Ambush Valley is the third supplement for the Force on Force rules for modern warfare, which were published in 2011, and is actually the second edition of this supplement – the first being solely published by Ambush Alley games in 2009.
The book is split into 8 main sections:
The introduction starts with a brief introduction to the rules, and a selection of miniature manufacturers for various scales (Although in 28mm, one of the best figure ranges: Baker Company, is strangely absent)
Section 2 contains new or modified rules for Force on Force. These include notes on terrain (such as paddy fields), different rules for off-board artillery, notes on air support and a section on riverine craft.
Following this, there is a brief section giving an introduction to the Vietnam War, its background and history.
The meat of the book (almost 90 pages) is taken up with a section on unit organisations. This looks at all the main protagonists of the war, and goes into some detail on each on not only platoon & company organisation, but also historical notes on unit operations and how they developed during the conflict. Everything you would expect to find is here: US Army & Marines, Armoured Cavalry, Air Cavalry, Armoured Units, ARVN, other Free World force and a dozen Special Operations units plus PAVN, PLAF and VC.
The next section of the book looks at the conflict in Laos and Cambodia, again giving brief historical backgrounds and details of unit organisations.
The next sections give some notes on Vehicle stats for the game, there is a selection of 6 scenarios, and the book rounds off with a section on solo and co-op gaming, where the VC force is run by a series of action tables, rather than a flesh & blood opponent. At the end of the book is a selection of period specific Fog of War cards, which can be cut out and used in the game.
The book, as you may expect from Osprey, is very well produced and laid out, with photos and illustrations appearing on every third or fourth page. The illustrations will be familiar to anyone who owns any of Osprey’s books on the Vietnam War, although the miniatures photos are new.
Unlike the previous supplements in this series, this book spends much more of its content examining unit organisations and giving historical notes on these, rather than on scenarios. This book only contains 6 scenarios, whereas the other Force on Force supplements each have 20+. Also, those 6 scenarios are not what you would call ‘typical’ – of the 6, 3 concern VC raids on US or CIDG Firebases, and two others are urban fire fights. There are no scenarios using Armoured Cavalry, Airmobile or Riverine operations. The scenarios themselves are well presented, although Osprey have continued to use hand drawn maps to give some sort of ‘flavour’ to scenarios – I’ve noted before that these tend to be too small and can be difficult to read. I find the choice of scenarios somewhat strange and limited, and they don’t give anything like a full flavour of the conflict.
This issue with the scenarios is compounded by the biggest change to the first edition of Ambush Valley – the removal of the campaign system. Most rules covering Vietnam have some sort of campaign system included, as the 12 month ‘Tour of Duty’ implemented by the US forces in particular was so iconic to the period. In the original edition, these rules covered something like 17 pages. Whilst Ambush Valley is certainly the highest page count of all the Force on Force supplements so far, I suspect these additional pages would not have allowed Osprey to keep the same price point. However, keeping these campaign rules, rather than the increased content on Unit Organisations would have been, in my opinion, a much better option. I suspect that most people who game Vietnam have a collection of books containing background material on the forces involved, so the additional historical background for units would only give value to those who are completely new to the period. Far better, perhaps, to include a campaign system and more scenarios? I suppose this does leave the option open for Osprey to publish a second volume on the conflict.
I’m a huge fan of gaming the Vietnam War, and so this supplement was very eagerly anticipated. However, it has ultimately left me feeling disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very good publication and is an ideal sourcebook for anyone just starting to game the period. However, I would have preferred the book to include the extra content that I have earlier indicated, and would have been happy to pay any extra cover price. Ultimately something of a missed opportunity?
Disclosure: A review copy of this game was provided by the publisher