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Subject: VitP 1941-1945 : Why is this game good for you? rss

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Doug Poskitt
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Hello everyone,

A few years ago I had the misfortune to suffer a stroke and as a result my life got turned upside down. I was obliged to take early retirement on health grounds. Given that a UK teacher's pension does not allow high-on-the-hog living in itself, I came up with the plan to retire to south-east Asia. At that point, I had over 200 wargames that I had planned to have a ball with once I was retired.

The humidity in the Far East and the cost of transporting all those games meant that I made the painful decision to sell them all. I consoled myself with the thought that maybe I could replace them digitally and enjoy some of the PC wargames, such as War in the Pacific, War in the East, Case Blue etc etc.

As fate would have it, a further stroke saw me repatriated back to the UK last year. As I adjust to these topsy-turvy times, I have spent some time in anguished debate with myself concerning my decision to offload my wargame collection.

Given that my collection included nearly all the OCS series, the GMT East Front series and many others such as World in Flames, I have found myself coming to an unexpected conclusion.

Of all the 200+ games I sold, the one true regret I have is that I do not own Victory in the Pacific (2nd Ed) by Avalon Hill. (Of course, via the Geek Marketplace that can be rectified).

I have spent some time thinking about this. I know that many people still hold the game in high regard. I certainly do, obviously. Why should that be? I ask myself.

The first things that came to mind were:

1) It has a quick setup time compared to many wargames, which also means a quick takedown time. That makes it easy to get on the table and start playing.

2) It makes for a very tense and fun game, with excellent replayability. For a game with relatively simple mechanics, there are tactical and strategic options to explore.

3) It does a good job of illustrating the dramatic highs and lows of the Pacific campaign for both sides. The dramatic attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbour, Indonesia etc etc. The "hanging on by the fingertips" experience of the American player, before he gradually begins to amass the tools and strength to begin the fight back. The grand sweep of the game.

As I thought about why this game is so appealing to me, I concluded that there was one reason that rose above the others.

From the start to the finish of the game - be it 8 turns or 9 - and every step of each game-turn, both players are confronted with an endless stream of decisions to be made. In his analysis of the Pacific campaign, Richard Hamblen commented that even the smallest tactical decision had strategic effects. This is true of the game.

As each player moves through the steps in the game turn, they are continually bomabarded with the need to make decisions, be they large or small. These decisions are further highlighted in the fact that each game-turn is very interactive, thus there is little down time for either player.

A game with simple mechanics and portrayed at a high strategic level that nevertheless encompasses tactical considerations and keeps each player on their toes throughout, constantly reequired to make decision after decision.

This is what makes the game so great, imo. A masterpiece

What makes it great for you guys?


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Steve C
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First - Sorry to hear about your health issues. Hope no more.

As for VITP, it was my first wargame back in 1984. Of course with me being 12 at the time and no other wargamer friends/family members, I had NO CLUE how to play the game. Luckily, I didn't mark/mess it up or destroy/lose the pieces/game. But as I got older, the rules/gameplay made sense.

So VITP has a special place for me. Its still my favorite Pacific War game(both board and PC). It has a short playtime. WITP/AE takes longer than the war itself. And Empire of the Sun/card system just doesn't hit home.
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Steve Duke
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You have hit the nail squarely on the head, sir.

I have a re-aquired copy myself that was unplayed but with some box damage.
It is now proudly back in my collection.

You can play it pretty well via Vassal too, by the way.

For me, despite the two great strategy articles that appeared in The General decades ago (TKO in three and the other one, how to stop TKO), I have never seen a perfect strategy. There are too many D6s going on and a sure thing can go badly just as surely as a futile attack can win the day.

It keeps bringing me back to a simpler time in my life. I played the bulk of my games in high school. Very few since although the aforementioned vassal is nice to have as an option.

There is enough there to be a masterpiece and despite some folks looking down their noses at the simplicity, you nailed it--both players are engaged every turn.

Here is hoping you good health from here, sir, and thanks for posting.
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Stephen A
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Sorry about your health issues.

