Michael Von Ahnen
Victoy in the Pacific is a "strategic level" game covering the naval war in the Pacific ocean during World War II. The game includes the major ships, fleet carriers, battleships, and heavy cruisers. Also in the game are land based air units, marines, and submarines. The game is based on an earlier game (War at Sea) and there is actually an article written in the Avalon Hill General (now defunct magazine) for combining it into a naval game covering the entire World War II naval war. But not to get ahead of myself.
Victory in the Pacific uses area movement system where the Pacific ocean is segmented into several sea areas. The goal of the game is to control these sea areas and to collect the "Points of Control" (POC) for these sea areas. In the sea areas there are bases from which land based air can fly from and where ships can return to at the end of the turn. Control of of a sea area tends to go hand in hand with controlling the bases. So the basics of the game are move your ships and air into a sea area. Fight as many rounds of combat with against the enemy until somebody is obliterated or decides to run, and the victor (or survivor) wins the sea area. Add up all the POC's for all the sea areas, and that to the game total. Being an Avalon Hill game, it is not actually that simple, but close.
Lets talk about the units for a moment. The ships have surface combat factor, armor, and speed. Additionally, the carriers have an air factor. Unlike the traditional hex wargames, the combat is not the traditional "add up the attack factors, divide by defense factors, roll a die and consult a chart for the result". The combat factor is actually the number dice the ship rolls to attack. A '5' means that the target ship is disabled and will be sent back to port. A '6' means that you have damaged the ship. Roll another die and the result is the damage. Put more damage on a ship than the armor and it sinks. One complicating factor is that you need to determine whether the combat is a day action (only carriers and land based air can attack) or a night action (only ships, including carriers with significant guns, can attack). The land based air units only have the attack factor and the defense value (like armor). They can only be in a sea area which you have a base. A couple more unit types are the marines and the submarines. The marines are only "targets" in combat, they have only defense and movement. They are used to invade "minor ports", but only after they survive one turn of combat. The submarines are a counter abstractly represents an advantage in submarines used in attacking combat ships. The result that when you have the I-boat (Japanese) or F-boat (US), you get one shot at a ship remaining at sea. This is to simulate the torpedoing of the Saratoga, the Yorktown (after Midway), the Shinano.
There are some important details that have not been covered yet. There are two types of ports, major and minor. Major ports are ones like Pearl Harbor, Australia, Japan, etc. Minor ports are ones like Midway, Dutch Harbor, and many others. Major ports can only be taken by holding all boarding sea areas for two consecutive turns, basically isolating them. Minor ports are taken in the same way, but can also be taken by invasion by marines. Major ports usually have repair facilities where ships can have damage removed. Also, ships from any where on the board (except for some special rules for the British) can return to a friendly major port. Ships can only return to a minor port if they are in a sea area that the minor port borders.
Some details of combat, for day combat, you get to pick your targets, for night, you have to attack all of the battleships and heavy cruisers before blasting the carriers. Also, you can not attack land based air in night combat. So if you have only night combat ships in an area with an enemy land based air, you have not chance or winning the area.
My point of this tutorial is that the game is relatively easy to learn and does not get bogged down in the rules, almost un-heard of from a AH designed game. It is fun to play and is in my opinion is a better as a sequel than the original. War at Sea is a lighter, quicker game, but seems to be decided more by luck than skill. Victory in the Pacific, due to many more ships, seems to balance this out. When you are rolling literally hundreds of die rolls in a game, things average out. And you have so many ships to play with, that a few bad die rolls don't decide the game. The game also seems to follow the flow of history, which in my opinion is the goal of a good wargame. The games take 2 to 3 hours to play and is usually decided in the last couple of turns, which makes it interesting all the way through.
The game starts with the Japanese attacking Pearl Harbor. This adds a significant number of rules, since port attacks are very rare, except for the initial attack on Pearl Harbor. But what naval wargame could be complete without the attack on Pearl Harbor. Plus, it gives you the chance of the American carriers to actually arrive to combat the Japanese after the raid. The Japanese jumps out to a huge lead, controlling most of the Pacific. Then late in the game, the massive amount of US carriers arrive to take it back. Interestingly, the game is usually decided between the huge first turn for the Japanese and the big turns 6 & 7 for the US.
Another feature of the game that makes it good, is that you don't have to use one strategy to win. You can win as a conservative Japanese, or you can throw the US out of Pearl Harbor and / or Australia. As the US, do you force the major battles, like the historic Coral Sea and Midway, or do you chew the Japanese around the edges, getting ready for your massive attack at the end of the game. The game plays well and is exciting all the way through. The turns in which you don't have much to do move fast and there is not much bookkeeping.
I have played the combined game with War at Sea, dubbed Victory at Sea. It has some cool features, but takes longer to play, and pretty much ends up being not significantly different than playing War at Sea and Victory in the Pacific at the same time. Something you might do for a change, but Victory in the Pacific is better day to day.