Daily Archives: April 20, 2011

Combat Mission Returns to Normandy

Almost 11 years ago I was at the web site of a small studio called Battlefront.com.

I was there because a game I was playing quite a bit, TacOps, had just landed at Battlefront.com as its third publisher and I followed along to get the 3.0 version of the game and to see if Major Holdridge, the creator of TacOps, was ever going to get to Panzers East, the planned conversion of TacOps to a WWII setting.

Panzers East never went anywhere as the bulk of Major Holdridge’s revenue seemed to be coming from the military (US, Canadian, and others) licensing TacOps as a training tool, which required him to update units and keep things tuned to their needs.

But on the site was another game, a tactical combat simulation set in WWII,  Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord.

I didn’t buy it.

While it had some interesting features, the fact that it was in 3D seemed a little bit of a gimmick (Little square unit markers, cardboard or virtual, had been good enough for me for the last 25 years!), the models themselves looked a bit crude, and while reviews were generally very positive, there were some mild criticisms of certain aspects being more game-like than simulation.  A grievous sin, that!

But mostly I did not grab a copy because growing up in the US, I was weary of what we tend to view over here as the key events of the war.

Being a history buff growing up, I came to the opinion that the general  US view of WWII seemed to be that it consisted of 6 key military events, with some connecting details in between.

  • Pearl Harbor
  • Midway
  • D-Day
  • The Battle of the Bulge
  • Iwo Jima (But only up to the point of raising the flag on Mt. Surabachi.)
  • The atomic bombing of Japan

Occasionally there is a mention of some other military clash, and sometimes an ally gets acknowledged, but those are, in my opinion, the big six.

(I deleted a long digression into this subject and will just say that the US is hardly unique in this regard. Every nation focuses on their own contributions to the war, a subject covered well enough by this book.)

And because of this, I have generally had my fill when it comes to these events, no matter how significant they really were, and I tend to avoid things associated with them unless they come highly recommended or promise some new insight beyond the common retelling.  A war game that mentioned the D-Day landings (operation Overlord) was a red flag.

Fortunately for me, the next installment in the Combat Mission series focused on the Eastern Front.  Titled Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin, that I had to have.  The war on the Eastern Front tends to be ignored here and, as such, tends to be one of my favorite subjects of study.  And then I was hooked.

There were quite a few patches for the game initially, as they tuned it, but they game eventually settled down was quite a brilliant title.  The criticisms against Beyond Overlord, such as infantry being willing to wander the battlefield regardless of risk or casualties, were addressed.  In fact, the forums had complaints from Beyond Overlord players about how infantry units would no longer press home attacks over open ground against entrenched machine guns.

I played Barbarossa to Berlin to death.

The follow on game, Combat Mission: Afrika Corps, incorporated the fixes and lessons from the past two games and refined things a bit further.  Combining the Desert War and the Italian Campaign, it let me pit the US, British, and other allies against the Germans and Italians in another less covered theater of operations.

Then, in 2007, Battlefront.com shifted to the modern theater of operations with Combat Mission: Shock Force.

It was an excellent game.  The graphics were upgraded and, in addition to the simultaneous turn based “both sides give their orders then the game runs and resolves the combat” mechanic of the past games, it also introduced real-time commands.  In that version of the game, the clock keeps running and you have to provide orders to your troops in real time.  Shock Force is probably the most realistic RTS game I have ever played. (It is a shame that it only works when you play against the AI.)

However, the theater of operations, a theoretical US invasion of Syria, wasn’t a big thrill for me.  And while I get it out to play once in a while (yet another game Raptr won’t track), I never felt the need to get the follow on expansion that added US Marine and British forces to the game.

But Battlefront.com finally seems to be poised to jump Combat Mission back into WWII.  While it has been bounced around the forums for some time, the official name of the game was announced back in December, beta has been going on for a while now, and pre-orders for the game, Combat Mission: Battle for Normandy, are now available.

All that they have learned and upgraded with Combat Mission: Shock Force has been applied to the new game.

This time around I will give the D-Day setting the benefit of the doubt.

My pre-order is in.

Now if they’ll just get the game finished so I can play.

[Addendum: You can now read the game manual online while you wait for the game to ship.]