Let's Play Pacific General
As I've said before (in previous LPs), the 5-star Series published by SSI in the 1990s was a seminal work for casual wargaming. It incorporated a broad unit roster, a branching campaign tree with alternate history paths, and the signature feature of building up a core set of units with experience over the course of the campaign. The combat system was complex enough to require some strategic skill, but simple enough to allow battles to be played in a relatively short amount of time, without too much detailed knowledge required.
By the mid-90s, the series had already covered the European portion of World War II from the German and Allied sides. They then shifted into other realms, producing the less popular Fantasy General and Star General. But the war in the Pacific had yet to be covered, largely because the system had been designed mainly for land and air units. It would need significant tinkering in order to simulate the naval engagements in the theater in a way that allowed the core campaign flow to work.
Such work was underway, but at the same time, development was also ongoing for an updated version of Panzer General, which would become Panzer General II. As a result, despite the many improvements and additional features to the original engine, when Pacific General was released it became a developmental dead end. Indeed, it appears as though the project was either rushed out (to avoid being too far behind on an apparent 'old' game) or simply didn't get as much attention as the new PG 2.
What did come out included a lot of interesting new stuff for the system, but without as much polish on the game as a whole. Notably the campaign had hardly any branching paths, and was rather short to boot. Several of the units on the roster had wonky stats, and there was a fair amount of stuff (like units and maps for European scenarios) that seems to have been part of big plans that were never implemented.
Now I can't honestly say that this one is a hidden gem, because I've never actually played it before. Unlike the Allied General and Panzer General LP, I'll be going in blind to these battles (about all I know is what choice I want to take to get the campaign I want, and more or less where the branches lead). If I do end up losing, I won't show off that whole battle, but I will likely recap my efforts in some way.
As always, units (and that means some ships this time) are available for naming/claiming by goons. I think the limit in this version is 20 characters. Note that the Japanese side will have fewer core ships for naming (I'm going ground-based), but there will still be some in the core; aux ships can always have a name tossed on as well, but it won't last between battles. I will not be purchasing all varieties of the units, but there will be unit highlights in each post that will cover them. I also have the hope that I can show off the game's own scenario editor at some point.
This is the GoG version of the game, which as far as I know is the original game (or the DOS version?), with no modifications to the unit roster or any other files. This also means graphics are limited to 640x480, and will be smaller and a bit uglier, especially for the strategic maps. PG Forever (which is what I used for the previous LPs) never even attempted to implement the updates to the engine, which is a shame. Even Panzer Corps seemingly left those ideas behind.
I will be playing both sides in this one; one campaign each. The game includes both a Japanese and American campaign. As I tend to proceed chronologically, the Japanese one will begin first, in China.
The post after the next one (which will have the update list and unit roster) will give a brief overview of some of the major changes to the system, as well as describe how I present the unit information in the spotlight section.
Update List / Unit Roster
pre:Date Japanese Campaign American Campaign 1937 August 13 Central China September 3 Central China October 1 Central China 1939 May 1 Southeast China June 12 Southeast China July 31 Southeast China September 11 Southeast China 1941 December 8 Singapore *December 25 Burma *December 29 Burma 1942 January 2 Singapore *January 2 Burma *January 11 Burma *January 18 Burma January 22 Singapore February 9 Singapore April 12 India April 14 India April 15 India June 6 Midway 6 (part 2) Midway August 9 Guadalcanal August 12 Persia August 13 Persia August 14 Persia October 18 Guadalcanal December 13 Guadalcanal 1943 February 16 Australia February 17 Australia February 18 Australia February 19 Australia June 21 Solomon Islands June 22 Solomon Islands June 23 Solomon Islands 1944 February 1 Marshall Islands February 2 Marshall Islands February 3 Marshall Islands June 15 Marianas Islands June 30 Marianas Islands July 18 Marianas Islands** July 19 Philippine Sea July 20 Philippine Sea July 20 (part 2) Philippine Sea ***September 12 San Francisco ***September 12-13 San Francisco ***September 13 San Francisco ***September 14 San Francisco ***September 15 San Francisco October 12 Hawaii '44 October 13 Hawaii '44 October 14 Hawaii '44 October 15 Hawaii '44 October 20 Leyte Gulf November 9 Leyte Gulf November 29 Leyte Gulf December 19 Leyte Gulf 1945 February 19 Iwojima February 21 Iwojima February 24 Iwojima April 5 Okinawa April 12 Midwest April 14 Okinawa April 15 Midwest April 16 Midwest April 17 Midwest April 19 Midwest May 2 Okinawa May 14 Okinawa November 5 Coronet November 12 Coronet November 22 Coronet November 26 Coronet Scenario Editor: Race to Rangoon
*The campaign has this battle start in December, even though it should be March 1942; it takes place 'after' Singapore.
