Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Solving the balance problem in Pacific Victory

Pacific Victory is Columbia Games' block game about the Pacific War in World War II.

It's a development of the system used in Victory: The Blocks of War, with changes due to the time and distance scales. Every turn, for example, represents three months of time.

It's an entertaining and interesting game, but it suffers from a perception of imbalance. Specifically, it appears it's very hard for the Japanese to win the campaign game if the Allies take a patient approach. The economic imbalance is simply too great. While it may be argued this is realistic, it's a problem from a player's standpoint.

It also encourages an unhistorical line of play by the Allies. In the actual event, the Allies did not behave as if they had all the time in the world. Domestic politics ensured that the war would end as soon as possible and victory, even if certain, would not be delayed. The allies, for example, could have simply blockaded Japan into starvation instead of dropping the atom bomb, but that would have taken much longer, been less certain and caused even more suffering.

One suggestion has been to change the victory awards and give the Japanese a victory if they get 16 VPs instead of needing 20. While adding some drama to the game, it raises as many problems as it solves. Now the Japanese can win an early knockout victory too easily by taking India. While damaging to the Allied cause, this would hardly have represented a real win. It also doesn't solve the long-game problem. If the Allies manage to hold the Japanese off from 16 then their eventual economic dominance will still come into play.

There may be another option that's in keeping with Columbia Games precedent. In Bobby Lee and Sam Grant the confederates get a bonus VP every so often, which provides an incentive for the U.S. to keep pushing every year instead of just sitting back and accumulating a huge edge in resources. A similar mechanism could also be used in Pacific Victory, giving the Japanese bonus VPs for holding out (although these would count for victory only and not bring additional resources.) Playtesting would be needed to figure out the best pace, but I think a good place to start would be 1 VP for every Monsoon season.


  1. IIRC (and I almost certainly don't), Empire of the Sun has a similar mechanism. If the Allies don't gain ground (measured in ways that escape me at the moment), they lose Political Will, the equivalent of VP. While I think that EotS has it's issues, I think it more than any other published wargame has solved the "how does Japan win" question. The answer: America's political will runs out. It's certainly been the answer in ever other war the US has gotten into from the 20th century on, including Iraq (and why we need to be extremely careful in what wars we get involved in).

  2. While I don't think the political will to finish the job was in any danger of failing in any kind of time frame that would have helped Japan win, clearly there was a lot of pressure to "bring the boys homes" ASAP. The demobilzation after the war, for example, happened faster than many military officials would have liked.

  3. Pretty good idea.

    I posted another idea on BGG. Well, really it's another short scenario. You play till early 44 and then VP are awarded for controlling certain spots on the map.

    Like your idea, play testing would be required to calibrate it exactly, but my first guess was based on the historical situation