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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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In the 1970s one of the classic introductory wargames was War at Sea (second edition), a simple simulation of naval combat in World War II Europe. The success of that game led to one of first wargame sequels:Victory in the Pacific. Only this time, it was not designed by the respected John Edwards. Instead, the assignment was given to Richard Hamblen, who was virtually unknown. He would later gain a reputation for his work in Magic Realm, Gunslinger, and Merchant of Venus. He also developed Fortress Europa, a sequel to another Edwards design.

In Victory in the Pacific, players fight for control of the Pacific Ocean, battle from Pearl Harbor to Okinawa. While a popular gaming topic, the perfect Pacific game is considered something of a holy grail. Victory in the Pacific, while a naval game, is in the short list of best games on the subject. To me, it is the very best.

Gameplay (70/70): In an abstracted sense, Victory in the Pacific is an area control game with lots of risk management, otherwise known as dice. Players use ships to control areas and gain POC (victory points) and/or engage opposing ships. Each area has POC varying from 0-3, which accumulates as the turns go on. The ships are rated for combat, hit points, speed, and sometimes aircraft. Ships types consist of carriers, battleships, and cruisers.

Where this game goes beyond War at Sea (second edition) is the sequence of play. First, each side receives reinforcements. The Japanese player then moves their patrolling ships, which are used to control sea areas. The Allied player repeats this step. Then both sides alternate placing their ground based air forces, which can control sea zones but must be adjacent to a base. Now both sides move their ground units, which are used to seize control of minor bases. Then, the Japanese move their raiding ships, followed by the Allies. Raiders cannot seize sea zones, but they can move further than patrollers, and represent naval forces being deployed for a specific mission. Lastly, the side with a submarine places that unit anywhere on the map.

Most ships are used to control areas, although the Allies, by virtue of going last, can try to a pick a fight and are more able to move solely to sink Japanese ships. However, areas are still the main goal. Also, besides the POC benefit, areas you control block the further movement of raiding forces. Also, major bases, such as Truk and Hawaii, may only fall if all the surrounding sea areas are controlled by the opposing player for two consecutive turns.

Combat is more involved than in War at Sea (second edition). First you must decide if it will be a day (air) or night (surface) action. Players announce what they want, and if there is disagreement a die is rolled, with day getting a +1, while prior control of a sea zone adds a further +1. If the die is tied, a day action is fought followed by a night action. After that units decide who they will attack in a simultaneous round of combat. A roll of 5 disables an enemy unit and forces it to return to base at the end of the round, while a 6 causes random points of cumulative damage. Once a ship suffers more hits than it can take, it sinks. Some ships have stronger attack or air factors, allowing them to inflict damage on a 5 or 6 and disable on a 4. Ships may flee, but they can be pursued by ships that have the same or greater speed factor. Each new round offers another chance for a day or night action.

Some of the Units



As you would expect, the game begins with the Japanese having a massive advantage due to their overwhelming strength. As they press the attack the trick is to do as much damage to the Allies as possible while claiming as many POC points as possible, while preserving some of their strength. This is not an easy task. The Japanese player moves first, giving the Allies some idea as to which areas they intend to control and more importantly how strong they are in that area. So the Allies have many chances to pounce on the Japanese and reenact Midway. By turn 4-5 the Japanese will have to play defense, as the Americans gain massive reinforcements that decisively swing the game in their favor. That is one of the beauties of this game. If played to completion, both sides will know the thrill of the attack and what it means to take a beating.

Accessibility 10/10): The rules are clearly written and only about five pages, although they are rather large pages packed with text. I also suggest using the optional rules. Still, I rarely have any problems with this game. It is perfect for anyone wanting to get beyond something like Napoleon's War: The 100 Days.

Components (8/10): The map is nothing special, being a collection of 70s colors, with blue being the dominate motif. Yet this is among my favorite maps from the era because it is functional and large enough to accommodate the units. The pieces are large, think cardboard, and the unit strengths are easily identifiable. In short, this is a game that won’t blow you away, but makes itself easy on the eyes and most importantly, the head.

The Map


Historical Quality (8/10): Within a simple package, Victory in the Pacific simulates aspects of the war in ways that War at Sea (second edition) does not. For one, the first turn is involved, but handled quite well. Basically, Allied units are, except for some cruisers, fixed in place, giving the Japanese a rare advantage. Second, American carriers are randomly deployed, adding the unexpected. I’ve seen Midway take place on turn one or conversely, Pearl Harbor can be much worse. I especially like the rigid movement sequence. While putting Japan at a disadvantage, simulates the superiority of American intelligence and code decryption.

