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  Combat Mission Final Blitzkrieg and DLC Downfall by Matrix/Slitherine Games  This is the final Combat Mission game in the series, and its ...

Combat Mission Final Blitzkrieg and DLC Downfall by Matrix/Slitherine Games Combat Mission Final Blitzkrieg and DLC Downfall by Matrix/Slitherine Games

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Battle of the Bulge

 Combat Mission Final Blitzkrieg and DLC Downfall


Matrix/Slitherine Games

 This is the final Combat Mission game in the series, and its release will also coincide with the release of a DLC for Final Blitzkrieg. The Combat Mission series is one that has been one of, if not the, best tactical games on the PC for a long time. The different games have spanned the time from World War II to the present. 

 This is what Matrix/Slitherine Games has to say about the dual release:

"Combat Mission Final Blitzkrieg (CMFB) follows the Western Allies through the battles along Germany's border and into the heart of the Reich itself. The game covers the October 1944 through January 1945 timeframe with a focus on the American sector of the Battle of the Bulge.

The Sturmtiger

Combat Mission Final Blitzkrieg allows you to revisit the famous battlefields along the German border, with the wintery Battle of the Bulge as its main focus. It was a time and place where the Wehrmacht was still highly capable at the tactical level, yet fairly evenly matched against the American forces arrayed against it. The mix of harsh weather in an unforgiving rugged environment ensured the fighting was challenging for both sides.

Two expansive campaigns offer two very different experiences. One focuses on American forces pushing into Aachen, the first major German city to fall into Allied hands. The other portrays the famous drive of Kampfgruppe Peiper deep into the American lines. Also included are one training campaign, 25 standalone scenarios, and multitudes of Quick Battle maps that will test your tactical acumen and give you easy access to the full range of weather, terrain, and forces from this period and place in time.

Close-up shot of a German 88


Tactical warfare at battalion and below scale in a true 3D environment

Command individual vehicles, teams, and squads

Expansive simulation of "soft factors" such as Morale, Experience, and Leadership

Innovative systems portraying Fog of War, Spotting, Line of Sight, Command & Control, and Objectives

Unmatched realistic physics, ballistics, and battlefield effects

Fight in a wide range of weather and lighting conditions, all of which realistically impact fighting abilities

Unique hybrid system for RealTime or WeGo (turn based) play

Full featured Editor for maps, scenarios, and campaigns

Quick Battle system sets up deliberate or randomized battles based on player specifications

Single player and head to head play, including Play By Email (PBEM)

The final array of German heavy armor makes its first appearance in Combat Mission

American forces also have much improved armor, including the M36 tank destroyer

Organizational changes in the formations on both sides give even the most experienced CM player new tactical challenges and opportunities

The winter weather and forested terrain set the tactical experience apart from all other CM games

Three Regions within the game help set the mood with Dutch, French, and German accents

Expansive maps with 1m x 1m resolution allow for short and long range action across complex terrain

Buildings have explicitly simulated doors, windows, and floors

Weather and ground condition modelling systems allow for everything from dry sunny days to muddy stormy nights, with visibility and mobility dynamically affected by the conditions. Some Combat Mission games include the full range of Winter, Spring, and Fall weather as well

Line of Sight and Line of Fire are separately calculated, which means sometimes you can see something you can't shoot and sometimes you can shoot at things you can't see

Soldier posture (prone, kneeling, standing) affects everything including spotting, cover, and ability to engage enemies

The way a nation organizes its units has a huge impact on how they perform in combat, therefore great pains are taken to accurately portray formations as they are in real life for a particular point in time

Lighting affects combat in no small way in real life as well as in the game. The correct lighting conditions are simulated based on time of day, time of year, and weather."

Allied Forces 

 They are also having a sale right now on the other Combat Mission games:

The Matrix team is thrilled to inform you that this week, from January 15th to January 22nd, our entire franchise Combat Mission will be participating in the Midweek Madness Sale, off up to 50%. For example, you can now find Fortress Italy, Shock Force 2 or Battle for Normandy at half price.

Matrix/Slitherine Games:

Welcome to Matrix Games

Combat Mission sale:

Games on Sale - Matrix Games

A Time for Trumpets   The Battle of the Bulge, December 1944 by GMT Games  'Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein' (Operation Watch on the Rhin...

