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'65: Squad-Level Combat in the Jungles of Vietnam» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Illustrated review of '65 squad-level rss

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Koinsky
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This review was written using the retail version of the base game (i.e. not the KS).
I also have the solo expansion, but I have yet to play it. You’ll see the solo counters in a picture illustrating this review.

My knowledge about Vietnam's war is too limited (not a topic in French schools, I'm afraid. I'm trying to compensate with my current readings, but it takes some time whistle) to have an opinion on the credibility of the scenarii. I don't know if the game is faithful to the spirit of this conflict.
I will exclusively focus on the game itself and how it plays.


COMPONENTS

Counters

At first sight, the counters are thick and super large; simply put, they are .... gorgeous!

To give you an idea of their size, I did a comparison with two other games which you might have in your collection, since they are dedicated to the same players “targets”, IMO : Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! (second edition) and Lock 'n Load Tactical: Heroes of the Falklands


Counters’ size comparison

Throughout the first game, all the cryptic icons will embarrass most players.


numerous cryptic icons, at first sight

Production wise, one can regret that no separate player aid was made available, out of the box, to summarize the icons' functions in one place.
Either you need to refer to pages 17 & 18 of the rulebook or you will download and print a fan made player-aid available in the files' section.
Nothing broken though, it's fairly easy to get accustom to most of the icons after a couple of plays. I find that the iconic system works very well.

Although, I’m a huge fan of the units and vehicles counters, I disliked the markers counters. More on them later when I will speak about them.



Maps

The game comes with 3 mounted maps with huge hexes and easily recognizable types of terrain.
It's pure pleasure to play on those maps.
Likewise, I did a comparative illustration with CoH and the new LnL games with their standard maps and X-maps.


’65 / CoH / LnL maps comparison

Definitely huge hexes!

According to the scenario, you will associate the maps in different patterns.
In some scenarii (2/8 in the base game and 1/6 in the solo expansion), the 3 maps are layout in a row via their length; thus, one needs a large table to play those scenarii (130 cm = 51 inch).

Although they are well produced (and the picture speaks by itself for the great drawings!), I find the number of maps and their diversity limited, especially in regards to the game's price; at least, in European retail. I assume I can't expect a lot of terrains’ diversity in a game fought mostly in jungle. Therefore, consider my comment on diversity as a minor nitpick.



Cards

They are the heart of the system (more on them later).

Once again, big kudos for layout and readability. They are excellent! .... expect for one - very, very - strange design's decision: using the main two unfriendly colors for most of the colorblind people (green and red) for an essential information on the cards.
Depending on the color of the HIT and the kind of attack, it will be a success or a failure.


2 cards showing red or green HIT results

8% of the USA and European male population (I don’t know the statistics for the rest of the world) is colorblind for those 2 colors.
Anyway, colorblind people will have to find a way to modify the cards in order to play the game. It would have been so easy to avoid this annoyance.


Rules

Let me say up-front: I disliked the rulebook. It's certainly not the worst rulebook I have read; it’s rather well written (which means rather clear when the information, you’re looking for, is written) and well illustrated.

However, the organization within the rules is not always convincing and there are too many information missing.
Some information are only found on the charts when they would have been essential into the rulebook in their dedicated paragraph.
Some other information are simply missing and you need to find them either in the FAQ (here) or in the numerous rules questions answered on BGG forum.

Mark Walker himself does a very active job, answering the questions, which is nice. But he could have saved some trouble by writing a more functional rulebook in the first place.

I doubt it has been blindly proofread by people unfamiliar with the game (if I'm mistaken, my apologies to the beta-blind-playtesters; I know by experience, it's a very delicate process to beta playtest a game).

Thus, the rulebook has a large margin for improvement. It is a miss for me. I think it does a disservice to an overall easy and pleasant game, rendering the learning process more tedious than it should be.
It’s a simple game to play (but with a decent amount of strategy) and it’s not obvious when you read the rulebook and the charts.



GAMEPLAY

As just said above, I find the game very pleasant to play. The cards system, which gives the rhythm, is well thought.

The game is organized in individual scenario with indications to place the units on the map at start, but with enough freedom let to the players to insure replayability for a given scenario.


Turns and impulses

The game is played in turns (5 to 8 turns in the base game; up to 14 in the longest solo).
Within a turn, players alternate impulses (that is playing one action - most of the time - via a card).

I like very much how the end of turn is declared. It gives a very interesting tension to the flow of the game.

The entire deck (54 cards in all, except for one card which can be kept by each player at the end of the previous turn) is shuffled at the beginning of each turn.
There are 4 “end of turn" cards (see picture below) in the deck.
Once you’ve drawn a given number of "end of turn" cards (3 or 4, according to the scenario), the turn ends.
Then, there is a clean-up phase (moving some units, removing several markers) before proceeding with the next turn.

Therefore, the length of each turn is unpredictable and it offers a real tension and some aborted plans for the impulse to come… (which may never come, in the end).

I find this excellent (and frustrating, sometimes; but part of the fun, indeed ).



Managing your hand of cards


At the beginning of your impulse, you've got to draw up to 4 cards to fill your hand (you may have kept cards in hand after the previous impulse and/or discarded voluntarily up to 2 cards).
Sometimes, the discard option is necessary because you can't use the cards you've got in hand (not appropriate to the situation).
Other times, it will be a bet on the future to discard a given card, hoping for another one, more appropriate in the next impulse. A lot of decisions to make here.

The cards present actions and/or support of some kind. Support cards are played in conjunction with actions your guys will perform. You have to choose one action only per impulse. Decisions.


Some cards: actions, support, end of turn

Every impulse, you can play a single action (sometimes a couple if you can trigger the leadership ability of a specific Hero or a command action on a card) to move, ranged fire or close-combat assault. Very straightforward actions.

