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Review by: Jim Brumbaugh
Published: September 5, 1997
It has always been my belief that serious wargame fanatics require two things above all else from any wargame product: detail and realism. Realism is necessary in order for the gamer to immerse himself in the historical experience of the war that is being simulated. Detail as it pertains to terrain and fighting units not only adds another element of realism, but also gives the player more options from which to choose when mounting an assault or defending his territory. As a reader, if you agree with my assessment of the ingredients necessary for a wargame to be considered a success, then Pacific General from Strategic Simulations (SSI) is definitely worth a long, hard look.
Another entry in SSI’s “5-Star Series” of wargames, Pacific General brings to life the experience of military operations in the Pacific during World War II. The culmination of all the “General” games which preceded it, Pacific General allows the player to wage war on land, on the seas, and in the air. Literally hundreds of different combat units, each with different strengths, weaknesses, and other attributes are at the player’s disposal throughout the course of scenario play. The player can choose to pursue either an Allied campaign which covers historical events from the Battle of Midway in 1942 through the invasion of the Japanese islands in 1945, or he can play an Axis campaign which encompasses historical events from 1937 through 1941, and extends into hypothetical events through 1945 (more about that later). A campaign is completed by finishing ten successive scenarios, but choices made available at various points in each campaign result in a total of thirteen different scenarios which can be played as either the Axis or the Allies.
After the player selects a side to play, and decides whether to begin a campaign or play a specific scenario, the war can begin. In most Pacific General scenarios, either or both sides have control of a certain number of victory hexes. In such scenarios, the player’s objective generally consists of engineering the capture of the victory hexes controlled by his opponent, while defending his own. The control of victory hexes is rewarded with prestige points, which can be considered to be the “currency” of Pacific General. Prestige points are also awarded for the destruction of enemy units, and points are lost as the player’s units are destroyed. For the scenarios in which there are no victory hexes, successful play is the sole determinant of prestige points awarded. The prestige points earned by the player can be used to replenish existing units, to enlist new units, or to upgrade or overstrengthen units. The AI player is also awarded with prestige points based upon the success of its play.
Once the player understands his objectives, he must formulate a plan to succeed in battle. He must decide on the combination of land, air and naval units he wishes to use to achieve his goals. Players of prior “General” incarnations may be familiar with the land and air maneuvers contained in Pacific General, but the naval options are a new type of combat that has been added. In general, clicking on any unit makes it active, and any hex that the unit can move to is highlighted around it. Unlike most other games of this type, it is not necessary to move a unit to a hex at the edge of its range to avoid losing the full movement potential of the unit. Units can be moved to intermediate hexes within the movement range, and can then be moved again, if desired. This can be a useful tactic, because different units can spot enemy units at varying distances. Therefore, it is sometimes useful to move a unit one hex at a time, because it may spot an enemy unit before it reaches a hex next to the enemy unit. Since every unit exerts a zone of control which includes the six hexes surrounding the unit, any enemy unit which enters that zone of control will lose any remaining movement. Moving one or two hexes at a time provides the best opportunity to use all the movement points available by avoiding the zone of control of enemy units.
Combat is simple, and is accomplished by moving a unit within range of an enemy target. When the cursor is placed over the enemy unit, red crosshairs appear over it. Projected losses for each unit are displayed by the crosshairs, although the result of actual combat between the two units may be different. Combat results are based upon several factors, including the initiative of each unit, the entrenchment of the enemy unit, and whether either unit is in contact with more than one enemy unit. A left-click when the crosshairs appear results in the calculation of losses for each unit, and a subsequent adjustment in each unit’s strength.
The player will want to conduct combat carefully, because of another feature of Pacific General: that of core units. In a campaign game, the player is allowed to have a certain number of core units. These units are carried over from one scenario to the next as the player progresses through the campaign. They also retain their experience and strength values, so it is possible to amass a powerful force by the time the later scenarios are reached.
The previous description is only a portion of the details of play in Pacific General. Due to the vast level of detail that is included in the product, two separate tutorials are included which will help the novice player to become accustomed to gameplay. One tutorial covers ground maneuvers, and another is dedicated solely to naval combat. Running a full twenty pages in the game manual, these tutorials are sufficient to introduce the inexperienced wargamer to the concepts of combat.
The manual also contains several pages of text which provide a historical background of the events leading up to World War II. The music that is played is reminiscent of the era, and the selections have either an Asian or a 1940′s American feel. The control bars on either side of the screen are either wood and paper if playing the Axis, or riveted steel when commanding the Allies. In other words, there are plenty of details which help to lend an atmosphere of realism to the title.
Detail and realism. Pacific General has lots of both.
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