A Time for Trumpets: The Battle of the Bulge, December 1944 by GMT Games A Time for Trumpets: The Battle of the Bulge, December 1944 by GMT Games

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Battle of the Bulge

A Time for Trumpets

 The Battle of the Bulge, December 1944


GMT Games

 'Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein' (Operation Watch on the Rhine), or the 'Ardennenoffensive' (Ardennes offensive) it is called in German. The Ardennes Counteroffensive is the official Allied military name. Please do not call it the 'Rundstedt Offensive'. He had nothing whatsoever to do with the planning. In fact, his answer when he was asked about the plan after the war was, "If Old Moltke had thought that I had planned that offensive, he would have turned over in his grave." Neither Rundstedt or Model, fanatical Nazi that he was, believed the plan had any merit. Josef 'Sepp' Dietrich (who commanded the 6th Panzer Army during the battle) said of the plan "All I had to do was the cross the river (Meuse), capture Brussels, and then go on to take the port of Antwerp. The snow was waist-deep and there wasn't room to deploy four tanks abreast, let alone six armored divisions. It didn't get light until eight and was dark again at four, and my tanks can't fight at night, and all this at Christmas time!" As a side note, Rundstedt said Dietrich was "decent, but stupid". So why is this battle so much in demand many to so many wargamers? It seems that you could find five to ten different company's versions in each wargamers hoard. Well, this was the largest battle that Americans had ever been in (the English were involved also, but not too deeply). The Allies were completely taken off guard by this attack in an area that was considered 'safe' because of the terrain. The German plan was pretty much thought of in Hitler's mind even as the Allies were dashing across France, and it looked like the war would be over by Christmas. The Allied offensive was hamstrung by the lack of supplies, and came to a halt at the German border. The Germans used their phone lines instead of radio chatter etc. So, the Allies did not have their usual Ultra intercepts or much else to judge German intentions. The offensive took the Allies very much by surprise. The German Army was considered a spent force. The schwerpunkt was supposed to be with the 6th Panzer Army at the top of the Bulge. In actuality the U.S. troops, some of them green, mostly fought the SS to a standstill. The greatest penetration into the Bulge was done by the 5th Panzer Army. I will list out the number of troops and AFV's etc. that have to be modeled in the game. These numbers are from the start of the German attack:

Troops - 229,000
Tanks  - 486
Tank Destroyers & Assault Guns - 499
Other AFV's  - 1,921
Anti-Tank Guns & Artillery - 971
6 Infantry Divisions
2 Armored Divisions
Casualties at the end of the battle - 90,000

Troops - 406,000
Tanks - 557
Tank Destroyers & Assault Guns - 667
Other AFV's - 1,261
Anti-Tank Guns & Artillery - 4.224
13 Infantry Divisions
7 Armored Divisions
Casualties at the end of the battle - 98,000

So, GMT has brought this battle once more to the wargamers' table. Let us see what we get. This is what comes in the weighty box:

5 full size game maps (65"x48" total playing area)
12 counter sheets (2304 playing pieces)
1 Rules Book
1 Scenario Book
1 Play Aid Manual
Four 11"x17" player aid cards
Five 8.5"x11" player aid cards
2 dice

 This is GMT Games information on the game from the Rules Book:

"A Time for Trumpets (or ATfT) is a one to five player game depicting Germany’s last offensive in 1944 known as the “Battle of the Bulge.” The Campaign Game includes the period from 16 to 26 December when the Germans had to achieve decisive results.
Game Scale
Each game-turn represents approximately 6 hours of real time.
Each map hex represents a distance of 1 mile across and an area of
about one square mile. The units consist primarily of battalions and
companies plus a minimal number of other sized units.
The Map
The map shows the Ardennes including portions of Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, and France where the Battle of the Bulge was fought. The map illustrates the most prominent terrain features of this region. A grid of numbered hexagons (hexes) has been superimposed on the map as a means of regulating the movement and positioning of the playing pieces. Also located on the map is a Game Turn Record Track, Off-Board Movement Areas, German Bridge Holding Boxes and depictions of the Terrain Features."

