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Combat Commander: Pacific» Forums » General

Subject: Wargamers! Is this a good place to start? rss

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Gus Cook
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Hello all you awesome and devoted wargamers out there!

I've been really interested in the idea of wargames for a while. I love history, but I particularly love attempts to recreate or reimagine real events and situations outside of their original context, in order to try to understand them from more nuanced, less singular perspective than a lot of history tends to be presented.

Needless to say, this idea (combined with loving board games) has always really drawn me to wargames. I feel like they offer potential opportunities to understand moments of geopolitical conflict from multiple perspectives, and offer way more nuanced opportunities for understanding and create.

So far, I've only tried to play one "true" wargame, which was GMT's Labyrinth: A War on Terror. And...I didn't have a very good time. It was a setting and a theme that was incredibly compelling and interesting to me, but I struggled to wade through its messy and disorganized rulebook and found the game's over reliance (in my opinion) on die rolls and card-draw randomness to grate really hard against the themes of strategic planning and long-form terrorism and counter-terrorism operations. After 4 or 5 plays, I just didn't find myself feeling the love.

However, I've played two SEMI war games that are some of my favorite games of all time: "A Few Acres of Snow" and, more importantly, "Dominant Species." Balance issues in the former aside, I felt like both of these games offered really compelling and complex strategic decisions framed against the backdrop of some more traditional wargame mechanics. "A Few Acres of Snow" gave me such a strong sense of history, using the slight unpredictability and delayed reactions of your card draws to represent the divide between planning a war and actually executing those plans on the battlefield. Then, "Dominant Species" is such an incredible game of controlling territory, with every decision a player makes feeling like a deliberate judo block against the desires of the other players.

So, I find myself still really drawn to wargames. Because the Combat Commander games are also designed by Chad Jensen, and because I haven't played anything close to a squad-level wargame yet, it seems like a really compelling place to start. I'm more interested in the pacific theater than I am in the European, hence me posting this here.

So, wargamers, am I doing the right thing? Is this game a good place for me to start? Will it give me the compelling historical feel and the incredible strategy, without necessarily being too obtuse or too overwhelming for someone new to this side of the hobby? Would Europe be a better choice than Pacific?


Thanks!
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John Di Ponio
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Tough call because you are still going the have the dice/card resolution. The game is fun, in fact one of my favorites that is not taxing on the brain and plays pretty quick. You won't have any problem learning the system but the card draw may have you time travelling back to your Labyrinth playing.

Depends on how deep you want to dig. Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! (second edition) is a nice game with good components and gives you a relatively quick game. I know its not the pacific but there are not a lot of those kinds of Pacific game out there until Conflict of Heroes: Guadalcanal – The Pacific 1942 hits the market. If you want to get a little deeper, Empire of the Sun may tickle your fancy but I think that Asia Engulfed may be good also.
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Meeple Con
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I'm sure there will be varied opinions here, but being a relatively new Combat Commander player (less than 20 games) I currently prefer CC:E just a tad bit more. Probably more of just a theme thing, but Pacific also feels more like a step up in the very few games I've played.

One thing that concerns me about your OP. "I found the game's over reliance (in my opinion) on die rolls and card-draw randomness to grate really hard against the themes of strategic planning and long-form terrorism and counter-terrorism operations."

There is a strong reliance on the cards in this game for die rolls, events, etc. and card-draw randomness can be a big factor. I prefer this kind of randomness to something like ASL, as I think it makes the game much more fun to play. You just never know what is going to happen. But, others do not like the game for this very reason. Just wanted to make sure you understood this.

I personally love the game and I have all of the expansions, so if those things don't bother you I think that either Europe or Pacific would be an excellent choice...
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Christopher Hill
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Hey Gus,

I can say that getting into the war game genre can be a difficult task as some games are very complex with long, technical rule books. There is a time investment to learn a game, but usually the investment is worth the experience. Some of my favorite gaming moments have happened in war games, in particular, Combat Commander.

The other aspect is finding willing opponents who then also need to learn or be taught the sometimes extensive rules. I am fortunate to have several war gaming folks in my group, so I can usually find a willing opponent who is already experienced in the genre.

Is Combat Commander: Pacific a good place to start with war games? I think Chad Jensen's designs are awesome! The rule books are near flawless and written in a concise, logical manner. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of rules, but everything can be quickly referenced through a great index. Compared to many other war games CC can be played relatively quickly. So, if you are looking to break into squad level infantry combat, CC is a great place to start.

