Till Darkness Goes

Till Darkness Goes cover

Title:   Till Darkness Goes 
Price:   $7.95
Designer:   Paul Rohrbaugh
Graphics Designer:   BruceYearian
Publisher:   High Flying Dice Games, LLC
Published Date:   2012

Subject:   A game on the NVA attack against the ROKMC 2nd Brigade's, 3rd Btn, 11th Company at Tra Binh Dong, 14-15 Feb 1967.

Note: This review was 90% written before I lost my sight in 2019. I just found it and decided it was more or less ready to go.  It's not perfect, but then neither am I. Enjoy....

Daihan, lai, lai!!!  "Korea, Come, Come!!!" - On a cold wet foggy dark night 14 February, 1967 at aprx 2320hrs, a small probing force of NVA tested the defenses of the perimeter of the 11th Company's position.  They were heard and illumination rounds fired to light up the area. The probing force retreated. The 11th Company went on alert. Nothing was heard again from outside the wire until aprx 0410 hrs on February 15th.  Drums, whistling, and yelling signal the start of the attack. The perimeter was breached and  hand to hand fighting commenced with the enemy. The battle was finally over at 0730 hrs with clean up and very light combat for the next several hours.  The 11th Company still held their position, while the NVA was soundly beaten.

Blue Dragons patch
In the aftermath of this battle, the 11th Company lost 15 KIA and 33 WIA. The NVA and VC count was 243 KIA from small arms. Another 60 KIA presume from small arm fire and 2 POWs.

The 11th Company not only received some of the highest medals from the Republic of Korea, but also a U.S. Presidential Unit Citation. All personnel received a very special honor, everyone (including KIA) were promoted 1 rank higher. This is only the second time in the history of the Republic of Korea military (since 1948) that this honor has been given.

Scale & Game Area:   Area movement where 1" equals 100 yards. ROK Marines are platoons with the North Vietnamese Army/Viet Cong units each being aprx companies (reduced) in size.

Player Supplied Components:   A deck of cards and one ten sided die (1D10, with 0 being 10). 

Card Set:  Of course HFDG has a card set for this game. Cost is $8 + postage.  Best to order it with your game to save on that postage!!! And why buy this? Well, eye candy! And the math is done for you for the activations and you don't have to keep remembering what face cards allow you to do such as artillery or A-4 air strikes, or flipping reduced units to full strength, etc.  Easy peasy and still keeps the price under 20 buckazoids.

Components:  Each game comes with  the following:
  • 11"x17" game map.
  • 44 un-mounted double-sided counters.
  • a player's aid card.
  • 5 pages of rules, plus a cover sheet!
  • a small set of addendum for the game. 
Note: I am going to call the Republic of Korea's Marines player as "ROK".  This is no dis-respect to my brother Marines in Korea. And the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong player as "NVA/VC". This is breaking with the nomenclature the game uses for both sides.

Game Map:  The game map represents the ROK 11th company's base camp and the surrounding country side complete with jungle, clear, fortified areas, and shrubs (see the Player's Aid Chart). There are no hexes and the game (as mentioned before) uses area movement with one inch equaling 100 yards. It is very well done. (see 3.2, 9.1, 9.1.1, and 9.1.2)

On the west side of the map is the Game Turn Track. The game has 7 game turns with each turn representing 2 hours. Game Turns 1 to 4 are night turns (night turns do affect die rolls). Turn 5 is  dawn and turns 6 and 7 are daylight, allowing the ROK to use A-4 Air Strikes in addition to artillery. (see 3.2, 4.2, 4.4, and 6.0)

On the east side of the map is the Game Record Track that can be consider the heart of the game, as both the ROK and NVA/VC use it for tracking the morale levels of each side - a.k.a Resistance Level for the ROK and the Morale Level for the NVA/VC.

The Game Record Track is also used for tracking the number of NVA/VC artillery support strikes, the ROK artillery support strikes, and for dawn/day turns, the number of A-4 Air Strikes available for each turn.  What makes this track important are the boxes shaded in blue (9 to 7), yellow (6 to 4) and red (3 to 1).  These boxes determine if any additional or lessening of activations occur and/or if an automatic victory is claimed. (see 5.0, 5.1, and 5.2)

In each area on the map are circles with numbers in it. The circles with the top half as black (with white lettering) are Mine Areas, while the other circles are the Area Identifier. On the lower half of all of these circles are numbers that are terrain defense modifiers. If that number is red, it is a modifier for both sides. If the number is blue, it is a modifier only for the ROK units (note: these blue numbers only occur in the ROK tan fortification areas and important to know).(see Player's Aid Chart and 2.1, 3.2, 3.2.2, 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4).