The other Allied fleets are given greater limitations. The British units are removed over time, and yet they lack the flexibility of American and Australian ships. However, there is no reason not to launch the Royal Navy every turn, which leads me to a point of contention in naval games: players, are not rewarded for fleet preservation. I’ll say that here it only really irks me in regards to the British. I recall one American, when comparing Leyte Gulf to the surrender of the Italian fleet in 1943, said that only the Japanese Navy would accept battle on such unfavorable terms. Still, I'd like to see a naval game that rewards you for he losses you take. A simple POC bonus to the side with the fewest losses might help. Lastly, the game does continue the myth of a tough Kaga and Akagi (games do this for some reason), even though both ships were actually rather susceptible to damage.

Overall (96/100): So what makes this game good? The flow is fast and furious and fate can swing in pretty dramatic ways. History is not insulted. Victory in the Pacific is never dull.Victory in the Pacific took the excellent system from War at Sea (second edition) and made it more involved and slightly more realistic. Most of all they made it a better game. Once I did get to play Victory at Sea, which combines the two, and I hope to again someday. Still, for a balance of gameplay and history, you can't still can't beat Victory in the Pacific, going strong now for over 30 years.

So, when is L2 going to finally give this game the face-lift it deserves?

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David G. Cox Esq.
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Re: Standing the Test of Time
The problem with a game like VitP is that it makes you no longer really want to play War at Sea.
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Leo Zappa
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Re: Standing the Test of Time
No - It makes you want to play Victory at Sea, the combination of both games! What I'm waiting for is for L2 to finish their remake of Victory in the Pacific and the linking module to play Victory at Sea with a much nicer graphically presented version of both games than the AH originals. I have L2's version of War at Sea and it's nicely done, with a few new rule tweaks that make it a more entertaining game (though I still think the original was good too).
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Mike Hall
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Re: Standing the Test of Time
Excellent review on my favorite game. Thanks.
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Steve Herron
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Re: Standing the Test of Time
Back in the 70s when I purchased my copy I used the money I got from being on jury duty to pay for it. One would have to be on jury duty a lot time today to save up to buy a game now.
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Bob
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Re: Standing the Test of Time
Excellent review Sean! thumbsup

Brings back many memories. Sadly my brother gave this game away before I knew it... gulp

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Leo Zappa
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Re: Standing the Test of Time
Ashitaka wrote:
Excellent review Sean! thumbsup

Brings back many memories. Sadly my brother gave this game away before I knew it... gulp



Fear not, my friend. This game is commonly available on eBay, and usually at very good prices. There are three copies on that site even as I type this! A few clicks of the mouse and this gem can be yours!
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Steve Willows
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Re: Standing the Test of Time
Nice job on an old favorite, Sean.

TKO in Three anyone?
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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Re: Standing the Test of Time
Quote:
makes itself easy on the eyes

Six words never before said about the VitP map...

This is still a great game after all these years, full of gut checks and crazy plans.
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Mark Humphries
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Re: Standing the Test of Time
Great Review!

The original Fortress Europa was a Jon Edwards design (Jedko Games), IIRC Hamblen was the developer of the AH edition.
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M@tthijs
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Did you visit my www.kobudovenlo.nl? It has game info
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Re: Standing the Test of Time
My first eBay purchase. Great game, as is your review. Well done!
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Re: Standing the Test of Time
Great review, as usual.

I was reluctant to buy VitP, in spite of all the good things I read about it when it was new. For one thing, at that time I didn't think a relatively simple wargame could be good. For another thing, I had little or no interest in the subject covered.

But in 1984, I broke down and bought a copy. I was fed up with Crescendo of Doom and wanted something simpler for a change. I also liked the idea of area movement and thought it was ideal for a strategy-level game.

I only played VitP a few times, and always solo. Yet I still saw that it was clearly one of the best wargames ever. It just has that special something that sets some games above the rest.

My only complaint (besides still not being that interested in the subject) is that it's not very solo-friendly. There's too much outguessing involved, and it's hard to fool oneself.

Great game, though--worthy of hall-of-fame status.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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sdiberar wrote:
Quote:
makes itself easy on the eyes

Six words never before said about the VitP map...

This is still a great game after all these years, full of gut checks and crazy plans.


Really? Maybe it is just me and my brother. We really like the 70s look.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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Mark_WH wrote:
Great Review!

The original Fortress Europa was a Jon Edwards design (Jedko Games), IIRC Hamblen was the developer of the AH edition.


Fixed in the entry, thanks for pointing it out.

