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Over the New Year's Day weekend I played the new Multi-Man Publishing (MMP) game Tide at Sunrise of the Russo-Japanese 1904-1905 war but without the optional naval rules with my friend and the owner of the game Tom Swider.
The real war was mostly an imperial dispute over control of Manchuria centering on the port of Port Arthur in the south east and several cites in the north western side of the map. The Russians begin in control of most of the map but the Japanese can build up much faster and need to take a combination of geographic locations and inflict enough losses to equal 70 victory points before the end of the 15 (monthly) game turns.
I played the Russians while the owner of the game played the Japanese. For some reason MMP tried to put every table on the map, in most cases it worked but in two it did not. The two it did not were the tables for the naval war, to be used instead of the naval game that MMP put on the web, and the terrain chart. Both of these tables were upside down to me and made them difficult to read. A simple player aid card or just printing them in the rules would have relieved this issue, especially for the naval charts which did not require color printing. Also for some reason MMP chose to publish the game with naval counters but no naval rules. They have since published them on the web but there is no reason to publish half a game. MMP should have waited for the naval game.
As for the play of the game, is your standard I-go-then-you-go game. The biggest difference is that combat results table has a lot of retreats and disrupted results. When a unit is disrupted it may not end its movement phase in an enemy zone of control (EZOC). If the unit is in EZOC at the end of its own movement phase it is destroyed. This means that as long as you can retreat you can save disrupted units. You can also use replacement points, assuming they are in supply, to flip them back over to their non-disrupted sided. In fact, since you can't bring back units once eliminated, flipping over disrupted units is all you can do with your replacement points.
Zones of control are non-active but not locking and you are limited to just two divisions per hex. The level of the game is that of divisions or brigades, which are about half a division, but stacking limits only count at the end of combat/movement phases. Supply is not a major concern but you cannot retreat through EZOC even if the hex is occupied by a friendly unit so the lines tend to be continuous in this game as you do not want to be surrounded by EZOC as the combat results table is geared toward retreats or disruption or both rather then eliminations.
The replacement points are not just replacement points but also transportation points. If you will recall the actual war--it was fought in China thus neither side was on its home turf so that both sides have to spend a good bit of the game bringing their forces onto the map from their respective countries. Another way twist to this game is that the Russians can bring replacements, which are kept track of separately, into Port Arthur on the first game turn before the port is cut off by the Japanese army on turn two. This will allow the Russians to length the siege out as they will be able to flip their disrupted units back over and avoid having to eliminate them due to a lack of real estate when the Japanese close in on Port Arthur.
The challenge of the Japanese is to keep up to their ambitious schedule of reducing Port Arthur and then moving on to taking other victory point cities like Mukden, on the other side of the map as quickly as possible. The challenge for the Russians is to manage your build up of your army while holding on to Port Arthur as long as possible and inflicting maximum casualties on the Japanese before the city is taken.
The only drawback I can see to this game is the lack of random events and the need to follow the historical pattern of both sides will limit the playability of this game. On the other had the game moves along quickly and it is easy to teach someone how to play. The lower counter density and the necessity of both sides building up make this a great game for introducing tyros into our hobby.