Pacific Command – Public Beta Now Open!

I have a new game scheduled for publication with Osprey! I’m very excited to annouce the Open Beta for the game. I want your help in playtesting the game.

Pacific Command is a tabletop wargame of WWII naval combat in the Pacific which puts you in control of dozens of warships and hundreds of aircraft; fighting battles as much about bluffing and surprise as strength of arms. The game has a particular focus on fog of war and aircraft carrier logistics, and zooms out to a grand scale to let players tell stories as full of dilemmas, uncertainties and double-blind gambits as the battles of Coral Sea, Midway and Leyte Gulf. 

Pacific Command will be published as part of the Osprey Wargames Series in Spring 2025.

My Design Goals for Pacific Command

Pacific Command is my first public foray into historical wargames. The seed of the game grew out of some experiments I was doing with A Billion Suns, seeing how the system would translate to other games. As with all my projects, the game mechanics evolved a LOT during the development, as I discovered what sort of game I want to make.

I have two key design objectives for the game, although I have broken them down into some sub-objectives as the design progressed:

  1. Provide players with the ability to tell stories as full of dilemmas, uncertainties and double-blind gambits as the battles of Coral Sea, Midway and Leyte Gulf.
    1. Capture the strategic-level uncertainties of the Pacific Carrier War and make them very fun to engage with.
    2. Let players bluff, bet and bluster. Get players squealing or groaning when their gambles pay off (or fail to).
    3. Put the players in the roles of Nimitz and Yamamoto, not mere ship captains.
    4. Provide an elegant mechanical solution to the challenge of double-blind reconnaissance.
    5. Provide an elegant mechanical expression of Nagumo’s Dilemma.
  2. Historically-informed game, not historically-accurate simulation. 
    1. Realism exists to ensure the game’s dilemmas ‘feel right’, not to ensure every minutia is simulated.
    2. Don’t sweat the details. Capture the right feeling at the strategic level. Abstract the small stuff away.
    3. Accurate to the history. Ensure the game does a good job of capturing the operational strengths and weaknesses of the units, so that the dilemmas and decision-making ‘feel’ right, and the stories the game tells are feasible and realistic.

What Do You Need To Play?

Pacific Command is my most ‘make-do-and-mend’ game so far. It terms of components, you basically need a case of poker chips, two decks of cards and a fist full of D6.

To share between the players:

  • A set of poker chips in at least four colours. A standard 300-piece ‘poker night’ set is ample.
  • Printed or modelled terrain (print-and-play islands are included in this document) and a blue sheet or sea mat.

Each player will need:

  • A tape measure in inches.
  • A full pack of playing cards
  • ~20 six-sided dice.
  • A Task Force Sheet for each of their TFs (a blank sheet is included in this document).
  • A pencil, to record damage.

What is special about Pacific Command?

Task Forces

Units in Pacific Command are Task Forces, which represent a group of potentially dozens of ships, often centred around a small number of aircraft carriers. Task Forces behave as individual war machines on the table, with the various capabilities and weaponry of each ship contributing to the overall fighting strength of the Task Force.

Players will have a paper record sheet for each of their Task Forces, used for managing aircraft and recording damage, and will likely field between two and five Task Forces in a game.

When a Task Force takes hits from aircraft or ship guns, the dice determine which ships are hit using a Location Roll. Damage is recorded against individual ships using the Task Force Sheet. 

As ships within the Task Force are sunk, the overall fighting strength and morale of the Task Force decreases. You can think of it as somewhat similar to a ‘mech’ game, in which parts of the machine are separate locations and damage to different locations has different degrading effects on the overall fighting machine.

Fog of War

At the start of the game, each player controls a small number of stacks of poker chips, possibly containing a mix of chips that represent Task Forces and chips that are blank. Some stacks will contain only blank chips, and act as bluffs. These chips move around the play-area ‘face-down’, with all information hidden.

The game begins with neither player having knowledge of the location of the other’s forces. The early game is therefore about using your forces to reconnoitre the enemy decoys to clear the fog of war, while bluffing the location of your own forces. You can see the possible locations of your enemy’s forces, but cannot attack them until you positively locate them.

The rules for Recon and Air Strike Actions are written in such a way that you can commit aircraft from hidden Task Forces without revealing their locations, allowing aircraft carriers to strike from within the fog of war.

Aircraft Logistics

The player’s skill and luck in managing their carriers’ aircraft will play a large part in their victory. As in the Pacific sea war, the decision about which aircraft squadrons to stage for launch is not one that can be immediately overturned.

Each player will need a pack of standard playing cards. These cards will represent squadrons of aircraft, with each suit representing a different operational class of aircraft.

Task Forces may contain ships that can carry and launch aircraft. Those Task Forces start the game with a number of Squadron Cards on them. In the Carrier Logistics Phase each round, players take a moment to stage aircraft, moving cards from their Hangar area to their Flight Deck area on their Task Force sheet to stage them for Recon, Airstrike or interception operations. 

After the squadrons are launched and carry out their missions in the Action phase, they must spend the following round refuelling and rearming: they will not be available to stage, unless a Command Chip is spent to hurry up the process (more on these in a moment).

The Action Phase

The bulk of the gameplay occurs in the Action Phase. Each player receives a small number of Command Chips each round, which is reduced when their force’s morale starts to falter. Players alternate spending a single Command Chip to take an action, until all tokens are spent. 

Available actions include actions that act on a single friendly unit, such as moving a stack of chips or allowing a Task Force to melt away into the fog of war, but they also include actions that target an enemy stack or Task Force, such as Air Actions. Those actions permit any Task Forces within range of the target to participate in the operation, without revealing their location.

Open Beta

I’d really like your help playtesting the game. To get involved, download the Beta Rulebook here:

Give me feedback by emailing me, using the email address “mike” @ “this website’s address”.