A Pleb Plays…Vietnam ’65

Posted: March 23, 2015 in Gaming, Vietnam War

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Joseph Crouch is back, and this time we’ve dropped him via Huey into the Ho Chi Minh Trail…

On starting Vietnam 65’ I am struck by the simple design, the almost retro but not quite old school aesthetic…which is the point, based on further reading.

At first I really disliked this game.  This I attributed to my lack of understanding in what to do; my first go amounted to just clicking pointlessly in the hopes that I would encounter some VC. Granted this was the basic tutorial section, teaching you what you need to know to pass the tutorial but not necessarily what you need to know in order to beat the game. The child in me hated this, and being used to games which led you by hand in almost every faculty, it was a change of pace that I wasn’t ready for.

Then, something quite marvellous happened.

I carried on playing.

5405588_origInstead of turning my back on Vietnam 65’ I delved deeper, looking at the advanced tutorials to fuel this now insatiable need to understand the game. Something about Vietnam 65’ struck a chord with me; I imagine the same chord that Dark Souls had strummed vehemently a few summers ago. For whatever reason, either my own ignorance or the loose objectives of the game, I wanted to master Vietnam 65’.

The structure of the game is quite simple: you move, they move. I mean, there’s a tiny bit more to it than that, but I think it’s the simplicity of this game that marks it in memory. You’ve got forty-five turns in which to battle the VC/NVA.  Victory is measured via a “Hearts and Minds” meter. Keeping it above fifty will ensure your success, letting it fall below determines how badly you lose. Things like killing VC and detecting mines alter this value and also give you the funds to buy more units! There are nine unit types, from infantry, land vehicles and choppers. Each has it’s own strength and also it’s own cost in political points (the currency used to buy and move units). Your turn will focus on supply management as much as combat. In fact, and quite obviously, you ain’t going to be firing on VC’s without bullets son!

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Suffice it to say, my first playthrough didn’t end well. Hell, my first coupl’a playthroughs saw me sending units blindly to the end of the map because I thought I was “capturing control points”. And yeah, there’s an element of that, but the main goal of Vietnam 65’ is outlasting. And this is the first instance where gameplay has made a point so succinct. The point being that this is a war that cannot be won. That’s not even your job, you’ve just got to survive until the turn count is up and hope that after forty-five turns you’ve managed to keep the “Hearts and Minds” score above fifty in order to gauge your success.

I’ve never played a hex-based game, let alone a Vietnam based one, so instead of trying to keep my H&M score up I spent the time trying to even get to turn forty-five.

But, even after the defeats, I still want to come back for more.

And that’s why I can heartily recommend Vietnam 65’.

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