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Lawrence Hung
Hong Kong
Wan Chai
Hong Kong
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Just completed the solitaire game of A Week In Hell: The Battle of Hue, Battles magazine wargame. A street to street, house to house simulation in the battle of the city of Hue during the Vietnam War. The game was started last month on my table and after some fussing with the rules, I was able to complete it before Year of the Dragon (2012). The game system is excellent in terms of simulating the city-fights, plucking zone after zone. However, the road to clear the board off might be repetitive the second time once you know the keys to zone clearance.


The rules are very well written, especially considering they are originally in French. I found this game quite clever and right on spot within a magazine game format. Small, but rich in gameplay. The counters are the best from France - colorful and clear with soldier icons with uniform and weapon details; well die-cut and easy to punch. The map is gorgeously looking on anyone's table with many fine details!


There are 3 U.S. companies engaged in this search and clear operations. They would give "orders" to their units to move and fight. Each company would have different number of orders available from 1 to 3. After combat in a zone on the map, a zone is then declared as "Clearing Zones", in which all NVA units were eliminated and at least one U.S. unit occupying the zone. The U.S. performs Zone Clearance Test by rolling a die greater than the zone value, ranging form 0 to 4. Naturally, in those larger areas with many compounds, the zone value is 4. For small area with clear line of sight or a few forest, the zone value is 0. The most common are 1 and 2.


A platoon can move over 3 zones - but it cannot move into a zone which is being cleared, nor into a zone which does not contain any platoon being adjacent to an enemy zone. Enemy zone is specified to be the white, red or green zone which is not controlled by the player with a "US Control Marker". It is not a very clear and good rule by itself but it is only evident during play when you think of them as places of hidden enemies. They are subject to attack from the adjacent area of your own.


Combat occurs when your U.S. platoon(s) attack the adjacent enemy zone upon activation. Up to 3 can attack and what is special here is that each one is assigned to some specific role during the attack: assault, support and reserve, in that order. The strength of the enemy NVA unit is unknown - it is drawn from a cup. Sounds right for a typical Vietnam wargame? You bet. Clear one area at a time and you move forward cautiously - the typical U.S. search and destroy operations.


Combat is resolved with rolling of 2 dices, with tie giving to an occurrence of a random event. There are 2 CRTs, one each for U.S. and NVA respectively. The results are dependent on the total combat strength of the assault and support platoons or the NVA main or remaining combat value and the zone value. I think the CRT is innovative in the design for integrating two elements at the same time with the result of a dieroll, giving rise to the number of hits. Surprisingly, there is no other modifier to the combat dieroll.


Combat is finished until the NVA unit is eliminated or if all the platoons have a red hit marker. The NVA unit is returned to the cup if you are not able to hold the zone with a platoon - combat is simultaneous. The hit ranges from 1 to 3, with the corresponding green, yellow and red hit marker placed on the platoon, indicating its current combat efficiency and weariness. A red hit platoon has to retreat. Otherwise, retreat is always voluntary.


There are some other rules on reinforcements (actually, there are only a few counters on the map initially and the setup time is only 15 minutes or so. They are coming up by stages), convoys, helicopters, Night Time and a bunch of special rules (guess what, there is gas in use!). The wounded marines and the unsuccessful rescue of them would cost the players DPs (Yes, you hear it right, not Victory Points but Defeat Points).


There is a historical scenario and an alternative scenario. I finished the historical scenario. The general strategy is to secure zone F by turn 4. There are 6 VPs on the other side of the map so I sent in one company to reach there via the less resistance areas on the left, where fewer buildings and compounds for the Viet Congs to hide. Another 2 companies were dispatched to capture the highest VPs areas in the game - Jeanne d'Arc High School and Treasury. Each area has 4 VPs.


