

(big time)
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John Poniske
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If it stresses you out, Paul, then Stan and I did our job. My primary goal in Hearts and Minds was to cause both players constant stress. Stan upped the ante. Glad it was well received and looking forward to its rerelease ... no, I haven't heard any news. I'm just an eternal optimist.
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Christopher Donovan
Canada
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Poniske wrote:
If it stresses you out, Paul, then Stan and I did our job. My primary goal in Hearts and Minds was to cause both players constant stress. Stan upped the ante. Glad it was well received and looking forward to its rerelease ... no, I haven't heard any news. I'm just an eternal optimist.


I really do hope it does get reprinted. I like games where both sides think they are losing...
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Paul O'Connor
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You did your job well. Possibly TOO well. Congrats on a fine design.
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