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Subject: Why the shortage of Vietnam games? rss

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Martin Kulp
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After my recent burnout on euros, and newly kindled interest in war games, I seem to be heading toward a collection of major wars involving the U.S.

For most of these, there are many options. I tend to shy away from extremely minutia-heavy rules, and so it seems that block and CDG war games nicely fill the hole. Liberty for the American Revolution, Twilight Struggle for the Cold War, etc.

But I've come acros somewhat of an anomoly: there are only a small number of existing Vietnam games, and a lot of those are heavy hex-and-counter games.

For the Civil War, we've got House Divided, Sam Grant, For the People, and of course the Victory Games version. Many, many options.

But I have no options for Vietnam, really.

Why is this so? When is anyone coming out with a block game of this war? Card driven? Anything? It seems ripe for possibilities; Vietcong leaping out of the jungle unexpectedly would surely lend itself well to some kind of interesting mechanic, old or new.
 
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Karl Deckard
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Lock 'n Load: Forgotten Heroes Vietnam is definitely worth a look.

http://boardgamegeek.com/game/6542
 
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Ted Kim
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For a strategic look at the war, you might want to consider
Victory in Vietnam

Not sure if it is too heavyweight for your tastes, but it is a hex and counter game. Also it has cards to represent the major strategic options. On the other hand, it's not the exact same system as POG or some of the other well-known CDGs.

There are some others like No Trumpets No Drums, but they are out of print and hard to get.

There is a rumor that a Vietnam CDG is being designed by Mark Herman for GMT.

If you want to just concentrate on certain battles or the air war, etc. there are other games too.
 
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Martin Kulp
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Oh, I'm certainly aware of these. I'm just wondering WHY there is such a lack, and if anyone knows of any coming remedy to the situation...
 
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Jason Arvey
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I can't suggest a good Vietnam game, but I have a suggestion as to why there are relatively few of them. Vietnam was messy -- the action wasn't so much fronts of troops meeting in battle and pounding it out as it was skirmishes and ambushes. Moreover, the war wasn't won or lost on military objectives. These circumstances don't lend themselves well to a traditional war game. They actually kind of sound like a Eurogame, but Eurogamers are unlikely to want to refight the Vietnam War.
 
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Lexingtonian
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Probably because we lost.
 
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Richard Irving
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Der Ubermolch wrote:
I can't suggest a good Vietnam game, but I have a suggestion as to why there are relatively few of them. Vietnam was messy -- the action wasn't so much fronts of troops meeting in battle and pounding it out as it was skirmishes and ambushes. Moreover, the war wasn't won or lost on military objectives. These circumstances don't lend themselves well to a traditional war game. They actually kind of sound like a Eurogame, but Eurogamers are unlikely to want to refight the Vietnam War.


That's certainly a reason--traditional wargame mechanics usually do a poor job handling guerilla tactics and political effects back home.

Another reason I would argue is that it was the most controversial and unpopular war the US has ever fought--both during the war and it its aftermath years later.
 
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Diz Hooper
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People generally don't like to recall bad memories.

 
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Steve Herron
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Decision Games is planning a CDG on The Vietman War, I am not sure how far they are getting on it, it needs more pledges to make it a go. I have Victory Games Vietnam but I never got up the nerve to get into the complex rules. Have you seen or played Hue? It's out of print but I think one of the best Vietnam games and it was not too complex. Tet by GDW was another simpler one but it didn't go over well.
 
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Brad Miller
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Koldfoot wrote:
The Vietnam War was not a war of manouver and tactics, nor a war of armies meeting on the battlefield. Vietnam was a war for the hearts and minds of the American public fought in the media.


Un huh.
Did the people of Vietnam have anything to do with it?
 
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Steve Ogden
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thdizzy wrote:


People generally don't like to recall bad memories.



What bad memories? I have many pleasant memories of 'Nam. Let's see... There was surfing with the boys from the 1st Air Cav and Playboy Bunnies putting on a show! Now that was wild! I loved the music too... like the Doors, Hendrix and The Stones and don't forget Wagner. Oh yea and before I forget... my fav memory was the smell of Napalm. It's a gasoline smell. Smells like... victory.
 
