Nam 1965-1975 logo

DOMARK * £24.95 Mouse and keyboard

I am not going to lose Vietnam. I am not going to be the President who saw South East Asia go the way of China. These were the words President Lyndon B Johnson used to launch the official US Military campaign in Vietnam. The Western world has relived that nightmare war ever since by way of film, literature and even current political rhetoric. Now 'Nam gives you the chance to stop SE Asia slipping into the communist morass foretold in the infamous 'Domino Theory'; both on the battlefield and at the ballot box.

The Tiger's back
'Nam is a political war-game, with the battles fought at brigade level over a four-screen map. While the war rages, you, as an elected leader must ensure the voters support your decisions and return you for 'four more years' at the White House. Every war decision is the President's to make, from military expenditure to overall aims. 'Once on the tiger's back' though, you are solely responsible for remaining in the saddle or even dismounting as the ferocity grows?

The game is played via political documents or on maps of 'Nam. Troop movements are clicked onto the map, while numbers are typed in to allocate cash to the Vietnamese government. The game ticks forward day by day, at one of three speeds, through the year.

You have to survive at ten years with moderate public support, and with a chance of giving orders every day, it becomes obvious the President has a vast amount of decisions to take before the nightmare ends.

Alamo simulator
'Nam's political section presupposes that the war is the voter's primary concern. Working on the principal that troop commitment is unpopular and withdrawal popular, your Presidency faces a 'no win' scenario right from the off. As Pres' you must balance military needs against poll standings, a pertinent factor as elections draw close. Each political decision has a definite, although not always obvious reaction.
Advising you is a PR executive who wants to hike your poll ratings up and a Military advisor who is forever screaming for more fire-power. All factors that led LBJ to announce, "Vietnam is like the Alamo".

Spooky understands!
Tables and charts of kill ratios are at your disposal, reflecting the prosecution of the war. Clicking through a Presidential ledger you can allot cash and troops to various parties, corps and causes. The war's profile can be altered too, as you choose to enlist reserves, define the nature of aerial support and the amount of US aid grants.

'Nam is a military simulator first and foremost though. Any troops sent for a tour need guidance to be effective. It is here that 'Nam changes from an aloof political sim to a strategic military war-game. Vietnam as we have been continually reminded by Hollywood, was no ordinary war. The standard US strategies simply didn't work against a ghostly guerrilla force that refused to stand up and fight. It's essential to have an overall plan that takes account of the Viet Cong's peculiar way of fighting, or, the result will be stunningly similar to the real thing. "It was startling to find out that we had no military plan to win the war" - Clark Clifford US Secretary of Defence, 1968.

The four administrative corps that constituted 'Nam are used as the nominal divisions for the war map. Each unit has a 'square' of influence which represents the areas they patrol and will fight to protect. When they overlap with any VC or NV (North Vietnamese Army) units there are skirmishes. As the war hots up, morale and numbers are affected as casualties rise. Long-term hostilities will weaken a unit's effectiveness and must be continually monitored.

Even while concentrating upon the land war, it pays to continually check the Presidential desk for the newspaper reports. They provide early warning of public disquiet and rumours of new VC offensives. The reports can force a change of policy, must when you've started to cope. Beware though, such policy changes can turn the US military machine into "a moron wandering through a foreign land." - Tim O'Brien, GI and author.

'Nam scores quickly, even after a short period of play, it becomes apparent the war was a complex puzzle. Ad hoc tactics will not suffice, an overall strategy is needed and the manual readily supplies different theories. The parameters which can be altered to affect your initial powers are limited but the differences in response to apparently similar levels of troop or financial allocation are profound.

'Nam has massive initial appeal because it is a historical period to which we have been heavily exposed. Vietnam was the first TV war, but 'Nam is not the first computer war and for this reason it has to be more than a war-tame. The introduction of political influences does give the game a special flavour, especially if you choose to play one of the pre-set scenarios.

'Nam hits you with accuracy first and depth second. Vietnam is a stupidly shaped country and as such nih on impossible to defend in traditional fashion. 'Nam is educational, not just on a violence front, but on the style and range of decisions that presidents have to, or have the power to, make.
Ironically the accuracy of the simulation makes the game difficult to win and the game easily degrades into a series of excessive experiments. Who ever said art doesn't imitate life!

