Computer Games

Pacific War, by SSI. This is a BIG game, covering every aspect of the entire Pacific war, and containing every ship, aircraft squadron, and brigade-size or better land unit that fought in the war. In other words, this game is just stupefyingly large. I like it. The graphics (particularly the map) are just god-awful, but as a strategic exercise it is very interesting. Some of the more important aspects of the war really get hammered home as you slog through the campaign week by week, such as "Jeez, American fighers were really bad at the beginning, and you have to wait forever for the Hellcat." (After playing through a couple of these campaigns, I've decided that I'd rather lose Tulagi than lose an Atlanta-class AA cruiser: American flak is just so righteous.) Be prepared for 100-200 hours of game play to get through an entire campaign from Pearl Harbor to Japan's surrender (and a fast computer doesn't hurt, either). You can download the game for free at the Matrix Games website.

Task Force, 1942, by Microprose. A ship-to-ship tactical simulation of the fighting around Guadalcanal, with a strategic engine slapped on top of it. Entertaining in the tactical mode, but the strategic mode is kind of hokey, because it really doesn't encompass enough of the elements of the actual Guadalcanal campaign (plus, it's ludicrously easy to win on either side of the ball). Pet Peeve about this game: ships sustaining any sort of moderate damage in the tactical module are recalled home for repairs and never, ever return. What's the good of a repair yard if you can't get the ships back into the fight sometime? Contains a scenario editor for creating encounters between squadrons of your choosing, which is a good thing (I am particularly fond of the Yamato vs. a single U.S. Fletcher-class. Short, but exciting.) Find out more about the game here.

Silent Service II, by Microprose. The grand daddy of WWII sub simulators, and still a hoot. Nothing quite like the visceral thrill of blowing up a Japanese patrol boat with your deck gun. Find out more about the game here.

Great Naval Battles III, Fury in the Pacific, 1941-44, by SSI. Finaly played it -- very fun! And quite detailed. Find out more about the game here.

Here is a more detailed review by William Miller:

Both of these games are quite fun to play, being similar to Task Force 1942 by Microprose but with MUCH better graphics (SVGA) and computer AI. You can manage a battle at any one of many levels, and switch freely between them:

  1. Task force commander.
  2. Individual ship commander.
  3. Main gunnery fire control officer.
  4. Secondary gunnery fire control officer. E. Torpedo fire control.
  5. Individual turret commander.
  6. Damage control officer.
  7. Air operations commander./li

Almost all of these "positions" allow for a direct view of the battle. You can actually watch the main guns turn and fire on targets, watch the torpedoes being launched and running to the targets, view internal compartmental damage & flooding, and best of all view the splashes of misses on targets and the explosions of hits on them!

As far I can tell, the game engine is fairly accurate as far as damage and it is results go, but it could use a little fine-tuning. It has a very detailed scenario editor, with the ability to adjust torpedo malfunction rates, crew reload rates, gun accuracy and damage, damage control quality, etc. You should save often while building a scenario, however, as it has an occasional bug which will lock it up from time to time.

Both of these games need 8 MB RAM to run (GNBIII says 4 MB, but it runs VERY POORLY on 4MB RAM). I would highly recommend either of these games, for the great visual effects if nothing else.

Carriers at War, by SSG. One of my readers says

It is inconceivable that a homepage dedicated to the IJN makes no mention in its computer games section of SSG's Carriers at War. This is possibly the most realistic computer naval wargame you will ever come across and the realism is all transparent. The game INTERFACE is extremely simple. You can find out a bit more about it at:

Many people dislike this system, claiming that the game tends to run itself with minimal opportunity for player input. Additionally, the system is concerned solely with naval operations. There is no ground combat. Nevertheless, the realism built into the model is unsurpassed and an excellent editor exists to change anything you do not like. It should also be mentioned that SSG's work in artificial intelligence for computer wargames is probably the most advanced in the entertainment software industry.

Recently, SSG has re-released the first volume of the game through Matrixgames in June 2007.

Silent Hunter, by SSI. One of my readers says

Submarines during World War 2 became an important weapon of the combatants. Silent Hunter by SSI is perhaps the best made simulation to date of sub warfare. The game provides single or historical scenarios, along with a campaign game covering the entire Pacific War. All realism settings can be changed by the player to suit his or her own playing style. Also, a sub tour and interviews with William "Bud" Gruner, commander of the U.S.S. Skate during World War II are provided.

Patrol zones range across the whole area of the theater of operations. Nine sub types are yours to command, along with direct or auto control of the deck gun and computer controlled AA guns. Four torpedo types and new technology appear at the appropriate times in the campaign game. In additon to the hunting of enemy ships, photo recon and lifeguard duty are also part of the experience.

As of this writing, I have been through several campaigns and have so far counted 47 seperate ship types. Of that 47, there were 9 carrier types, 5 battleship types, 5 cruiser types, 5 light cruiser types, 10 destroyer types, 2 patrol craft types, 1 sub type, 9 freighter types (cargo to troops) and 1 sampan type. One patrol disk has been released, adding new patrol zones. Another is promised in the near future.

From my perspective as a gamer, the graphics are excellent, the ship types various enough so as not to get boring and the AI smart enough to take appropriate action. The control of the realism settings is a big plus. The patrol disk concept is a good way to add to an already great game. There has been a patch or two released that have made the game one of the most stable I've ever seen. I've played all the others and this game is the only one which has kept my interest. Give it a try, you won't be sorry.