There is one caveat you should be aware of. War games at this level are typically more tactical than strategic. Patience is a needed virtue to play CC. Do not go into the game thinking you have complete control over the situation. Random things happen. A lot. You can't always do exactly what you want on a given turn. Sometimes you have to do the best with what you got, hence the tactical nature of CC. Understanding this is key because many war gaming people hate CC for its randomness and lack of control. However, once you understand what to expect from CC, it will give you and your gaming buddies many hours of enjoyment. I know it does me and my friends.
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Robert Olesen
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If you like to experience the story and don't mind a good deal of randomness (which does tend to even out over time but can be quite important in particular situations) then Combat Commander is for you.

If you want to be in full control, then it is not.

There are a good deal of rules, but as stated before, they are well written and easy to use.
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Mike Szarka
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As other have stated, Combat Commander is a great game, one of the best games of any genre ever designed in my opinion. It is my #1 desert island game (I do slightly prefer Europe to Pacific). However if you want a game where strategy and planning reigns supreme, this isn't it. This is a game where you have a plan based on your initial set-up, but from that point forward you are bobbing and weaving from chaos.

You might like Conflict of Heroes better as it has less of the randomness that dominates CC. I liked it when I tried it but decided to focus my attention on only one tactical system, which is CC for me.
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Michael Lind
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Combat Commander is my all-time favorite game.

That said, I'll add that Chad's rules are tight and probably the best I've ever read in my 40+ years of wargaming.

As an intro into wargaming?

Yes, if the theme is of strong interest to you and if tactical games are of strong interest to you.

You'll need to invest some time to learn the rules but they become second nature after you play some games. Hand management is very important as you'll have to decide as you play whether to try and hold out for that last card you'd love to have or play what you have and keep up the pressure on your opponent.

I hope you'll give it a try.

Advice:
1- Don't read anything into the rules - play like they're written.
2- Never, ever give up - initiative can shift quickly and unexpectedly

Enjoy!
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Claire Bradshaw
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It's ruddy brilliant - my friend and I have been playing CC for well over a year now and we've not played the same scenario twice - We played through the CC:E games, then onto the Med and now Battle Pack 5 Fall of the West. The scope and number of scenarios is huge - the tightness of the game with just infantry, weapons, officers/NCOs and occasionally offboard artillery is just brilliant. Yes it is dice driven but that is fate - plus certain rolls give you certain events, such as a sniper, major game events etc. Planning and tactics and the grind of war is all in there with the random events that trip up every commander and well placed plans.

I managed to get a copy of Pacific from GMT recently plus the associated BP but we're no where near getting going on that yet! Now we have the Russians, Germans, Americans, Japanese, British, USMC, French, Italian, ANZAC forces at our finger tips! Get in a game somehow with some one and I bet you won't regret it!

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Noel Houben
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Considering your preferences I wonder if Maria wouldn't be more to your liking? It has relatively less randomness and the rules are not very complex.

Traditional hex and countrer wargames are also far less random then card driven games because they give you more control over the odds (and therefore the results) of combats. I personally like The Caucasus Campaign of Mark Simonitch very much: not too complicated, but still full of meaningfull decisions. Other games of Simonitch like Normandy '44 and Ardennes '44 will fit the bill as well probably.

That said, Combat Commander is by far my favorite tactical game. Yes, it has lots of randomness, but it certainly awards good play. I often hear angry comments about people not having a fire card at a crucial moment, but that will hardly happen when you have some experience with the game. Always save at least one fire card for critical moments would be my non-expert advice
 
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Silver Bowen
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Combat Commander is super excellent. It is also relies heavily on randomness to develop narrative (as do many wargames/thematic games). Pacific is also OOP currently and fairly expensive. On the flipside, if you get it and don't like it (or any CC games), you can resell it quite easily.

Dominant Species is a euro, A Few Acres isn't far off either. You might be happier with the mechanics of games like Race to the Rhine, 2 De Mayo, Antique Duellum, Quartermaster General, those 17xx games from Academy, or any weuro or hybrid type game (I'm sure there are more, just can't think of them ATM). I get the feeling that Conflict of Heroes leans a little more this way as well.

Otherwise, as others have said, non card-driven games (just hex and counter, optionally w/ chit-draw systems if you want more variability) might suit you better. But even there, luck of the dice is everpresent. Determinism is rare in thematic games, and even more rarely a successful approach.
 
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