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Quick Looks: The Pacific War: From Pearl Harbour to the Philippines

Imported games have the allure of being foreign and expensive, they also often come with the glamorous trappings of bad rules translation. Pacific War is all of these things but first the good;

It’s short. I’m not being factious here, generally Pacific Theatre war games are long and complicated, which is fine but it leaves the shallow end of the dream pool rather empty. The Pacific War clocks in around 2-3 hours and feels engrossing for this life span.

You’ve got a point to point map, pretty and functional but no pageant winner, a deck of cards, and a load of counters representing ships that come in on a historical reinforcement schedule. Each year long turn you get a variable number of cards. Players take action rounds discarding a card to win the privilege of doing something and then either play an event card, or move some ships, or resupply some ships (so they can move again). Once out of cards they roll off for priority in taking more actions but if they roll doubles the year ends.

game in progress, with lots of light reflected off my plexi glass.

Principally this is a game about crashing big stacks of ship counters into each and fighting battles. Expect about a third of your fleet to be sunk in a typical battle. Yeah, it’s pretty brutal if your name is USS Enterprise, but not so bad if your name is Yamato (because you have a rad armour rating). You win the game but parking a massive amount of ships key locations such as Japan, Hawaii, Philippines, or the prison colony. So sinking your opponent’s fleet makes it very hard for them to capture any key locations. Hence the game drives you towards Leyte Gulf type encounters.

Note Islands like Midway and the Solomons are locations but not worth anything of themselves. This is where an aspect of cleverness in the design comes out. Historically these places were a means to an end, rather than a goal of themselves. It is so in the Pacific War. You might want to put down a speed bump for the US cross Pacific drive but waste some lesser ships on a Solomons suicide mission in the process. On the other hand you may play a more fleet in being strategy. The game has simple rules, its one part simple CDG and one part bucket of dice with a twist or two but through  a simple logistics system and a well thought through map it forces you to deal with many of the historical dilemmas at broad strokes. How is the US going to get a supply chain of ports across the mid pacific? When do you blow your fleet in one big battle? Is the British fleet useful for anything accept sitting in India?

In summation I would say this is a game that fills its hole in the market. I look forward to playing again but I probably won’t remember it in a decade’s time. Some aspects such as the event cards are rather vanilla CDG fair; get 1 vp, discard an opponent’s card,  but you can stack any number of combat buffs into one fight, which is quite fun. I’ve accused it of being expensive. Wargame prices have gone up quite a bit in the past year in ole Blighty, in part due to questionable economics by fox hunters, but at near £50 it does seem a little steep for a single paper map beer and pretzels game. I’d guess this games main competition is the old Dice in the Pacific or Holdfast Pacific, having never played either I cannot say anything useful but yet I continue to write out words wasting your and my time. 


  1. Does it factor in the importance of the small islands as airbases to ultimately get Japan to within heavy bomber range?



  2. There are island airbases, and you can use these to cut supply or throw air units in to nearby battles but it doesn't really account for nuking japan, unless its on a card i didn't see.


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