The game requires at least a 486DX/66 or better; with 8 megs ram, a 1 Mb SVGA graphics card, a double speed cd-rom drive and a mouse. On a P90 with 16 megs ram, it runs like a dream. Find out more about the game here.

Uncommon Valor, by Matrix Games and 2by3 Games. This is a review by Andrew Nguyen:

Released in 2002 and with legendary game designer Gary Grigsby as one of the main designers behind it, this game deals with the vicious fighting that took place in the South Pacific from May 1942 to November 1943. It consists of 17 scenarios with several covering the individual battles including the Battle of the Coral Sea, Battle of the Eastern Solomons, and Battle of Santa Cruz. Several others deal with hypothetical scenarios, which focus on an alternate historical timeline in which the Battle of Midway never occurred and therefore the ships that were lost on both sides in that engagement will appear in the game as well. A turn-based game, it deals with the fighting in the South Pacific on land, sea, and air and though it has simple graphics, they are somewhat impressive for a game such as this. In addition to the fighting, the play also has to deal with keeping enough supplies for the troops in the field and keeping the ships is good order (the main bases here in the game is Truk for Japan and Noumea for the Allies). If a ship is heavily damaged, then as the Japanese player it is sent back to Tokyo while as for the American player, the damaged ship is sent back to Pearl Harbor. For those that are familiar some of Grigsby's other games such as Pacific War and Great Naval Battles II and III, while it is similar but much more advanced. An impressive game on the Pacific War, it gives the player a chance to get a sense of what it was like during the Pacific War for both sides.

War in the Pacific, by Matrix Games and 2by3 Games. This is a review by Andrew Nguyen:

Building upon Uncommon Valor, it takes the predecessor and expands it to cover the entire Pacific War with 16 scenarios. Six of the scenarios deal with the local campaigns of the Pacific War while the rest deal with the wider aspects of the Pacific War. It is turn-based and has simple if effective graphics to display the air and sea combat in the game. Although a few of them had maps that covered certain areas of the Pacific, the rest cover the entire Pacific Ocean. One of the new elements added into the game is the issue of production of war material. While the computer controls the Allied production for the Allied side if a player chooses it in the scenario selection, the human player of the Japanese side can control the production of Japanese war material (mainly the long campaigns). It can get overwhelming at times, as one has to decide on what they need more whether it is ships, guns, tanks, planes, and other war material. As for the Allies, while the Americans have relatively no problems (although at a disadvantage at the beginning) the British have to concern themselves with departures of their naval vessels to return to Europe. Also unlike Uncommon Valor, ships that suffer heavy damage have to be observed leaving all the way to home waters (this occurs on the later 10 scenarios of the game). In addition, they have to choose a correct port to get needed repairs as quickly as possible. Like Uncommon Valor, be prepared for a long game play, particularly when playing the campaigns that attempt to depict the entire Pacific War. Considering all of these factors, it is a very impressive game dealing with different aspects of the Pacific War that one needs to know about to gain a full aspect of the war as it had happened in actual history.
War in the Pacific

War in the Pacific: Admiral's Edition, by Matrix Games, 2009. This is a review by Andrew Nguyen:

War in the Pacific: Admiral's Edition is a comprehensive update of the original game with the goal of improving on what they did right while fixing problems that players felt plagued the first game. There is a smaller number of scenarios this time and they mostly deal with the entire war along with three smaller scenarios that mainly deal with the Solomon Islands. Some of the scenarios that deal with the entire war have the option of playing with a quiet China or Japan in a stronger position relative to what happened in reality. There is new animation to display shore bombardment as well as a new screen that display the target side during an air bombardment of land installations according to the combat regions in the Pacific. Since the initial release, additional updates have increased the scenario count to 14. These additional scenarios include two that deal with the Marianas as well as two hypothetical scenarios, one dealing with a battle between the British and the Japanese in 1943 and Operation Olympic. It has new updated graphics in the display of the ships, maps, and planes. The playing style of the game is still mostly the same as in the original edition although there is an overhauled interface that allows for more direct command of the military forces on both sides with more detailed use of issuing orders for the ships, planes, men and bases whether they'd deal with the mundane or with combat. As for the map, it is still the same although it has an upgraded look as well as some additions including locations that represent England as well as the Mediterranean and the eastern United States as well as new weather features. As with the original game, there is a game editor that allows players to make modifications. Most of the updates now for War in the Pacific seem to focus on the Admiral's edition. As it is for the original War in the Pacific, be prepared for a long gameplay that will give an enhanced and expanded understanding of the feeling of being in command during the War in the Pacific.
War in the Pacific: Admiral's Edition


Shipbase III, by Armoursoft. A set of computer-assisted naval miniatures rules, Shipbase's prime virtue is its playability. Every effort has gone into making the game system slick and efficient. Admittedly, detail has been sacrificed along the way, but the result is a game system which can set up and play a scenario very quickly. Ideal for those quick afternoon nap-time games.

Command At Sea: The Rising Sun, by Clash of Arms Games. Designed by Larry Bond, Chris Carlson, and Ed Kettler, Command At Sea is an extremely comprehensive set of WWII naval miniatures rules. If you're a detail freak, then this is the rules set for you. Beautiful counters, too, if you can't afford to sink the bucks into a set of miniatures..

Related Partner Sites: Combined Fleet Message Board | J-Air Forum | WW2 Database | IJN Doctrine | 3-D IJN Warships