So over the weekend I caved in and bought the new Tour of Duty Flames of War Vietnam book. I had decided that I wasn’t going to get into the period, but as an obsessiveness compulsive collector I thought I’d need (and yes it is a need!) the book to complete my Flames of War Book collection. So after a few reads through and a little comparison to Tropic Lightning I thought I’d do a little review of the book.
Firstly I’d like to say this book looks gorgeous, easily the nicest looking book Battlefront have done (even better than Cassino). I was a little disappointed with presentation of Market Garden as I fell the book looked a little plain in places but hopefully this is a sign it was just a one off and normal service has been resumed.
The book follows the standard Battle Front practice of giving you an overview of the war, followed by some more detailed bits about each force or particular battle. As someone with an interest in Vietnam but not as massively detailed knowledge like I do of WW2 I found this very useful and informative. My one problem with Tour of Duty is the list layout. The PAVN lists in the book are in the order they would have appeared in the war, so when you have to flick through most of the book to find one platoon that can be a little annoying.
Overall this is a lovely book and just from flicking through it I was glad I picked it up from a collection point of view alone. It’s also a big book with over 130 pages, thats about the same size as Bridge By Bridge!
Forces of the Free World
In the book you have 12 different Forces of the Free World that represent the US, ANZAC & ARVN (the South Vietnamese). The US Forces get the bulk of the lists with 6 lists, most of the are slightly revamped lists from Topic Lightning, but you now have a pure Infantry Company and a full Air Cavalry Troop (this is different from the Airmobile List), also the ANZAC and ARVN forces have been added there is a lot of options in the non Air Cav lists to have support from these lists. On the most part the lists aren’t massively different from the old lists (bar the Air Cavalry List). One nice new option is the addition of the Medevac and OP Helicopters as there own choice instead of a unit upgrade. Also the new OH-6 Loach adds a very nice new helicopter option as it can lift Gone To Ground and Concealment from enemy troops, plus it also counts as a recon unit to help stop Guerrilla Ambush, so I think we’ll see a lot of these in the game and they will be the prime target for the enemy’s AA.
One think that did surprise me was the lack of different ratings for the same list, all Infantry Companies and Mech Infantry Companies are Confident Trained with no option for Veteran, I would have though a few of the unit in Nam would have done well enough and been around long enough to get a Veteran rating, but as this is the first proper book in the range that might be something we see in a future book.
The ANZAC have 3 lists, a Tank Company, a Cavalry Troop equipped with M113’s and a Rifle Company. All the ANZAC units are Veteran with the Aussie’s being Fearless and the Kiwi’s being Confident, although the only Kiwi options are for infantry. The ANZAC’s have a few nice rules that make them very different from there US cousins. Firstly all the infantry count as recon for ambushes (pretty big in Nam I would have thought), secondly the SLR rules are very nice, they are MG teams that get an extra dice in defence fire (so yes thats right 3 dice in defencive fire when pinned!), also they have an extra 4 inches over the M16.
The force I’m very interested in is the Tank Company. The Centurion is a great looking model, it’s also the deadliest tank in the book on a pure tank on tank basis with Anti Tank 17 with the APDS upgrade. The ANZAC special rules are very similar to the rules from the “Normal” FOW. You have Mission Tactics, Mike Target and The Kiwi’s get British Bull Dog. Some nice new rules is the spotting rifle for the Centurion which means it doesn’t get the +1 for shooting at long range and a ammo carrier rule for the M113’s which means you get one extra dice per team in a platoon for shooting and defencive fire. Finally the ANZAC and US can spot for each others artillery and combined fire with each other. Overall the list is very interesting as you have a very elite force that has less equipment than the US forces.
Finally we have the ARVN lists. Like the ANZAC they only have 3 lists with a Tank list, a Mech list and an Infantry list. The Tanks and the Mech are all Reluctant Trained with the M41A3 Walking Bulldog being the main battle tank which is basically a Chaffee with an Anti Tank 14 gun. The Bulldog has good enough with the speed of the tank to tackle all of the tanks be may face, but it will die in a straight up fight. The Mech force is very nice, you against have M113’s but the ARVN ones all have Tank Escorts, with 5 M113’s in a platoon thats a possible 10 dice in an assault. Other than this they are basically a Reluctant Trained version of the US list, still that means lots of toys!
