Order of Battle: Pacific – PC Game Review
Passed Inspection: The “Panzer General” in the Pacific you’ve been waiting to play. Plenty of units that will provide endless replay once scenario editors add community content. Visually appealing.
Failed Basic: Stock campaigns leave you wanting more from the game. No “undo” move feature; something vital for when you click the wrong hex to move. No unit database to help you see all available units in the game.
The hype has been building over at Slitherine for the release of Order of Battle: Pacific, designed by The Artistocrats, which depicts a hex-grid map, turn-based, tactical-level game of World War II in the Pacific. Wargamers who take a quick look at the game will immediately think of Panzer General and the more recent Panzer Corps series: this initially looks like a PG | PC gaming engine set in the Pacific Theater of Operations. However, while Order of Battle: Pacific mimics basic mechanics from the Panzer Corps series, this game reflects not only the land battles but also the naval fighting that was a major component of the Pacific War. An extra bonus is the visual animation of units and terrain—waves move, flags flap in the breeze—which enhances the entertainment value. (If you’re a wargamer who prefers the basic map without any 3D animation, that option is also available for the Old Schoolers.)
Campaigns and Scenarios
The selection of campaigns is short and straightforward. Players will be introduced to the four-scenario “Boot Camp” campaign, which covers the mechanics of basic land fights, amphibious invasion, naval warfare, and air combat. This is a good and quick introduction for what you will need to know in playing the two other game campaigns, “Imperial Japan” and “Pacific Allies.”
What I learned in the “Boot Camp” campaign:
- The game is gorgeous! The static screenshots accompanying this review do not capture the animation and feel of OoB Pacific. The ocean moves, and it sparkles from the sun. Infantry units are animated during combat as they fight and die to take or defend hexes, and ships are barely visible as they sink below the ocean. Many wargamers take mediocre graphics as a given in turn-based games, which is fine; however, the designers of Order of Battle: Pacific took the extra step to make this game look great.
- Land combat is straightforward, and there are some naval warfare mechanics that make ship fighting enjoyable. Each unit has a maximum strength of 10, and will suffer losses as it attacks and defends, similar to the Panzer Corps series. As expected, terrain plays a key factor especially as you fight in the jungles. While jungles provide a defensive bonus, they can also sap the efficiency of your units. Efficiency has four levels, which is indicated by the color of the unit’s health, starting with white, going to yellow, orange, and then red. Attacks from the air and artillery will have an affect on a unit’s efficiency.
Experiencing naval combat for the first time, in the “Fleet Command” scenario, is enjoyable. You are given command of a carrier, several cruisers and destroyers to hunt down an enemy battleship. While all ships can fire their main guns at enemy ships, with varying range and damage, they also have special abilities. Destroyers can launch torpedoes at enemy ships but require a few turns to reload. These torpedo runs can quickly devastate heavier ships but will require coordinated attacks as destroyers can’t sustain damage the way heavier ships can. They can also use their sonar to detect enemy submarines attempting to sink your larger capital ships. Cruisers can use their anti-air ability against enemy dive bombers that are making their way to attack your carriers and battleships. Carriers hold from one to three air units, depending on the carrier’s size. As in the historic Pacific War, these ships can be used in the game to deploy fighters and bombers against land and naval units. The battleships will likely dominate these scenarios, though, due to the size and scope of the game map. If you can move battleships fast enough you can quickly overrun any enemy unit, provided you have the needed naval support from destroyers and cruisers. I’m sure this will likely depend on the scenario design, though.
3. Units will fight better when they have supplies. This sounds like an obvious statement, but as you fight you will find that stretching your line too thin or risking units becoming isolated will quickly reduce their fighting ability. Supply points can be taken, but they will slowly start stockpiling the supplies that will feed your units. Supply ships will help with the initial amphibious assaults, so protecting them is a high priority. The supply points come in the form of requisition points (basically gold) and command points for land, naval, and air units. Purchasing units will require a combination of requisition points and command points, so if you have plenty of requisition points but not enough command points to purchase an air unit you’re out of luck until you gain more command points.
