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John Tiller's 'Dien Bien Phu' Final Verdict

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John Tiller's 'Dien Bien Phu' Final Verdict - 9/27/2009 12:30:08 AM   


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Joined: 6/21/2009
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I've finally finished going through most of the 60+ scenarios in John Tiller's 'Dien Bien Phu' game (playing as the French Empire Forces), and here is my PC Gamer style review:


1) Tense and exciting gameplay where the outcome is often in doubt until the very last turn. More than a few times I've held my breath and crossed my fingers when launching (or receiving) a close assault. What can be even more nerve-wracking is when the player uses the variable ending option. Probably the most exciting turn-based game I've ever played.

2) Great tie-ins to the fantastic books on the French experience in Vietnam written by Bernard Fall, Martin Windrow, Jules Roy, and John Prados. Indeed, the game makes these great military history books come alive. I feel like I now know how really tough these battles were that I'd heretofore only read about.

3) Great width and breadth of scenarios spanning the entire nine-year conflict. The scenarios cover riverine assaults, relief expeditions, evacuations, strongpoint defense and attack, paradrops, convoy ambushes, commando raids, and about 25-30% of the scenarios cover the great battles in and around Dien Bien Phu. There are also 4-5 scenarios covering the infamous destruction of Mobile Group 100. Further, the scenarios have high re-playability value, especially the ones where the player has the burden of attack.

4) Challenging and rewarding gameplay. Although I won at least a draw in about 70% of the scenarios, I felt like even my major victories were hard fought and never a cakewalk. I always felt a sense of accomplishment when walking away with a victory in this game.

5) Nice, appealing graphics in a genre generally not known for this. Of special note is the fantastic artwork of the officers and soldiers on both the unit faces and the close-ups. To my mind this lends a lot of atmosphere to the game.

6)Nice 'victory buzz' touches including 'La Marseillaise', 'Tien Quan Ca' (March to the Fronts), and the Foreign Legion song 'Voila du Boudin'. Also, a rather poignant 2-3 minute recording of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles' broadcast message announcing the fall of Dien Bien Phu is played at the conclusion of the 'Eliane' campaign.


1) Would like to have seen dynamic campaigns like the big, engaging, and immersive campaigns in John Tiller's 'World War Two Campaigns' series. As it is now, the campaigns in 'Dien Bien Phu' are each basically three to five of the scripted scenarios strung together by a common leader, and of course the campaign ends prematurely if the leader becomes a casualty. Although I still enjoyed the DBP campaigns I played, they definitely left me wanting a bigger, more engaging campaign experience.

2) The Squad Battles system used in 'Dien Bien Phu' seems to work better with smaller and medium-sized battles than it does with larger ones. In the big 'Fall of Dominique' scenario, I had to wait about 5-7 minutes each turn while the Viet Minh AI resolved its fire phase.

Bottom Line:

John Tiller's 'Dien Bien Phu' almost fully fleshes out a war that has been mostly overlooked in the gaming world. Military history/gaming fans who enjoy small unit tactics and the great books on the end of the French Empire in Vietnam will think DBP is manna from heaven! It is a fitting tribute to the memory of the brave men who fought and died in this most hard fought and tragic of wars. The only thing that keeps me from giving it a perfect 'A+' score is the lack of dynamic campaigns. Still in all, highly recommended: a solid 'A'.

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< Message edited by JRodda -- 10/7/2009 3:15:24 AM >
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RE: John Tiller's 'Dien Bien Phu' Final Verdict - 9/27/2009 10:25:12 PM   
Jeffrey H.

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Joined: 4/13/2007
From: San Diego, Ca.
Status: offline
Nice review. I have to say I find the artwork a bit of a turnoff. But I'm weird that way.


History began July 4th, 1776. Anything before that was a mistake.

Ron Swanson

(in reply to JRodda)
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RE: John Tiller's 'Dien Bien Phu' Final Verdict - 9/27/2009 11:06:50 PM   
V22 Osprey

Posts: 1593
Joined: 4/8/2008
From: Corona, CA
Status: offline
Actually, I'm starting to see better graphics from HPS.DBP actually has better graphics than most SqB titles.These don't have the ugly "dull" look that plagues most of SqB titles.Look at Mexican American War, those graphics look fantastic compared to earlier Early American Wars titles.

Oh, and Fantastic Review.

< Message edited by V22 Osprey -- 9/27/2009 11:09:09 PM >


Art by rogueusmc.

(in reply to Jeffrey H.)
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Martin Windrow's 'The Last Valley' - 10/7/2009 3:13:14 AM   


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Joined: 6/21/2009
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BTW, anyone read Martin Windrow's 'The Last Valley: Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Vietnam'? I would never have thought it possible for someone to surpass Bernard Fall's masterpiece 'Hell in a Very Small Place', but Mr. Windrow has done it. One of the best military history books I've ever read. The book has so many great moments that it would be impossible to mention even a portion of them here. One passage I found especially poignant though was his dissertation on what experiencing an artillery barrage is like. Absolutely chilling, it gave me nightmares!!! As the great 'Mars' Robert E. Lee once said, "It is well that war is so terrible. We should grow too fond of it."

(in reply to JRodda)
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