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Subject: We Must Tell The Emperor - Loads of Theme in a Small Package rss

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John DeWolfe
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We Must Tell The Emperor is a solo wargame which models, on a highly abstracted level, the Pacific War from the perspective of the Japanese. The player must hold off four different Allied armies (Admiral Nimitz island-hopping across the Central Pacific, Gen. MacArthur vowing to return from Australia all the way to the Philippines, Chiang Kai-Shek and his Nationalists seeking to drive you out of China, and the British under Archibald Wavell seeking to hold on to Asian colonies), juggle scarce resources, and respond to the ebb and flow of the war's major events, all in less than an hour's playtime. Having just completed my sixth play (and my first win, albeit just by the skin of my teeth!), I wanted to share my thoughts on this very fine solo game.

Play is driven by a series of cards, divided into Early, Mid, and Late War. Each card symbolizes a major event of the war, and tells you how many resources you gain or (more likely) lose, which Allied fronts retreat or (more likely) advance, and what modifiers will apply on that turn to die rolls to attempt to gain a specific resource or fight on a specific front. All of the military movements, resource changes, and dice roll modifiers on the cards are cleverly linked to the actual event to create a strong sense of narrative. As an example, the Early War event "Indian Ocean Raid" simulates the IJN's strikes on port facilities and British shipping in the Indian Ocean in April 1942. Therefore, you get a positive modifier for any attacks on the British this turn, and Japan gains in the "prestige" resource, fitting for a daring projection of power in an area thought safe from them. However, you also lose an "Oil" resource, to capture the expense in resources and supply of sending carriers so far, and Nimitz advances a space closer to Japan while you get a significant negative modifier to attacks on Nimitz this turn - because if your carriers are in the Indian Ocean, they can hardly be in the Pacific to deal with the US Navy. All of the events are thoughtfully put together in this way to guide, but never force, your decision making and to drive a narrative of the war.

A handful of events are battles which simulate the most significant clashes of the war, and in addition to the above effects you are given a choice to "refight" the battle by rolling a d6. But beware - you can either improve on the historical results, or things can get worse! This is a simple and abstract but fun way to deal with the great what-ifs of the war - What if the Japanese had found and sunk some of the US carriers at Pearl Harbor? What if Japan's desperate gamble at Leyte Gulf had paid off?

In keeping with the strong, historically accurate sense of narrative, this is a hard game to win. Very hard. The Japanese Empire will expand rapidly, then the pace of expansion will slow down and it will grow harder to keep resources flowing and quality troops in the field. Finally, you'll be hanging on for dear life as the war winds down.

So it's pretty clear I enjoy the game, but how specifically would I score it? What are the pros and cons?

PROS
Theme - WMTTE captures the ebb and flow, the emotional roller coaster of the Japanese war effort, all while giving a broad, but very solid outline of Pacific War history. Every game at some point in the Early War, you'll be elated and dead sure you're going to win. Every game at some point in the Mid or late War, you'll be cursing the event that just popped up, you'll sink into despair and wonder how you can even make it a couple of more turns. I can count on one hand the number of games I've played that capture a theme better than WMTTE.

Playtime - Quick to setup, quick to grasp the basics of the rules, quick to play (an hour or less, generally). Even if your free time is scarce you'll be able to squeeze in games.

Well-written rules - The rulebook is clearly laid out, and most important rules are referenced again in bullet-point on the map (which is itself very attractive and clear). You'll occasionally need to look a specific situation up, but one thorough reading of the rules should be enough to get you up and running.

Small size - The paper map is small, and there are a minimal number of components. This is an extremely easy game to find place to play and to store.

Price - This is a seriously cheap game for the amount of fun I've got out of it so far. $28.95, which included international shipping, is a great deal.

MAYBE PRO, MAYBE CON
Difficulty - You'll lose more than you win, and sometimes you'll lose badly. If that bothers you, this game isn't for you. Personally, I think it's a prerequisite given the theme.

CONS
Component quality - Everything looks nice and is functional, but we're not dealing with one of the bigger, well-resourced game companies here. Cards are fairly small (I didn't have any sleeves that size so I haven't done anything to protect them yet) and on a somewhat thin cardboard. The counters are solid, but a little rough around the edges. I like the artwork personally, but it's not going to blow anyone away. If you care about chrome, you'll be disappointed.

All things considered, I'd have to give WMTTE a very high recommendation to anyone interested in the Pacific War and to anyone who enjoys a challenging, quick solo wargame. This was my first purchase from Victory Point games, but I suspect it might not be my last.
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HERMANN LUTTMANN
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Nicely done review, John! Hermann
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Brian McCormick
United States
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This game sounds really cool the 1-hour-ish playtime is what especially caught my eye. Usually, "solo wargame" makes me click away from the page no questions asked, but I actually stuck around and read your review. Nice work!
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Dampenon Fabien
France
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Rookies talk about strategy, Grognards about Logistics
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Nice review. Pros and Cons are very well presented.

Like all State of Siege Serie Games, I think Expansion Kit is interesting.

I'm protecting my cards from VPG/SoS with Standard American Board Game Pack Sleeves, 2 1/4" x 3 1/2" (56x87 MM) from Fantasy Flight Games.



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Steve Carey
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John, thank you for posting your comments - you have truly captured the essence of the game.

I'm glad you mentioned the emotional aspect of play - we tried to model the psychological impact of the war on the Japanese as the inevitable rollercoaster ride is crucial to the design's storytelling.

Regarding the "Indian Ocean Raid" card, you nailed it - I could not have written a better Designer's Note myself.

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John DeWolfe
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Thanks everyone for the kind words, thumbs, and tips. And thanks of course to Mr. Carey for a fine game I feel I've already got my money's worth from, and then some.

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