Monday, 2 May 2016

Quick Looks April II: Dien Bien Phu, The Final Gamble

This is a game for people who value narrative content over anything else in a wargame and will pay any price to get it. I can best illustrate this with a comparison between the French supply systems in this game against the supply system in the Operational Combat Series from Multiman publishing.

To determine the amount of generic supply counters you get in in an OCS game you roll 2 dice and consult a chart and put that many tokens on the map at your supply point hex. These counters are then used to pay for ammo, artillery shells, aircraft refueling and sometimes food. They are generic abstracted supply, the detail is in how they are moved around the map.
Gabrielle has fallen, this helps maintain the Vietminh moral for a few more turns.

In Dien Bien Phu artillery ammo, food, fuel and medicine are all recorded on separate tracks. You spend meds to heal injured units and to keep malaria at bay, you spend ammo for each arty strike you carry out, you loose 4 food a turn or suffer for it, and if you run out of fuel you cannot do much in the way of strategic movement. Halfway through each turn you will reduce each of these tracks. You then get to take little ammo, medicine, food etc tokens and load them on to slots in a supply drop matrix. The number of spaces in the matrix goes down with bad weather and the encroachment of Vietminh trenches. You then roll a die and this tells you how many supply drops are aborted (it will be between 1 and 9). If you roll 9 you will roll two dice nine times cross referring the matrix each time to discard a supply drop. You then re-adjust the tracks back up based on what supplies you gained. Seeing the effect of malaria, the loss of drop sites and the whittling down of food and fuel supplies adds a lot to the story but fairly little in terms of decision making.

Starting setup
Kim de Kanger has shown some strokes of genius in this design on Dien Bien Phu, it is essentially a question of who will break first so he has loaded his rules density on to the French supply and the Vietminh moral. A lot of the real decision making falls around when to push and how hard. Do you take your foot of the gas and conserve or do you pump the accelerator and throw in a risky counter attack? I prefer games of manoeuvre to games of resource management, with Dien Bien Phu having a bias to the latter.
Combat has defensive fire and then assaults, quite a few counters can get stacked up.
Dien Bien Phu the final gamble does what it does very well, it has a cool artillery system, nice components, it produces a good story but it takes a lot of mental investment. Whether there will be a payoff for you depends on how much you get out of narrative detail.

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