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 Korsun Pocket 2 by Pacific Rim Publishing   This is the Designer Notes for Korsun Pocket 2 that is on pre-order from Pacific Rim Publishing...

Korsun Pocket 2 Designer Notes by Pacific Rim Publishing Korsun Pocket 2 Designer Notes by Pacific Rim Publishing

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Pacific Rim Publishing

 Korsun Pocket 2


Pacific Rim Publishing

  This is the Designer Notes for Korsun Pocket 2 that is on pre-order from Pacific Rim Publishing. The original Korsun Pocket is considered a milestone in wargaming history, and is worth hen's teeth now. Thank you Jack Radey, and Pacific Rim Publishing for allowing me to post this.

"Designer’s Notes 

Korsun Pocket, Little Stalingrad on the Dnepr, was my first effort as a game designer.  I fell in love with Jim Dunnigan’s and Joe Balkoski’s “Wacht am Rhein” back in the latter part of the 1970s.  Immediately, I was thinking, “Gosh, that would be interesting on the other end of the war…”  As I ruminated on the thing, the Korsun Shevchenkovsky Operation came to mind.  I began to dig into it, and found it was just about the right size battle, and a very interesting situation.  Whereas the Battle of the Bulge was pretty much a straight penetration and exploitation, Korsun Shevchenkovsky was an encirclement.  Both sides would be attacking and defending.  Great.

So I began digging, and found immediately that it is easier to research a game where at least one side wrote up their reports in English.  But I taught myself some German, learned the Cyrillic alphabet and began to learn a little Russian.  And I was aided by David Serber, who went to the archives in Washington and returned with a lot of German microfilmed records, and Leslie D’Angelo, who translated a chunk of Grylev’s “Dnepr, Karpaty, Krym” from Russian for me.  Colonel John Sloan provided me Rotmistrov’s account of the battle, I translated part of Degrelle’s disgusting little book “Le Front D’Est” from French, and found the marvelous map collection at UC Berkeley.  The game was proclaimed a masterpiece of research, and its researcher and designer a master of all things Great Patriotic Warish.   Well…

Marx once described a fellow philosopher as “standing out like a high peak, due to the flatness of the surrounding terrain.”  Wargame companies who were intent on staying in business did not devote a year to research for a game, no matter how big.  The reputation I got has carried me far, but looking back, I do blush from time to time.  But the world has changed… The Soviets, who documented EVERYthing, and valued their WWII experience as their national treasure, from which they drew their military doctrine, kept their data very close, and even Soviet historians had difficulty accessing it.  So there were a lot of aspects of the battle that remained blurs to me.  I had the basis for some guesswork, but some of it was based on SPI’s writings, and much of that was either grossly in error or was misunderstood by me.

But since those days, first perestroika and glasnost caused the archives to open for a while, before the sad passing of the USSR set in motion events that led to their reclosing.  But the archives are all on war-time acid-based paper, and someone in the Russian staff realized that in twenty years or so they would be sitting on the world’s largest pile of dust.  So they have begun scanning it and dumping it onto the internet… by the trainload.  So when I asked my friend Charles Sharp to look into my guess that 4th Guards Army had attacked for three days and gotten nowhere at the beginning of the offensive, within 24 hours I had a rough summary of the Combat Journal of this army for the relevant days in my inbox, recounting precisely where the problems had been.  Color me gob smacked.  And then Helion Press brought out “Stalin’s Favorites – 2nd Guards Tank Army” (they were 2nd Tank Army at Korsun before they became a Guards army), with more detail on the strengths, losses, and activities of this army than I could have hoped to see in my wildest dreams.  I have not completely re-researched the battle, this would require either exploiting the friendship I have with people who could do the massive amounts of translation that it would require, but I have gained a much more detailed understanding of the events of January and February, 1944.  Consequently while you will recognize the basics of the game, there have been some changes, both based on better knowledge of the battle, and on some small knowledge of game design I have gained.