I've had this problem before. Someone should really clean up the design credits on the older wargames.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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desertfox2004 wrote:
Ashitaka wrote:
Excellent review Sean! thumbsup

Brings back many memories. Sadly my brother gave this game away before I knew it... gulp



Fear not, my friend. This game is commonly available on eBay, and usually at very good prices. There are three copies on that site even as I type this! A few clicks of the mouse and this gem can be yours!


I'll second this. I somehow got my copy of VitP for only $11 and in good condition.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Fag an bealac! Riam nar druid ar sbarin lann! Cuimhnigidh ar Luimnech agus feall na Sassonach! Erin go Bragh! Remember Limerick! Remember Ireland and Fontenoy!
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Well, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?
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desertfox2004 wrote:
No - It makes you want to play Victory at Sea, the combination of both games! What I'm waiting for is for L2 to finish their remake of Victory in the Pacific and the linking module to play Victory at Sea with a much nicer graphically presented version of both games than the AH originals. I have L2's version of War at Sea and it's nicely done, with a few new rule tweaks that make it a more entertaining game (though I still think the original was good too).


"Where is, repeat, where is Task Force Thirty Four? The world wonders."
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I am not sure if this was a real quote in the War or not but I JUST finished reading "War and Remembrance" and the Battle of Leyte Gulf figures prominently in the book and so does this quote.

p.s. Highly recommend "Winds of War" too.


gittes wrote:


"Where is, repeat, where is Task Force Thirty Four? The world wonders."
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gittes wrote:
sdiberar wrote:
Quote:
makes itself easy on the eyes

Six words never before said about the VitP map...

This is still a great game after all these years, full of gut checks and crazy plans.


Really? Maybe it is just me and my brother. We really like the 70s look.

I'm with you. It is a bit quirky (Japan and Hawaii are in the same color?!?), but once you understand the nature of the game, it all comes together.

It does suffer a bit with modern sensibilities for being in the era of rubylith separation, but the design and layout of the board are great.
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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Aqua + magenta + three hours = bleeding eyes. But other than that, it's a great map!
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June Hwang Wah
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Simple rules and furious action. One of my all-time favorites. I wished someone can do an iPad version, which can be played over a server.
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Bill Eldard
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da pyrate wrote:
The problem with a game like VitP is that it makes you no longer really want to play War at Sea.


Agreed. I bought and played VitP and was so impressed with it that I went and bought Wat at Sea -- boy, what a disappointment. VitP is a far superior game, and still a great deal of fun after all these years.
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Bill Eldard
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pjmcnamara wrote:
I am not sure if this was a real quote in the War or not but I JUST finished reading "War and Remembrance" and the Battle of Leyte Gulf figures prominently in the book and so does this quote.

p.s. Highly recommend "Winds of War" too.


gittes wrote:


"Where is, repeat, where is Task Force Thirty Four? The world wonders."


It was Nimitz's message to Halsey as the latter took the bait and steamed off after the Japanese carrier task group, which had deliberately deployed without aircraft to serve as a decoy. Halsey's aggressiveness left the amphibious area unprotected.

The phrase "The world wonders" was not Nimitz's words but rather padding added by a radioman -- a common practice to make decryption more difficult. Normally it would be stripped off before the message was delivered to the intended recipient, but someone forgot, and Halsey was outraged thinking his boss was embarassing him.
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David Brown
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Great review of a game I've not played in years.

I've always though the victory conditions were genius in this game,and I don't understand why a similar system has not been used in other Pacific and East Front games. The VP system encourages a very aggressive Jap player, even when they are beaten (if that makes sense)
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Bill Eldard
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thirtybrowns wrote:
Great review of a game I've not played in years.

I've always though the victory conditions were genius in this game,and I don't understand why a similar system has not been used in other Pacific and East Front games. The VP system encourages a very aggressive Jap player, even when they are beaten (if that makes sense)


A clone of this system is used in Axis & Allies: Pacific for the Japanese sudden victory conditions. It rewards aggressive Japanese play and forces the Allied player to defend very vigorously rather than yield territory and wait for superior production to ultimately overwhelm Japan.
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David Brown
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Quote:
A clone of this system is used in Axis & Allies: Pacific for the Japanese sudden victory conditions. It rewards aggressive Japanese play and forces the Allied player to defend very vigorously rather than yield territory and wait for superior production to ultimately overwhelm Japan.


From what I recall the A&A Pacific victory conditions are nothing like VitP. In VitP, even when the Japs are with the backs against the wall, they still have a chance if they have accumulated enough VPs in the early part of the game and are able to play an aggressive defence. In A&A, there is just a high water mark to either hit or miss. If hit the game is over, if missed, the game is over as there is no further point fighting on.
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