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Downtown: Air War Over Hanoi, 1965-1972» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Playing GMT's Downtown rss

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Jon Bryon
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A quick look at previous reviews of Downtown: Air War Over Hanoi, 1965-1972, reveals somewhat of a surprise. For a game currently ranked 343 in the overall BGG rankings (quite good for a pretty heavy wargame), an unweighted average rating of 7.97 from over 200 users (compared with 8.39 for Agricola), and with over 500 BGG users owning it, there is very little on the review front. Admittedly, Downtown is getting on a bit now, being published in 2004, and the fad of the new has passed. But what we have is a mature game still with an active community playing it (see the traffic in the Downtown folder at ConsimWorld (CSW)) and an imminent sequel - Elusive Victory: The Air War over the Suez Canal, 1967-1973. So still very much worth a look.

I was led to Downtown by the Settlers of Catan. (There's a game I bet you didn't expect to see mentioned in a Downtown review ) Settlers was the gateway game for me and, naturally, via Google brought me to BGG. In search of more games, I started scrolling through the rankings and came across Downtown. At that time (autumn 2006) it was a top 10 (I think even top 5) wargame in the BGG rankings. Since I've always had an interest in the air war over Vietnam, I felt immediately drawn to the game.

There's plenty of info out there on Downtown. The designer, Lee Brimmicombe-Wood, has a very interesting webpage (www.airbattle.co.uk) dedicated to his designs, and I found his notes on Downtown compelling. The publisher, GMT, have made the rules and scenario book downloadable from their website, and I spent a good while digesting these. I read through all the posts in the CSW folder, and then I was convinced. Downtown arrived in China, where I was living, in Christmas 06, courtesy of my wife.

So what comes in the box? The box itself is very striking in design and adequately sturdy. It has ample room for all the components. The first of these is a paper map (initially a disappointment given this was my first wargame and I expected board games to come with, you know, a board. But I got over it quickly!) with a very well drawn map of North Vietnam containing all kinds of legible pieces of information pleasing to the eye. There were a couple of production errors in the map - a little distressing to a perfectionist like me - but these amount to no more than a couple of stray strings of small text that make no significant difference to the overall appearance.

As well as the map, there were counters. Quite a lot of them, all half-inch, and so well-drawn they were begging to be punched and clipped. Each aircraft featured within the game has at least one counter (usually many more) with a plan view of the airframe. Other counters for SAMs, Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA), Electronic Warfare, and various markers abound; all beautifully and cleanly drawn and very legible. The only fly in the ointment is that some of the call-signs for some of the US flights were misprinted, with some letters missing. Because I do have a(n irrational) desire for perfect components, I did purchase the corrected counters that came with C3i Magazine #17 from GMT. Not at all necessary; just a personal preference.

Aside from the map and counters there are play-aids. These contain the vast majority of the tables which are rolled on using one or both of the supplied 10-sided dice. The layout is clear, logical, and the steps and Dice Roll Modifiers (DRMs) for each roll well-explained. Three large Aircraft Data Cards (ADCs) are provided, one each for the US Air Force (USAF), US Navy (USN) and Democratic Republic of Vietnam (the DRV). These ADCs contain game-required information on each aircraft within the game, and short histories on the reverse side. And it's here that I get really excited. There's so much included within the game from the technology side. Almost every aircraft that saw action over North Vietnam - be it as a fighter, attacker, bomber, Combat Search and Rescue (even helicopters are included!), jammer, recon, Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD), whatever - is included. Sub-types are also differentiated, be it in terms of avionics, weapon fit or defence systems. In my view, games in which you get to mess around with MiG-17s, MiG-19s, MiG-21s, A-1s, A-4s, A-6s, A-7s, F-4s, F-8s, F-111s, F-105s, B-52s, RF-101s, RA-5s, EF-10s, EB-66s, EKA-3s, and whatever else it is I've forgotten are just cool!

