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Hearts and Minds: Vietnam 1965-1975 (third edition)» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Good Morning, Vietnam! rss

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Wayne Hansen
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Introduction

This is a review of the 3rd Edition of Hearts and Minds: Vietnam 1965-1975 (H&M), published in 2019 by Compass Games. Designed by John Poniske and Developed by Stan Hilinksi, H&M is an area-movement wargame where you command either Allied (Blue) or Communist (Red) forces in your quest to pacify and control South Vietnam and earn either Dove or Hawk points. It comes with a solitaire bot that can control either side in the game. This opens up the audience for H&M as you can play it two-player, use the bot, or grognard solo (play both sides). It is very much appreciated.

I don’t mind saying up front that I’ve been enjoying Hearts and Minds since it hit the table. I'm always on the lookout for a good wargame that can be played solitaire. A no-win situation of a war, victory in H&M isn't determined as much by conquering territory as avoiding bloody losses and changing the political control of regions and pacifying them. The Allied (Blue) side, made up of US/Republic of Korea/International Forces, faces off against the Communist (Red) side, made up of the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong. And if you're playing as the Blue side, watch out for the VC. They can Raid into your province or even Ambush you if you try to go after them. Laos and Cambodia are side attractions to the primary conflict, but their presence matters and shouldn't be ignored.



Mechanics
Each year is made up of 4 card turns. At the beginning of a year you draw 5 cards. With Red going first, you take turns playing one card at a time. You spend cards to gain Resource Points (RP) that allow you to perform a variety of actions, all of which cost RPs. Use the special action on the card? Pay the RP cost. Mobilize a province and send your units to meet the enemy? Pay the RP cost. Special rules concerning ARVN (the South Vietnamese Army) movement can cost you an offensive and waste an RP as they fail to maneuver as well as Allied (US/RoK/IF) troops. Bombing Missions (Allied only) and even stockpiling your RPs for future needs are also actions you can take during your turn.

Success in the Vietnam War was often measured (not necessarily accurately) by Body Count, and that is reflected on the board. As battles play out, the Body Count box fills up. At the end of each year, you are going to look at not only how many troops are in the box, but what kind of troops. Lost a lot of Allied (specifically US/IF/RoK) units? That's going to cost you. Too many ARVN losses? You face the government of South Vietnam collapsing through a coup, and the chaos that brings.

You also compare troop losses (and their types) to provinces controlled by Red forces (through placement of Red flags), and Pacified provinces (placement of Blue flags). That determines how many Doves and/or Hawks you earn. As the Blue player, you want more Hawks. If you're the Red player, you want Doves. Fail to meet that year end goal, and the war ends in defeat. Meet your goals, and maybe you can salvage a victory from this bloody conflict.

Solitaire System
The solitaire bot uses the cards for their RP value, then uses the dice and a sequential list of actions to determine what the bot does each turn. You roll, and depending on if you get an Odd or Even number, it tells you what to do. You then move to the next number and roll again. Naturally, the Bot doesn’t always make the smartest move, but the system makes up for it by giving the bot “extra” actions. For example, you have to spend 1 RP to move, then 1 RP to attack. The bot may have an action where it moves AND attacks at the cost of only 1 RP total. In the end, it works very well. It's not perfect, but I'm glad it's there. At times you will have to make a judgement call, and as long as you can handle that, you'll enjoy playing this one solo. On the other hand if you only play solo games if they are procedural, then H&M might not be for you.

Components
Wow. Hopefully you can tell from my pictures how good this game looks. If you like wargames that feel like "deluxe editions", you will love H&M. As soon as you get the box in your hands, you'll feel the weight and know there are tons of goodies in the box. The map is MOUNTED and the graphic design is tremendous. The action is front and center on the map, while the corners and edges, which would be nothing but open ocean anyway, are filled with handy charts and tables for you to use. The map itself is also very functional, and everything you need to know for gameplay reasons is clear as day. The counters are large, thick, and individually die cut. This means the corners are pre-rounded. The game also comes with 50 cards. They are poker sized, and also nice and thick, with a good finish on the cards. I sleeved mine since you will be shuffling them and handling them quite a bit. Hallelujah, thank you Compass Games! More games of this quality please! Now, we do have to talk about the dice. It comes with a red and a blue D6. But they aren't just any set of D6's, no, they are the largest set of dice I have ever gotten in a game. The dice are almost so large I would call them novelty dice... but they roll down my dice tower, and I actually use them to play, so technically they are functional. Just don't drop one on your foot or you may break a toe.



Final Thoughts

The main rulebook is great but not perfect. Full color, examples of play, and not overly complicated. The solitaire rulebook is just ok. It gets the job done, but there are some mistakes and areas that need clarification. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the errata. Most of it concerns the solitaire setup although there are some mistakes sprinkled throughout the books and cards. Fortunately, the designer John Poniske has been quick to answer questions and post a combined errata on BGG. Kudos to him for responding so quickly to correct the known mistakes. There are also some nice player aids that come with the game, including a big fold-out flow chart. Much appreciated.

