Archive for the ‘Vietnam War’ Category

105800 It’s hard to believe that it’s nearly two years now since Henry Hyde’s The Wargaming Compendium was unleashed upon wargamers the world over.  Now, it’s back, significantly cheaper, and significantly lighter…yet still bursting with all – if not more – of the content that made its original release so awesome.

There are many great things about The Wargaming Compendium that make it an essential purchase, but one of the things to strike me upon reading it cover to cover for the first time is how useful it is no matter if this is the first thing you’ve ever read on wargaming, or if you’re an old hand who’s devoted his spare bedroom over to a 32mm recreation of The Battle of Stamford Bridge.

Within are tips and guides for choosing which era you want to fight in, how to prep and paint figures, how to build and lay-out terrain…pretty much everything you could need. Complete games/rulesets are supplied, as well as a pretty comprehensive directory of conventions, websites, magazines and publishers.  All periods of history are covered, from Ancients to Ultra-Modern, with a fair amount of discussion also given over to fantasy and sci-fi games. I cannot recommend this book enough.

No matter what your experience level, or what aspect of wargaming you are interested in, there is plenty in here to make it worth your while.  And now it’s lighter, as well. Bonus.

Buy it with your hands.  Again.



Vietnam-War-Hub-A When it was originally published, the twenty-five-volume Vietnam Experience offered the definitive historical perspectives of The Vietnam War from some of the best rising authors on the conflict. This new edition updates the war on the fifty years that have passed since the war’s initiation.

The official successor to the Pulitzer Prize–nominated set, The American Experience in Vietnam combines the best serious historical writing about the Vietnam War with new, never-before-published photos and perspectives. New content includes social, cultural, and military analysis; a view of post 1980s Vietnam; and contextualizing discussion of U.S involvement in the Persian Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Vietnam-War-Hub-AOn first impressions, you could be forgiven for thinking that The American Experience in Vietnam: Reflections on an Era is just another coffee table book.  Dip inside, though, and you’ll be impressed by how much is in there.  The photos are – of course – simply excellent, but the accompanying text is deep, and insightful.  What’s more, it also manages to strike that balance between focusing on the stories and experiences of individuals, and that of explaining their role in the grander scheme of things.

All aspects of the war are covered, making it a truly engrossing read for anyone with an interest in The Vietnam War.

vietnam-war-protestAnd it still manages to look good on your coffee table.


There are many broad studies of the Vietnam War, but Company of Heroes offers an insight into the harrowing experiences of just a small number of men from a single unit, deep in the jungles of Vietnam and Cambodia. It is the account of a Medal of Honor recipient whose brave actions were forgotten for over three decades, Leslie Sabo Jr. 

Sabo and other replacement soldiers in Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 506th Infantry (Currahees), 101st Airborne Division, were involved in intense, bloody engagements such as the battle for Hill 474 and the Mother’s Day Ambush. Beginning with their deployment at the height of the Tet Offensive, and using military records and interviews with surviving soldiers, Eric Poole recreates the terror of combat amidst the jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam. 


Company of Heroes is exceptionally well written. This is a book about a very small group of people and their place in a very large conflict. What’s great is that it makes you care about Sabo and his friends straight off of the bat. They are people you know and care about by the end of the first few chapters, which is something very few writers seem able to accomplish. 

Sabo is the focus of this book, and it’s easy to see why. He is a lively and likeable character. It’s easy to understand why he was so well thought of by all who knew him, and Poole presents him very well. 


The contrast presented between the soldiers home life and their time “in country” is very jarring. It really hits home the hardships that every trooper had to face in the Vietnam War.

Highly recommended – nay, essential – reading for anyone with an interest in The Vietnam War.  

A Pleb Plays…Vietnam ’65

Posted: March 23, 2015 in Gaming, Vietnam War


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!


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’.


