Combat Mission Shock Force 2 Training Mission AAR


#1

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.

SITUATION:
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.

T: -01:00:00
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.

T: -00:59:00
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.

T: -00:58:00
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.

T: -00:57:00
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.

T: -00:55:00
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.

T: -00:54:00
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.


#2

This is epic.


#3

If you’re taking HE fire without a sound contact, it may be a mortar.

The demos for the CM games are very much worth trying. Black Sea is particularly choice.


#4

NOW WITH EVERYBODY’S FAVORITE IMAGE FORMAT, GIFS!!! They’re kind of low-quality, but the thread wouldn’t display gifvs inline. :-/

T: -00:53:00
Taking stock of my forces before the turn, I see that the sniper is busily sniping at some guys running from one building to another, and Team B took a casualty at some point, thankfully not the machinegunner (I don’t know if guys fill in when a heavy weapons carrier dies).

I decide to start moving the Strykers down the side road like the Plan says I should, except for 4th ICV, which I move a little closer to the woods to see if they can engage the guys there, or see if any are even left. This proves to be a good move, as they open some real fire on the trees. I guess maybe they killed a couple guys? Hard to say.

I finally figured out that Backspace rather the Delete is the key to remove waypoints, hurray. I decide to move 3rd Squad out of the OP and stick them on a Stryker to join in the Assault Route 2 fun. In a couple of turns I’ll see how easy it is to get guys to mount. I decide to have 1st Squad probe towards Assault Route 2. That sure is a lot of possible enemy contacts. In the town!

Oh, a couple of Mosque near misses from the mortar fire I ordered, too. Yikes.

T: -00:52:00
Well, there are guys in those woods near Assault Route 2, apparently. I have 1st Squad call in a Point mortar strike on their supposed position, since I guess Area (what I used in town) is probably too big. Let’s see if it does anything.

I think the guys in the woods east of OP are handled. Not sure what to do with 4th ICV, so I guess I’ll send it all the way around to the west side of the map and let it lay some fire down on the guys on that side of town, via an incredible snaking pathway.

I really like this turn-based format.

T: -00:51:00
1st Squad opened fire a little on the guys in the woods. Or like, one guy in 1st Squad did. Get that soldier a medal. Moving 2nd Squad up to join them. Strykers are starting to pile up over there, with both 2nd and 3rd ICV hanging out, so my genius plan is to have them pop out when the three infantry squads make their move and provide suppressing fire. We’ll see. That’s in the future, though.

Waiting on that mortar barrage.

This whole time my machinegun teams have displayed as “semi-deployed,” and I have no idea what a full deployment would look like. They look pretty deployed to me.

T: -00:50:00
Some hot and heavy action near Assault Route 2.

I like that if you look very hard, you can tell it was the grenade that really did that guy in. Up until then it was just a flesh wound.

UAV is busy, although so far this mission it hasn’t spotted jack shit as far as I can tell, so maybe that’s for the best. Getting soldiers onto the Stryker was pretty easy and intuitive.

Wait, I forgot I can cancel and retask the UAV, but only from the spotter who initially gave it the mission, which seems weird and unintuitive.

T: -00:49:00
As the previous turn’s resolution starts, I hear the mortar barrage begin, but…what? No explosions. Where? Replay the turn a couple of times, looking around all over, when…

…what the fuck, guys.

Christ.

Ok, let’s maybe try again, although I’m now pretty wary of friendly fire since the first barrage was so wildly inaccurate. I’ll see if I can just blanket the Assault Route 2 zone, maybe soften up whoever might be lurking in there. While I wait for the rest of the troops to come up. This time, so there’s no mistake, here is the requested area:

Delivery in three minutes. Ok, time to twiddle my thumbs.

T: -00:47:00
I order 4th ICV to trundle forward a bit to see if it shakes anything loose.

Nope.

Ok, now I’m actually gonna put it right up near the town and see what happens.

Waiting on that mortar barrage.

T: -00:46:00
Hell yeah, here come those mortars.

Wait.

God damn it.

Meanwhile, 4th ICV’s little adventure prompted someone to pop their head out and get it shot at (and hopefully off) by the machinegunners. Ok, gotta stop again. Maybe the exciting conclusion tomorrow???


#5

This whole time my machinegun teams have displayed as “semi-deployed,” and I have no idea what a full deployment would look like

IIRC ‘deploy weapon’ is under the A tab on the UI. It’s necessary for some heavy weapons to fire at all (anti-tank missiles, grenade machine guns) but enables a higher and more accurate weight of fire for MGs.


