Thursday, April 21, 2011


Recon: The Roleplaying Game of the Viet Nam War

That's a nice title, isn't it? This was a game that didn't pull any punches whatsoever. It was in no way cinematic; you were dead if a .50 cal hit you, and probably gonna die from a simple knife wound or small arms fire. Just like in real life. You could play a SEAL, Marine Recon, Army LRRP or as part of SOG. The really brave might pick an "Indig", maybe a French-speaking Cambodian or something. Either way, you spoke Vietnamese and therefore were an asset to the rest of the group. Until you sold them out, of course.

The game broke down play into legitimate military action. A preliminary briefing of a mission, insertion into an LZ via chopper, or maybe an airborne drop, followed by a debriefing. After your character got shipped home, you could look for other work as a merc, contracting out services to the CIA or maybe some South American banana republic. There were some pretty good, concise rules for combat, and the hand-to-hand section talked mostly about garroting or stabbing people. Not a lot of "fair play" in war.

The best part of the book has to be the POST-VIETNAM MERCENARY MISSIONS table. My favorite result: "Answered magazine ad in 'Soldier of Fortune'". That's right, after getting shot at for 18 months in the jungle by the VC, your character makes his way back to Kansas or Missouri or wherever, reads a magazine and gives some warlord a phone call. I guess that military pension wasn't paying the bills. Some of the encounter tables are also rather noteworthy. "Three older women gossiping at doorway", "Old man weeding vegetable garden", and even "One young man ('schoolteacher')" with a footnote of "In wartime villages contain only women, children and old men." Like I already said, this game pulled no punches. It was about war, a very real war, still fresh in the minds of a lot of people.

I'm not too sure who this game appealed to, but I always thought it looked rather fun. Unfortunately, my dad would never tell me enough about his tours of duty in Vietnam to ascertain whether or not the game was an accurate depiction of events that transpired. If you're curious about Recon and want to know if you'd be interested in it, here's an image to help with that decision.


  1. I remember this game. One game mechanic that stands out pertains to ammunition. There's no counting the number bullets fired: just make an intelligence check during the firefight--if you fail, it means you forgot to bring enough ammo and run out during the middle of the shootout!

  2. "my dad would never tell me enough about his tours of duty in Vietnam to ascertain whether or not the game was an accurate depiction of events that transpired."

    I think he would have likely said not. I don't remembering it modeling the long stretches of tedious boredom punctuated by pants-shitting fear and chaos that my dad only start telling me a few years ago.

    Good write-up of the game though. It wasn't my cup of tea given my own background (who wants to roleplay what their parents did as escape?), but it had some great campaign elements as I seem to remember.

  3. Real world conflict is often a little too real world for my taste, but good mechanics are always useful. That picture made me think though, I wonder if someone could tell the between between VC and NVA by their foot prints. The shoes worn by both forces seem different enough.

    Lazarus Lupin
    art and review