Thursday, 27 October 2011

Pacific Typhoon

Plays: 5Px1.

The Game

Pacific Typhoon is a card game using the Pacific War during World War II as the setting. The players do not belong to the Japanese side or the Allied side, and instead every round they can pick which side they want to be on. At the start of a round the start player (which rotates) reveals two battle cards and chooses one to be fought over. Then every player has one chance to play force cards to participate in the battle on one side or the other. Force cards contribute strength, and the side with the higher strength total wins the battle. The battle card itself and the force cards of the losing side become the spoils of war. They are distributed among the players of the winning side by the player who contributed the most strength. What's interesting is this player is only required to distribute the number of cards as evenly as possible, regardless of the point value of the cards. E.g. if I have five spoils cards of values 5, 4, 2, 1, 1 that I need to split among 3 players, I'd probably give myself 5+4, and give the others 2 and 1+1.

The game can involve much negotiation, cooperation, bluffing and even betrayal. Players can persuade one another to work together to be on the winning side. They can gang up on the leader. Since noone is tied to being on the Japanese or the Allied side, it's pretty much every man for himself, and alliances will likely be shifting all the time.

The above is the high-level overview. Going into details, there are rules around card characteristics and restrictions on playing cards. When the start player of a round picks a battle card, he decides whether to fight a day or night battle, whether to fight an air, surface, submarine or combined battle. These restrict the force cards that can be played that round. Every battle card has a year of battle, which also restricts the force cards that can be played. Normally each player can only play one force card, but there are some special force cards - bonus cards and event cards - which are not limited. They have various special abilities. Some basic force cards also have special abilities, e.g. being able to immediately destroy another force card, or getting double strength when fighting a particular battle. All these details are based on historical events, so the game does have many historical details.

The game ends when the battle card deck runs out. The player with the most points on the spoils cards captured wins.

There are many variants that come with the game, e.g. a variant where players belong to one specific side of the war, and one where battles are resolved following the historical timeline. I have not tried these variants.

The Play

I did a 5-player game, since this game seems to be best with 5 or 6. Han, Allen, Wan, Shan and I played. I found that the start player's choice of battle can give himself much advantage, especially when the restriction is high and he has just the right card to play, or when he has a very powerful card or card combination that meets the battle type he declares. However, there is also a disadvantage because playing your force card(s) first means you are already committed and others can decide how they want to play based on the force cards already committed on the table. This means that the last player of the round has the biggest advantage in terms of having information available to him, and can often decide the outcome of the battle.

From the early game I jumped into a big lead, and somehow despite the others working together to stop me, I continued to lead. My early victories let me increase my hand size, so I had more flexibility. I also drew good cards, and I was lucky with my die rolls. Some cards require die rolls, but not many. I was quite amazed at my lucky streak. I thought I'd have to bribe and cajole to get some of my opponents to help me or at least victimise me less, however my cards were so good that a few big wins put me even further in the lead.

We didn't manage to finish the game. We played about half the battle deck. It was enough to understand the game. Initially the restrictions and symbols took a while to internalise.

Game in progress. In each round there will be a battle card in the centre, and each player can play a card(s) to fight for it. So far three players have sided the Japanese (red) and only one the Allied (blue). The fifth player has played a white event card and has not yet committed to any side.

The spoils of war that I have won. The top three are battle cards which are kept face up. Force cards won and kept face down in a stack. The numbers in the yellow circles are the victory points. The full green card and half green card icons are resource icons, which increases your hand size. I have a full resource and two half resources, which means my hand size is increased by two.

The Thoughts

Despite the many details and restrictions surrounding the card play, all of which are relevant to the Pacific War theme, the game didn't feel like refighting the war at all. It is a numbers game, trying to squeeze out as much strength as you can from your cards and thus winning spoils which are worth victory points. I think this is the first time I see so much historical flavour in a game (the photos, the specific rules, the ships and planes represented, the events represented) and yet the feeling of the gameplay is nothing like the setting. I get a strong feeling of "pasted-on theme", but I don't believe this is a mechanism-before-theme game. Too many individual rules are directly related to the theme.

I see Pacific Typhoon as a card game good for 4 to 6 players who like some negotiation, some bluffing, and shifting alliances. In fact, for each battle there is probably more competition among the players on the winning side trying to be the top contributor. In each round it can feel like there is one winning player as opposed to one winning side with multiple players, unless the players on the winning side negotiate and agree on the spoils distribution beforehand. The historical elements are a nice touch and is quite educational, just don't expect to feel like you're fighting a war much. You'll feel more like some diety nudging the battle outcomes one way or the other.

Game mechanism-wise I don't find the game outstanding, but if you enjoy the Pacific War theme, you will like the rich details here.

Buy from Noble Knight Games. Status: in stock (at time of this post).


Aik Yong said...

maybe you should call allen "Sam". Then your gaming partners will be Han, Wan, Shan and Sam!

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

ha ha ha... then they will sound like some Korean idiom.