Victory in the Pacific

Accounting for Adjustments
by Tom Gregorio

After twenty years of play, it has become commonly accepted that Victory in the Pacific (VITP) had a slight Japanese edge. In early 1999 a series of Victory in the Pacific 'adjustments' were identified that addressed this perceived play imbalance. The focus of this adjustment analysis is an objective assessment of each of these options with an eye towards impact on game play and a measurement in Points of Control (POC). Armed with this knowledge, it becomes possible to bid AND play effectively as each adjustment in effect at game start will uniquely shape the game.

As might be expected, given the belief that there is an IJN edge, there are more options that favor the USN player. This author has evaluated POC value by classifying each adjustment as:

Temporary - The option has a 1-turn or one-time impact.

Conditional - There is a reasonable chance that dice rolled will cause the option to be ineffectual. For example: USN Option 1 is conditional because there is a 2/3 chance the sub wouldn't hit a ship it shot at anyway.

Avoidable - There are a set of unilateral actions one player could take to ensure that the option will have no impact. For example: USN Option 1 is avoidable because the IJN player could choose to put his I-boat somewhere other than the Hawaiian Islands.

Questionable - There are a set of circumstances where the option actually can be to the advantage of the other player.

Classifying the adjustments allows one to assess relative worth even if one doesn't agree with the assigned POC value. The POC values are meant to be applied as an initial bidding adjustment necessary to nullify the estimated impact of the option.

USN Adjustment List

1. I-Boat Raid: On Turn 1 any I-Boat assigned to the Hawaiian Islands is part of the Pearl Harbor raid force and may only target ships which leave Pearl Harbor.

Gameplay Impact: Option 1 directly implies that any I-boat in HI will not get any CV shots. A savvy IJN player will then put the I-boat in the Central Pacific Ocean (CPO) to get that 51% shot at a location uncertain CV showing up there [assuming that CPO Withdrawal is not also in play]. It also becomes more important for the USN player to put extra CA patrollers in the US Mandate and Coral Sea as the lower odds of hitting a CV on turn 1 make it much more tempting to go for an extra 2 POC by knocking out a solitary patroller in either of those two areas.

POC Value: I would assign this adjustment a minimal +.5 US POC value as the impact is temporary, conditional, and avoidable.

2. CPO Withdrawal: On Turn 1 after the Location Uncertain rolls, both sides (beginning with the IJN) may freely withdraw from the Central Pacific Ocean before the first round of battle with no pursuit. USN ships using this free withdrawal must base in Pearl Harbor (those that fight and survive may base wherever they wish, of course). If the IJN uses its free withdrawal, USN ships may not base at Midway.

Gameplay Impact: This option enables each player to decide whether or not a potentially significant battle will take place in the CPO on turn 1. Since the USN player generally has more to lose in this encounter, this is a USN option that probably will be exercised. (Starting Turn 2 missing one or two CVs is a severe disadvantage.) Offsetting this USN edge is that fact that retreating CVs can't go to Australia to threaten Indonesia on Turn 2. Assuming that the IJN is in the CPO with 1 CVL, 3-4 BBs, and 7-8 CA's, I'd exercise this option unless I'm in the area with 3+ CVs and 6+ CAs. Conversely, I believe it's to the IJN advantage to retreat if 3+ US CVs with escorts show up in the CPO. At this point the restriction forcing USN ships to not base at Midway is of minimal value as I am not aware of Turn 2 US strategies involving naval patrolling of the Japanese Islands, Aleutian Islands, or Marianas.

POC Value: I would assign this adjustment a minimal +.5 US POC value as the impact is temporary and conditional, and questionable.

3. Reinforcement Flexibility: Each USN reinforcement may elect to appear at either Pearl Harbor or Samoa when friendly.

Gameplay Impact: This option is of significant strategic and tactical value to the USN player. Here are some specific impacts:

* The USN Turn 2 reinforcements can now be used in a strategy involving the South Pacific. (I would still put them in Pearl as the Central Pacific is probably more important at this point.)

* The USN Turn 3 reinforcements no longer can be 'locked in' by an IJN controlled HI.

* The USN Turn 6 and 7 reinforcements can reach Indonesia (IN) even if Pearl is USN controlled.

* In terms of IJN strategy, controlling HI on Turn 2 can no longer be used as method of ensuring attrition (against the USN reinforcements) on Turn 3.

* IJN tactical play will have to reflect the fact that more force can be brought to bear on Indonesia on turns 6 and 7 if the South Pacific is cleared.

POC Value: I would assign this as +2 US POC. The impact is permanent and unconditional. The option is avoidable in that a conversion of Pearl makes this option moot.

4. Repair Flexibility: Up to one-half of the repair points normally available at Pearl Harbor (rounded down) can optionally be used at Samoa instead. Samoa gains the entire repair capability of Pearl Harbor if Pearl is captured as usual.

Gameplay Impact: The USN can now completely repair ships in Samoa; previously this port only allowed a ship to repair 1 point which was most effectively used when 'uncrippling' ships. This option is of limited strategic value in that the US usually can't afford to spend the early game with ships 'tied up' in port. In the late-game it is often preferable to have ships in Pearl from where they can pose a better threat to the IJN home areas.

