Peter Appleton
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INTRODUCTION

This is not a review of the underlying Combat Commander system, which I’ve already covered in my review of CC:Europe (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/157036), but rather a review of the differences between Pacific and the original title and an assessment of the success of these changes. This is primarily because the base gameplay has not changed significantly and is still as exciting and engaging as ever.


FACTIONS

Pacific features 3 factions (Japan, USA, Commonwealth). The USA and the Commonwealth play pretty close to the way they do in Europe/Mediterranean – the US has overwhelming firepower but tend to break easily while being hard to polish off whereas the Commonwealth forces (primarily Anzacs and Gurkhas) have the most recovery orders and a lot of Marksmanship actions and a generally steady morale whether broken or not.

Every faction enjoys a new unit type in the Mortar Spotter who can be used to activate multiple mortars at once to hit targets within his LOS, thus indirect mortar fire is now possible unlike in CC:Europe. There are also a few new weapons such as Thompsons (only useful at close range), BARS etc

On the other hand, the Japanese forces are completely different from any other faction that has appeared before in the CC system and are a joy (and a challenge) to master.

The troops themselves tend to have high initial morale but once broken tend to melt quickly. They all have boxed firepower (including leaders and when broken!) which means they are very tough melee combatants. They also have some unusual units such as a treetop sniper unit (in addition to the Sniper event), a 3 Command-Radius Leader (never got to play with him though) and a Hero with a range of 0 but a boxed firepower of 4 (he seems to be carrying a very big sword)!

Their deck features a ton of Advance orders and Ambush and Bayonet actions (adds +2 to melee rolls) which make them a real risk to get near. Instead of Command Confusion cards they have the “Charge” order which can only be used when they are in Banzai posture (it otherwise acts as a dud card like Command Confusion). When in Banzai posture, your hand is reduced to 3 cards, but when playing a charge order you can activate all your units for move orders (although all unactivated enemy units are activated for OP Fire!). Also, any casualties go on to the next space of the time track to simulate this human wave style of offense.

Incidentally, Japanese forces never surrender. You will literally have to kill them all to win a game before time runs out.

Unlike the allies, they can use an advance order to move between caves situated on a map which can really make your forces flexible (for example, you can set up a first line of defense but rapidly move your forces to a safer position if need be, and once the enemy has passed by a cave, either come up in their rear or try to get a few units off the enemy map edge for some quick victory points).

Finally, they can also place units (either prior to setup or in game) into one of three infiltrate boxes, which then have the possibility of being moved onto the board at some point during the game as the result of an infiltrate order – possibly even right on top of enemy units for a nasty surprise!


NEW ORDERS/ACTIONS

There are several new orders in the game which change it quite a bit from Europe.

First of all there are Asset Request/Asset Denied orders. Asset request allows you to do a number of things such as fix broken weapons, attempt to secure artillery (or activate it if you already have it), utilise aircraft, fire flares in night scenarios etc. The Asset Denied order basically does the opposite (breaking enemy weapons or artillery radios, sending their aircraft off the map etc). Unlike in CC:E, it is now possible to destroy enemy weapons in one fell blow by discarding two Asset Denied orders at once which is rather annoying and I must admit I’m not a huge fan as losing a heavy MG, for example, early on in this way with no chance of recovery can be devastating.

There is also a Reconnoiter order that allows you to look at the top card of the deck and either place it in your hand, discard it or return it to the deck (useful if it’s a high number and you’re about to attack, for example). Unfortunately this wasn’t as useful as it seemed as you have to activate a leader within line of sight of the enemy to utilise it, which often means you then can’t take advantage of the flexibility the card gives you as with your leader already activated in can be difficult to then activate a decent fire group.

Finally there are the formerly mentioned Infiltrate and Charge orders exclusive to the Japanese. Revive orders have also changed as instead of rolling for all broken units, they have a numerical score from 1-5 which indicates how many units you can rally when the card is played. You can also use this card to remove suppression markers, so for example, a Revive-3 card could rally 2 broken units and remove a suppression counter from another if you wished.