The infantry have the most option of any list in the book. All the lists are Trained, but you can have Reluctant, Confident or for the Elite option the ARVN Paras are Fearless. List construction wise they are very similar to the US forces which you’d expect are they were trained and armed by the US.
Forces of the PAVN
Now at first glance the PAVN seem to have a raw deal as they only have 2 lists. As the only non Free World force this seems a little limiting. But (and this is a big but) the options for the Infantry Battalion have been added to greatly from the old Tropic Lightning list completing the list nicely. You now have extra Artillery types with Heavy Artillery and a Rocket Battery, you also get access to the new Tank Formations and the Viet Cong have been added with the local forces options. For me the last option really has added a lot to the way the Vietnamese infantry lists will play. The VC come in two flavours, a standard Infantry Company and Resistance Fighters. The Infantry Company are Confident Trained, with all the normal PAVN rules (Born in the North to die in the South, etc), they also have the enemy disguises rule, so you need to pass a skill test before you can shot them and are only rifle armed so are very cheap. The other new unit the Resistance Fighters are similar to the German Commandos from the Bulge Books, except in my option they have much more interesting options and are a lot cheaper. The things they can do in lift Gone To Ground, be used as observers for artillery or my favourite move an objective 8 inches (think of the look on your opponents face when his dug in infantry on the objective have get out of their fox holes and move because you have move the objective!).
The Tank Battalion looks a strong list and can be a massive horde of tanks. The T35/85M option 600pts for 13 tanks! Sure they will be no match for the US or ANZAC tanks in a stand up fight, but they will cause massive issues for all the infantry forces, and if you can get onto the flanks of any tank the AT 12 will case a lot of headaches. I honestly think with all the added options the PAVN are now just as fun to play as the US forces (a big problem from what a lot of FOW Nam old hands have said), the old classics of ambushing mine fields and HMG bunkers are still there and the added Resistance Fighters being an annoying pain will make them a frustrating opponent.
On an added note Phil has posted on the FOW forum that there are PDF’s in the works for VC and Sapper Companies. If they come out soon that will bring the number of PAVN forces up nicely, which is great news.
The last 40 pages of the book are all rules and missions. All the rules from Tropic Lightning are there with Version 3 updates. One that seems to be making a lot of PAVN players happy is AA get the extra 8″ to their range when shooting at Helicopters. The rules can seem complicated when you first read them, but the new added version 3 style cartoon rules summaries really help break them down and explain the rules.
Also at the back is a great 4 page rules explanation of the terrain rules, with lots of useful tips and ways to change the battlefield to fit the different environments the fighting took part in (well part the city fights were a surprisingly high amount of the fighting took place). I won’t go into details but you have rules for everything from more open forests, to elephant grass to rice paddies.
The final section in the Nam themed missions. You have 8 missions with 1 Fair Fight, 3 Mobile Battles, 1 Air mobile mission and 3 defencive battles. I haven’t had a chance to play any yet but reading them they all seem to really capture the Vietnam feeling and more importantly look fun to play.
Also as an added bonus, Battlefront front have posted up the 12 core missions altered to work with the Tour Of Duty Wars, so now you have 20 missions to choose from! That should keep things interesting.
Well as I said I got this book to complete my collection, but I was so impressed with the book and inspired by the armies and the Helicopters (come on everyone has to say Helicopters are cool!) that I have gone out and picked up a book set of PAVN infantry. This will mainly be a side project for now (something to break up painting Late War US), but I this will become a stable part of my war gaming collect. I will also be doing a Free Worlds force at some point, but I’m not sure what to get yet. I’m torn between the US and the ANZAC’s both have nice models and look like nice forces to play, US may win out as they have more Helicopters (I do think if your going to play Nam you need to do with the things that make it different from “normal” FOW).
|Some inspiration I picked up from Amazon|
|My first Nam box set, a nice distraction from Late War US.|
Back to the point, the book is great, possible the best book Battlefront have done. Tour of Duty really shows Nam is no longer a little side project, it is it’s own full period, and I for one am really happy with that!
I will give Tour of Duty gets 9 out of 10.
Thanks for reading and until next time