“A game design is never finished, only published.”
Hello COIN Series fans! On the basis of recent tournament experience with Fire in the Lake and how some players are reacting to the US Faction mechanics, we have been noodling various modifications to the US Faction, particularly for tournament play of the Short scenario. Also, we are trying out changes to a small number of Event cards.
Here are a set of optional changes presented for your consideration, with a few comments about why so. We invite your feedback here, as we will use that as we consider what subset of these changes we might incorporate into the next printing of the game, currently on P500. Thanks!
US Faction mechanics
Players feeling that the U.S is favored should agree before play to use 1 or more of the following changes to Setup (2.1), Air Lift (4.2.2), Air Strike (4.2.3), and/or Commitment (6.5) –
“Political Rhythm” In the Short 1965-1967 scenario (only), shuffle the 3 Coup cards among the bottom 4 Event cards of each 8-card pile.
Comment: While coups without regular periodicity are more realistic, the compressed play of the Short scenario can occasionally reward a US cut-and-run gambit without opponent recourse.
“High Winds” (recommended for tournament play) During Monsoon Season (2.3.9), Air Lift (4.2.2) may move US pieces only (no ARVN). Other restrictions remain.
Comment: US players in tournaments have blocked ARVN victory by Air Lifting ARVN forces out of COIN Control immediately before a Coup—a clever but for us overly gamey tactic.
“Sortie Limit” An Air Strike Special Activity may either remove pieces or Degrade the Trail, not both. Air Strike may remove no more than one die roll of pieces total (1-6 pieces).
— If “Sortie Limit” is in use, the shaded #5 Wild Weasels effect becomes: Until Coup, each Air Strike may remove just 1 piece (not 1-6).
Comment: Air Strike has struck some players (especially when playing as a Communist Faction!) as unrealistically powerful in being able to focus both on close air support in the South and logistical strikes in the North, Laos, and Cambodia, and in its ability to combine with a Sweep to rack up tremendous body counts of guerrilla dead within a single Province.
“Rotation” In the Commitment Phase, US relocates Troops from Casualties to the map instead of to Available, selecting spaces as if relocating them from Available, before moving up to the usual limit of 10 Troops and 2 Bases. (US Casualties still go out of play as usual.)
Comment: Our original postulate was that the pain of increased casualties would on balance tend to accelerate US exit from Vietnam. But that premise is debatable in light of the natural desire to avoid lives having been lost in vain. For gameplay, this change avoids appearing to reward the US for heavy losses of US forces.
“Withdrawal” In the Commitment Phase, for every 2 US pieces (rounded down) relocated from map to Available, VC may shift 1 Population by 1 level toward Opposition. Population shifted may be spread among spaces as desired (as long as no more than allowed Population amount is shifted). No space may be shifted by more than 1 level.
Comment: The growing perception that America was abandoning Vietnam almost certainly affected the popular will, an aspect not otherwise modeled directly in the game.
Armored Punch: 2 non-Lowland US Assault spaces each remove 2 extra enemy pieces.
RPGs: After US/ARVN Patrol, NVA removes up to 2 cubes that moved (US to Casualties).
Comment: With the infrequent use of Patrol but the US, tournament players suggested a more potent effect to make RPGs worthwhile to the Communist Factions.
Long Range Recon Patrol: US places 3 Irregulars outside the South then free Air Strikes.
Patrols ambushed: 3 Irregulars map to Casualties. Shift each space they were in 1 level toward Active Opposition.
Comment: Advent of LRRP early in a game before the NVA have built up can divest NVA of Bases to an unrealistic degree.
USS New Jersey
Fire support: US or ARVN free Air Strikes any 1-3 coastal spaces, removing up to 3 pieces per space (no effect on Trail).
Frightening free fire: Shift 2 coastal Provinces with US Troops each 2 levels toward Active Opposition.
Comment: Given just the right situation on the map, USS New Jersey can devastate the Communist position to an unrealistic degree.