#6

Good info! Doesn’t count as cheating because it didn’t come from the manual (at least for me).


#7

Wow, those gifs look really bad. Gifv links next time, I guess.


#8

Now with high-quality gifv links instead of low-quality in-thread gifs.

T: -00:45:00
While waiting for the disastrously mistargeted mortar barrage to end, I refaced 4th ICV a little bit, deployed my machineguns (thanks to a tip from @OhBollocks) and decided to move 2nd ICV forward a little bit so it may be able to pressure the town a bit without exposing itself to whatever made that first big shot at 4th ICV way back when.

4th ICV pops smoke and retreats, in the process getting its gunner killed. I no longer have to worry about my mortars missing their targets, because they’re all gone. I decide to send 1st and 2nd Squad hunting towards Assault Route 2, reserving 3rd Squad in case they get into trouble. I also decide to move 1st and 3rd ICV up next to 2nd to put more fire into the town and maybe keep some heads down (the machineguns are helping a lot with this, too, I think).

T: -00:43:00
Assault Route 2 objective taken without fanfare. I decide to use the “TARGET ARMOR ARC” command to see if I can induce a Stryker to fire its ATGM into a building. Let’s find out!

T: -00:42:00
No dice on the ATGM. Someone shot what appears to have been an RPG at 4th ICV, so probably time to get them out of there. The infantry squads encountered some resistance and pulled back a bit. Time to move the Strykers forward and see if they can make anything happen.

T: -00:41:00

Ok, that’s bad.

Also probably not great.

Welp.

Honestly not sure what the best course of action is here. Maybe they won’t have enough AT stuff left to mess with another Stryker if I send it over there. Seems like a solid, A+ plan, I’m gonna try that.

T: -00:40:00
https://i.imgur.com/dB2VQ94.gifv

T: -00:39:00
Things are not going super well, here, all of a sudden. I am pretty much left with moving my three infantry squads in. They are moving up slowly, and maybe they’ll be able to use the burning wreckage as cover! Bright side!

T: -00:36:00
Last turn, I ordered 2nd Squad to pop smoke. This turn, with 1st and 3rd Squads anchoring them, they are going in.

T: -00:35:00
Oh, just taking a stroll.

T: -00:33:00
For some reason, I am unable to make 2nd Squad move Fast. Actually, the only moves available to them are Slow and Move. I split the Squad into A and B team to see if maybe it was the injured guys holding them back, but fully healthy A team can still only give a Combat Amble.

Oh, I’ll bet it’s because they’re Exhausted. Well, suck it up guys. B Team moves in to secure the building, hopefully.

T: -00:32:00
Ok, first floor secured, but taking fire from guys on the ground floor of Obj 1. Moving A team in to the second floor, and getting 1st and 3rd Squad into the action.

T: -00:31:00
One of the A Team guys breaks out a pistol, bless his tiny little electronic heart.

T: -00:30:00
Oh man, all kinds of hell broke loose that turn. 1st Squad took a casualty, but a couple of enemy went down, too. Slowly surrounding OBJ 1, after which I’ll send 2nd Squad in.

Oh, fuck.

Who invited this guy.

Ok, bringing in 2nd ICV.

4th is still alive, way across the map, but I don’t know if it can use its ATGM without a gunner. I suspect not.

T: -00:29:00
Ok, shit. There’s no back door to the building I sent 3rd Squad to, leading to this very untenable situation:

Hopefully 2nd ICV can save their bacon. I don’t feel very good about sending it down that street, but I think sending it around the rear will take too long.

1st Squad, having taken heavy fire and another casualty, retreated to the building it had assaulted from. Probably wise.

T: -00:28:00
2nd ICV took some hits getting into the fight and never did use its missle(s), but, well:

Hell yeah.

Ok, 3rd Squad, back into that building. You, too, 1st. Meanwhile, 2S B Team is going in for OBJ 1.

T: -00:27:00.
Lot of fire coming from the mosque. I thought 2nd ICV was far enough forward to return, but all it did was take hits. 2S B Team took a casualty going in the ground floor of OBJ 1, too and called a retreat.

This is getting ugly.

Ordering the machinegunners to pack it up. They’re going to have to come forward and join the fight in the town. Likewise the sniper, who I’ll try to import via the Humvee. Moving 2nd Squad in on OBJ 3. Dominoes have got to start falling. Pushing 2nd ICV foward a bit to shoot at the mosque. Hopefully it will still be “preserved” afterward.

