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.

#S69 Family Syndrome

Many ARVN soldiers were locally recruited and served in the Corps zone closest to their home. The ability to serve near one’s home and family was one of the main attractions of volunteering for the territorial forces, the Regional and Popular Forces (the orange Police cubes in Fire in the Lake), rather than the regular army. The local knowledge of these units provided a major advantage in combating the insurgency. During the post-Tet period, the Regional and Popular Forces played a significant role in weakening the Viet Cong’s position in the South.

However, the sedentary nature of the ARVN posed a major vulnerability if these units were forced to make major retreats. During the rapid conventional thrust by the NVA during their final offensive in the Spring of 1975, many ARVN soldiers melted away from their units in an attempt to rescue their families. Thieu’s order of abandoning the Central Highlands and the northern parts of the country led to a disorganized retreat as South Vietnamese troops deserted to find their families and escape with them. In late March 1975, the family syndrome played a crucial role in the collapse of the ARVN position in I Corps and the disastrous naval extractions from Danang and Hue. 

Family Syndrome is devastating to the ARVN player and can strip the defenses from Saigon for a late NVA push. This card reflects a trend in the 1975 deck, with many cards that do not clearly enable ARVN but provide massive benefits to the NVA/VC. If the ARVN and US players collude, Family Syndrome could be used to remove a vulnerable NVA Armor, but at the cost of two activations. VC players will need to be cautious with this event – it may benefit the NVA too much if taken without much thought – and they may wish to block it (or be persuaded by the ARVN to block it).

You can catch up on the series to date by following these links:

#S11 Le Duan

#S2 War Powers Act

#S22 Resolution 21 & #S20 Delta Drought

#S42 “The War Has Begun Again”

#S33 Main Battle Tanks

#S74 Coup! Nixon Resigns

#S48 Ngo Quang Truong

Fall of Saigon Title Banner

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:

We also posted an interview with co-designer Volko Ruhnke on the blog and you can read that at the following link:

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: