Gary Christiansen
United States
Columbus
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This turns out to be a superb little gem with all the elements that make the feel work so well for a pacific theater game that doesn't undertake to be so detailed you spend weeks playing it.

The game relies on costs in transport and oil (the oil for the japanese only) to move units about the board. This is mostly a naval/(air) strategic game, so a lot of the land combat is very abstracted. The system works with three separate movement phases... a strategic movement (deploy), an operational (combat) and a second strategic movement (deployment) phase.

Most of the action happens during the operational phase, when ships strike at enemy bases. Submarines play into this, then air combat (which itself does not kill the air power) followed by the surface combat if any (apply damage), and amphibious invasions, finally land combat. Damaged ships come back in twice as many turns as the hits on them (a truly big deal because it's only a 16 turn game).

The whole play revolves around the Japanese making a huge effort to maintain economy of force to save on resource expenditure, and the Allies trying to minimize Japanese expansion until they have sufficient force to start pushing back. At that point, the Japanese have to go into a defensive mode. The Allies will have overwhelming force by the end of the game, and can clearly afford to fight a war of attrition to take down the Japanese at every turn.

The early part of the game, the US player is struggling to have sufficient forces and transport points to meet Japanese threats all over the place, but after the first 4-6 turns, the Japanese have to judge exactly how and when it is best to roll over into defensive mode, to start reacting regularly instead of attacking. There's some critical captures early for the Japanese that they need to hold as long as possible, such as the three oil resource hexes, but otherwise, the basic goal is simply to drag out any recaptures by the US for as long as possible.

The victory conditions are two fold, either an instant Japanese win by reaching 20 victory points, or holding onto at least 1 victory point to the end of the game. A knockout strategy calls for some very harsh risks, and the hold out strategy calls for tough tenacious play, knowing when to switch from offensive to defensive smoothly without any hitches.

By this set of victory conditions, the design abstracts the political outcome of the war, with the designer stating in the rules no matter how the game turns out that the Japanese would lose. The point of the victory conditions is to represent the territorial cost where the US would potentially find the war so costly to prosecute they might consider some negotiation instead of the total capitulation demand.

The game does emphasize the Carriers and Air Power very well, but does not reduce the importance of surface naval power. Surface sea power is easily as critical to making successful invasions and the battles that come of it really do matter to the outcome of the game.

Most games do not run to the quick knockout wins for the Japanese though that does happen. They tend to eek out to the bitter end with the US barely scratching away the Victory Points the Japanese win early on, with the attrition slowly rendering the Japanese player impotent to stop the US counter offensive everywhere, but to strive to deny that very last Victory Point that will win the game. It tends to be very close towards the end.

There is a lot of very detailed subtlety in the game that appear only to be learned after much replay... It appears this game can be played in 4-6 hours between experienced players which makes it a very good game for an evening, and because it's not a trivial treatment of the war, it's a fantastic game for that however long it takes to play.

This title could turn out to be a sleeper that becomes one of the huge favorites on the subject matter, and a long term classic with a fair number of reprints in the future.
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Robert Derderian
United States
Troy
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The counters do show carriers on the reverse side...that is for the deployment phase....the reverse show the carrier picture for teh operational phase. Also the map is very nice...maybe you need to see in up close. As you don't own the game, played it or read the rules...it might be best to try it...you might like it. One of the nice things about this game is that it can be played solo, which is untrue of most pacific war games. Also the game has a minimum of pieces and parts with concise rules that makes this a truly great game.
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Yngve Ahlenbäck
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I really encourage you to try it. It is simply perfect!

Actually, you don't need to see the geography at all, so everything like clouds and coastlines etc is pure chrome. Only the bases, land connections and impassable hexsides are relevant. Though the play value of the game is very much enhanced by the beautiful map and gorgeous counters (for me at least). But the real value is in the mechanics, of course.
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Gary Christiansen
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Imperious leader wrote:
I find the aesthetics of the game horrible. The map is unique but i don't really need to see the clouds over the mainland.. what i really need is to see the mainland! Also the counters are stupid... good greif i dont need "eagles heads" or some animals head printed where a picture of my CVL is supposed to go. Call me old school but i just want pictures of my ships and planes and i want a map thats drawn accuratly.. Its nice to use a map from a weather report from CBS but in a wargame that "artistic enhancement" needs to stay at the door. For we fight for nations destiny and we deserve something more. Note: I have said nothing about the ruleset because i have not read them... I can only comment on these pictures.