Again, there was a fly in the ointment. When GMT printed the game, they printed an old version of the blue play aid (of which two are provided). This was picked up very quickly post-publication, and an updated version made available. Unfortunately, even though I purchased mine direct from GMT, the updated play aids hadn't made it into the box. Three weeks later the correct ones arrived. You will know if you have the reprinted version because it says 'v.2.0' somewhere on the play aid. This play aid is the most used during the game, so top marks to GMT for correcting the error.

Finally, there is the paperwork: a largish rule book, a largish scenario book, and several sheets of card for planning and book-keeping during the game. These are available for free as pdf downloads because you'll use up the latter examples provided quite quickly.

Which brings me to the rules. These are a real highlight of the game. Combined with the scenario book, we have extensive designer's notes, both interspersed in the text and at the end of the scenario book, a totally comprehensive rule set with index (very useful), an extended example of play, and plenty of historical information regarding the Order of Battle and background to the campaign.

Downtown is a game that covers air combat over North Vietnam, specifically in the region around Hanoi - the capital city referred to by US pilots as 'Downtown' - during the Rolling Thunder bombing campaign of 1965-68 and the Linebacker campaigns of 1972. The scale is 2.5 nautical miles per hex and each game turn covers 1 minute. The players do not (generally) control individual aircraft, but flights of up to 4 aircraft. Each flight is represented by a single counter; the aircraft in the flight are always of the same type and on the same mission. This scale means the players are not concerned with the physics of flight (other than planes must move on their turn, else they'll fall out of the sky!), and this aspect is largely abstracted. Instead, players focus on the large scale movements of their flights. Planning and positioning are the critical foci of player actions.

To give some flavour of the game, let's go through the Sequence of Play (SoP). I have divided this into three sections - the Pre-game sequence (performed just once), the in-game sequence (repeated every game turn), and the post-game sequence.

The heart of the game is the 'raid'. This is a package of US aircraft with a target to hit; there are plenty of variations on this in the scenarios, with multiple targets and multiple 'mini-raids', but this is the core. The DRV player begins by planning his defences. He will know a possible range of targets, as specified by the scenario, and will have to allocate his resources - MiGs, SAMs, AAA, Fire Can (radar-directed AAA) - as he sees fit. It's important that these three defences are integrated well. Sometimes not all are available, but SAMs cannot fire if MiGs are too close to their site. MiGs can get shot at by friendly AAA if they fly too high. MiGs take time to get ready and take-off, meaning that poor planning can put them into the air long after the US attackers have been and gone. And, of course, the DRV player doesn't have enough resources to cover everything. Furthermore, the DRV player has 'dummy' SAMs (SAM sites that look real but aren't) and 'dummy' radars (radars that will make US aircraft think they're being tracked by a SAM), which to the US player are indistinguishable from the real thing.

Once the DRV player's secretly decided where his SAMs, AAA, and Fire Can will go, he places some of his SAMs on the map for the US player to see; the rest remain hidden (the number of units he can keep hidden is specified by the scenario). The US player then chooses his target (usually rolling a die on a table of targets specified in the scenario) and uses a consumable planning map (a small scale copy of the big map) to plot the path of the bombers to the target.

For me, as the US player, this is one of the most enjoyable parts of the game. The US player can see some of the defences, knows where the target is, and aims to get his bombers there. Choices abound. Should the bombers come in low, skimming over the waves or hugging the ground? Good against SAMs, but if you fly over an AAA site the results will most likely be devastating. Should the bombers come in high, above the AAA and less likely to be jumped by MiGs, but up where SAMs detect them easily? Medium altitude might be a good compromise. Use of the terrain is essential - on the deck over rough ground prevents SAMs acquiring aircraft, and AAA can only set up in certain locations, but there's always the risk of a random AAA attack. Then when the bombers get near the target, what altitude should they bomb from? Higher is safer, but far less accurate, and vice versa. And what route should they take? Make a feint towards another apparent target to wrong-foot the MiGs, or just make a straight dash for the real target to minimise the amount of time SAMs will have to acquire and shoot the raiders? Whatever you choose, and it will depend on many factors, such as the aircraft involved and their defensive systems, the terrain between the aircraft entry point and the target, and the defences the DRV has in a given scenario, the path of the bombers and the post-raid Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) recon flight is fixed at this phase of the game. These aircraft will be constrained to this flight path unless they abort.

