Tuesday, April 19, 2016

P is for Print-and-Play #atozchallenge

Today's post is about Print-and-play games.  Advances in computer and printer technology have allowed gamers to be able to download and print out board, card, and role-playing games at home.  My previous posts on the Starfleet Battles Cadet Training Manual are meant to explore what it is like to print out a game product and test the playability of that product.  There are a number of high quality print-and-play products that are available to the modern gamer.  Some are out of print games and others are new games sold at economical prices.  I like the idea of print-and-play games, although I will usually pay more for professionally produced components.  I do think that print-and-play gaming has opened up the hobby to new designers and new products that might not otherwise has a forum.

My first online board game review was for a print-and-play game, Vietnam Solitaire.  I posted it on boardgamegeek.com in 2009.  I am reprinting it here.

Vietnam Solitaire
For $4 you receive one PDF file containing the rules for the game, the map, and counters that you will need to cut out and mount. You will need to provide a six-sided dice.

The map is divided into 5 regions of South Vietnam, and each region has four areas. Each area is a specific type of terrain (jungle, urban) which affects the fighting ability of certain units. Printed next to the map is a turn track, a track for political points, a combat chart, turn order, and a political point chart. Combat is based on rolling a single six-sided die.

The counters are actual pictures. The B-52 is a picture of an airplane; the VC counter has an actual Viet Cong soldier on it. The one issue I had with the counters were the trail counters were hard to figure out (it’s a picture of the trail) and the Green Beret counters were a picture of Rambo. For the wargame purist there are alternate counters available for download from boardgamegeek.com. 

In my opinion the rules are well written. There are even a few optional rules. One of the options does away with political points and instead allocates forces to the player in accordance with what was available that year. I found two typos but otherwise I could understand them as written.

My Print-and-Play copy of Vietnam Solitaire, complete with pile of homemade counters.

Game play

The game is more about resource management than fighting. The concept is that eventually the North Vietnamese will win the war. The players job as the U.S. is to last as long as possible. The player has various forces at his disposal, such as ARVN troops, grunts, napalm, and B-52 bombers. Using these forces costs political points. As the player spends them they move the political point marker up the track. They must fight against VC and NVA troops who continue to flow into the country via the Ho Chi Minh Trail. At the end of each turn the player moves the political point marker back depending on how well they performed that turn. The player’s success is determined by how many turns they can last before the track goes past 14 political points.

The player’s forces have various functions and levels of effectiveness. Bombers and green berets can attack the Ho Chi Minh trail. Grunts and Air Calvary are more effective than ARVN troops, but they cost more political points to use. Player casualties also cause your political points to increase. It is easy to throw napalm and bombers at the enemy however this increases your political points and brings the game closer to the end. Luck does play a part, as bad dice roles can quickly overwhelm the player.

Vietnam Solitaire was surprisingly fun to play. I was a little suspicious of the game, but after playing it a few times I found it to be very challenging. Defeating the enemy without spending too many political points is difficult, especially if you roll poorly. I have found the game quite hard to play. Currently I’ve only lasted about 3 turns before I run out of political points. 

Overall I found it to be an inexpensive and enjoyable game that illustrates an important historical concept about the Vietnam War. It really shows how the U.S. withdrew because they did not have the political will or capital to continue fighting. I might even use it in my history class.

Vietnam Solitaire provides a challenge for a single player with a good deal of replayability. I definitely feel like I got my $4 out of the game. Check it out.

By the way, White Dog Games publishes Vietnam Solitaire,  They have updated the game and sell a special edition, with you can get in print-and-play format or as a boxed game or folio game.  You can order it here.