 The map scale is at one mile per hex. The 65"x48" size makes it a monster, but a monster that has a lot of scenarios that only use one, two, or three of the five maps. The maps are not rehashed ones and have been completely reworked and checked and rechecked against wartime topographical maps. The colors are nicely done, and it is easy to see what terrain is in each hex. The twelve counter sheets (my thoughts are with the grognards that are compelled to clip counters) are very well done and use the typical green for U.S. troops, Grey for the German Army, and Black for the Waffen SS etc.
The counters are larger than you would think for such a big game, and are easily identified. As with any 'monster' game there will be a large amount of counters on the map. The Rules Book is as large as one would expect with such a game. It is sixty-four pages long, including the index. It is in full color and looks like other GMT Games Rules Books. At the end of it are some examples of play. The Scenario Book is sixty pages long. Pages thirty-three to forty-nine have on one side the German and Allied setups for the different parts of the map. Unless I am miscounting there are 13 scenarios in total (they will be below). Each scenario seems to build on the other as far as sticking your toe into this deep pond. The Play-Aid Book is forty-eight pages long. It is filled with full color Reinforcement Charts, Area of Operations, and setups for the End Game Scenarios. The three books are made up of paper pages with no lamination. I assume the cost would have been prohibitive. There are a total of nine Play-Aid cards. These are made of thin cardboard and do have some lamination on them. One has the Allied and German chains of command. Four of them are one-sided and have the German Artillery Park information for each corps. If you want to see a grognard's eyes light up just open up the box in front of him.

These are the scenarios, with maps:

7th Army Scenarios - 3 - 2 maps
6th Panzer Army Scenarios - 2 - 1 map
5th Panzer Army Scenarios - 2 - 3 maps
Campaign Game 
End Game Scenarios:
3 - 1 map
1 - 2 maps
1 - 3 maps

 So, the main point I want to get across is that this game type is as hard to find as a rare gemstone. It is a playable monster game. There are Advanced and Optional rules that bring more chrome or make it easier on the player. Let us look at the game's RuleBook:

"There are three types of rules: Basic, Advanced and Optional. If a
rule is not identified as Advanced, then the rule is Basic. The Advanced rules impart significant, historical facets to the game; they
are intended to loosely drive the progress of the game by interjecting
intelligence as it was known in 1944. By mutual consent, players
should add advanced rules as they become familiar with the basic
system. During the extensive playtesting of the game, the advanced
rules were usually used. Optional rules are provided simply to facilitate ease of play—they are found in rule sections as applicable."

 The game's pedigree goes right back to the earlier days of wargaming. The designer Bruno Sinigaglio was involved with three of the greatest wargaming titles: Battle of the Bulge, Siege of Jerusalem, and Bitter Woods. A Time for Trumpets is an opus that he has been designing for more than forty years. The only thing you can really say derogatory about the game is its sheer size. To set up the maps alone you need a space roughly 6'x4'. When you add in the extra space needed for the Player-Aids etc. it is a sizable area. The beauty of the system and the scenarios is that there are enough scenarios that only use one, two, and three maps. Players will be able to learn and play with any setup they have now in their house. Then if you wanted to, you could join in at a group play at a convention etc. if you wanted to (whenever they happen again).  

 One of the biggest pieces of the game rules is command and control. The Area of Operations rules for the allies ensures that they cannot just willy-nilly advance across the map, and overwhelm the Germans. All of the different Areas of Operations makes it so if an Allied force moves into another Area of Operation it is immediately out of command. The Germans are similarly stopped from bunching together in a large mass. The Allies were incredibly worried about Liege. This city was the linchpin of the Allies' long tenuous supply line. In the Campaign game if the Germans occupy any of the six Liege hexes they win a Substantial Victory. In most of the other scenarios the Germans must occupy different key points on the map. If at any time a German Tactical Victory in the Campaign game happens, a German AFV enters a hex across the Meuse River from Givet to Liege City. If this happens the Scenario Book remarks "The German player should heed Field Marshall Models's words and "get down on his hands and knees and thank God." You can see by that that the German player has to have all the die rolls and luck on his side. The Allied Victory Conditions are to stop the German from getting to any of his Victory Points. This game has everything in it that you want in a game. Some examples are:

Bridge and Combat engineers
Anti-Tank and Heavy Tank Units
Motorized Infantry
Tactical Aircraft
Strategic bombing
Improved positions
Bridge Demolition (The Allies best friend)
Artillery of all kind

I am very grateful to GMT Games for allowing me to review this game. I was tentative at first because of its depth and size. However, the design of the scenarios makes it very easy for a grognard to play out bits of it before trying to swallow the whole game at once. The other point I made, but need to stress, is that this is a playable monster. This is not a game that will sit on your shelf and you will look longingly at it for years before it gets bequeathed to an unsuspecting child or spouse. The game is fine to play solitaire also (very few games are not) for one of us mostly lone gamers. The price for some maybe a sticking point. However, we are now used to paying 2/3 of the cost for A Time for Trumpets for games that do not give you anywhere near the actual components, let alone game play. I was very ambivalent in the past about Battle of the Bulge games. I am not anymore.