As well as bombers, the US player has a whole host of other supporting aircraft that are not constrained by the flight path, but must have the game turn they will enter the map on, and where they enter, specified in advance. The first aircraft on are usually the stand-off jammers, which I usually get to fly race-track patterns as far away from harm as possible. But there are trade-offs to be made here. Jammers further away are safer from SAMs and MiGs, but less effective - if too far away, completely ineffective. It can be a test of nerve bringing the EB-66s or EKA-3s in close to provide meaningful support. Sometimes they will get a Close Air Support (CAP; i.e. fighter escort) flight to guard them, sometimes not. Other aircraft will come in to provide CAP for the bombers, or just roam around to dissuade MiGs from attacking. Others will attempt to suppress enemy air defences - the Iron Hand or Wild Weasel missions - seeking out SAM sites and AAA sites to bomb or fire specialised missiles that home in on SAM radar signals.

All these need to be orchestrated by the US player to ensure the bombers get to the target when the enemy defences have been optimally suppressed, the jamming is at its most effective, and the bombers don't conflict with each other (there are strict stacking rules). Then the BDA recon flight has to arrive a specified time after the bombers have bombed - too soon and the target will be obscured by dust and smoke and the photos taken in vain (and a lot of VP lost for the US player); too late and the enemy defences will have had time to recover...they know where you're coming from!

I love this part of the game.

Then the Early Warning that the DRV receives is determined by dice roll. If it's good for the US player, the Early Warning is minimal, and US aircraft will enter the map undetected. This means the DRV will know that aircraft are in a given hex, but not what kind of aircraft they are and they will be much more difficult to engage with MiGs or SAMs. If the roll is good for the DRV, then US flights will enter detected and can be engaged more quickly. The Early Warning level also determines whether MiGs can start the game in the air (good for DRV) or are caught on the hop, and are still on the ground (bad), and whether the DRV player knows where the US flights will enter the map (good) or not (bad).

Once that's sorted, the DRV player decides what to do about MiGs. MiGs that are available will be specified by the scenario. By sacrificing VPs at the end of the game, the DRV player can secretly 'purchase' more MiGs. MiGs are sexy, but fragile. If they're in the wrong place, they prevent SAMs from firing. They're pretty safe if they stay on the deck (very low), but chances are they'll have to climb to engage the US aircraft, which will make them very vulnerable to CAP flights and possibly to friendly AAA. Their morale is also fragile, and they can abort easily, which effectively takes them out of the game. MiGs are set up on the map according to the Early Warning roll. It's too late now for the US player to change his plan!

Before the game turns begin, the US player sets up any aircraft that enter on turn 1 just off the map (too late for the DRV player to adjust his plan now!) and the game begins!

The first thing done every turn (except turn 1) is a roll on a random events table. This usually allows the DRV an AAA attack if a US flight meets the conditions (e.g. very low over non-rough terrain), but other events occur, such as clearance for US aircraft to engage Beyond Visual Range this turn, or movement initiative shifts from the DRV to the US, or a flight has to abort, etc. These need to be borne in mind when planning - if US flights are flying very low over non-rough terrain, the chances are high that the random events phase will see them shot at.

Next the US player adjusts his jamming. Jamming can also be fragile; jammers may lose their jamming ability if they turn in a game turn, which you don't want to happen just when the bombers are making their runs. Jammers also have 60 degree arcs in which the jamming is effective. These can be moved during this phase; it's very important to maximise the effectiveness of the jamming by having these arcs orientated correctly accounting for movement of other aircraft and the jamming flights themselves during the turn. Some jamming aircraft may be placed off-map, which makes them safe, but less effective.