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Mark Crocker
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Few games because it was a crumby, lousy, unjust and un-win-able war. How do I know? I was DRAFTED.... in '69 and spent half of '70 and 71' there. Caught malaria on an ARVN firebase (thank God), and got out a month early. Shwartzkoff was my battalion comander when I left. If I had it to do over again, I would have been living in Sweden. 'Nam was a helluva place to have to spend my 21st birthday

I wonder if it still smells like diesel fuel and/or jet fuel? That was my very first impression.
 
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Ted Kim
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While the various reasons above may be valid, it just might take a few good games to get things going. For a while WWI was perceived as boring due to the static situation on the Western front for part of the war. But after Ted Racier designed several games on WWI, many of which were well regarded and fun, WWI is now considered a viable wargame topic. Plus, I think folks generally realize now that the Western front stalemate is only one aspect of the war.
 
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Jonathan A.
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Omega games is reprinting Ranger. It's a solitaire game that definitely has a jungle/vietnam war theme to it.
 
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Lance Wilkinson

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I wonder if not enough time has passed. 30 years ago isn't a long time for something that dramatic.

It feels very different to me to play an ACW or WWII game than say, a Gulf War I game. I'm not sure how to describe it. Perhaps it is not right intellectually, but I feel far less uneasiness aobut having *fun* playing a game about a battle where thousands died when the game is about something further in the past.
 
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Bill the Pill
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jiminy wrote:
I wonder if not enough time has passed. 30 years ago isn't a long time for something that dramatic.


WWII games came out far less than thirty years after fighting stopped, so time can't be the real reason.
 
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Kevin Moody
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Quote:
I wonder if not enough time has passed. 30 years ago isn't a long time for something that dramatic.
Wargames on the conflict have been published since before it had ended. As suggested above, there weren't many situations beyond the tactical level that would make for an interesting game, unless you were to drastically ramp up the complexity. VG's Vietnam is regarded by many who've played it as one of the best wargames published regardless of subject, and Costello's ViV II has received a lot of praise.

Tactical games are tough to do well. Try Lock 'n Load: Forgotten Heroes or Nam Diary. On a larger scale, I can't recommend ATO's recent Dien Bien Phu game, but I know the old GDW game on the subject is very highly regarded. I've heard from some players I trust that the old Hue game isn't all it's cracked up to be.

If you are into air games, there are a few highly-regarded games to choose from, but they're also high to very-high in their complexity.

The Vietnam War isn't avoided (I suspect there are fewer Korean War games), it's just a real challenge to encompass everything. Herman's CDG attempt will be something to watch.

 
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Michael @mgouker
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Downtown is a great game.

Vietnam from Victory Games is a long game, but it is very interesting. There is definitely a political front in the campaign game.

There is a CDG under development I believe from GMT.

For Korea, there is a good game by The Gamers. I haven't played the Korea 95 game, but I'd like to.

Are there really fewer Vietnam games than games like the Arab-Israeli War, the Gulf Wars, or Korea? I don't think it's that drastic of a difference.

 
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Steve Herron
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There is a real moldy-oldie does anyone remember Gamescience's Vietnam? I think it came out in the mid sixties. I at one time had a copy. I didn't see it listed here on BGG unless I missed it when I did a search.
 
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Lance Wilkinson

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DrFlanagan wrote:
WWII games came out far less than thirty years after fighting stopped, so time can't be the real reason.


I never meant to say time was the only factor. For the US, at least, I'd say Vietnam was bit more traumatic than WWII.

But I suppose y'all are right--it probably has more to do with a lack of well-known or set-piece type battles.
 
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Martin Kulp
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I think the messiness and politicalness of Vietnam is an interesting challenge for a war game designer. Would it possibly be a mix of battlefield tactics and something like Twilight Struggle? More politics than war? I believe the time is ripe for something to come out of it...
 
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Robert Wesley
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How many "Vets" does it take to change a 'lightbulb'?
"you don't KNOW `cause YOU weren't THERE man!"
 
