A First Look at The Pacific War: From Pearl Harbor To The Philippines

Michael Eckenfels, 5 November 2019

Full disclosure up front: I was commissioned by David Heath at Lock n’ Load Publishing to re-edit the rules to this game, as they were fairly atrocious (my opinion). I was compensated for this work, but I still will speak freely about this first look article for the game. This might be a bit more than an unboxing article, but will fall short of a full review.

Let’s speak a bit more about the rules before proceeding. The rules were originally translated (and very well I might add) from the original Japanese. You see, this game was originally published in Japan; I don’t know a lot about its history then, so I cannot speak to it offhand. Since the rules were translated from Japanese, some ambiguities were left. Though the translation was excellent, there were a lot of instances where the different languages do not translate well, which led to some unclear points.

 

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The Pacific War: From Pearl Harbor to the Philippines (let’s say it’s The Pacific War for the rest of this article) is a grand-scale, two-player card and counter game that reflects the entire war in the Pacific in one sitting. Counters represent forces in the game (e.g., ships and aircraft), and cards represent both events as well as resources that are used to conduct actions.

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The game is, as mentioned, a two-player game. As it involves card play and therefore hidden information, it is not ideal for solitaire play – yet you could make it work, perhaps, by playing each side as best you can. Though, that will utterly remove any bluffing, trumping, or other interactivity where you’re doing your best to undercut your opponent’s actions.

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The rule book is pretty good (layout-wise; I’m not speaking of my editing skills as I leave that to the end users). You have full color in the examples and displays, and the layout (again, done by another person) is excellent.

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The game comes with a Battle Card, where you move your units in order to conduct combat, while a marker remains on the map indicating where the battle is taking place, as a reminder.

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The back side of the Battle Card has a summary for movement and for capturing locations. The system is actually quite interesting, though very abstract. Some might not like the abstract-ness of it, but when you want to fight the entire Pacific War in one sitting, this will certainly scratch your itch.

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And the counters…they’re quite lovely. At least, I like them. The large print is welcome (though the ship names are a bit small for my eyes. I do somewhat like that the ships have the Kanji equivalent displayed, though that could have been done away with in order to make more room for the English version of their names. Otherwise, I can’t find any fault in the designs. And lo and behold, Lock n’ Load also rounds their counters so you won’t have to!

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The map is large, though not mounted. It is made of a sturdy paper stock. A mounted board would have been much nicer but that would have significantly increased the cost of the game, too. If you play it a lot, with constant folding/unfolding, especially if you keep it under plexiglass, it’s likely that the creases will start to wear.

 

The Pacific is covered by a series of Ocean Zones (or, OZs), where each OZ has a Base or a Port. Ports have a large number that represents its Victory Point value (and, if I remember right, it’s intrinsic Ground Defense value, but I’m stating that from memory and may be incorrect). The game scores very much like the old Victory in the Pacific, where the side with the most VPs subtracts the other side’s VPs to get a balance, which is recorded on a track, in favor of the player with the higher VP total.

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Each OZ is connected by a Sea Route (SR), which (unless otherwise stated) must be followed to move from OZ to OZ. Some OZs connected by an SR are so distant that they require an extra Movement Point, and these are represented by a ‘Nav Point,’ which is a big dot right on the SR.

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And here we have the heart of the system – the cards. Called ‘Resource Cards,’ they can be played to gain Initiative, played as an Event or Strategic Event (if so marked), and for other purposes. They act as resources that fuel each side’s war machines. The amount of cards gained by the Allied side grows significantly over the game, while the Japanese face dwindling resources as the game progresses. The Japanese gain an extra Resource Card if they hold Borneo, representing the significant oil reserves there, so losing that OZ means a bad time for the Japanese.

Combat is divided into an Airstrike Phase and a Surface Combat Phase. Airstrikes and Surface Combats are simultaneous, meaning both sides fire at the same time and losses are only applied once both sides have fired. This can be mitigated through some cards, forcing a side to apply damage before they can fire back. Die rolls control how much damage a ship takes, and in the Airstrike Phase, the attacking player decides where the hits go, while in Surface Combat, the player getting hit decides where the hits go.

Overall it’s a fun, fast, and interesting game; this is made more so for me since it was originally published in Japan.


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