To move troops you simply slect them by clicking on their icon and then clicking on their desired destination. A black 'order line' is then drawn along that route. However, moving proves to be one of the literal stumbling blocks for US forces. Depending upon your resources some can be made airmobile and go 'hair-assing' around 'Nam', most though have to walk, which takes real time. As each day clicks past, the destinations often lose tactical importance and constant modifications are needed.
'Nam was divided into four, for supposed easier control of troop movements and tactics. The four areas were called Corps (I - IV) and each had its own special features.
  • I Corps (pronounced 'eye core') was the US marines main stomping ground. Having landed at Da Nang in 1965 they continued to control the area until the final withdraw. Two of the most famous battles were fought here, Khe Sahn and Hue.
  • II Corps (not pronounced 'eye, eye core') was the land of the First Air Cav until 1968. They were the first ever helicopter attack force and were immortalised in Apolcalypse Now and gave chopper formations a bad name forevermore.
  • III Corps was the land of Oz. It was here that the Australian forces fought initially, as did large numbers of the other Free World Forces, mainly Thai and Korean troops. The Thais were quickly moved to II Corps and the fearsome Koreans filled the wholes left by the quickly wilting Vietnamese forces.
  • IV Corps looked the easiest to defend with III Corps guarding its northern border and only the Cambodian border open. Unfortunately it was also the far end of the Ho Chi Minh trail, the main transport route for VC and NVA forces.

Nam 1965-1975 logo

Wer da glaubt, der Vietnamkrieg sei ein rein amerikanisches Trauma, der irrt: Nach dem futuristischen "Imperium" betreibt der Engländer Matthew Stibbe nun Vergangenheitsbewältigung...

Wie man es von einem guten Strategiespiel erwarten darf, nimmt es 'NAM mit der Geschichte recht genau. Nicht der Gewinn eines schier aussichtslosen Krieges ist hier vordringliches Ziel (wenngleich möglich), Südvietnam zu halten, ist schon schwer genug! Dabei darf man zu verschiedenen Zeiten ins Geschehen einsteigen, entweder zu Beginn der Auseinandersetzung unter Präsident Johnson (1964), oder mittendrin, während der Nixon-Regierung (1968). Darüber hinaus stehen noch drei ganz spezielle Szenarien zur Verfügung, nämlich die Tet-Offensive der Nordvietnamesen (1968), ein kleineres Scharmützel am Khe-Sanh-Plateau und der amerikanische Rückzug (1975).

Die Simulation setzt sich stets aus zwei Elementen zusammen. Einmal darf man in die Haut des US-Präsidenten schlüpfen, um grundsätzliche Entscheidungen zu fällen: Truppenverstärkung oder Rückzug? Wirtschaftshilfe für Süd-Vietnam? Verteilung der Gelder für spezielle Aufgaben? Diese und ähnliche Fragen sollten geklärt werden, ehe man sich dem militärstrategischen Teil der Sache zuwendet. Als Oberkommandierender der Streitkräfte bekommt man dann eine (in vier Militärbezirke unterteilte) Landkarte Südvietnams zu sehen, auf der die Brigaden und Divisionen per Mausklick ihre Marschbefehle erhalten. Die Standorte der Nordvietnamesen und das Vietcong sind allerdings fast immer unbekannt, wie es sich für Dschungelkämpfer gehört. Nur gelegentlich erscheint eine feindliche Einheit auf der Karte - sei es, daß sie gerade von der Luftüberwachung ausgemacht wurde oder in direkte Gefechte mit den eigenen Truppen verwickelt ist.

Sind alle Order ausgegeben, wird die "Uhr" des Spiels in Gang gesetzt, wobei der Modus variabel ist: von ca. 30 Sekunden bis zu etwa 15 Minuten Echtzeit pro simuliertem Monat. Die Simulation ist also nicht in Runden unterteilt: möchte man auf neue Entwicklungen reagieren, darf der Ablauf jederzeit gestoppt werden. Auch der Präsidenten-Modus ist nach Belieben verfügbar, falls Entscheidungen korrigiert werden müssen. Wer den Erfolg seiner Operationen verfolgen möchte, kann dies auf allerlei Tabellen tun, die sich fortlaufend aktualiseren - eigene und gegnerische Verluste sind ebenso aufgelistet wie Daten über die Stabilität der südvietnamesischen Regierung oder den Rückhalt des amerikanischen Präsidenten bei seinem Volk.

