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Operations Olympic & Coronet» Forums » Reviews

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Christopher Smith
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*Disclaimer: while I am familiar to the concept of wargaming, I am rather new to games using the hex-and-counter mechanic and as such, my view about this product may be quite different to someone knowledgeable about other systems. In any case I hope this review is of some use*

Of all of the great “what-if” battles of the Second World War, the proposed American invasion of the Japanese Home Islands is possibly the most intriguing. Codenamed Operation Downfall, the invasion was to include two stages: Operation Olympic, the invasion of the southern island of Kyushu scheduled to begin November 1945 and Operation Coronet, an almost-direct attack on Tokyo in April 1946. Downfall was intended to be an almost completely American invasion (although the plans were amended slightly to allow other Allied forces to take part) and expected to incur horrific casualties. Estimates vary from several hundred thousand American to literally millions – and this is to say nothing of the Japanese lives that would be lost. Of course, the success of the atomic bomb and subsequent Japanese surrender rendered talk of an invasion moot, although in the following years, the expected high numbers of dead and wounded have been used to support President Truman’s decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Decision Games' World at War 27: Operations Olympic & Cornet (OO&C) allows players to carry out these invasions primarily from an American viewpoint, with the main objective to end the war with the lowest number of casualties. The goal of the Japanese forces is to raise this number as high as possible and in turn, reduce the victory points awarded to their foe.

OO&C has been designed as a solitaire game but advice and options are included for a two-player version of both operations as well as instructions on how to conduct either invasion according to the historical plans. If the player(s) chose to include Soviet troops, then the game could accommodate an additional player but they would have substantially less counters than the American or Japanese player.

Contents include:

World at War 27 – magazine and rules for the game providing a decent historical background, order of battle, diagrams as well as a handful of other articles on separate subjects.

560 counters provided on two sheets, one for each operation. Information is printed on both sides of most counters and so care should be taken when removing them. Also, players should ensure they have a way of keeping both sets separate, either in plastic bags or containers. The counters include American forces (white on green), Japanese forces (red on tan), Soviet forces (white on red) as well as a number of other counters for use in game.

2 maps – one for each operation. They are printed on fairly thick paper although care should be taken to ensure that they aren’t warped during storage. The maps are quite large but as each operation is meant to be played separately, either map should fit onto the average-sized table during play. Both maps are functional in appearance with differences between each terrain type clear and with areas to store re-enforcements as well as the most often-used tables included but they aren’t the most attractive of maps.

The game is supplied in a clear, plastic bag, which if care is taken when opening the game, can be used to store everything.

Required but not included: 1d6, although players may find it easier to use 3d6 during the amphibious landing phases.

The rules contain a summary of the information included on each counter; the rules needed for the basic game with the rules for the “advanced” and/or two-player game towards the back. Each rule is numbered which is helpful as the rules will often cross-reference each other with regularly flicking back-and-forth through the magazine to be expected. The advanced game is made-up of numerous optional rules (such as the deployment of nuclear weapons, use of air and naval attacks and additional Japanese troops). There are aspects of how the rules are laid out which frustrated me, particularly that considering the first turn of every game will always an American amphibious assault, having the rules for this in the middle somewhat odd. Also, instructions for how to set up the game (arguably one of the first things a player needs to do) buried at the back. Despite this, however, most of the rules are fairly easy to understand.

Set up takes approximately 40-60 minutes although this will decrease with every play-through. Units are usually at the regiment or brigade level and each game turn is equal to one week of real-time. Each game has a set number of turns (10 for Olympic and 16 for Coronet).

The majority of the rules are fairly standard for this type of game; units move a certain number of hexes with reductions to speed caused by the terrain being moved through and combat is initiated by two opposing units entering an adjacent hex. Movement of Japanese units and activation of reserves is dictated by a set doctrine in the solo game (in the two-player game the Japanese controller may do whatever he wishes). and is normally along the lines of "get to American units ASAP".

Combat is resolved by working out the difference in combat strength between the units involved (-2 to +10), rolling a d6 and comparing the result to the information given on a table (helpfully printed on both maps). The majority of the time, the American units will survive (although they may take damage, recorded by flipping the counter to its reversed - and therefore reduced - side) with Japanese units either destroyed outright or forced to retreat. A roll of a six will always result in the Japanese unit preforming a suicide attack, which can be devastating at times. Combat is overwhelmingly in favour of the Americans however the designers are open about this and give their reasons for this as an attempt to make the game as true to the expected historical outcome (ie an almost-expected American victory) and that the crux of combat in OO&C is not about victory but casualties.

Every combat involving an American unit will result in the American Casualty Point tracker going up as set value depending on the difference in combat strength. As the values given on the combat resolution table is multiplied by the number of American units involved, forcing the player to de-stack his units soon after forming a beachhead and thus, prevents "stacks of death" sweeping the board - or at least not without putting a solid victory at risk.

I have played each operation three times (twice solo and once in a two-player game) and play-time averages out at roughly 4-5 hours although Coronet will take longer. It is possible to play both games back-to-back in a campaign lasting about 9-10 hours. In the solo game it is very easy for a player to find themselves making mistakes and even adjusting the rules slightly in the name of smoother gameplay (particularly in regards to the movement of Japanese units) but mostly it is easy to play the game as intended.

OO&C is an enjoyable game with a high re-play factor. It's sobering to see the casualty tracker rise with every attack and it does make the player consider the sheer human cost of what would have been the final campaign of the Second World War. With a solid rule system designed for solitaire play and an interesting subject, OO&C is a decent way to start with hex-and-counter games and has certainly made me less-hesitant to consider purchasing more complex and expensive games.
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Pete Belli
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Welcome to a fascinating segment of the hobby.

Perhaps you might enjoy a wargame microbadge...
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Mike Hoyt

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Very useful review. I need to get these to the table.
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Christopher Smith
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Get to it, man!
 
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