What’s the same?  The basic Dunnigan/Balkoski combat and movement systems.  My changes in the approach to Zones of Control, visibility, weather, etc.  The broad outlines of the battle.  The scenario structure.  Much as one longs for a scenario for just the pocket, the notion of using all four maps just to play a small scenario seems silly.  The map is pretty much the same, with a few additions.  The rules about tanks are the same, but require some explanation.  Why does a battalion of Panthers, say, with a tank strength of 4, break up into companies but still each has the same tank strength of 4?  Shouldn’t it be less per company? After all, it’s less tanks…  My thoughts, strongly supported by some friends who served in the armed forces, are that the difference between NO tanks, and a FEW tanks, is infinitely larger than difference between a FEW tanks and A BUNCH MORE tanks.  The actual tank strength numbers, unlike the attack and defense strengths, are based on the effectiveness of the tanks weapons and armor.  A tank with a bigger gun and heavier armor is inherently scarier and more destructive than more numerous tanks which have great difficulty damaging it.  Tank size figures in to this too.

What’s different?  Well, when I designed Korsun Pocket originally, I thought, “Amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics.”  And an encirclement battle was going to require a more detailed treatment of logistics issues.  So I did some research and constructed a whole elaborate system for keeping track of supplies, and artillery ammunition (which makes up the bulk of supply tonnage).  As game systems go, it worked, and pretty much produced the results I was seeking, namely that both sides were plagued by supply problems throughout the battle, as well as the supply challenge that a large encircled force produces.  But looking back I fear that the operative words were “worked” and “plagued.”  After the game came out, I figured out a truth of design.  Time is the enemy of wargame design.  Time is a constant, you only have so much of it to spend gaming, so much time you can get a team together, so much time that table will be useable.  If there are a LOT of playing pieces in the game, it will take a lot of time to move them.  A game with only a few pieces in play can have complex detailed rules.  A game with a lot of pieces in it is already pushing the time envelope.  Adding more work for the players… something will have to give.

So I set out to create a new and cleaner supply system.  But being me, I dug into the research and found four credible sources who gave daily tonnage requirements for a full strength infantry or rifle division in combat.  And got numbers that said 300+, 200, 100, and 20 tons a day, respectively.  The 100-200 range seemed the most common number.  True, none of these units was anywhere near full TO&E, but the fact is a badly worn infantry division will retain most of its artillery, even as its line infantry is worn to a nub.  And artillery ammunition accounts for over 80% of the supply tonnage required.  Worse, the 20 tons per day, derived from the deliveries by air to the pocket, are very well documented.  I was pulling my beard out trying to come up with a compromise, so that a supply point would actually mean something in tonnage terms.  And then…

I stepped back, squinted so I could not make out the details, only the broad outline of the problem.  And it came to me.  Doh.  The bottom line truth is that while both sides experienced all kinds of problems getting supplies from railhead to fighting units, they succeeded in doing so sufficiently well to fight the battle.  Only the pocket forces faced destruction when their supplies were cut off, first by land and finally by air.  No complex systems, book keeping, supply points, or other fancy footwork required. 

Similarly the air rules took a haircut.  Bottom line, again, fighters were unable to prevent enemy air from having an effect on the battle, so why include them?

One other change evident is the counter mix.  KP 1 had some holes that I filled with fudge.  Some of the fudge has since failed to live up to the tasting.  So: no more Ferdinands (it turns out the Soviets used the term “Ferdinand” to describe any assault gun), JS-2s, or T-34-85s.  There weren’t any in the battle, they came out of my ignorance.  No more killer cavalry units, they have been tamed a bit.  No more tanks organic to panzer grenadier battalions, nor are the tanks that were part of 5th Mechanized Corps mushed into the motorized rifle battalions.  This is a far better OB for both sides, I believe I have it all. 

There is a matter that the players will have to ponder.  In the order of appearance, there are a number of situations where units are required to exit the map, some of whom return, some do not.  These units were usually withdrawn due to requirements for them somewhere outside of the scope of the game.  Since players have no control of these events, this seems more than reasonable.  The oddest may be the peregrinations of most of 5th Mech Corps, who immediately after the drive to Zvenigorodka, are forced to withdraw to the west, to reinforce a portion of the off-map front threatened by a German counterattack.  After a difficult march, they were turned around and marched back onto the map area in the game, as by this time the Germans had ended their attacks and were shifting their panzers east, towards the Korsun Shevchenkovsky area.

