Vietnam is a wargame that covers the whole of the Vietnam conflict from 1965 to 1975, and recreates both political and military aspects of that controversial war. It pits the arrogant US army, its “Free World” allies and the unreliable Army of the Republic of South Vietnam against the elusive Viet Cong and their North Vietnamese sponsors. Although several partial scenarios of variable size are available, the system really shows its worth in its campaign scenario, a monster undertaking not so much in size, but in length and depth. While it is not for the faint-of-heart, it will richly reward the players that can find the fortitude to play it through.
Although the simulation of such an atypical conflict certainly was a design challenge, the result is a multi-faceted chef-d’œuvre. The system features a series of original and intelligent mechanisms that integrate the parameters of the modern unconventional warfare of the Vietnam War. It captures the essence of the “cat and mouse” game between the US and the NLF and underlines the extraordinary asymmetry of both opponents’ profiles: the US/ARVN duet, a giant on clay feet, and the NLF driven by an unbreakable resolve. Each side’s prominent features are rendered though specific rules: Viet Cong units benefit from concealed strength and alert escape or dispersal, unavailable to the regular formations of North Vietnam. The US Army has at its disposal a vast array of means, from heliborne artillery to B-52’s, of hammering the enemy into submission, and enjoys an extraordinary operational flexibility. The readiness of the ARVN forces is constrained by its leaders’ pusillanimity and untrustworthiness. The military action is segmented into distinct operations, interactively alternating between US/ARVN and NLF. They consist of tactical postures, movement modes or offensive or defensive manoeuvres. Each operation has its specifically assigned troops and assets, a designated target, and is carried out to its conclusion, whether successful or not.
This allows strategical coverage of the whole front while separately focusing on the operational level of the game.The underlying political component of the conflict is not represented through abstract VP awards, as in many other games. Here, military strategy is very concretely subordinated to the political imperatives of the game, which terminally determine victory or defeat....
Two concepts, in particular, embody the political issues at stake: Pacification, the battle for the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people, and Morale, the belligerents’ willingness to pay the price for a final victory -and the stumbling block of the US strategy-. Last but not least, the game’s graphical presentation of both map and counters is remarkably beautiful.