POC Value: I would give this option +1 US POC. It is permanent, unconditional. The option is avoidable because a conversion of Pearl makes this option moot.

5. Critical Repairs: The USN (not other Allies) may make partial repairs to any single ship by immediately removing one damage point after basing is completed (Rule 5.74) at Pearl Harbor if it did not previously exhaust its repair capacity for the turn. The ship cannot be completely repaired (i.e., some damage must still remain). This ability transfers to Samoa if Pearl Harbor is captured.

Gameplay Impact: This option came come in handy in ensuring that one crippled USN CV can make it into play on the following turn. I would anticipate that this option would be used on game turns 3 and later. Given that the beginning of turn 3 usually sees the Imperial Sun in HI, it is doubtful that a US CV would be tied down to Pearl by basing there at the end of turn 2. If no crippled carriers are around, the USN player should not hesitate to apply this option to any other crippled ships available. (The difference in impact of a crippled vs. non-crippled battleship is huge.)

POC Value: I would give this option +1 US POC. It is permanent, unconditional, and unavoidable. It could argued that this option is 'conditional' because the IJN could miss (or sink) every target but I don't think that would be a reasonable outcome for any game.

6. CPO Strategic Value: The Central Pacific Ocean gains a PoC value of 1 for Allied control.

Gameplay Impact: This option provides the USN a measurable POC return for patrolling the CPO. Since this area is often controlled by the USN, I would expect this option to provide the USN several POC over the course of the game. Note that the USN can now 'recover' 18 POC on the last turn. As the IJN player, I would try to secure this area as quickly as possible - landing the Yokosuka marines there on Turn 1 now might be a critical tactic.

POC Value: I would give this option +4 US POC. It is permanent, unconditional, and unavoidable.

7. Out of Fuel: The IJN must retreat (no pursuit possible) after the two surprise rounds of air raids against Pearl Harbor.

Gameplay Impact: This option provides the USN a measurable POC return because it ensures that the US will control HI after turn 1. It has additional value in that Turn 2 combat in HI will take place with a US flag in the area. There is also a strong tactical value in that the IJN will not be able to finish off bottomed ships from the first two rounds. This last fact can be mitigated by the IJN by coming back in force to HI on Turn 2.

POC Value: I would give this option +4 US POC. It is temporary, conditional, and unavoidable. +3 POC would be derived from turn 1 alone; the control flag is probably worth +1 POC on turn 2.

8. Gunnery Radar: All undamaged USN ships with a gunnery factor of 3 or higher gain the attack bonus on Turns 7 and 8.

Gameplay Impact: This option provides the USN with additional hitting power in the end game. The IJN should accord a higher priority to finishing off BBs in the early and mid-game. In terms of strategy, the IJN will have to be wary of surface combat as the USN can now deliver a tremendous amount of damage in a late-turn set-piece battle. The US player will be more incented to avoid committing BBs to surface battles in the first 6 turns. A key IJN tactic will be finishing off the turn 3 reinforcements in a controlled HI.

POC Value: I would give this option +3 US POC. It is permanent, conditional, and unavoidable. It is conditional in that IJN play could be directed towards ensuring that many of these USN BBs don't survive until the end-game.

9. Seventh Air Force: The 7th Air Force may return fire at the end of the first round of Pearl Harbor air raids (if it is still alive). It may return fire in subsequent rounds of these air raids on Turn 1 if it was available in Pearl Harbor at the start of the round.

Gameplay Impact: This option provides the USN with the ability to strike at IJN CVs on turn 1. Conversely, it is now a higher priority for the IJN player to finish this unit off in the first raid. Losing IJN CVs on turn 1 is not good; allowing the USN to control HI is unthinkable. As the IJN player, I would probably assign 7 airstrike factors against this unit, "statistically sinking" this unit, on the first round. The general impact of this is that a slightly larger number of ships should make it out of Pearl on turn 1.

POC Value: I would give this option +1 US POC. It is temporary, conditional, unavoidable, and questionable. It is questionable in that losing both USN LBAs on turn 1 strengthens the IJN tactical alternatives on turn 2.

10. West Coast Bases: USN ship reinforcements may arrive as raiders (during raider movement) in either the Hawaiian Islands or the U.S. Mandate in the event that both Samoa and Pearl Harbor are Japanese Controlled. Marines may arrive during the amphibious unit movement phase but are also limited to the U.S. Mandate and Hawaiian Islands.

Gameplay Impact: This option allows the USN to survive both Home Ports being converted. The most significant impact of this is that the game will drag out that much longer. This author feels that this is the appropriate option to offer when delivering a veiled insult.

POC Value: I would give this option +.25 US POC. It is temporary, conditional, avoidable, and questionable. It is questionable because it will allow the IJN player to open another can of 'whup ass' on the hapless USN player. Translate this option as 'I'd like my IJN to finish the game with +29 POC; can you stop me?"