Player's Aid Card:   The various terrain on the game map is listed on the Player's Aid Card (PAC), such as clear, jungle, scrub, etc. The PAC also explains the Mine and Area Identifiers. On the PAC is the Activation Track and a guide to what each type of card draw does. The PAC needs to be cut away from the counters. 

Counters/Markers:  The counter art is different from Bruce's usual NATO symbols as it uses generalize drawings of a ROK Marine and NVA regular.  The counters are nicely done and need to be mounted. Of course, if you don't want to mount the counters yourself, you can have it done for a small fee, request at the time of ordering.  You will still need to cut them out, though.  The counters are aprx 5/8" in size and represent both the Republic Of Korea Marines (ROK) and the North Vietnam Army and Viet Cong (NVA/VC) at this battle.

The ROK player has sixteen counters. Of these, seven combat counters (the 11th Company)  and nine various markers for victory points, resistance level, and other markers needed for the ROK player. 

The NVA/VC player has nineteen counters with twelve combat counters representing the 40th and 60th NVA/VC Btns including the unknown Viet Cong unit (a Btn of VC from Quang Ngai by the way). The NVA/VC player also has an additional seven various markers to be used.

There are eight wire breached markers for use with the variant wire breaching rules and one game turn marker for the sum total of 44 counters.

The combat unit markers seem to have generated a bit of history as players complained at not being able to figure out how to read them.  Here is a graphic of the counters that shows how to read the combat units. I thought they were pretty easy to understand.

Bruce, imho, always does a fine job on the graphics of any game he touches.  This is no exception.  The map, counters, and player's aid are nicely done!!!

Game Versions / Scenarios:  There is only one scenario but several variant rules (that add just a touch of complexity, but do give the game a more historical feel).  Honestly, the game should be played with these rules as it truly brings the sapper units into their own.

Complexity: 2 - The game is rated Introductory. With adding the variant rules, this complexity is, imho, a tad higher that introductory.  And more bloody as was the actual battle.

Setup Time:  Once the counters are mounted and cut out, anywhere between 5 to 8 mins. Of course if the counters are segregated into a gaming tray or small plastic bags, set up is even quicker, with only who is going to play which side and of course getting one's beverage of choice being the slow down factors.

Playing Time:  Game play time is between 1 to 2 hours. If the variant rules are used, add 30 mins to another hour.  Of course with eating pizza and drinking beer, time doesn't matter much.   

Solitaire Playability (Scale 1 to 10):  "9". Like most of HFDG's games, this game can be played solitaire, and to be honest, this particular game series is HIGHLY suitable, even though it was not designed as such. I give it a 9 and it doesn't matter which side is played as the NVA/VC have one goal with 2 different groups, while the ROK has to survive an attack from these two groups.  Pick whichever side you want to play and go at it.

Rules:  There are five pages of rules. On the last page is a condense history of the battle and an abbreviated sequence of play. The rules are quite good, being short and sweet.

Addenda:  Yes, there is a little addenda and it is duplicated here for those who might have not have any.  As always, it is available from HFDG via email.

Till Darkness Goes 
Addenda, July , 2019

1.0 Components (clarification): The numbers on the counters are as follows:
Top left: Attack Factor (AF)
Lower left: Defense Factor (DF)
Right: Movement Factor (MF)

5.1 and 5.2 (clarification): The 1 through 3 areas on the RL and ML tracks printed on the map are colored red (the yellow boxes are 4 through 6).

Cover (correction). The year date on the cover should be 1967 (not 1966).

Bibliography (update): The link to Jae-sung Chung’s article given in the bibliography is out of date. The current, functional link is: http://www.vietvet.co.kr/us/trabinh.htm.

And that is pretty much it as far as addenda goes.

Description of Play:  Play alternates back forth using card deck draws for the total amount of activations and who gets to activate each round. Players take turns preforming a Card Draw (CD) with each player activating on their color, no matter who draws the card.

Using the draw of cards to decide who moves and for combat is a good way to show this type of a see-saw battle, a fire fight, as it does seem like time stands still.  No one can think or act/react in a standard war game of u-go/i-go.  The only other way of possible playing the game is on a computer and have it move, attack/defend while one is doing the same. Of course one can be in actual combat (trust me, you don't want to be there).

Setup:  ROK player goes first and places the infantry, HQ, and the Heavy Weapons units in any of the tan fortified areas, one unit each. The ROK Divisional Artillery support marker goes into either area 26, 27, or 37 (see 2.1 for other setup info). Once placed, the ROK Divisional Artillery Support marker can not move. Plan carefully.  Artillery support missions are determined for turn 1 (see 4.3).  

