A Brief Review of Singapore by Mark Mokszycki
PROS: terrific map art, solid rules, intereting strategic options including hopping port-to-port and conducting amphibious assaults, plays very quickly, with a 26 turn game being possibly played to completion in a few hours (or 4 or 5, if the game makes it to the final assault on Singapore City). Quite a bit of nice chrome thrown in (rail moves, air field control, force Z interception, capturing shipping in tact, special ZOC rules for harsh terrain, attrition loss increases in jungle and mountain, etc.).
CONS: Not a lot for the Commonwealth to do other than grab terrain behind rivers and prepare to get pushed back one turn at a time. Some of the chrome rules might feel a bit fiddly at first to the novice wargamer, and the particulars of ZOC and retreats can take some getting used to. But the only *real* problem here is the highly questionable, highly wacky differential combat system. It produces unlikely results.
For example, 5 strength attacking vs. 1 defending (a 5:1 attack by ratio in most other wargames) is resolved in the +4 column here. Ok, fine. But a 104 point attack vs. 100 defense is also resolved in the +4 column. Huh?! So the bigger the number of points involved in a combat, the more skewed the results become, with microscopic differences in force sizes accounting for big column shifts.
Making this worse, the columns only go to +12, with any additional attack points being lost. This means the Japanese will occasionally have 12 airpoints available, and no where to commit them because all their attacks are already at maximum chance of success! This is just plain wrong.
Another minor gripe is that the counters were not die cut correctly on my sheet, necessitating me to use a razor for the vertical cuts (but this might just be my set).
When all is said and done, I still like this game. It plays fast, and it is fairly fun. The rules are relatively simple, with some interesting chrome in just the right places. If it wasn't for the combat system (which is bordering on broken, in my opinion), I would probably rate it a 7 or 7.5.
Overall Rating: 6 / 10
Complexity: 3.5 or 4 / 10
The main problem with the combat system is that under normal conditions, outright defender losses outside clear terrain are impossible. We really liked this game and played it again and again. Eventually we found that an experienced Commonwealth opponent can establish a defense in depth that will inevitably derail the Japanese timetable. Either you don't make it to Singapore or you have to attack against a full garrison which is so bloody (especially since supply stops affecting CW units on Singapore Island so their counterattacks are suddenly ferocious) and your losses will make you lose anyway. That sort of ended our engagement with the game.
There is a small window of opportunity if the Japanese roll the six on the initial attack on the border, and later capture the Penang shipping, to overstretch even an experienced CW player. But it is very small.
Conversely, a new CW player will be thrashed by an experience Japanese. Between equally experienced opponents, trying out various strategies until both sides have learned how to shut down the Japanese is fairly enjoyable.