- Robert "Smitty" Smith(M1Tanker)United States
It is possible that DOWNFALL, the invasion of the Japanese Home Island through Olympic and Coronet could have killed off my family line. Our family had already sacrificed one Smith on the altar of Victory against the Axis with the death of SSG Harold Smith killed in his A-20 bomber flying support in Normandy. Now with Dad being in the US Navy, the odds just ramped up on the Big Board of life and death for his possible maiming or death. One thing we do know, is that by any reckoning, this was going to be bloody. How bloody? Well that becomes the interesting historical and a historical argument as various numbers are always "quoted" by the veracity of many are a bit sketchy.
War Drum Games has done the community a favor by making this game accessible with its new English language facelift. We are indeed fortunate that Jack Greene of Quarterdeck International has tapped into the vast undiscovered Asian gaming market for all of us for games on battles and campaigns that are perhaps less well-known to the student of military history, much less the gamer. The Operation CORONET map on the Rule Book cover comes from Reports of General MacArthur. I like Skates The Invasion of Japan as the best one volume read on this subject.
Top notch components here for this game. All of the counters dismounted without a hitch. No tears for this gamer as everything came nicely off the counter sheet. The 1/2" counters are both thick and easy to read. The two US armies are color coded to distinguish them, and that makes play easy. What I liked the best was the feel of this map, as it as a different tactile feel than any map in recent memory. Although like almost every game map, it went under the Plexiglas (hey cats do throw up on the game table and want no leakage through the boards), it was a great feel. The negative about the map is none of the town and cities are in English. Nor was a sheet provided for the gamer to know what is being fought over or to assign themselves place names as mental objectives. Small thing but it would have been value added at someone thought about doing so.
Thankfully, Jack Greene at Quarterdeck International is handling the distribution of Race to Tokyo. Jack has a keen eye for small thing and not so small things. Here Jack made up a nice Player Aid Card with the Terrain Effects Chart and the Turn Record. The Turn Record Track is important as notes when Japanese Reserves enter the game and how many American units can be reconstituted that game turn.RULES
Our rule question were the sum total of one for the game. Very clean rules in terms of process and the ability to get the game to the table. Now, some of the English or construct is a bit funky and might require a little puzzling out but not of that is of the type where you wonder later still are we doing this right. Nothing in the rules are showstoppers, or requires head scratching, a rarity in games of any sorts, much less a game where the rules have been translated into English.
In the game introductory notes, the designers liken Race to Tokyo as akin to SPI's classic Battle for Germany. Although it did not fully feel that way to me in terms of game play, I still think the descriptor is accurate. The two American Armies are competing to see who can either capture Central Tokyo first with its sliding value of Victory Points or who can amass the most Victory Points by the end of Turn Eight. There are two competing Japanese "armies", the one on the eastern side of the boundary demarcation line and the Japanese Western army. The two armies are played by the two American Players. Their goal is to use those Japanese forces in such a way as to prevent the other American army from winning the game. It may not be Zhukov and Konev competing who gets the sobriquet of being the conqueror of Berlin, but there is a sense of that in this game as captured by its game play.
And how is victory determined by game play? Killing units? Nope. The American Player earns no Victory Points (VP) for the elimination of Japanese units. Nor does the Japanese Player do so if one is playing the three-player game. VPs are earned by the seizure of VP towns and cities. One can before Turn Eight with the capture of Tokyo as game play stops then and the player with the most points wins. Occupying Central Tokyo is harder than it looks. More important is the seizure of Tokyo that through game turn four is worth ten VPs. In my one play through, the Eighth American Army would have earned a tie had they been able to take Central Tokyo by then with its ten VPs. On the map, there are two VP cities to the far West and one-way South that equal two VPs. Are they worth the diversion of a unit to garner those two VPs? I don't think so but your game play could show otherwise. Instead, the game seems to call for pushing as fast as you can with as much mass as you can muster for recall - Race to Tokyo is but eight game turns in length.
Play is both fast and intuitive. In its simplest format one moves, fights and rebuilds units. Pretty easy to remember that. I enjoyed not having any air units on the board here at the divisional scale for the US Player. Zones of Control (ZOC) require a unit to stop upon entering for that turn. No extra movements are required to enter or leave a ZOC. However you can't move directly from one ZOC to another. It is interesting that there is no road movement in Tokyo, for each hex counts for two movement points. Why? I saw it as rubble and the urban defense of the type that was mounted in Manila. The real game kicker is only one unit per hex! It requires a different approach for the American and means - more casualties! Nice design effect here folks.
Japanese armor is treated a bit funny here. Unlike other units that are unknown until the moment of combat, An Armored Division as designated by the D gets the full value of a die roll as its combat strength for that turn, An armored brigade (d) gets one-half that of that die roll value, rounded down. US Units can also benefit from HQ support that gives units within a two hex radius one-column shift. The only iffy part is the Optional Rule for Volunteer Corps where you have to infer the designer's intent. Had they only used the word totaled it would have hit my game understanding eye sooner. If as the Japanese Player you get a die roll you don't like, you can elect to take a Volunteer Corp to get a reroll.
Each Volunteer Corps has a number on the back. Should your use of these total nine or more, that player loses the game as it is postulated that with the additional fanatical resistance, the US resorts to the Atomic Bomb.
So close but so far away - locking Zones of Control meant no one got into central Tokyo. Deeply satisfying play.
Race to Tokyo is simply a must have for anyone interested in the most remote manner in the Pacific Campaign of World War Two. The fact that it is so clean in terms of rules and so easy in terms of game play flow makes this a game that might be quite challenging to find a reason to move OFF your gaming table for a considerable period of time. Race to Tokyo's overall gaming experience value is hard to overrate folks. It would be easy to overlook as it is not a mainstream company by American standards. Pass it up and when you hear from your friends how great it is, you will smack yourself in the forehead for missing out on it. I found it played easily solo. From top-notch components, to a map that feels nicer in terms of texture, to a sensible game engine, you won't go wrong here.
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- Terry LewisUnited States
Oregon"But first, the children ought to be fed." -- Virginia Held (1980) from "Property, Profits, and Economic Justice"
Another good one, Smitty! Ollie and Buster are excellent assistants!
As you know, my father was scheduled to be in the first wave of the invasion of the home islands. So, here is another one who might not have been around . . .
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- Robert "Smitty" Smith(M1Tanker)United States
Was I aware of that fact? It's amazing when you consider the odds. Now most would have survived. But then there are the battle wounded, and the psychologically wounded, and perhaps those who could get married but would have had "performance issues" lessening their chances of a family.
- [+] Dice rolls