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Subject: A-Toys' 'Action Vietnam' - some action, but no Vietnam ... rss

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Martin Smith
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As there are no reviews at all on this game, I thought I should add something that may help prospective buyers/players. I make no apology for the fact that it will substantially follow my review of 'Action D-Day' - for reasons that will become obvious.

'Action Vietnam' is a game under the A-Toys label, made by ESCI, an Italian company more famous for producing plastic model kits of planes, tanks and cars in the late 1970s and early 1980s, before they merged with US company ERTL. They also produced a range of little plastic soldiers, from various periods and conflicts - you can see them listed here: http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/ManufacturerList.aspx?id... Anyway, it would seem that someone in ESCI had the idea that they could sell more little plastic soldiers if they built a boardgame around them, and so we have the A-Toys range of ‘Action’ games. Essentially, these are a series of low-complexity war games using the same rules, the same mapboard(!), and the same components, in a (very big) box with different artwork and sets of ESCI soldiers reflecting different theatres of warfare.

I’m not sure how many they sold. For this game, Action Vietnam, only 2 BGG members have confessed to owning it at the time of writing.

What’s in the Box?

So, what do you get? Well, the box contains a multi-colour stiff-card mapboard, of a green field of battle with a river and 3 bridges dividing the two sides’ armies. A grid of squares 18x24 is overlaid on this for movement and placement, and the back 3 rows for each player are shaded, to show their ‘home’ lines. Frankly, the mapboard looks OK, but simple with no other terrain features. But wait! - isn't this supposed to be Vietnam - jungle fighting and all that? The answer lies in the fact that this mapboard - this exact same map - is used for each of A-Toys' 'Action' games, irrespective of the conflict or theatre.

Also in the box are 4 brown moulded plastic ‘mountains’, for each player to place two of them on his/her side of the board, to act as obstacles to movement (in addition to the river). [Maybe one or two could be the Chu Pong Massif, and the map could be Ia Drang ...!?]

Then you get two huge red and gold D6 dice (wooden and well-made) for moving soldiers, a two-sided ‘Action Selector’, which permits each player to choose a secret combination of squares in the enemy’s rear line to be the objectives, and a spin-action ‘Roulette’ which partially randomises where artillery shots land and where reinforcement soldiers pop up. For what they are, these accessories are perfectly serviceable and look quite cool for the time.

You also get a deck of 40 small cards which add a random element to the otherwise roll and move mechanics - they remind me a bit of the cards in the old Sirocco game by TSR. The artwork attempts to be generic, so neither the soldier silhouette nor the cannon look much like Vietnam - more like the American Civil War maybe.

And you get two sets of 50 little ESCI soldiers - in this game (predictably) American GIs and Special Forces personnel (in green) and North Vietnamese/Vietcong (in grey). Given that ESCI’s day job was as a manufacturer of these soldiers, it's not so surprising that the detail on the little guys is quite good, with the helmets, hats and weapons etc. being recognisable. The US troops seem to be from the company's 'Vietnam War US Elite Forces' set, but it does seem a bit naff that one of the figures in the 50 is a wounded soldier who's leaning on his colleague. But then, to be fair, one of the Vietcong figures you get is lying on the ground, wounded presumably rather than waking up, and one of the others is helping him up. This is OK in a diorama perhaps, but who wants wargame figures in their army that start off wounded ...?!

And then there’s a Rulebook - in Italian and 10 other languages, including English - but for each language the rules only amount to a very manageable page and a half. But the Rules are not models of clarity, however - for example, nowhere does it tell you to shuffle the cards, and the central moving-soldiers mechanic only becomes clear near the end. And I would take some care with the translations too - for example, the English and French versions tell you to place the soldiers of your army on the squares in the first 3 lines, and then set aside the remaining soldiers as Reserves. But there are 54 squares in the first 3 lines, and only 50 soldiers - so how does that work? Well, it becomes clear when one refers to the Italian rules (as you would), which tell you to place 20 of your soldiers in the first three lines ... [That little extra numerical detail makes all the difference!] The same issues arise with all the A-Toys 'Action' games - as they are exactly the same rules with a different cover.

And then there’s the huge A-Toys ‘Action’ box! As long as a MB Gamemaster box, but half the height and a bit wider. Or as long and wide as a MB American Heritage ‘Broadside’ box, but higher. A pain to store (or post), but it does have a nice moulded insert for the components. And it has some pretty garish 'Wartime Comics' type Vietnam artwork on the top, highlighting US and Vietnamese soldiers.