Both players then roll to try and detect their opponent's aircraft. This is usually quite easy for the DRV, unless US aircraft are very low and over rough terrain (but vulnerable to AAA and MiGs). The US has a much harder time. For the US player to detect MiGs which are low is very difficult and requires good dice rolling. Detection is a pre-requisite for initiating air-to-air combat; if the DRV player is positioning his MiGs well, the US will have relatively few opportunities to detect MiGs, and thus engage them. The problem for the DRV is that if he wants his MiGs to shoot down US planes, and if the US player is positioning them well, the DRV will have to climb to engage, making detection by the US much easier. Trade-offs, trade-offs, trade-offs (and I love them). Detecting a flight doesn't mean you know what the aircraft are. That makes positioning for the US again very important. If CAP flights are mixed in with the bombers, the DRV player won't be able to tell them apart until he visually identifies them (much harder than just detecting them). Getting MiGs to engage CAP, when they think they're engaging bombers, can be a real result for the US. Detecting a US flight also makes it much easier for DRV SAMs to acquire it on radar.

Then comes movement, the heart of the turn. The DRV decides whether he or the US player will move aircraft first. This will depend on positioning; either moving first or second will be an advantage depending on the tactical situation. The player draws an initiative chit from a cup, which will have a number, the number of flights that player can move before the other player has to draw a chit. The DRV may draw a '0' (but not the US), which means that even if the DRV wants to move first, he may not be able to.

Flights are then moved according to speeds specified on the ADC, for the bombers and recon usually in accordance with the plan. If a US flight passes within one hex of an AAA installation, it will get shot at. If a US flight is acquired by SAMs, it may be shot at. If US and DRV flights end up in the same hex or adjacent hexes and close in altitude, air-to-air combat may be initiated. Fire Can AAA may shoot (only once) at US flights passing within 2 hexes.

AAA and Fire Can combat is simply resolved. AAA is usually ineffective at medium and high altitudes (unless it's a heavy flak battery); Fire Can is much more lethal, although the DRV player can only each Fire Can once per turn. Which makes timing essential; if the US player can get the Fire Can to shoot at a CAP flight rather than bombers, that's a good thing.

(In case you hadn't picked it up, everything should be working to protect the bombers. The bombers are fragile. At the first sign of danger - an AAA attack, a SAM launch - even if it misses, air combat, or another bombing flight getting hit, they run a good chance (in some cases 100%) of jettisoning their bombs. That means they don't make it to the target, which means the target doesn't get bombed, and that's the easiest way for the US player to lose. As the US I will happily sacrifice CAP and SEAD flights to preserve my chances of getting bombers to the target with bombs. That's the only real way the US player has to get VPs unless he's lucky in engaging MiGs.)

SAM combat is a little more involved, but essentially the odds of a SAM actually shooting down a flight are quite long. The big threat SAMs pose is that the flight they are shooting at will pull a SAM evasion manoeuvre and jettison its bombs (if it's a strike aircraft). Even if the SAM was going to miss anyway, the jettisoned bombs mean the flight aborts and turns for home...fewer chances for the US to hit its target and earn VP. The value of SAMs to the DRV is really in forcing US aircraft to abort, rather than shooting them down. Stand-off jamming, the defensive systems of the target aircraft, presence of chaff (in later scenarios), range, etc., all feed into whether the SAM will hit or not.

If SAMs have their radars switched on, they are at risk of being attacked by SEAD aircraft. This will happen during movement as SEAD flights move around, either firing their anti-radiation missiles or using iron bombs to hit SAMs and/or AAA.

Bombers will attack their target(s) as movement brings them into their bomb run. Special rules apply to bomber movement once they start their run, depending on what kind of bombing profile was planned (dive bombing, level bombing, radar bombing, etc.). During this run the bombers are very vulnerable, particularly to AAA (usually significant if the DRV has planned well). I like to send my bombers in quite low and get them to 'press the attack' to try and do more damage, but this subjects them to additional AAA attacks; the bomb run is usually a heart-thumping time for the US player. Once the bombs are released, a roll is made to determine the damage done. This actually only represents the perception of damage done; the actual damage is only determined at the end of the game once BDA has been obtained. Even if the pilots think they pulverised that bridge, the photos may prove otherwise...

