War Plan Pacific22 Jan 2009 0
Author: Jim Zabek
The Yin and Yang of Wargaming
One of the great things about playing games is when I find a game I can slip into like a comfortable pair of slippers. Once in a while a game shows up that is easy to learn, fun to play, scratches a wargaming itch, and doesn?t tax my brain. For the last few days that game has been War Plan Pacific.
War Plan Pacific is a debut title from KE Studios, and credit needs to be given here up front. It is uncommon to see games that master simplicity, elegance, historical accuracy, and fast gameplay. War Plan Pacific finds that sweet spot and hits it perfectly.
The opening game for Japan.
Japan's initial strike force.
Many wargamers are at least passingly familiar with the monster PTO wargame, War In The Pacific. Playable down to one day per turn, it is unequivocally the most detailed and complex wargame of World War II in the Pacific. Its size and scope intimidates even hardened grognards, and I know more than one who has turned down the challenge to master it. If there is a Yin-Yang spectrum of wargames then War In The Pacific is the fire-breathing, monstrous dragon representing the Yang.
On the other side of the spectrum is a much more modest offering: War Plan Pacific must be the quiet Yin to War In The Pacific?s Yang. Turns take place on a monthly basis and gamers can play from the opening of the war in December 1941 to the close of the war in 1944 or 45 in a single evening. I?ve even managed as the Allies to shut down Imperial Japan as early as 1942 (probably beginner?s luck). The Yin-like nature of the game is its primary selling point: games can be started and completed between work and bedtime; that it manages to encapsulate the dynamics of the PTO with both realism and simplicity make it an instant classic. Simplicity comes not only in the form of month-long turns, but from a number of design decisions that have succeeded in boiling down the dynamics of the PTO to their most basic form without losing historical authenticity.
Beginner's luck. I pulled off a win in October of '42.
Players can take one of two sides: the Japanese or the Allies, who are a combination of US, British, Australian/New Zealand forces, and the Dutch. KE Studios didn?t go crazy with ship designs. There are carriers and light carriers, battleships and battle cruisers, cruisers and light cruisers, transports, and convoys. Done. Everything else is abstracted around those. For instance, destroyers are simply assumed to be part of a task force and from time to time the Japanese may launch a torpedo salvo, representing their Long Lance torpedoes, and that is resolved after normal combat is over. Planes are either fighters, bombers, dive bombers, or torpedo bombers. Simple and clean, War Plan Pacific abstracts virtually everything, but its elegance is in doing so while retaining a real feel for the dynamics of the PTO, as players duke it out for control over islands and sealanes.
Japan's opening move on Pearl. This is the combat screen
where forces square off and combat is resovled.
Installation, Documentation, & Technical Issues
I bought the game from Shrapnel Games? store, Gamer?s Front. There is an option to download the game, but I chose to have a hard copy shipped. There is an option to have both a download and a hardcopy sent, but since I ordered two copies it wasn?t clear how to execute the dual option, so I just elected to go with the hard copy. The games arrived promptly and installed without issue.
I do have three complaints. First, the cases the games came in were brittle. Normally the black plastic game cases are durable, but one of my cases cracked during shipping. The manual is fairly thick and wasn?t lodged under the clips on the inside of the case ? when I tried I knew why they weren?t ? the clips snapped. I?ve never seen anything like it; this is the first time I?ve had to consider buying a new case for a game.
Second, the game manual, while printed, has been printed in small font. Kudos to Shrapnel Games for printing a manual ? they?re one of the few publishers who still do. But gamers who have a bit of trouble with their eyes may need some help.
Lastly, I have had minor technical issues with the game. At random intervals during combat resolution the game screen will simply go completely blue. The game runs in windowed mode, so all I have to do is minimize the window and re-open it to clear it up. However, it happens with annoying regularity. I can live with it, and the game runs fine (doesn?t crash when it happens) but it?s a bug alright.
An occasional bluescreen bug.
The manual itself if well written and informative. It isn?t the most polished I have ever seen, appearing to have been printed on a laser printer and stapled together, but it does the job. It seems to cover every aspect of the game well, except for one. There are times when a raid on an enemy base will trigger a ?required patrol? which requires a certain number of ships to be assigned to protect the base for a few turns. The player doesn?t have to comply with this, but the documentation doesn?t specify what penalty, if any, is imposed for not complying. Other than that, it?s a job well done on writing it.
As of this writing a Scenario Mod Guide has just been released to provide information on creating custom scenarios. I haven?t had a chance to look it over (I don?t generally mod games myself), but it can be downloaded, along with a demo, from the War Plan Pacific webpage at http://www.shrapnelgames.com/KE_Studios/WPP/WPP_page.html.