A little discussion started over at the 'what are you playing' thread, but since that doesn't seem to be the right place to discuss a specific game I thought it would be nice to have a group for this game.
I have played around 6 games so far, always as the Japanese and these games were quite close in terms of who eventually crossed the line as the winner. My problem is that the Japanese do have extreme limitations in what they can do to react to Allied fleets (especially in the mid- to endgame) because everything either costs Transport Points or Oil Points while the Reaction Movement is totally free for the Allies. Lee asked me something over at the other thread, so I'll answer that here because it may function as a starter to the discussion on how to have an interesting game for the Japanese.
[Lee:]I think if I was playing the game, I would play slow from the beginning and preserve my oil enough to be able to react to the Allied fleet movement.>>
That's of course an option, but keep in mind that the Japanese player must capture VPs (islands, bases) because if the VPs ever fall to zero he's lost the game. So being too slow and defensive in the open game could easily make the ice really thin then. Even if you have oil left for later turns then it could be too late because the less VPs you captured in the beginning the more the Allies can concentrate on these spots later when they can build the big fleets. So far the only problem for the Allied player was to get all these VPs back before time runs out.
[Lee:]It sounds like the Japanese don't have too many options available in the game.>>
Yes, that's my impression indeed. In my first games I started with full force to get as many VPs as possible and these games were close in terms of who would win. But I as the Japanese player couldn't do much in the mid- to endgame, just watching and hoping that the Allies would fail in recapturing all these bases.
Historically it's safe to say I think that Japan had no chance to win the war but they were nevertheless fighting hard and any decision on the Allied side what base to take and how etc. was a hard decision because they would have to face a battle hardened enemy and they knew it.
In FitS there's not much decision to make since usually the Allied fleets are near unstoppable (Denny likes to call this the 'god-fleets') no matter what the Japanese can bring in to the place of action. So sometimes one gets the feeling of playing a Solitaire with the clock as the real opponent.
[Lee:]Do you like FiTS? I haven't bought a copy of it yet. Good gaming!>>
Still not sure whether I like it or not but I would like to do so. It's of high quality, the map is fantastic, the counters are great and big, the rules are not that long and so it could make for a nice starter wargame etc.. The mechanics are interesting, it has a certain level of abstraction that feels right and the overall impression is a positive one. I'm aware that there's always the possibility that you are doing things wrong (not regarding the rules, but the tactics) but actually I can't see what can be done to have an interesting and powerfull Japanese play. As I said the game is balanced when it comes to who will win because it's not easy for the Allied player to bring down the VPs in time, but it's obviously not balanced in terms of interesting gameplay/options. Even the Allied player hasn't much fun because the Japanese isn't the enemy here - it's the clock.
So, how are you Japanese commanders playing the game?