**This update includes time 'after' the Philippine Sea battle, which follows it in the campaign.
***Similarly to Burma/Singapore, this comes in the campaign after Hawaii.
pre:Unit Name Unit Type [Transport] Exp(Lost in) Named/Claimed by Land Units
1st Hohei 1936 Hohei 1940[Isuzu]Singapore 1st Engineers 1943 Engineers 1943[Ho-Ha] 599 2nd Teishin Dan Teishin Dan 1940Australia 2nd Hohei 1943 Hohei 1943[Ho-Ha]San Francisco 2nd Kihei Kihei 0 3rd Hohei 1943 Hohei 1943[Ho-Ha] 599 4th Hohei HW 1936 Hohei HW 1936[Ho-Ha] 599 5th Engineers 1936 Engineers 1936[Ho-Ha] 257 6th Bicycle Infantry Bicycle InfantryMidwest 26th Bicycle Infantry Bicycle InfantryBurma 26th Hohei 1940 Hohei 1940[Isuzu]San Francisco 27th Hohei 1940 Hohei 1940India 29th Hohei HW 1940 Hohei HW 1940 189 My Tanks are so kawaii Type 95 Ha-G^o^ 599 koolkevz666 The Japonies KiheiAustralia Cathode Raymond 13th Type 3 Chi-Nu Type 3 Chi-Nu 539 27th Type 2 Ho-I Type 2 Ho-I 529 31st Type 1 Chi-He Type 1 Chi-He 373 32nd Type 98 Ke-Ni Type 98 Ke-Ni 469 37th Type 95 Ha-Go Type 95 Ha-Go 74 22nd Type 92 Type 92 599 25th RA 97 RA 97 [Isuzu] 180 34th Ho-Ni 1 Ho-Ni 1Hawaii '44 26th Ho-Ni 1 Ho-Ni 1 71 The Emperor's New Hos Ho-Ni 1 179 JustJeff88 36th Ho-Ni 1 Ho-Ni 1 0 6th 120mm Gun 120mm Gun 31 Steel Death Ho-Ni 3 364 Evil Imperial 2nd 120mm Gun 120mm GunMidwest Cherry Blossoms Float Meiji 38 Imp.75 93 Bozart 24th 94 Mtn Gun 75mm 94 Mtn Gun 75mm 21 23rd So-Ki So-Ki 599 21st Ta-Ha Ta-Ha 86 Air Units Hirohito's Hieneys Ki-61 Tony 465 Jobbo Fett Sabai's Flying Circus J2M Jack 599 Quinntan 13th Nakajima Ki-27 Zeke Nakajima Ki-27 NateSE China Thefluffy 21st Kikka Kikka 599 Frances is my Mother Ki-84 Frank 599 Flavius Belisarius Remember Eniwetok A6M ZeroSingapore Sad King Billy Remember Remember Eni... A6M Zero 599 11th P1Y Frances P1Y Frances 599 33rd H8K Emily H8K Emily 189 Naval Units 16th Asashio Asashio (DD) 114 18th Takao Takao (CA) 199 20th Takao Takao (CA) 178 19th Fuso Fuso (BB) 386 15th Kaga Kaga (CV) 14 17th Katori Katori (CL) 218
Since we're taking the 'Army' route for Japan, the naval units will not see as much action, but they can be claimed. They only appear in certain scenarios, however.