Playing the Game

As with all the others in the 'Action' game series, the object of the game is to ‘capture’ the secretly identified 5 squares in your opponent’s rear line. A game turn comprises 3 actions. (1) You Take a Card, follow its instructions, and (generally) discard it. (2) You Roll the 2 Dice to determine how you may move some soldiers. (3) You Move your Soldiers according to the dice roll, and resolve any ‘clashes’.

Taking these one at a time:

(1) There are 5 card types:- Artillery firing (where you choose a line on the battlefield, apart from the enemy’s 3 home lines, to fire at and a spin of the ‘Roulette’ determines where on that line it hits; Artillery firing at the Enemy’s Home Lines (again the ‘Roulette’ is used); Throw the Dice Twice (you get two goes to move soldiers); Place Soldiers on the Board (permits 2 or 3 reinforcements to be brought onto the board on a line determined by the ‘Roulette’); and Bonus Card (which you may use later to cancel out an enemy artillery shot).

(2) When you have rolled the 2 dice, you then choose one of the rolls for how many soldiers you are going to move and the other determines how far they can move.

(3) Soldiers can only move forward or sideways, not diagonally or backwards. A single change in direction is also allowed in a turn.

If a soldier lands on an enemy soldier exactly on the last movement square, the enemy soldier is eliminated. Otherwise, if the soldier would move through the enemy’s square, they stop and a ‘clash’ occurs by way of rolling a die and highest wins.

As mentioned earlier, the game is won by occupying 5 squares in the opponent’s rear line. [Like Capture the Flag, but with 5 flags.] But neither opponent will know which 5 squares they are, until one claims victory and the ‘Action Selector’ is revealed.

Playability/Observations

So is it fun to play? It’s OK in some ways. Especially (or only) if you like the A-Toys 'Action' games' - because they're all (exactly) the same to play. Some of the components and mechanics are pretty neat - especially for when it was made. I like the hidden objectives device, and the number/distance choice on dice rolls. These games are easily accessible to kids. It looks quite good on the table (with the colours, ‘mountains’, miniature soldiers etc), and the cards do add more interest and variety on top of what would otherwise be a roll and move exercise. And at the end of the day, it’s a ‘wargame’ with ‘minis’ - sort of.

But even if you’re not a hardcore board wargamer, some of the rules are just too simplistic - such as the combat rules where you eliminate by landing on someone, or - if it’s really exciting - get to roll a D6, with no discrimination for weapons or any other factors.

Or just plain silly - why, for example, can soldiers not fall back, and why would the artillery randomly miss by the whole width of the battlefield?

Or inexplicable - eg, reinforcements just turn up on random lines (including in the middle or on top of the enemy) - but are they supposed to be paratroops (yet somehow not exposed to enemy detection and fire), or in tunnels, or what?

And - perhaps most importantly - is it Vietnam? No way. The battlefield gives no hint of Vietnam, and frankly is so generic that it detracts from, rather than provides or adds to, any theme or context. And two armies rushing towards each other across essentially flat open ground seems very different to what I've read of the Vietnam conflict. No jungle, no choppers, no booby traps, no hit-and-run, no air power etc etc. Especially no jungle - the board looks more like a village green in England with a stream running through it.

But these games are still an interesting initiative by a plastic toy company. As a game somewhere between an abstract and a wargame, I could stand playing them again - particularly if a young gamer wanted to. And with a few rule tweaks, the 'realism' (or commonsense) of these games might be able to be enhanced just enough, without losing the good aspects of their simplicity. But in both respects I would prefer 'D-Day' to 'Vietnam' probably, as, notwithstanding that the map in 'Action D-Day'doesn't look like beach landings or the bocage either, both the map and the rules somehow annoy me more when it's supposed to be Vietnam ...
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Robert Wesley
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Thanks for "jumping upon the 'grenade'!" for this ONE! robot
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Sim Guy
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This sounds eerily similar to something I threw together in my basement when I was about 8 years old. Except the 'map' was just sidewalk chalk on the concrete floor...

Thanks for taking the bullet for your band of Geek brothers.arrrh
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Christian Link
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I would buy this game simply because someone scrawled the word Vietnam on it. I'd actually play it if I thought someone else was interested ...

Da Nang Hooker: "Me so horny. Me rove you rong time." ~ Full Metal Jacket
 
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Darrell Hanning
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An onerous, thankless task, reviewing such crap, but if it manages to stay the hand of a single gamer, then there must be a special place for you in Heaven.

"How do you shoot women and children?"

"Easy. Just don't lead 'em so much!"
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