Brigade Combat Team
By Michael K. Robel
After selecting one of several scenarios to play, you have to scroll to the deployment area. Units are grouped together and you merely click and drag them into the game area, marked by standard maneuver graphics. Right clicking before dropping the unit gives you instant access to the line of sight tool (more of which later) to assist you in placing your units. Obstacles (mine fields, wire, and ditching) and fighting positions are also deployed in this manner. After you are satisfied with your set up, you can save the game or save the set-up. The difference between the two is saving the game will deliver the same OPFOR attack every time (to the best of my playing so far) while the set-up allows it to be varied. A saved set up can also be used to speed the set up for Internet play. Pushing "go" disables the set up mode and lets the games begin.
To assist you in set up, an enemy situation template may be displayed, but it does not necessarily portray the enemy's course of action. Vehicles spotted but not identified are portrayed as yellow icons that can be fired upon with artillery but not direct fire (a feature that can be a little frustrating - after all, who else but enemy is going to be coming down your avenue of approach from in front of you in a solitaire game.) During set up you can also deploy mines, barbed wire, anti-tank ditches, and dug in fighting positions, also by just dragging and dropping. (And you haven't lived until you have to breach a minefield under fire.)
Fig. 3. The End of the counter recon battle. Here a forward deployed company has destroyed the OPFOR reconnaissance patrols and the Forward Security Element (black 'X's). Note the yellow "unidentified" icon. Even though we can't identify and kill him with direct fire, you can use artillery fire and he can call for fire on any units he can see.
You are under no requirement to respect the boundaries specified in the game, but if you don't, there will likely not be any enemy to oppose you and then what is the point of playing the game? On the other hand, being able to sneak outside of the boundaries can let you bypass a nasty obstacle or fire sack and continue playing with your force somewhat intact, even if your pride is left in tatters on the battlefield.
Control is via the standard windows conventions from buttons and menus. Right clicking on units brings up short cut menus that enable you to check line of sight, unit information, and issue some orders. In order to help you control the battle there are several outstanding features. First, and perhaps the most important, is a line of sight tool that enables you to see the dead space (the terrain into which your units can not shoot into - an area a non-military coworker of mine calls "live-space") that allows you to place your units where they can get the best field of fire. Beware; because if you can be seen, you can be hit and just when you think you are going to do some serious clock cleaning, you can get waxed. A right click on a unit, then selecting "Info" displays a summary of unit actions and also draws red lines from the selected unit to all enemy units it can see.
To call for artillery fire, you have a series of actions to take. You have to set the ammunition and sheaf (how close together the rounds fall), and then push the "shoot" button. This displays all units that are capable of shooting the desired ammunition. You then select the units, either individually or by group, and then click on the desired target a red dotted line is drawn from the shooter to the target and a cross is placed on the target. To cancel a fire mission, you right click on the cross hairs. A status report shows you how many missions are scheduled and when they will shoot. Rounds from HE to ICM to Smoke to Nukes are supported in game play.
Fig. 4. Drop and drag your units into the sandbox at the NTC to start things off.
Another important feature is the ability to group your units. This allows you to issue one unit a movement order (as well as several others) and then issue it to the whole group. The most useful of these features is march speed - this makes all units in a group move at the speed of the slowest unit. This is useful in attacks so that you don't separate your combined arms team because of differentials.
Another important feature is the time compression. The game normally runs in real time, but can be accelerated to up to 8 times normal speed. On the other side of the coin, you can pause the game to issue orders, just think, or go to the latrine for those tight moments.
Once time is expired or you win the game, you get a screen showing you the start and end strengths of each force. The game rewards careful planning and above all the player must remember to mass the effects of his fires. The game's computer opponent punishes a piecemeal commitment of forces heavily.
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