Mark H. Walker’s Lock ‘N Load: Forgotten Heroes Vietnam, 2nd Edition – Boardgame Review
Mark H. Walker’s Lock ‘n Load: Forgotten Heroes—Vietnam, 2nd Edition. Boardgame. Lock ‘n Load Publishing. Designer: Mark H. Walker. $59.99
Passed Inspection: Beautiful mounted, modular map boards and full color counters. Great for solitaire play. Fantastic value for the money. A fistful of scenarios.
Failed Basic: Counters need some trimming. Box needs to be deeper to accommodate a counter tray. Rules can be tough to find in the text.
The jungle near Plei Me was quiet on November 3rd, 1965. B Troop Rifles of the 1/9 American cavalry responded to sighting of North Vietnamese troops in the area. Intel showed that Plei Me was the home to a North Vietnamese Special Forces base. The American troops under Lt. Walker overran a regimental headquarters and a hospital of the North Vietnamese 33rd Regiment. The North Vietnamese counterattacked and tried to ambush Walker’s platoon. As the Vietnamese troops under Lt. Van Du advanced, Walker’s men set up their claymores. As some of Van Du’s troops scouted to the west towards the village where the hospital and HQ were, some of his other troops were wounded by the claymores and regrouped. Walker pulled his men back and met up with lieutenants Jenson’s and Anderson’s platoons and the firefight was on.
While outnumbered, the Americans had the advantage of two Huey Gunships, which managed to keep Van Du’s troops from advancing too rapidly. As two Vietnamese squads approached the village, a Huey attacked with rockets, which did little more than stir up some dust. Private Thiet bravely shot his RPG 7 at the gunship and got lucky—the chopper went down in flames. Walker called for an air strike, which hit hard towards the southern sector wounding Van Du and scattering two of his squads. As the jungle burned, Thiet crept with his squad towards the hospital and what he saw there made his blood boil—he urged his troops to charge an American squad to engage in a tough and bloody melee! Walker and Jenson, meanwhile, caught the remains of Van Du’s platoons in a deadly crossfire near the village. Van Du was killed and the counterassault on the southwestern side of the village halted. On the eastern side of the village, Thiet and his men were cut down by the well-trained American troops. The jungle was again quiet, but the smell of cordite and the billowing black smoke attested to the vicious fighting that had occurred minutes before.
* * *
So ran my play-through of the scenario "Sky Soldiers," one of 13 scenarios included in the second edition release of Mark H. Walker’s Lock ‘n Load: Forgotten Heroes–Vietnam by Lock ‘n Load Publishing. Lock ‘n Load is a venerable series of squad-level games that cover World War II and Vietnam as well as modern battles. I have already reviewed both Band of Heroes and Forgotten Heroes of the Blitzkrieg which cover the battlefields of post–D-Day Normandy and the German invasion of France in 1940, respectively. Both were wonderful, high-quality games and this new release of Forgotten Heroes–Vietnam 2nd Edition (FH–Vietnam 2) does not let players down either.
I have not played the original edition, but I found FH–Vietnam 2, featuring Version 3.1 of the Lock ‘n Load rules, a wonderful gaming experience that is extremely well-suited for solitaire play, as well as being a great two-player (or more) game.
Each hex of the five mounted, modular, full-color maps is 50 meters wide. Each unit represents from one vehicle or one man to up to 12 soldiers. The counters are full color and beautiful to look at. They contain information on firepower, range, movement and morale, plus extra information on the back of vehicle and special weapons units. The counters come in two sizes and are very easy to read and pick up. Unfortunately, my copy of the game had a few counters that frayed on the sides and even one that, after 3 plays, has begun to peel somewhat.
The single-man counters such as leaders, heroes, medics, chaplains, etc., are at the heart of the game.
The rules run 35 pages, but they are actually quite concise; approximately a third of the pages are examples of play. Walker writes with a refreshing sense of humor so the reading is never dull. The rules are attractively laid out with charts and pictures illustrating the concepts, and they come with a table of content and a glossary of terms. Unfortunately, the rules don’t come with an index so rules are, at times, difficult to find in the body of the text especially during the heated rush of a firefight in the game. Since this is version 3.1 of the rules, Walker has been considerate enough to italicize all the rule changes and editions. Aside from the lack of an index, my only other complaint with the rules is that the examples in the back of the book are written for the World War II Lock ‘n Load games, so that a player wanting to follow the examples with units from Forgotten Heroes Vietnam can’t follow along—which isn’t particularly helpful to players.
A handy Player Aid Card is included. It is laminated to prevent damage from a tipped-over cola and includes terrain effects, a direct fire table, an easy to understand chart of die roll modifiers, ordinance fire tables and, last but not least, a melee combat chart.
The beauty of the Lock ‘n Load system is the simplicity of it all. In order to attack, a unit rolls 1d6 or, in some cases such as snipers, 2d6, adding this amount to the firepower.
This result is modified by such effects as leaders or heroes with the squad, terrain effects, etc. This number is then compared with the defender’s modified die roll of 1d6; if the attacker’s roll is higher, the defender is hit. A damage roll is then made to see what type of effect the attack had. Results can include just being "shaken" to being degraded due to casualties or being destroyed as a fighting unit.
Armor rules (and yes, there were tanks and Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) used in Vietnam), air strikes, helicopter strikes, mines and artillery rules are just as easy to understand and just as sublime.
The heart of the Forgotten Heroes—Vietnam system is, in fact, the single-man counters which may be leaders, heroes (sometimes generated in combat by facing up to extraordinary odds), medics, chaplains, snipers, and others. These units may also benefit from the skill cards included in the game. Some single-man units (or in the case of the beautiful Viet Cong operative Arnat, single-woman units) may be able to use special skill cards that modify their abilities. These skill cards include "healer," "veteran," "ambusher" and even "multi-faceted," which allows the person to use two other skill cards.
Skill cards enhance your squad’s chances of success—or at least survival.
Each of the game’s 13 scenarios includes background information, including dates of the historical action and designer’s notes. Almost all the scenarios include special events that help make the game perfect for solitaire players. The player(s) put event markers on specific hexes on the board as directed by the scenario. When these events are triggered (either by occupying the hex or through line-of-sight), the player(s) read the special paragraphs on the scenario cards. In the play-through example with which I started this review, when I stated "Thiet crept with his squad towards the hospital and what he saw there made his blood boil … " this is an example of a special event. I left out what Thiet saw to avoid spoiling the surprise for players.
The scenarios offer such an immersive playing experience that while playing the third scenario, "Undeniable Courage," I actually felt my pulse quicken as I approached the critical phase of the 6-turn scenario. Each scenario can be played in 30–90 minutes, great for an evening’s diversion.
I showed the game to a Vietnam vet to get his opinion, and he was very impressed. He says that the maps brought back many memories and that all the units and weapons looked and played right. He even thought that the soldier on the front of the box looked just like his sergeant from back in the early 1970s.
The box is attractive and very sturdy but needs to be deeper to accommodate counter trays. I had to resort to plastic zip lock baggies to store the counters as any counter tray I could find made the box impossible to close.
I also couldn’t find an answer in the game as to whether the RPGs (as used in the game) are single shot or multi-shot weapons.
All in all, this second edition of Mark H. Walker’s Lock ‘n Load: Forgotten Heroes—Vietnam is a classic! It is not only fun to play but highly respectful to all sides of this relatively recent military conflict. Well done!
Armchair General Rating: 90 %
Solitaire Rating: 5 out of 5
About the Author
A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!