Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tet 68 review

The issue game in Command Magazine No. 18, Tet 68 is the most S&T-like wargame to appear in the pages of Ty Bomba's competing periodical. While always clearly simulation wargames, rather than just war-themed games, most Command Magazine wargames stressed playability as a major factor. One of their techniques was a reliance on standard wargame mechanics and an avoidance of charts and tables whenever possible, which caused some critics to say the games were too much alike (but it did succeed in making the games easier to play).

On the other hand, over its long history Strategy & Tactics magazine games have often experimented with different game mechanics and have not been afraid to use charts/tables and intricate game rules in order to be more realistic. Many S&T games seem designed more to be a study than a game.

Tet 68 is closer to the S&T philosophy than most Command games, which is not surprising, considering that the game's designer, Joe Miranda, designed many games for S&T and eventually became its editor. Miranda's designs are notable for paying a lot of attention to the political aspects of warfare, and Tet 68 is no exception. Players who bring a "panzer-pushing" mindset will find themselves losing in spectacular fashion, especially as the Communist side. But even US/ARVN players are cautioned that a purely military approach will not bring victory in this game, which covers the decisive 1968 Communist offensive. While a failure militarily, the Communist offensive's political impact was wide and deep and set the stage for their eventual victory.

Each hex is about 25 miles across and the map covers all of South Vietnam and southern Laos, and parts of Cambodia, Thailand and North Vietnam. Another functional and attractive Mark Simonitch production, it shows a wide variety of natural and man-made terrain, including jungles, swamps, mountains, cities, towns, camps, roads, bases and rivers. One unusual terrain feature are "popular areas" which represent rural regions that were friendly to one side or the other. Concentrated in the southern part of South Vietnam, they play a large part in the political warfare of the game.

The 1/2-inch counters in wargame standard NATO symbol/combat factor/movement factor format depict the sides in the by-now familiar color schemes that were usually used by XTR. The US forces are in black on olive, South Vietnamese are red on yellow and various allied forces (Australia, South Korea, Philippines, Thai, Laos, Cambodia) are black on brown. Units are divisions and brigades/regiments. US divisions have two steps while other units have just one. Some of the unusual units that appear include military police, psychological warfare units and various kinds of special forces.

The North Vietnamese Army (NVA) units are yellow on red and Viet Cong forces are black on red. All the Communist units are one-step, with the other side using a yellow or black star to show the Communists in "underground" mode. A few US side units also have this ability.This "underground" mode is the key design element of the game, as it allows guerrilla units to be hidden, and makes them immune from attack except under certain conditions.

The 14-pages of rules include sections on intelligence, combat support, popular areas, Dau Tranh (Total Struggle) and other peculiar aspects of the war, for a game of moderate complexity by wargame standards. Victory is measures by victory points, with both sides amassing their totals separately (one side's gain is not the other side's loss, directly). The Communist player gets points for attacking American units, holding cities and bases. The American side scores points for eliminating Communist units. Both sides can gain or lose points for political combat and collateral damage.Combat is firepower based, with the more combat factors increasing the chances or a favorable result. Defenders fire first, followed by the attacker. The US side had an enormous advantage in available firepower, naturally.

The game takes about 20 minutes to set up and can be played in one sitting.There is a 10-turn standard scenario covering the first phase of the offensive and a second 11-turn "total victory" scenario for the Allied counteroffensive. Each turn is a week.


(Yes) For Wargamers: A interesting game on the campaign.

(No) For Collectors: No remarkable collectibility.

(No) For Euro gamers: A detailed, intricate hex-and-counter wargame with some arcane game mechanics on top of that.

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