Thank you to Marty Sample and Tom Stearns from BGG, for the use of their pictures.

GMT Games:

A Time for Trumpets:

Drive on Moscow  What is it about the 'Barbarossa bug'? Wargamers seem to have an itch that can never be scratched when it comes...

Drive on Moscow PC Game Review Drive on Moscow PC Game Review

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Battle of the Bulge

Drive on Moscow 

What is it about the 'Barbarossa bug'? Wargamers seem to have an itch that can never be scratched when it comes to simulating moves and battles on the Eastern front in WW2. It seems there is enough on this subject; does the gaming world want to do with yet another battle across the plains and steppes of Russia? Yes, of course! The Eastern Front was and remains the mother of all battles that we have never seen the like since. 

In salutation of that truth, Shenandoah Studio and Slitherine) have demonstrated precisely how to please us. Ted Raicer's Drive on Moscow is a true gem and you are most encouraged to give it more than just a try and it's a good value to boot. 

The studio has arranged game content to be about the exciting and volatile battles of maneuver and counter-attack that occurred during the final thrust to capture Moscow before the end of 1941. Yes, that means the game calendar skips over the initial stages of Barbarossa; nevertheless, players won't mind, because they will keenly experience the critical period from October to December, as the Germans recognized the urgency of defeating their foe before the depths of harsh winter arrive. On the other hand, the Russians thought they had a breather and hadn't expected a late season attack at their heart of the nation; thus, they are disorganized and unprepared for battle in the beginning. 
The Germans have some decisions to make; they can't do it all
Massive initial attacks allow panzers to flow forward blazing; the landsers mop up thousands of isolated troops as they struggle to keep up with mechanized elements. Russian cavalry will nip at German supply lines. Indeed, over-extended German forces will run out of fuel and can immobilize at the worst time. A diminished Luftwaffe will still pin down Russian troops who can only find time to regroup when the Rasputitsa arrives, slowing the Wehrmacht to a crawl. But frosty weather is around the corner, allowing the Germans one final push through the forests surrounding Moscow! Then they better dig in, because with the deeps snow come the Siberians and Russian tank corps. 

The experience of Drive on Moscow is truly engaging and the flavor of each campaign varies sufficiently from playing to playing. The AI is robust enough to be frustrating in early attempts,  and other reviews have praised the PvP element.


The author had to struggle through some personal biases while working on this review. I've a grognard attitude about board wargames but a casual attitude about computerized variety. What that means to me is that, for the latter, I don't have a need to look under the hood for underlying combat charts, realism rational movement tables, supply rules and so forth. All of us know these make a wargame distinct from other games, but I figure I've done enough mastery of tomes like the Advanced Squad Leader rule book for board games -- let the computer handle that stuff. 

I find it necessary to share my biases to help the reader understand how and why I approached this review with some trepidation, exacerbating the fact that this is my first review for A Wargamer's Needful Things. So, let me get the negatives and biases off my chest; I'm sure some will recognize them within themselves, too. 

First, the author doesn't care for area movement in wargames. Hexes, give me hexes; I grew up on hexes and eat them for breakfast. I'm talking about Avalon Hill's  Battle of the Bulge, Afrika Korps, Panzerblitz and the like, produced in 60s and 70s. Truth be told, this is exactly why I didn't go for Shenandoah's  Battle of the Bulge when it came out last year (2015). I'll be purchasing that game now, you take it to the bank! 
hmm the areas of battle do not look digestible, Sir!
Next, the impulse movement system felt strange at first. I grew up on IGO-UGO. But in this, players activate units in one area, moving/attacking into different area(s) and/or staying inside the one they start in. Once that area is activated, it's done, and so are any units that didn't (or forgot) to move. Now, there are many latter-era wargames that use this method, but I'd never felt comfortable about them (e.g. Breakout: Normandy).

move these guys, too! (Unless you want them to camp for a few days).
Finally, we all know rough terrain is going to have an adverse effect on combat, but in this game it's abstracted by being forced to blow up the cities or trees before inflicting damage.  It's an okay mechanism as far as the outcomes, but I'm used to 'defense is doubled' or 'column shifts' for this sort of effect. However, for the casual gamer, it's just fine as far as simulating results, but my grognardish left-handed brain didn't want to wrap around this notion right away.  
see how the exploding pop-up highlights and animates each combat

Learning the Game

Shenandoah does a very good job making it easy to learn the game while providing a design that is not-so-easy to master. That's exactly what a casual player is looking for. Grognards who want to check out the systems and rationales can find them easily in the manual, so they can get that 'yep this is a wargame' feeling. 
You want charts? You got charts!

