Last weekend we finished our first Empire of the Sun game. Andreas Ludwig played the Japanese, I played the Allies. Here are some random thoughts and impressions about the game.

RULES
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Our first impression: wow, this rulebook is complex and somewhat confusing because many aspects are mentioned in two (even three) different chapters and some aspects can be overlooked easily. Important information seems to be scattered sometimes and we had some difficulties of getting into the game. This was not due to the complexity; we play many complex (and sometimes confusing) games, for example ASL, Totaler Krieg, Imperium Romanum II or Vietnam 1965-1975. Nevertheless, we had to get accustomed to the EotS rules and our first turns were slow and we had to look up several questions in the internet in various forums and on Consimworld.

Once we got a hang of the game, the rules became quite clear and I think we finally got everything right. We made some minor mistakes during the first turns (I, for example, missed a LRB rule and we had some major discussions regarding supply in non-port coastal hexes and other supply and attrition issues). Fortunately, we discovered all our mistakes in time and solved all questions and after the first turns, we started to concentrate on strategy instead of rules issues. This was a great improvement ;)

During our first game, we had to acknowledge the elegance and effectiveness of the card driven engine and the various abstractions and became inspired and thrilled by the game. Each time we discovered a new aspect of the engine, a new abstraction, we admired how Mark Herman intregrated historical events and circumstances into the game. After a while, we became fans of Empire of the Sun and restarted as soon as the first game was finished.

MOTIVES
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Our main intention for buying the game was that we wanted to compare various Pacific games to each other and how they solve typical problems connected to the PTO (for example the Japanese "victory" conditions and supply issues). We played some Fire in the Sky games in 2007 where we realized a certain downtime for the Japanese player during the middle and end game due to the limitations in Oil Points. We wanted to know how other games solve this problem and discovered that the Japanese player has much more options in EotS even during the final turns than in FitS. They could even apply pressure on the US during Turn 12 - something we had never thought possible when playing FitS.

THE GAME
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Our first game turns certainly were noobish because we struggled with the rules instead of strategic thinking. I guess an experienced player would have been entertained by our exotic moves and attacks during the first game turns, but we realized our major strategic flaws and how to improve them even during the first game. After playing the first six turns, we both knew what to improve in our next game and which fatal mistakes we certainly won't repeat in another game (for example, putting entire fleets out of supply and HQ range ;).

We got accustomed to the supply rules, of movement, of combat. The combat system was new to us (we never played a Mark Herman game before) and it took some time to get rid of the old "combat odds thinking". After a while, we really began to like the combat effectiveness vs. attack and defense strength system. It was logical, it was new and it required some serious considerations regarding a balanced mix of forces. The reaction movement added more variables to the combat and even the most impressive combat force could be wounded by a single helpless fleet achieving a critical hit while the offensive player hit only with a quarter of attack strength. This was very exciting and a most welcome variety to the common odds combat systems. It took some time to discover the elegance of the combat system, but when we did, we were thrilled.

The movement and amphibious shipping system in connection with the OC values is very interesting and adds to the vast amount of considerations in a given offensive.

GAME RESULT
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The game was very intense and suspenseful up to the last minute. We played the full 12 turns. After the first turns, it became quite clear that I would never recapture the strategic hexes, so I had to conquer Japan. I managed to invade Japan in turn 10, grapping Iwo Jima and Okinawa in a very early stage for the Japanese never managed to kick me out off the Philippines.

I made the mistake of unterestimating the Political Will, though. I felt safe of a Political Will defeat because the Will stagnated during the final turns of the game. I even dared to ignore the "capture 4 locations" rule for some turns in order to push the offensive against the Japanese home islands. Up to turn 11, we both couldn't tell who would win the game - I needed 4 more Japanese cities, but Japanese forces were thin and their fleets almost extinguished.

Then, on the final turn, everything went wrong. I suddenly became threatened by Tojo Resigns (=Political Will reduced), another Will card, and Will loss due to a Japanse conquest... and my Will fell to ZERO. I not only had to capture 4 Japan hexes this turn, but also to liberate one of my countries (for example, Malaya), in order to raise the Will at least up to 1. My major problem: I had 5 (!) Reaction cards on my hand, some even unplayable due to the required conditions, and they all were 1 or 2 OC cards. It was mathematically impossible to achieve victory with this card hand and so the US eventually agreed to start negotiations with the Empire of Japan.

When the game was finished, we discussed the outcome and our major mistakes and what to avoid in future games. Then, we set up the game again to restart - this time concentrating on strategy from the start. All rules were clear to us now, we didn't have to look them up any more during play and when we restarted (again with Andreas playing the Japanese and me playing the Allies), we immediately discovered that we learned a lot during our first test game.

The first game turns of game 2 felt much more coordinated, well-thought out and foresighted. The Japanese turn 1 was very efficient, Andreas kicked me off the Philippines, took Wake and caused major havoc in Malaya. By turn 2, I was - historically correct - reduced to Hawaii, Australia and New Guinea. I'm afraid this game will be much tougher for the US ;)

CONCLUSION
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EotS became on of our favorite games very early - during our first test game. We were hooked on the game when we first discovered the elegance and depth of the game system. We will certainly play FitS again in order to compare both games in various aspects some day, but for the moment we are very content with playing EotS. It's certainly one of the best strategic games we ever played (besides some problems with the rulebook).

