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World War II: Pacific Theater of Operations» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Spot or sink. rss

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Colin Raitt
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A strategic game spanning the Incident at the Marco Polo Bridge in 1937 through Pearl Harbour, Midway, atomic bombs and the soviet invasion of Manchuria. Spotting the enemy carrier group is the key to victory. 2 players basically, but easily split into teams.

Scenarios
Pearl Harbour
Singapore
Guadalcanal
Jan-June 42
1944 Island Hopping
1944 whole map
China 1937-38
Dec 41-Dec 42
1941-45
1937-45.

Map
2x34’’x22’’ sheets. From Alaska to Mongolia, Bombay to Fiji. 100 mile hexes. 33 hexes from Tokyo to Pearl. Clear, rivers, rough, jungle, desert and small island, cities, small and large ports, coastal and deep sea. Rivers, seas, cities and nations are named. I love the bright blue and vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean.


Ground units mostly divisions (3 step) and brigades (single step). Some strong corps (5 step) for the US and USSR. Weak corps for the Philippines, and Communist Chinese, weak armies for the Kuomintang all equivalent to divisions. Troop types; infantry, marine, paratroop, engineer, chindits and armour. Marines avoid 2/3 of the amphibious assault combat DRM. Engineers build airstrips. Chindits can survive behind enemy lines. Armour can breakthrough before regular attacks.

Air units are 100 planes each. Bomber, fighter bomber, carrier fighter bomber, fighter and transport types. Plane quality is all important, it runs from 0-5 and helps to shoot down the enemy and protect you own birds from their fire. Kamikases are quality 5, late war fighters quality 4. A 1 point advantage in plane quality lets you take on 2:1 odds. The Japanese have the advantage in 1941 with recent combat experience in China and second rate allied planes. This reverses later. If you can clear your bombers through to target, they can aid ground attacks, sink ships, disrupt supply bases, ruin forts, airfields and cities. 4 engined heavies are pretty poor against ships. Ports and fleets have marginal flak abilities. Japanese (and British) carrier planes have a slightly longer range than their US counterparts, this should be absolutely crucial but 3/4s of the time the allies set the range or the Japanese don’t spot at full range.

Naval units are named single ships for carriers, light carriers, battleships, battle cruisers and heavy cruisers. Escort-carriers, light cruiser, destroyers, destroyer-escorts, submarines and transports are squadrons of 2 -6 hulls per counter. Fleet speed is 39-40, old battleships, old destroyers, carrier-escorts, transports and submarines struggle to keep up. Ship armour ranges between 7 for destroyer escorts up to 14 for Iowa and Yamato. Gunnery ranges from 0 for 4’’ popguns on destroyer escorts up to a whopping 6 for the 18’’ rifles on Yamato. Battleships can easily rip all other surface ships apart if they get into line of sight. Submarines can intercept cripples and battleships in coastal waters. Only destroyers and planes can fight back against them.


Seasonal turns every third month players can by units with EP (economic points). Each season a nation receives fresh tranche of EPs modified by conquest, bombing and submarine raiding. The 2 Chinas, the Dutch and the commonwealth fight on a shoestring. Japanese industry is dwarfed by America’s. Offensives are also purchased each season and damaged units repaired. Infantry arrive straight away but everything else has at least a 3 month delay. US units appear in the West Coast so take an extra month to reach the action.

Monthly phases.
Weather
Strategic Warfare
Air/naval.
Offensive.
Movement.
End.

Weather phase. Winter zone covers Alaska and Russia. Land zone is Japan China, Korea and most of Indo-china. Planes may be grounded and ground units are slowed. Monsoon affects India, Burma, Thailand, a sliver of Indo-china, Malaya and the Dutch east indies. Ground attacks are hampered, rivers flood, planes struggle to take off and ship are harder to spot.

Air/Naval phase
The player with most offensives chooses who goes first, normally its best to go second. Ships in port are swapped for taskforce markers. The ships go into a depression on the tray lids with the same number, 1 task force can be a dummy the rest might have at least 3 units and could have the whole fleet. The enemy only sees the blank back of the task force marker.
Transports carry supply markers and troops to ports or close to invasion sights. Navies intercept within 3 coastal hexes or a sea zone and escort. Moving only ½ lets you operate later in the same month. Bombers shift base or attack enemy planes/ships in range. Fighters can intercept within their range. Ships must be spotted before they can be intercepted. Carrier fleets can try to hide close to secondary and dummy fleets. Planes spot ships more easily the closer they are to base. A lot of the fun in the game for me comes from the contest to spot the enemy fleet first.

Offensive phase.
This is the meat of the turn, when cities, ports and airstrips change possession. Starting with the player with most offensives. Players alternate taking offensives. An offensive can activate the ground troops in 1 nation, fleets in up to 3 sea zones or air units anywhere. This breaks attacks into more easily planned portions and makes a monthly turn more interactive. Again ships and planes can be intercepted if spotted. Ground combat is by odds ratio CRT. They take hits and may be forced to retreat or be destroyed outright. Opposed landings are a dicey business unless you’ve got marines. Naval and air battles are resolved by all units of both side shooting simultaneously. Named ships are rather fragile; they can be damaged or sunk outright by rolling doubles with a single shot. Air units are a little more durable as they can only be damaged or aborted unless you gang up on them.