Not only does the game come with a comprehensive and eye-pleasing on-line manual, but the in-game main menu allows options for a step-by-step tutorial or a basics of play summary (for those who don't want to read manuals nor suffer the pace of tutorials). Gameplay effects of rules interactions are not described in entirety, which is a good thing, because it makes the game harder to master.

During most calendar turns, players alternate impulses that can vary in length from 0-18 hours, depending on the weather. This time variability is a huge factor affecting outcomes in different replays of the same campaign.

better fix this one, methinks! 
Note: impulses are confusingly called turns during gameplay, which is absolutely not helpful in learning the game, even if the manual gets it right. 

Calendar turns during 'offensive' weather last for 72 hours and 120 hours in 'nasty' weather. This does seem counter-intuitive until one realizes that movement in bad weather is often significantly restricted, particularly for the Germans. 

It should be mentioned that the online manual is comprehensive and  easy to read and includes tips of play. 

User Interface 

The UI is very easy to use and highly informative about game play and events. It's better than many I have seen out there and is especially kind to the eyes of older gamers. However, there are a couple of minor design factors that may need to be addressed.

First, I would have to say that an aesthetically appealing and informative interface is just fine, but the menu screen is overly large. For example, when you hit the 'supply' option on the menu, you'll be forced to drag the map around to see what's underneath. Making this menu smaller in size would render this unnecessary. We've all seen these PC games with miniaturized heads-up displays causing bloodshot and eye-strained squinting... but... I really don't need to see this UI from across the room.
Get used to moving your map around to see under the overlarge interface
The other minor gripe with the UI is this small panel in the corner. As you can see, this includes the the redo button (top) and the menu button (bottom). Yes, the redo button is fantastic and essential because you can test all your moves to get an idea of success probabilities -- an absolute necessity to have at your fingertips. Likewise the menu button. Unfortunately, the designers have inexplicably made it impossible to minimize or turn off this panel. As a result, it's often blocking units/areas hidden underneath, particularly the top left zone of the map.
This UI can't be minimized and is glued opaquely over the map corner.
The get-around is to play with the zoom until you can see the units underneath.
The last glitch (not pictured) with UI involves not being able to see all the zones on the left side of the map when applying reinforcements or air interdiction. That's very annoying if you want to do something over there in either of those phases. It's possible to manipulate visibility, I think, by zooming in and out, varying the resolution or changing from windowed to full-screen, but that shouldn't be necessary to manipulate.


The graphics of the maps, units and animations are quite pleasing. The map changes in hue and color for different weather conditions such as clear, mud, frost and snow. Battle animations create tension; it's very well-designed. I can use 640 x 480 up to 1920 x 1080 resolutions. 
A satisfying destruction!

AI Effectiveness

One of the reasons I play more computer games is that gamers in SE England seem to love all sorts of miniatures games rather than my favorite board games. Solitaire is okay, but not great for some games at all. Computer games with good AI are a substitute for real-life competition. However, we all know that many games come with atrocious AI. Honestly, Stephen Hawking can say what he wants about robots taking over, but I don't see that happening with some of the AI evident in these computer games. 

Drive on Moscow's AI is very adequate to learn the game and to get up to speed on how the various play elements work together. It took me a while to realize that the AI likes to nip at supply lines; keeping them open makes all the difference in (especially the German) offensives. 

AI Zhukov tries to cut the lines. Note the cav unit pinned down by air interdiction (outline in blue).

Key points to keep in mind when playing the AI (or a human counterpart):

1) As previously mentioned, once an area is activated, all units within are considered to have activated. Use them or you'll lose them for the calendar turn. Trust me, you'll want that firepower as far forward as possible and the AI will know you left them behind.

2) Cut off supplies. Being out of supply puts enemy units dead in the water and unable to defend as time goes on. The AI is somewhat spotty about securing supply lines as time goes on. 