I uploaded some pictures of our first EotS game; you can check them out in the photo section or on my personal page.

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Replies to This Discussion

Great report !

We've played EotS a few times when it came out. After 18 months hiatus, we went back to it, and really it became our favorite CDG. I am not the best at it but the possibilities and the work into this design are tremendous. We have a game set up in the office, and play this one whenever possible. A care less USA player will lose on Political Will. Even tho hos armada is up and winning the battles. A jewel of a design...
We have a game set up in the office>>

A game set up in the office? Where do you work? I will apply with your company immediately!!! ;-)
Denny, thank you for taking the time to write such a thoughtful AAR. I found your comments very illuminating and it sounds like you had an interesting session. I look forward to hearing about your next forays into the game.

All the best,
Mark
Do you mind if I link this AAR to the CSW topic, I think the crowd would like it.

Mark
Mark, no, I don't mind. Thank you for your comments on my AARs, I'm glad you like them :) We finished two more EotS games since then and the US Will actually proved to be a major problem for me. I'm still not sure how to handle it - it's always the Will who defeats me rather than the Japanese...

Denny
Denny, What do you mean by the Will?




Lee
Lee, the game utilizes a "Political Will" system which symbolizes morale and war tiredness in the US population. The Will is pushed to 8 when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor but falls due to certain events. For example, when the Allies loose territory or by the play of event cards (for example Aquino in the Philippines or Japanese minister Tojo Resigns). In addition (which contitutes my main problem), the Will falls each turn the Allies fail to capture 4 locations. Once the Will track falls down to zero, the USA accept negotiations with Japan (=they loose the game) in contrast to Will 1-10 when the US demand unconditional surrender. Getting these 4 locations each turn puts the Allied player under pressure and can be really painful. If you fail to fulfill this condition and the Japanese conquer key positions and play Will events, the US faces serious problems - even if they are successful from a military position. I freed New Guinea, Guadalcanal and most of the Mandates last game, but the "Will" nevertheless broke my neck.

Denny
That sounds like a tough thing to deal with in each game. I can understand why it frustates you! good luck in the future!
Thanks, I will cross post this to the main CSW EoTS topic...

Here are some thoughts on US PW...as you have discovered the Japanese will usually 'win' by getting the Allies to fall off of their unconditional surrender doctrine. The mechanic is intended to force the Allies to behave as they did historically, show the home front that the war is being won. The Allies start with 8 PW and can expect to lose 4 or half to the loss of the Philippines, Malaya, Dutch East Indies (DEI), usually Burma. The card play if both sides play their events (Bataan, Doolittle, Rose, Tojo) will give the Japanese a net 1 in their favor placing the Allies at 3. Once the B29s show up on game turn 9, the Allies will gain 1 PW per turn, in essence cancelling progress of the war issues. So, the PW game is lost if the Allies cannot make PW three out of the five game turns (game turns 4 through 8). This was the model that I was working with.

My usual performance is to make PW every game turn but one, although I have done a bit better and a bit worse, but this is usually how it goes for me. There are numerous ways to play for PW. A great card is Operation Cascade, especially when used in the Solomons or in the Marshall Islands. Another key mechanism is to prosecute offensive operations in the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater, where you do not need amphibious lift to advance. You may want to check out the strategy article that I wrote for c3i, which was well received.

Anyway, feel free to ask me any questions on strategy as they occur to you.


Mark
Denny,

I'll risk going a step further than Mark. You might not have been collecting your B-29 improvements to Political Will - he alluded to that.

Also, be sure that you are playing with the most recent version of the rules. ( http://members.tripod.com/~MarkHerman/eotsrules.html ). In Rule 16.47 you'll note that your Progress of War penalty is linked to the amount of ASPs that the Allies have. So usually in Turn 4, you'll only need to recapture 3 hexes. If the War In Europe has gone poorly, this could be even lower.
Thank you both for your hints regarding the Will - in the last few games the Will went to Zero before I got the B-29 bombers. Operation Cascade is really helpful, but unfortunately, I got the card only in my first game when I used it to capture five islands simultaneously. I never met this card again, it tended to hide at the end of the deck ;) In turn 4 I almost always have to capture only 3 hexes. I don't have any problems with the four hexes during the first turns; they become problematic during turns 7-8. I played 5 EotS games so far, so I guess the problem isn't entirely based on a bad card hand but also on some sub-par newbie US gameplay. In addition, I'm still trying to figure out how to use the British efficiently; they always hang around Rangoon (which they always successfully defended), but until now they never convincingly advanced South. This is another aspect of the game I will have to work out, so there is much work for me to do. Nevertheless, I really like the challenge offered by the game. The strategy guide is a good clue, as well as studying game replays by more seasoned players. After all, I'm optimistic that my Allies will free the Pacific one day :)

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