There are a number of new actions of which the most game-changing one we found to be Enfilade which gives you +1 Firepower for every unit/weapon participating in an attack beyond the first (eg All supporting counters contribute +2 FP to an attack with Enfilade in play). This could be devastating with large groups centered around a leader with a 2 command…especially as in Pacific you kill units instantly if their defense roll is less than half of the attack roll. You can even play more than one Enfilade action if you want…

Another action we found quite useful was Smoke Screen, which allows all friendly activated squads to drop smoke before advancing, which can create rather large smoke clouds if many squads are activated simultaneously.

I have to also mention the Japanese defensive action Punji trap here, which let’s you place Mines or Wire into a hex an enemy unit has just moved into. Very annoying as the Allies but great fun for the Japanese player!


EVENTS

To me, Events and the fortunes of war are the meat and drink of the Combat Commander series. Unfortunately, they just don’t occur often enough in CCacific for my liking. According to the designer events in Pacific are, on average across all nationalities, 11% less likely to occur than in Europe/Mediterranean (although the difference seems greater than that to me). Also, all too often you’ll draw a meaningless event like something that affects smoke when there’s no smoke on the board or an Air Support card not relevant to the scenario year.

I would be interested to know why Chad went down this route for Pacific but I found that the reduction in randomness took away a little from my enjoyment of the game in comparison to CC: Europe.

Apart from the Air Support event mentioned above, which let’s you bring a plane on to the field which can strafe or dive bomb units for potentially devastating results (I’ve only ever used the dive bomb option but I can see a strafe being effective if there area few enemy units in a row.) with an asset request card, there aren’t too many new events that didn’t feature in Europe. Spider Hole let’s the Japanese hero burst out of a random hex and the Banzai event can send the Japanese player into banzai posture should the Allies have a positive VP total.


SCENARIOS

Obviously, the Pacific Theatre doesn’t lend itself to large scale urban operations so be prepared for a lot of beach offensives and jungle maps. As always, the designers have come up with some interesting situations and special rules to challenge players.

For instance, there’s one scenario where the Japanese start the game in Banzai mode against some groups of entrenched Yanks on the other side of a river leading to some particularly bloody charges. There’s another scenario where Japanese defenders can use Advance orders to move between defensive fortifications (via tunnels) which really gives you a feeling of “Defense in Depth”. I particularly enjoyed one scenario where the Allied player was only allowed to exit his units for points if all of the Japanese leaders were eliminated, which led to some interesting cat and mouse games in the Jungle as my last leader tried to dodge the enemy forces until time ran out (he did).

There isn’t much of a programmed instruction approach to the scenarios ala the Conflict of Heroes series but the first few levels are noticeable for being flat, whereas later scenarios incorporate quite hilly terrain for which you should definitely review the line of sight rules before playing. The scenarios are quite replayable as I felt I made quite a lot of set-up errors in some of them which cost me dearly (eg exposing Japanese defenders to early massed fire attacks from US troops with Enfilade actions thrown in), although to be honest, my opponent made similar errors as well.

I also tried the random scenario-generator for the first time in a CC game and while I missed the special rules that usually accompany the set scenario we managed to have a fun game regardless. Again, I probably would have changed some setup options if I’d known better, as setting up a randomly-generated scenario seems to be almost a game within itself.


CONCLUSION

It’s Combat Commander. It’s good fun. The core gameplay is intact with just enough twists to differentiate itself from CC:Europe.

The best part of the game is definitely the addition of the Japanese faction. They really are unique and play a lot differently from any other faction in the game.

As previously noted, I was somewhat disappointed by the fact the “randomness” factor has been reduced by a decrease in the frequency of Events occurring. This is what I love most about the series. If you crave more Command and Control then this won’t be an issue for you, but it was definitely a minus for me.

While I quite like the new way Revive is activated, I’m not a big fan of the Asset Denied cards which can really swing a battle early on.

