Matt Burchfield
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Hi all,

latest blog post...you can check out at http://worthingtongames.blogspot.com or read below!

Its a long one! So I broke it up into three posts, sorry about that.

"If God didn't want them sheared, he would not have made them sheep"

Hey Folks,

Today's post is penned by Guest columnist Stan Hilinski. Stan just completed his part of development of John Poniske's HEARTS AND MINDS. Stan gives us the update on what Hearts and Minds has developed into. I really like the work that both Stan and John have done on this title and I'm getting more and more excited about it as we look toward it's publication.

Without further delay....

HEARTS AND MINDS

"Hearts and Minds" is a two-player card-driven-game of the Vietnam War covering 1965 through 1972 culminating in the 1972 Easter Offensive. However, you can also play the last three years through 1975 and the collapse of South Vietnam. One player is the Communist North (the Red player). He controls all NVA and Viet Cong forces plus the Pathet Lao in Laos and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. His opponent is the Allied player of the South. He controls the ARVN units plus the International forces (US, ROK, and others) and the government troops in Laos and Cambodia. The game was designed by John Poniske, a Vietnam war vet himself.

Like most card-driven games (CDGs), both players play cards to perform game actions. Each game year is one hand of five cards. A player will play four and keep the last one until the next year. The points on the cards (ranging from 2 to 5) are Resource Points (RPs), which a player spends to move troops, attack the enemy, take political control of provinces, and to buy events. Each card also lists an event, but unlike other CDGs, it's not either the RPs or the event. Here a player can use both if he is willing to play the event cost in RPs. For example, if Red plays the 5 RP "Uncle Ho" card, he gets the 5 RPs, but he could spend 4 of them to buy Uncle Ho's event, which degrades the RVN government's stability each year.

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Continued from above...


Also unlike most CDGs, players will need to save RPs to their stockpiles so they can spend them later. Each player may add one stockpile RP each turn to supplement his card's RPs, but he also needs them to pay other costs. The Allied player often needs to spend RPs to prop up the RVN government from descending into coup, and both players may need to spend RPs to save their factions from collapse in Laos and Cambodia. The Red player must save RPs to fund the Tet and Easter offensives, and both players (especially Red late in the game) need stockpile RPs to buy replacements. Finally, the CRT and bombing tables often demand both RP and unit losses, and if the victim has no RPs in his stockpile to cover the loss, he must eliminate units instead.

Each player has his own card deck, but they are formed differently. The Red player has his red deck, the Allied player has his blue deck, and there is a shared black deck of common cards. Before the game begins, the black deck is shuffled and split in half. Then each player shuffles his half of the black deck with his colored cards. In addition, both players have "1969 cards", which are shuffled in beginning with that year. This arrangement ensures the game decks are different every time it is played.

Besides the game decks, each player has a secret pile of Campaign cards. Each player has four zone campaigns, and the Red player has two grand campaigns -- the Tet Offensive and the Easter Offensive. A campaign card lists objectives and the rewards for achieving them. A player may secretly choose one Campaign card each year to substitute for one of his five cards. A zone campaign card focuses on objectives in one military zone while the grand campaigns are more sweeping in nature. The cards are modeled after historical campaigns if possible. The Allies have operations SEALORDS, White Wing, Starlite, and Junction City. The Red campaigns are Ia Drang, Khe Sanh, Iron Triangle, and Mekong Delta. The two Red grand campaigns are significant affairs with their own special rules and game changing effects, but to play the card, the Red player must have saved at least 6 RPs to his stockpile. In addition, there are a few minor campaigns in the 1969 cards, which allow incursions into Laos and Cambodia.

The map covers South Vietnam and parts of Laos and Cambodia. Both players have Laotian and Cambodian units, but the wars there are greatly simplified. The Red player will base units in those countries and use the Ho Chi Minh Trail to quickly and safely move units north and south. Usually Cambodia and Laos are quiet until after 1968 when both players may run campaigns in those countries.