3) Players can activate units in the rear to reinforce an existing battle; doing so will also activate any units in that area that are yet to be activated. This is a good way to keep up the momentum as units get strung out making sure supply lines are safe. The AI taught me this trick. After I kept losing Operation Typhoon to Konev, I watched the AI play as Halder, and learned alot. 

4) The Germans do need to make a robust try at Kursk and Voronezh by calendar turn three. Keep in mind that the German flank on the south is 100% secure once these are taken (unlike the northern sector). Seizing these two cities prevents the Russians from placing reinforcements in them. It will feel like your Panzer corps are floating in outer space up there, but the AI has no good way of taking these cities back. Kursk is a must, and Voronezh is not far behind because of the +1 VP you get per turn. You won't get Bryansk as quickly, but the security you'll get in the south is worth it. 
Turn 2 Breakthrough at Kursk

Post- Kursk Exploitation
Finally, by using the Turn 3 prepared offensive, Voronezh falls.
This is necessary because the Russians will reinforce the city
if the offensive is not used. Note Orel, to the Northwest, still needs to
be taken but the Russians are too busy elsewhere to defend it at the moment. 

5) Look for chances to take Moscow, especially during your October offensive.  Often the AI under-defends the capital.  if you can make a breakthrough, you can march into the city for an instant win! 

 Gameplay Excitement

You'll have fun with this, especially for casual players. You'll know the nuts and bolts of the game are sound. You'll cheer with joy at crushing wins and moan when the dice fail you in defeat. Sometimes the panzers will roll over hill and dale, crushing Russians left and right on the fast track to Moscow. German tank commanders will especially enjoy blowing holes with the free offensives on turns 1-3 and 11. 

But watch out! Suddenly the AI will order a Militia unit into the open and somehow it will shoot your Panzer corps right up and into the dead pool (say what?!). Nothing is certain, just probable. Watch out for those Russian cavalry units, they are tough. And yes, the Germans cannot afford elimination -- each unit counts as a VP for mother Russia. 

You'll probably start as the German player because who doesn't want to do that, right? But hear me, you'll want to play the Russians very quickly; the AI will show you tactics needed to be successful in the game (especially for Operation Typhoon, which is hard enough to win as the Germans). Don't be daunted if it seems like Typhoon is impossible for the Axis. It's not -- but it will take a few tries! The Voronezh gambit is finally what put me over the top.

But the game on full campaign mode seems more satisfying. Truth be told, I didn't try the two 'middle' scenarios before writing this review. I'm sure they are worth a shot, too.

This badge on Steam is not so easy to get.

In conclusion, casual players are likely to be more than satisfied and happy with this game. The technical backbone has enough crunch to satisfy grognards too, although those who are looking for deep detailed game structure will probably pass. I've yet to try PvP but other reviewers find it quite satisfying. I know a guy who loves area board games -- I'll see if he wants to give it a go. Enjoy! Marc Hanna.

Combat Mission and me, a love story? What is Combat Mission ? A WEGO/Real-time tactical masterpiece. Combat Mission (in one ...

Combat Mission Final Blitzkrieg Review Combat Mission Final Blitzkrieg Review

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Battle of the Bulge

Combat Mission and me, a love story?

What is Combat Mission ? A WEGO/Real-time tactical masterpiece.
Combat Mission (in one form or another) and I go back a long way,  back to when Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord was the new kid on the block. A time when us wargamers looked on in awe at this tactical masterpiece, a true game-changer had just announced itself, and we rejoiced. I remember like it was yesterday, picking up the box at Game in Liverpool...aaahh good times.

Then suddenly, (well it felt like a little time between CMBO and CMBB) Battlefront released a magnum opus. Combat Mission Barbarossa to Berlin or CMBB is it came to be known. No tactical wargame before or since has contained anywhere near the amount of content the new CM game had. The whole of the East Front from start to finish, including minor nations. Pure bliss. Plus, it kept all of the features that made CMBO  good like WEGO and Combat Mission's innovative new way of doing turns. Out went the old IGOUGO way of doing turns that had carried over from board wargames. Now, we still had turns that took one minute of game time, but your moves played out simultaneously with the enemy’s, as you had previously plotted your moves and then, when finished, you watched the action unfold. This also added loads of tension and excitement to the game. 

