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Dien Bien Phu: Trenches in the Tropics» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Know The Battle rss

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Jeffery Hatmaker
United States
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I would strongly advise reading up on the battle and the conditions leading up to it before getting into this game. I read the rules, and even with the background, which was excellent, by the way, you really want to know what your strengths and weaknesses are before you sit down to this game. It's not a hex and counter type war game, in that it takes place over a period of almost a month. Individual unit movement is unimportant on that scale; it's how you are deployed, how units are used, and trying desperately to maintain a balance between achieving your objective and guarding your precious stores of supplies. Both the French, (actually, more Vietnamese died in French uniforms than did actual Frenchmen... most of the rest were from the Foreign Legion, which was, by definition, made up of foreigners) and the Vietminh were at the very ends of precarious supply routes, and any non-judicious use of force could cost you the battle, even if you win that particular fight. After reading extensively about the battle, and studying maps, et al., I can find no fault in the game play, except perhaps that it does lose some flavor by having you pulled back to the HQ level, as opposed to individual units on hexes, but alas, that is where the battle was lost or won, depending on which side you were for. This is by no means an automatic "Little Bighorn" or "Waterloo" for the French; it's all about making the most of what you have by doing the best you can with the long term in mind each turn, instead of the usual reactionary play encountered in hex and counter game play. The concept will seem alien at first, but it is imminently playable, not only as a "what if?" game, but a look (albeit through the smug lens of hindsight) at generalship and the husbandry and use of available resources for maximum effect. It's not as exciting as a "bang-bang" slug-fest like Panzer Blitz or Arab Israeli Wars, but it does confer a sense of intellectual satisfaction that can only be gained from successful campaigning at the highest level. If you enjoy historic battle games, you'll enjoy this, even though you'll have to print and play on your own... no "store bought" counters or maps here. My biggest beef is that the map is almost indigestible to any printer. I ended up just scrapping the original map, using in it's stead an actual aerial photograph with all the appropriate labels attached. I'll try to post it as a file as soon as possible. You'll need to reduce the size of your counters just a little for them to work well with it, but you don't have to... it's not hex and counter. Counters are just there to help you keep track of what you do (and don't) have available. Kind've like a scoreboard. If you like fast-action, tactical unit to unit combat, this game will send you screaming up a tree. If, however, you fancy yourself an armchair general, you'd be hard pressed to squeeze more fun into an hour without breaking the law!
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