Recreating the Vietnam War is no easy task. The nature of insurgencies, and the asymmetry of the opposing forces can be difficult to capture in a set of game rules. But Mark G. McLaughlin and T. Larry Tuohy tried just that in No Trumpets No Drums found in Wargamer # 22. The designers sum up what they were trying to achieve in the following quote,
This was not a conventional war; both the regular army of a country with which the United States was never officially at war, and the bush wise guerrillas of the National Liberation Front were engaged in an unconventional, ideologically-oriented war, the aim of which was to destroy the enemy’s morale and political control of the populace before attempting military victory.
The question to ask is did the designers succeed? The short answer is yes, but that’s boring so let’s look at the long answer.
Each turn of the game sees the two players either recruiting new troops or receiving reinforcements. The players also battle for political control on the Hearts and minds track which is used to show how much a particular area of South Vietnam or neighbouring neutral countries (Laos and Cambodia) are supporting your side. There is movement and combat and the Communist side can move its forces flipped so the Allied player isn’t sure about its strength or if the counter is a dummy counter and represents bad intelligence but no actual troops. Though Communist forces must be face up to ‘capture’ cities and influence the Hearts and Minds track – ie they have to make themselves an open target for Allied reprisal.
The Allied player has lots of hardware on their side from airmobile units, river patrols, ground support, firebases to strategic bombing. (Though using strategic bombing negatively impacts on the Hearts and Minds track.) The Allied forces also include Rangers and Green Berets. The Green Berets don’t actually move once placed on the map but have a larger ‘zone of influence’ than other units which can cause flipped Communist forces to reveal themselves. The Green Berets can also recruit Montagnards to the Allied cause.
The communist player receives a steady stream of recruits and cans also appeal to China and the USSR for aid, which can be supplies, planes, tanks SAM units or more recruits. If the appeal is successful the Communist player can choose what form the aid takes. There are also random events which can disrupt plans (draft riots, successful intelligence operation) or improve your position (extra recruits, political support in US).
The Allied player also has to be aware of the political points track. Political points are used to pay for troops and are lost due to casualties and territory losses. Basically the higher the number the better, but if it drops too low political forces back in the US may force the removal of US troops.
As you can gather there is a lot going on in this game. Players have to balance their military operations with what they are trying to achieve politically. As the Allied player you feel like you never have enough troops to meet all the threats, and you also have to keep an eye over your shoulder to make sure your political masters are still supporting you. As the Communist player you have a large number of troops on the map who can move around quite easily when hidden, but a never strong enough to challenge Allied military power but have to reveal themselves to gain any political support.
This is a great game to play, but can’t be discussed without mention of the map and counters. The colours of both are jarring to say the least. A lime green map with almost invisible hexes and bright orange, pink and purple country borders it almost defies description. Add to this the pink, purple and yellow counters, or the US forces which are lime green on an olive green background and you can see what people are complaining about, or not as your eyes are firmly shut while looking for a spare pair of sunglasses.
It does look like the artist was having a bad acid trip while designing this colour scheme and maybe that’s the point. I’ll let Colonel Kurtz have the last words:
‘The horror, the horror’.
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- Kim MeintsUnited States
I've enjoyed this game since the day it was published and gotten as part of my subscription to the Wargamer.
Yes the graphic's are slightly funky but the simpler mechanic's of this compared to Victory Games Vietnam(which is a very great game but takes a good amount of time to play) usually meant that this was the game I would play when wanting something easier,faster on the subject.Late Micro Design Groups-Victory in Vietnam filled the bill.
I do drag No Trumpets,No Drums out every once in awhile for a spin
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- Steve Herron(sherron)United States
TennesseeNever play block wargames with a dentist, they have those little mirrors to peek behind the block.
Quote:It does look like the artist was having a bad acid trip while designing this colour scheme and maybe that’s the point.You hit the nail on the head, that is the best way to describe the map. I sold the copy I had when I got Hearts&Minds.
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- Robert HelbingUnited States
I found this game fun, playable, balanced and very well-informed about the nuances of the war. The military aspect has pride of place, but politics (and economics) play key roles. It doesn't have the tactical detail of Victory Games VietNam 1965-75, but it doesn't take nearly the time to play either. And unlike VietNam 1965-75, No Trumpets, No Drums addresses the related conflicts taking place in Laos and Cambodia.
Yes, the map is ugly. It was an ugly war .
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