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Major Campaigns of General Douglas MacArthur» Forums » Variants

Subject: Slight Variant addressing Slight Flaw rss

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Pete Gelman
United States
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Mysterious Matters of Max Metters / Moonifest Destiny
Island of the Moths
Howdy Sid Sackson Wargame fans,

I enjoy this simple but challenging wargame with the given rules. Let's save our readers some time in this preamble paragraph... Imagine me writing about eight or nine positive specific points of admiration about the rules here. And here would be another point about the dangers of meddling with rules by such a master as Sid Sackson. I would never speculate that this was the first card wargame, since such outrageous statement would be sure to be opposed by Babylonian stone tablet wargame counter examples. However, I could even add another little side-point about the game showing signs of rich playtesting and play-proofing, including my own post-publication-and-out-of-print playtesting.

That said, I wonder about one slight flaw-- what amounts to a "free move" after defeat. In this game situation, it gives the allies the ability to try to lose defensive battles to gain a non-turn retreat move toward Bataan.

Based on experience while chomping my corncob pipe at the pub (if a corncob pipe was a type of beer), let's divide the gameflow from the Amero-Philippine perspective into three phases.

1. Strong Initial Defense.--star-spangled dashing Japanese hopes of early victory.

2. Some Problems. Organized and Strategic Retreat and Nasty Counter-Strikes against the invaders.

3. Disaster. Frightened, Panicking Retreat toward Bataan.

Yes, friends, the road to Bataan is a long one and it may not stay open. The allies can find new strength there and turn the endgame into a whole little subgame... but this will not happen if the allies retreat too quickly into Bataan, or if they do so without sufficient surviving endgame strength. The victorious balance point of strength and position is a sliding one.

So the "gift" of retreat movement that comes with the loss of a battle can help a lot. It could be worth a handful of movement points from the next set of movement cards; those numbers are significant! You want every one and will groan "unfair!" when you get an 8 instead of a 9! Every card result does not provide enough movement points! Every turn is unfair, even when you receive two 9s!

Thematically I imagine that planned, voluntary retreat versus retreat after defeat are not much alike.

This seems most true, and most painful in the game, when giving the defeated enemy a "free move" through rough terrain that would cost multiple movement points per retreating piece. If I recall right, the worst case of a defeated retreat "gift" would be equal to fifteen "free" movement points (5 pieces across roughest road). Many times during the game, a player doesn't have that many points to move in a turn.

It seems wrong that something so difficult and costly to achieve on a player's own turn would be for "free" following a combat defeat.

As the Japanese player I have opted not to make an attack that I would likely win in order not to give this nice road gift to the survivors of my attack. My wily opponent even admitted that she had left U.S. forces in such a manner to force me to give her survivors a free move toward Bataan. Instead I glared over my bitter pretzel and sidled around slowly sideways to slowly cut them off from Bataan. The Americans retreated a couple turns later, slower but intact. It was almost like a little snippet of El Grande game-play. In this game's terms, it gave the Americans a couple of turns to retreat in good order with stronger Japanese forces going the long way 'round to avoid them.

I expect that this alleged "free retreat move" flaw is an arguable point. It could impact the balance of the game design in favor of the Japanese. I know that as the allied player I did not feel like I had a lovely easy time of retreating. With the given rules, the game has at about 1/3 of the time come down to the last turn. So whatever you do, don't listen to me!

So this is my simple but possibly unwise proposal that you should not follow... The attacker can declare a given attack is an attack to destroy only, not an attack to gain ground. The defender, if defeated, would ignore the combat retreat result and hold position. If the attacker says nothing, assume it is a normal attack per the given rules.

If my opponent agrees, I'll try this some time and report back!
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