1972: THE LOST PHANTOM

Reviewed by Chris Kovac

1972: THE LOST PHANTOM (1 player, 30-90 minutes; www.juegosrollandwrite.com; Free)

 

In these days of Covid lockdowns and social distancing, solitaire games have become more popular. Once such game is 1972 The Lost Phantom.

This is a roll and write game with the survival theme of you being a fighter pilot who has been shot down over Vietnam in 1972 and are trying to make it to the extraction point to be rescued before either being captured by the North Vietnamese or incapacitated due to wounds.  The game is designed by Mike Heim and can be found as a free download from the roll and write website (juegosrollandwrite.com), boardgamegeek.com or can be played through tabletop simulator online.

To set up this roll and write, you need to print out the player board and rules, have a pencil/pen and have nine six-sided dice of which one must be a different color from the rest.  Three dice will be set on the proximity, endurance and health spaces on the board with the six facing to the top.  These are your status dice.  If either health or proximity go to zero you lose.  To win, you must travel from the starting jungle hex in the NW corner of the board to one of the three river hexes to the SW of the board.  Each turn consists of seven phases.

The mapping phase is first and this is where you will determine the terrain for the blank hexes next to your space.  You roll 1d6 on the mapping table and draw in from top to bottom the terrain shown (can be village, rice paddy, hills, jungle, marsh or plains). 

The second phase is the encounter phase where you roll on the encounter table using two dice, one of which is colored to denote tens.  The result is checked on the appropriate encounter table which varies depending on how far you are from your starting point.  The encounter is then applied which often involves choosing between two to three different options.  These range from finding equipment to suffering injuries to discovering equipment like a medical kit or a weapon to help you survive.

Dice allocation comes next.  You take dice equal to your current endurance status number and assign them to the move, stealth and rest spaces at the top of the board.

The fourth phase is movement.  All dice you assigned to the movement phase are rolled.  You then take the highest result and see if you rolled higher or equal to the move number for an adjacent terrain hex.  If you do, you can then move into that hex; otherwise, you have to remain in your current terrain hex until your next turn.  If you move into a village hex, roll on the village chart in the rules to see the outcome of that encounter. If you roll a six, you succeed but lose a health.

The fifth phase is stealth where you try and avoid detection by the NVA. You roll the dice you assigned to the stealth phase.  If your roll is equal or higher than the stealth number for the terrain in your hex, your proximity number is not adjusted.  If you fail the dice roll or assign no dice to this phase, you lose one on the proximity dice.  Again, if a six is rolled, you succeed but lose a health.  Also, if you move from one hex to another in the move phase, you can reroll one die in the stealth phase. 

Next is rest.  Dice assigned to this phase are rolled with the highest number taken. If it is equal or higher than the endurance number for the terrain you are in, endurance is increased by one. If you fail the roll or have assigned no dice to this phase, endurance is reduced by one to a minimum of one. (If the result would make you go below this, lose one health). If you use a six, you succeed but lose a health.

The seventh and last phase in the turn is “journaling” where you write a few short sentences describing what happened to your character during the turn.  This adds a thematic narrative.

You have to balance how you assign dice to movement, stealth, rest and how you move across the terrain hexes. Terrain easier to move in is often easier to be detected in as well.  As with the encounters, this often means you have tough decisions to make every turn as you try and get your pilot safely to the river.  The game is well designed with clear and concise rules though I would have preferred all the rules being together rather than being broken in the middle by the event charts.  The journaling phase, while a way to add theme to the game, does not seem to add much to game play and could be skipped without detriment.

After playing 1972: The Lost Phantom a few times, replayability drops as you familiarize yourself with the outcome of the various encounters. But the strong theme of the events along with good play mechanics really make you feel connected to your character as he tries to make his way to safety. Overall, this is an interesting roll and write with a good strong theme which is geared more to gamers than casual players.  A good solid 7.5 out of ten. – – – – – Chris Kovac


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