Fire in the Lake Board Game Review

By Ben Hamill - October 12 2014

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The Fire in the Lake online board game presents you with a tense and stimulating board game game challenge in which you must make quick decisions and split-second assessments to achieve success. The game is played with anywhere from one to four players and depicts insurgency and counterinsurgency during the United States’ Vietnam era.

Participants take up the role of one of the involved factions — the United States (US), North Vietnamese forces (NVA), the Republic of Vietnam forces (ARVN), or the southern communist Viet Cong (VC). Each player leverages military, political, and economic actions, attempts to exploit the historical events and builds and manoeuvres forces as they influence and control the population, obtain information or otherwise achieve the Faction’s aims.

The order of events is regulated by a deck of cards which monitors the different Factions. You can play a solitary game, a 2-player game or multi-player games. A full account of your gaming options is detailed in the Fire in the Lake Board Game Review.

Fire in the Lake is the newest of the board games that uses board game rules to involve players in the intricacies of a modern insurgent war. There have been earlier episodes, before Fire in the Lake, but the new game has a new playbook where the major rule differences are detailed.

How to Play

Fire in the Lake —unlike many card-assisted video war games does not involve hands of cards. Instead, the cards are played from the deck one at time. Players always see what’s going to happen as the game presents the card which shows coming events. Event cards show the order in which Factions become eligible to choose between a menu of Operations and Special Activities or the card’s event. By executing an Event or an Operation, the faction becomes ineligible to do so on the next card. There are also coup cards which are mixed in with event cards to provide random opportunities for instant wins along with opportunities to collect resources and influence sympathies.

Battle for South Vietnam

The Fire on the Lake board game gives amateur military strategists the opportunity to second-guess and review events that took place between 1964 and 1972 in Indochina as they see if they would be able to secure better results than the American commanders achieved. The Fire in the Lake Board Game Review takes the gamer through the various stages of the game as he builds his own resources while he hammers away at the enemy.

Right from the beginning, players are thrust into the tense atmosphere of the region with U.S. heliborne sweeps of the jungle, Communist infiltration of the South, inter-allied conferences, Saigon politics, interdiction of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, air defences of Northern infrastructures, graduated escalation, and the war as it played out in the media.

Some of the deciding events of the war years are covered in the game including:

  • Pivotal events (the Tet Offensive, Vietnamization, the Easter Offensive, Linebacker II)
  • Inter-coup campaigns
  • Counterinsurgent guerrillas (including US-led Irregulars and ARVN Rangers)
  • Insurgent troops (NVA) which involved direct force-on-force engagements
  • Tunneled NVA and VC bases
  • Trail construction and degradation
  • An events deck for even greater play variety
  • Short and medium-length scenes involving either random or period-event options.

Game Components

The high-action board game offers the latest in gaming components including a 22"x34" mounted game board, a deck of one hundred and thirty cards, 229 olive, red, yellow, bright blue and orange wooden playing pieces (including embossed pieces), 7 embossed cylinders, six black and six white pawns, markers, two Sequence of Play and Spaces List sheets, a map, four Faction player aid foldouts, random spaces and non-player events foldouts, two non-player operations foldouts, three six-sided dice (one blue, one red, one yellow) and a background play book.

The map is probably the most important component of the game. The map shows South Vietnam and nearby areas including rural provinces, cities, and lines of communication (LoCs), highways and the Mekong river. Provinces are identified as highlands, lowlands or jungle areas. The distinctions will affect counter-insurgent sweeps, assaults and many other events.

Local Support

Local support and opposition affect any war’s operations and activities and, ultimately, the war’s success. The Fire on the Lake game takes into account the sentiments of the local population, which can (and do) shift — both during the gaming session and, as they did, in the real Vietnam War. Levels of support include active support, passive support, neutral, passive opposition and active opposition. Players can show active support or opposition (or passive support or opposition) with markers that they place in each city or province. If the player wants to indicate neutrality, he will leave the space empty.

To Play

To start playing, choose a scenario and your preferred play options. You’ll need to assign Factions to players, prepare the draw deck, and set up your forces and your markers. Open the deck to reveal the top card. Each card indicates a different operation or activity which interacts with issues that ultimately affect the game’s outcome.