Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Preview of Heroes of the Pacific

It's a strange world. People suck an endless stream of reality programming from their TV, yet call sports lovers dumb, Kim Kardashian is famous for nothing, yet thousands of hard-working writers, musicians, and filmmakers are forced to eek out their living. Stranger still is . Well, sort of.

The strangeness is self-inflicted. You see, I've always wanted to bring Lock 'n Load to the Pacific. In fact, the Pacific is my favorite World War II theater of operations. Nevertheless, it has taken me the better part of a decade to design Heroes of the Pacific. Strange stuff.


World War II-era Japanese are interesting to model. Although famed for their warrior spirit and discipline, they were poorly equipped. From 1943 on they were bringing a bolt-action knife (Arisaka bolt-action rifle) to the semi-automatic M1 Garand gun battle. This put them at a distinct disadvantage. The U.S. Marines marksmanship furthered it.

Hence, the standard Japanese rifle squad has a firepower of one. Just like their German counterparts. On the other hand, the Marines have double that (that's two for the math challenged). The U.S. Army also has one firepower (smaller squads, and less training than Marines), but additional squads in a fire group aren't halved--a nod to the Garand's



The Japanese have a unique morale structure. They don't shake. If they fail a damage check they are reduced. Sort of like the Somalis from Day of Heroes, but much tougher. They are tougher for a couple of reasons. First off, Japanese squads are three step units. A Squad that fails a Damage Check is reduced to a Half-squad. If that same Half-squad fails another Damage Check it is reduced to a smaller Half-squad. Fail again and they are dead.

Japanese frequently fought to the last man, making them very tough to clean out of bunkers, caves, and such. To replicate this, I gave Japanese a changing morale structure. Their line squads have a morale of five--standard for well-disciplined troops. It won't be too difficult to inflict casualties on those Squads. The Half-squads, however, have a morale of six, making them a little tougher to reduce. When the Marines finally whittle the Japanese Squad to the second Half-squad, called a remnant, they'll find only the die-hards with a morale of seven are left, frequently necessitating a Melee to eliminate them.

"But how do you reduce their firepower as they lose men?" you might ask. Then again, you might not. For all I know you quit reading this a paragraph ago. The answer is simple: I don't reduce their firepower; I reduce their range. Firepower is an esoteric value. It represents the effect a squad has on the opposition. Although it correlates to, it is not slaved to the number of rifles in the squad. By reducing the range, I make Japanese half-squads and remnants less effective. For example, the half-squad has a range of three, and the remnant's range is only two, reflecting their unwillingness to show themselves unless they have a sure shot. It's fun stuff, without a lot of less-than-fun rules.


Argh, I hate them. They are the lamest of design ploys, the laziest of design ploys. Nevertheless, I understand that surprise Japanese attacks and snipers are much of the fun in any game modeling the Pacific theater. The game's standard rules cover the snipers, just fine, but small groups of men ambushing Marine patrols or emerging from spider holes to fling satchel charges at defensive positions is something new. Here what I did.

Some scenarios allow Japanese to enter using Ninjutsu movement. The Japanese player merely points to a hex that the Japanese are to appear (it's usually a Half-squad, but can be more), and rolls d6. If he rolls four or greater, he places the Japanese in the hex. Simple? Yes, but there is a bit more to it than first strikes the eye. One is added to the die if the hex is Heavy Jungle, making it easier for the Japanese to appear in that terrain. One is subtracted from the d6 if there is an enemy MMC in the hex, making it more difficult to appear right under the Americans nose, and the other results (1-3) are much more than "no effect." The Japanese might be eliminated, might be placed in an adjacent hex of the American's choice, or perhaps not placed at all. We think it works quite well, and without the muss of tracking hidden units.


Heroes are a big deal in the Lock 'n Load series. Some people love 'em, some don't. Those that don't will like the Japanese. There are no Japanese heroes. The Japanese soldier was dedicated to supporting the greater good, the larger cause. Soldiers worked within their units to defeat the enemy.


Well, hell yeah. Of course the Japanese have snipers. Even cooler, when a Japanese sniper is placed, he gets a Spider Hole marker, which gives him a +1 target modifier in addition to any other terrain in the hex.


Banzai is simple. At least as simple as you can make these attacks in a complex situation. A Japanese Leader must pass a morale check, and then the Leader, in addition to all the units in his hex and the adjacent hexes, runs into melee. Each of these units gets six movement points, and each unit's final destination must be within two hexes of the Leader. There are a couple of caveats. None of the units in the Leader's purview may have activated. Hence, you can't fire on an enemy with one of the units in the six adjacent, and then Banzai with the unit next to it. This would have been shameful for the Japanese soldiers who did not charge. If a Weapon Team is involved, it is replaced with a half-squad. In other words they abandon their weapon. Effective fire on the Banzai units doesn't halt them.


Yes, we have your tanks, and we have your tank scenarios. For example, "Counterattack" depicts the large Japanese counterattack down the coastal road on Saipan. They get no less than five tanks in this one and an armor leader (Lt Shirow--named after the famous Ghost in the Shell author). In "Armored Assault," I depict the famous Japanese attack across the Peleliu airfield. On the other hand the Marine and Army armor support is frequently sprinkled in to support their infantry. We include everything from the ubiquitous M4A2 to the Sherman flamethrower tank. Long time Lock 'n Loader will find it odd to have the superior armor as the allied player.


At first I wasn't going to include beach landings, but I recanted. At both Tarawa and Peleliu you'll get to drive LVT4 transports, jam-packed with Marines, onto the beach.I'm glad that we game with cardboard, because these LVT4s die quickly.


Heroes of the Pacific includes several types of ground attack aircraft. The Americans get the F4F, and the Japanese can throw in A6M Zekes and D3A Vals. On the ground the Japanese have more AA weapons, but that decision was based more on counter space than anything else.


And last, but not least, Heroes of the Pacific is chock full of the kind of battles we like to fight. Most are small--not tiny, but small. Although the game ships with a bunch of tanks, almost all the scenarios feature the infantry, with one or two armored fighting vehicles in a supporting role. And the U.S. Armydid I mention the Army? We've also included Army scenarios, almost all designed by Ralph Ferrari.

Play testing has been funso much fun that I wonder why it took me so long to design. It's just strange.

See you tomorrow.
Full Post

No comments:

Post a Comment