February 11, 2011

We Must Tell the Emperor: Can You Help the Red Sun Rise to Victory?


Japan: the land of the rising sun, a nation of proud and industrious people, and the main focus of the game We Must Tell the Emperor, published by Victory Point Games (VPG) in the later half of 2010. In this 7th installment of the States of Siege solitaire series, players must control Japan during the Pacific Theater of World War II, from 1941 to 1945, and protect it on multiple fronts from advancing Allied forces, all while balancing resource consumption.

The first item that must be addressed is that if you are looking for a game that has high quality game pieces, then this game is not for you. VPG is a smaller publisher that has a very aggressive bi-weekly release schedule. Because of this, their games do not have the usual plastic game pieces. This is not to say that VPG releases low quality product; quite the contrary considering. The map, event cards, battle board, and instructions are all printed on a thick paper and the tokens are made of a solid cardboard with a double-sided printing on most pieces. In addition, the artwork and layouts are well-constructed and easy to see.

My biggest complaint about the physical product are the creases in the large paper objects. The map is folded into quarters, creating two creases which cover the board. This causes the map to protrude on the table, and because the game pieces are not weighty, they tend to slide and move if the map is disturbed. In consideration of how the game is produced and shipped, there does not seem to be a solid solution to this issue other than folding it against the creases to flatten it as much as possible, or to produce slightly heavier pieces to hold the map down. The only other issue that I saw with the product was that it contained a minuscule 6-sided dice. This tiny thing would bounce off the table and get lost frequently. The website seems to suggest that this is not a regular part of the package but I would suggest supplying your own dice for this game anyways.

The instruction booklet can feel cumbersome at a first glance; however, as with most VPG games, it is well written and explains the rules clearly enough to begin playing after one read through. It may, however, require an occasional glance or refresher for some of the more obscure encounters. The premise of the game is quite simple; survive through all of the event cards. The execution, on the other hand, is not.

The event cards are based off of historical events and drive the game. They determine the movement of the Allied Fronts, resource consumption, how many actions the player is allowed, and what roll modifiers are in play for that turn. There are three distinct phases to the cards: Early War, Mid War, and Late War. Each phase increases the difficulty, complexity, and intensity of the game. Victory will not come easy.

The player is victorious if they survive through all three event card phases or are able to "knock out" three of the Allied Fronts. It is a loss if an allied force occupies the Japanese Home Islands space or the Army-Navy and the Prestige resource are at their respective 0 boxes at the end of a turn. It is considered an instantaneous defeat if all three resources are at their 0 boxes at any time.


We Must Tell the Emperor does a fantastic job of engaging the player, making them feel invulnerable to start, and then slowly increasing the desperation as their world crumbles around them from multiple sides. With a limited number of actions per turn, the player must evaluate the board and determine the best options to route the enemy, increase their resources, or fortify their islands. Occasionally specific battle event cards, such as the Battle of Midway, are drawn and another layer of option is given to the player. This is where the battle map falls into play. The player consults the battle map for the corresponding battle and must determine if they wish to roll against the battle. The difference between the battle map and the normal allied fronts rolls are that if you roll poorly on a battle, there is loss involved. However, in my experience, these battles are worth rolling on with only a 33% chance of a negative outcome. Also, a roll that is positive for the player usually involves rerouting an allied force that has advanced and has received a significant negative dice roll modifiers applied to them for that turn.

The game is fast paced, easy to play, but difficult to win. If you already know the rules, it only takes about 5 minutes to setup and about 15-20 minutes to play. There are 48 event cards to play through but they go by quickly. I found myself wanting to play through two to three rounds per session and thus far have been unable to pull out a victory. I enjoy this level of difficulty, as a solitaire game should have a significant challenge to it. Because you are not playing against another thinking opponent, the gameplay mechanics need to reflect this. We Must Tell the Emperor is a successful example of this type of gameplay.

If you enjoy war and military history, a solid solitaire game, fast and intense game play with high replayability, and you do not mind less than the highest quality game pieces, then We Must Tell the Emperor is a great match. Personally, this type of game is right up my alley; I give it a 4 out of 5 stars.

At We Must Tell the Emperor

Note: During the writing of this review, Victory Point Games issued a press announcement about the release of an expansion kit for We Must Tell the Emperor. More information about the expansion kit can be found at Victory Point Games website.

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Posted by Critical Gamers Staff at February 11, 2011 8:37 AM

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