Good afternoon Fire in the Lake (FIL) fanatics! And here’s the GM report from the quagmire on the inaugural WBC FIL tournament!
There were a total of 34 enthusiastic combatants who came to “smell the napalm.” The first heat in Round 1 used Tournament Deck A with 7 total tables (4 players each). The US garnered 5 wins (John Emery, Kevin Emery, Thomas McCorry, Bjorn von Knorring, and Leon Delgado), with the ARVN (Roger Taylor, John Boisvert, Todd Carter, and Mark Mihm) coming in 2nd four times, and the NVA (Bill Powers) once, while the NVA was able to come away with 2 wins (Scott de Brestian and Nick Avtges, Jr.) with the US (Michael Hyland and Kirk Harris) coming in 2nd each time.
In the second heat of Round 1 using Tournament Deck B and with 4 total tables (also 4 players each), there were 2 wins by the US (Bill Powers and Nick Avtges, Jr.), the VC (John Keating), ARVN (John Vasilakos), and NVA (Steven Katz) coming in tied in one game, but with the VC gaining 2nd vis-à-vis the tiebreaker, and the NVA (Joel Tamburo) coming in 2nd in the other game, 1 win by the VC (Scott de Brestian) with the US (Michael Redman) coming in 2nd, and 1 win by the NVA (John Bateman) with the US coming in 2nd.
Possibly somewhat “bleary eyed” after the short turnaround time from the second heat in Round 1 which started at 9PM Friday, 8 combatants returned to the quagmire for Round 2, the semifinals, at 9AM Saturday. Having learned some valuable information from the Round 1, the semi-finals again used Tournament Deck B and a modified deck preparation in the Short Scenario (i.e., adding the Coup Cards to the bottom half of each of the 8 stacks used in preparing the game deck). That seemed to help play balance as the US (John Emery) won one of the semi-finals with the VC (John Bateman) coming in 2nd, while the other semi-final was won by the VC (Nick Avtges, Jr.) with the US (Michael Redmond) coming in 2nd. Although not making the Finals, Scott de Brestian (as the NVA in one semi-final game) became FIL’s first 5th Laurelist, just edging out Bill Powers (also as the NVA in the other semi-final game) as the FIL’s first 6th Laurelist.
With a brief break to get some well-earned rations, our four Finalists, Michael Redmond (as the VC), John Bateman (as the ARVN), Nick Avtges, Jr. (as the NVA), and John Emery (as the US) resumed the contest for control of Vietnam in the Medium Scenario, using a standard deck preparation of 36 randomly selected Event Cards out of a total of 48 from the 1968 deck, but again adding the Coup Cards to the bottom half of each stack of the 12 Event cards used to prepare the game deck. What resulted was a FIL Final for the record books of epic proportions. The battle for the “hearts and minds” of Vietnam continually “see-sawed” back and forth, with the VC, ARVN, NVA, and US all “in the hunt” for glory and victory. Here are some notable moments from that titanic struggle:
The VC took shaded APC on the first Card played in the Finals, causing the first of two possible two Tet Offensives to take place;
The US player handed the pawn to his ARVN ally and told him to “Air Lift wherever you want to”;
The seventh Card played in the Finals was the NVA Easter Offensive Pivotal Event (thus burying the An Loc Card and preventing play of a devastating unshaded Event that could have removed all NVA Troops in a space having any ARVN piece, plus permitting placement of 3 ARVN Troops in that space), followed soon thereafter by the ARVN Vietnamization Pivotal Event being played as the eighth Card (thus burying the PT-76 Card, and denying the NVA Attack Ops essentially equivalent in “killing power” to the US Assault Ops);
Just before the second Coup Round (Thieu), The US Air Lifts 4 ARVN Troops to “nowhere” (aka Northeast Cambodia) to cause loss of COIN Control in one space, and thus deny the ARVN an automatic Victory;
During the second Coup Round, the US surged to 57 VPs during the Support Phase, but was almost immediately driven back to 47 VPs by the Insurgents knocking down that US Support;
Having held back play of its Tet Offensive Pivotal Event Card, the VC deployed it late before the third and final Coup Round.
In the third and final Coup Round (Failed Attempt), the VC secured ultimate Victory with Agitation during the Support Phase in Hue to change that City from Passive Support to Passive Opposition (a 4 VP point swing)
With the smoke clearing at the end of the final Coup Round, Michael Redmond’s VC (-2) claimed ultimate Victory (and the “spoils” in the form of a copy of A Distant Plain) as the 1st Laurelist, followed closely by John Bateman’s ARVN (-4) as the 2nd Laurelist, Nick Avtges, Jr.’s NVA (-6) as the 3rd Laurelist, and John Emery’s US (-8) as the 4th Laurelist
Here's the link to the brief pictorial history of the Finals on BGG: