Joe Kundlak
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I think tastes vary.

I myself like to be challenged mostly, but do like the hard part interspersed with lighter fare from time to time, just to relax the pace a bit. Of course if an aspect of a mission is frustrating (like that sniper example, where you have nearly zero chance of getting through without external help, unless there is an obvious hint to a detour from the standard progress through the mission, with which you can exploit a terrain feature to fool the snipers etc.), you become aggravated about it and either skip the mission, or the game in the end.

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Álvaro Rivas
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The later Close Combats (4 and 5, covering the Bulge and Normandy) had a map divided in sectors that you moved units around in appropriate length turns. You also had assets to allocate to the different sectors, supplies, air support, artillery, naval bombardment

When units of both sides clashed in a sector, a battle ensued in which you had to select which specific fireteams and squads would participate. Destroyed units were not recovered, so you had to manage each unit's pool of Pioniers, for example.

The best touch in my opinion was that if you didn't manage to rout the opposing unit, you had to fight again on the next turn on the same map. The frontline approximated your advance from last turn and knocked out vehicles remained on the map (in the Bulge they even appeared covered in snow). This was an important factor, a knocked out tank could cover your advance. Some German units in that game used so many tanks (and lost so many if you placed your 57s well) that after a day of fighting or two they could literally creep up to your strongpoints concealing their approach with their own abandoned vehicles.

Ah, the memories.

I believe 4 and 5 were unique in this approach, I'm not sure I recall 2 (which was about Arnhem) and 3 having that kind of campaign. Of course, Matrix Games has been rereleasing the games in the last decade, and among the improvements made, there may be redesigned campaign systems.

With regards to difficulty, it wasn't really hard to outperform either the allies or the germans when playing as either, but it was pretty memorable either way, as the meat of the game were the smaller firefights and those were flatout amazing.
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Lawrence Hung
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Wan Chai
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Quote:
Back to the original point of the post - how difficult is hard enough? Assuming a solo play, should a campaign designer assume that a player wants to be challenged - or that he wants a game experience with a happy ending? Are the two mutually exclusive?


That's the kind of fine question every designer has to ask. And the usual answer is hard, but not hard enough. I am saying nothing. blush But you know it when you accomplish it when you feel being rewarded with the hard work. One reason why I am not inclined to RPG adventure game is that oftentimes there is no "strategy" to speak of but to solve that "puzzle" by random or by tips on the internet. PC wargame should be designed something to be both sides having a chance and that you might win the game with 50-50 of the time on balance. One good recent example I have is Unity of Command series. I feel that when I had a good strategy plan at hand and I attempted to roll it out successfully, the game would be won. When I had bad strategy plan, I usually failed at the scenario like my recent drive in Case Blue. Happy ending? Definitely! Mutually exclusive? No!
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G.W.
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Just FYI -- I share your dissatisfaction with the Combat Mission campaign engine and I've had lots of fun using certain board wargames as operational layers with CM (St.-Lo, Where Eagles Dare, etc.) for PBEM play.

I'm now in the final stages of making a Panzer Command (victory Games 1984) Cyberboard gamebox and scenario, modded for Operation Bagration, to be a companion game for the soon-to-be released CM3 Red Thunder. The hexmap is made to match all the master maps for the Soviet Campaign in RT. So, when a good battle setup presents itself on the hexmap, the CM maps already exist and can just be cut down to make the computer game scenario.

One useful aspect of the CM campaign tools is the Core Units File -- one large OOB that you can make for all the units in the campaign, so you just re-import campaign units for each new scenario. You still have to edit it down to what you need, and track your own losses to apply them to the units, but at least it alleviates needing to make the OOB from scratch for every battle.

CM gains a lot when it's paired with other games that can bring weather, logistics, higher level command-control, and various types of operational "friction" into the campaign. That also allows players to fight over a larger area with divisions and corps on the boardgame, and to play with battalions and below in CM (which is about the largest scale the game seems to work with before the unit micromanagement becomes overwhelming).
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G.W.
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Thanks.
The other plus to using Panzer Command and its descendants in MMP's Grand Tactical Series is that they are chit-pull activation games. Which makes them not only great games, but very solitaire-friendly.