But another matter entirely were the various inter-formation transfers that are called for in the order of appearance.  While the Germans, sorely lacking in reserves, were known to pull a couple battalions from one division, attach an artillery battalion and maybe a company of antitank and another of engineers to a neighboring division in need of beefing up, the Soviets did a lot less of this.  The exception would be their tank brigades, which would sometimes be detached from their parent tank corps and attached temporarily to another corps, or to a rifle corps or army when there was not an immediate need for a tank concentration.  Then there is also the question of major reorganizations that happened historically.  Towards the latter part of the battle, 27th Army of 1st Ukrainian Front was transferred to 2nd Ukrainian Front, in order to put the forces around the pocket under a single headquarters.

All of these decisions were historically made within the scope of the player’s discretion and in response to the developments in the battle.  If the Soviets never formed pocket, would the inter-front transfer of 27th Army have happened?  Would corps have transferred between armies had things gone differently?  With this in mind, the players may choose to ignore all the transfers between on-map formations, or leave them up to the decision of the players – you could transfer 27th Army to 2nd Ukrainian Front, but you may decide not to.  However, all withdrawals from the map are still mandatory."

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Korsun Pocket 2:

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  Across the Pacific by Pacific Rim Publishing   The above is the artwork for the US release, although I am kind of partial to the Japanese ...

Across the Pacific by Pacific Rim Publishing Across the Pacific by Pacific Rim Publishing

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Pacific Rim Publishing

 Across the Pacific


Pacific Rim Publishing

 The above is the artwork for the US release, although I am kind of partial to the Japanese edition cover below.

 Games that portray the entire war in the Pacific seem to be rather easy to find. They are probably right after Waterloo, The Bulge, and the Russian Front games as far as the amount of them. Unfortunately, when there is a crowded field of games, some will be left behind. Not because there is something wrong with them, but just because the public's fancy was caught by other games. This game has some unique points to it, but before we go there, let us describe what comes with the game. Here is the lucre in the box:

36 by 48 inch map of the Pacific Basin from Pearl Harbor to Imphal, Dutch Harbor to Brisbane
960 die-cut back printed 5/8 inch counters
24-page rules booklet
24-page Designer's Notes, Historical Commentary, and Examples of Play booklet
Two 11 by 17 inch color back printed Order of Battle charts — one Japanese, one Allied
Two 8-1/2 by 11 inch Unit and Carrier Air Groups Display charts — one Japanese, one Allied
Two 8-1/2 by 11 inch Task Force Display charts
Two 8-1/2 by 11 inch Charts and Tables card

 The listed size of the map is somewhat misleading. When you start to open it up, it seems like you are opening up one of the Russian dolls. Each flap seems to lead to another folded piece. I actually measured it, because it really seemed larger than the stated size. The colors are plain, and there is no glitz whatsoever. However, it is fully functional, and there are no ambiguities about the hex terrain. The counters are large and very easy to read. Again, they are more functional looking than arty. The Player's Aids are fully in color and well done. The Rulebook and Player's Handbook are in black and white. The Rulebook is twenty-four pages long. The rules are naturally a bit more involved than some other games. You are playing out the entire Pacific War. The Player's Handbook is split into three sections Designer's Notes, Historical Commentary, and Examples of Play. To give you an example of the Historical Summary:

"Tokkotai is a shortened form of TOKubetsu KOgokiTAI, meaning "special attack corps" or "special attack unit". Tokko is a shortened form of TOKubetsu KOgo, "special attack". The Japanese usually referred to these special attacks as Tokko and to the units that performed the attacks as Tokkotai." 
This is how informative the Historical Summary is. The Naval counters are a combination of different ships, and do not represent just one ship. Here are some examples:

BB-1 - Fuso, Yamashiro
CV-3 - Zuikaku, Shokaku
United States
BB-10 Missouri, Wisconsin
CV-3 - Wasp, Hornet

 The designer Michaels Myers also wrote a book on the Pacific War. The name of it is 'The Pacific War and Contingent Victory: Why Japanese Defeat was not Inevitable'. After reading his Designer Comments I had to read a copy of the book for myself. It stands to reason that his ideas for the game came from his own ideas on the Pacific War. This comes from the Game Notes, and sums up the games premises:

"Across the Pacific questions the usual assumptions and allows players to test alternative strategies. For example, it is often assumed that Japan had no chance to win the Pacific War. The problems with this assumption is that (1) it assumes a kind of unproved historical determinism, (2) it undermines the problem-solving accomplishments of the Allies in the Pacific war, and (3) it neglects to take into account Japanese potential advantages. Such an assumption leads to wargames where the only interesting action takes place at the beginning or the end of the war. It is thought that the Allies could have done better in Malaya or the Philippines, but the main course of the war is assumed to be an ineluctable progress of the allies toward victory, whether that be occasioned by an invasion of Japan or atomic bombs."

