How to Play
The real bread and butter of any wargame is its playability. Wargamers are not FPS players, although there are folks that play both. Wargaming is a slower paced method of play; folks with ADD probably wouldn’t enjoy wargaming. Planning is much more important than execution in most wargames. Go rushing in helter skelter in this game and you will find out.
For those that have never played a Combat Mission game, first, shame on you. Admonishments aside the games essentially play the same. There are some changes over the series over the years but essentially the CM series is the same, if you have played one you should be able to dive into another without a whole lot of problems. This means that CM veterans can probably skip this section.
Most wargames are either turn based or real time strategy. Good examples of both are Steel Panthers (turn based) and Close Combat (real time strategy). Both have their advantages. Turn based games give the most control over an environment and are great for slow relaxing gaming both offline and in PBEM games. The problem is that some people find the boring and unrealistic. RTS games tend to be faster paced and more ‘realistic’ but they can easily become overwhelming when large numbers of troops or formations are needed. The Combat Mission series attempts to bridge the gap between the two genres to create a game that minimizes the weaknesses of both styles while keeping the strengths at the forefront.
In general the Combat Mission series has been very good at this. After setting up your forces (depending on the rules of the game you can often move and place your units prior to kicking off the game) you give your units orders. Orders can range from running from one place to another, sneaking, hiding, engaging, using smoke, moving until you contact the enemy and then attacking, hunting (similar thing but using tanks), firing indirect fire and so on. Each type of unit has things it can and can’t do.
Once you have given your units their orders (and your enemy in online games) the game executes exactly one minute of real time combat. Unlike RTS games, during that time you can’t give any orders to your units. Basically you are helpless to watch as your units either reach and seize their objectives, or become cannon fodder to that unseen 88mm FlaK gun. Once that minute is up you have the chance to change your unit’s orders-if there are any left. This continues until the turns run out or if one side annihilates the other.
I have said before that this is a game that is easy to learn but very hard to master. I know that is cliché but in reality it is true. It is very easy in the beginning to give that Sherman an order to move to blah blah location. The trick is to move units so they don’t get shot up by long range artillery or anti-tank fire. That sixty seconds can seem like an hour as you watch your tanks getting picked off one by one.
This is a down and dirty way of playing. The manual does a pretty good job of getting new armchair Colonels up and running. There are scores of missions that come with the game, you can create a quick mission where the game generates terrain and (optional) units, or you can create your own custom missions with terrain and units you can pick. One of the big draws of the game is the mission editor, which will be discussed a little bit later.