That means you can solo the operational level on Vassal or Cyberboard, then invite human opponents whenever and wherever you like to be your PBEM opponents in your Combat Mission scenario setups. So you avoid the management and organizing headaches of trying to run a multiplayer operational campaign, play at your own pace, and there's no need for umpiring, no arguments over how to translate the boardgame and CM results between layers, etc., because you run the show for your own amusement.

The other reason to use Vassal, Cyberboard, or Zun Tzu modules instead of physical boardgames is the ease of making screenshots that you can place on Google Earth to see where your counters actually are, and then take screenshots from the GE overlays to use for overlays in the Combat Mission map editor.
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G.W.
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Very ambitious, and an admirable idea.

But yes, I think off-the-shelf is the only sane way to go.

And it's really not a sacrifice to do that -- the state of the wargame art is so far advanced today, and there are so many ways to buy the best out-of-print titles of the past, that you can usually find a hex-and-counter game that plays well as a layer with Combat Mission.

Some recommendations:
(Criteria are a counter scale of company to battalion, hex scale of 300-500m/hex, and a good solid design):

St.-Lo -- Perfect for US sector of Normandy in Combat Mission played a campaign this way and it worked great. Joe Balkoski design from the "Golden Age," with a very innovative command-control/fatigue/randomized activation system for its time.

Operation Dauntless -- Even from just the playtest version I used (I posted some screenshots of it with Combat Mission on the Operation Dauntless thread if anyone's curious) I could see it's going to be a very good game to use with CM for British operations in Normandy.

The Greatest Day -- (MMP Grand Tactical Series, still in prepub) Basing this entirely on my following of BGG and CSW threads, but this will be another good game to use with CM for the British in Normandy. The Pegasus Bridge scenarios look particularly suitable.

Where Eagles Dare/The Devil's Cauldron -- I've used these with CM Market Garden and they both are great, but they're real monsters in scope. The Vassal Module, which includes both games, is arguably one of the best ever made. MMP has posted download links for the GTS series rules as well as the individual game rulebooks on its support page now, so you don't even need the physical games to play them on Vassal.

Death Ride Salerno: 16th Panzer -- I own this one and it would be one of the most suitable to use with CM Fortress Italy. Only drawback I see is the slightly smaller time, hex, and unit scale. The Armored Knights series, also by Grognard Simulations, might work better for some, since it's battalion scale. I think there's an AK game on Salerno in the works but not out yet. The CSW Press remake of GDW's Avalanche at battalion scale also looks promising but it's still in development I think.

Streets of Stalingrad 3rd Edition -- It may be a few years yet before CM returns to the late '42-early '43 period of the Eastern Front. But this classic monster is company scale and would be just amazing to use as a layer with CM to provide the wider context. I already marked out the Orlovka Pocket scenario area as a possible future zone for some master maps. It's got more rural/suburban terrain than the factories/downtown areas, so the shortcomings of CM in urban combat don't pose as much as a problem. But those problems may be overcome by the time there's a CM module for Stalingrad. After all, they've got flamethrowers added and coming out any day now.

Panzer Command -- As I mentioned earlier, it's company scale and excellent for the Eastern Front. Only problem in using it with CM will be its earlier time period. But I'll make my Panzer Command Bagration mod for Cyberboard available when it's done to anyone who PMs me and asks nicely :-)

The one I tried and didn't like for use with CM was Panzer Grenadier's Operation Epsom campaign game. It's a good game and series, but with 20-minute turns and tactical units, it just seemed to take way too long for the boardgame battles to progress. The scale is really *too* close to CM to work well with it.
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David Janik-Jones
Canada
Waterloo
Ontario
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Up Front fan | In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this | Combat Commander series fan | The Raven King (game publisher) ... that's me! | Fields of Fire fan
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Slywester Janik, awarded the Krzyż Walecznych (Polish Cross of Valour), August 1944
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Michael Dorosh wrote:

They are calling for beta testers right now for a new version based on the fighting around Caen, apparently, and some game engine called CC 3D, whatever that is...

