Empire of the Sun (EOTS) is Mark Herman's third card-driven design since he introduced the system to the hobby in We The People. EOTS is a strategic level look at the entire War in the Pacific from the attack on Pearl Harbor until the surrender of Japan. EOTS is the first card-driven game (CDG) to move the system closer to a classic hexagon wargame, while retaining all of the tension and uncertainty people have come to expect from a CDG. Players are cast in the role of Macarthur, Yamamoto, Nimitz, and Mountbatten as you direct your forces across the breadth of the globe from India to Hawaii and from Alaska to Australia. This is represented on a single map based on a 1942 equal area projection of the entire theater of conflict.
As in other games in the Herman CDG system, players try to maximize the impact of their cards even as they hide their intentions and traps from their opponent. The player is faced with a wide set of clear strategic choices. Should you play the card for its event that causes enemy inter-service rivalry hampering their operations, cause an enemy reverse in Europe delaying or accelerating Allied reinforcements, gain critical reinforcements, such as the elite Tainan Air Unit of Saburo Sakai fame, or launch an offensive to conquer a key objective. Offensives allow players to pit historical land, air and sea units against their opponent's forces.
The focus of EOTS is on directing major offensive axes of advance. The Japanese early in the game are challenged to achieve their historical expansion as Allied forces battle the clock to react with their in-place forces trying to achieve maximum damage to the hard- to-replace Japanese veteran units. EOTS places in the hands of the Japanese the full range of strategic options for taking the paths not taken historically as they try and manipulate the War in Europe and U.S. inter-service rivalry to divert and slow United States industrial output.
Combat in EOTS is based on successfully bringing superior combined land, air, and sea forces to bear in a two-tiered combat system. The first tier is the resolution of air-naval combat where air superiority is the critical variable. The second tier of the system covers ground combat, where air power, naval bombardment, and armor give critical support. The culmination of both tiers results in one side prevailing in battle.
The key variable in determining strategic victory is the level of U.S. political will. The Japanese win the game by forcing the U.S. into a negotiated peace, which was not achieved historically. The delivery of the A-bomb on its historical schedule is not a guarantee, often necessitating Operation Olympic and the invasion of Japan. It is often in its darkest hour that the Japanese find victory in EOTS.
EOTS scenarios were designed with the busy enthusiast, hardcore grognard, and competitive tournament player in mind. EOTS was designed to be played in yearly scenarios (1942, 1943, and 1944) of three turns each that play in under two hours. These key snapshots of the war are stand-alone complete gaming experiences that allow for a quick afternoon run through or a tournament round. Each of the yearly scenarios can be played to the conclusion of a later chronological scenario (start in 1942 and play to the end of 1943 or 1944; 6 and 9 turns respectively). Lastly, the Campaign game is there to allow the player to experience the entire war in one long gaming session with either a 1941 (Pearl Harbor), or 1942 start. The scenario design lets you tune your EOTS experience to your available time and interest level.
If you are someone who is a fan of CDGs, EOTS takes the genre into a familiar, but new direction. If you are a fan of classic hexagon wargames, this game has all of the features that brought you to this hobby in the first place, but with a new level of excitement and replayability. The game is comprehensive, but easy to learn. Peter Perla, well known game designer and reviewer had this to say in a post World Boardgame Championship comment on Consimworld:
"What impressed me most was the fact that he (Mark Herman) was able to explain how to play the operational portion of the game in about 10 minutes. This system is so clean it's scary. Of course, then you have that devil of a strategic problem to deal with, the old "Now what do I do?" effect. This looks like another brilliant design and must- have game for anyone with interest in strategy, the Pacific war, or simply fine games." -- Peter Perla --
- One map
- One and one half counter sheets
- Three decks with 165 playing cards
- Rule Book
- Play Book- Two full color player aid cards
- One ten-sided die