I played my first real scenario of Pacific Fury: Guadalcanal, 1942 (Revolution Games) over the holidays. The game is an operational-level treatment of the naval battles off Guadalcanal. Counters represent major combatants (CV/CVL/BB/BC/CA) and transports. Each turn is one month. The game starts in August 1942 with the Americans lodged on Guadalcanal and Henderson Field operational. Each turn players must first allocate forces into one of seven “Operation Box.” Turns then consist of seven phases; in each phase the player can do only one of the following: sortie a Task Force (TF) from an Operation Box, fight or move a previously sortied TF, or airstrike from Henderson Field. The game lasts four turns (August-November 1942) and the only determination of victory is who controls Henderson Field at the end of the last phase of Turn 4.
I played an entire scenario and had extensive notes tracking unit assignments and combat actions so I could have a good AAR. Looking through the rules one more time after play, I realized I had made a few mistakes so I am not going to give you a detailed battle report because I feel the rules flubs are enough to invalidate the game results. What I will give you is my impressions of the game.
The map has a few annoying spelling errors (“Turn Record Truck”) but the counters are top-notch. They are thick and punch out with nice rounded corners and almost no tuft! Play space needed is small; I used a desktop with about 24″ x 18″ of real estate. The rule book is a whole 8 pages and fairly easy to follow along with. This will make a good travel game!
Game Play: B+
- Form Task Forces/Operations Phase: The Form Task Forces step is the heart of the game and the most challenging. Each Admiral needs to decide in what order his forces will enter the game. Every Operations Phase is a choice between sortieing a new force (enter the board) or using what is already deployed. The trade-off is that using a force on the board delays the entry of new forces; wait too long and a Task Force may not get into the fight this month!
- Combat: This can be a bit fiddly. It took me a few tries to catch on to the different to-hit and damage roll modifiers. Basically, one has to roll the Combat Factor or less to hit, with the die roll being the number of hits. There are modifiers to the Combat Factor and number of hits (which was confusing to me at first). Then, to determine damage one compares the number of hits to the Defense Factor and rolls again. If the range of the roll is correct (depending on if your hits are greater than, equal to, or less than the Defense Factor) the ship is sunk. This is where I really messed up, for according to the rules, “Any ship not sunk is still considered damaged, as long as it suffered at least one hit.” What the rules mean to say is any ship “hit” but not “sunk” is “damaged.”In my play thru I was so focused on sinking ships I forgot to assess damage too!
- Return to Base: Another area I struggled with, especially 10.8 Forced Return. This was in part because I was struggling to clearly differentiate between a “hit,” “damage,” and “sunk.”
Historical Accuracy: B
After playing thru the scenario, I went back and looked at the orders of battle for each side. I was curious because the only reinforcements for the Americans is the carrier Hornet on Turn 2, and the Japanese can get the super-battleship Yamato and small carriers Junyo and Hiyo as special event reinforcements. The scenario obviously starts after the Battle of Savo Island (8/9 Aug 1942) since the “American” cruisers Canberra (Royal Australian Navy), Astoria, Quincy, and Vincennes are not included (they were all sunk). After a cursory look at a few sources I also have questions over the inclusion/arrival times of several Japanese ships. The American side looks a bit better, but the inclusion of, for example, Indianapolis is intriguing because the ship was not present in the South Pacific at any time during the period covered. Without designer notes it’s hard to tell if these choices were the result of design decisions, play balance, a bit of “what if”, or simple oversight.
Overall, Pacific Fury is a tight game of interesting, tense decisions. Victory will go to the better planner – although a smiling bit of Lady Luck is always helpful. The combat system is not very deep, but then again the focus of the game is the planning and getting your forces arrayed on the battle seas at the right place at the right time. Although there is only one scenario, there appears to be a fair amount of replay because, I don’t think, there will be a perfect strategy to deploying one’s forces and there is just enough Luck involved that an ironclad strategy will be hard to assemble.
Verdict – Recommended