Thursday, February 13, 2014

Search and Destroy for Huzzah!

As both my readers will recall I recently ran a game of Charlie Company with the idea of either starting a campaign or running a game at Huzzah!, or both. That project lurched a bit as I tried to find some way of making squad level action relate to Vietnam specifically. Gaming the period really seems to beg for an entire company being present. With that in mind I started looking for another rule set.

Search and Destroy was published by SPI in 1975. Gamers of a certain age are now getting misty eyed and remembering flimsy flat plastic boxes, counters, and rules headings arranged in helpful numeric form ("[5.36] Under certain optional rules "Killed" or "Wounded" markers representing..."). Good times. But thanks to the modern magic of the interweb and the folks at Board Game Geek the rules and accompanying articles in Moves magazine are still available.

Search and Destroy is a board game in which each counter represents a single squad. Typically two companies will face off. The goal of the game is to score points- the American scores by collecting hidden caches of weapons and records, and by not being decimated in the process. The NVA player wins if they inflict casualties on the Americans and defend the caches.

Analog Game Tools
The designer took those basic criteria and made them period appropriate. Americans score fully if they can confirm the casualties, either being inflicting them at close range or through after action policing. The Americans score less if the casualties are inflicted through air or artillery, and further, the NVA Get points each time air and artillery are used. In essence, the American player can score a military victory with lavish air and artillery and still lose politically- and politics is the currency for victory in this game.

There are some further design tweaks. The NVA operate in blinds and until they are "searched" the American is unsure whether a counter represents decoys, troops, or peasants. NVA can also "hide" which essentially turns a known unit back into a blind. And as one could imagine killing peasants is politically damaging to either side.

The end result is that the Americans command a huge amount of firepower but have to be cautious in how they use it. The NVA can use hit and run tactics but in the end have to defend or distract to protect their weapons caches. The rules include fixed wing and rotary air, helidrops, antiaircraft fire, interrogations, and medics. I'm looking forward to playtesting them and running the game (hopefully) at Huzzah!.

For more information look on Board game Geek for more reviews, lists of related articles in Moves, and some helpful images. Phil Kosnett's article in Moves #23 is pretty essential, and has some critical errata.

1 comment:

  1. Played a modified game of Grunt solitaire with standard rules and some optional. Brought back memories of how a company was run. I took a risk and detached a platoon to get to a ville where we might find something. Found the records and a radio. Got the radio but the game ended before I could get the records. Still won handily, though. Real tough to find a spot to call in Arty or Airstrikes. Peasants were everywhere. I did not interrogate the captives twice because I would not let them get harmed. Playing it like I would in real life. One thing to do is find a spot, call in arty, and keep it active while you are on map and swing it around where ever you need it. It takes less time that way. Search & Destroy, ancestor of Grunt, has tanks and ACAVs so you can see how the Ar Cav gave Charlie a hard time when we were told that tanks were useless. With a little fudging you can put in the NVA's PT-76, the BTR-152 (that we rarely ran into), and the T-55. The Aussies had Centurions with I think 105s on them, so they hit a bit harder than an M-48. Still, tank to tank shootouts were rare in the Nam, but they did happen. The NVA were the worst tankers since the Iragis.