The remaining campaigns, “Imperial Japan” and “Pacific Allies,” each consists of several scenarios. Playing as the Japanese will eventually lead to an invasion of Australia, while the American campaign will follow through with historical battles.
After completing the “Boot Camp” campaign as the Americans, I chose to play the Japanese campaign, the first scenario of which is Pearl Harbor. This scenario introduces mostly air combat as you engage American fighters scrambling to protect the battleships at Pearl Harbor from your torpedo and dive bombers. Similar to the destroyers, torpedo bombers can engage adjacent-hex ship targets, and they will require a set amount of turns to reload for another attack. While not historically accurate by any means, this keeps the game flow moving without having to constantly fly back to rearm.
The list is long! If it fought in the Pacific, then you will likely see it in this game. Order of Battle: Pacific’s game page points out that there are over 500 units: early units include the M3 Stuart, Type 97 Chi-Ha, A6M Zero and F4U Corsair fighters; later units add Nakajima Kikka and P-80 Shooting Star jet-fighters, Montana and Super Yamato Class battleships and T28, T29 and Type 100 I/O heavy tanks to the mix. With so many units, it would be nice if the designers had put together a database to view all of the units with their strengths, weaknesses, and general information.
After completing the Pearl Harbor scenario, I was given the option to unlock a special ability for my units. I could choose from “Banzai Charge” or “Bushido Code.” I could not resist the option of issuing Banzai charges for my units. As the next scenario started, my infantry units had the option to conduct regular or Banzai attacks. It was incredibly tempting to issue Banzai charges; however, a unit risks losing nearly half of its health in the process. This options comes in handy when you call for air and artillery support before issuing a Banzai charge, though. Other abilities will be unlocked for both the Japanese and American forces as you progress through the campaigns.
Commanders and Captains
Leading your army with a spearpoint of experienced units adds flavor to the game especially if they are led by a commander. As you play the campaigns, you will gain commanders to give units additional combat bonuses. Generals can be assigned to land units, captains to naval units, and pilots to air units. I was given a pilot named Saburo Matsuki, and I assigned him to my Ki-43 army fighter plane. His pilot kills and logbook are updated during the fight and will continue updating throughout the campaign. Commanders run the risk of being injured or imprisoned if they are put in harm’s way, but they will eventually return to your army.
Order of Battle: Pacific may shine best in multiplayer, with up to four human players. Gamers can compete head-to-head or play in co-operation against the AI. Multiplayer will be in its infancy for awhile since the game comes with just nine multiplayer scenarios, but this should grow when the community creates scenarios with the mission editor.
Overall, this is the Pacific Theater of Operations Panzer General many gamers have been waiting for. The mechanics are tailored for fighting in the Pacific. The game offers a nice supply interface so you can see how far you are extending into enemy territory. This supply line can be cut, which will limit your units’ ability to fight efficiently.
My one complaint with the game is that there is no undo movement feature. There have been several times when I accidentally clicked a unit to a hex I did not intend to send it to.
I suspect players will go through the two campaigns fairly quickly; it would be nice to see additional stock campaigns. As mentioned earlier, however, the gaming community is likely to create campaigns and scenarios.
If you are looking for a simple and straightforward wargame that offers some tactical challenge and a break from games that are a little more hardcore, then Order of Battle: Pacific should help scratch your Pacific fighting itch.
Armchair General Rating: 88%
About the Author
Ed William has his Masters in Library and Information Science and works in public libraries. This allows him access to databases of historical content while reviewing wargames. He took an interest in military history and wargaming as a teenager after discovering that one of his hometown heroes is General George S. Patton. Ed is the author of an article that explains how to convert interactive games in Armchair General magazine to PC scenarios using the Combat Mission series.