Movement phase.
Any ground troops that didn’t offend can now move in friendly territory but not attack. Rail possible within 1 nation but blocked by rough and jungle. Useful for repairing your lines.

End phase
Supply is traced to supply bases, supply markers or homeland cities (only Chinese). Unsupplied ground units gradually deplete. Unsupplied air units are reduced to range 1. Ships must return to a supplied port. In 1941 allied bases in Ceylon, Singapore, Darwin, Port Moresby, Soerabaja, Manila, Pearl Harbour and West Coast. Japanese in Shanghai, Cam Ranh Bay, Truk, Kure and Yokohama. Supply drives a lot of the ground war. Singapore can hold out for a long time if the Japanese don’t bomb the supply base there. Corregidor is doomed once Manila is taken. Conquering Chinese cities increases the number of garrisons the Japanese must furnish.

All ground troops and those planes based in their home country can be replenished.

Force pools are augmented each year. The Japanese start with stronger forces but receive a trickle of new ships and planes compared to the torrent issuing from American factories. The US starts with 3 fleet carriers on map but can eventually field another 20. The F6F appear mid 1943 and the B29 mid 1944.

Victory
1941-45 Allies wins if all 12 Japanese home cities are occupied or Japan’s income is less than strategic warfare losses.Historically the allies won by strategic warfare with subs, incendiaries and nukes and the reduction of Japanese income for the loss of Manchuria, the Philippine's and Burma.

Tactics
Both the Japanese and Americans want to catch the enemy carriers but must partially expose their own to support amphibious landings. Disguising CV location and preserving their activation till the enemy are spotted is a little game within the game. On the defensive get your fleet to sea under land based fighters. If you can destroy the enemy carriers everything else becomes a cakewalk.

Special rules
Successful combat experience raises the quality of US carrier air wings in 1942.
Atom bombs cause economic loss and destroy bases but can’t directly damage units.
US torpedoes are ropey until 1943.
Kamikazes with a range of just 2.
December 1941 starts with a surprise attack, only the 3 US carrier groups are at sea and Japanese strike planes can’t be intercepted. An ambitious Japanese player could stay for longer, hoping to destroy every last ship and plane in Hawaii or search for the carriers.

Comparison to Pacific War.
Very similar. From Pearl Harbor to Tokyo is 34 hexes as opposed to 33 in PTO. The air naval phase doesn’t model intelligence conditions as well as the contact phase in Pacific war. Pacific war is less detailed with heavy cruisers combined into 2 ship squadrons and all ships having the same speed. Naval battles are more fun in PTO though because of sudden death. Air quality is more detailed and there are more types of fighter and bomber than Pacific War but Pacific War has sea planes, pilot training affects torpedo and dive bombing ships and battleships can bombard coastal air strips. In Pacific war a combination of strong flak and CAP can abort a string of uncoordinated air strikes and good pilot quality is needed to coordinate more than 1 air wing but a massed coordinated strike will overwhelm the flak ensuring most bombers get through tom the ships. In contrast, strike planes all suffer a little flak in PTO but are never aborted by it which I think is less realistic. Ground troop quality and battalion sized units are advantages of Pacific War. A lot of construction is pre-ordained in Pacific war and it misses out the soviets.

Comparison to Great Pacific War.
Naval and air units are far less detailed in GPW and they’re the most important factors in the Pacific. The hole in the map is downright odd. With 60 mile hexes it's a whopping 54 hexes from Pearl Harbour to Tokyo.
I find Japan so short of BRP that she can’t attack and send the fleet to sea. On the other hand it does play faster than PTO. Both allow limited war in China before 41. GPW has the Siamese which PTO doesn’t bother with.

Grumbles
Long playing time. Linking to ETO makes this problem even worse. Little in the way of what if’s, force pool is just the historical builds.

Overall
My favourite game of all time. The search for the enemy makes me so nervous I shake. Once I actually got as far as landing marine divisions all over Honshu.
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Leo Zappa
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Re: Spot or lose.
I just bought this game last month, and with any luck, hope to get it to the group gaming table by next year (linked to ETO).

Great review!
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Steve Herron
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Never play block wargames with a dentist, they have those little mirrors to peek behind the block.
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Re: Spot or lose.
desertfox2004 wrote:
I just bought this game last month, and with any luck, hope to get it to the group gaming table by next year (linked to ETO).

Great review!


Sort of that way too for me, I got it and ETO for my birthday one year and didn't get to play it with anyone.
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J. F. Pedersen
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Re: Spot or lose.
Great review!

We have had the game for many years, but have only just begun our first game of PTO (played ETO several times).
We started with scenario 9, Dec. 1941 and may continue all the way to 1945. Compared to ETO, it is pretty cool with all that naval & air action in PTO, but it may also be an even more complex game to handle than ETO, although tank action is a lot more simple.

It would sure be nice if anyone had a game report they could post, it would be nice to see which strategies other players choose.
 
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U Moller
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Re: Spot or lose.
Any Vassal Modul made for Pacific?
 
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