T: -00:26:00
OBJ 1 is apparently still quite populated.

T: -00:25:00
The luckiest guy in, uh, urban assault course.

Well, elements of 1st Squad have moved into OBJ 3, although the objective has not yet been marked as taken. I’ve gotta quit for now, but I’m gonna see this through to the end.

This is a real shitshow.


#9

Given the ineffectiveness of your mortars, I cants help but wonder if they saved all the accurate ones for missing the mosque.

Also, I’m loving the gifs. It really adds to the story and lets us see it through your eyes


#10

T: -00:24:00
Not much going on. Little sporadic fire from the machineguns towards the town, but otherwise all quiet. Get the sniper moved up and ordered to the 3rd floor of the building occupied by 3rd Squad, and start getting the machineguns packed up in 4th ICV. We’ll see if both teams can fit onboard.

T: -00:23:00
Some guys apparently retreating west, get shot at by 1st Squad to little effect.

Not much is happening, and time is getting short, so I order 2nd ICV back around to the front of OBJ 1 and order 2S A Team into OBJ 1. They’re still at full strength and rested, so they’re the best choice I think. Hoping for a good outcome. They have plenty of overwatch guarding them.

T: -00:22:00
1st Squad have a pretty raucous firefight with the guys heading for the hills, and a little exchange with the 4-story building NE of OBJ 2. Hoping against hope that those guys don’t have any RPGs, I decide to move 2nd ICV up the road a bit to maybe lay some fire on them. Meanwhile, 2S A Team has taken the ground floor of the east building of OBJ 1. Moving them up to the 4th to sweep, but I think that building is probably clear. The west building, I doubt very much is clear.

2S B Team gets ordered to the building at the end of their row, which at one time had hostiles. 4S B Team gets ordered to the place they’re vacating, and A Team to the one next door.

So, machinegun support…hopefully, when I have to move on the next building of OBJ 1, which will be the much-battered 3rd Squad’s job.

T: -00:21:00
2nd Squad pops another three guys trying to escape past the Mosque, apparently.

RIP

Otherwise all quiet. Machinegun teams are in place and ordered to deploy. 2S B Team decides the best way to their objective is over the roof.

3rd Squad gets the order to move on OBJ 1. This is the big one, worth 1,000 points, whereas OBJ 2 and 3 and preserving the mosque are only worth 200 each. Godspeed, 3S.

T: -00:20:00
Starting to wonder if anybody is left in this town. 1st Squad continues pot shotting at guys in the hills. 2S A Team joins in from the 4th floor of OBJ 1. 3rd Squad ambles on over to OBJ 1 and encounters no resistance.

I decide to take a gamble and move 2nd ICV forward to look at OBJ 2 from practically point-blank range, and the machinegun teams to move to the building overlooking it. Not sure if anybody is left in there, but if so…sorry, guys.

T: -00:19:00
2nd ICV appears to be stuck.

Everybody is moving into their positions (well, except 2nd ICV) without incident, so I order 2nd Squad A Team (“the Doorkickers”) to take OBJ 2. Let’s get this over with.

T: -00:16:00
Ok, the Doorkickers secured OBJ 2 without resistance except for the guys in the hills who inflict a casualty. I believe all three objectives are in my hands, and I’m not sure what to do from here except ride out the time limit, so I’m gonna move 2nd ICV around back to lay some fire on those hill guys, as well as move the machineguns into OBJ 2 to give them eyes on them, too. Think we’re about wrapped up here.

END
Nothing much happened from then on. Here’s the situation at the end:

And here’s my evaluation:

And my evaluation of the whole experience was: fun! I didn’t need the manual, pfft. I don’t think I’m going to spring for the full game at this time, but I really enjoyed the turn-based format. I may try to do Tank Warfare: Tunisia (available on sale right now for $7[?!] with all its DLC) next, which has a notoriously impenetrable interface (inherited from Graviteam Tactics: Mius Front), without having a go at the manual or any tutorials first. It’s real-time, though, so I don’t know how many little vignettes I’ll be able to pic up on the fly. Being able to rewind was a real godsend. I guess there’s always the original Combat Mission, which I just grabbed from GOG for $2. Thanks for reading!


#11

Or hell, there’s still a couple missions left in the demo. Maybe I’ll load up the Marines one.