The Vietnam War Experience is a dramatic guide to the suffering, sacrifice and heroism of the Vietnam War. It sees the highs and lows of the world’s first television war through the eyes of those who fought in it – both the generals commanding the war and the ordinary soldiers on the ground and in the air.

Setting it apart from other current books about The Vietnam War, it is made unique through the inclusion of facsimiles of paraphernalia such as posters, official documents and Airborne Death Cards.


The Vietnam War Experience is not only a very attractive and substantial coffee table book, it is also an excellent introduction to the war for those who are newcomers to either gaming or studying the period.  In fact, as an overview and/or introduction, it’s simply superb.  The photos are excellent, covering all different theaters and aspects of the conflict, and while some detail is obviously sacrificed for the sake of space, what is included is very sufficiently explained.

What is also a nice touch is that – especially considering its status as a “coffee table book”, it is very well paced indeed, developing more of an action-packed tone as the war builds in intensity.  A slow burning introduction covers the setting of the era, The Battle of Dien Bien Phu and the gradual buildup towards US involvement.  When Rolling Thunder or Linebacker are underway, it feels almost adrenalised.  This really helps with the immersive experience that the book endeavours to produce.


The pull out and paraphernalia sections are excellent facsimiles of documents, cards and posters, which add to the immersion and experience of the book.  The reference cards and posters provided are especially eye-catching and interesting.

All in all, this is an excellent art book for those who are already aficionados of the war, but also provides an excellent “jumping on point” for that who are interested, but don’t rightly know where to start.

Not truly a full battle report, but I managed to get a few cool photos of my brother and I playing a game of Tumbling Dice’s Thud Ridge last night.  We played on a slightly smaller 5’x3′ table, as opposed to the recommended 6’x4′, and I have to say that I think it actually worked better.  It cut down on the first couple turns of flying straight forward, and unless we were playing a particularly large battle, or if I were fielding four B-52s or something, I’d probably stick to playing on a 5’x3′ in future.

Thud Ridge is a great system; the always desirable “Easy to Learn, Hard to Master” gaming grail.  For £10 you can pick up the rules, as well as more than enough planes to get you through your first few games.

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Two F-105 Thunderchiefs (background) look like they’re in danger of being intercepted by two MiG-21 Fishbeds.  The gouts of flame indicate that the planes have fired their afterburners this turn.  Afterburners both allow a significant speed boost, and give planes a little more leeway when pushing their vehicles to the limits.  The number in blue represents the plane(s) height, and the red number represents their “Energy” (an abstracted combination of thrust and momentum).


The SA-2 guideline (MDF disc on he left), manages to get a target lock onto Echo, piloting an F-4 Phantom II.  The USAF player then has one turn to either pull off enough evasive manoeuvres to break the target lock, or hope that a Wild Weasel plane can eliminate the SAM, or force it to shut off its targetting.  This disc is just a place holder until I can knock up some model SAMs that I’m happy with.


Echo and Splashdog flying the F-4s in formation.  Formation flying allows you to move one plane, and then place the wingman in any position with the bases touching.  It serves no apparent strategic purpose, but does speed up movement in the early stages of the game.

11044501_10153256272650832_1206192453592889998_nTwo MiG-19s prowl around the railyard which – for this scenario – is the USAF’s prime target.  They score points for dropping ordnance on target, so stopping them is vital for an NVAF victory.


MiG-21 breaks to the right of a wing of F-105s.  The call-signs on the base, combined with the character sheets (on the clipboard, top right) are an invention of my own for tracking ordnance and damage to individual planes.  The call-signs for the USAF planes are taken from Phantom Leader, one of my favourite boardgames.


The F-105 Thunderchiefs (nicknamed “Thuds”) are debatably the fastest and most manoeuvreable planes in the game, with both a high energy capacity, and afterburners.


The Thuds drop Mk82 Iron Bombs on their river target, and easily avoid the inferior MiG-19s.


