Eric Lai
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Introduction

Really excited today to be reviewing the latest addition to my State of Siege collection, just arrived in the mail this morning and I have played my lucky 18th game of it and feel up to another review from a primarily solitaire player's perspective. For those that haven't been keeping up with my series of reviews from a Solitaire Player's Perspective, I am a collector and player of games solo, not through choice, but through necessity. I collect wargames that are either designed for solitaire play, have a solitaire scenario build in or solid solitaire rules that was added after publishing. I play games multiplayer as well, but this is just a side niche hobby within a hobby that I have.

Like always I don't like rehashing rules and will dive right into why I like or dislike the various elements of the game and as usual: the rules for this game, like many others, are readily available from the publisher's website, so go there and download them if you're interested.

Commentary

Lets start with the components, as with all VPG games, these are printed on an inkjet printer so the quality is fairly home-brew and so nothing stellar here. The cards used for the game are grippy and difficult to shuffle but there are not many cards so its not really a big issue, I recommend anyone that really like any one particular VPG game to consider laminating the cards because if played very often, I imagine that they will in due time wear out faster than regular boxed games. One interesting note is that the board seems to be printed on better cardboard than the VPG's usual fare. As for the artwork; its okay, cartoonish and I am not sure if the choice of fonts was a great idea, but overall its fairly utilitarian and I like all how tonnes of information is printed on the board itself.

The game is easy to learn (rulebook is pretty simple) and quick to play so you can fit quite a few games in any session, my average games took about 30-45 minutes and setup time was less then two minutes!

If you are not familiar with the State of Siege system, its pretty simple, there are several "tracts" that end in Japan (in this game), there is a counter representing one of the Allied fronts on each of the tracts that get moved during card play. Then its up to the player to push back the fronts via actions and in this game fortify certain squares to limit Allied movements through some squares.

As a state of siege veteran now, the first thing I notice when setting up the board is how long some of the tracts are for certain fronts, where in the earlier games there were often 4-5 squares per tract, there are three 6 square tracts, one 7 square tract and a 9 square tract, hence there is more emphasis on the fronts in this game, also another nice rule addition was to limit one successful attack per front per turn, this made the game a little more strategic in my opinion and less gamey.

Something else I noticed is that some of the Allied units start pretty close to Japan to begin with and actually gets push back during the first epoch of the game, and then comes back with a vengeance in later epochs. This is an abstract way to represent the initial aggressive and often successful early Japanese Campaigns and I think its really flavorsome how its done.

The cards themselves are pretty standard for SoS games, but they have added a separate Battle Table, on certain cards that represent major Pacific engagements, like the Battle of Midway, you the player have the option to replay the battle in hope of a better result than what occur in history (or on a bad roll, you may even get a worst result), its a nice touch.

There are also resources you have to manage, such as oil which was crucial to the Japanese war machine and like in history, the Japanese invaded Indonesia for its oil reserves and this is represented in a separate tract on the game in Indonesia. You have the option to push back this tract to secure oil for the war effort. In later game, the US submarine war will decimate this supply of oil and make obtaining oil more difficult for the Japanese. Very thematic!

There are other little bits of chrome like Kamikaze and Banzai tactics, that gives the Japanese a fighting chance towards the end of the game. The game and the cards really does bring out the theme of the pacific war and I really did feel the struggle the Japanese had to pull through (not that I want them to, my father really hated what the Japanese did in the war and held a grudge till he became a Buddhist Monk, I think he then forgave them from that point on and he was a better man for it.)

You win the game, either by surviving every card in the deck or managing to push three of the Allied fronts off the map. The latter is not easy to do, because of all the Allied fortified spaces on the map which makes rolls more difficult. If you are familiar with the other games of the SoS system, the new mechanic in this game is the ability to knock-out units off the map, but this take two action points with a -2 DRM which is pretty tough to do.

Of all the games in the SoS series, this is my new favorite, what I noticed playing it is how well balanced and tested this game is compared to Soviet Dawn, the game is tough but not impossible. In 18 games I managed only one win via end of the deck and one win via pushing back three fronts off the map. Both ways of winning really require different early game tactics.

For example: In my game where I won by pushing back three fronts off the map, I decided to mostly ignore oil rich Indonesia and just rolled for two extra oil in the first epoch actions and aimed mostly to gain & maintain Elite attacks (you gain this by maxing out the Army-Navy tract, one of the resources you have to manage in the game) and push push push. With some lucky rolls and taking advantage of certain card given +DRMs I managed it early in the 2nd epoch of the game. In other words, I had to form a strategy and follow it through... very nice for such an little abstract war game.