Additionally, being able to rewind the turn as often as you liked, meant you never missed any of the action. So CMBB gathered a huge following and multitudes of Mod support. Later, a game set in Africa\Italy was released. This would be the CMx1 swan song.  Battlefront had bigger more ambitious plans, esp. as technology had moved far along enough for their dreams to be realised (I still remember reading in the CMBB manual on how they'd love to have done visual 1v1 representation). So, what was it that Battlefront had planned for CMx2, what changes would we see, and how will it be received by the now dedicated and hardcore CMBB fans?
There was a before and an after Combat Mission Shock Force

Well, as well documented, things didn't turn out to well when Battlefront released Combat Mission Shock Force. A game set, at the time, in a fictional war-torn Syria (a rather sad prediction of future events). Finally, we had 1v1 soldier representation, but in an unforeseen move, they'd gone with a focus on real-time, relegating WEGO, which, for me, was a seriously wrong move. All interest in the game evaporated and those who enjoy real-time found the game had some serious issues. The outcry was loud and long-and Battlefront listened. WEGO came back gaining its rightful place as a major feature, bugs were hunted down, gameplay was improved, new features added and eventually three superb modules were released: Marines, British Forces, and finally NATO.

I watched a gameplay video that was made for a competition, liked what I saw, so I then bought CMSF several months after release, when WEGO was back and it was playing well. I also bought the Marines module, as that had just been released. However, it wasn't really until the British Forces module came out that I really fell for the game. For me, that module made CMSF and, from then on, I'd be buying as many CMx2 releases as I could afford and, like many others, started the long wait for the WW2 version to be released. One thing that really benefited the WW2 version was CMSF being released first, with all its teething troubles, so by the time the WW2 version was being developed, it had benefited greatly from all the work done during the course of CMSF and its modules. Even today there is a hardcore group that still haven't gotten over the move from CMx1 to CMx2.
Since the release of CMSF and its modules, we have had the CMx2 engine cover the Western front from the invasion of Normandy until Arnhem, two releases covering  Italy, an East Front release covering '44, another modern era game covering a fictional conflict in the Ukraine (what is it with Battlefront predicting conflicts?), and finally, a third party release covering the Russian conflict in Afghanistan.

Combat Mission Final Blitzkrieg has a multiplayer mode,  4 campaigns, plenty of scenarios and a skirmish mode.
The latest release is Combat Mission Final Blitzkrieg, carrying on from where Combat Mission Beyond Normandy and its Market Garden module finished off. CMFB takes us up to the end of what would be the German’s final large-scale attack in the West, which the Germans called Wacht am Rhein, which later became known as The Battle of the Bulge. It also includes scenarios set in the terrible meat grinder that was the Huertgen Forest, a battle that  wouldn't have looked out of place to a soldier from a generation before. There are also scenarios set during Operation Nordwind, a battle featuring the German 6th SS Mountain Division. Altogether, there are four campaigns which include one training campaign and 25 scenarios. There is also the Quick Battle feature, which I profess to never use, as I only play against the included AI (plus, the Quick Battles really aren't suited to this and are more for multiplayer use). The reason why quick battles aren't suited to single player is that the TAC AI is scripted, which means it doesn't really work that well in Quick Battles. This is one of the downsides of the engine, and a real bug bear for some. That's not to say the Tac AI is useless, when it comes to the scenarios and campaigns, those clever secanario designers end up weaving their magic ,with the result that many of my pixel truppen have come to a terrible demise and the AI march of victorious. I've never found this to be an issue, as there has always been more than enough content for me in the games without ever needing the Quick Battle feature.

