Tabletop Game / Victory In The Pacific

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The front of the game box.

A 1977 tabletop historical naval wargame of low to moderate complexity published by Avalon Hill, set in World War II and pitting Japan against the Allies in the Pacific Ocean. A sequel of sorts to the shorter and simpler War at Sea. The game divides the ocean into 13 sea areas and includes 22 bases (8 of which are major ports) which can change hands during the game due to isolation or invasions. All the major heavy cruisers (plus 3 of the light cruisers), battleships, and carriers that fought in the Pacific Theater from December 1941 through October 1944 are included, and each side gets land-based air wings, amphibious forces, and a submarine to play with as well. Along with Advanced Squad Leader, it's one of the last few Avalon Hill wargames to still support nationally-attended face to to face tournaments.

The Allied forces are dominated by the United States armed forces, but also include a sizable British contingent and associated Commonwealth units, plus one lone single Dutch light cruiser - the opposing forces all belong to the Empire of Japan. Scoring is by "Points of Control", which are just Victory Points by another name, with a simple aggregate determining the winner at the end (except that nobody can lead by more than 29 at the end of a turn). Generally Japan runs up a large lead early but then the tide of American reinforcements turns it back over the last few turns. Scoring points means having the last surviving land-based air unit, or patrolling ship, in a sea zone at the end of a battle. Said patrolling ships must be committed at the beginning of the turn. Ships can raid instead of patrol, and be committed later in the turn, but those raiding ships do not score any Points of Control after a battle.


This game provides examples of:

  • Composite Character: Done with locales instead of people. To keep the game manageable, a lot of island bases are combined. E.g. Lae represents multiple bases on the northern half of New Guinea, Saipan also represents Guam & Tinian, Pearl Harbor & Yokosuka Naval Yard stand-in for all of Hawaii & Japan respectively, etc.
  • Cool Ship: Omnipresent.
  • Final Battle: A well-played game between approximately equal opponents has a good chance of coming down to a giant battle in the Sea of Japan with the game at stake.
  • Fog of War: Mostly averted, both players can see the whole map and the locations of all enemy forces. A couple of fog mechanics do exist though - the Allies have restrictions on Turn 1 due to "not knowing" when and where the Japanese are planning to attack; and all game long, since the Japanese code was broken in real life, the Japanese player has to perform each step before his opponent does, depriving him of the information of his enemy's choices.
  • Glass Cannon: Many of the aircraft carriers, especially the Hiryu.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The usual result of sending a single ship or land-based air unit up against a large enemy force to take out the lone enemy patrolling ship, or to destroy the lone enemy amphibious force.
  • Last Stand: The Japanese fleet is usually reduced to making one of these at the end of the game.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The Iowa-class battleships for sure.
  • Mighty Glacier: Many of the battleships in the game - generally having better gunnery and armor than other ships but much less speed - are this, especially for the Americans, as their early-game battleships are even slower than Japan's.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Several of the Japanese ships are this, having an armor factor of 0 such that any hit will sink them.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Can easily happen if you win a battle by mostly "disabling" opposing ships (which sends them back to port and ends their part in the battle, but inflicts no lasting damage) while most of your own losses are hit, sunk, and gone for good.
  • Random Number God: The lone Dutch ship the Allies possess (the light cruiser De Ruyter) is also one of the weakest ships in the game - and often considered the luckiest. One tournament match back in the mid 2000s was even known as the "De Ruyter Game", as a mid-level player (Mike Knautz) managed to upset one of the top players (Jim Eliason) - and in several battles over the course of several turns, the De Ruyter was the last surviving Allied patrolling ship, sinking multiple enemy ships along the way.
  • Sneak Attack: How the first turn of the game naturally begins, with most of the Allies forces frozen in place and unable to react.
  • We Have Reserves: Averted for ships of both sides despite the large amounts of American reinforcements, as both sides have to carefully watch how much attrition their navy suffers. Played straight with land-based air units, which when destroyed, sit out the rest of that turn plus the entire following turn, and then re-form and return to the game good as new - the idea being that a sunk ship is clearly gone for good, but a destroyed air unit isn't completely gone, and the surviving planes and pilots can regroup and gain replacements and then start fighting again after a time.
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