Victory in the Pacific — Map Making

Victory in the Pacific is a simple strategic game covering the Pacific was 1939–1945. Another way of saying simple might be ‘dicey’, or ‘bucket of dice’, because there are a lot of dice used in a single game of Victory in the Pacific (think Risk).

So why am I playing this and why, based on the title above, am I making maps for it? Good Question. Desipte being a relatively simple game from another time (originally published in 1977) Victory in the Pacific stands as a great example of the Punch/Counterpunch gameplay wargamers love so much. What this means is the first part of the game is the aggressor (Japan) pushing as far as they can to grab as many Victory Points as they can, because the second portion of the game is the great measured retreat in the face of an ever strengthening opponent. Each turn of Victory in the Pacific is a dance of applying pressure in such a way as to make the opponents choices difficult. Never able to do what they want, forced in to making sacrifices here to make gains there, or make the riskier decision to try and have it all (and usually failing).

So hopefully that gave you a sense of why people are still playing this game 40 years later, when we now live with a constant stream of great games.

Okay so why am I making my own version of the map? First, let me show you the map the game comes with.

Image from BGG User Original_CorPse ( Link )

Amazing right? Okay good we’re done, nothing to do.

No?

No.

I am far from the only person to try and redesign this map I should say, it is a very common pastime amongst players (current favorite that isn’t mine). The original map is not even printed that well, and the pink and green leave something to be desired.

Although I am far (far .. far .. far) from being any kind of designer, I like to play with maps. I think if there was a path in my life that could have led me to cartography I could have gone down that path. But, no. So now I fiddle with game maps to try and remake them in a way I find enjoyable. Note I’m not saying ‘better’. There is anaesthetic to each game that usually fits the period it was made, and I enjoy them on their merits. But I like to fiddle.

Fiddle 1 — Period Map

Looking at period maps and charts to try and come up with something that fits a 1939–45 vibe. As you can see in the two represerntative images below, we’re looking at a very limited color palette and a distinct contrast between the land masses and the ocean, although you can also see they are inversed in the two images, so there’s no ‘standard’.

Historical Maps of the Pacific Theatre WWII ( Left ) ( Right )

The Result

The 2010 edition

Yes I went a bit overboard with the Outer Glow in Photoshop, I was really trying to stress the difference bewteen Black and White and I should have stopped sooner. Lesson learned (I hope.) This is also why I did a quick follow-up to this version where I made the ocean blue and toned things down a bit.

You can see I tried to maintain a few elements from the original design, the circles and arrows representing major/minor bases, the smoothed and simplified land masses. No more detail than necessary really. Is this better than the original? Only possibly, it is different but I can’t say better.

Blue version of the 2010 map

These maps did get some positive feedback on BoardGameGeek and I was planning on an update the the counters as well to bring them in line with this look, but re-designing counters is a whole other thing and that ground to a halt. After that I left the whole thing alone for a few years as I started moving around, having kids, doing other things. Mostly having no one to play with and so not being motivated to continue.

Fiddle 2 — Modern Map Style

When I say modern I don’t mean Google Earth, although I did use current mapping data as the base. I mean something with a graphic style more in common with games released now. Heads-up this map is for personal-use, so yes I straight-up stole some ideas from other game maps I enjoy; they will be fully credited.

Once again I began with some research on how current games in this theatre were depicting the area. I also decided to use current mapping data to deliver a more detailed/accurate map, I spent a few hours using MapBox to try and find a projection and scale that gave me everything I needed.

Google Maps and Cataclysm

There’s a lot here to process and of course this is only a sampling of the maps I looked at to provide some guidance. What I did know is I would be starting from almost scratch. I think I did open the old file to grab the basic location names and sea zones, but the base map everything worked off of was a saved Mapbox image.

I also made the decision at somepoint that I would be printing this map as a cloth top with rubber bottom playmat from Inked Gaming. This meant the size was going to be square 36"x36" and would require some additional art to fill-up the space. I toyed with moving a few information displays off-map but this left a big blank where China is and it just looked big and empty.

It’s important to remember that this is a map for a game and not a wall. There are some key game elements that need to be represented and clearly, and still be close enough to the original that the map makes sense for players old and new. That’s the main reason, for instance, that I kept the Red/Green color scheme for Major/Minor bases. It’s also why I increased the size of the Sea Zone names and their Victory Point Values. At the end of every turn each player adds up all the VPs they are controlling and you subtract the high number from the low number to determine which way to move the VP markers.

The Result

The 2017 edition

As you can see from my final map, there is one element very clearly ‘lifted/stolen’ from the map for Fields of Despair (GMT Games). After many attempts to replicate something similar for the border I admit I just gave up, and this is the main reason I don’t make this map available for download.

Playing an actual game on the printed map

The proof is in the pudding as they say and I have actually used this map on a few occasions and it fits very well with the existing components, one of my goals for this version as any plans to re-design the counters is a long way off still. Overall I’m very happy with the result and have no plans for further fiddling on this map in the future, this is enough better than the original that it has become my defacto map for playing.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading!