Silver Bayonet, GMT’s latest P500 release, is a revamping of their first ever game released all the way back in 1990. Go and check out the page for the original edition, which can still be purchased for $15 at the time of this writing. The sample components are pretty nostalgic to look at! So for the 25th [ish] anniversary of the games original release, and the 50th [ish] anniversary of the campaign, Gene and the squad sat down and as a labor of love remastered the game that started it all for GMT.
First of all, WOW! If you haven’t checked out the unboxing video for this game we posted last week, go ahead and take a look at all of the revamped components, and everything else that is in the game. The production value is superb, and the small 2 inch box weighs a ton! There is a lot of game in this box.
I initially P500’ed this game mostly on an impulse. The pre-order price was only $35, so if it was some kind of a subpar game then that wasn’t really much of a loss. Low stakes gambling. Secondly, it was a Vietnam themed game, and we’d just finished our second game of Fire in the Lake: Insurrection in Vietnam, and I’m all over that theme right now. Thirdly, it was a special edition, so I figured they’d be making a quality product that GMT have come to be known for. So what was there to lose? Nothing, there was nothing to lose, and everything to gain. And what a pay off!
So, this isn’t some monster game that covers the whole of the Vietnam conflict, but I was half expecting the game to cover the first 8 days or so of fighting in Ia Drang and the Chu Pong Valley in some detail. How wrong I was. That’s not to say the game doesn’t do that, because it does. But it also covers the entirety of the Silver Bayonet campaign.The initial landings of the 1st Cavalry Division are just 1 of 11 or 12 scenaios/campaign games included in the box. It covers 4 days and uses a handful of units in brutal close assaults. So I’m very excited to sit down and just play through and discover the rest of Operation Silver Bayonet. From the ARVN initial scouts and manuevers, all the way down to Special Forces movements to try and smoke out the VC.
Something that I am pleasantly surprised about is that a good number of the scenarios can be played solitaire because most of them don’t invlove using the hidden aspects of the game [NVA hidden movement, US secret helicopter basing and staging, etc.]. So I’ll be playing around with a lot more of those on my own because the system really is very intriguing.
For thirty-five dollars and a remake of a game from the 1990s, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from a rules/rulebook perspective. So when I sat down with the hefty rulebook I was quickly taken a-back at the level of complexity and detail in the game. Dont worry though, this isn’t Empire fo the Sun, but it’s got a healthy weight to it, especially where the different types of combats and bombardments are concerned. But after the first 2 days of the game [4 player turns, 2 each] I felt pretty comfortable with the sequence of play. There was a lot of looking up rules, because there’s a lot of exceptions to the rules, especially in the way that a rule affects each faction. For example, normally US units cannot readily refuse combat, however US Delta Force can, whereas the NVA can easily refuse combat, and get a huge bonus to the roll based on the terrain to sneak away into the jungle. Suffice it to say the game models a lot of different aspects of the conflict. The way that artillery fire and air strikes can be utilized is manifold, each untilization comes with it’s own particular rule set. This level of detail meant that learning the game was slower than I had expected, but ended up being very rewarding.
The complexity of the rules, and sub rules, as well as all of the different phases means that the game is very cerebral. There’s a lot to consider, and units/combats might not function in ways that you’re used to in other games. With one stack attacking another you are very unlikely to wipe the other player out. The CRT just isn’t built for that. If you use maneuver combat then the NVA will flee to the hills and then just come back at you. However, NVA assaulting American troops is also deadly, because in assaults the defender inflicts hits first. We found ourselves often in bloody stalemates, with the Americans just barely hanging on for dear life. I had access to big artillery pieces as well as many points of airstrikes, which I learned through hard experience need to be stacked all together in precision strikes in order to do any kind of damage. All of these things lead to just a fascinating, and in my opinion, extremely accurate representation of the type of combat, fought on the jungled hills of South Vietnam. This game felt real and as we played we could really begin to get into the narrative of the situation and even in some small manner, feel the same frustration and disappointment that the US must have felt in fighting an un-fightable enemy! For that alone, I am extremely impressed and cannot wait to play more and just explore the depth that the rest of the scenarios have to offer.
If you can’t tell, I love this game already. It’s deep, rich, and flavourful, just like a good curry. There’s volume in the box, so much stuff to play with. The components are unbelievably good value. The only downer from the components are the somewhat flimsy player screens, but I’ll just be using my DM screens from Edge of the Empire as a substitute. Something else that didn’t feel too great was the importance of the coordination rolls. Grant would have handed my behind to me early on day 3 if he hadn’t utterly failed his coordination roll. In failing, he was unable to attack with his best stacks that he had meticulously moved into position for the final assault to take LZ X-Ray. And I understand what it represents, which is is great, but it seemed very ‘swingy’, because it happened on his next (and final) player round again. Coordinating the amount of NVA troops he commanded in the jungles whilst being bombarded day and night isn’t an easy thing to do, but that it boiled down to a single d10 roll felt like a little bit of a let down. I might be house ruling a 2d6 method to make that roll less randomly distributed. I also get that over the course of a full campaign those kind of things would have evened themselves out, but in a short scanrio like that it kind of felt like I just got lucky. That being said: It’s still a good model for the command situation, so there is that. Just maybe find a way to be less random?
If you didn’t P500 this game, then go out and get it for Christmas. It’s only $55 dollars post release which is still a steal for the depth and quality of this game. If you know anything, or have any interest in the Vietnam conflict, then this case study will surely be a treat. Make sure to pick up tweezers if you dont already have them, because the counter density can get quite high!
Watch out for more from this game in the near future as Grant will release an AAR soon on our first play of Scenario #4 Into the Valley, and thanks for reading!