Losing is just too easy! I lost many games because I ran out of all three resources, this can easily occur in the late game and with bad resource rolls, and I lost many other games because the Allied fronts reached Japan, many of these occur very early in the final third epoch of the game.

I think this game flows better than some of the other game in the SoS series, the chrome seems to mesh well with the flow of the game, in some of the other games in the SoS series, some of the chrome felt detached from the "fronts" which is the main mechanism of these games.


Summary:

In short, I really liked this game and its easily one of my favorites of the series, closely followed by Ottoman Sunset. Like other games of the State of Siege system, the game isn't super deep, nor does it pretend to be, but what surprised me in this title is the amount of depth they managed to fit in such a light package. Given the small scale of the game, there was an excellent amount of decision making. The game does come down to dice rolls and in the games I won, I felt that lady luck had a strong part to play in my victories, it doesn't take over the game but its still significant (to be fair, this factor is about the same in all the SoS games). Importantly, bad decisions will certainly result in a loss and good decisions will maximize your chances of winning, so random chance is tempered well by decisions and this is a good sign in any solitaire game.

As a solitaire player, its a great addition to your collection, it makes a great filler game when you don't have the time nor the concentration for bigger games, this is a title that I am certain to break out once in awhile. Come to think of it... I think I liked this game more than Nemo's War (also from VPG) and that is high praise indeed.


I will give this game 8.5 out of 10, and a recommended buy.

+8.5 for a well balanced game that flows so well, that is a blast to play. For such a simple game to bring out the flavor of the Pacific War is remarkable.

-1.5 for the small scope of the game when compared with games like Carrier and Peloponnesian War, it can only be described as entre and not the main course. The below-average quality of the playing pieces, cartoonish graphics lets things down a little as usual with VPG games and the game had a slightly higher amount of luck factor than I like.

A geeklist of my other Solitaire Reviews
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Christopher
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Great review of a great game indeed (I can't seem to say that enough... )

Garfink wrote:

You win the game, either by surviving every card in the deck or managing to push three of the Allied fronts off the map. The latter is not easy to do, because of all the Allied fortified spaces on the map which makes rolls more difficult. If you are familiar with the other games of the SoS system, the new mechanic in this game is the ability to knock-out units off the map, but this take two action points with a -2 DRM which is pretty tough to do.


Don't forget that you also have to spend one OIL to be able to attempt a knock-out blow. That makes me wonder how you managed to be able to win a Military Victory without being able to get more oil (because of you negating the ABDA Front)?
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Eric Lai
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You're of course correct! I did roll for exactly two oils from completing the ABDA front! Need to edit that example above, thanks for pointing that out!
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Wendell
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Eighteen plays from a small game like this is itself a pretty good endorsement.
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Eric Lai
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Come to think of it, the average game time was less than 30 minutes, I had forgotten to factor in all the times I died a quick HaraKiri.
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Steve Carey
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Garfink wrote:
One interesting note is that the board seems to be printed on better cardboard than the VPG's usual fare.


The EMPEROR map was the first that VPG sent off to a professional printer, and it turned out very well.

Eric, I have read all your reviews and you have gained a reputation for honest, objective, and insightful commentary.

Thank you for taking the time to showcase this game, and I will look forward to your next solitaire game review.
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Eric Lai
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I thought there was something odd about the map! I hope you've started a new trend there Steve. Great game and well done! I thought the theme was brilliant!
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Eric Lai
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I just saw 2D6's video review, good review as usual but I disagree with the conclusion, I felt that the tracks ARE the main fare in SoS games and I like the concentrated efforts on the tracks. But I thought it insightful that he likened the resource tracks to three more fronts and in many ways that is what they are.

I think he missed the possibility of an early victory via eliminating three Allied fronts through good use of the cards and luck in the early game, which does add another dimension to strategy to this game. BUT, I do think attempting this early victory will wreck any chances in the late game because you will have to neglect the prestige tract and the oil tract too much.

The game just feels more grand with all these "tracks" and I rather liked the pacing of this game, sure it goes to the wire more often leading to longer games, but that is also more historical.

There is a reason why I rated this the same as Ottoman Empire, both are good in different ways, Soviet Dawn is good but the easy political victories doesn't feel balance, whereas the two victory conditions in this game is well thought out.
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Steve Carey
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Garfink wrote:
I thought there was something odd about the map! I hope you've started a new trend there Steve.


It was VPG's call to pro print the map and it seems to have worked out well in this case. I actually spoke with the printer (who is literally across the pathway directly in front of VPG's office), and he's a great guy. I'd bet VPG will be using his services again in the near future.

Garfink wrote:
Great game and well done! I thought the theme was brilliant!


