When John first explained Pacific Typhoon to me I was excited. It sounded like 500 (a game my family loves to play) but with a cool combat mechanism to it. The first couple of games I played was with 4 people. It was OK, but it just seemed like there weren’t enough cards out to generate big battles. A few games later with 5 people still seemed lacking. I really wanted to like this game, but I find myself avoiding it.
My main criticism with the game is the way it limits your options each turn. In the game each player starts the game with 6 cards. Each card has a date, time of day and combat rating for each of the four suits: air, surface, sub, and combined. The first person each round chooses a battle. That player will decide the year, time of day and suit for that round. Obviously the first person will choose the battle that will allow him to play his biggest or best card. The rest of the players will need to look at their hand and first determine which cards are eligible and then choose a side to battle for.
The year and suit greatly limits your options. For example, if the player chooses to fight the 1941 battle of Manila at night and calls the submarine suit, only 6 cards of 150 are eligble and have a combat rating greater than zero. Chances are the first player will win the battle without opposition. OK, so this is the extreme case, but several of the combinations only have 10-25 cards. All the 1941 battles will have a good chance that some players won’t be able to participate in the battle. Strategically, the battle chooser should pick the earliest year battle that they have a good card. Also, if they have a decent sub card (day or night) or night aircraft cards they should choose those suits. Thereby reducing the opportunity for opponents and increasing their chances to win the battle. But is this fun? Playing the combined suit each time always opens up your options (~85 of 150 cards are available in 1945 at day). Everyone will play and there will be a big battle which is fun, but its strategically risky.
The next limiter is the big gun cards. The battleships such as the Yamato and New Jersey have surface combat ratings of up to 8 and 10, respectively. With the average surface combat rating of all the cards being just under 3, it would take 3 other players to gang up to take down one of these ships. Let’s say we’re playing with 4 people: the first player has the Yamato, and the next three have the cards to take it down. However, at the end of the battle, there would only be 2 cards to distribute as spoils among the 3 people who teamed up. This means someone is getting left out. You can negotiate a deal, but no deal is binding. Players can do what they want at any time. So the person who plays last is likely thinking “They say I will get a spoil, but I’m not garaunteed one. However, if I play an Axis card, I garauntee myself one of the Allied cards as spoils.” This ‘backstabbing’ is fun and will score you points, but the negotiations won’t last long.
It seems after a few rounds, everyone picks up on the strategies to score the most: play your big cards when you have them and sit out the other rounds. At that point the game loses all interest for me. Sure everyone is playing ‘strategically’ – they are scoring points when they know they can – but the fun factor is gone. Your chances of victory are purely determined by the luck of the draw.
Is the game terrible? No, I will play it again and I think it could still be enjoyable. With 6 or 7 players, the chances of cards available increases. With the right people negotiations could be done well and throughout the game. I’m also interested in trying one of the variants that allows for team play: one team draws and plays only Axis force cards, the other plays Allied. If 4-5 people want to sit down to play the base game, though, count me out.
I’m interested in your take: Am I playing with the right strategies? Is it really fun or strategy and not both?
Pacific Typhoon seems to fall short in the very way that a card game needs to excel: hand management. And for that reason, I will only play the game if that’s what everyone else wants to play.