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Subject: The Great S&T Play-off! Review! rss

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The Game

Panzerblitz took the hobby by storm in 1970. It was the first tactical boardgame set in World War 2, and its compelling silhouette counters and realistic-seeming complex rules paved the way for tens of thousands of copies to be sold. Shortly thereafter, it's designer, James Dunnigan, decided to write a sequel. It was also supposed to fix some of the simulation inaccuracies Dunnigan felt marred Panzerblitz. The game was published in S&T #32 and depicted platoon/company-level in France after the D-Day invasion (whereas Panzerblitz had used similar rules to depict platoon-level combat in Russia).

The Components


Combat Command used a generic map in the same vein as the other maps of the "Tac" series (including Renaissance of Infantry and Centurion). Panzerblitz, when released by Avalon Hill had geomorphic maps. Each of the several scenarios that come with the game use portions of the map: #1 uses just the southwest corner, #2 uses the whole map, the rest use halves of the map. Each hex covers about .5 miles.

The counters look a lot like Panzerblitz's with symbols for infantry and artillery and silhouettes for vehicles. They are pretty.



The Rules

Combat Command's rules are relatively simple. Units can fire to the limit of their range at the beginning of their turn. Those that do so cannot move that turn. Units that move cannot engage in combat except against units in the hex in which the attacker ends their turn (unlike many tactical games, enemy and friendly units can share a hex). Combat in a hex done by vehicles is called an overrun. Combat in a hex done by infantry is called a close assault and gets a +2 advantage on the odds-based Combat Results Table. All of these three combat phases are done separately. The initial offensive fire phase can be directed against individual enemy units in a stack. Overrun and close assault must be resolved against a stack as a whole.

The CRT results includes destruction (automatic at 6-1 odds, rare elsewise), dispersal (German units can't move or fire for a turn, Americans can't move or fire for the rest of the game, double dispersal (dispersed units eliminated), retreat (units move their full movement allowance from their hex, but they can go anywhere except over an enemy unit; they cannot move the next turn) and retreat/dispersal.

Units on foot move only one hex per turn. Wheeled vehicles move from 8-16. Picking up and dropping off units costs a lot of movement points.

Terrain has a big effect on the game, both on movement and on spotting. If an enemy unit is in woods or a town, you must have a friendly unit in that same hex to see it. That spotting unit allows other units not in that hex to join in an attack. Artillery can shoot as much as 10 hexes away, but any attack over six hexes must be directed by an Observer platoon within six hexes of the target. Infantry can dig in, which gives them a +1 defense against attacks.

There is some rock paper scissors with three types of weapons: High Explosives (great against infantry), Armor Piercing (great against tanks), and Rapid Fire (lousy against tanks).

There are Zones of Control, but their sole function is to give the defender a free shot at units departing from them. They have no effect on movement, nor do they affect supply (there is no supply in this game).

Stacking has a hard limit of six units, and roads can only be used by one vehicle unit at a time. This can lead to awkward traffic jams.

Scenario objectives tend to involve keeping roads clear of enemy units. ZOCs don't count.



Gameplay

I've only played the first two (of six) scenarios, but it seems that the game is rather lopsided in the balance of decision-making i.e. one side has all the options and the other side sort of reacts. It is very difficult to coordinate infantry attacks with armored attacks as infantry are so slow and their transports so vulnerable. The tremendous range of the motorized units makes the I-go/U-go format very awkward, as there are all sorts of gamey moves someone can do to make sure a road is blocked at the last minute (to win/lose a scenario). Dan hated the retreat rules, as they didn't really hurt an enemy (and sometimes helped them).

Attacking towns is annoying--you have to throw units in one at a time to get a spotter. Even a dispersed unit will do. You surround the town with units (either on purpose or as a result of a retreat) so the defenders can't escape. The next turn, you pummel the town until the units are dispersed or retreat and die.

A game lasts 10 turns (that simulate about 15 minutes each?), and each turn takes about 30-60 minutes, depending on your skill.

Conclusion

I was not pleased with this game, and Dan absolutely hated it. Part of it is our bias against tactical games, perhaps, but I don't think that's all of it. Most games I've played evoked some feeling for the situation they simulated. This didn't. It felt very gamey and disjointed. Some people have enjoyed the game, so you might, too. It was a game (unlike, say, Bastogne or Chicago, Chicago!), but I don't think it was a very successful one.

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Brian Train
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Thanks for the review!
I love Lorelei's contributions to the series too.
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Thank you!

Still going strong after two years.
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Steve Carey
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Thank You for the trip down memory lane... even if it was somewhat of a painful trip!
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Jim P.
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I REALLY enjoy this series. Sincere thanks.
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That makes me happy! I'd love to hear your reminiscences, as well. And if you get motivated to try these old classics for a spin, even better!
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