Campaign Series: Vietnam

This is a game I’ve been waiting on for a long time. Having heard about its development years ago, I kept it in the back of my mind because it seemed like it would be right up my alley. Operational combat in Vietnam from the 1940s to the 1960s. Campaign Series: Vietnam promised a lot of content, and I was content to wait for it’s arrival. It took a while to finally arrive, but all’s well that ends awesome.

French paratroopers rush through rice paddys to secure their target.

What Kind of Game is Campaign Series: Vietnam?

I suppose I’m relatively young in terms of the wargaming crowd, so it might not come as a surprise that I hadn’t ever played a Campaign Series game before, nor was I familiar with the series’ heritage at Talonsoft. I do have a boatload of John Tiller Software/Wargame Design Studio games though, so to my unknowing eyes, Campaign Series: Vietnam seemed like a polished JTS game right out of the gate. It’s not far from the mark, but there are some noticeable differences.

Vietnam is an operational wargame in either 2D or isometric 3D with counters representing platoons, teams, special units, leaders, and multiple vehicles. A traditional IGO-UGO system with reaction fire, players and the AI alternate activating their forces and spending action points to move, shoot, assault, or perform special actions. Vietnam has dozens of scenarios ranging from the French-Vietnamese War of Independence, the South Vietnamese Civil War, and the American War. The game ends its date range in 1967, and I hope this only means that DLC will be forthcoming.

There are tons of scenarios. Tons.

‘Operation’ is the Word

This is a tactical game, in that players are controlling platoons and teams as they maneuver them around a map to complete objectives, but the scope of many of the scenarios in Vietnam really highlight the special operational limitations and expectations that accompanied the war, especially during American scenarios. To my mind, including such difficulties elevates the gameplay to something more than the simple (albeit excellently implemented) tactical combat.

Victory points are not just tied to controlling objectives, but also fulfilling special objectives, inflicting disproportionate losses, and obeying certain rules of war. For instance, many scenarios penalize you for indirect fire into villages, towns, and city hexes. There are civilians going about their business that may or may not be enemies. There are IEDs and hidden minefields. Some scenarios even touch on difficult topics like forced relocation.

Bringing the scope of the game inline with the unique experiential factors that made the Vietnam war stand out in Western consciousness is much appreciated and elevates the game to new heights.

Airstrikes are getting a little close around LZ XRAY. But then so are the enemy.

Good Thing the Core is Rock Solid Too

After running through the tutorials to familiarize yourself with the hotkeys and general control, playing Campaign Series: Vietnam is a breeze. There are so many ways to customize the visual experience, all of which can be toggled on the fly, that I never felt I was making a mistake in control or blundering because of hidden information. Things are generally easy to control, produce satisfying results, and are backed up by the manual. The only thing I wish the tutorials covered better was command and control and supply, both of which require a quick read to confirm percentages.

The game is also appreciably difficult. The AI is quite good in my experience. My first attempt at Silver Bayonet’s landing at LZ X Ray resulted in my getting totally overrun. The NVA came on hard and fast and exploited my piecemeal entry to punch holes in my perimeter, encircle my limited improved positions, and then hammer them with arty when they finally fixed me. It took me a couple tries to really get the landing down and supported well.

I did notice a few bugs in my pre-release version of Vietnam. In one scenario the map labels failed to materialize at all. In another game the air strike icons did not go away after the successful strike, leaving me paranoid every time I wandered a unit through the hex. Small bugs, but they were there.

The 2D mode is still very pretty and easy to read.

Adequate Audio-Visuals

I’ve grown accustomed to the looks of JTS/WDS and now Campaign Series wargames. I find they have a certain charm to them, but they are nothing exceptional or very modern. I will say that Campaign Series: Vietnam is the only one from any of those series that will actually switch to the 3D view on occassion. It is far more readable than previous entries. The UI is easily navigable and I’m glad the decision was made to break the tool bar into multiple tabs.

