There’s a new edition of Victory in the Pacific on the horizon, along with some companion games. Victory in the Pacific has maintained its popularity since its publication by Avalon Hill in 1977. A follow-up to War at Sea, Victory in the Pacific is on the lighter side of wargames, with area movement, straightforward, dice-based combat mechanics, and a victory point system rather than old-fashioned victory conditions. The game is also notable for having lots of named ships to provide flavor (“You sunk the Yorktown!”) and some rapid swings in momentum. I wonder: if Victory in the Pacific came out today, would there be a Twilight Struggle-style argument about whether it really is a wargame?
John Pack of Gameholics plans to refresh Victory in the Pacific with a new, updated printing in 2020. Even better for fans of the game, the new Victory in the Pacific will be the first in a series of WWII naval games called Five-Ocean War. I interviewed Mr. Pack to learn about his plans for updating and expanding one of the old standards.
TWBG: Victory in the Pacific (VitP) is a wargaming classic. It has been around for over 40 years and still has a tournament at WBC. What makes VitP worth playing today, with so many other great games available?
JP: Victory in the Pacific is the only World War II Pacific Theater game where every capital ship is individually represented and which re-creates the entire strategic campaign in 3-5 hours. The fun of victory and defeat, glory and agony, at the ship, battle, and campaign level belong to both players over the course of the game.
TWBG: Why is now the right time to reprint VitP?
JP: Ever since publication of the classics War at Sea and Victory in the Pacific, players have wanted a viable worldwide game incorporating the entire naval war. Five-Ocean War starts with Victory in the Pacific and then adds a new Victory in the Atlantic game designed specifically to be both standalone and part of a 4-player worldwide game. It doesn’t hurt that we’re also coming up on the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor and seeing a new movie based on the Battle of Midway.
TWBG: I understand there will be two versions of VitP in the box—classic and updated with variants. Why does a classic like VitP need an update?
JP: To be precise, the game is the classic game. In addition to the classic game, there are shorter scenarios developed by the email tournament players over the past 22 years. This gives options to those with just 1-2 hours available. Both players also will be given a deck of variant cards that can be used in three ways: 1) Mix in some surprises for added replay value. 2) Use in conjunction with bidding to handicap one side. 3) Allow a new player a way to compete against a skilled veteran.
TWBG: Did you make any changes to the classic version? If so, what were they?
JP: Aside from simplifying rules, the only change is to allow the British to withdraw whichever battleships they wish. In addition, balancing adjustments developed over more than 20 years of email competitions create a classic, beginner, advanced, and tournament set of Turn One rules.
TWBG: What is different about the updated version?
JP: A colorful map that’s 86% larger based on original art, scale plastic ships for pieces, and the scenarios and card decks mentioned earlier.
TWBG: How did you design/develop the updated version?
JP: I have run three concurrent email tournaments since 1998 and a Facebook VitP group for two years. Discussion of ideas, polls of players, and extensive playtesting formed the basis of design and development.
TWBG: A common complaint about the original VitP is the graphic presentation. Graphics and components have changed a lot in 4 decades. What can we expect in the new version?
JP: First, you’ll notice an 86% larger colorful map based on original artwork – designed to be consistent across the whole world from the get go. Second, plastic to-scale models of ships for each side. The US battleships are based on the Iowa while the Japanese are based on Yamato, for example. Third, full color decks of variant cards. Together, these changes make the game appealing to a younger demographic – and a perfect vehicle for those who love the classic to pass that enthusiasm to children and grandchildren.
TWBG: VitP doesn’t have hexes—in many ways, it’s an area control game. What else does VitP have to offer someone who doesn’t think of themselves as a wargamer?
JP: Victory in the Pacific divides the ocean into 13 areas. The players – over the patrol, air, marine, raiding, and submarine phases – allocate their historical resources to the areas, much like a Euro game with 13 arenas. The messages that each move and counter-move communicate to the other player provide a nuanced and balanced movement followed by simple dice, not chart, driven combat. Each player is rewarded as enemy ships, planes, and marines go down, as battles and areas are won, as turns are scored, and the campaign is decided. The game is built on hundreds of small victories and defeats. Luck plays a role, but the skilled player adapts to his luck like an evolving resource. There are no lines, no restrictions, and no complicated exception-driven rules. The ocean is vast and wide-open. Where will you send your ships, Admiral?
TWBG: You’ll be running a Kickstarter campaign for VitP. Will the game be available outside the Kickstarter? If so, how?
JP: Yes, the game will be sold through distributors and retailers as well as through our own website, gameaholics.com.
TWBG: VitP seems to be the first in a series of games called the Five-Ocean War. What are the other games?
JP: The Five-Ocean War series will be composed of:
1. Victory in the Pacific
2. Victory in the Atlantic -- Covering the Atlantic Theater and including the classic War at Sea
3. Expanded Pacific -- Adding the Eastern and Southern Pacific
4. Worldwide Victory – Adding the Cape of Africa and the Horn of South America to allow a full-fledged four-player game covering the entire naval war
5. Variant Kit – Adding every capital ship in the entire world, even those that appeared later in the war, were planned but not finished, or were controlled by neutral powers. A Turn Zero variant will also be included that covers Japan’s attack on China, the Franco-Thai War, the Spanish Civil War, the Winter War, and the invasion of Denmark and Norway.
The combined map will be a colossal 100.25” x 34.5”. The entire series and its components were designed together for consistency across the whole worldwide conflict.
TWBG: Do you have a timeframe for their publication?
JP: The games will arrive at the rate of approximately one every six-eight months. Delivery of the VitP Kickstarter product will coincide with the Kickstarter for Victory in the Atlantic.
You can find the latest details on Mr. Pack’s publication plans at his web site, gameaholics.com.