Bomber movement is restricted immediately after bombing which is another time of great vulnerability. But getting bombs on the target is a relief; the strike aircraft fly the pre-planned route home.

Air-to-air combat is relatively rare, allowing it to be modelled in a reasonable amount of depth. The process is fairly involved, but requires at least one flight to actually engage the other (i.e. spot them and initiate combat), which may result in surprise for one side, followed by manoeuvring (which partly depends on the manoeuvrability of the aircraft involved for a given altitude) to take shots. If shots are fired, the player decides what kind of weapon was used, and then rolls are made to see if that weapon was depleted. Stores are tracked (along with other info, like damage, fuel and morale) on a log sheet (book-keeping really is kept to a minimum, however). The shots are resolved and damage (if any) allocated.

Post-combat there is a morale check, which may cause an aircraft to abort. Aircraft become undetected and will scatter in an adjacent hex according to a die roll (which if you're the US player might cause you to run right into AAA). Air combat is exciting; the US usually have the upper hand (unless it was a bomber or something like a jammer involved), but tactical limitations (especially for the USAF; the USN are much better) may result in a fruitless engagement.

Once all the flights have moved and all these exciting events been resolved, the Fuel Phase is completed. This simply docks a unit of fuel from aircraft that either used 'dash' throttle (to move faster in the game turn) or participated in air combat. Fuel is not tracked for normal movement, making this a trivial book-keeping exercise.

The US player then attempts to locate SAMs. To drop bombs on SAMs, they have to be located by the US. Anti-radiation missiles are able to attack unlocated SAMs if their radars are switched on. A dice roll follows this phase, to determine which flights on the map become 'undetected'. Those US flights that become undetected are then that much harder to be acquired by SAM radars in the next phase, the SAM Acquisition Phase.

During this phase the DRV attempts to acquire US flights using SAMs with radars switched on. Their ability to do this will be affected by things like defensive and stand-off jamming, and whether the target aircraft is detected or has previously been acquired. Acquisition may be partial (making a SAM shot next turn possible) or full (making such a shot more likely to be successful). Acquisition status is shown by a marker unique to each SAM placed on the target. Acquisition can be lost if the target moves out of range or descends to very low in rough terrain.

The turn ends with an Admin Phase. Lots of stuff can happen here, but the only thing worth mentioning are the dummy DRV flights. The DRV may generate dummies (up to a scenario-specified limit) which are indistinguishable to the US player from 'real' MiGs. These are an excellent way of representing fog of war. The US player doesn't know if a DRV flight heading towards his bombers, or that he's about to engage, is real or not. When two such enemy flights are closing in on his aircraft, and he knows they can't both be real, difficult choices have to be made. This is a great way for the DRV player to mess with the US player's mind!

This SoP is repeated until all US flights leave the map. At the end of the game, the actual damage done by the US to the target(s) is determined - assuming the recon flight successfully obtained BDA - and the VPs are totted up. VPs are awarded to the US for hitting targets (more damage means more VPs), shooting down MiGs, and destroying or damaging SAMs. The DRV gains points for preventing BDA, shooting down US planes, US crew members lost, US planes flying too close to China and US bombs missing their target and causing collateral damage. The balance of VPs determines if the US scored a decisive victory, a victory, performed an inconclusive operation, were defeated or significantly defeated. In Rolling Thunder scenarios (1965-68), the balance is definitely in favour of the DRV; the shoe is on the other foot when it comes to Linebacker scenarios (1972).

Downtown is a highly asymmetric game. The US player has a rigid plan that needs to be followed, and uses supporting forces (jammers, CAP, SEAD) to make tactical alterations to the plan to maximise the chances of success. The DRV is playing a cat-and-mouse game, where the bread and butter of his work is to disrupt the US plan (through forcing bombers to abort, for example), while taking opportunities to bloody the US's nose when they present themselves (like shooting down bombers with MiGs). As such, I prefer the resource management challenges presented by playing the US - plus the hardware is just cool - but playing the DRV is also a rewarding experience, trying to gain the upper hand through deception with (often) inferior forces.

