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Combat Commander: Battle Pack #5 – The Fall of the West» Forums » Reviews

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Francis K. Lalumiere
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The Combat Commander system is not new to expansions: it has been blessed with enough success to warrant the release of several add-ons. Many consider one of those to be mandatory—Mediterranean, which is really the second half of the system—while the rest of the material is absolutely optional. "More of a good thing," as many a connoisseur would phrase it. Yet some particular modules were bound to stand out from the crowd. Volume IV, a.k.a. The Resistance, made quite a splash when it landed: it was designed as a new faction with its own deck and counters, as well as a unique set of idiosyncrasies. This required wargamers to forego conventional wisdom and open their minds to new ways of approaching the tactical puzzles presented by the game system.
But who knew that just a couple of years later, a simple Battle Pack (a collection of new maps and scenarios) would generate just the same kind of ripple in the pond?

Fall of the West if the fifth Battle Pack, walking in the footsteps of Paratroopers, Stalingrad, Normandy and New Guinea (for the stand-alone game CC: Pacific). The newcomer to the CC family features 10 new maps and 12 new scenarios, much like its predecessors. It requires both CC: Europe and CC: Med for every one of its 12 engagements—not an unusual prerequisite within the system. As expected, it offers tight, nail-biting fights in a variety of tactical situations and terrain configurations.
So what's the big deal with Battle Pack 5? In a word, TANKS.

For years, one of the most common questions about the overall system that designer Chad Jensen had to field was why there were no tanks in Combat Commander. Many considerations led to the exclusion of those awesome machines, but the short answer was that the range and scope of the system precluded that possibility. And frankly, the game handled infantry battles so beautifully—and made each of them such an exciting affair—that rarely would a real fan clamor for armor.
Still, the idea of opening a breach for armored units seemed to entrench itself in the minds of some of the contributors to the CC line, leading to John A. Foley and Bryan Collars sitting down to devise what would be known as the Special Experimental AFV Rules. They make it possible to simulate tanks in some of the opening, tentative engagements of WWII, where armored units hadn't yet been turned into the blitzkrieg machines they would later become.


WAR PRODUCTION

As was the case with previous Battle Packs, Fall of the West is presented as a folder that holds five double-sided maps and six double-sided, letter-sized scenario cards--plus a rules card for the tanks. That's all there is to it. And that's all you need!

(Actual tank counters were printed in issue 26 of C3i Magazine, but those are entirely optional. The Battle Pack contains everything players need to dive into the new fights.)


RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

The only new rules here concern the tanks.
So how about them? Four of the scenarios sport one or more armored fighting vehicles on one side's order of battle. A lone Bren Carrier, a couple of FCM 36, two Panzer III, and a pair of Char B1. Each of those uses an assortment of existing CC components to arrive at an approximation of a tank. The Bren Carrier, for instance, comprises one foxhole (so its “armor” provides a cover of 3), and a leader with a Heavy MG. At the other end of the spectrum, the Panzer III sports a trench, a leader with a Light MG, a weapon team with a Heavy MG, and another weapon team with a Medium Mortar. Plenty to cause serious havoc on the battlefield.

Essentially, a tank with a unbroken, unsuppressed leader can be driven up to four hexes using a Move, Advance or Command Confusion order. Whipping out a Fire order to activate the leader and/or other units within the tank unit allows them to shoot their weapons. (Note that the units themselves do not fire: only their weapons.) If a unit leaves a tank for any reason, it is immediately eliminated and returned to the counter mix, along with its weapon. If a tank finds itself empty, it is taken off the map and bestows a point value (between 3 and 5) upon its opponent. Same thing if its fortification is destroyed.

My favorite new rule? “Only weapons may participate in a Fire Attack targeting a tank’s hex.” Since a tank is worth four figures for stacking purposes, it’s possible to have, say, a team and a leader move into the same hex. And those units would be “protected” by the tank in that only weapons (not units) could target them.

On the map, you can move the stack of appropriate components to represent your tank. Or you can use the aforementioned markers from C3i Magazine, or any other representative piece—say, a coin—and keep the tank components off-board.
(You can also download pretty cool graphics from user Kozure here on BoardgameGeek, and print out both your own tank markers and handy holding boxes for the components.)


FUN FACTOR

There is an initial schoolboy giddiness that inevitably comes with plunking tanks down on the map. When that has died down—if only a little—what’s left is a strong feeling of correctness: this thing just works. Not only does the subsystem create a reasonable simulation of armored fighting vehicles, but it also makes it easy on the players by reusing rules they have already mastered. The weapons behave just the way they always did; the armor is a foxhole that does the very same job (although now it’s a portable foxhole!); and so on. Because of this, integration time is very close to nil: you’ll find yourself checking the rules just to make sure you know how to handle tanks and melees—if that.

And it’s fun! The tanks are a breath of fresh air that’s both balanced and utterly terrorizing. The first time the Bren Carrier showed up on the map was pretty scary—even though it was just a Bren Carrier. Nevermind a Panzer III.
Much like The Resistance, this Battle Pack forces you to reevaluate your game tactics and weigh each decision anew. Should I take a relatively sure shot at this squad… or try to take out a piece of that lumbering tank?


PARTING SHOTS

Forget the tanks for a minute, and you’ll see that each of the 12 scenarios sports a handful of special rules that spin the game around. Scenario 76, for instance, has a lone German Pioneer risking his life (i.e. surviving five turns on the bridge ruins) to repair a bridge and earn control of objective 5—while the British hero (starting the game on the map) can use any action as a hand grenade when attacking alone. Scenario 80 presents a mechanism that might switch the postures of attacker and defender at the end of each Time Advancement. And scenario 82 (in addition to a pair of Panzer III!) features two French 75 mm guns that can pop out of nowhere at the Allied player’s discretion—and a map that affords him virtually unlimited line of sight.

While it would have been nice to see some tank-on-tank action, and even though some of the special rules leave a smattering of situations in the dark as far as resolution goes, Fall of the West is one of my favorite Battle Packs.
I haven’t played all of the scenarios yet, and that’s a good thing. House of fun still lie ahead.
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John Di Ponio
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Warren
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Thanks for the review! I have the battle pack but have not had it hit the table yet. This will give me a bit more of a push to do so.
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Mark Buetow
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Du Quoin
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Move! Advance! Fire! Rout! Recover! Artillery Denied! Artillery Request! Command Confusion...say what?!
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Tanks or not, these are some of the best-written scenarios for Combat Commander that I've played, nearly all of them coming down to a razor thin edge between victory and defeat. I'm on ulcer medicine since playing them... laugh
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Francis K. Lalumiere
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JohnnyD wrote:
Thanks for the review! I have the battle pack but have not had it hit the table yet. This will give me a bit more of a push to do so.

Do it John!
 
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Mark Buetow
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Move! Advance! Fire! Rout! Recover! Artillery Denied! Artillery Request! Command Confusion...say what?!
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weishaupt wrote:

My favorite new rule? “Only weapons may participate in a Fire Attack targeting a tank’s hex.” Since a tank is worth four figures for stacking purposes, it’s possible to have, say, a team and a leader move into the same hex. And those units would be “protected” by the tank in that only weapons (not units) could target them.


Nice! We completely missed not this rule but this great implication of the rule.

The scenarios with tanks certainly bear a bit of replay to work out how to use them...and beat them!
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James
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Tanks for the review. I wasn't sure whether this was worth the equivalent of 40 USD for 'experimental rules' but the tanks and the scenarios sound ace. Great review.
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