The counters represent soldiers from all major participants. (The counters are generic combat units without historical designations.) Infantry enters the game as untried, flipped to their light-colored side. Once they have been through the grinder (and there will be deaths to get there), they are flipped to the darker-colored veteran side, which doubles their combat effectiveness. The game also includes support units: artillery, tanks, and for the Allies, the Blue and Brown Water Navies and an Air Cav unit.

The face-down black units are the Viet Cong. The Allied player never quite knows what he is dealing with when he challenges a VC. They can be real VC army units or "Poof!", which either means a few water buffalo munching on some grass or a random game event such as the My Lai incident or a VC defection. VC do not move much, but they can take political control of provinces and they can ambush -- a constant irritant for the Allies.

Victory is determined by how well players fare on the Political Will Track. The track marker is a combination hawk/dove marker (one side hawk, the other dove). It starts at 10 Hawks, but as time goes by, it relentlessly slides down the track to the Dove side. The Allied player can win if he can just slow down that marker, but there are lots of ways for Dove points to pile on. Lose US units? Red controls too many provinces? The RVN government in chaos? The Laotian or Cambodian government collapses? All add piles of Doves.

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continued from above


It is important to have a stable economy and government in South Vietnam, and the game tracks it with the RVN Stability Track. It is a constant worry for the Allied player because if the stability marker falls below zero, the government can fall into coup. The marker falls back each time an ARVN unit is eliminated, but the Allied player can offset the losses by pacifying provinces and by spending RPs. A coup is painful because it adds Dove points, and it affects the morale of the ARVN units, who lose all veteran status during a coup.

Game play is very fluid; there are no front lines. Battles can pop up anywhere and then be done in an instant. The Allied player enjoys a technological advantage. His Air Cav can zoom around the map supporting multiple battles. If the enemy is on the coast, the Blue Water Navy comes to the rescue, and the Brown Water Navy is standing guard in the Mekong Delta. However, he must deal with the VC ambushes and their false identity, and his ARVN units do not always respond as he would like. For the Red player, he can march freely up and down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and he can clobber the Allies just out of range of enemy support and quickly get shots in before the cavalry arrives, but then there are the B-52 who love to target big stacks of NVA units in South Vietnam.

So what are the player goals? The Red player tries to add as many Doves to the Political Will track as possible, He is not concerned as much about casualties, so he tries to kill as many Allied units as he can. His favorite targets are US units, which directly add Doves, but ARVN units will work too because killing them degrades RVN Stability. He can also add Doves by taking control of South Vietnamese provinces. The Red strategy is guerilla warfare and picking the right campaign at the right time. He can get especially big gains through the Tet and Easter Offensives, but these can be difficult to mount because he must save a large stockpile of RPs to play those cards.

The Allied player tries to slow down the Doves onslaught, but he can win outright if he can eliminate almost all Red influence in South Vietnam. He can gain Hawks back by getting satisfactory "body counts", and if he can maintain high body counts, then the Red player will have difficulty finding replacements later in the game. He must also take control of South Vietnamese provinces whenever he can (i.e. winning the hearts and minds). Failure to do this will lose the game despite how well the campaigns are going. If he can keep the SVN government stable, keep Laos and Cambodia out of trouble, keep the enemy body count high without losing too many people himself, he just might pull it out.

The full campaign game covers the years 1965 through 1972 and in our tests takes about 4-6 hours to finish the whole thing. However, players may start at almost year and play to any year they choose, so games could take just an hour if the players are short on time. The game is fairly simple; we have tried hard to keep the chrome of rules exceptions to a minimum. As designer John Poniske said in the rules introduction: "Hearts and Minds is fast paced and nearly as maddening as the real thing. The challenge is yours. As the NVA player, can you unite your country or as the Allies will you defeat the North Vietnamese before Vietnam becomes the quagmire we all remember? Good luck!"

-Stan Hilinski
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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I've been waiting for this ever since the designer started his ConSimWorld folder, when it was called "Screw the People". I'm glad it's finally making it to the finish line.
 
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Bill Lawson
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This is a great game!
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