I would say playability, and the fact that the game is strategic in scope, covering nearly the whole Pacific war.

Also, I used to play VITP in late grade school, and early high school, and I was pretty good at it too, so VITP brings up good memories from that period in my life for me for many reasons.

Would love to play my copy again someday, if I could only find local opponents.
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S S
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Hi Doug,
I'm sorry to hear about the health problems you faced. I hope your condition improves or stabilizes, and that gaming continues to fill you with pleasure during your recovery.

Here are your observations about VitP:
1. Quick setup
2. Fun, tense, and high replay value
3. Illustrates the sweep of the campaign
4. Filled with decision points

Agree wholeheartedly. Number 2 above is the main reason I enjoy VitP, followed closely by no. 4. I would add that VitP is one of those games in which each player believes he is losing and should do more (at the risk of achieving less!) with what little forces he has at his disposal. Because of this as well as no. 4 above, VitP is also easily played solo.

Regarding the tense play, I recall one game where the Allied player had his AFs stationed on an island airbase. During battle, he chose not to attack my amphibious force, so I told him that I planned to land. He acknowledged but did not change his attacks. When I landed and caused his AFs to withdraw, he was furious and thought I was cheating. I felt bad, but told him it was in the rules. He later re-read the rules and apologized for losing his temper. No problem with me--he was a really good guy that missed that one rule. But it was the high tension in the game that put us both on edge.
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Doug Poskitt
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wandererdog wrote:

Hi Doug,
I'm sorry to hear about the health problems you faced. I hope your condition improves or stabilizes, and that gaming continues to fill you with pleasure during your recovery.

Here are your observations about VitP:
1. Quick setup
2. Fun, tense, and high replay value
3. Illustrates the sweep of the campaign
4. Filled with decision points

Agree wholeheartedly. Number 2 above is the main reason I enjoy VitP, followed closely by no. 4. I would add that VitP is one of those games in which each player believes he is losing and should do more (at the risk of achieving less!) with what little forces he has at his disposal. Because of this as well as no. 4 above, VitP is also easily played solo.

Regarding the tense play, I recall one game where the Allied player had his AFs stationed on an island airbase. During battle, he chose not to attack my amphibious force, so I told him that I planned to land. He acknowledged but did not change his attacks. When I landed and caused his AFs to withdraw, he was furious and thought I was cheating. I felt bad, but told him it was in the rules. He later re-read the rules and apologized for losing his temper. No problem with me--he was a really good guy that missed that one rule. But it was the high tension in the game that put us both on edge.


I remember having a game with my brother way back in the spring of 1991. He had never played any wargames before, but he quickly got a handle on the rules. We had a real blast that evening, with each turn and each step of every turn a nail biting affair. You could feel the tension in the air. Each battle was all-involving, each sea area contested was the focus of so much anticipation and concentration. IIRC, the game lasted about 3-4 hours in all.

We still talk about it, 25 years later.
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Lance McMillan
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Allow me to offer a contrarian point of view...

I won't debate that VitP is a great game. It hits solidly on all your main points: fast set-up, fast playing, great tension, well balanced, offers meaningful decision points/choices for the players right up to the very last turn, and does a reasonable job of capturing the "flavor" and sweep of the campaign. However, it falls woefully short as history.

The lack of logistical constraints allow both players, but the Japanese in particular, to conduct operations which would never have been feasible. Air unit quality remains static throughout the game, when we know that Allied pilots and aircraft improved dramatically over the course of the war while Japanese pilot quality declined precipitously. The USAAF strategic bombing campaign isn't even represented abstractly, although it had effectively shut down Japanese industry by late '44. And so on...

Please understand, I'm not saying I don't enjoy VitP -- it holds a favored posiition in my collection and still sees the table occasionally. But I also think that it could have been a much better design if there had been greater attention to some of the broader historical facets of the campaign.

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craig grinnell
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To paraphrase my answer from another thread,
It's thinking without having to think

The best parts of this game are the speed at which you can get from beginning to end and the fact that it is simple without being "simplistic."