Die vollständig mausgesteuerte Benutzerführung macht den Umgang mit 'NAM zu einer wahren Freude, auch grafisch präsentiert sich das Programm für Strategiespielverhältnisse recht ansehnlich. Im Intro ertönt ein flotter Marsch, und während der Aktionen sind allerlei FX zu hören. Also ein rundum gelungenes Strategical? Im Prinzip ja, allerdings wird hier wirklich gnadenlose Detailtreue betrieben: Wer sich nicht daran stört, daß man auch hochgiftige Entlaubungsmittel ("Agent Orange") ohne Rücksicht auf Folgeschäden "sinnvoll" einsetzen soll, wird mit 'NAM sicher glücklich werden. (jn)

Nam 1965-1975 logo

Heavy on the politics, light on the shooting.

Vietnam is a small, quiet, banana-shaped country on the bottom right-hand corner of South East Asia that's largely covered in trees. Or at least it was until the Americans dropped defoliant all over it - just part of their strategy in the 1965-1975 Vietnam War, when they went to the aid of South Vietnam which was in danger of being overrun by communists from Northern Vietnam.

As historians or regular movie-goers will probably know, the war turned into a bit of a fiasco, with the Americans getting a sound trashing for the first time in history from the supposedly inferior commies. This was largely due to the American strategies being unable to cope with jungle warfare, which meant the reds ran rings around them using guerrilla tactics to slowly eat away at the Americans' morale. IT was also a war full of tragedies and atrocities which rapidly turned the American public against it, leaving their politicians to try to extract themselves from it without losing too much face (Something they didn't manage).

All these aspects have been incorporated into a game called 'Nam, which has been designed by a history student at Oxford University and is also (spookily enough) the subject of this review. It's basically a wargame at heart, where you've got to guide units of American and 'Free World' forces around the map against the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong troops.

Your soldiers are divided into four corps which each patrol a section of the country, beating up baddies whenever they bump into any. However there's also quite a complex 'political' aspect where you can chose to play the part of the president and decide expenditure and things while watching your popularity to go up and down and reading newspaper reports (which seemingly bear little relation to what's happening on the battlefield - I was getting reports of drug abuse among the chaps on the battlefield when I knew there weren't actually any troops out there).

Apart from a few glitches here and there, which mainly seem to be as a result of dodgy programming and which allowed me to win the war on one occasion without actually sending in any troops at all, 'Nam seems to be a complex and accurate simulation, effectively capturing the hopelessness of the war. I doubt you'll be plagued by flashbacks for the rest of your life, though.

Nam 1965-1975 logo CU Screenstar

Now come on all a'ya big strong men, Uncle Sam needs your help again, he's got him self in a terrible jam, way down yonder in Vietnam - so put down your books 'n pick up a gun, we gonna have a whole lot of fun...
Country Joe and the big fish

Domark's wargame 'Nam offers you the chance to recreate a war which devastated one of the most prosperous South East Asian countries. There's only been ten days since the end of world war two when there hasn't been conflict - and most of the fighting has had the US involvement. The timing of this game is unnerving...

Previous Vietnam games, such as Platoon and the Lost Patrol, although good, were predominantly arcade and undetailed. 'Nam gives you the choice of being a military commander at Khe Sanh, the Tet Offensive or during the American withdrawal in 1975. Or you can go to the top and play Presidents Nixon or Johnson, with control over conscription, troop allocation and military strategy.

Choose to play one of the Presidents and the game starts with your PR and military advisers letting you know that the public are confident with your administration and that you can get away with increasing troop commitments to South Vietnam. But as soon as the game develops, the military will keep asking for troops and funding while the PR consultants will be telling you to keep up your public image by halting the movement of troops.

Keeping in favour with the pubic is a real challenge. The more troops you send to Vietnam the more public opinion turns against you. Withdrawing funding and support will put you in a better light with the American people but will severely weaken South Vietnam. Should your popularity drop too far then you could find yourself ousted from office.

Selecting the news icon brings up the front page of the New York Times, which provides you with the latest happening in Vietnam. It usually reports your previous actions, though occasionally the odd surprise message appears which could be anything from atrocities to a report on low morale among troops.

The statistics screen gives you a breakdown of American and NVA losses, the stability of the South Vietnamese government, your popularity and the kill ratio of NVA and US troops. You need to keep referring to this to gauge the balance between troop commitments and popularity with the American people.

Although Johnson didn't stand for re-election, and Nixon fished his term disgraced by Watergate, you don't have to worry about wrapping the game up early should you be playing a president. It is possible to stay at the White House the maximum ten years, although as time goes by a President's popularity can sink through the floor as public opinion turns against him. This leads to low morale among troops and defeats in the field.

