My favorite COIN experience is Fire in Lake: Insurgency in Vietnam from GTM Games designed by Mark Herman and Volko Ruhnke. The Vietnam experience is thick in this one and the interplay among the factions is just glorious. We have played the game well over a dozen times and still enjoy every minute of it. In August 2019, GMT announced an expansion to the game in Fall of Saigon which focuses on the end of the war from 1973-1975. Three Fall of Saigon scenarios enable 1-4 players to extend play beyond Paris, beginning before 1968’s Tet, on the eve of the 1972 Easter Offensive, or from 1964 all the way to the end of the war. A standalone 2‑player Black April scenario focuses tightly on the post-Paris sparring between the NVA and ARVN, including the final massive battles, advances, and retreats.
Once the game was announced we reached out to the design and development team to see if we could do a series of Event Card Spoilers and Jason Carr agreed to provide those. We will be hosting 12 of these Event Card Spoiler posts over the next several months and appreciate the effort that both Jason Carr and Stephen Rangazas will be putting into these short write ups intended to share the history of the card as well as their play effects.
*Please keep in mind that the artwork and layout of these cards is not yet finalized (although they are getting close) and is only for playtest purposes at this point. Also, as this game is still in development, card details may still change prior to publication.
#S33 Main Battle Tanks
Prior to the Easter Offensive in 1972, the North Vietnamese had only used their armored forces in a very limited way in South Vietnam. Armor was used in the fighting around Khe Sanh in 1968, most notably the use of PT-76 tanks at the battle of Lang Vei. The NVA used significant amounts of armor during their offensives in Laos in 1971 particularly at the battle of Skyline Ridge and their counterattack against the ARVN’s incursion into Laos, Operation Lam Son 719. During the Easter Offensive, the NVA began to utilize heavier armor in the South though they still struggled with successfully deploying the armor and protecting it from American airpower.
During the period after the Paris Peace Accords, with the threat of American bombing largely gone, the NVA built up the infrastructure of the Ho Chi Minh Trail allowing for significantly more supplies to come South including those necessary to support major conventional forces. During the Final Offensive in 1975, the NVA would rely heavily on the ability of their armored spearheads to seize critical lines of communication and ARVN positions. In the end, a T-54 smashed down the gates of the Presidential palace on April 30, 1975.
Armor is a new type of piece in Fall of Saigon, usable by both the ARVN and NVA. Armor is extremely powerful, able to remove 2 enemy pieces (or 1 Armor) in Assault/Attack and allowing ARVN and NVA to use the new Spearhead Special Activity. Spearhead accompanies ARVN Train or Patrol and NVA Rally, March, and Terror, and allows 2 Armor and up to 2 Troops per Armor to move onto an adjacent LOC, and then into an adjacent space, and Assault there. This flexibility makes Spearhead very valuable, but the main value of Spearhead is that any enemy Armor removed during a Spearhead has a chance to be captured. Captured Armor not only fights for you but is Armor that your enemy cannot use to reinforce.
Main Battle Tanks gives the NVA a flexible way to deploy Armor (similar to last week’s “The War Has Begun Again”), and also increases the effectiveness of their tanks by removing PT-76, which starts in play during the Black April and extended Short scenarios. For the US and ARVN, the unshaded effect not only prevents NVA Armor placement but removes their ability to use the Armor already deployed for Spearhead. If Main Battle Tanks appears early in a Campaign, ARVN and US should take the opportunity to limit NVA Armor operations and mount a few Spearheads of their own.
You can catch up on the series to date by following these links:
Thanks to the development team for their efforts in writing these up to share with our readers. As one of America’s more fascinating periods of history, the end of the Vietnam War definitely has an interesting story to tell and I am glad to see this expansion being made and look forward to playing again once it is released. We had the opportunity to play with Mark Herman and Dan Pancaldi during WBC last July and it was a blast. Here is a video summarizing our experience: https://theplayersaid.com/2019/09/01/wbc-look-at-fall-of-saigon-a-fire-in-the-lake-expansion-from-gmt-games/
We also posted an interview with co-designer Volko Ruhnke on the blog and you can read that at the following link: https://theplayersaid.com/2019/09/30/interview-with-volko-ruhnke-co-designer-of-fall-of-saigon-a-fire-in-the-lake-expansion-from-gmt-games/
Finally, if you are interested in Fall of Saigon: A Fire in the Lake Expansion, you can -pre order a copy from the P500 game page on the GMT Games website at the following link: https://www.gmtgames.com/p-832-fall-of-saigon-a-fire-in-the-lake-expansion.aspx