Having said that though, I should admit there are several rules ambiguities and errors on the map and counters. For examples, 1) if the assault troop suffered red hit during the subsequent round and retreated to the jump off zone, it is not clear whether I should get a chance to reassign the assault and support troop to other units in the jump off zone in order to continue the attack. 8.2.5 says that the battle can continue the subsequent round after the retreat and the US suffer -1 DRM in the combat. 2) For those reinforcement on the convoy, they would get hit markers if they are ambushed along the way. However, are the hit markers removed like others as well during the Reorganization phase? Are they turned into veteran as a result of the ambush? Not a clue in the rulebook. 3) The 1st round of combat seems to suggest that the event pertaining to a tied combat dieroll would happen on this round only. However, in 11.1 Events, it seems to suggest that an event may occur when the US and NVA die rolls are equal during a combat.


The hit markers on the back side wrote the word HIT, and the minus sign, in reverse. The player rolls a die to see if the number is lower than or equal to the red number on phases 7 to 9. If it is, the following phase is night time phase. The problem is on phase 7, the red number is 6. It means the result is always the night time next phase. I think the red numbers 6-5-4 should be reversed on the phase track as 4-5-6 for phase 7 to 9.


Maybe the rules are so crammed into the short length of rules required of a magazine format and hence they do not cover the many situations arise as a result of actual gameplay. The errors on the counters and phase track are not detrimental either. After this play, I think it is really a genuine and excellent solitaire system for the Vietnam War. I like the involved combat system where the player gets to assign the assault, support and reserve status to the platoons during an attack on the adjacent zone - areas of varying level of defensible terrain and compounds. Search and destroy operations at their best! For the price of a magazine, however, this is surely a game value for money this year!


My game story goes like this: 1/1CP and its platoons went to the left and swept up north in order to control the NVA supply to the east (arrows on the edge to the map on the left), after I found out the infiltration test was really pulling my leg at the back. A/1/1 and H/2/5 gased out the NVA in Hospital Complex (what an irony!) and Treasury Building, both having high level of zone value. Some red hits were inflicted on H/2/5 and F/2/5 platoons, piling up many Defeat Points in the process.


On the right hand side, F/2/5 was forced to retreat back to the Doc Lao Park after the Nguyen Hoang Bridge was destroyed by the NVA. The drive to zone F was to be aborted. 2/5CP made the change to the plan and thus directed both F and G/2/5 platoons to patrol north bank of Perfume River until stopping at the Cercle Sportif, clearing the neutral zones along the main road.


My game scored final 3VPs - a marginal victory with 19 Victory Points vs. 13 Defeat Points (Note: the final score doesn't mean a straight-forward subtraction but is determined by pre-defined criteria in the game).
The end game position is here:
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David JULIEN
France
LYON
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"The counters are the best from France - colorful and clear with soldier icons with uniform and weapon details"

Thank you lawrence, you made my day!
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Martí Cabré

Terrassa
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The paragraph about clearing zones is repeated twice.
 
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Lawrence Hung
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Wan Chai
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Thanks Marti, I have corrected to remove it.
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Dirk Holding
Australia
Berkeley
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Thanks for the review thumbsup. I've had this sitting on my shelf since it was published but haven't played it yet. Your review has just moved it up my list of games to play this summer .
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Steve Herron
United States
Johnson City
Tennessee
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Never play block wargames with a dentist, they have those little mirrors to peek behind the block.
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I wish the game would become more avaliable, maybe another GMT partnership? I have the old John Hill Hue but it is a no go if one wants to play it solitaire. Great review Lawrence.
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Kev.
United States
Austin
Texas
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Have you played Phantom Fury? If so: How do the rules and play compare?
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Lawrence Hung
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Wan Chai
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hipshot wrote:
Have you played Phantom Fury? If so: How do the rules and play compare?


No, I didn't order Phantom Fury because of the subject on Iraq War. From the watching of Marco's video of Phantom Fury though, it is quite similar but yet with distinguishing features. Phantom Fury introduced different buildings floor while it doesn't have the rule on wounded marines as in A Week in Hell. I don't have the game so I am not 100% sure.

Anyway, if the designer have another game on Vietnam battle in another city, I would be more interested to buy.
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Martí Cabré

Terrassa
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hipshot wrote:
Have you played Phantom Fury? If so: How do the rules and play compare?


I've played both. They're quite similar.
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Todd H. Beckman
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Iowa City
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I just got this great game the other day, I have it laid out and ready to go. Should be playing today.
 
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