Forgotten Heroes: Vietnam 2nd edition has recently (well, within the last six months or so) been released and it seems to have gotten a very good reception among players of the LnL series. Personally, I would agree that this is one of the better products released by Lock ‘n Load Publishing (LnLP) and it is a big step up in many ways in the whole evolution of the Lock ‘n Load game series. There are a few minor things that bugged me about the game but overall, I think it delivers a nice experience for LnL veterans and newbies alike.
Things I really liked:
The components for FH:V are top notch. LnLP has taken the 1st edition and updated almost everything about it, from the maps to the counter art, scenario cards, player aid cards and rules. Everything has been laminated and put on a nice thick stock of board and all the information is in color (except, of course, the rulebook) and quite easy to read. The map hex halos, which were a sore spot for some players of the 1st edition, are gone while the scenario cards, counter illustrations, and skill cards are nicely done. I’ve covered all this in my unboxing comments from last week if you’re interested in more information about this aspect of the game.
The scenarios are tight and include lots of interesting events and situations. They cover a great breadth of the Vietnam War in terms of years and also include five different fighting forces to play with (Viet Cong, NVA, ARVN, US Army, US Marines). The historical setups are nice with lots of good information and the events really do feel like you’re watching a good movie scene unfold. Every scenario I’ve played so far has come down to the wire. Lastly, there are nice and short scenarios you can run through in an evening (e.g. “River of Perfume”) while other scenarios are much longer and intricate. They’re all quite enjoyable and it’s all killer, no filler.
Equipment & Weapons
There’s a huge variety of stuff here to play with, from the Ontos tanks to flamethrowers, RPGs, grenade launchers (with The Thumper card), M113s APCs, claymores, and Huey gunships. Once you get used to how the rules for these things work, you’ll have a blast seeing how they all coalesce together to wreak havoc on the enemy.
There are a lot of great design comments included in both the scenarios and the module rules pertaining to Forgotten Heroes. Mark H. Walker talks about how he came up with the idea of for FH: Vietnam while playing the Platoon board game with his daughter (how awesome is that?!) and how it all seemed so easy at first until the real hard work began. The notes on the scenario cards are interesting and quite funny at times. You really do get a sense that this game is particularly special for the designer and why certain decisions were made. It made me want to play the game even more. I know Mark is a reader and perhaps in the future it would be nice to see a list of recommended books or articles for more information about certain battles or historical events portrayed in the scenarios. I’m always interested in knowing more about how things worked out in real life.
Things that could have been better:
Like any game, FH:V has its faults but they are pretty minor and don’t take away from any real enjoyment of the game.
The text font on a couple of the scenario cards is a bit mixed up but in no way interferes with comprehension or readability. It just seemed like someone missed this in the proofing stage. There were some minor factual errors in terms of historical accuracy with one of the scenario cards. It would have been nice if someone had caught that before the publishing stage.
Ordnance modifiers counters Oh, how frustrated I was when a game that uses a big mix of ordnance such as LAWs, Bazookas, RPG-2, RPG-7, not to mention tanks doesn’t have ordnance modifier counters included in the counter mix. Ordnance really does play quite a significant role in the game and the fact that units that are not destroyed by ordnance in a previous turn are already spotted by the unit firing the ordnance in subsequent turns is actually a pretty big deal as you can use it to force an opposing player to vacate key strong points. Heroes of the Gap did an excellent job of providing ordnance modifier counters to help remind players of this. Even one or two of these counters would help me immensely.
Heroes: This is really nitpicking but I really like it when heroes have names. It sort of brings the action on the board to life a bit more. It would have been nice to see a name on the hero counters instead of just “Hero”.
Air strike counters and rules: Vietnam was definitely a war where air power was a deciding factor in many ground battles. Although there are air strikes available in several scenarios, I wondered why there weren’t any air counters much like Heroes of the Gap used? The air strike rules for cannons and bombs introduced in Heroes of the Gap (which I really liked) are not used here. It would have been cool to see F-4 Phantom counters included in the mix.
Overall, I’m quite happy about Forgotten Heroes: Vietnam. It’s not just the subject matter that interests me but it also gives off a sense of a refined product. The unit strengths, special rules, and scenarios beautifully showcase an American force with superior equipment and training fighting desperately against more agile opponents. In that respect, it felt a lot like the excellent “Day of Heroes” game from LnLP, which focused on the events in Somalia in October of 1993. The variety of equipment and the quality of the counters, scenario cards, and other components are reminiscent of “Heroes of the Gap”. I think I’ll be playing Forgotten Heroes: Vietnam for quite some time and I’m sure the component durability will be tested thoroughly because I’ll be playing a lot of it.