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.
#S75 Coup! Saigon Stands Alone
The end of South Vietnam came down to a climatic finish in Saigon. The United States organized a hasty extraction with Operation Frequent Wind to remove American officials and thousands of Vietnamese associated with the South Vietnamese government. The NVA hoped to avoid a costly siege and the destruction of the city. They planned to use deep-penetration armor columns in their final assault to bypass most of the ARVN defense and encourage a mass surrender. However, after Thieu and his replacement resigned, Duong Van Minh, also known as “Big” Minh became president of the South. Minh may be recognizable to Fire in the Lake veterans, as he is the ARVN Leader at the start of the ‘Nam’ scenario. His involvement in the final days of the war provides a bookend to the entire conflict. On the morning of April 30, convinced that continued resistance was hopeless, Minh announced a general surrender ordering all ARVN forces to cease hostilities. Later that day, North Vietnamese tanks smashed down the gate of the presidential palace. Many South Vietnamese fled the South in 1975. Refugees, commonly referred to as “boat people,” would continue to flee for many years after the surrender. Many of them would eventually form communities in the United States.
The collapse of South Vietnam and the difficult experience of fleeing one’s country has been captured in several different mediums all of which pair well with a game of Fall of Saigon to appreciate the gravity of the endgame:
- Print: Engelmann’s Tears before the Rain: An Oral History of the Fall of South Vietnam covers the oral history of Americans and Vietnamese during the final collapse and evacuation.
- Film: PBS’ Last Days in Vietnam covers the final collapse of the South. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/lastdays/
- Art: Tiffany Chung, whose father served in the ARVN during the Lam Son 719, Easter Offensive, and Final Collapse, captures the last years of South Vietnam through several different forms of art. https://americanart.si.edu/exhibitions/chung
You can catch up on the series to date by following these links:
#S22 Resolution 21 & #S20 Delta Drought
#S42 “The War Has Begun Again”
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
April 30 is National Independence Day in Vietnam. Conversely one of the most shameful days in American history though there were many American (and South Vietnamese) heroes from those last days.
Other recommended reading on this period –
“Black April” (which essentially provides a lot of the content for this game design) by George Veith. Highly recommended for serious students of South Vietnam’s final death throes.
“Decent Interval” by Frank Snepp. A CIA insider’s cynical and troubling look at the last days inside the US Embassy. Sickening (and self-serving) account of allies and friends abandoned and final blundering by US policy makers and leaders.
Had an opportunity to play test this game and highly recommend it to fans of Fire in the Lake and students of the Vietnam War.
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