02nd Nov2020

‘2GM Pacific’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail

When I think of wargames, I am often reminded of how broad the range of games covered by that term actually is. On the one hand, you have super heavy, army level simulators such as those represented in many of GMT Games most famous series, whilst on the other, you have the more straightforward and action focussed offerings like Memoir ’44. I have often longed for a game with the accessibility of the lighter end of this spectrum, but with the diversity of units and tactics offered at the heavier end. 2GM Pacific might just be the game that strikes this balance.

2GM Pacific is a card based, battalion level combat simulator that includes elements of deck-building, dice-rolling and strategic movement. The game includes both Basic and Advanced Rulesets (with a deck of cards for players to lay out to track which advanced rules will be used in each game) and a campaign booklet. A standard “Pitched Battle” game can be played by setting a number of points (usually 120), with both players then choosing cards from the HUGE pools included for both American and Japanese forces. Whilst the missions in the campaign booklet usually maintain freedom of choice over most of the deck, they will usually provide set army values, units, generals, win conditions and other factors to represent the battles in question.

On the eight by eight space board, cards are played for their action point cost (which is the same the cost to include a card in the deck.) However, most cards can be upgraded at the point of deployment for more AP – for example, a tank may receive a single machinegun upgrade for free, but it may also be possible to add one or more additional machine guns and possibly a smoke grenade or similar. Infantrymen can often use the “Hit the Dirt” upgrade to make them more evasive, or equip one of several heavy weapons.

AP is hard to come by, however, and players will begin with just five (infantry will cost about two or three, whilst tanks are between three and perhaps as much as eight) – and all of these numbers are before upgrades. To get more AP, 2GM Pacific uses a really clear, simple supply line system. Each player has a Headquarters space that sits “off” the board and generates one AP per turn. In addition, the players will each receive one AP for every line they occupy on the board, as long as there are no breaks.

This still means that AP is very tight, and players are often forced to choose between deploying weak or under-equipped units on consecutive turns, or playing nothing in order to build AP and deploy a more powerful unit on the next turn. General cards (which begin each battle on the table and rarely join the fight directly) can offer significant discounts, additional AP generation or similar, any one of which will radically shape your strategy. When you combine this with the huge variety of units on offer – from infantry, artillery and tanks to air support, traps and even heroes like Richard Winters – you have a ridiculous amount of possible variations.

Each of these units is described fully on its card, and every card features artwork of a very good, if slightly cartoonish standard. I particularly enjoy that through the use of cards instead of miniatures or tokens, players receive the dual benefit of having a huge range of units to choose from (much like a proper wargame) and also, the aesthetic benefit of playing a really good looking game as opposed to a more dour, token based affair – which can be off-putting to people not familiar to wargames of this weight.

Terrain is also represented on the board by a deck of cards, and again, each card explains the effect of the card – light cover, medium cover or full cover, for example, as well as what the level of cover actually means to the gameplay. This, as you can see from the pictures, can create some hugely evocative battlefields that I just don’t think I’ve seen in any wargame before. I mean honestly, 2GM Pacific is almost as impressive on the table as a scale miniatures game with painted hedgerow models and tiny houses – but it all fits in a normal sized box and takes no time to setup.

Combat is also quite streamlined once you get over some slightly clumsy rules, which have clearly been translated from the publishers native Spanish into English without quite as much rigour as I would have liked. Only D10 are used, with the box including one for each side, although only one will be used to resolve each shot. In a nutshell, each unit can fire all of its active weapons on a single turn, so if we go back to the upgrades I mentioned earlier, a tank with four MG’s is definitely better than a tank with none (because the tank itself fires, then each MG fires.)

Where upgraded weapons are being used in this way, on most occasions, they’ll need to be flipped in order to give them time to reload. This does mean that the aforementioned tank would only fire its main gun on every turn, but it stills means that those other weapons will fire every other turn. Resolving shots is a simple matter of rolling the D10 and looking at the hit and critical hit ratings for the weapon being fired, then adjusting for any modifiers. If a hit is scored, and assuming the weapon being fired has a higher penetration rating than the armour value of the enemy, then wounds will be scored. A critical hit will immediately destroy the target (again, assuming that penetration exceeds armour.)

This combat system is simple, fast and rewarding. It makes a few things really simple – if a weak unit is left out in the open and comes under fire from the appropriate weapon, it will very likely take wounds for sure. Conversely, clever use of terrain like bunkers or foxholes and placement of heavy weapons like bazookas, Panzerschreck or artillery can make short work of even the most expensive tank. In some wargames, this could lead to a static board state, but use of support cards like aircraft and off-board artillery can turn the tables quickly – and even sustained tank fire can reduce a bunker to rubble (which is represented as reduced cover by flipping the bunker terrain card.)

There are a few other nice features to the way combat works in 2GM Pacific, and perhaps one or two omissions. Firstly, if a unit comes under fire by two enemy units at the same time, it becomes suppressed (again, only if the weapons are capable of damaging the unit being fired upon.) This places a suppression token on that unit, making it easier to hit. A wounded unit also suffers penalties to its evasion, so once again, the more a unit takes damage, the more likely it is to be eliminated completely – which again helps to break any deadlock.

On the downside, or rather, just on the odd-side, 2GM Pacific features no line of sight. Units can target any enemy within their attack range – which may include such implausible situations as a tank shooting through two spaces (a quarter of the battlefield) with no penalty to hit chance. Now, in some of my games, we have played as though each terrain feature in between a unit and its target applies its cover bonus to the target unit (cumulatively) but that (at least in my interpretation) is never suggested in the Basic or Advanced Rules.

If I could identify some themes emerging across my view of 2GM Pacific, they would probably be those of fun and flexibility, as well as of a lack of polish. The rules, as I mentioned, are a bit rough and ready, and there are some misprints and other issues dotted around. The line of sight issue seems to be an omission one way or another (either because it isn’t part of the system, or because the rules don’t describe it) and the rules don’t mention one of the win conditions (which is to run down your opponent’s deck.)

On the more positive side, 2GM Pacific is a superb looking game that offers a huge amount of flexibility and opportunity right out of the box. There are a number of campaign scenarios to play through if you wish, but the real long-term value is in getting to know the very powerful deck-building potential of the game. I have the full set of US and Japanese cards, but included in my box were also a much smaller selection of British, German, Soviet and Italian cards, and it’s clear that each nation has its own tactics and strategies – Draco Ideas stock each additional army as an additional expansion.

In summary then, 2GM Pacific is probably one of the best “all round” wargames that I have in my collection. It looks really good on the table, and draws players in with the range of interesting card art and the different abilities of each unit. Militaria fans will absolutely love the variety on offer, whilst more “classic” gamers may still be drawn in the deckbuilding elements, which allow for a huge amount of individual scope and interpretation. Only the slightly rough instruction manual and a few oddities let it down.

**** 4/5


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