Fire in the Lake:  Designer Variants

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“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!

Perfect Openings: First Turn VC Strategy in Fire in the Lake

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Welcome to the first Strategy Article we’ve published in InsideGMT! Unlike the majority of our articles, this one was not written by one of our designers or developers, but by one of our players. I want to thank Mark D. (the new owner of  for creating such a well-conceived and well-written article that’s aimed at helping players new to Fire in the Lake. I’d also like to take this opportunity to invite any of the rest of you who would like to submit a strategy article on one of your favorite GMT games to please do so. My hope is that over time, we can create an excellent online resource of player-created strategy articles to help others as they sit down to learn and play our games. Enjoy the article!  – Gene

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Fire in the Lake: Insurgency in Vietnam, designed by veteran designers Mark Herman and Volko Ruhnke and published by GMT Games is a 1 to 4 Player game that simulates either a part of, or the entire, Vietnam War. It’s a game with many moving parts and many interrelated methods, procedures, and techniques. The interaction of four players with competing, and often conflicting objectives (even for nominal allies) often results in a bewildering array of potential outcomes.

However, as in most games of skill or chance, there are fundamentals to which gamers should adhere, particularly new or inexperienced players. The player who gets the first move of the game should capitalize on this advantage. It can set the tone for the early portion of the game and, in Fire in the Lake, it’s the only move that can be planned with any certainty. After that very first move, the game can go off in a thousand different directions… but the first move can be carefully planned.

You can choose a “shotgun approach”, attempting to inflict damage on both of your historical enemies while simultaneously assisting your ally, or you can opt for self-promotion and the bettering of your own position. You can also choose to focus your aggression against one particular enemy player whom you consider the most immediate threat, hoping to rock him back on his heels for the next turn or two. Or you can try to do a bit of all the above.

Each player’s initial game situation is unique and demands a custom strategy that complements their peculiar capabilities. This article is geared towards inexperienced Fire in the Lake players who have a decent working knowledge of the game mechanics, but are still not “old pro’s”. It proposes a set of “perfect opening moves” for the Viet Cong, assuming the luck of the draw has granted them the very first move of the Short: 1965-1967 Scenario.

Mass Shipping Day at GMT HQ

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Deb and Letitia

Deb and Letitia

At last, today is the day we ship 2,100+ copies of Fire in the Lake and 1,200+ copies of Won by the Sword to our P500 customers. Oh, and mounted maps for four different games, as well! So I thought I’d give you guys a brief glimpse at the mix of organization and chaos that is our warehouse on “mass ship day.”

Elizabeth and Savannah

Elizabeth and Savannah

Everything starts with the office ladies, who have prepared and organized orders and shipping labels in advance of the big day. Without the hard work of these ladies, ship day would be a disaster.

On the Design Table: Mark Herman

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Over the past several years, my regular phone conversations with Mark Herman have usually included me – or sometimes Mark – referring to how great it would be when Mark finally could  retire from his day job and get to design all those games he’s been wanting to create, essentially full-time. Well, those phone pipe dreams have become reality this year (!), as Mark got to retire and is (at least for now) pretty much a full-time game designer.  When you read Mark’s Guest blog, below,  you’ll see that he is not letting any grass grow under his feet – he is off and running on several designs that he’s been wanting to finish for some time now. (And there are more, but we don’t want to cause you guys to weep with joy all at once :-), so we’ll save info on those for another day ! ) So, get ready for a treat – Mark is one of the best, if not the best,  pure systems designer I know, and he’s running at full-throttle now. Hang on! It’s going to be a fun ride!  Here’s Mark. – Gene



Hi everyone! I’m happy to accept Gene’s invitation to write a Guest blog on the new InsideGMT blog. I’m also posting this information on my personal design blog, which I invite you all to visit any time.

I want to catch everyone up on where I have been over the last couple of months and where I am going.


Empire of the Sun:

Since my last blog post, the Empire of the Sun reprint has been on the front burner. One of the perennial WBC champions, Antero Kuusi, stepped up to re-write the rules to make them more accessible. I want to say he has done a fabulous job in reorganizing and rewriting many of the trickier sections. While EotS is still a very intricate design I believe that he has lowered the barrier to entry for those who want to get involved. Backing him up is a crack team of editors drawn from the elite staff players on Consimworld who have been playing the game continuously since its publication almost a decade ago. Besides the rules rewrite I have incorporated a few of the more important c3i variants into the core rules, so there is a lot to like about the reprint rules.

On the card front, about 60 of the 160 cards have had a rewrite to incorporate FAQ questions and I took the opportunity to insert a bit more history into the game with new bonuses on many cards that were not in the original. A good example is the small naval force that was under MacArthur’s command is now incorporated without any extra rules. MacArthur’s navy allows an Army activation of one non-carrier naval unit while under ISR. The rest of the new bonuses I will leave as a surprise.

eotscoverThe counters are almost unchanged except we added many of the c3i mnemonic counters that the team have found useful plus I renamed a few counters to give each counter a unique name so instead of BB Kongo 1 and BB Kongo 2, we now have BB Hiei and BB Kongo.

Probably the most interesting dimension of the reprint is the incorporation of the Card Driven Solo System that is based on my experience designing the US ‘Bot for Fire in the Lake. Essentially I am writing a Japanese and Allied ‘Bot for EotS. When I told Mark Simonitch what I was doing he wrote, “you’re crazy”. While that may be true, it works. I learned a long time ago that if you tackle the hardest problem last, you end up solving lots of small issues that do not add up. To avoid this pitfall I started by building the logic for a non-player Japanese opening. My current version captured Malaya, the Philippines and the DEI plus set up a defense perimeter in 9 cards. Not too bad… The way I see this working out is you will have the option to play the Japanese, play the Allies, or what I like best is start as the Japanese with a non-player Allied side. When the Japanese have reached their apogee switch sides and become the Allied player against the Japanese ‘Bot. This way you are always on the attack. So, far I have finished the version 1.0 Japanese opening logic, with much more to do before this is fully up an running.

Now what you will get in the reprint is the version 1.0. It will not be perfect but I am looking at this as a work in progress. I will do the first cut, put it up on line with a template and the EotS tribe can continue to improve and develop it.  That’s about all I have on the EotS reprint other than a few minor map improvements to handle the revised India surrender procedure and a couple of nits.  All that is left is to proof the revised rules layout, which I should see shortly.