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Subject: The Great Pacific War - Across the Blue Pacific rss

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Robert "Smitty" Smith
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The Great Pacific War (GPW) is Avalanche Press's (AP) reworking of the Avalon Hill game Empire of the Rising Sun. The GPW is a multi-player game that is also suitable for solitaire play. It simulates the war in the Pacific at the global level, and at that level units don't represent any standard combat formations (with divisions being the rare exception). That design decision makes sense in terms of giving players the optimal amount of strategic and operational choices possible within a finite counter mix.

Be aware, though, that this is a long game and even individual turns can take a long time. Moreover, play is dependent on the Avalanche Press "Bucket of Dice" system to resolve combat. AP always adds a little extra value to their games, and for GPW there are extra units for Siam downloadable at: www.avalanchepress.com/SiamsWar.php. Another fact that impresses me about AP is they then devoted Web space to support American soldiers deployed in the war against terrorism.


Components
The cover art is bright and eye-catching. I question placing Mao on the cover in place of Chiang Kai-Shek. Nimitz, Halsey or MacArthur should have been on the cover as well, instead of Stalin. The components include 560 half-inch counters, three 34 x 22 maps, a 48-page rulebook, and a 15-page scenario booklet. Empire of the Rising Sun, in contrast, was 72 pages with 32 pages of appendices. You will need an area roughly 4 x 8 to play the game once you lay out everything.

At first I disliked the map, but that changed to ambivalence, and then finally to liking it. Yes, some of the terrain is a hard to read, but in general the map appears representative of the Pacific. It's a cross between a National Geographic map and Avalon Hill's Victory in the Pacific, with its use of sea areas in lieu of hexes. Functionally that concept makes sense, and it's pleasing to the eye. Hexes represent 60 miles across. One odd thing about the map the rules don't mention is the numbers in circles, which are used for air movement.

The counters are attractive; the amount of detail on them and their ac¬curacy is lovely. Fleets and subs are not cookie-cutter. silhouettes. The Japanese surface fleet counters are silhouettes of the Yamato class or the Pagoda-type battleships. If they had only included the American pre-war battlewagons as a silhouette, I would have been floored. Japanese armor is represented by Type 97 tanks. Though I love Lee/Grant tanks, I found their use to represent an American armored division problematic, since only the 193rd Tank Battalion of the 27th Infantry Division had them while fighting in the Gilbert Islands in November 1943.


Rules
The rules are not badly written, but there are a lot of them. These rules are for the combined Second World War system, which covers both the GPW and Third Reich games. A number of rule pages are not necessary for this game, making the task a little easier. Rule examples should have been included, and a complete one-turn example of play is needed, for there is room for interpretation in the rules' text. The rules are well organized and come with an index. I only found one glitch dealing with strategic bombers. The needed more elaboration, though, on the use of chits and impulses as those rules as presently written are fuzzy. There is no rules support on the AP site.



Play
In line with the finest traditions of Avalanche Press, you will need a strong and supple wrist to play this game. It took me aback they didn't use an odds-based combat results table based, as did old Avalon Hill's Third Reich. Instead the player gets to roll as many dice as there are attacking or defending factors, modified by the type of unit's special capabilities. A hit will cause the loss of a factor in surface, sub and plane units, and can result in the complete destruction of land units.

The game is playable with the use of all the downloadable charts found at Boardgame Geek (www.boardgamegeek. com/game/8402). Those charts contribute immeasurably to the ease of play. Playing without them was an exercise in futility, as I spent more time looking up rules or specific cases than I did actually playing the game.The lack of charts in the game as-published made GPW a tough nut to crack. It isn't so much a complicated game as it is a system in which many actions are interdependent. With those extra charts and player aids, though, I now look forward to playing again in the near future. Conversely, until I found those extra play aids, I was ready to-box it up for good.

The system works to show the ebb and flow of the Pacific War. Each turn represents three months. Each turn includes a production and repair phase. Mastering the naval system and con¬trolling sea zones is essential for winning the game, for control allows you to supply your units, conduct strategic redeployment and amphibiously assault beach hexes. Players are soon confronted with the simple fact they don't have enough navy to go around, mandating evil choices on the use of limited precious assets

I'm no fan of chits that dictate the flow of play; however, here they work, since the randomly drawn chits create a varied turn order and limited command control. Turns are driven by the impulses players decide to conduct from the impulse chits they've purchased. Impulse chits range from "General Offensive" (which is used only once annually), which enables you to move and attack with all your forces, to "Attrition," which will only activate units within a three hex radius. Other impulse chits include "HQ Offensive" and "Naval and Air Offensive." A wild card factor is there in that there's always a chance the turn will end early and thereby deny your use of purchased impulses, and thereby thwarting perfect plans.

Managing your Basic Resource Points is the key to the game. After all, this is a grand-strategic design. BRPs are only generated at the beginning of the year, and they allow you to buy new units, repair units, or purchase the impulse chits that drive your offensives. Hard choices confront you every turn in terms of economics. Being able to forecast trends will keep you from exhausting your BRPs early.

Something GWP does well is point out the precarious economic position of the Japanese in 1941, and what an extraordinary run of luck they had, particularly in terms of losses. As the Japanese player, your need to keep an eye on the Allied strategic bomber fleet, keeping it away from your home islands as long as possible, since your tactical air units can't intercept Allied bombers. Strategic warfare. is another area that deserves mention. In Third Reich, strategic warfare was critical to derailing the German industrial machine. In the GPW it's no less important, but the emphasis switches to anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and cutting sea-lanes. Just a hint, but do not underestimate the importance of devoting resources to ASW to increase your chances of survival as the Japanese player.

Replay value is high. In one game I took Midway early as the Japanese, while on the other side of the map the Dutch Navy gave me a good thrashing. The five scenario's are well chosen and a lot of fun. My personal favorite is the "Hector Bywater" 1931 alternative history wax between Japan and the United States. To accurately reflect the book, play it with only American and Japanese forces. The "Opening Moves" scenario allows players to get into the game system easily as it includes all the rules but doesn't overwhelm the player.

Conclusions
The Great Pacific War is worth a look, but it requires a lot of concentration, time and floor space. Be prepared for your first several games to be somewhat tedious and filled with mistakes. Once you get into the system (download those play aids), you will find a challenging game that will cause you to stare at the map and ponder your next move (game after game).
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Tony Doran
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Thanks for an excellent review.
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Robert "Smitty" Smith
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We thank you Sir!
 
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Phil Goyette
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Nice review!

For those looking to play and neutralize some of the reviewers quite valid criticisms (size of layout, time to complete campaign), I've got a group of about 10 total players now playing JP3R/GPW online via Vassal and Slack chat app. Geekmail me if you're interested in the details. I'm always up for an online game of a smaller scenario as well.
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Robert "Smitty" Smith
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Thanks Phil! If you'd like, I 'll post your game contact stuff on our FB Page if you wish. I liked it enough that my wife Miss Katie & myself were talking about Hector Bywater on Tuesday morning on our early morning walk with the Aussie.
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Phil Goyette
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That would be great! Let me know if you're interested in a game sometime as well...
 
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