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The Tide at Sunrise: The Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905» Forums » Reviews

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David G. Cox Esq.
Lighthouse Beach
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Do what you can, with what you've got, where you are.
The Tide At Sunrise
The Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905

Designed by Yokihiro Kuroda
Developed by Adam Starkweather
Published by Multi-Man Publishing (2010)

The Tide At Sunrise (T@S) is not the first game published on The Russo-Japanese War. SPI published Red Sun Rising. GDW produced The Russo-Japanese War which was made up of two individual games – Tsushima and Port Arthur. Command magazine published Port Arthur: the Russo-Japanese War. Strife Games produced The Siege of Port Arthur in 1975. Strategy & Tactics magazine published a tactical naval game called Tsushima. No doubt there are other games that have been published that I have not mentioned.

As it says in the rules, the Russo-Japanese War ushered in a new era of warfare. Apparently during the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 Japan expended 34,000 rounds of artillery ammunition. On a single day in the Battle of Nanshan (May 25, 1904) the Japanese expended the same amount - 34,000 shells.

These games have adopted a variety of approaches to the war. Red Sun Rising relied heavily upon activation which was modified by the weather – the result was that most forces were inactive for most of the game and most of the action took place up and down the rail-line. In the Command magazine game pieces could basically be picked up and placed wherever they were wanted, each turn, regardless of distance. In some of the designs there have been attempts to make connections between the war at sea and the war on the land.

T@S has a different feel from other games that I have played that have dealt with this war. In the first place T@S has great physical components – apart from the box art. The map is glorious with some great earthy tones and some nice blue-grey shades for the Bay of Korea. The counters look fabulous with great use of different colours. There are also a substantial number of ship counters for which no rules are supplied. I believe that these rules are provided on the internet but they are not used at all in the basic game. The actual artwork on the box and rules looks shabby. While the map and the counters are just screaming at me that they are there to be played the actual box/rules art is a distinct turn-off.

The game works pretty much with a standard Igo-Ugo system that has given hour of pleasure to countless gamers over the last 50 years. There are several aspects to the game that give it a feel of uniqueness.

The naval aspect of the war is handled in a very abstract manner. At the start of the Japanese Player Turn the Russian player decides if the Port Arthur and/or the Vladivostok fleets will sortie. If theyu sortie dice are rolled to see what the result is. There is just as much chance of the Russians being successful as there is of the Russians meeting with abject failure. If the Russian fleets are eliminated the Japanese player scores points. If the Russian fleets are victorious the Japanese naval transport capacity is reduced. The most common result will be no effect.

The basic sequence of play is:

Japanese Naval Phase – the Russian player decides whether to sortie or not

Japanese Reinforcement Phase – the Japanese player decides how many transport points will be used to convoy new units to the war zone and how many will be set aside to be used later to replenish depleted units

Japanese Movement Phase – self explanatory

Japanese Combat Phase – combat is voluntary

Supply Phase – units out of supply will be disrupted and then eliminated

Recovery Phase – in supply disrupted units recover to full strength

The Russian Player repeats the above sequence. During the Russian Naval Phase the Japanese player rolls a die and advances the marker on his Secret Operations track. During the Reinforcement Phase the Russian player splits his points between Port Arthur and his main force in Manchuria.

The game is fairly standard, as wargames go, in many ways. Units have a zone of control which impedes the movement and supply of units. Stacking is a maximum of four counters per hex although there are not really a lot of counters in the game and stacking only becomes an issue around Port Arthur and as the Japanese push north along the rail line.

There are a small number of artillery units in the game that can perform ranged fire. This allows artillery units two hexes from a defending unit to assist attacking units.

Both players will bring most of their units onto the map as reinforcements. “both players are given a certain number of transport points that can be used each turn. The Japanese player may have his points reduced as a result of naval combat. The Russian player may have his points reduced as a result of winter weather and the activities of Colonel Akashi, a Japanese agent in Finland causing trouble for the Russians.

The game is set up with a small Japanese force entering the map from Korea and Russian troops spread over the map.

Victory is achieved by scoring points for capturing towns. The Japanese player also scores points for eliminating Russian units and loses points for the elimination of Japanese units. To win the game the Japanese player needs to score 70 points, or more, by the end of Turn 12. The towns themselves are worth 70 points so this means the Japanese must have either some positive results at sea or a net gain from the elimination of units to win, unless the Japanese capture every town on the map.
At the start of the game the Japanese receive a lot more transport points than the Russians and this is reversed by the end of the game. For this reason the Japanese must make a rapid drive north and make the most of their advantage while they can. There is a certain amount of tension for both players as the Japanese have to stick to a fairly rigid time frame to win.

The nice features of the game are that it looks fabulous. The rules are relatively short and quite straight-forward. The small number of units makes the game quick and easy to set up. Because of the small number of units in the game there is little downtime and the game should be able to be finished in a little over two hours.

The only downsides of the game are that the naval aspect of the game is quite random and with such a small number of combat units a run of bad dice can make it difficult for the luck to even out by the end of the game.

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Чебурашка, ты настоящий друг!
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Good summary, and I agree with your conclusions. I'd add that due to the lack of hidden information and the "puzzle-like" nature of the game (Russians: best way to retreat to slow down the Japanese as much as possible; Japanese: quickest method of attack; choice between the passes and the long way around the mountains), it plays very well solo.

On the downside, I felt that some of the key rules were missing or well hidden, and therefore, despite the simplicity, one had to do quite a bit of searching here and on consimworld to find out how to play the game correctly.
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Jan Vater
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Just got my copy and am very pleased with overall production quality, the counters really look great. Now the box art, on the other hand, is quite a bummer. Bleary and pixelated looking, someone did a terrible job there. The rulebook could have used a little more thought at layouting, too.

Apart from that, it is a fast-playing, well balanced game. Will probably see much playing time on our regular gaming nights because of its short set up time and manageable playtime.

What doesn't help in selling the game, though, is the fact that the box makes customers think they get to push neat ship counters around and fire torpedoes at each other. The back of the box clearly implies that and no one could understand why that is. No good.
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