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Barry Kendall
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"Viet Nam" by Gamescience was a remarkable game for its time. Coming out in the mid-'60s, it anticipated and depicted many of the military and political issues that became more clear as the war progressed.

An old favorite of mine is John Prados' "Year of the Rat," published in "Strategy & Tactics" magazine around the end of 1972. The game depicted the '72 Easter Offensive and was in many ways an outstanding design.

S&T No. 240, due out before the end of this year, will feature a Vietnam game. Originally this was a re-design of "YotR" with additional scenarios for earlier in the war, but as the design progressed, the decision was made to depict the 1965-66 situation when the American buildup took place and the early large-scale battles between US and VC/NVA forces occurred. I would certainly like to see the '72 Offensive covered again, as the situation is very interesting for both sides and such a design offers the potential to extend through the Fall of South Vietnam. Yaquinto published an "album game" on the Fall of South Vietnam, and while the game is fun to play, it doesn't offer much in the way of enlightening simulation.

The first dedicated tactical Vietnam game was "Grunt," also published in an early S&T. This game featured company-level "search and destroy" operations over rather flat terrain. VC order-of-battle was unknown and ranged from "day-to-day" uneventfulness to the potential to run into several VC Main Force companies. The victory conditions were tuned to cause the US player maximum frustration, as serious opposition required artillery or air support which usually cost more than what they gained. This design was republished in a boxed format as "Search & Destroy" with new counter colors and a slightly larger map.

John Hill's "Hue" game was interesting to play but a grueling attrition-fest with few real options for either side.

I'll second the recommendation for "Victory in Vietnam II" and also recommend Mark McLoughlin's "No Trumpets, No Drums," published in "The Wargamer" in the mid-'80s. Both feature both campaign games and shorter scenarios.

"Rolling Thunder" was an early Vietnam air game with some similarities to the old SPI "Air War." Individual planes (and AA missiles!) were represented with a "control display" recording each unit's altitude, attitude, armament, speed, etc. Numerous scenarios depicted a broad range of encounters with AA Artillery, SAMs, various USSR-supplied radars and the occasional MiG. A second edition was published about ten years after the original, with predominantly tan, rather than predominantly green, coloration.

There are at least three games on the First Cavalry operations in late 1965. One was a solo game published in "The Wargamer," one was an early GMT offering and one was available free as a download for subscribers to "Armchair General." This last focused specifically on Col. Hal Moore's airmobile insertion featured in the movie "We Were Soldiers." The other two cover the entire area of First Cav operations in late 1965. If memory serves, Vae Victis Magazine also offered a game on this topic some years ago.

Khe Sanh has also received several treatments. "Operation Pegasus" was an early mini-game design by Perry Moore, published in a small pouch. An early issue of "Agains the Odds" Magazine featured a game covering not only Khe Sanh and Lang Vei, but the entire border area including "The Rockpile" and other prominent features along the DMZ, with wonderful graphics. There was at least one other Khe Sanh game whose title and publisher escape me; I have it lying around somewhere. Khe Sanh and Hue were also visited in an S&T issue titled "Vietnam Battles" a few years back. These were attractive but unremarkable games featuring a familiar system.

Perry Moore also designed a small game for "Swedish Game Production" titled "Defiance: The Battle of Xuan Loc." This game depicted the desperate resistance of the ARVN 18th Division (supported by bombs rolled off the rear ramps of VNAF C-130s) in the final 1975 fighting.

Perry designed a number of early self-published Xerox-paste-and-color games (now we call 'em "DTP") on Vietnam subjects in the late 1970s. If memory serves, his "Operation Pegasus" was first offered in this format. He also published a game on the fighting in the Central Highlands, one on the Battle of Quang Tri in 1972, and one on the ARVN incursion into Laos in '71. This last was published in a boxed format with mounted counters by a small firm which has since vanished.

Encouragingly for us Vietnam aficionados, Perry's new DTP company has recently published a design on the US-NVA multi-divisional actions around Dak To. There is also a recent DTP game on an Australian tactical action ca. 1966. Paul Rohrbaugh recently published a new Hue game in DTP format with an interesting new system making extensive use of a standard card deck!

