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Subject: A fun, quick little wargame I got for free rss

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Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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1. Introduction

Because I noticed that this game has no reviews, I decided to do a review based on my first impressions. Let me be clear though that so far I have only played the game once and I might in principle have made some errors in my application of the rules, although I do not think so. With that caveat, I will proceed.

I received this game as an advertisement inserted in my copy of Successors (third edition), but the game remained ignored for some time. Whenever I went to play Successors, I would see the game and think about it, but then this game would be forgotten as soon as I put the other away. So one day I finally made a point of taking this game out of the box and cutting out the counters. Unfortunately the rules are printed on the back of the board, but a quick photo-copy solved that problem nicely. In short, I got this wargame free-- and it's not a bad little game.

The theme of the game is an American air raid of a North Vietnamese depot during the Vietnam War. Unless one counts Twilight Struggle, this game is therefore the only post-WWII wargame I have for a real historical war, and even for WWII I only have Axis & Allies games; my tastes tend to ancient warfare. Still, I'll take a good game from any era. While this game would not merit perhaps paying full-game prices, the designer clearly did not intend it should be. For a free or even an all but free game, this game is very nice.

2. Overview of rules and equipment

An image of the rules can be seen here, although I've also inserted a thumbnail below.

This little gem is a postcard game.

Thus, I cut out the counters from the card itself as it was made to do, although the advertisement does mention that one could get full mounted counters as part of a promotion from the sponsoring game magazine. I just don't have the money nor the inclination to get the magazine even if that offer is still good.

Yet, the game is perfectly playable with double-sided counters and an 8x8 grid map. Numbers on the map identify how to reference grid-points if need be using the notation of a row number followed by a superscript column number. The turn marker can then start the game next to the corner from which numbering starts and advance along the edge to mark the four turns of the game. Cards are reshuffled at the start of each turn and the joker is ignored if both players have not had a chance to move during a turn. My assumption is that in such a case, players would then play through the deck as usual since the rules do not say otherwise and that would be the implication of simply ignoring the joker.

The game needs be supplemented by a standard deck of playing cards with a single joker included. In each turn, cards are turned over one by one until the joker is reached which immediately ends the turn, whether the joker is drawn for movement or combat purposes. Red cards give action points to the Vietnamese and black cards to the Americans. For combat, color does not matter. Movement is to any adjacent square, each direction costing a certain number of action points. In each square, air craft (ACs) can occupy any one of five levels, but changing levels costs action points in the same way that moving a square does. Counters for marking level are included. Planes can exit the game by flying off the edge of the board.

The Vietnamese have three AA guns which can effectively hit anywhere on the board at any level, at least in principle. A red face card allows them to take a shot. The rules are a bit cryptic on this point, but I believe that (other than for the American bomber making a bombing attempt) face cards drawn during combat are ignored so that one redraws. A black face card allows the American player to attack an AA gun in what the rules call a free attack; I would interpret this as meaning that the attack costs no action points and that the attack is not associated with any specific AC (thus attack rating of zero) but that otherwise combat rules apply because AA guns are marked with a 2 which I assume a defense rating. AC can attack up to two squares immediately forward (relative to the direction the AC is facing) but only at the same level. Counters include attack and defense rating and the rules list applicable modifiers which raise or lower the effective value of the card drawn for combat. AC can only attack after moving or changing level, and the attack itself costs an action point. Bombing uses a similar system (with the depot having an effective defense rating of 10) except that a red face card is an automatic miss and a black face card is an automatic success. Only two bombing attempts are permitted during the game. Damaged AC flip the associated counter os that attack and defense ratings are lowered.

The Americans start with three AC, including a bomber, in play but the third Vietnamese AC only enters play at the start of turn three. Since action points can be used by all ACs independently, this tends to balance the advantage that AA guns otherwise give the Vietnamese.

The American wins if either his bomber destroys the depot or at least one Vietnamese AC is destroyed while no American AC are. Otherwise the Vietnamese player wins.

3. Gameplay

The interesting thing about using cards is that players do not alternate receiving action points, but instead each player receives an allotment of action points randomly. Overall, this system will tend to even out the action points received by each player in a turn, but players will often get bursts of action points during which that player can move and conduct combat while the other player must wait. At first, I found this off-putting but when I thought about it, the system works and does give a feel for realism.

For the Americans, this game is primarily about defending and guiding the bomber to the depot. An alternate path to victory would be to go for an early kill of a Vietnamese AC and then fly off the edge of the board before the Vietnamese player can retaliate.

Some fine points of the rules could be ambiguous, but so long as players agree beforehand how to settle these ambiguities this point does not raise a major issue with the game. In other words, I got this neat little game which works as a game for nothing. If someone were to sell their copy, I would say the game is worth some small price if you can get it.
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Michael Sosa
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I played with the mounted counters and thought it was a fun little game indeed.
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Martí Cabré

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I played it once but did not like it much.
There was a dogfight and my opponent just shot my aircrafts down at the first shot, and the game ended. D'oh!
 
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Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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marticabre wrote:
I played it once but did not like it much.
There was a dogfight and my opponent just shot my aircrafts down at the first shot, and the game ended. D'oh!

Since it's basically three planes versus three planes, I'm not sure how the game would end in a single combat, especially since when a AC is hit one flips the counter to the damaged side. It would take two combats to eliminate any single plane. Are you sure you were playing correctly?
 
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Martí Cabré

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whac3 wrote:
marticabre wrote:
I played it once but did not like it much.
There was a dogfight and my opponent just shot my aircrafts down at the first shot, and the game ended. D'oh!

Since it's basically three planes versus three planes, I'm not sure how the game would end in a single combat, especially since when a AC is hit one flips the counter to the damaged side. It would take two combats to eliminate any single plane. Are you sure you were playing correctly?


Maybe not, it was a couple of years ago and I don't remember it well.
We used the mounted counters that came with some magazine issue.
I remember I took the USA but the Reds took shot down my bomber (maybe using two dogfights?) while I could not maneuver the Phantoms in position.

Anyway, not a game from which to take lessons, that for sure.
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Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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marticabre wrote:
whac3 wrote:
marticabre wrote:
I played it once but did not like it much.
There was a dogfight and my opponent just shot my aircrafts down at the first shot, and the game ended. D'oh!

Since it's basically three planes versus three planes, I'm not sure how the game would end in a single combat, especially since when a AC is hit one flips the counter to the damaged side. It would take two combats to eliminate any single plane. Are you sure you were playing correctly?


Maybe not, it was a couple of years ago and I don't remember it well.
We used the mounted counters that came with some magazine issue.
I remember I took the USA but the Reds took shot down my bomber (maybe using two dogfights?) while I could not maneuver the Phantoms in position.

Anyway, not a game from which to take lessons, that for sure.

What I see here is that the Vietnamese need protect the static depot at all costs but the Americans need protect the mobile bomber at all costs. Where the Vietnamese stand a chance comparatively is that the player knows where the US bomber has to get to and the bomber only gets two tries.
 
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