They're using the Unity engine for the next one in the series, so the game itself will also be available cross-platform.
Broadsword56 wrote:

Operation Dauntless -- Even from just the playtest version I used (I posted some screenshots of it with Combat Mission on the Operation Dauntless thread if anyone's curious) I could see it's going to be a very good game to use with CM for British operations in Normandy.

The only wargame on my preorder list right now.
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Joeseph McCarthy
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Battle Creek
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This is actually a subject dear to my heart. I am more used to the term (coined in Panzerfaust magazine) "Schizophrenic Wargame." This is a wargame where the Strategic/Operational side is played with one game and the Tactical is played with another. What you end up with is a full-sided game that creates a campaign on all levels. Your strategic/Operational decisions are affected by your tactical capabilities, and visa/versa, and you can pull the proverbial rabbit out of the butt and make miracles happen, but mainly the tactical decisions become more sensible because you have to live with the results for a long time. It is amazing how "death rides" and Banzai charges on the final turns of a battle suddenly disappear because the survivors still have a job to do long after that battle is over, and trained troops do not pop out of the ground spontaneously.

I find that there are a few games out there that are useful for that sort of thing. I would love to combine "Bloody April" and "Canvas Falcons" by scrapping the tactical side of Bloody April and replace it with Canvas Falcons.

In such a case, if you're doing a major campaign you frequently have to come up with your own repair/replacement rules, like we did when we used JD Webster's "Air Superiority" for a campaign game. Frequently the nuts and bolts are already there and all you have to do is recognize them. Deployment is also something that needs to be fleshed out because you have to be able to set up a battle based on the Operational information, and that works down even to the tactical maps. It is often easier than it looks, though. Best results are often achieved with simpler tactical systems. SPI's Rifle and Sabre makes a marvelous tactical side to a Strategic game for that reason.

The best ones, though, involve more detailed tactical systems. We worked one out for "Don't Give Up the Ship" that made for a marvelous and exciting campaign that saw a see-sawing tactical situation that kept us on our seats the whole time. Major fleet actions gave way to single-ship contests as the strategic situation changed with its conflicting demands on ever reducing resources.

Best way to play.

Mogadeet
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G.W.
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+1 to Mogadeet's observations.

Operational + tactical layer play really is the ultimate wargaming experience, IMHO.

I think many players shy away from it because it takes both games into a gray area, where imagination, interpretation, creativity and good sportsmanship are essential for the whole thing to work.

So it's not suited for "tournament style" play, and rules lawyers or hypercompetitive players probably wouldn't like it. Also, it's hard enough to find good reliable wargame opponents already -- those interested and persistent enough to play in this oddball way are a minority of a minority.

For those considering giving it a try, I'd just say: Think of your two games as storytelling machines. You and the other player should of course be trying hard to win, but you're also partners in a collaborative "war movie" story. The maps, counters, and results on the boards are giving you the elements of that story but you'll both have to interpret those and agree on what the situations represent. It can be helpful to have some basic written "translation" or "filter" rules for applying results between the games. But for the most part you'll find you just have to work it out as you go.
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Joeseph McCarthy
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What G.W. Said!!!!!!!!

Mogadeet
 
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Confusion Under Fire
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It has been a long time since I played a PC game with any enthusiasm but I used to love those tactical real time strategy games. I don't mean the shoot em up type but the games that would represent a squad sized group. Commandos, Star Trek Away Team, Robin Hood and Desperados to name a few. The level of difficulty in Commandos was just right for me, challenging but you could succeed with some thought. I was always surprised when I read reviews that said the Commando series was too hard and unplayable. Which proves a point that everybody's idea of challenging is different.

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G.W.
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Just finished my Panzer Command Bagration variant -- a Cyberboard gamebox and module designed to work hand-in-glove with Combat Mission Red Thunder and its master maps, for operational-tactical campaign play.

More info here:
http://boardgamegeek.com/article/15410925#15410925

and here:
http://www.battlefront.com/community/showthread.php?t=114452
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G.W.
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Yes, just started one PBEM against an opponent.
 
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