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Posted on Oct 10, 2008 in Boardgames

Asia Engulfed: The Second World War in Asia, 1941 – 1945 – Boardgame Review

By Robert Delwood

Game Play
Asia Engulfed tends to polarize players: they either love it or they don’t, but few are neutral. This is a deep game with more than one way to win and not all the paths are obvious, especially to players inexperienced with the system.

For example, one introductory scenario, "Tipping the Scales," is a five-turn, near-sudden-death match of the Guadalcanal Campaign. Overall, both sides are equally matched, with the Japanese being stronger at the start. Scales tip when the first Essex-class carriers show up on turn three. The meeting at first looks like boxers dancing around each other: The Americans are unwilling to commit until they get overwhelming strength on the last turn, and the Japanese spend their time looking for battles and grabbing minor areas. In actuality, there is a lot of subtlety. The Japanese can’t be strong everywhere and the Americans can pick at the edges, getting local superiority, for instance.

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The true strength of the system comes through in the campaign games. These seem to favor the Japanese slightly as Japan begins impressively strong, controls many of the territories and needs only to contest (not even control outright) as few as three of 15 victory-point areas to win. The U.S. has to use its greater production ability effectively.

Remember the earlier disclaimer: This is not Axis and Allies. Not every turn is action-packed and it would be unwise to try. Planning is at a premium. Each player has the ability to lose the game on any individual turn (think Midway), but should count on the game going all 22 turns and pace himself accordingly.

This is one of those games in which players need to learn the system well; our group ended up almost walking through the first three turns together. For starting out, try the introductory scenario, perhaps twice. The first game will likely be slow as players learn the mechanics. The second time, they focus on the tactics. Add in strategic warfare and the game truly hits its stride.

How long play will take is up to your group. Some groups report finishing a campaign game in seven hours; the game box says nine. Either way, that’s 10 to 12 minutes per player turn. A more realistic pace might be three afternoons, shorter than WiF.

This is a very elegant system with vastly different parts that integrate smoothly with each other. The strategy is challenging for both sides, and there are enough options to keep opponents guessing. To be sure, it isn’t for everyone, but the fog of war element, the production, and the constant guessing make it a great game.

Robert Delwood has been playing war games since the PanzerBlitz days. He writes for several game magazines including ASL Journal, Fire and Movement, and Armchair General. As a programmer, he has contributed to Microsoft Windows, NASA and the International Space Station, and has an ASL player’s aid software package called SALSA!

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Asia Engulfed: The Second World War in Asia, 1941 – 1945

GMT Games

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  1. A Wave of New Naval Warfare Games « The View from the Turret - [...] scales have not been ignored either. GMT Games released Asia Engulfed (see a review). This is a sister game…

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