pre:Unit Name Unit Type [Transport] Exp(Lost in) Named/Claimed by Land Units
1st Seabees SeabeesMarshalls 12th USMC Engineers 1943 USMC Engineers 1943 [M2] 532 Stay Frosty USMC Marines 1943 [M2] 502 Hannibal Barca 14th USMC Marines 1941 USMC Marines 1941Solomon 15th USMC Paramarines 1943 USMC Paramarines 1943 [M2] 459 16th USMC Marines 1941 USMC Marines 1941Marianas 17th USMC Paramarines 1943 USMC Paramarines 1943Leyte 18th USMC Engineers 1941 USMC Engineers 1941Guadalcanal 25th USMC Marines 1943 USMC Marines 1943 65 26th Seabees Seabees 147 31st USMC Marines 1943 USMC Marines 1943 [M2] 97 34th USMC Marines 1943 USMC Marines 1943 0 26th M8 Greyhound M8 GreyhoundMarianas 33rd M8 Greyhound M8 GreyhoudOkinawa 21st M3 Stuart M3 Stuart 599 29th M5 Stuart M5 Stuart 294 Boondoggle M3A1 Lee 589 Evil Imperial 14th M4A1 Sherman M4A1 Sherman 456 32nd M4A3E8 Sherman M4A3E8 Sherman 260 30th M10 Wolverine M10 Wolverine 310 18th M15A1 M15A1 452 25th M7 M7Iwojima 19th 75mm Pack Howitzer 75mm Pack Howitzer 158 20th 75mm Pack Howitzer 75mm Pack Howitzer 165 11th 105mm Howitzer 105mm Howitzer [GMC] 62 33rd 155mm Gun 155mm Gun [GMC]Leyte Air Units 7th F4F Wildcat F4F WildcatPhilippine Sea 7th F6F Hellcat F6F HellcatOkinawa 8th F4U Corsair F4U Corsair 517 9th F4F Wildcat F4F Wildcat 392 10th SB2C Helldiver SB2C Helldiver 599 1st TBM Avenger TBM Avenger 314 Pretty Pixel Pilots P-38 Lightning 319 Jobbo Fett Naval Units DESRON 1 SomersMidway 3rd PT Boat PT Boat (DD) 7 24th PT Boat PT Boat (DD) 4 23rd Somers Somers (DD) 205 New Orleans New Orleans (CA)Philippine Sea Northampton Northampton (CA) 567 Yorktown Yorktown (CV) 32 Independence Independence (CV) 6 Iowa Iowa (BB) 137 Atlanta Atlanta (CL)Philippine Sea Atlanta Atlanta 44(CL) 137 Gato Gato (SS) 153 24th Cleveland 43 Cleveland 43 (CL)Philippine Sea
Combat resolution: When two units fight, they both attack each other. To determine which unit goes first, the initiative values are compared. Experience and a random value determine the final initiative; a few other factors can affect it, based on unit type and in some cases who is making the attack move. If there is a tie, combat is simultaneous, with both sides attacking at their initial strength. Winning the initiative is often the key to beating an evenly-matched opponent.
Pacific General adds a 'massed attack' rule for gaining an initiative advantage. For every friendly unit adjacent to the unit being attacked, the attacker gains one point of initiative. This makes encirclement attacks on tough units more realistic and less like besieging a castle. It also means that you're going to do better in combat by keeping units grouped.
Once initiative is determined, each unit resolves its attack by subtracting the opponent's defense value from their own attack value. The differential is used to determine a die roll modifier. Then, for each strength point the unit has, one die is rolled and the modifier is applied [in this game, we cannot see the die rolls]. Other factors such as experience, terrain, and weather can contribute to the die roll modifier.
When the adjusted die roll is high enough, it will inflict kills and/or suppression. Each kill causes the loss of a strength point. Suppressed strength points do not contribute to that unit's strength for the current combat only. This means they are normally only relevant for the unit that did not win initiative. If a unit has all its strength points suppressed, it is forced to retreat to any open adjacent hex. Units that have no retreat hex will surrender.
New in Pacific General are special combat results for 'capital ships' (a set of naval unit types that also includes submarines). In addition to inflicting kills, combat may inflict 'wounds' to a ship, and there are also 'critical hits'. Wounded points recover slowly over time, reflecting the ship's damage control abilities. Critical hits cause a wide array of status affects that depend on the unit type, and they usually persist for a number of turns.
Capital ships cannot receive replacements during the battle, but can use a 'Repair' action. Repairing takes up the whole turn and improves wound recovery while also reducing the duration of critical hit status effects. In the campaign, kills on a ship may only be repaired once the battle is over.
There is one significant change that also affects the course of the campaign: a chance to update and purchase units 'between' battles. Units no longer need to store up overstrength at the end of a battle. In fact, doing this is cheaper than purchasing the elite reinforcements during battle, so it's best to keep all units in the fight. Sometimes units must be purchased in this part as well, since during a battle, units can only be placed at certain locations (another change from the previous game) and some naval maps do not even have placement hexes. As far as I can tell, elite reinforcements up to normal strength are still automatic and free between battles.
