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Subject: Quick Review of a Quick Game rss

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Courage Under Fire: The Battle of An Loc is an introductory level wargame on a key battle of the 1972 North Vietnamese Easter Offensive.

The "basic" game comes with unmounted counters and utilizes an ordinary deck of playing cards. The version I am playing came with rules, map, mounted (uncut) counters and uncut cards. A bit of a do-it-yourself project.

Map: One 11" x 17" paper map divided into 23 areas depicting the area in and around An Loc. There are 36 double sided counters

Rules: The rules are incredibly short for a wargame. 2 pages-that's it!

Basic Gameplay:

1) At the beginning of each turn, the ARVN rolls to see how many airstrikes they are allocated for the turn; the NVA does the same for artillery barrages.
2) A player draws a card from the deck. A red card activates 1-5 NVA units; a black card does the same for ARVN units.
3) Certain cards (face cards if using a standard deck) allow the ARVN to launch his airstrikes -or- bring in a reinforcement instead of activating units. NVA units can bombard without a special card.
4) Each unit can either attack or move.
5) INF moves 1 area; ARM up to 2.
6) To resolve combat you take the attacker's strength and add it to a card draw. From this you subtract the defender's strength and the terrain modifier. If the difference is greater than the defender's strength the unit is flipped (or eliminated if already flipped).
7) After the active side is done, the next card is drawn to see who activates. Yes, this means you could active 2, 3, 6 times in a row)
8) Play continues until the turn end is drawn.
9) When the end of turn is drawn, you check to see if the ARVN's morale collapses. Ground gained by the NVA and casualties inflicted by them hurt the ARVN morale. Eliminated armor and retaken ground boost morale.
10) After the modifier is calculated you roll a die to see if the ARVN capitulates.

And.That.Is.It! I left out a couple minor rules but you can essentially play the game with what you now know.

Thoughts:

The game is very simple. I learned to play in about 15 minutes. There are a few rules ambiguities but nothing show-stopping.
It plays very fast. I played three games and none has taken longer than 45 minutes.
This is not a detailed simulation given the level of abstraction but there are some thematic elements. The players do have some interesting decisions to make and there are several different strategies you can employ.

I would recommend the game as a good introduction to the hobby with one HUGE caveat. Luck (random variation, whatever) has an immense impact on the game. The variation comes from two sources: 1) the d10 die rolls for arty/air support and 2)drawing cards for an activation. Early in the game if one side gets a huge imbalance in the amount of support and/or it can string a number of turns together, it can be devastating to opposition. Also, given that the ARVN surrenders on a die roll, it also means the gods can be cruel.

The game is best played for light fun and/or teaching someone the basics of a wargame. Just don't get too attached to a particular outcome....
 
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