Next, the NVA/VC player sets up the six units of the 60th Btn in any jungle areas 1, 2, 3, or 5 with no more than 2 units in an area.  The remaining units of the 40th Btn (six units) are held off the map until called for optional entry into the game. (see 2.2 for other setup info).

Note: For the first round of the first game turn, the NVA/VC player goes first and rolls 1D10. to see how many units that activate.    

Activation and Stacking:  If not using the HFDG card set, then a card deck is shuffled with all four suits (Ace to King) and 1 joker.  Aces are treated as "1's".   

A card is drawn by either player to activate units. Remember - A unit can activate once per Card Draw (round), many times in a turn.

Up to 2 friendly units can stack in an area. And opposing units may occupy the same area.

The NVA/VC player activates on any red card, with the ROK player activation on black cards.  If it a regular numbered card, halve the number, dropping any fraction but not less than 1, for the amount of activations that player can have for that round.

Examples: a black 5 is drawn. The ROK player has up to 2 activations or a red 9 is drawn and the NVA/VC player will have up to 4  unit activations.

Play-Balance:  This game is very finely balance between the two different forces at battle. As in real life this battle could have gone either way (actually, the NVA/VC should have won this battle, but for the training, esprit de corp, and the firepower that was able to be brought to bear on the compound, the battle was hard fought and won by the ROK Marines. Plus the fact, those ROK Marines are tough!

Special Counters:  Special mention needs to be made of three very important counters in the game - two of these are for the ROK player - the HQ unit and the Divisional Artillery Support counters (labeled as "Support Missions" on the counter). The third important counter is for the NVA/VC player and there are two available - the NVA/VC Sapper units, one for each of the NVA/VC battalions. What makes these three counters special?  Good question!!! 

The ROK HQ unit is placed in any of the tan fortification areas during setup. The HQ unit's area location is where a returned ROK unit from a black face card draw is placed. The HQ unit is also used for various adds or subtractions to the many different die rolls for both sides.  If eliminated, two things happen. The ROK player cannot return an eliminated unit back to play, but there is a possibility the HQ unit can be return to play, starting at the end of game turn 3. (see 2.1, 3.2, 5.1, 5.2, 6.0)

The ROK Divisional Artillery Support counter, once placed, cannot moved. If a NVA/VC unit enters the same area as this counter and it is not stacked with another ROK unit, it is eliminated (see 4.1).  This counter is also very important to the ROK with various adds and subtractions. Once eliminated, it cannot be returned via rule 6.0. (see 2.1, 3.2, 4.1, 4.3, 5.1, 5.2, 7.0)

Note: I believe this counter represents Sub Unit One, 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO), and Lance Corporals Jim Porta and Dave Long, two US Marines assigned to support the 11th Company. Though both of these Marines played a good part in this battle, their names and 1st ANGLICO have disappeared from the ROKMC history on this battle. Please do note that both US Marines survived Nam. 

The NVA/VC Sapper counters are very important to the NVA/VC player as well.   Being able to breach the wire, assist in combat or aid a NVA/VC unit to negate the cost of wire crossing,  There is also a special exception rule for the use of these counters when stacked with a regular unit. (see    As a result, the variant rules 9.1 to 9.1.2 should be used (well, all the rules should be used including 9.2).  

Summary: There are a few games designed about Nam (HFDG has a lot, with more on the way), but none on any of the South Korean battles, except this one. South Korea has always been a US ally since the Korean War and generally supplies the next largest compliment of Armed Forces to any conflict that the US is involved in (bigger than all other countries, including the UK).  Besides military aid, South Korea also supplied medical and civilian aid to South Vietnam. 

Maybe I have some bias for South Korea as my spouse of 44+ years is from there. One of her brothers was in the Blue Dragons in Nam. To be honest he never talks about it and I don't ask.   

I find this game reminds me of a French Foreign Legion post being besieged by  attacking Arabs.  Will the Legion (ROK's) be able to stand off the attackers or will the walls be breached? The same here.  There are numerous possible outcomes in this game. I find the game to be nail biting, close to the possible battle, and fun.  

In my playing, I have found the following - one can't play either side haphazardly. One must think of a plan and follow it. However, one must be able to change plans if something goes wrong (bad die roll or missed card draws 2 or 3 times in a row). Always have a backup plan.

The key for the ROK player is the artillery and air power. It will kill the NVA/VC units. However, remember to protect the ROK Divisional Artillery Support counter as once eliminated, it cannot return to play.

The key for the NVA/VC player is his sapper units. Use them wisely and make sure you protect them.  Always keep them stacked with another unit. If they are eliminated, bring them back as soon as possible. And use the jungle terrain.

Honestly, thank you for stopping by! I would like to hear any comments you may have on the game, good or bad.

This blog is considered to be a living blog. Changes will be made to it as needed to clarify, correct errors or update with new information.