 To use the designer notes again:

"The heart of the operational combat system in Across the Pacific is the creation and use of Naval Task Forces and Task Groups."

 The developer, Mark A. Kramer,  goes onto show all of the different strategies that Japan can use instead of the historical ones. 

Using the SSA regiment and an SNLF regiment to ensure the capture of Wake island on turn one. With the intention of capturing Guam on turn two.
Not splitting the IJN by trying to maintain two major bases at both Tokyo and Truk. 
Creating a Type-B Task Force in Tokyo to augment the carrier raid against Pearl Harbor, and using the guns to obliterate the initial USN deployment.
Invading and isolating New Guinea on turn one before the US and Australian troops can get there.
Go for an all out attack in China on turn one. It will make your conquest of southern Asia much more difficult, but will cut the need for keeping large forces pinned in China. It will also negate the Allied bombing campaign from China.

 So the designer has given you, as the Japanese and Allied player, a whole host of different strategies to try out. You are not even forced to attack Pearl Harbor. This is something that is usually a given in any Pacific war game.

 Each turn represents five months of the war. There are nine turns in total. These are the different scenarios you can play:

Across the Pacific - The Grand Campaign
Remember Pearl Harbor - This starts in May 1942 and assumes the Japanese acted historically. It ends in August 1945.
Midway - This lasts only one turn.
Guadalcanal - This lasts two turns.
The Rising Sun  - This lasts for one turn. It is a solitaire scenario with the player as the Japanese for the first five months of the war.

  As with any game that differs from the norm you have to put more effort into learning the rules. Two of the big rules or ideas in the game are 'Air Umbrellas' and CEL (Combat Effectiveness Level) for units. The Air Umbrella is a way for the player to keep a large area under his own air control. Historically, after 1942 the Japanese pilots were badly trained. The CEL rules in the game make it possible for the Japanese player to husband his good pilots, and get them into the good second part of the war airframes. POLs (Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricants) are the supply markers of the game. Almost any player action will use up a POL marker. 

 I really like the game and it is a shame that it seems to have been lost in the shuffle in 2010 when it was released. The variable strategies for both sides is one of its main points. While the Kamikaze attacks are open to the Japanese player, there is also the possibility that you will not need them.  The limited postings I have seen on the game find that players do enjoy the game and its concepts. Thank you Pacific Rim Publishing for letting me review this sleeper of a game. They seem to have a wide range of products to take a look at.


Pacific Rim Publishing:

Across the Pacific:


Pocket General World War II by Pacific Rim Publishing  This game is definitely new territory for me. I have...

Pocket General World War II by Pacific Rim Publishing Pocket General World War II by Pacific Rim Publishing

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Pacific Rim Publishing

Pocket General World War II


Pacific Rim Publishing

 This game is definitely new territory for me. I have been used to at least playing on a 11"x17" map for some tactical games. This game map is even smaller than that. I am also used to cutting and popping out counters by the page-full; again, not with this game. So, what exactly do we have here? Is this a 'wargame light' version of World War II, and do I need to buy some pretzels and beer, or is this actually a deep wargame hidden in a small box?

 This is what comes with the game:

Players' Cards
11 Axis units
11 Allied Units
18 Location Hexes
5 War and Initiative Tokens
2 Ops Dice
Rule Booklet
Small Box