Other new additions such as the planes, mortar spotters, Japanese treetop sniper etc are nice enough but not really game changing.

8/10 (8.5 if the reduction in randomness is not an issue for you)

By comparison:

CC: Europe 9/10
CC: Mediterranean 8/10




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Chadwik
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Thanks for the detailed review, Peter! A couple comments:

Quote:
Unlike in CC:E, it is now possible to destroy enemy weapons in one fell blow by discarding two Asset Denied orders at once

In hindsight I probably should have allowed this order to only break an unbroken weapon. Or perhaps allow it to be used on a broken weapon only if it is the first order of a player's turn (giving the opponent at least a one turn chance to fix the weapon).

I still like this rule as-is but I can see where it can rub some folks the wrong way. Lesson learned.

Quote:
There is also a Reconnoiter order ... which often means you then can’t take advantage of the flexibility the card gives you as with your leader already activated in can be difficult to then activate a decent fire group.

You seem to be unfairly limiting yourself in the application of this order. I've used Reconnoiter to peek at my top card, saw an Ambush action there, and decided that an Advance into melee actually was a good decision (since I would draw the Ambush at the end of my turn). Or used it to peek at the die roll right before playing an Infiltrate order so that I can more or less choose what I get. Or used it right before playing a Move order to see what my first defense roll is going to be -- can I charge across that open ground hex or do I need to take the long way through better cover?

Reconnoiter has many, if subtle, uses.

Quote:
In Europe an event would occur every time the dice came up "7" (1 in every 6 cards)...

Not quite.

The American deck has 12 Event triggers making it the only one with a 1-in-6 chance of an event. The German deck has 10 Event triggers; the Russian and Italian decks 8; the British deck 6; and the French deck 4.

The average for CC:E/M is thus 8 Event triggers per deck, or 1-in-9 rolls.

Quote:
...but in Pacific events only occur when you roll a "5" (1 in every 9 cards).


In contrast CC has 8 (US), 7 (Japan) and 6 (Commonwealth) Event triggers for an average of 7, or about 1-in-10 rolls.

So in CC an Event is about 11% less likely to occur.

Quote:
I would be interested to know why Chad went down this route for Pacific

You haven't read many of the negative reviews for CC:E, I take it.
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Peter Appleton
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Chad I'd be interested to know why these decisions on event probability were made by nationality (why are the Yanks more chaotic than the Russians, for example - and the poor French - just another reason to hate playing with them for me!).

Let's face it though, if you've played a lot of US vs German scenarios in Europe, and then you go to a Japanese vs Commonwealth scenario in Pacific, it's more than an 11% probability difference you're looking at which makes it all the more frustrating when you finally draw an event and all it does is try to move some non-existent smoke.

I understand some people don't like the events, but as I said, it's the main attraction for me.

 
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Borat Sagdiyev
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The reason for the lower number of events is not only the deck composition but, most importantly, the number of die triggers.

Since there are no Recover or Rout orders anymore, there are significantly less die rolls (i.e. event triggers). Something that, in my short experience with the game, also means longer games as you will see very few Time! events per game.

I would dare to infer that on average you will see 25%-30% less events in CC than in CC:E/Med.

And the same goes for discards, as card management seems to be much simpler now given the fact that most cards are often usable and the number of actions at your disposal are also simpler to execute and less diverse than those in CC:E/Med.

In a way, CC seems an effort meant to please the guys that didn't enjoy the command & control system in CC:E/Med. IMHO, the result is a "neither fish nor fowl" kind of game, where the players have everything much more under control (a la SL/ASL) but still have to deal with a small degree of uncertainty provided by the cards.

On the positive side, I have to say that the Japanese and most of their special rules are really neat. But I personally feel that CC:E/Med is a much more unique (war)gaming experience than CC.

Of course, YMMV.cool
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Drake Coker
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TeufelHund wrote:
Chad I'd be interested to know why these decisions on event probability were made by nationality (why are the Yanks more chaotic than the Russians, for example - and the poor French - just another reason to hate playing with them for me!).