Part of what makes Downtown such a joy to play is the quality of the design. The rules are superbly written, full of interesting detail and meaningful chrome (if that's not an oxymoron). At first perusal, they may seem overwhelming, but many of the rules are specific to certain time periods and scenarios - you don't need to worry about chaff bombing at all, for example, in Rolling Thunder. There is a programmed introduction to the game in the scenario book which works very well, introducing progressively more complex aspects of the game as the player progresses. The rules are so well written that they repay repeated re-reading, which to me is never onerous. Errata are extremely limited, mainly relating to a few minor typos.

Replayability is very high. There are 12 basic scenarios provided, plus a simple intro example. But each scenario has multiple possible targets (making each possible raid within the scenario very different) as well as many other options, such as whether the raid is USAF or USN - again something that will make a profound difference to what the scenario will look like. The scenarios themselves are very different, ranging from a single recon flight attempting to recon a large area while evading DRV defences, to multiple B-52 raids alongside F-111 raids at night, requiring very careful coordination of forces over quite a long timespan. If you manage to exhaust those possibilities, then expansions are available in C3i #17 (adding F-14s and F-4Ns in a hypothetical scenario) and #18 (adding another map extending the area of North Vietnam to be bombed, additional aircraft and a hypothetical Australian expansion allowing Canberras and Mirages to join the fight).

My only slight niggle with the mechanics is that the way collateral damage is modelled is unrealistic. Basically, if after bombing the pilot perception of damage done is very poor, then there is a chance of causing collateral damage. The problem with this is that perceived success scales with the number of bombs dropped. So the fewer bombs you drop, the higher the chance of accidentally bombing a hospital or school. Which ironically makes bombing using B-52s much less likely to cause collateral damage than a single A-4 making a bomb run. But it's a minor issue that can easily be modified using a house rule.

All my playing of Downtown has been solo (which isn't terribly satisfying because of the fog of war mechanics) or using VASSAL. As such, I can't comment on the length of time it takes to play face-to-face, but this will depend on the scenario and how much advance planning has been done. I like to spend a long time planning and making my moves, which makes PBEM ideal for me, and I've found it to work very well using VASSAL. There is a Cyberboard module too, but I have not tried this. The VASSAL module has most of the play aids pre-loaded into it, making online play quick and easy.

There is a lot of dice rolling in this game. I think it's great, and it's always very clear how to play to get the DRMs to favour you. But if you don't like rolling dice, maybe this is not for you.

Downtown has a sequel of sorts out this June: Elusive Victory. This promises to be less asymmetric than Downtown, since both sides in this game of the Arab-Israeli air wars will have ground targets to hit and more equally-matched air resources (I think). I think this should make PBEM more interesting, since it is possible that in PBEM for Downtown, the DRV player has less to do that the US.

Downtown is sold-out by the publisher, but seems to be readily available in game shops. I paid $38, which is remarkable value for money.

So, another long review from me. Here are the highlights:

Components
Beautiful and functional graphic design. Some misprints which don't affect gameplay. Misprinted play aids replaced by GMT. Quality is standard GMT.

Rules
Close to faultless. A joy to read.

Game-play
Involved but absorbing. Lots of dice, but all of it meaningful. Very different mechanics - planning, movement, resource management - harmonise exceptionally well. SoP intuitive and well described. Many moments of real tension generated. Clever decision making well-rewarded.

PBEM works very well. Solo play weak (there is an 'unofficial' solo system, but I haven't tried it and it looks a little incomplete and unwieldy).

Replayability
Almost endless. There are Campaign rules if scenarios get exhausted (unlikely).

Support
Excellent, both from CSW and www.airbattle.co.uk. Designer frequently answers questions.

Conclusion
My experience of wargames is limited, but this is my favourite. Well-paced, mentally stimulating, hugely thematic, great production, good value for money.

