12 May 2015

Review: Brown Water Navy

Brown Water Navy
Battlefront released their latest Vietnam era title in April and having received it last week I thought a short review might be in order.  My up front disclaimer is that for a range of reasons I don't actually play FoW, but bought this for eye candy and some ideas on how to take our current beta test rules onto the deltas of Vietnam.  Thus, my perspectives on this book are probably a bit different to somebody who plays FoW Vietnam frequently.

Its a 50 page softcover book with full colour on every page in the tradition of other FoW books.  Very nice quality paper and high res printing.

After a couple of pages of intro and history, the book splits into two sections - the River Assault Squadrons and troops from the 9th Infantry Division who roamed the Mekong Delta, and the local Resistance forces.  The rules go through each platform type and some interesting rules for incorporating them, including beaching under fire and the fact that most boats need up to 3 hits before they are wrecked.  US organisations include the incorporation of waterborne, airborne and mechanised forces which would work neatly for some bigger multi-player scenarios.  SEALs get to play as well, though obviously this was not their usual work, and air support comes in the shape of either the A-1H Skyraider (my favourite) or the A-4E Skyhawk.

Moving to the Communist forces, there are no NVA down in the Mekong and so the local resistance is both Main Force Viet Cong and local force VC.  There are a range of rules which help them melt away into the jungle, plus they have access to a range of fortifications/bunkers, booby traps and minefields.  The VC player can also access elite sapper units, rocket forces and sampans which can ferry troops around the battlefield right under the Allies' noses.
The artwork and pics of models are at the usual very high standard throughout the book

The book includes a few thoughts on modelling BWN battlefields and the terrain effects of things like jungle overgrowth and water navigation hazards before going on to outline the single Mission scenario.  This was real pity as the Brown Water Navy theme could have been used so much better to present different scenarios types such as extracting a surrounded ground force, recovering a wrecked Tango boat from a previous mission etc.  These could have been included by chopping out the two double page pics of models for no extra page count.

I thought the value (USD$20, delivered) was adequate at best and lacked a 'wow factor'.  Annoyingly, if you want to play these rules you not only need the core FoW rules, you also need something called the 'Pocket Guide to Vietnam' on the FoW digital app (only) OR the previous book Tour of Duty (although the Battlefront webpage says that "Most of these rules can be found in Tour of Duty, but not all of them." The inclusion of only a single mission was also a disappointment.  If you are the kind of gamer that likes getting a framework to go your own way, then you'll be happy.  But if you want a bit more meat, you are going to be left wanting more.

Overall I recommended this book to hardcore Vietnam and BWN gamers only.  If you are getting this out of interest I think you'll get better value elsewhere. Sorry.


  1. That's disappointing to hear. I don't like the FoW rules but this one definitely piqued my interest. I can pass on the rules and consider buying the models. This has always been one of the most fascinating parts of the Viet Nam war to me.

    1. The organisations can be useful too I find.

      I also find it fascinating. I would really like to play a multiplayer game with one player being a cut off unit (Special Forces maybe) with air support, one player driving a mechanised unit up a trail to relive them, and another playing a riverine convoy in support. Again an umpire playing Communist forces, with the ability to hit and run, set ambushes and booby traps, I think it would be a hoot.

      In the next week or so, I'm planning to do a round up of the different Brown Water Navy craft and the different options to acquire them in 15mm. Nice as they look, Battlefront are far from the only option.

    2. I was just thinking of a book, and found it on the bookshelf. The U.S. Army's Studies of Riverine Operations 1966-1969. Some nice maps and images, though in the age of the internet pictures are easy to come by. This was written in 1973, so very soon after the war. Interestingly, I found it sitting between a history of the 2/17th Australian Infantry that I bought in Hobart and World War Z. I clearly need to reorganize my book shelves. Obviously the 2/17th should have been closer to WWZ.

    3. Nice!

      Is this the one?

      The Field Manual is also available online here:

  2. While I am interested in the BWN in SE Asia I am not at all interested in Battlefront (FOW) rules for this period. I think the ethos for the rules for this conflict are all wrong and concentrate FAR to much on big battles. Everyone to their own of course but for me Vietnam works far better as a skirmish game and not a big battle game.

    I shall look forward to your upcoming review of the models though. And will be delighted if they are all available in 6mm and 20mm as well, but I do not expect you to cover that as well.
    cheers mate

    1. I'm in the same camp as you, but the really limited amount of gaming material for this genre means that I grab this sort of thing and use it for whatever I can. Say in this case that isn't too much, but if it helps revitalise an interest then that is a good thing!

      I'm trying to play Vietnam as a squad based game as a departure from my more skirmish orientated everything else. That said, I think it would work very well indeed as a Chain of Command module or something like that.

      I'll see what I can find for BWN craft in other scales too - they are definitely out there.

    2. Vietnam riverine is covered in 6mm by GHQ. Lovely models - like all their stuff.

  3. I'm intrigued about your homebrew rules. I Would Like To Know More.

    1. I'll send you something offline in the next week John - remind me if I don't!