The game, as mentioned previously,  is set in the Western Front and covers the border areas of France, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. Each geographical area has its own specific terrain and building types, matching those you'd find in that particular part of the country. Also new to the West Front CMx2 games is snow, which obviously means many vehicles have  an application of whitewash camouflage, for when ground conditions dictate. CMFB consist of over 130 different vehicles, 24 heavy weapons, and 32 infantry weapons.  Forces consist of US Army, German Heer, Waffen SS, and the Luftwaffe (German Para units). Later modules will introduce the British and Canadians as well as take the game right up to the surrender of Germany in the West.
"You'll be punished, and punished quickly..."
As for gameplay, I'd really need another ten pages or so to really do justice to the game and cover as much as possible. I'd say the forums are the best place to go to get a good idea on how the CMx2 games play.  The game can be played both real-time and in WEGO mode. I’d suggest trying WEGO first whilst learning the system. Personally, I always play WEGO but others do prefer real time, but at least we have a choice. Command and Control are very important in a game with units having several ways of communicating with each other.  This then affects, at higher difficulty levels, what each  unit can spot. There is no borg spotting here. CMFB plays like all the other CMx2 engine games, so those who have played the previous ones and enjoyed them will have no regrets buying this. 
For those new to the game,  I suggest downloading the CMFB demo. This is a great way to find out if you like the game enough to then go on and purchase. I do suggest to those who are from a  Men at War or Company of Heroes background, please leave everything you learned playing those at the doorstep. CMx2 engine games are a big step up in realism, and if you play the same way you play those other two games. you'll be punished, and punished quickly. I have a few important tips that will help you keep your pixel rappen alive and that is not to rush, take your time moving your troops, split squads at the start, and don't be afraid to use recon by fire. I'd say go take a look at the excellent AAR's over at the forums that involve Bil Hardenberger. Bil also has a website full of tips on how to perfect your tactical know-how.  There are also some superb Let’s Play videos over at youtube.

Quality, quality, and quality…

As usual, the scenarios and campaigns are of an exceptional standard.  The research that the scenario designers have put in is faultless right across the board. The briefings for each scenario really set the tone and atmosphere of what's to come, as well as set the immediate backdrop to the battle. Try not to skim over them, they add so much to the immersion, as well as contain little snip bits of intel which could really help you over the course of the battle.  The maps are being praised by all who own the game, many saying they are the best yet, and that really is saying something, as there are lots of outstanding maps which you'll find in all games in the series. The game definitely succeeds in portraying the harsh winter conditions that swept across Northern Europe during this period. I also like the variety of scenario sizes and how well spread out they are. In a previous game, I found very few  tiny and small scenarios which I really missed as they can be great fun. CMFB doesn't have this problem, all sizes get a decent amount of scenarios.

I'm a CMx2 fan. CMFB hasn't disappointed me at all. I hear some are saying that progress isn't fast enough and improvements between the engines (now at version 3) aren't big enough. Personally, I'm happy with the progress. I'm not sure where these tactical games are that come close to what Battlefront is doing, let alone doing it better which would make CMx2 redundant. So, I'm very grateful we have Battlefront and CMx2, as, without them, my hobby would have a pretty big hole in it with nothing out there to fill it. I'm a tactical wargame scale nut and CMFB is another CMx2 game to have permanent residence on my hard drive. If you enjoyed the previous games, then this is a must buy as well.
Try it ! there is a demo !
Those who are wargamers, and prefer the tactical scale, again I heartily recommend CMFB and all the other games in the series. Wargamers where tactical scale isn't their preference, I still recommend but do suggest trying the demo.

Those who never got over the move from CMx1 to CMx2 aren't going to be swayed by CMFB. Maybe when Battlefront moves on to a new engine, you'll come back into the fold. Here is hoping.Those who have played the previous games and found they weren't for them, then again, CMFB isn't going to change your mind.
Those who haven't played a CMx2 game before, then I say go download the demo. Then you'll know if this series is for you or not. You never know, you could find that game you've been looking for all this time! Or, be turned into a whole new hobby, wargaming!

So, just like a good old love story, my relationship with Combat Mission has had its ups and downs, with even a split along the way. Yes, there are things I'd like to see improved, like soldier animations, for instance, and be able to set SOP's for units. If I had to really think about it, I'm sure I could list several other wants/improvements, but tell me, which game out there couldn't be improved? I have no doubt that different players would suggest different ways in how the game could be improved, yet the games taking pride of  place on my hard drive today are the CMx2 games. That's because they fill a need for tactical wargaming that no other games I've tried, and I've tried many, have managed to fill. Only one has come close, but CMx2 has those killer features for me, WEGO and replay value, which will always relegate other tactical wargames to second place or lower. The CM series is my first true love when it comes to tactical wargaming on the computer and it will take something very special indeed to knock it off my No.1 spot.

We love modders !
One last thing. I have to give a mention to the CMx2 modding scene, which is superb. So many talented players create some amazing mods, that not only transform the visual aspect of the game but also greatly improve the sound effects. The stock game already looks great, however, go download and install those amazing mods and it takes the game to another level altogether. Coupled with modded sound effects, immersion levels increase tenfold. Not only that, there is  a steady flow of user made scenarios and campaigns (many mini masterpieces) that will keep you playing for many years to come.