I love game manuals. I still remember the Homeworld manual fondly. I’ve gotten over the digital revolution and moved on, but I still remember years ago somehow or other ending up with a copy of the original Combat Mission. I don’t remember where exactly I bought it or what the circumstances were, but I remember sitting on my friend’s couch and being absolutely captivated by the game’s manual and its talk of armor thickness and slope, and the 1-minute-of-resolution-at-a-time approach of the command system. I was hooked.
Unfortunately, I never got much beyond the manual of that game. I’m pretty sure I installed it and even poked at it, but I never really understood what I was doing. In previous ages, this has prevented me from experiencing a great many games I ostensibly owned but in fact felt unable to play until I had fully digested the contents of their manuals (Decisive Campaigns: Barbarossa stares accusingly at me from my Steam library).
However, I’ve watched the evolution of the Combat Mission series from afar, and occasionally frowned slightly at the prices demanded and moved on. However, with the recent release of Shock Force 2, I once again felt the CM itch, so I downloaded the demo in an effort to determine whether or not the $60 asking price was worth some of my scarce and hard-earned dollars here on planet Earth, and more importantly some of my even scarcer (and utterly unearned) time. I am not going to take even a glance at the included manual.
And I’m taking you along for the ride.
I opted to play on Iron difficulty, because from reading about it I understand that the only difference between difficulty levels is in realism settings, e.g. sight radii and command delays and so forth, and those sorts of things are catnip to me. I also opted for turn-based rather than real-time. For those who don’t know, this means the game will play out in one-minute increments, after each of which I’ll be permitted to give new orders.
I also decided after some mulling to go for the “Training Scenario”. This tasks you, Blue Team, with taking three objectives from the Red Team, while avoiding damaging a mosque. Time for the mission is one hour.
The game thoughtfully lays out a plan for you: First send a split rifle team and a Stryker forward to scout. Then, assuming a clear path, send the forward observer team to the Observation Post. Next get the UAV into the air to scout for exposed enemy, who can be dealt with by the mortar team. Send “some” forces to the Base of Fire objective to suppress the enemy. This accomplished, send the remainder of your forces down the side road to Assault Route objectives. All this accomplished, assault the urban training range and capture the objectives there.
Sounds simple enough.
Since the 4th Infantry Carrier Vehicle is in front, it (and its little 3rd squad infantry) are going to be the scouts, I guess. The “plan” didn’t say whether I should send my squad and supporting vehicle up the road or through the clearing leading towards the base of fire. I opt to split the difference and send the vehicle down the road and the men through the woods toward the observation post. This should give them some cover in case of contact.
I remember to send up my UAV, too.
The Stryker (4th ICV) appears to have gotten hung up a bit on the terrain at the edge of the woods thanks to poor waypoint placement on my part. The men have just barely made it to the edge of the woods. I don’t see any indication that the UAV is active. I opt to begin moving another Stryker, this one carrying the JTAC team (forward observers) into position. I remember that I was, per the plan, supposed to split my rifle squad into teams. I find a button to do this, but it’s inactive for some reason.
4th ICV moved into position and almost immediately took what appeared to be a heavy hit from the “town,” although I can find no evidence of damage in its unit display. On further review, the shot missed!
4th ICV immediately returns fire.
The Observation Post appears to be empty. I opt to redirect 3rd Squad to the Base of Fire, and make plans to bring up the JTAC team and the machine gun squads. The sniper in my Humvee I’ll send off on his own to see what he can see. I also opt to move 4th ICV out of the way of that big gun.
4th ICV moves off and takes some small arms fire from the woods east of Observation Post but returns no fire. IR optics may have taken some damage. Given this, I opt to put 3rd Squad on the roof of the OP and turn 4th ICV to face the direction the fire came from. JTAC team moves to the 3rd floor. 4th Squad A & B teams (my machine gunners) are ordered to take up positions in the Base of Fire on the edge of the trees.
I hope this is going well.
Last turn I sent 2nd ICV with 1st Squad on board to hit the little clearing north of Assault Route 1, hopefully to secure it. On the way, a significant amount of small arms fire came from the town, so this turn I’m going to call a mortar barrage down on one of the enemy positions thus revealed, using the JTAC team as spotters.
I’ve just now discovered that by selecting the initial spotter team (the sniper) for the UAV mission, I can adjust that mission and send it somewhere more useful, so I send it over the woods east of 4th ICV to see if it can spot who shot at it, then for kicks down to Assault Route 2.
Meanwhile, I send 1st Squad to Assault the Assault Route 1 objective, appropriately enough.
The sound seems to have gone out. The background sounds of battle are still there, looping endlessly, but the sounds of the actual guns and such of my troops have vanished. There was some more hullabaloo between the Base of Fire and the town, and this time 3rd Squad got in on the act. They almost immediately changed targets to the guys in the woods to the east, though, and appear to have taken two fighters out of the action.
I have no idea what happened here:
I have to quit for now, but I’m enjoying myself and will definitely get back to this as soon as I can.