(Edit: Please note that I have written a brief review of Elusive Victory which can be considered an addendum to this review here)
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Wendell
United States
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Si non potes reperire Berolini in tabula, ludens essetis non WIF.
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Hey, get your stinking cursor off my face! I got nukes, you know.
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Great review, thanks.
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Runs with scissors
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The die is cast.
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Thank you for taking the time to do a very detailed and in depth review.
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Gregory Bay
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Thanks for the review. I have pre ordered the new one from GMT. I would like to see this one on my shelf as well but they, GMT, have emailed me back with the info that there is no reprint planned for a while.

Thanks,
Gregory
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Devin Smith
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May I state that the Campaign rules are also stellar: it's 'a week in the life of a US Admiral/General', usually. You get a list of targets and their importance, and some number of missions to do as well as possible at destroying them.


Are you using the published solo rules, or just playing both sides?

Great review. From Settlers to Downtown in one step is... unusual.
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Jason Mowat
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Great review, Jon! You managed to sum up how to play this fantastic game in one nice package.

One thing I would have to wholeheartedly agree with you on is the high quality rules for Downtown. The rules and the amazing index are easy to understand, efficient, and not boring or confusing to read. Game designers, please take note of how to write a decent set of rules from this game!

I have tried the intro scenario face to face and it seemed to work fairly well between me and my opponent. However, I'm not sure how a full-fledged Rolling Thunder or Linebacker scenario would fare face-to-face. Given that the facing of your counters is important, that your counters can share hexsides with other adjacent counters, and that some engagements can result in the creation of a multitude of counters, I can image it being very easy to lose control of the state of your forces, simply by accident. Vassal, at least, makes this aspect much easier to manage.

Again, great review!
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Lawrence Hung
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"The first of these is a paper map (initially a disappointment given this was my first wargame and I expected board games to come with, you know, a board. But I got over it quickly!)"

If you turn back the time to the 70's or 80's, "board" is a common norm than exception for wargames. We missed that era. But we knew the cost. We could not afford what the Eurogamers enjoyed mostly because of the numbers of customers/ wargames too low to support. It is a "lavish" thing to the wargamers, in that we have to pay extra for the "deluxe" mapboard as offered on some more popular wargames.

By the way, if it is your first wargame and you jump right in a more complex wargame, you have the talent to play more wargames! Drop the Euros and join in the ranks! There is a new Panzerblitz "Hill of Death" game, a revised and updated wargame back in the '70s.
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Barton Campbell
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Lawrence Hung wrote:
By the way, if it is your first wargame and you jump right in a more complex wargame, you have the talent to play more wargames! Drop the Euros and join in the ranks! There is a new Panzerblitz "Hill of Death" game, a revised and updated wargame back in the '70s.


Maybe you should look at the list of games jonbyron owns and his wishlist. He's that special breed of wargamer that can digest the most complicated modern air wargames but is only half-heartedly interested in other wargames, though he does like Combat Commander: Europe.

Next, there's nothing wrong with enjoying wargames and euros.

@ jonbyron - Judging from your over all interest in games and the comments you made, for non-air wargames I would recommend anything designed by Tetsuya Nakamura as a great starting place, not withstanding Target Arnhem: Across 6 Bridges.

And lastly I'm not much of a modern air wargamer but your review was excellent. I wish we had more reviewers like you. You described the mechanics of play but never became boring like so many others. I also liked how you gave your personal story on how you came to this game and gave info on supporting websites. Lastly, your enthusiasm rubs off on the reader. Good.
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John,

Good work, mate! You still want to play as the DRV tutoring a newbie?
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Jon Bryon
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bartman347 wrote:
Lawrence Hung wrote:
By the way, if it is your first wargame and you jump right in a more complex wargame, you have the talent to play more wargames! Drop the Euros and join in the ranks! There is a new Panzerblitz "Hill of Death" game, a revised and updated wargame back in the '70s.


Maybe you should look at the list of games jonbyron owns and his wishlist. He's that special breed of wargamer that can digest the most complicated modern air wargames but is only half-heartedly interested in other wargames, though he does like Combat Commander: Europe.


You hit the nail on the head. I'm very fussy about theme. WWII doesn't interest me much. I do like Combat Commander, but more for the card-driven mechanism. I hope they do a Vietnam edition. I've given Lock 'n Load's World at War a try - I own it and the first expansion - but I'm unimpressed, mainly because I find the rule set too loose. Maybe I'll review that next...