The biggest change in the engine for Pacific General, however, is this: Units no longer have to move and fight in a single action. In fact, it's even possible to move in multiple segments (although this is really only usable for units with a high movement allowance, as it costs MP to deselect and select the unit again). This makes attacks less of a confusing puzzle and more like a wargame; the units you want to fight can get there and attacks can be more coordinated. On-screen, units that have completed their movement will be indicated with a red outline around their strength (units that can still move also show up highlighted on the strategic map, which is a nice feature for seeing what remains to be done).
Another major change relates to how victory in the battles are decided. Gone are the hidden turn count time limits forcing a rush to get a Major Victory. Instead, there is a system that uses Victory Points (VP). VP come from controlling certain objectives, and are also earned by destroying enemy units (prestige awards remains separate, and that system seems to be unchanged). The balance between winning and losing then depends on the VP level, and in some battles that margin depends on how much of the enemy force is destroyed. Scenario turn limits still exist in order to bring the battle to an end, but it is possible to check the score during any turn to see who is winning and by how much, another welcome change.
The last change is that units have their special abilities indicated, and there are some new ones, granting combat modifications, or allowing for special actions on the unit's turn.
Here's a list of special abilities. Those marked with a * are ones I don't note on the unit description, because they are described by other statistics.
*ADA Support - Ships that can use their anti-air guns for attacking (similar to Air Defense units)
Banzai - In combat, if the opponent's defense is 4 or more points greater than this unit's attack, the Banzai unit gains +4 to Attack and -4 to Defense.
Bunker-Killer - When fighting Fort units, unit ignores entrenchment and gets a +4 to Attack.
Engineer - Ignores enemy entrenchment, and when on a river, the unit acts as a bridge.
Fearless - Unit will not retreat as a combat result, and instead loses a point of strength.
Frogmen - Submarine units that are immune to depth charge attacks.
Guard - Unit is more likely to force a retreat result.
Guide - All adjacent units (and this unit) pay the clear terrain movement cost for jungle, bamboo, and forest hexes.
HQ - Purchased units may be placed next to this unit. [Only found on Fort units, which cannot move.]
Kamikaze - Unit is removed after attacking.
Night Optics - Unit can ignore spotting reduction at night, and always wins initiative against units that do not have Radar.
No-buy - Unit cannot be purchased, presumably. Although other indications may be that this is merely a feature for the AI, to avoid having it purchase unrealistic numbers of cheap units. [The special is mentioned in the in-game glossary, but not in the manual.]
*Paratroop - Unit has 'airborne' transport type and can unload from air transport on any land hex.
*Pure Tac - Unit cannot make air-to-air attacks.
Radar - Ignores combat & spotting penalties during night turns.
Ranger - Immune to Rugged Defense, and has a greater chance of triggering Rugged Defense when attacked.
Sonar - +20% chance to detect a submerged submarine.
Torpedo Bomber - Can make a one-range naval attack if both this unit and its target are in ocean hexes.
For this LP, rather than showcase the units in a end-of-year report, I'll be giving unit highlights at the end of each update. Generally one unit from the ground forces, and one unit from the air/naval forces will be chosen. The in-game stats of the unit will be given, along with the real-world description and an assessment of what the unit is like in the game. Bear in mind that I don't have a lot of experience with these units in particular, but knowing the system, I can make a pretty good guess even for units I don't end up using.
Here's how the unit information is displayed:
Name of unit - The unit is given its real-world name, often with a link. Links are provided primarily to give an image, but where possible, they will give some sort of detailed information on the unit.
PG Name - Name used in the game
Type - Type classification for the game, such as Infantry, Bomber, Air Defense, etc. Type is used for certain special rules.
Effective Date - Month/Year the unit is first available in-game. This seems to match real-world initial production dates more often then 'widely available' dates. If a second number is given (with no slash), that is the year it is withdrawn; slashes will indicate inception date of updated variations.
Value - Mainly used to determine the VP/prestige awarded to the enemy for damaging or eliminating it. This also has an effect on the unit's cost and the cost of replacements.
Cost - Purchase cost in prestige.
Spot - Spotting Range, in hexes.
