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Command: Desert Storm is the latest DLC pack for WarfareSim's Command: Modern Air Naval Operations (CMANO) which originally came ou...

Command: Desert Storm Command: Desert Storm

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Desert Storm

Command: Desert Storm is the latest DLC pack for WarfareSim's Command: Modern Air Naval Operations (CMANO) which originally came out back in 2013.(How the time flies!). Like other such mission packs for CMANO, Desert Storm can either be purchased as an addition to your CMANO library, or can stand on its own if you have not yet purchased the core game. I'll go ahead and say right now, this is not the best way to dip your toe in the CMANO waters if you have not yet tried the system. Desert Storm is going to appeal far more to the seasoned player by offering an interesting set of 15 large scenarios. If you aren't familiar at all with CMANO, you might want to start with my review of Shifting Sands, one of the previous DLC mission packs, where I wrote about the core game quite a bit. Or just hop on over to YouTube and find some gameplay videos. You'll quickly see the kind of gameplay you're getting here.

What makes the Persian Gulf War interesting enough to justify an entire DLC pack? The original CMANO release even includes a pretty substantial Gulf War scenario, why add on a whole pack of them? I wasn't so sure myself until read through the scenario mission briefings, which provide some great insight into all the different aspects of the campaign. While we can all look back and remember the end of the story, how Western air power absolutely crushed the Iraqi military, at the time no one was quite so sure how it would turn out. The United States had not conducted a military operation anywhere near this scale since Vietnam. The Iraqi's had Soviet aircraft and tanks that were aging but still dangerous, and an army full of veterans from the Iran-Iraq War. Would all the advanced technology of the United States prove itself useful or a waste of money? Well, we know the answer to that. The Gulf War brought conventional warfare into a new age. One in which control of the skies meant complete control of the battlefield. Laser guided bombs dropped from stealth bombers and fighter jets could easily knock out one Iraqi tank after another. Bunker busting bombs could crack open hardened aircraft hangers thought to be impregnable. Iraq's vast network of SAM sites and aircraft radars could be picked apart by highly coordinated coalition aircraft. The entire paradigm of conventional warfare has been changed ever since. Command: Desert Storm gives you a chance to take on the role of mission planner and recreate (well, try your best anyway) the massive success that was achieved.

There are 14 Gulf War scenarios here, most historical, with a few hypotheticals thrown in. There is also a hypothetical 2019 Israel vs Iran scenario thrown in there to offer buyers a little of something different to round out the package. Players may be disappointed to learn that there is not a monster scenario of the entire conflict, nor is this a dynamic campaign or a chronological series of scenarios telling a narrative. These scenarios instead offer a smaller chunks of the conflict, highlighting one interesting aspect of the war in each case. There is a mission for hunting down the SCUD launchers, another for targeting the suspected chemical weapons. There is a mission recreating the "Highway of Death" stage of the battle in which you have control over at least 200 aircraft, I couldn't even count them all. While most of the missions are almost exclusively air campaigns (with a carrier group or two around as a base of operations), there is one mission where you are maneuvering some naval assets around the Strait of Hormuz, highlighting just how strategic that bit of geography can be for all involved and another that features the naval battle of Bubiyan. There's are no ground battles, as you might have hoped from the theater depicted. A few divisions make an appearance, but if you're doing your job right they'll never get a chance to shoot anything.

I found the very first scenario especially interesting in its choice of topic. That is the initial shifting of assets from other places to the Gulf. You might be thinking, how hard could it be to move some units around? Well, it ends up being quite the logistical dance when you are trying to rapidly move dozens of aircraft from all over the globe, even from the US itself, to the Middle East, while the situation on the ground continues to develop. Tankers need to be stationed along the routes, and vulnerable aircraft still need escorts since you don't know when hostilities might break out. The whole time while playing I was imagining how this played out in real life. 

I was also a fan of how some of the hypothetical scenarios can bring Iran into the war. You don't know exactly when or if they will strike, and due to the geography of the gulf you can't avoid getting uncomfortably close to their shores. There are also civilian and Soviet units out there, so you can't just lash out at every sensor contact. It makes for some tense moments, as this uncertainty creates a fog of war even in the age of long range radar. 

Taken all together, the scenarios available here give you a picture of each stage of the war roughly in sequence. The rapid logistical buildup, the first night of bombings, the scramble to take out SCUD launchers and chemical weapons, and the large scale air campaigns which decisively won the war for the coalition. The hypothetical scenarios let you take a stab at many of the what-ifs and offer a greater challenge than the strictly historical pieces.

The Marines are on the way, but will there be anything for them to fight when they get there?

There's not much more to say that wouldn't involve simply describing each of the scenarios. This is a DLC pack that gives you exactly what it says on the box. 15 new scenarios, of high quality, with a mix of hypothetical and historical events.  If you are looking to take a deep dive into the Persian Gulf War, this is the pack for you. $20 will get you many hours of gameplay, as all of the missions are on the bigger, more complex end of the spectrum, some especially so. As I mentioned before, newbies are probably better off grabbing the Northern Inferno pack if they are looking for a taste of what CMANO can offer. For veteran CMANO players just itching for some new scenarios to test their skills on, this is an easy recommendation.

- Joe Beard

Command: Desert Storm is available either directly from Matrix Games/Slitherine or on Steam.