Cajun dives his Phantom to Height Level 2, which effectively screens it from the SA-2 on the other side of the ridge.  SAMs cannot draw line of sight through high ground, if the target is at Height Level 1 or 2.


Mastering the banking and turing circles is vital to victory.  Here, the MiG-21s have just overshot the F-4, and will not be able to make a shot on it just yet.


The history of the Cobra helicopter is a long and varied one, characterised by extensive deployment in some of the most dynamic theatres of war. Designed in 1965, we have hit the fiftieth anniversary of the AH-1’s inception into the world of combat flight, so it seems timely that we should be presented with this, a comprehensive historical account of the various landmarks of the Cobra’s service history.
ID45165_600This heavily illustrated volume relays the story of the Cobra from the days of early development and concept dissection right through to modern day uses, in both combat and civil contexts. Details of the early trials at Rucker are detailed, as is the birth of air mobile deployment, offering an illuminating insight into a most eventful period of developmental expansion. A full account of the Cobra’s service history during the Vietnam campaign is also included, describing the various tactics and weapons employed. The development of iconic variants such as the King Cobra and Supercobra is outlined, their individual histories set alongside those of lesser known and under-sung types, one off designs and oddities that add yet more colour to this fascinating history.


The photos through Cobra!: The Attack Helicopter are absolutely incredible.  They are numerous, and all interesting (turns out you can have quantity and quality!).  The text is interesting, entertaining and informative, without getting bogged down in all the technical details that can sometimes render the text virtually unreadable among all the version numbers and sub-classifications!

The Cobra’s operational history is comprehensive, and a nice mixture of operational level overviews, and some first-hand memoirs and stories from the people who flew in the Cobra in theatre.

If you’re interested in the Cobra – or attack helicopters in general – then Cobra! – The Attack Helicopter: Fifty Years of Sharks Teeth and Fangs is an essential purchase.

Take a preview here:

9781782008040Despite its ‘F-for-fighter’ designation, the F-105 Thunderchief was designed and purchased to give the USAF an aircraft capable of the delivery of nuclear weapons at very high-speed, long-range and below-the-radar altitudes. However, when the Vietnam War began, it also emerged as the USAF’s best available tactical bomber for a ‘limited conventional’ war as well. Extensively targeted by MiG-17 Frescos and MiG-21 Fishbeds the F-105 Thunderchief pilots developed innovative tactics that allowed them to compete in air-to-air duels with their smaller, more manoeuvrable enemies.

Illustrated throughout with extensive photographs detailing weapon loads, internal features and action shots of actual engagements, F-105 Thunderchief MiG Killers of the Vietnam War examines the conduct of the Rolling Thunder strike missions and the tactics used for attack and defence by the attack, escort fighter and radar monitoring elements within strike formations.

Perfect for both experts and beginners, this is a great book covering my personal favourite fighter plane of the Vietnam War.  The book opens up with a nice solid introduction, and doesn’t lay the facts and stats and figures too heavily – which some Osprey books can be a little guilty of, blinding the reading with a pile of numbers.  Instead, we get a brief introduction, and then…a lot of action!

F-105 Thunderchief MiG Killers of the Vietnam War feels significantly more action packed and narrative driven than a lot of history books, and I’m always a massive fan of this style.  The pace and the accompanying photographs and illustrations make this a very entertaining read.  A large section is given over to loadouts and then there are a few well-written examples of dogfights that the F-105 Thunderchiefs found themselves embroiled in.

The artwork works brilliantly as a painting guide, even for someone like me who models at a very small-scale (1:600).

This is a lively, vibrant book covering an underrated fighter plane of the theatre, and I’d love to see more in this style.

War Tales

Fred Davis of Englewood graduated from high school in 1942 and immediately signed up for the Army Air Corps during the middle of World War II.

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Phantom Leader: Linebacker

Posted: October 5, 2014 in Gaming, Vietnam War

That’s…well defended…