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Combat Mission
by “Admiral” Nelson Hernandez


At the main menu, you can choose one of dozens of scenarios that come with the game, or you can choose one of the longer “operations.” An operation is a series of battles played out on a larger map over the course of a day or two. There is no campaign game.

Defending this choice in their FAQ, the designers say that the concept of “core units” present in other campaigns for games of this scale (e.g. Steel Panthers and Close Combat) is both unrealistic and prejudicial to play balance, and I agree with them.

A unit of battalion size usually only participated in a few engagements before it was effectively out of the fight. But gamers are not to be daunted, and I saw plans for a “meta-campaign,” featuring a strong role-playing element, on the game’s biggest fan site, CombatHQ( Campaign or no, CM excels at portraying tactical battles and hammering home the lessons of fire and movement.

A wealth of detail

For starters, the game includes an incredible variety of units. The German Wehrmacht (army), Fallschirmjäger (airborne), Gebirgsjäger (mountain), Volksgrenadier / Volkssturm (militia) and Waffen-SS services are portrayed as well as the aforementioned Allied contingents, which themselves have separate units for the airborne forces of the U.S., Britain and Poland.

Over 120 vehicles are modeled with detailed armor ratings; a treadhead’s dream come true. All the equipment is there, from the Mauser 98K rifle to 14-inch naval guns. Assault boats, aircraft, mines and defensive emplacements round out the arsenal.

The scope of the game may seem narrow at first, since it focuses on only one front and less than a year of fighting (against Steel Panthers, which featured every WWII combatant and every front), but its depth is unparalleled.

But CM sets itself in another league with the three-dimensional battlefield. Gone are the artificial constraints of hexes and the limitations of the god’s-eye view present in practically every wargame since Avalon Hill’s Tactics. You can check your line of sight instantly and easily.

You can cover your advance by taking advantage of a small break in the ground, or have your artillery spotter crawl into position at the edge of a wooded hillock. Pull the view back to see your overall dispositions, move in close and see through the eyes of your men. It is a thing of beauty and elegance. It makes you think more like a commander than a gamer.

I had two problems with the views: first, that what you see is not necessarily what your troops can see. A few times I’ve noticed that I could see enemy troops from my own positions, yet the line of sight tool said the view was blocked. The second problem is that there ought to be some kind of OOB tool that lists your units.

It is easy to forget to move a bazooka team stationed in the woods. You can turn unit bases on and display the units in larger-than-realistic proportions to solve this, but it would still be nice to have an overview listing your units and what they were doing. Still, the battlefield is pretty remarkable.


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