The puzzle of playing Japan

Despite sharing the same core system as all of the other titles in the series, Combat Commander: Pacific (CC:P) strikes me as a beastie very different from its ETO-based ‘cousins’.

Playing the Japanese, in particular, seems to be something of a puzzle – and the solution to that puzzle changes depending upon the situation. They have no set ‘style’. Rather, from one scenario to the next the key to Japanese success is figuring out where to set the selector switch along the scale between patient finesse and insane aggression.

They have a few constant advantages across the scenarios. Generally, they have higher morale than most of their opponents. The game’s turn structure places resolution of melee combats at the beginning of the Allied player-turn ONLY. This gives the Japanese player some ability to determine the time, place and scale of the game’s deadliest form of combat.

Where are all of the Japanese?

Where are all of the Japanese?

In CC:P, opposing units are not ‘locked’ into a melee hex in any way. Allied units that advance into melee combat therefore have to wait out whatever happens during the Japanese turn before the combat is resolved. With the right orders/actions in hand, the Japanese player could do a number of unkind things. Move his units out of the melee hex, perhaps. Or advance reinforcements into the melee hex. The possibilities often make the notion of Allied melee attacks a rather bold calculated risk.

The Japanese player can also take advantage of a new mechanism introduced in CC:P called “infiltration”. Through a combination of off-map boxes, on-map “sighting” markers and the new Infiltration order the Japanese player can bring units onto the map in locations that are usually inconvenient for the Allies. The sighting markers move around the map somewhat randomly, but a patient player can cause all sorts of rear-area headaches for the Allies.

CC:P also introduces a new “posture” that’s available to the Japanese – “Banzai”. The posture allows the Japanese player to make use of the order “Charge”, which essentially issues a Move order to every Japanese unit on the map. Also, while the Japanese are on Banzai posture, any of their units eliminated are placed on the turn track as reinforcements.

To CC: Europe players that might sound a bit unbalancing, but the massive movement capability (and the ‘human wave’) is countered by the “Charge” order also activating every Allied unit on the map for opportunity fire. The Banzai posture limits the Japanese player to a 3-card hand, so they will likely spend several player turns, at least, patiently assembling the cards they need to implement the Banzai attack. When they play “Charge”, they would do well to have at least one (and preferably two) Advance orders in hand – because play of the Advance order (on the next player turn) is still required to enter Allied occupied hexes.

I haven’t yet played a game where ‘Banzai’ has come into effect. Like many of the Japanese special abilities in CC:P, Banzai strikes me as both blessing and curse. A Charge and the subsequent effort to get into melee strike me as very dicey maneuvers – especially in the face of a fairly organized Allied defense – and the 3-card hand seems very limiting. But the impact of multiple, simultaneous Japanese melee attacks is something an Allied player should rightly fear.

Japanese tactics are definitely ‘non-standard’ when compared to other forces in the series. My experience at playing them (and against them) is still fairly thin, but more often than not they seem at their best when they can be maneuvered (or concealed) until hurled with headlong aggression at isolated portions of the Allied forces.

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