Dedicated to all of my cheerful, sporting opponents who have made VITP my favorite game for over two decades and especially to Alan Applebaum and Mike Kaye, the fastest opponents East and West of the Mississippi respectively!
Want a fast, fun PBEM game of Victory in the Pacific? A few years of experience (in my own games and hearing from players as GM) has taught me a few tricks that I hope you’ll find useful.
I’ve grouped these suggestions into two general categories: speed and courtesy. Believe it or not, the two are related – especially since playing quickly is a courtesy one can show one’s opponent!
The first key to speed is to make sure that you take every possible action you can during your playing time. Your opponent will then be able to maximize his playing time too!
Another simply method of speeding play, especially when using a text file to track the game, is to make use of cut and paste features to construct dice requests and moves.
There are several parts of the formal PBEM sequence of play that can be sped up under certain, common circumstances. Note: Do not use these options if the conditions aren’t met.
Patrollers (Step 1 & 2) – I usually figure out my plans for my LBA during the patrol phase. Often that means leaving an area unpatrolled. If failure to patrol makes it obvious to your opponent that you’ll be putting LBA there, don’t wait – put them out during patroller movement!
For example, on Turn 2 the IJN often relies on LBA to patrol Indonesia. This is so common that placement of 3 or fewer LBA in Indonesia along with patrols does not give anything away.
LBA (Step 3 & 4) – Usually I find that only the last one or two LBA are dependent on my opponent’s placements. If so, place all but the last one or two LBA in the first placement.
Day/Night Preferences (Step 8 & 10) – If the USN finds his day/night preferences are obvious, state them when finishing raider movement. That’ll let the IJN roll the preferences for both sides and proceed directly into combat without delay. When your preferences aren’t obvious, tell your opponent expressly that you’re waiting for his preferences.
Day/Night Rolls – Speaking of Day/Night rolls, speed up play by allowing your opponent to roll for you. Allowing the second player who states preferences to roll the dice makes it easier to keep track of the dice and eliminates one more exchange. Just be sure to give/get permission before doing so!
Combat Follow-up (Step 13 & 14) – Often decisions like basing for retreating and disabled units, landing Marines, and the next round’s day/night preferences are obvious (i.e., giving your opponent this information early isn’t detrimental). Loose lips don’t necessarily sink ships! If so, handle these decisions immediately after rolling your combat. That’ll allow the IJN to handle his follow-up and proceed with the next round of combat without an interim step!
For example, on Turn 2 the USN fights in the Aleutians. A night action sees one cruiser disabled. After the USN returns fire, instead of waiting for the IJN to state day/night preferences and base disabled ships, the USN could base the CA in Dutch Harbor and, since he’s got a CV, announce that he wants day action. Since neither action influences the IJN’s choices, the game moves along more quickly without sacrificing any advantage.
The follow-up is also a good time to re-state the results of the action -- which will guarantee that both you and your opponent are on the same page and avoid later confusion if one or both of you read the dice incorrectly!
Small Pursuits and Combat – A few times each game there will be a battle or pursuit where one side (or both) have only a single target (or single type of target). If so, consider letting your opponent roll for both sides. This can be especially valuable in speeding up one-on-one CA battles where nine rounds of misses are rolled in a row! It can also come in handy when the dice gods are out to get you. In that case, consider having your opponent roll ALL of your dice! ;-)
Basing & Reinforcements (Step 15 & 16) – A lot of basing is obvious. If so, you can base immediately after combat during the final follow-up steps rather than requiring a separate step. (Note: The Allies should normally wait to place returning Marines until after all IJN basing!)
Turn One – As the IJN, I usually roll both rounds of raids along with my patrols. I’ve never seen it make any difference, but it allows the otherwise minor raiding steps to finish extremely quickly. This helps the USN get into the game faster.
Reporting to the GM – Don’t ever skip this under any circumstances. ;-)
Play Time – Let your opponent know when you normally have time for email. You’ll maximize your chance for speedy replies and keep him from experiencing frustration checking over and over for a move that’s not there.
Tell ‘em Like It Is – Be sure to let your opponent know, in advance, of disruptions to your normal playing routine. If you’ll be gone for the weekend, on vacation, swamped at work, etc., be sure to let your opponent know. That way he won’t keep checking in every 30 minutes to see if the Lexington is still floating.
Dice - Having played Dice in the Pacific a lot, we all know how to bounce back from a stunningly bad turn of luck. The odds suggest more such luck is coming eventually. A good opponent, who can graciously accept his fortune, can make it a lot easier. [Do the same for your opponents who suffer the wrath of the dice gods. N.B.: It probably wouldn’t help to recommend an increased monthly donation to pbm.com.]
Politeness – Treat your opponent better than the way you’d like to be treated. Use the magic words your mom taught you and avoid coarse language. Remember that sarcasm doesn’t travel well by email. Avoid expressions that are politically incorrect.
You might think these things are OK or even funny (and you might even be right). Your opponent might find them disrespectful, intimidating, or even offensive.
I recall a War at Sea game my wife played by email. Her opponent criticized her strategy – suggesting that it was inferior because she was a woman. It took my wife two years before she was agreeable to trying another PBEM War at Sea game. (I might add that her opponent won that game by a single PoC after sinking two convoys with a spectacularly lucky Luftwaffe.)
Long-term View – I hope everyone, like me, wants to be playing VITP for a long time to come. For that to happen, we need opponents – and lots of them. As a result, the first victory I want to win in each match is the return of my opponent for another game, win or lose. If my opponent comes back for another hard fought match, then we all win. If not, no amount of AREA points will make any difference.
Ultimately, of course, the speed of our play and the courtesy we show opponents are intertwined. It’s pretty hard to spend an hour making a move in a game one dreads. In fact, it’d be hard to call it a game!
On the other hand, a fun opponent can make a loss into an enjoyable experience. My last game with Alfred Wong was delightful because it was such a struggle against the odds. I was pleased at how I manipulated the odds to turn a near-certain loss into a slight chance for glory. I crashed and burned at the end, but it was fun to try and cheat the odds along the way.
Make the game fast and fun for your opponent and you’ll make the game fun and exciting for yourself and for all of us for many years to come!