As for the audio, its the same collection of motor noises, gun shots, and explosions this time supplemented by some ‘Vietnam-movie’ sounding music. It’s fine, again, but I turned it off fairly quickly.

There is a full editor I didn’t even touch!

Final Thoughts: Time to Run Through the Jungle

Campaign Series: Vietnam is excellent. The core gameplay is solid, the appreciation of the unique factors of the conflict are well represented, and there is a reasonable learning curve. The vast amount of content will keep players going for quite some time, and I can’t imagine a better Vietnam War game on the PC right now. Go check it out!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

An excellent wargame with a classic style and tons of content. Definitely worth your time.

-Joe Fonseca

Here is a link to the game’s page. We get nothing if you click that. LTAW does receive review copies of games.

We do have a patreon if you would like to support us directly. We use it to buy wargames. Shockingly.

Vietnam’s Call of Duty- 7554: Glorious Memories Revived

With a prayer for accuracy from the artillery-gentlemen on the hill, Hoàng Đăng Bình and his allies in the Viet Minh 204th regiment charge forwards to liberate Đông Khê from French colonial forces. Over the next hour the dedicated band of heroes liberate prisoners, assault bunkers, hold off waves of attackers, and finally liberate a small town from occupation. It could have been a level in any Call of Duty or Medal of Honor game, and that is the most fascinating part of playing 7554.

I may be terrible at First Person Shooters, but diving into Vietnam’s only major historical videogame production is worth my repeated (probably avoidable) deaths. From the Battle of Hanoi in 1946 to the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ in 1954, 7554 provides the perfect fodder for exploring how non-western companies and governments navigate historical memory and the business of selling videogames.

If you’re interested in watching the playthrough that inspired this article, head over to our Youtube channel.

7554‘s availability makes it one of the few non-western, non-Japanese historical war-themed games available for consumption outside their own domestic markets. This gives 7554 a unique and interesting seat amongst the many domestically produced propagandistic games that have been appearing around the world for nearly 20 years. (My repeated attempts to track down playable versions of Chinese produced wargames for the home market are a testament to the difficulty in finding anything working).

A brief overview: 7554 takes place during the First Indochina War, or the Anti-French Resistance War, placing the player as a Việt Minh fighter attempting to oust the French Colonial forces from their homeland. The game does its very best to present the conflict in purely those terms, with the focus on the Việt Minh’s tactical and strategic decisions over any attempt to engage with the political component of the conflict. It makes sense, 7554 was developed with help from the government of Vietnam, and they were very clear about what could and couldn’t be represented, according to the developers.

For instance, there is no multiplayer in 7554. Chiefly this is due to the fact that there cannot be any instance of shooting Việt Minh soldiers by the player. This extends much farther to the fact that the French forces on display in 7554 don’t include any of the 10s of thousands of Vietnamese who fought against the Việt Minh. Instead the French Forces are comprised of white and black Frenchmen, clearly indicating the colonial nature of the player’s opposing forces.

Materially, the game does an excellent job of portraying the hodgepodge of weaponry that would have been available to both sides. Weapons of Japanese, French, American, German, and Soviet make are all scattered throughout the game. The missions themselves play out in well done environments and are generally playable, though feel trapped in a world made in 2003. This is no real fault of the developers. They were working with the tools they had at hand a managed to make an interesting game with it.

Scattered throughout 7554 are key moments, usually cutscenes, that show the main characters or their comrades performing over the top heroic deeds. This initially struck me as hammy. But the more I played the more I realized that this is exactly the same kind of thing players see every time they boot up Call of Duty or any of the other myriad of shooters from the decade of the 2000s starring American soldiers. The propaganda is definitely tailored to the audience, with over the top heroics in 7554 replaced with awesome shows of technical force in later Call of Dutys.

There is a lot to talk about with this game, and I might make a second piece once we reach the conclusion of the main campaign. For now, I’d highly recommend checking out our Let’s Play if you have any interest in how this game portrays the conflict.

Joe

Images from Hiker Games Website http://www.hikergames.com/vi/game/pc/7554-69.html