Vae Victis Magazine No. 70, just out, features the French War in Indochina, 1950-54. English rules translations are offered on the Web-Grognards site a month or so after publication. S&T published a detailed First Indochina War game, "Indochina," in Issue 209. Several small independent publishers put out First Indochina War games in the 1970s (Third Milennia was one). Columbia Games has suggested a First Indochina War game but it is stalled on the "p" list with only a couple hundred votes.

Vae Victis also published an early tactical game inspired by the airmobile assault on a village depicted in "Apocalypse Now" ("I love the smell of napalm in the morning"). It was desirable, if for no other reason than the attractive graphics and the rarity of subject. VV also published a Dien Bien Phu game, as did GDW in the late '70s and "Against the Odds" Magazine last year (the last was a revision of a DTP offering).

"Lock 'n Load" is a graphically attractive, interesting Vietnam tactical game. The game has loads of chrome--even a Chaplain is represented--however, surprisingly, the tactical situations are limited chiefly to rural, village and road-related engagements. There are both US Army and USMC troops, as well as ARVN, represented on the Allied side, and both VC and NVA opponents. Some Armor is included--for both sides, if I recall. However, no actions in large urban areas are represented, nor are firebase assaults depicted. An Expansion added the Aussies to the picture with some new scenarios.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it does serve to show that a number of Vietnam games have been produced--certainly more than games on the Arab-Israeli Wars, which have been seriously neglected in recent years. The only games covering Arab-Israeli wars as a whole are the ancient SPI "Sinai" and the two incarnations of "Bar-Lev" by John Hill (Conflict Games and GDW). Vae Victis offered an issue game on the two fronts in the '73 War, but these are actually two "front" scenarios without an overall strategic game. A state-of-the-art Arab-Israeli game on either the '73 or the '67 war seems an obvious choice for either the "blocks" or "cdg" format.

The hobby still has not seen a comprehensive tactical Vietnam treatment encompassing the great variety of geographical settings (Mountainous, hilly, plantations, grasslands, delta, riverine, urban, village, fortified) and representing ARVN in detail (regional/popular, regular Army, Ranger, Airborne, Marines), the various US unit types, Allied contingents (Australians and also Koreans) as well as the various local and Main Force Vietcong and NVA Regular forces.

Such a treatment would require multiple maps, terrain overlays and a considerable investment by any prospective publisher--but the fact remains that it has not yet been attempted.

Also lacking are treatments of some of the distinctive battles of the war. The Battle of An Loc (1972) is a dramatic, overlooked siege of great intensity and more than sixty days' duration, featuring NVA Armored activity in battalion strength, desperate defense by both ARVN RF/PF and Regular forces, counterattacks, disasters and near-disasters and a monumental Air Support effort coordinated by US Advisors and FACs in unprecedented numbers and duration. It was, in fact, the largest tactical air effort over the longest period in the entire war, according to veterans of the siege, and its outcome probably saved Saigon from being overrun in the Easter Offensive.

The large Battle of Quang Tri ('72) also merits a comprehensive treatment. A game on interservice operations in the Mekong Delta (MR IV) would be a challenge to design, but would offer gamers an unprecedented opportunity to examine the unique problems of assymetrical riverine and ground warfare in a difficult environment.

The folks are correct who say that Vietnam was not a widely attractive subject for wargames because of the traumatic impact of the conflict on American society and the veterans who served there. However, with the distance of more than thirty years, emotions have cooled and the war as a worthy subject for wargame designs still remains.

I hope publishers will give consideration to both the unexplored subjects related to the Vietnam War and to revisiting titles that deserve an up-to-date design treatment. Thanks, Martin, for asking the question.
 
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Martin Kulp
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Good list. Thanks!

I hold out hope, however, for a more grand strategic game. VERY grand. I want to play the roles of Nixon and Johnson. Less tactics. More politics. Struggle for the American public opinion.
 
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Barry Kendall
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"ViV II" has combat elements, but also more political considerations presented in a clear way than most of the designs I've seen including Victory's "Vietnam." I'd start with ViV II. In its present incarnation it comes in a fully professional format.
 
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