Answer found in this thread... http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/375101
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Peter Appleton
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harzal wrote:
Since there are no Recover or Rout orders anymore, there are significantly less die rolls (i.e. event triggers). Something that, in my short experience with the game, also means longer games as you will see very few Time! events per game.


Actually that's something I should have mentioned - Pacfifc gametime does, on average, seem to be longer than that of Europe.

Quote:
I would dare to infer that on average you will see 25%-30% less events in CC than in CC:E/Med.


That's about my gut feeling too.

Quote:
In a way, CC seems an effort meant to please the guys that didn't enjoy the command & control system in CC:E/Med. IMHO, the result is a "neither fish nor fowl" kind of game, where the players have everything much more under control (a la SL/ASL) but still have to deal with a small degree of uncertainty provided by the cards.


Which is why it seems like a strange decision to me, as those kind of people can just go and play ASL whereas the people that really enjoyed Combat Commander were probably hoping for more of the same.
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Ryan Nip
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Chad Jensen wrote:


Quote:
Unlike in CC:E, it is now possible to destroy enemy weapons in one fell blow by discarding two Asset Denied orders at once

In hindsight I probably should have allowed this order to only break an unbroken weapon. Or perhaps allow it to be used on a broken weapon only if it is the first order of a player's turn (giving the opponent at least a one turn chance to fix the weapon).


thumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsupthumbsup

The modification is so great that I'll play the "Asset Denied" orders as mentioned! laugh

Will this rule be incorporated in FAQ/Errata?
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Chadwik
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Quote:
Will this rule be incorporated in FAQ/Errata?

No. I'll change a rule if it is proved to be broken or otherwise immeasurably skews the game. The current Asset Denied rule is neither -- It is only disliked by some, which is altogether different.

As a house rule, though, go for it!
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Richard Savage
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I think that the US got the short end of the stick on marksmanship and firepower vs. the Brits. The Brits used the bolt-action Enfield rifle, while the US used the semi-automatic M1-Garand with an 8 round clip, putting out significantly more firepower than a bolt action rifle. As for accuracy, the US Marines prided themselves on their marksmanship and fire discipline. After spending 12 weeks at Parris Island and an extended tour of duty in Vietnam, I can attest to them both.
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Quote:
The Brits used the bolt-action Enfield rifle, while the US used the semi-automatic M1-Garand with an 8 round clip, putting out significantly more firepower than a bolt action rifle.

Marksmanship and firepower are two different things. The Marksmanship action in CC models deliberate, carefully-aimed shots.

Quote:
the US Marines prided themselves on their marksmanship and fire discipline.

When compared to the US Army, I have no doubt. However, my reading and other research has led me to the conclusion that overall the British soldier of the time was generally thought of as being the best of the best when it comes to true marksmanship. And this wasn't necessarily a case of simple skill, as the British penchant for calmness under fire goes a long way towards making sure his next shot may be less errant than may be the case among other nations' troops.

In the end I chose to emphasize raw firepower for the US forces and a bit more deliberate approach for the UK. Stereotypes, to be sure, but nonetheless effective in giving the player an overall feel for the flavor of the various WWII combatants.
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Richard Savage
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Great points Chad, you're the designer and I'll play by your rules and be happy with it! On ANOTHER note though, I think that the +2 airburst for arty in jungles and marshes isn't warranted. Marshes are like rice paddies, and are very wet, there's not much dirt and rocks for the shells to toss around as extra shrapnel. As for the jungle, the canopies were made of soft fronds and vines, etc. For the Hurtgen forest I could see the +2, but not in the jungle. Still loving your CC games though, don't worry, I'm just looking for your rationale for a few things.
 
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Good to go, Richard.

You may be closer to the mark in regard to airbursts. I went with the ASL take on airbursts in jungle/swamp -- which could very well be "incorrect" in its average application. It's what I'm used to, though.
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That's the way I'll play it then, thanks for the great games Chad.
 
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