The Mainland is of almost literally no consequence to the game, so the clouds are entirely just a visual 'pretty', and in fact I find them fine, like the mainland itself without any effect on the game. They do add to the sense the map is a great expanse, not just a sheet of paper between the players, so I feel they belong there.

The game is a mostly naval warfare game mostly with some impact on land because you do have to capture islands -- to take bases -- to advance your air power, so you can advance more. This is done more abstractly than you'd need more detail in the land for if that was necessary. Since it's not necessary, the abstraction leaves you completely without concern about 'clouds'.

It's a complaint I've heard from several people but frankly without trying to belittle the person saying it, the comment seems like an excuse to not try the game.

Moreover, even with the fact it's a carrier war, you'll find there's a lot of sea action every turn; there's a lot of choices to be made, and the balance shifts with the transport points and oil points as the war wears on. Usage has to be economic, and one has to actually take a long strategic view or you will struggle all too soon. That you can have surface battles be so effective is impressive in a game with simple rules on such a grand scale theater.

Old school. Um, the pictures of the ships are there, even the names, but the planes are abstracted enough one must ask which pictures should be there? This is a game about the pacific war you can play in 6 hours start to finish that gives a realistic feel and has a simple enough rule set... yet such depth of play that you'll end up playing it again and again.

I strongly disagree with you about everything being a super accurate map at this level. This game plays richly, and the visuals enrich the sense that the game is set in the Pacific rather than just another blue lake between two land masses. The Pacific has a character of its own and the game brings out that sense in more than just the visual, but the play.

Try the game, it will draw you in after you've gotten the rules down.
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Richard Young
Canada
Victoria
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First play for me and while I do hope to get at it again I am "on the fence" so far. Many of the aspects this game appeal to me: the importance of resources (oil/transport) in the conduct of the war; the balance of air/land/sea combat; and the general presentation.

One of the most initially striking features are the oversize ship counters and the artwork on them. Yet, as play progressed I found myself more and more frustrated by the hard to discern details on counters easily big enough to have done better here. I have to admit I sympathize with those that wish the ship counters looked more like ship counters on their deployment side. Having to turn the counters over continually to remind yourself what the details on the various ship types were grew tiring. The aircraft and land unit counters are much better, yet we were a little perplexed at what appeared to be different markings on the aircraft icons of the reduced sides from the full strength ones. Control counters to indicate conquered enemy bases that are now "friendly bases" would have been very nice, along with "convoy" counters or some such to indicate air or land units being moved by sea during the operational movement phase. As an aside, why air and land units could not be moved "operationally" on their own seemed odd to us.

The map, while gorgeous and using an interesting combination of hex and point to point movement, falls down in the end for being too dark and obscuring important details. I found myself squinting at many of the hexes and wishing there was more contrast between the terrain colours and the (too small) fonts contained therein.

The rules are not helpful in many key areas. Granted, we were both in the learning mode but we both were often frustrated trying to find answers to basic questions. Some examples: what is the Japanese sub point allocation from turn to turn? The rules tell you to consult the reinforcement schedule (no mention) or the point scale on the map (tells you the starting allocation, nothing more). We assumed it was 2 points per turn. Another: nothing appears to preclude a unit from being moved in each phase where movement is possible. Most gamers are programmed to "cant" or turn unit counters to show which ones have been moved each turn. Here, a different approach may be needed (per phase?). There seems to be something counter-intuitive about deploying a unit, then moving it one hex, moving it operationally, then deploying yet again. The rules for forming task forces, reinforcing under-strength units, and how units/task forces react during the reaction phases made us scratch our heads. What actually happens to air casualties? "Available for re-cycling" left us wondering what that meant - obviously not the same thing that happens with ship casualties or land units which is spelled out quite adequately.

I'm not saying the details for these aren't there somewhere but it was a long night of poring through the rules folder and then deciding something arbitrary just to keep the game going. I look forward, eagerly, to a FAQ file.

Be warned: this is a book-keeping intense game. There are a myriad of things to be continually tracked, particularly oil and transport points, often in fractions of a point. We found ourselves checking each other's math very often. Some folks like this sort of thing, others may not...

All that said, we both felt that there is a decent game in here somewhere; I just hope we have the stamina to try it again...
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