“The game was hide and seek, played over a million square miles of ocean. The losers died.” – Tom Clancy, “Red Storm Rising” (1986)
Command: Modern Air / Naval Operations (hereafter referred to as CMANO) is published by Matrix Games and is the first game developed by WarfareSims Limited. Players are able to take charge of air and naval assets from the post-World War II era on up to the near future at both the tactical and operational scale. The game is limited to solitaire play and comes complete with historical and hypothetical scenarios, as well as an integrated scenario editor.
The promotional video trailer for CMANO is here.
CMANO (version 1.0) is a continuous-time tactical wargame that can be paused or run at time compression rates between 1 second and 30 minutes for every second of real time. Each unit (or platform, in military parlance) depicts an individual satellite, aircraft, ship, submarine, or land facility. Units can be grouped together to form bases, squadrons, task forces, and flights. The user interface and subordinate menu windows and displays are based upon the Windows format and can be re-sized or minimized thereby allowing a modicum of flexibility. Only one map window is available to depict the entire battle area with which players can zoom-in for precise detail or zoom-out for a truly global perspective.
The player is expected to detect, analyze, and classify new contacts on the water, above it, or below the surface. Sensors run the gamut from conventional binoculars, radar, and sonar to Electronic Support Measures (ESM) which detect active radar signals. If the contacts are deemed hostile, he can select a course of action. This could mean an attack with a wide variety of weaponry ranging from machine guns to torpedoes, missiles, and airborne lasers; blind them electronically; or, in accordance with the scenario objectives, he could avoid combat altogether with a detour around the threat.
The factors simulated by the game engine include (but are not limited to) weapons and sensor performance, aerial refueling, weather and visibility conditions, electronic warfare, communications networks, nuclear weapons, and the all-important Fog of War, along with many others. Most commands available to a modern Task Force commander are available within the game. The player makes most of the vital decisions. Is the new radar contact a fisherman innocently setting his nets or an enemy missile boat approaching with malice aforethought?
Scenarios range from small intimate affairs (duels) to mid-sized naval clashes between task groups that cover a few hundred square miles of the North Sea or Gulf of Mexico. Theoretically, scenarios can even cover both sides of the Atlantic. Unfortunately, the limitations of computer processor capabilities usually restrict battles to the tactical and operational scale. Monster-sized scenarios with hundreds of platforms are available for those who wish to push their computational limits.
CMANO game play revolves around the solitary map window where information is reported and orders issued. Units are selected and given orders either from the various pull-down menus or via a limited range of hot keys. Fans of the Harpoon3 (H3) series of games will be happy to know that many CMANO hot keys, functions, and features are similar, if not identical, to the H3 games. In short, H3 players can navigate CMANO with ease. Units can be given precise manual orders such as courses and status of its sensors or, they can be assigned to more generalized Missions that are executed under AI control. This gives the player the choice of micro-management or leadership by objectives.