For the first time in about 30 years or more, Dad and I set up a game of Victory Games’ “Ambush!” and have been playing all afternoon. It’s a tense and entertaining game in which we have an 8-man squad of US soldiers in France 1944, advancing to capture a couple of buildings and a ridge line in the far south-east side of the map.

Our soldiers advanced onto the map from the north-west edge.

“Ambush!” rides very close to the line between a traditional solitaire wargame and what might be considered a roleplaying game. You have individual soldiers with multiple attributes, you choose weapons, track ammo through a form of usage dice, and are encouraged to name each one. In fact, as we played, one of Dad’s soldiers has become labelled as the Hero because of daring moves he has successfully pulled off.

The solitaire system uses a programmed “Paragraph Booklet” and a natty code sheet to determine what occurs as you explore the battlefield. Each hex entered calls for a check to see if anything is spotted or if events occur. It’s tense and you find yourself carefully using cover to inch the fireteams towards their objectives.

Different weapons can be found on the battlefield, as can spare ammo, and you can pick up gear and swap it between soldiers in the same hex. Dad’s Hero picked up the KIA German officer’s machine pistol and went on to use it to clear a building later in the mission.

It feels very close to a roleplaying game to me. Playing, as we are, in co-op mode the method even suggests we don’t talk tactics to each other unless our respective fireteam commanders are within two hexes and can talk.

A semi-coordinated raid on the first house – in which we had discussed pre-game the plan but didn’t discuss details until our characters got close enough to speak – proved deadly and we were having to guess each other’s intentions… which is lots of fun!

Making decisions for each soldier, it felt a lot like any other RPG situation that uses a battle map but just with four guys each instead of just one.

Carrying our wounded with us, and having picked up an additional wounded soldier injured from an earlier failed US mission, the scenario is throwing all manner of complications that make it a rich situation to explore. In campaign mode, you even get experience and can play through eight linked scenarios which each build on previous outcomes.

“Ambush!” has me questioning the standard assumption that roleplaying games and wargames are separate entities. This game proves that, at least in 1983 when this game was published, the distinction was a very fine one indeed.

With a bit of luck, we will complete the mission and push the allies one step closer to victory. For now, we are moving on the second house and hoping the Germans don’t have much resistance left.

Game on!

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