Vietnam 1965-1975: rediscovering a wargaming masterpiece

By Patrick Mullen

Vietnam 1965-1975 is a board wargame that I bought when I was 15 and then never played until I was 45. I purchased it the first time at a Comics and Game Store in Miami, Florida in 1986. That copy was destroyed by a hurricane in 1992. I promptly bought another copy. That copy was lost in a move in 1999. I bought another copy that year. That copy was misplaced. I bought another, and then a backup. Last year I found the misplaced copy. By my count, I have purchased this game six times. However, I played the game (my definition: against another opponent; solitaire play and pushing cardboard around does not count) for the first time in the spring of 2016. I currently have two games ongoing. I am about to begin a third with Bruce Geryk, which will be documented in a series of entries to be posted occasionally over the next several months.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

You might want to look at Fire in the Lake, also a board game but for 4 players (NVA, RVN, USA and NLF) but with the added advantage of bots to play the other three, if you fancy a solo experience or a player drops out. Not just a milsim this is the give and take of politics between allies and everyone has an entirely different victory condition. It is part of series of games dealing with COIN (counter insurgency). It is not just good, it is stunningly brilliant and there is a VASSAL module for it as well.

Fire in the Lake is specifically called out in the article.

My mistake. Something to do with eyesight failing due to age.

The bots thing in FitL is really very good allowing for solo play. I disagree with the critique of it though, but the two games are probably looking at different aspects. FitL is about the politics of a four player struggle for power and the futility of military solutions. I’ve played and won as RVN so I resent being called a parasite! You win (as the RVN) by using US resources to fight for you while you bolster up the policing of the cities to defend against NLF terrorist attacks (which the US are awful at doing). FitL also has another advantage. It is in print.

Fire in the Lake is interesting, but I don’t think it really offers the same kind of experience. I think it’s actually a game that shows the creakiness of the COIN system trying to always be 4 players and the kind of politics it shows is really strange.

Karp’s Vietnam is very much a game about operations, with a strategic wrapper- the core of the game is doing sweep after sweep with all this stuff happening around you.

Yeah, I appreciate the reasoning behind FitL, but after having played it over a dozen times (although never solo - I’m not much for soloing anything when I can help it) I’ve come to the conclusion that it is too constrained by the assumptions of COIN to do what it needs to do. I love playing it, until it runs up on the rocks of the victory conditions.

Vietnam 1965-1975 is a brilliant game, constrained only by the fact that it has a lot more for the US player to do than for the NLF player.

If you haven’t see it, check out the podcast Tom Chick and I did with Volko about FitL before it was published:

Yeah, two completely different games. I love what Karp’s game does, it just requires a lot more commitment. Commitment! Ha! I kill me.

Thanks to all for reading the article! My only critique of FiTL is that a RVN “Victory” is what the US would have called a victory historically. As well, the end date is historically deterministic.

“Vietnam 1965-1975 is a brilliant game, constrained only by the fact that it has a lot more for the US player to do than for the NLF player.”

Until 1967ish. Then that worm starts to turn.

I had that game for years, but I don’t think I ever found anyone to play it with. Solitaired it some.