11. Pre-War Edge: Score the board as set up before starting Turn One. This gives the Allies a 4 PoC lead going into the raids.

Gameplay Impact: The IJN will have to undertake activities aimed at recovering these 'missing' 4 POC. For IJN players with strategies that max out at 29 POC this option has minimal impact. For those IJN players favoring attritional strategies or who are subject to strong USN positional play, this deficit is significant. Other than forcing the IJN to play a positional/POC game, this option will have minimal impact on actual gameplay.

POC Value: The easy answer is that +4 POC is worth +4 POC but in this case it isn't. Experience shows that there are many games where the IJN will accumulate greater than +29 POC by turn six; therefore this option is worth less than that. It is temporary, unconditional, and unavoidable - bid +3 POC for it.

IJN Adjustment List

1. CVL Armor: The armor value of the Shoho and Zuiho is raised to 1.

Gameplay Impact: This author can't think of how he'd play differently given this option in play. In terms of the game, there will now be a 1/6 chance that an otherwise sunk CVL would now only be crippled - this would give the Japanese a little more CV staying power in the mid to end game. Certainly no tactical advantage would be accrued as that single point of damage would still render the carrier useless for air operations and it's almost mandatory that the ship has to repair.

POC Value: Given the uselessness of this option, I'd bid .25 as the IJN for this option. This option is permanent, unconditional, and unavoidable.

2. CVL Airstrikes: The airstrike value of the Hosho is raised to 2 bonus shots.

Gameplay Impact: Now here is an IJN option that could prove in handy! Turn 1 usually sees the Hosho in the Central Pacific; given the roughly even odds that a US CV will show up there, it's just as likely that this extra bonus airstrike will be used. Once past the first turn, the Hosho just becomes more CVL fodder, destined to be sacrificed in order to get the chance to take a US CV down with her. The IJN light carriers are great for raiding into areas where you have a patrolling CA; the USN player has to think long & hard about whether it's worth risking a heavy US CV for this IJN 'trinket'.

POC Value: This option is worth about 1.5 POC. If the Hosho manages to take a CV down on the first turn the payback is immediate and doublefold. This option is permanent, unconditional, and unavoidable.

3. Kamikazes: Starting on Turn 7, the IJN may voluntarily use LBA or carrier airstrikes as kamikazes. Kamikazes gain a +1 bonus to their attacks against enemy ships (possibly in addition to an existing bonus). The extra bonus does not apply to LBA. Any unit (LBA or CV) launching a kamikaze attack is immediately eliminated.

Gameplay Impact: This is a quite useful option. The IJN can commit minimal forces to the light US end-game patrols and stand a good chance of knocking out the patrollers. The author is assuming that kamikazes can be used against amphibious units based on feedback from John Pack.

On turn 7, any LBAs that are almost guaranteed to die in combat should exercise the kamikaze option since they won't be back in the game anyway. On turn 8, one would think that every attack should be a kamikaze attack; unfortunately this isn't wise. Using kamikazes just ensures that any other friendly forces in the area will bear the full brunt of the USN return fire.

POC Value: Given the high probability of kamikazes being able to winkle a few POC in the last two uselessness of this option, I'd bid +2 POC as the IJN for this option. This option is permanent, unconditional, and unavoidable (from the USN perspective.)

Summary

The following table identifies each option, its characteristics, and it's POC value.

Option
Permanent
Conditional
Avoidable
Questionable
POC Value

US Options

+USN

I-Boat Raid

No
Yes
Yes
No
0.5

CPO Withdrawal

No
Yes
No
Yes
0.5

Reinforcement Flexibility

Yes
No
Yes
No
2

Repair Flexibility

Yes
No
Yes
No
1

Critical Repairs

Yes
No
No
No
1

CPO Strategic Value

Yes
No
No
No
4

Out of Fuel

No
Yes
No
No
3

Gunnery Radar

Yes
Yes
No
No
3

Seventh Air Force

No
Yes
No
Yes
1

West Coast Bases

No
Yes
Yes
Yes
0.25

Pre-War Edge

No
No
No
No
3

IJN Options

+IJN

CVL Armor

Yes
No
No
No
0.25

CVL Airstrikes

Yes
No
No
No
1.5

Kamikazes

Yes
No
No
No
2

By knowing how one plays, one could further refine the adjustment selection process. For example, if I play an IJN style that usually ends up with the maximum number of POC, it might make sense to choose USN adjustments that are focused on direct POC changes instead of options that change styles of play. (In this case, offer the USN the Pre-War Edge option instead of the Out of Fuel option.) Similarly, it is important to realize that combinng options often produces an unanticipated result. For example, combining options 1 and 2 ensures that the US won't lose a CV on turn 1.

Conclusion: Adjustments should be selected with an understanding of their potential impact on the game. Conversely, 'offering adjustments' of negligable or negatable value becomes a valid 'pre-game' tactic. While it may not be sporting to take advantage of an opponent's lack of knowledge about the adjustments, this treatise attempts to level the playing field. As more games are recorded using these options, it will also become possible to substantiate or correct the analysis being offered here.


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