One of the simplest to learn and quickest to play wargames to come from the Avalon Hill line is "Platoon", based on the movie of the same name. Platoon comes with one page of quick-start rules that is supplemented by a "battle manual" that adds a few optional rules, scenarios and historical notes.
The map has of two mounted halves that fit together in the middle. Different scenarios call for using various numbered hexes. The map is fairly basic, featuring mostly jungle and clearings. There are also several roads/paths paths that run through the mapboard.
The hexes are larger than most wargames because of the pieces. The pieces for the game are generic NVA soldiers and counters which represent the US characters from the movie. Unit counters are placed in stands much like those used for generals in Avalon Hill's "We the People." However, the units are NOT doublesided and face only their controlling player (revealing themselves only when shooting) This creates a fog of war similar to Columbia's block-based games, or perhaps something akin to that in "Stratego." In addition to the soldier units there are group counters, which further the fog of war by representing a group of units located within a hex. There are also bunker and foxhole counters which help provide cover.Other included counters are North Vietnamese booby traps and U.S. claymore mines.
Earlier we said this game was quite simple and I say it again, if only for emphasis. This game is rated at level 2 complexity, but a level 1 rating may be closer to the mark. The one-page rule sheet is well-organized and most of the rules and instructions are quite clear. Confusion is quickly eliminated by a closer look at the examples of play provided in the short battle manual.
Iniative (which player gets to take an action) is randomized by tossing a set number of chits which represent each side (varies by scenario) into a cup and drawing them one at a time in a random manner. In the most basic scenario, one side gets 4 actions to a turn and the other gets 5. When a NVA chit is drawn the NVA player gets to perform an action for one hex. This could be a group action if a commander is present in the hex with the group, but sometimes it is best to only take one action from that group so that an opponent does not recognize a group is present there. However, staying in groups with a leader present can provide a strong offensive advantage.
Combat is resolved using 10-sided dice. The attacker adds a bonus to the roll based on the shooter's skill level and the defender adds defensive bonus that is based on terrain or cover. If by comparison the attacker's adjusted number is 1-4 greater than the target's, then the target is pinned and can not take any further action or move during that turn turn. If the adjusted value of the attacker's die roll is 5 or greater than the defenders then the target is eliminated, providing victory points.
Units also can toss grenades into adjacent hexes (which can have deadly results if a group is present as each unit present must roll) melees, cut wire, and if a leader and radioman is present, units can even call for artillery fire. Yes, there is a even a possibility for friendly artillery fire to eliminate your own units.
Platoon may turn out to be a bit too simplistic for some players. I doubt that fans of Squad Leader will be overly impressed. However, I believe it accomplishes its goal of faithfully recreating some of the feel of jungle warfare that was portrayed in its silver-screen namesake. Further, it provides players for a "fix" for their wargame addiction without taking an entire evening or even afternoon away. I found the game a pleasure to play and it fit a niche for me.
David "the preacher" Wilson