Grant and I played ’65 a few months ago when it was released on Kickstarter. For a look at all the various bits and pieces in the box we made an unboxing video that shows all of the KS stretch goals as well that can be picked up, of which there were many! I’m always impressed by Mark Walker’s games because he packs so much in the box, and your hard earned cash can take you really far. The rules themselves are pretty light for a squad level tactical game, especially a Vietnam game with all of the potential complexities from that War. That made ’65 quite accessible and I’d recommend it for those looking to enter the tactical side of the hobby, as well as those who are looking for a game that is high on the fun side, and low on the dreary sense of impending doom when you lose side.
’65: Alone in the Jungle
These solitaire reviews seem to be a little different than regular reviews, and invariably come down to an evaluation of the enemy AI and their decision making matrix. With that in mind, I’ll try to avoid being too dry about it all, because in actuality, this game was really fun to play solitaire. Let me start off by saying that the solitaire system in this game is highly playable. It didn’t feel boring or mechanical in any way. Indeed the bot did some pretty cool things that I would expect from an actual opponent.
The AI in ’65 controls the VC/NVA forces whilst you play the US forces. The bot system consists of a deck of cards, a set of hidden forces counters with differently coloured symbols on them, and a decision matrix printed on the back of the solo rule book. The start of most of the solitaire scenarios has the NVA/VC represented on the boards with the hidden forces counters. When those counters get revealed due to certain movements or combat results, then units are drawn from a predetermined cup of forces. For every AI impulse, a card is drawn from the solo deck and all counters with the matching symbol(s) are activated. They will take the action listed on that solo card either moving, firing, or rallying.
They’re everywhere, man!
One of the coolest parts of the solo game is that whilst the units are unrevealed they deal damage based on a printed value on the solo card (when revealed they follow all normal combat rules). What that does is mask the fact that the AI doesn’t know what units are represented by the unrevealed counter. It allows for attacks and lucky hits that probably couldn’t happen once the units are revealed. For example I had a counter attack a stack of my units in a building and under the “cover” section of the attack results the counter did 2 hits to my stack. Once revealed that hidden counter was only actually a single rifle unit which could never have mounted such a powerful attack. That damage assignment is also a compensatory mechanic because a bot will never be as dynamic as a human player, and that’s Walker’s method of giving the AI some handi-capping. I really enjoyed how that kept me very wary of enemy attacks and encouraged me to move and attack unrevealed counters to try and take that edge off the NVA forces.
I personally believe that the solo system is successful because of the size and scale of the game. Each map board on it’s own is only 6 hexes wide. So even if you have a weird hangup in the decision matrix, it’s not as if the AI units can runaway into a spot that would seem counter intuitive. In fact, I had a few occasions where I thought that the AI was making a really weird move based on the matrix, but it turned out to be brilliant. Again, that’s due to to the size of the map, because whilst they kind of moved away from one force they pinned another of mine into a tree line, hindering my capacity to run past to my vital objective.
I only wish there was more in the solo module! There’s six scenarios, which is fine, but I would love to see printed modules for the USMC/ANZAC expansion, as well as the city board. Or failing that, just more scenarios for the base game! The system is really good, it works well and I didn’t find any weird issues with it. And the reality is that if you come across a jarring VC decision, there’s no rules police stopping you from making a more sensible decision for them.
I had a total blast playing this solo, and cannot wait to give it another go. If you have ’65 but are lacking opponents then get this expansion. It will get what is a fantastic game to the table, and it’s quick and dirty which is a big plus. The turns don’t drag on, and the timing of scenarios means you have to get out there and achieve your objectives! This comes with very high recommendations from me. A big thanks to Mark Walker for looking out for us solo gamers.