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Rob Zacny

Episode 300: Vietnam '65

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Three Moves Ahead extends a warm welcome to founding member and persistent barista Tom Chick for our 300th episode. Tom, Rob, Bruce and Troy "I Hate Nicknames" Goodfellow discuss Vietnam 65, a PC and iOS game about managing hearts and minds during the Vietnam war. This week, we learn that Rob is unequivocally the tactical and strategic mastermind of counter-insurgency warfare. Bruce reveals what he considers to be the best - best - Vietnam war game ever made, and we all learn a little bit about what a "light" war game is.

 

Listen here.

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This is exactly the show I wanted!  Go check the suggestions for episodes thread :)  Very happy to have Tom back, and Bruce, of course, is always a welcome addition.  I really like Vietnam 65 -- it is an easy to learn, pick up and play strategy game.  I definitely can see the allusions to Xcom in that each game starts the universe of play over again.  Very fun game and I've put many hours into it (15-20).  Not as grand as Civ but still a great game with deceptively simple rules.  I've yet to try veteran, but after handily beating the "regular" level a few times I'm ready to make the jump.
 
Also, let me congratulate everyone at 3MA, past and present panelists, and of course the listeners who get to enjoy this podcast regularly.  I'm relatively new to 3MA and have only been listening since August of 2014.  Yet, this is the ONLY podcast that I listen to where I have actually gone back and listened to all of the archived episodes.  It's that good.  It's that informative and fun.  Thank you all who are part of the show and part of the community.  Can't wait to get the cream soda for episode 400.
 
Thank you once again.

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Rob's thoughts on how this game with its spawning AI system doesn't challenge him gives me lot of pause on my own game's design... hmm... something to think about.

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Nice to hear Tom again (even though his voice isn't the same). These past 1 1/2 years have been interesting since I discovered this podcast through paradox and your guys' review of EU4. Haven't missed an episode since then and hope that I'll be able to listen long into the future. This podcast has brought me to games that I would have never heard of before. On a sidenote, are you guys going to do an episode on Total War: Atilla or of Pillars of Enternity?

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First, It's great to hear Tom on the podcast again. The interview Tom and Bruce did  on the Qt3 podcast with the designer of Vietnam '65 was excellent (as their interviews usually are). Having Tom offering coffee and his views on 3MA again was a treat. Plus there can never be enough love for Civ4.

 

Secondly, congratulations and thanks for 300 episodes. After all this time I still love hearing what you have to say. 

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Really interesting discussion at the end of the podcast. When Bruce starts posing the hypothetical about the alternative universe where Vietnam '65 is a board game they play maybe 10 times (at most) and have a great time, I can't help but wonder if the question motivating that hypothetical needs to be turned on its head.

 

There's no question that for a long time, computer strategy games were WAAAYYY too complex and fiddly. In an episode that references the Chick Parabola it should be sufficient to point at MoO 3 and call it a day. For years now there has been a call for strategy games to take cues from board games and create a simpler, and more elegant rule set. I always nodded along with these calls

 

Well, that's the world we're living in now. Almost every new strategy game I pick up nowadays is easy to understand and has a board game like ruleset. Ultimate General Gettysburg, Cults & Daggers, Armello, Chaos Reborn, Starships, Frozen Cortex, and Endless Legend are all strategy games I've picked up in the last year. None of them really resemble each other, but they all adhere to the ideology of board game simplicity. And yet with the exception of Ultimate General Gettysburg, I find the single player component of all these games to either be completely hollow, or have hollow elements (I suspect UGG remains thrilling since it's the one real time game in the list).

 

I don't yet have a fully thought out reason for why so many of these games ring hollow (Cults & Daggers in particular being especially disappointing to me since I love the concept of the game on paper), but it is starting to make me suspect that a lot of board game mechanics just aren't very good without other people involved, and so adapting board game conventions to computer games creates a new set of problems that need to be solved by future designers.

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sclps, I'm surprised this problem existed for so long. Cause it seems to me only amature player wants this overcomplication and bloating the game. I remember when I was a kid I was excited about getting Heroes 3 addons cause there are more units, more maps, more stuff. And I thought Starcraft is not as good cause you can reach the end of the tech tree very quickly and there are only three races.

 

Vocal hardcore minority should ask for balance and technical excellency, shouldn't they? Then why do we have bloated horrible games like Master of Orion 3, Elemental and Empire Total War? Is this what developers themselves want to do?

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I think the main thing that makes this game not have as much staying power as it could have is that the situation isn't really all that dynamic. Oh the map and enemy locations are random, but the approach is generally the same. I like Fire in the Lake a bit better because the games end up playing out more differently.

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sclpls makes an excellent point, I think, although I haven't played half of the games he mentions.  But I'd argue that Civ4 has a certain boardgame sensibility to it.  One of my top five games of all time, Imperialism II, could easily be a boardgame.  I think part of it is designers' inability to combine mechanics with replayability, and that has a lot to do with not only making the game possible for an AI to play well, but giving the game enough scope that it doesn't feel like a puzzle-solving exercise.  If games like the Shenandoah Studios Crisis in Command series had good AI, I think I could play them forever.

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I only played Endless Legend out of the list that sclpls listed and ai/balance was a huge issue in the game becoming 'hollow' IMO.  Like spacerumsfeld said, Civ4 is an alternative of similar board-game-like strategy game that, IMO, is anything but hollow.  Civ4 vanilla is about as mechanically complex as Endless Legend, but EL suffers from some glaring imbalances that makes most of the complexity just unnecessary and is unable to draw 'depth' out of it.

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Having played some Vietnam '65 now I'm in awe of Rob's swift mastery of the game. I'm playing the regular difficulty, and with each new game I think I've figured out what I need to do to win only to be thwarted by some other flaw in my plan. My current game is promising though. I'm about halfway through the game, and H&M are well in my favor. I'm sure now that I've announced this fact everything will come crashing down in a matter of turns.

 

I'm enjoying the dynamics of all the units with indirect fire. Indirect fire is such a powerful thing the way casualties impact the H&M score. Cobra gunships have great mobility, but the range of their indirect fire is so limited, and yet I still find they have some of the highest impact on my games. Artillery is incredibly useful too, but the lack of mobility and the fact that rearming them is a pain in the ass kind of limits their usefulness. And tanks are incredibly useful as long as the terrain is favorable...

 

When setting up bases I've started to start with a forward base, and then move onto the firebase. I find this to be a better setup then setting up the firebase first because it provides a stronger supply route in the late game, although the flip side to that is your forces are stretched a little thin in the mid game.

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Having played some Vietnam '65 now I'm in awe of Rob's swift mastery of the game. I'm playing the regular difficulty, and with each new game I think I've figured out what I need to do to win only to be thwarted by some other flaw in my plan. 

Yeah tell me about it.  I played it more than Rob, I think, and was not nearly as successful in my efforts.  I haven't played for a while (waiting for the patch, now scheduled for the "first half of May") but I won once on Veteran, total.  So maybe Rob should have been in charge in Southeast Asia...

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What's your impression of the update Bruce? I remember on the podcast there were some concerns about adding a weather system. Have the changes made the game more fiddly and/or random, or are there some good additions here?

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What's your impression of the update Bruce? I remember on the podcast there were some concerns about adding a weather system. Have the changes made the game more fiddly and/or random, or are there some good additions here?

 

I kept delaying replying to this because I thought I would get to play enough that I could have a comment, but I have not been able to, yet.  Just too much work right now, unfortunately.

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