Move - The unit's movement rate, in hexes per turn.
MM - Movement Mode, which affects the movement cost for each terrain type.
Trans - The sort of long-distance transport the unit can be put in (distinct from organic transport like a truck). For planes, 'Naval' means that it can be carrier-based.
Fuel - Fuel capacity. Not all units use fuel. Using one movement point consumes one unit of fuel, if applicable.
Init - The unit's initiative, used to determine who gets the first hit in combat.
Range - Range really only applies to artillery or naval units; all other units can only attack adjacent units.
Size - Only meaningful for Level Bombers. This represents a base efficiency when strategic bombing (higher numbers mean more enemy resources will be destroyed).
SA, HA, AA, NA, DA - Attack values - respectively Soft, Hard, Air, Naval, and Sub [i.e. Depth Charge]. The attack value used depends on the opposing unit. Units with no value listed cannot fight that type. Values in brackets mean that the unit cannot initiate attacks.
GD, AD, CD, TD, DD - Defense values - respectively Ground, Air, Assault [Close], Torpedo, and Depth Charge. The defense value used also depends on the opposing unit; 'Ground' counts for surface in naval units. Submarines are the only units with a Depth Charge Defense value, and Assault Defense only applies to land units.
Assault defense has been renamed from Close Defense in previous games, but is the same thing (it is used for Rugged Defense, and when infantry makes an attack in 'close terrain', like cities or forests).
TT - Target Type. This will be either Hard or Soft for ground units. Air and Naval units are not indicated, as it's a function of their unit type (Submarines are a separate type as well).
Ammo - Ammunition capacity. Participating in any combat consumes one unit of ammunition.
Specials - When applicable, the special abilities of the unit will be mentioned here. See above for the list of special abilities.
Some units have an 'updated' form that arrives at a later date. These are distinct units, but often represent only minor variations. In those cases, I write the values for the models separated by a slash. Values that have no slash indicate that the stat does not change between the models.
Japanese naming conventions
Japanese AFVs are typically indicated with a 'Type', which is a number, followed by a two-syllable designation that indicates what sort of unit it is.
The number for 'Type' is the last two digits of the year of introduction. During this period, the military used the Japanese Imperial Year, which counts from 660 years before the Gregorian Calendar starts. 'Type 92' thus means a model introduced in 2592 (1932 AD), and low numbers like 'Type 2' come after the turn of the century (i.e. 2600/1940). In addition to the Imperial Year numbering, there was also a system based on the reigning emperor, which was used for some older units, like artillery.
The two-syllable name that follows the type typically gives the unit classification (using an abbreviation) and a design revision designation. The revision designation uses an ordering essentially equivalent to alphabetical letters, so that's what I'll use for the explanatory name. This organized system was only instituted starting with Type 97 Chi-Ha, and descriptive names of vehicles prior to that tend to follow various alternate patterns.
When listing a vehicle unit, I'll be giving the explanatory translation of the two-syllable name in brackets afterward. For example: 'O-Ni [Heavy Tank Model D]'.
In Western accounts, the majority of the Japanese planes are known by their Allied codename, which was a personal name. Fighter planes were given masculine names, while bombers and other aircraft had feminine names. I may refer to them by these names during play, even on the Japanese side. In unit descriptions I give the manufacturer, military designation, and the Japanese nickname (where I've found one), and then the Allied codename in parentheses. Some of the planes also used a 'Type' designation indicating the year of introduction, similar to the ground vehicles.
American naming conventions
The US Army used the unimaginative letter 'M' (meaning 'model') followed by a number for nearly all equipment and vehicles. As designs changed, sometimes additional indicators for design revisions were added on. The result however, was an alphabet soup of names that appear to differ only slightly but can represent wide variations on a given base model. Many vehicles (tanks especially) are popularly known according to the code/nicknames of the British, who assigned them the names of former American generals. Those nicknames are typically part of or used as the in-game name, and I'll typically include it for the units that have them.
There were a few other abbreviations used to designate vehicles other than tanks, ending in 'MC' for 'Motor Carriage'. There is thus 'GMC', 'HMC', 'CGMC', and 'MGMC' indicating 'Gun', 'Howitzer', 'Combination Gun', and 'Multiple Gun' respectively in front of 'Motor Carriage'. The last two usually indicated half-track vehicles, which had lighter anti-air or infantry-fighting weapons.