Today I tried Scenario C.4 The Eagle and the Sun in designers William Terdoslavich and Scott Muldoon’s Cataclysm: A Second World War (GMT Games, 2018). Scenario C.4 is a three-turn scenario covering the Pacific Theater between 1941 and 1946.
I am still learning the game (this was my second scenario play) and it was a bit difficult. The heart of the Cataclysm system is the chit-pull mechanic. How you build your chit-pool (Economics) and how you employ Political Actions and Military Actions is truly an art; an art I am not close to mastering yet. I have to admit that the biggest mistake I made was ignoring a Design Note in the scenario:
Design Note: Global War enables Japan to increase commitment to total war while non-belligerent, hint hint.
I read this note and looked at 5.6.5 Global War to see what was being hinted at. Seeing nothing of seeming importance there I shrugged my shoulders and moved on. What every player should do – that I didn’t do until too late – is also look at rule 6.4 Increased Commitment. Here it specifies that, “…if the power is belligerent the effectiveness check is automatically successful.” This is followed by a note:
IMPORTANT: A power may only increase it commitment to total war if it is a belligerent or the game’s war status (5.6.3) is currently Global War.
Ah…now get it! In C.4 Eagle and the Sun all the powers (Japan, UK, US) start at Mobilization. When the first UK Home Front marker is pulled, the Special Rules specifies the UK increases commitment to Total War. When a German offensive marker seeded in the pool is drawn (representing Operation Barbarossa) the war status marker goes to Global War. Now Japan (or even the US) can increase commitment to Total War. I totally missed this rules connection, and as such I failed to raise the commitment levels of Japan and the United States beyond Mobilization in a timely manner.
That does not mean my scenario was a total disaster. Indeed, it was interesting as the UK stretched out from India and ran into the Japanese Empire in Southeast Asia. The Japanese invaded the Dutch East Indies but did not attack the United States. The US, still at Mobilization, was slowly building up forces. If the scenario had gone on for another turn it would of probably been real interesting as an over-extended Japan was going to have to face a three-front war (India-Australia-Pacific) against a (now) rapidly arming US.
So to all you new players of Cataclysm that might be struggling with the rules like I am…don’t give up. There is a very rich game here with simple mechanics that plays quickly. But don’t let simple mechanics fool you; there are many rules connections that cannot be ignored. Cataclysm will take time to master but even when wrong it feels oh-so-right.