Thanks, very much appreciated - it was a total team effort to bring the whole thing together, and we are very happy with the results.
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Eric Lai
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If he is just across the hallway, there is no excuse! Looking forward to the better prints in the future.
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Steve Carey
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Garfink wrote:
I just saw 2D6's video review, good review as usual but I disagree with the conclusion.


I'm not a big fan of video reviews, but 2D6 really does a nice job covering the nuts and bolts in his sessions. His videos are both educational and entertaining.

He did overlook a lot of options in the review, however. I really hope that he sticks with the game and explores it further to make those proverbial 'voyages of discovery' that I keep talking about as they are important threads in the overall fabric of the design. If they are missed, then I can easily see someone feeling that the game falls a bit flat and that it is somewhat of a struggle.

Garfink wrote:
There is a reason why I rated this the same as Ottoman Empire


Like 2D6, I too am in love with Ottoman Sunset so any comparsion to that wonderful game is truly an honor.
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Joshua Gottesman
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Garfink wrote:
If he is just across the hallway, there is no excuse! Looking forward to the better prints in the future.


Well, the big issue is print run size. In a game like Emperor, we are pretty confident we can sell enough that we won't have hundreds of extra maps lying around. For other games, we don't know if we'll sell 100 or 500 or 10,000.
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David Ells
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>>The cards used for the game are grippy and difficult to shuffle but there are not many cards so its not really a big issue, I recommend anyone that really like any one particular VPG game to consider laminating the cards because if played very often, I imagine that they will in due time wear out faster than regular boxed games.

I have begun to use card sleeves on all the VPG games that I own (States of Siege and non-SoS), because their games nearly always feature cards, they are an important part of the game, and they tend to get shuffled several times each game. Also, if you bend a given card, spill any food or drink on it, or mark it in any way, it gives the player knowledge he wouldn't normally have, so keeping them clean and protected not only preserves the longevity of the cards / games, but affects play as well.

I have the playtest kit for VPG's upcoming TC Tennis, and I have played it perhaps 50 times, so putting the 90 or so cards in sleeves really helped here.

(Fortunately, VPG does offer replacement cards for all of their games, and their customer service is excellent.)

Laminating does work, too, but I don't (yet) have a laminator, so card sleeves will have to do.
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Eric Lai
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Its good to hear that VPG will replace cards for their games... and I hope they will be around for 30+ years to continue this service!!!
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David Ells
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Here the truceless armies yet / Trample, rolled in blood and sweat; / They kill and kill and never die; / And I think that each is I. // None will part us, none undo / The knot that makes one flesh of two, /
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Sick with hatred, sick with pain, / Strangling -- When shall we be slain? // When shall I be dead and rid / Of the wrong my father did? / How long, how long, till spade and hearse / Puts to sleep my mother's curse?
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Garfink wrote:
Its good to hear that VPG will replace cards for their games... and I hope they will be around for 30+ years to continue this service!!!


Bet on it!
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I saw a video review of the expansion kit for We Must Tell the Emperor. When will it be available?
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Steve Carey
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Roy, things are going well and we're tentatively looking near the end of next month (February) - final schedule to be determined by VPG.
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Captain Nemo
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I much enjoyed the review. I read your Israeli Indpendence review and that exactly stated what I was suspecting and fearing about games of solitaire play. As I commented on PATTONS BEST it can get tedious drawing cards and just rolling on tables for effects. What is it about the more advanced S-O-S games that make them a worthwhile experience? Solitaire is all about you aganst the system and I struggle to see the appeal unless it is a product of circumstances: in the absence of another player it is the best on offer. So can you express the key attributes that makes these games addictive?
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Steve Carey
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hammurabi70 wrote:
I much enjoyed the review. I read your Israeli Indpendence review and that exactly stated what I was suspecting and fearing about games of solitaire play. As I commented on PATTONS BEST it can get tedious drawing cards and just rolling on tables for effects. What is it about the more advanced S-O-S games that make them a worthwhile experience? Solitaire is all about you aganst the system and I struggle to see the appeal unless it is a product of circumstances: in the absence of another player it is the best on offer. So can you express the key attributes that makes these games addictive?


A fair question, and one worthy of its own thread IMHO...
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Steve Carey
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Steve Carey wrote:
hammurabi70 wrote:
I much enjoyed the review. I read your Israeli Indpendence review and that exactly stated what I was suspecting and fearing about games of solitaire play. As I commented on PATTONS BEST it can get tedious drawing cards and just rolling on tables for effects. What is it about the more advanced S-O-S games that make them a worthwhile experience? Solitaire is all about you aganst the system and I struggle to see the appeal unless it is a product of circumstances: in the absence of another player it is the best on offer. So can you express the key attributes that makes these games addictive?


A fair question, and one worthy of its own thread IMHO...


http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/610295/solitaire-play-wh...
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