The variety comes from the units which have different abilities, powers and characteristic, visible on their icons.


the magic word, necessary to trigger a POWER on a unit


Units' status

Once a unit has been activated, you put a marker on it (such as fire, move, ops complete).
Exceptionally, you may re-use a marked unit later during the turn in another impulse. However, most of the time, a given unit activates once per turn at most.
Furthermore, it’s rare to be able to activate all your units in a single turn.
Therefore, another level of decisions is there for the player to choose from.

The LnL players will recognize Mark Walker's hand there, with the "move, fire, ops complete” markers.
IMO, the similarities end there.
‘65 is much more straightforward and easier to understand, faster to play than any LnL Heroes I’ve played (I also played the original ones designed by Mark Walker).

I previously said I disliked the Markers counters.

I regret their size. Above the units, they hide the entire unit. When a marked unit is the target of an attack, you might need to see its icons.
Yes, I know, I could also put the marker below the unit with a slight interval (fortunately, the words are written at the top of the counters, not in the middle); but it gets crowded in the hex with up to 3 units and their markers. Now, is it not the purpose of huge hexes to avoid crowding?

I solved “my” problem easily with replacement markers. It could have also been avoided by using conventional sized counters, just for the status markers.
For many people this will not be a problem at all, I guess.
Anyway, if there is a deliberate production and functional idea behind the size of the status markers, I didn’t get it and I would appreciate to know more about it…


Original Markers and replacement options


In the end, when I consider what’s left in my counter tray, once I got rid of the status markers I find unpractical, both the base game and the solo expansion counters fit in a single counter tray.


All the counters – almost – in a single counter tray



Thoughts about the cards system and hand's limit


The card system gives you some restricted options and freedom of actions, at the same time. Out of my different plays, I find it well balanced.

Also, I find that it helps to play fast. Since you’re given scripted directions because of the limited number of cards in hand (and consecutivly available actions) , even a severe AP player cannot spend hours thinking about his next move….

The game plays fast due to the light side of its design and the limited options available in each impulse.
Its incentive structure is a nice starting point, especially for players who want to enjoy a light wargame.
In the end, most of the time, it's a nice puzzle to solve to play with the limited options you're given each impulse.


One drawback, though; with 4 cards in hands and some units already used on the board (mostly not usable again), it might happen that you just can't do anything on your turn with the cards you've got in hand and you're force to pass.
With a bad drawing (you can’t mulligan and you may discard up to 2 cards per impulse, at most), it might happen twice in a row and might generate frustration.

It happened several times while playing the first 3 scenarii with only legs units.
Some cards are intended to be played with vehicles only which doesn’t help. I guess we could take them out of the deck before playing a “Leg only” scenario, but it would increase the probability to draw a “end of turn” card sooner. I didn’t do the maths and I don’t know what option (keep them or do not include them) is best.
This drawback is less probable when you've got a mix of legs and vehicles units in the scenario.

I personally don’t mind this “drawback”, but thought it was necessary to mention it.


CONCLUSION

Despite the different flaws I mentioned (some which didn’t bother me much, but were mentioned for informative purposes), I like the game.
I find it to be an easy, light and fun game to play. I’m convinced by the system and the gameplay.

I played the base game PvP and solo several times now. It “solos” very well (except for opportunity fire which is hard to solo, I’m “working” on some chits pulling to picture this in solo). It so easy to solo, I didn’t play the dedicated solo expansion, yet. I’m definitely looking forward to playing it which is a good sign…


PS: I dream of a day when Flying Pig Games will work another way with European dealers [I guess they already do, in a way, since I bought my game in Europe] to improve the costs for Europeans players…
I appreciate paying and contributing to creativity and playtesting investment with my wallet, not only for cardboard pieces. But it was still very expensive to get the game in France – compared to many games I own, some of them cited in this review – for what it contains.
Fortunately, I was glad to see that the gameplay was really cool…

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Ryan
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Well done review. Appreciate the depth and comparisons to similar titles.
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Koinsky
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Thank you, Ryan. I appreciate the comment.
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Keith Talbot
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Thank you for the write up.

Keith T
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Barry Kendall
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Excellent review, enhanced by your comparative-size component photos.

Thank you, also, for the great idea using colored transparent bingo chips in place of the counter-obscuring status markers! I will happily steal your idea and use it in my games.

A very fine contribution to the literature on this very good game, thank you!
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Koinsky
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Thank you for the kind words.

I'm glad to know the bingo chips' idea will be a source of inspiration. It works very well for me.
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Lawrence Davis
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This just might be the best "game comparison" review I've come across. The pics do all the talking for you. I hate it when I read a review and all the reviewer talks about is..."it plays just like this other game". I just yell at the computer screen- "That ain't doing shit for me since I ain't played the other game either dum-arse!"

But your review is spot on with actually detailing the game you are reviewing while adding pics for this reader (who ain't played LnL or CoHs) to compare. Awesome job Koinsky!
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Jack Hearn
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Oklahoma City
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excellent review, nicely done with useful visual aids.
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Fernando Robert Yu
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Well done!
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Swamp Hamster
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Excellent! A Swamp Hamster toast!

Good idea for alternative markers. Liked the counter comparisons across three game systems.
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Christian
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Great review!
What counter tray did you use?
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Koinsky
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Thank you.
I don't see any indication of the manufacturer on my counter tray. I found it in Italy.
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Riccardo Chiaveri
Italy
LAINATE
Mi
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Hello,
these counter tray is a made by my company in Italy.
You can find them along the ones for magzines games and zip lock games at HEXASIM web site.

best

Riccardo
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