I've read the rules for Lee B-W's The Burning Blue, but I just can't muster up the enthusiasm. Similarly, I proofed some of the early rules for his Nightfighter game, which does look like an excellent game, but the theme doesn't do it for me. I really hope he gets round to Zulu Alert, because that looks like it could be awesome.

bartman347 wrote:

Next, there's nothing wrong with enjoying wargames and euros.


Preach it brother! Plus it means I get to play games with my wife and friends...

bartman347 wrote:

@ jonbyron - Judging from your over all interest in games and the comments you made, for non-air wargames I would recommend anything designed by Tetsuya Nakamura as a great starting place, not withstanding Target Arnhem: Across 6 Bridges.

And lastly I'm not much of a modern air wargamer but your review was excellent. I wish we had more reviewers like you. You described the mechanics of play but never became boring like so many others. I also liked how you gave your personal story on how you came to this game and gave info on supporting websites. Lastly, your enthusiasm rubs off on the reader. Good.


Thanks for the suggestions and kind words. I'm glad it wasn't three hours of writing down the drain
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Jon Bryon
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Swing wrote:
John,

Good work, mate! You still want to play as the DRV tutoring a newbie?


Yeah, of course! I'll have to brush up on the DRV set up rules. It's easy to get caught out with illegal SAM/AAA placement if one doesn't pay close attention!

Send me a geekmail in September. My copy of Downtown is in China and I'll be moving back there in August. Once I've got an internet connection up and the family have settled down, I will need some Downtown action!

Cheers

Jon
 
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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A superb review, Jon. I'm not particularly interested in air warfare, and the wargamers I play with are even less so. That didn't stop me from buying Downtown on P-500. Lee B-W's passion for the subject, and his unusual ability to translate complex real world interactions into coherent game systems was more than I could resist.

Sadly, I've still never played the game, and don't know that I'll ever get the chance. I can't tell you how much I wish that Lee's area of interest coincided better with my own. If he were doing games on pre-20th century subjects, I would be all over them.
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Lawrence Hung wrote:
If you turn back the time to the 70's or 80's, "board" is a common norm than exception for wargames.


That is simply not true, Lawrence. Avalon Hill, which was owned by a printing company, produced mounted maps. But SPI, the other giant of the era, published paper maps, as did most other notable wargame publishers of the era, such as GDW and SDC. (SPI did publish a few mounted map editions, but by the same token AH produced a few that were not mounted).

I bought hundreds of wargames with unmounted maps in the 70s and 80s, and considered plexiglass standard equipment, as did every other wargamer I knew.
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You are right...but back then I only bought AH's games...except for those magazine games with paper maps. I didn't buy any SPI games at that time except a few from the eBay only when I grew up.
 
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Good review. I own this game, but I'm a little worried about being able to find folks to play it with. How have you guys done?
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atomzero wrote:
Good review. I own this game, but I'm a little worried about being able to find folks to play it with. How have you guys done?


Thanks Adam.

I have only played using PBEM on VASSAL. I've had no difficulty finding opponents, but mainly through consimworld. I've no chance of face-to-face play...
 
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I've never used those, because I like the comfort of having someone at the table to tell me I screwed up. I'll just have to get over it for this game
 
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baymonkey wrote:
Thanks for the review. I have pre ordered the new one from GMT. I would like to see this one on my shelf as well but they, GMT, have emailed me back with the info that there is no reprint planned for a while.

Thanks,
Gregory


It's available at Wargamedepot.com. That's where I got it.

jonbryon wrote:


Yeah, of course! I'll have to brush up on the DRV set up rules. It's easy to get caught out with illegal SAM/AAA placement if one doesn't pay close attention!

Send me a geekmail in September. My copy of Downtown is in China and I'll be moving back there in August. Once I've got an internet connection up and the family have settled down, I will need some Downtown action!

Cheers

Jon


Put me on that list as well!
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