The war game element is simple but effective. Clicking on a unit calls up a panel displaying its status and the options available to it. To move a unit you first have to select it, then click on where you want it to move to. Units can be equipped with helicopters so that they travel at four times the usual movement rate, although the advantages of this have to be weighed against the cost of fifty Huey helicopters per unit.

There is a phenomenal amount of units in the game to start with. US, Australian, Korean and Thai divisions are among the starting ranks. As the game progresses and units are recalled or wiped out the reserves need to be called upon to keep the army's strength up. This means conscription. You only get to call on the populous if you're playing the Presidential game; it has to be done but it seriously limits your popularity.

'Nam is incredibly accurate. Amiga programmer Colin Boswell estimates that 90% of the allied units featured in the game were present at the time of conflict. When you're playing a President you can realise the problems that Johnson and Nixon had running such an unpopular war on the other side of the world.

The presentation and execution is virtually faultless. The programmers, Kremlin have excelled themselves. 'Nam definitely rates as one of the best wargames in years.

THE PEOPLE SNIFFER Vietnam was the first hi-tech battlefield. Many weird, bizarre and outrageous weapon systems were developed during the course of the war as billions of dollars were invested in new ways of killing people.
The 'People Sniffer' was developed to detect the presence of a person from the ammonia present in their perspiration. Fitted to the nozzle of a M-16 rifle, the device proved less than successful when used in battle conditions. The sniffer was too sensitive and would often confuse the ammonia given off from animal dung for that of a human. Often troops would surround a village convinced there was a concentration of Viet Cong only to find a few stray pigs.

Nam 1965-1975 logo

"If I die in a combat zone, Box me up and ship me home, Pin my medals on my chest, Tell my mom I did my best."
David 'I Love The Smell Of Marmite In The Morning' Wilson hits the Ho Chi Minh trail with Domark's 'Nam.

Sheet, I was still in Saigon... and so it seems is Domark whose politico-strategic simulation of the Vietnam war from 1965 to 1975 has arrived in the ZERO offices. Written by Methew Stibbe (author of EA's Imperium) and coded with the help of The Kremlin's Colin Boswell and Miles Dennis, 'Nam lets you play 10 years of conflict as President Johnson or as President 'Tricky Dicky' Nixon starting from his election in 1968.

Here you'll make significant political decisions, including committing troops, calling up reserves and air support, in addition to all military decisions. For the former, you'll call up the help of advisers as well as accessing information on the war's progress, and statistics on losses and popularity ratings. Conversely, you can opt to play one of three actual scenarios - Khe Sanh, the Tet Offensive, or 1975, where you control only the military side of things.

Amiga review

David: 'Nam immediately strikes you as a beautifully presented game - digitised pictures of Mr. President, his advisers and illustrations of troops and choppers spice up the decision screens, whilst a big colourful map of the whole of South Vietnam and bordering Laos and Cambodia, and further close-up maps of the four US tactical divisions of 'Nam (I to IV Corps) provide the 'board' for military manoeuvring.

The units of both forces are represented by square 'pieces' and a novel feature of the game is the way in which the 'piece' strength is reflected. As it suffers more and more losses, so the physical size of the unit decreases.

Although a great deal of research has gone into accurately representing the actual units and numbers of troops involved, (does anyone know how many NVA and VC were involved? After the war it was reported that US statistics for casualties inflicted actually outnumbered the population of North Vietnam three times!) you won't actually get to see your opponents on the board unless they've been spotted by a 'friendly' village or by your troops (another aspect of warfare the computer handles better than a board-game). The 'winning hearts and minds' aspect is translated into gaining these 'friendly' villages.
You tell your units where to move by dragging a cursor line from the 'piece' to its destination and off they trot. Although the large scale makes it hard to appreciate, they do take terrain into consideration as they move - buy ' em helicopters and they'll be extra nippy. Once opposing units encounter each other, they'll fight. Here you lose all control as you sit back and watch the square pieces getting smaller - if it's yours, send reinforcements, if it's theirs, 'you're laughing'. This in essence is the whole game.

Playing the military scenarios I found unsatisfactory - when a game is on such an ambitiously large scale, trying to re-enact a specific action means little combat input, no control over air strikes, etcetera. Still, maybe this is unfair, since 'Nam never set out to be anything other than a strategy game.

Also due to the scale, there have been concessions to playability at the expense of realism. Viet Cong guerrillas did not run around in large brigade size units and this was to some extent the secret of their success. Playing the whole war's political and military aspects with the large scale overview is where 'Nam best succeeds. To this end, it's beautifully presented and easy to get to grips with.Stop