I will not deny it – I am huge fan of Mark’s Herman designs, which can be clearly visible form my blog – Churchill, Pericles, Versailles 1919, Great Battles of History series, you name it. Still, Empire of The Sun has a special place on my wargames shelf – truly, this is probably the best simulation of Pacific Theater Operations during World War II on strategic level I have ever seen.
Thus when I was asked by Mark if I would be willing to take part in the play-testing of the Burma Scenario – newest addition to this great game, to be published by C3i magazine run by Rodger MacGowan – I was really excited. To be part of the the scenario creation process and have possibility to influence it was a huge distinction for me.
So once we completed the process, I though I will share with Dear Readers some details of what will come pretty soon as insert to C3i Nr 35. I will provide historical background, scenario details and how the play-testing went. Enjoy!
Let us be honest, the CBI (China, Burma, India) theater of operations was probably one of the most demanding, exhausting and difficult areas during whole World War II. The climate, temperatures, humidity, jungle, insects and resulting disease took a bloody toll on all armies operating in the region. Japanese, Americans, Chinese, Commonwealth, British soldiers – they all were exposed to those harsh conditions although some of them manage to bear them easier than others.
At the same time was it a strategically important area? For many it might be an obscure theater of operations – kind of Forgotten War, definitely much less know than Easter Front, D-Day Landings or Great Pacific Naval battles. On the other hand control of the region – mainly Burma – opened possibilities for Japanese to cut the Chinese armies from supplies (Burma Road) and on the other hand stir up the disturbance in India, attacking the most important member of Commonwealth. So yes, that was an endeavor worth taking by the Axis and potential unmeasurable catastrophe for Allies should Japan succeed.
While Empire of the Sun takes us through the whole 4 years of Pacific War (1941-1945), the Burma Scenario focuses on four turns, encompassing part of 1943 and 1944. Japanese armies are at the height of their advance but soon they will meet much better prepared opponent, which will quickly build-up its forces and be ready to counter-attack.
We will play only on part of the map – China, Burma, India and seas nearby. We will have an airbase on Andaman Islands under Japanese control. What is important, Burma has already surrendered; India and China have not yet surrendered.
There are specific to the scenario rules for reinforcement and replacements, which limit those to the ones applicable to the theater. As we have only two HQs on the map – SEAC (Allies) and South (Japanese) HQ – we of course assume all cards have them printed as activating units.
Each turn both sides will draw 4 cards out of specifically pre-prepared deck; with Japanese having possibility to place one of his initial draw as Future Offensive and thus going first in initial turn. Kwai Bridge Event will be permanently increasing Japanese HQ efficiency, while Ledo, Imphal and Jarhat infrastructure will be important points not only for Allied communication but also victory points.
Progress of War, Political Phase, War in Europe would have some specific twists to its use and implementation; their status will also impact final Victory Points score. Last but not least, watch out for Inter Service RIvalry (ISR). Not only both sides start in that condition, but some VPs can be gained should you force / negotiate both sides to strategic agreement.
At the end of scenario you tally the points and evaluate who won and to what degree – Tactical / Decisive Victory. There are many ways to gain points so you need a versatile approach to cover as many angles as possible. But of course, the resolutions on the battlefields – be it air, naval or ground – would be decisive for final result.
Once I told you more about the historical background and actual scenario, it is time to share some more information on actual play-testing. I had opportunity to play with pretty experienced player – Steffen – and during the course of couple of weeks we played two games. On top of this, there was also a lot of discussion and information exchange with other testers, which gradually impacted the rules and some set-up instructions.
The whole endeavor was set-up in a form of a tournament, but the higher goal was to get a good, playable, unambiguous scenario which fans of Empire of the Sun can appreciate. During the games we observed how difficult the terrain was, how the Allied strength was exponentially growing and how Japanese had to count on their speed and agility to achieve any effects. That was definitely a fun, although I admit I made some mistakes which could potentially impact my results. Nevertheless, the higher goal of creating great scenario was always on our mind.
We are getting another tasty and challenging addition to Empire of the Sun. A set-up which is pretty quickly to play but still deep in strategy and options. It definitely is easier for Allies so if you would like to have more balanced results, either play a game and then switch the sides – my preferred method and with the length of scenario – quite doable. Or bid for the sides to offset the potential difficulty disparity. Of course, the above after couple of plays once you get to know this set-up better. Enjoy – you should be able to get the scenario pretty soon with C3i magazine!