Wargames that combine great quality components with great designs are, fortunately for us wargamers, growing in number. You can add Hearts and Minds to that list. John Poniske, and everyone else involved in the creation of this game, deserve massive kudos for creating a truly great game covering a war that few designers will even touch. Does H&M dig deeply into every aspect of the Vietnam War? No. But the gameplay is so smooth that turns just flow back and forth quickly. Before you know it, a year (in the game!) has gone by, and you are checking for victory conditions. Sometimes I found myself hoping I hadn't yet met those victory conditions, that way I could keep on playing. And what's a better compliment than that? With multiple scenarios and campaigns, and just the overall feeling of a sandbox type game, H&M has a tremendous amount of replayability.

Overall I consider this one of the better wargame releases of 2019, and my new favorite game covering the Vietnam War.
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Michael Debije
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Could the earlier edition be played with the solo bot?
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Val Doonican
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I am also enjoying this immensely. Played one short and two longer games against the AI. Makes for a fun game full of decisions. The components as you say are stellar, and those dice.....
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John Poniske
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Michael, sure.
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John Poniske
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Wayne, thank you for that balanced review. I would add kudos to the original developer, Stan Hilinski!
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Wayne Hansen
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mi_de wrote:
Could the earlier edition be played with the solo bot?

Poniske wrote:
Michael, sure.


Michael, looks like John answered that for you! I'll expand on what he said a bit with the caveat I have NOT played any prior editions of H&M.

Comparing the 2nd edition rulebook to the 3rd edition rulebook, the text looks very similar. I can't say it's 100% the same, but many sections seem to be word for word identical.

Now the problem will be getting the solo bot. Compass isn't selling a solitaire kit at the moment. Maybe you can contact them and hope they make one available?
 
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Wayne Hansen
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Poniske wrote:
Wayne, thank you for that balanced review. I would add kudos to the original developer, Stan Hilinski!


And thank you for an interesting and entertaining game, John! And Mr Hilinski, of course. This one is staying in my collection for a long time.
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Michael Debije
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wtjBatman wrote:
mi_de wrote:
Could the earlier edition be played with the solo bot?

Poniske wrote:
Michael, sure.


Michael, looks like John answered that for you! I'll expand on what he said a bit with the caveat I have NOT played any prior editions of H&M.

Comparing the 2nd edition rulebook to the 3rd edition rulebook, the text looks very similar. I can't say it's 100% the same, but many sections seem to be word for word identical.

Now the problem will be getting the solo bot. Compass isn't selling a solitaire kit at the moment. Maybe you can contact them and hope they make one available?


Is the bot a flow chart, cards, or other setup?
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Wayne Hansen
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The bot is more of the flow chart style, using die rolls to determine what action is taken at each step.
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Michael Debije
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Thanks!!! So, basically I need to buy a single hard paper sheet... surely they will be reasonable, right?
 
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Wayne Hansen
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mi_de wrote:
Thanks!!! So, basically I need to buy a single hard paper sheet... surely they will be reasonable, right?


Well, there is a separate solitaire rulebook that goes with it. It's not long, maybe 6 pages? 8? And then each side has a single page flow chart.

I'd say it's worth emailing them and seeing what they say.
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Michael Debije
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wtjBatman wrote:
mi_de wrote:
Thanks!!! So, basically I need to buy a single hard paper sheet... surely they will be reasonable, right?


Well, there is a separate solitaire rulebook that goes with it. It's not long, maybe 6 pages? 8? And then each side has a single page flow chart.

I'd say it's worth emailing them and seeing what they say.


They said no extra copies of the solo stuff. Pity.
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Wayne Hansen
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Sounds like a good reason to upgrade to the new edition.
 
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Michael Debije
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I need to try it at least once, first. Or just play both sides.
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Joe Admire
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Great review! I just bought the game yesterday and hopefully I'll be getting it Saturday (shipping via Priority Mail), and I'm already looking forward to it. I was wondering if the earlier editions could be played with the solitaire rules so thanks to John Poniske for the answer on that. Since I found a good price on the 3rd (should we call it 3rd deluxe edition?) though, I figured I might as well go whole-hog. Those dice, though...whoa.

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Timothy Smith
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Does the game include NVN/VC logistics? I see clear representation of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. LBJ's decision not to interdict this decisively ("we want no wider war") lost us the war. Air interdiction (the 'McNamara Line') didn't work, notwithstanding its technical brilliance. Does H&M have an option for the US to build a fortified line from the DMZ to Savannakhet and block the HCM Trail?

(It's ironic that the ConSimWorld feed that brought me this review also led to this article on Operation Strangle vs. the Germans in Italy in 1943-44: https://weaponsandwarfare.com/2019/05/14/masters-of-the-skie... ), which didn't really work, either. Too bad McNamara and his systems analysts were not historians.)
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Jeffrey Smith
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I recently received my copy and agree this is a beautiful production. I've only played a quick 1965 game to start learning the rules. The US lost bad!But I was wanting to try a lot of combat.

I really like the system. It is very easy to learn and play but already I can see there is a lot of depth here. The cards really help capture the history of the war and the culture of the times. I'm looking forward to digging deeper.

One final note. I really like that Compass Games reprinted all of the dedications from backers of the Worthington Kickstarter. They certainly didn't have to do this and no doubt there was some measure of extra cost involved. But well done Compass Games, that was a very classy move!
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