The mechanics are easy to master, and the overall feel is that of a relaxing game rather than a stress producer like many other war games can be.
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Brian Herr
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There was a very similar thread from about a year ago - sans health issues, sorry to hear that - here is my answer from then:

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/19536145#19536145
In short, I love VITP because it creates great stories.

BTW, have you tried Victory at Sea Redux? http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/193948/victory-sea-redux
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Steve Duke
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Lancer4321 wrote:
Allow me to offer a contrarian point of view..


So let's start by saying that 'many' of us are very impressed with how smart you think you are...

you did not answer his question and he did not ask for a diatribe about what VITP is not. Read and answer the question, "smart" guy. Reading comprehension 101, please review....

To help you review, since you obviously answered with your own agenda, he asked 'what makes it great for you." Try sticking to that question...

Your response reminds me that my wife is so often right about this community...gamers who lack basic social skills.
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Lance McMillan
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sduke wrote:
Read and answer the question, "smart" guy. Reading comprehension 101, please review....


Speaking of folks who can't comprehend, please explain to me what part of "what makes VitP great for you" this didn't address:

Lancer4321 wrote:
It hits solidly on all your main points: fast set-up, fast playing, great tension, well balanced, offers meaningful decision points/choices for the players right up to the very last turn, and does a reasonable job of capturing the "flavor" and sweep of the campaign.


So please, forgive me for trying to explain what aspects of an otherwise excellent game I found lacking which prevent if from (in my opinion) meeting the classification of "great."

Let's be honest here, your little tirade has nothing to do with my percieved "lack of basic social skill." What it really boils down to is your desire to suppress criticism.
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Steve Duke
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Nice try, Lance. What it really boils down to is your lack of basic social skills.

I am sure we are all mightily impressed.

His question was simple: what makes it great for you guys?

Not, 'It is great, but...." which you felt obliged to share.

It is not about criticism but I would be HAPPY to find ANY game you have actually produced and I will ensure you that I will give it a look...and you can count on me for comments...

There seems to always be 'that guy' in every group of gamers who can't just let a positive thing go without some type of spin, usually in the attempt to make himself look more intellectual. The 'Debbie Downer' effect.






cheers, mate
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Daniel Blumentritt
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VITP is pretty good at representing most of the historical aspects that it tried to model, and not very good at representing most of the historical aspects that it didn't try to model.

There are several good WW2 Pacific Theater games that have some reasonable logistics limitations rules that constrain the Japanese especially to more plausible paths. Those games also take 7-12 hours to play rather than 3-5. I would love to play Fire in the Sky or Across the Pacific a lot too, but it's hard enough to get someone to sit down and learn a strategic-level naval warfare game that takes an evening, much less one that takes most of the day.

Quote:
The best parts of this game are the speed at which you can get from beginning to end and the fact that it is simple without being "simplistic."

The mechanics are easy to master, and the overall feel is that of a relaxing game rather than a stress producer like many other war games can be.


Agreed. It's a great 1 on 1 mental challenge that achieves this greatness without having to layer on a bunch of complex rules and exceptions and procedures to do so. Now, the ramifications of your decisions, or of whether you fail at or succeed at an objective, may very well be quite complex. But if you get outwitted in that way, you feel like you lost because you got outwitted, not because you didn't memorize the 15-step procedure like your opponent did.

Of course, sometimes you lose to the dice. But the key thing to remember is you never win that way - winning is always due to skill!
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Mircea Pauca
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VitP has the best 'Reflexive control' compared to the rules load of all wargames I know. Thinking as/about the enemy to make own decision changing the situation such as to channel enemy decision in own desired direction. So one must constantly think ahead for own AND enemy forces. (Chess does that in the purest way, but where is the fun without fistfuls of dice too?)

It also has a very lively tournament scene, with one dedicated solely to VitP (Midwest Open). It's played in most live conventions and PBEM Ladder, BPA Elimination tournaments every few years and Top 10 Invitational tournament.
http://www.gameaholics.com/vitp_tournament.htm

<Backgammon> is a game of skill and luck. If you win it's skill, if you lose it's luck.
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