 The last listing is right on the money. The box is 6" by a little more than 4", and about 1 1/2" deep. The components are nowhere near what you would expect in a game that comes with a $20 retail tag. The Map/Game Board is made of the same material as most mounted Maps, and is durable and well designed. It is made up of four pieces that fold up nicely. The Game Board is cut into two pieces. The first is a map of the world sans the two Americas. The other half is the actual Battle Board and the country you choose to play Recruitment Box. In this game you can play either Russia/US or Japan/Germany. You can actually play the United Kingdom or Italy also, but the rules are not in the rulebook and are found on the Pacific Rim Publishing webpage. The main difference is the Italians use a Mussolini counter and the United Kingdom uses an RAF one. The two Player Cards are the only thing that resemble something from a game of this price. They are both well done and easy to read, however, they are are made on pretty flimsy, almost see through paper. What I did was to copy both of mine before playing in case of any accidents. The Player Cards have the Recruitment info on one side, and the Combat Chart on the other. The three sheets of counters are, just like the Game Board, made of thick cardboard stock. Every counter is just a picture of the unit it represents, or one of the terrain in each hex you will be fighting over. The Rule booklet is eleven pages long. The rules are clear and concise. The printing is small (naturally), but not a problem if your prescription is up to date. The die are both eight-sided and the numbers are colored either red or blue. The die have anywhere form +3 to -2 on each of their sides. All in all, a very nicely done package for a wargame that is so small. This is the sequence of play:

"1. Move Location Markers forward to fill the 3
Combat Hexes
 2. Recruit Units
 a. Move the 6 Core Units to the Recruit box
 b. Players may Recruit an additional unit
 3. Place the Threat Markers
 4. Players take turns placing all Recruited Units
 5. Resolve Combat starting with the first Location
 6. Place captured Locations on an available
Theater Marker or back in the Location Pool
 7. Check for Victory or Capitulation
 a. The first player to capture the enemy Capitol
wins a Total Victory, or
 b. The player who captures 9 Locations forces
Capitulation and wins
 8. If there is no winner, rotate the Initiative Marker
to alternate players, repeat the steps above.
Players alternate going first each turn. Rotate the Initiative marker to point at player going first each turn.
To win the war, players battle for vast locations. The
16 Locations represent the terrain the global powers
fought to control. Locations are color coded. These
colors match the Theater Marker edges players must
control to win.
Fast Play Option: Play without Step 2, Recruit Units. Follow these
two rules instead, then skip to Step 3, Place the Threat Markers.
• All 11 units are recruited and must be played every turn.
• Place up to 4 units on any of the three combat Locations."

 So, now the big question. Does it play like a small wargame or does it have more in common with its larger brethren? The game designer describes the game as a mixture of Chess and a Wargame. I believe he has hit the nail on the head. At first glance you might be tempted to think that the units and play is just glorified 'Paper, Rock, Scissors'. In this you would be sadly mistaken. This is not Stratego put into a smaller box. This is a thinking man's wargame that is something that most wargames are not. That one big difference is portability. The game takes up a smaller area than most paperback books. So, you can take it anywhere. The footprint of the game takes up roughly one person's place at a dining room table. The quickness of play, not simplicity, and the size of the game gives the wargame the ability to place this almost anywhere and anytime. Once again, I have been deceived by my prejudices for a lot of years. Bigger is Better, and the more weight a rulebook has, was always my mantra. I have seen the error of my ways with area movement maps, block games, and now small is also good if not great. If this keeps up I might actually buy some Rogaine next month, who knows (although bald is infinitely easier).

 This is how Combat is resolved:

"After all units are placed, start from the first Combat
Hex and resolve combat in this order:
1. The first player uses their Spy (if present) to remove
an enemy unit. Move both units to their Depleted
2. The other player uses their Spy, if present, the same
3. Both players calculate the Combat Values of their
remaining units. Include negatives for Weather,
Anti-Aircraft values and all other combat affects.
4. Both players roll their Operations Die, and add or
subtract it to their Combat Value. This generates a
Combat Roll;
• If one player’s Combat Roll is greater than the
other, and that player has a MILITARY unit present, the higher roll wins. The winner must place the Location on their Theater Marker.
• If a player’s Combat Roll is greater, but they have
no MILITARY unit present, or no Theater Marker
edge available to place the Location, the player
cannot take the Location. Instead, place it at the
end of the Location Pool. The player may then
choose a different Location Marker in the Pool
and move it to the front of the Pool.
• If both players Combat Rolls are the same value, count the number of MILITARY units in the location. If one player has more MILITARY units, that player wins the Location."

 As I said, simple but deep and effective. Thank you Pacific Rim Publishing for letting me review this odd (at least for me), but good wargame. 

Pacific Rim Publishing:

Pocket General World War II:

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