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Wot I Think: Vietnam 65

We were soldiers. And logisticians.

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Once you’re comfortable with the controls and play principles – a process that shouldn’t take long bearing in mind V65’s underlying simplicity and crisp integrated tutorials – games last around 90 minutes. I’d estimate that at least 50 of those minutes are usually spent organising supply drops for your hungry, ammo-short grunts. Some players are already calling for greater logistical automation. If Every Single Soldier ever alter the supply mechanics – something they are considering, apparently – then any changes will need to be implemented extremely carefully. In many ways the daily grind of logistical support is Vietnam 65. The endless ritual of sending out crate-laden helicopters, like the endless ritual of arranging regular village visits, structures and propels play, and counterpoints the fairly simplistic combat. It’s a comfortingly repetitive process but it’s never totally identical from turn to turn.

Ah, this turn my Green Berets in the SW need provisions. As the Chinook I generally use to supply them is presently delivering arty ammo to my northern firebase, and I’ve already used the emergency aerial resupply option (expensive and only available once per turn) to save that ARVN unit in the NW, it looks like I’ll have to abandon that infantry insertion mission I’d planned and instead use its Huey for freight duties. Then again I could divert that damaged helo I was sending back to HQ for repairs…

At times V65 feels more like Industry Giant than Panzer General. You are constantly tinkering with and seeking to expand a complicated military machine. It would be a pity if future supply model tweaks sidelined the milk-runs.

The game’s genre-defying quirkiness extends to its approach to terrain, units, and bases. Engineering units can be used to clear jungle hexes, build roads, and construct secondary bases. Perhaps the most important decision in any session is where to place your one firebase – a fortified camp/artillery position that, if positioned wisely, quickly becomes a crucial distribution hub. Less important but more frequent are unit purchasing dilemmas.

Hmm, my Political Points total is now 3500. I can either buy a Cobra gunship (potentially useful in the heavily forested south) a couple of tanks (sure to be handy for dealing with trouble on that east-west road) or the infantry-Huey combo I need to monitor and influence those villages north of the river…

All ten unit types (Not shown above, are the South Vietnamese ‘ARVN’ troops Green Berets can train at forward bases) have their uses. While standard US infantry will probably end up undertaking the majority of your village visits, Green Berets are far more efficient as scouts. Operating without helicopters is theoretically possible, but would be madness given their cheapness, versatility, and durability. All units including choppers can survive a single successful enemy attack.

Perhaps if VC and NVA ambushes were a little deadlier, I wouldn’t have won every one of my last eight games. Right now, I’d argue that V65’s main problem isn’t laborious supply mechanics, a missing campaign mode (in place of a campaign there’s a medals and promotion system that rewards cumulative kill tallies and encourages tactical experimentation) or a glitchy UI (de-selecting a unit with a right-click doesn’t always work at the moment) it’s difficulty. After a week in the boonies, I’m starting to wish there was a difficulty setting above ‘veteran’. Unless the random map generator churns out an especially leafy venue, it’s rare I taste defeat. I’m still enjoying the process of methodically cleansing and controlling a map, but, with most available awards already adorning my uniform, victories are starting to lose their lustre.

Though there’s no immediate prospect of an ‘elite’ difficulty setting with a selection of gongs to go with it, Every Single Soldier are aiming to patch in a clutch of features that may render difficulty concerns moot. On the way is weather modelling that will ground Phantoms on occasion (Currently, once you’ve climbed a couple of rungs on the promotion ladder, napalm deluges can be called in every turn at no cost). Custom games with player-determined victory and starting conditions are also planned.

I wonder if Johan is considering ‘map size’ and ‘village count’ sliders. Adding a few extra columns/rows of hexes or a couple of extra settlements to a map, would be a very naturalistic way of ramping up difficulty. Automatically increase venue size with every victory and you’ve got the foundations for a simple yet diverting SP campaign mode.

Whatever happens to Vietnam 65 during the coming nine months, I’m confident it will go down as one of 2015’s most original and moreish military strategy games. A few months ago in The Flare Path I mused on the subject of ‘the perfect introductory wargame’. Assuming you aren’t allergic to a little logistical hard work, this cheap, flavoursome slice of Sixties history might just be it.

Vietnam 65 is available now, priced $10/£7

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Tim Stone

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