Welcome to the ‘Nam
Type: Singleplayer, Multiplayer
Developer: Lock ‘n Load Publishing
Publisher: Lock ‘n Load Publishing
Release date: 3 Apr, 2020
Lock ‘n Load tactics digital launched into early access with two DLCs, Heroes of the Nam and Heroes of Normandy. Heroes of Nam, as the name implies, covers the Vietnam war, and features the ill-prepared ARVN (South Vietnamese army), the poorly trained & armed, but still very dangerous Vietcong, the well equipped US forces and their Anzac allies, as well as the deadly NVA (North Vietnamese army).
With the base game still being in Early access at the time of writing, this review is going to be a bit different, focusing on what the DLC adds, and not worrying too much about the issues that the main game still has due to its early access status (like the lackluster AI). The levels, special rules and varied forces are based directly on the tabletop counterparts, so they’re unlikely to change once the game leaves early access.
Story & setting
The Vietnam war started 10 years after World War 2 had ended, in 1955, and just a year after the first Indochina War. It’s generally considered to be one of the major proxy wars of the cold war era, with the competing superpowers of the US and Soviet Union backing the sides that aligned with their ideology, in a long, drawn-out and bloody conflict.
It would take another 10 years before the US would enter the war with troops of their own (having previously served mostly as advisors to the ARVN). And it’s after the US gets directly involved that most of this game takes place, with only one of the 12 scenarios, taking place before 1965.
Lock ‘n Load: Heroes of Nam – Pack 1 does not put a heavy emphasis on its story, with each scenario only having a small amount of text setting the scene, and at best a few lines of flavour text during the mission, when specific conditions are met. The scenarios are also not linked or tell any kind of coherent story, they’re just about events that happened more or less independently of each other during the war.
Heroes of Nam – Pack 1 adds 12 scenarios (well, technically speaking 11, as one of them is in the base game). Most of these new scenarios are larger, and a bit more involved, than the 4 of the base game, with maps up to 4 times the size of what was already in the game, and with significantly more soldiers on each side. There’s also a lot of variety with the scenarios. In one scenario the US are landing troops by helicopters to assault a Vietcong held village, in another the Vietcong needs to escape from an encroaching US army, and in a third the NVA are attacking a small town held by the US marines.
The Vietnam war was not a war fought by forced that were equivalent to each other, and this is particularly obvious when you compare the Vietcong, which was a more loosely organized guerilla force, with many of its members being teenagers and young men who had no real training (it would be wrong to say that the Vietcong did not have trained soldiers though), while the US forces were highly trained and well equipped, but lacking experience in fighting in the dense terrain and warm climate of Vietnam. And this is represented well in-game, in a straight-up firefight the US forces are at a major advantage, but the Vietcong can make better use of terrain, and have the ability to ambush the enemy, giving them a major bonus in melee. The NVA, on the other hand, are roughly equal to the US soldiers, but lacking some of the high-end equipment, and instead makes up for that by being able to move and fight, and being a bit more accustomed to the terrain. Then there’s the ARVN, which kind of lacks any real strengths (and are only in one scenario), the Anzac, who have some of the greater mobility of the NVA and then the US marines, who are treated as a separate faction, are simply the best fighters in the game, but in the scenarios you get to use them, they’re generally heavily outnumbered.
There are vehicles here, unlike in the base game, such as APCs and helicopters, but no tanks or other heavily armored & armoured vehicles, despite one screenshot on the store page featuring tanks. These have less of an impact on the game than you would expect, but they are at least considerably faster than troops on foot.
The levels are pre-made and you can’t choose your own forces, but which side you end up playing makes a big difference in how you approach each situation. If you’re playing the Vietcong, you’re encouraged to sit back and wait for an opportunity to pounce at the isolated enemy, while US marines do best when they can bring their accurate firepower onto groups of enemies. With the way a large part of the levels are designed, with a lot of dense vegetation blocking line of sight, firefights are often done at a short-range, and it’s not uncommon for them to devolve into close combat fights.
While most levels felt well balanced, there were a few instances where one-sided seemed to have a major advantage, or at the very least relied on a few important dice rolls going their way for them to have a realistic chance of winning. For the most part, though, it felt like either side could win.
The Vietnam war is surprisingly underrepresented in strategy games, and that alone made me interested in trying the ‘Nam DLC for Lock ‘n Load. It’s a good DLC, and the “factions” really do feel very different to play. There’s also a good amount of variety between the levels, with none feeling like a repeat of another.
If this is one of the Lock ‘n Load DLCs you should get is ultimately going to be up to what you’re looking for though. If you’re looking for intense, mostly short-ranged, firefights between infantry units, in rough terrain, then this one is great. If you’re interested in big tanks and open spaces, then you’ll have to look elsewhere for that. Personally I prefer this style of gameplay to long-range shootouts between armoured vehicles, so this DLC is right up my alley.