The line between disorder and order lies in logistics…
– Sun Tzu
At some point last year I picked up the game Vietnam 65 on Steam. I’d read a favorable review of it elsewhere and put it on my wish list and, when it came up on a sale, I bought it.
And then I sat on it for many months. It was installed, but unlauched, not an unheard of situation for games purchased on Steam.
Then came the Steam Spring Cleaning Sale a few weeks back which, among other things, encouraged Steam users to play games they hadn’t played in a while or had sitting in their library yet hadn’t played at all. They were offering a badge as a bribe and convincingly listed titles that applied for each category and Vietnam 65 covered a couple of those. So I launched it at last.
The reviews for the game were good and I can see why now. Vietnam 65 is simple for a war game. I pretty much picked up most of what I needed in the tutorial mission. After that there were just a couple of units to learn about and I had the basics. Then it was just up to me to actually play the game.
Winning is measured by the state of the hearts and minds of the province you’ve been assigned to protect. Defeating Viet Cong or National Vietnamese Army units strengthens your position in the province so the locals will trust you. Letting the VC or NVA run wild or mass their forces turns the locals away from you.
Those two also affect the political will of the people at home which impacts your supply and replacement situation. If you’re winning, the folks at home are happy to reinforce success, but if you end up losing badly you’ll find it tough to climb back as supplies and replacements dry up.
Generally speaking the US forces can dominate any situation. Infantry, tanks, Green Berets, air strikes, attack helicopters, and artillery will lay Charlie low when you spot him. The key is finding Charlie. The fog of war is your main barrier to success. You have to keep scouting.
I’ve been most effective with a fire base planted in the midst of some villages and a couple of Green Beret units, scouts who can spot from a distance without being seen, and dropping artillery from the base, along with air strikes when available, on targets of opportunity, with a Chinook helicopter keeping the fire base supplied with ammo.
Supply is key. You units out in the field can only survive for so long without being resupplied. A lot of the effort of the game is keeping the supplies coming to your units out looking for the enemy. And your helicopters, which can only move so far in a turn, also need to get back to base to refuel before they can haul more supplies. Some of my early disasters have been caused by too many units spread far afield and waiting too long to start supply runs.
The combat is pretty basic. There is a simple win/lose mechanic for straight up fights and a hit/miss roll for artillery, air strikes, and other indirect fire. US units are eliminated after two losses. This includes your helicopters, which can come under fire from the ground when trying to get supplies out to your units in the field. One such hit means they need to get back to base for repair, while the second hit sends them crashing into the jungle, leaving a wreck behind to remind you of your mistake.
But combat can be simple, as it is an end result of your efforts. You need to get out in the field and find the enemy. The local villagers will help you with intel if you have proven yourself around them. Defeating nearby hostile units will help, as will clearing mines from the vicinity of their town of hooking them up to the road network with your engineers.
Once you get used to things and find you’re winning every game decisively you can start fiddling with the difficulty. There are two presets; Normal, which is where you start, and Veteran, which is all the sliders moved to “hard.” In between there is Custom, which lets you tinker with the sliders so you can build up to Veteran.
Veteran is a challenge. You start behind on hearts and minds, your supply pool is low, the enemy is very aggressive, the weather is bad, and the jungle is very dense. I’ve survived a few rounds of Veteran, but faced defeat as I could not repair or replace units due to a loss of public support from about the halfway point of the game.
The game is single player only. It also comes with 51 achievements which, because it is single player, you can go out and earn without having to interact with anybody else. Some are easy, and some are not, requiring you be running in Veteran settings to start with.
All in all an approachable war game that has enough depth and replayability to keep you going for a while. Play time for a 45 round game is a little over an hour. Some turns take time, some go by fast. Overall I recommend the game. You can read up about it over on Steam.
Vietnam 65 is actually a few years old now and the company that made it has released something of a successor, Afghanistan 11. In the same vein as the original, you are fighting a counter insurgency and have to win the hearts and minds by finding the insurgents and proving you can protect the locals.
I have already purchased Afghanistan 11, but haven’t dug into it yet because I am not done with the original. But if you want to move on to more recent conflicts, you can find it on Steam as well.