The effect always recognizes the in-point as the start of the action (if you don't keyframe the forces and such). Are you sure you are not seeing nothing simply because the simulation part is already over and at the point it has returned to the initial state? Also, do perhaps the first few frames only contain transparent areas so it does not render any visible stuff?
I played around with it and animated the force settings and it's working. but initally, when the effect was first applied, there were no animated key frames.
so it wasn't doing anything (?) there were no key frames in the timeline...
don't understand why, but at least it's working now.
In its default settings, the first force should be active and be centered in the layer, making it explode outward. Maybe you assigned a gradient map or something that made it stick... Anyway, glad it works now for you.