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Subject: First Impressions with Negative Comments rss

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dave bcs
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Disclaimer: I have only playtested the first Scenario myself twice, and have not played the other “Commander” games.

I am writing this brief commentary to both give my initial impressions but also to solicit feedback and correction on my opinions expressed. This is not a comprehensive review.

I have played many tactical wargames in the past, including quite a bit of Squad Leader, and Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel! – Kursk 1943 briefly, which this game reminds me the most of. On the positive side, this game has beautiful components, and excellent period feel. However, I have noticed several issues that discourage me from devoting more time to it:

1. I like the command activation and command card system in general, especially the lack of “Left, Center, Right” present in so many games of this genre. There is quite a bit of subtlety to the deck compositions and potential card uses that simulate the national characteristics of the combatants well, and knowing when your hand is right to launch an attack is very important. But having the right cards is so important that it adds an unacceptably high luck factor to a game already filled with other random elements. Not being able to Recover, Advance, or Fire when you need to is game deciding. This is especially true of Fire in the case of concern #2:

2. Opportunity Fire seems broken. The greatest factor in whether an advance on an enemy position is successful is the presence or absence of Fire card in the defender’s hand, something an attacker will never know. Without a fire card the attacker moves up with impunity. With one, the game slows incredibly as the defender fires at every activated attacker in every hex moved through one at a time, with multiple events causing chaos and multiple Time advances pushing the game to sudden death. In addition, any attempt to move one unit through a pinned or suppressed comrade risks overstacking elimination if the movement is brought to a halt. The possibility of defensive wire cards make this a common concern. It seems like a defender should always keep a Fire card in hand during the opponent turn. I am hoping the use of ordinance weapons and artillery mitigate this powerful defensive advantage, though even with gas (hinderance not obstacle) and damaged defenders, the defender can still unleash a flurry of low probability OP fire just to advance the game clock and cause chaos through events.

3. Given that additional members of a fire group only add one FP, firing individually seems usually much better than group fire, given the wide range of outcomes possible with both players rolling 2d6.

4. Melee, even against broken defenders, is a game deciding luck fest.

5. The stacking rules punish overstacking at the end of a turn with elimination, and restricts each hex to one platoon since each one uses 4 of the 7 available stacking points. Without the ability to stack platoons, attackers have almost no ability to concentrate force upon key positions, especially with the harsh overstacking penalties, the OP fire risk mentioned above. This is extremely bad in scenario 1, given the limited lines of sight, small number of platoons, and lack of artillery. I realize this problem maybe historically accurate to a certain extent, but makes for very little tactical control or chance of success for the Germans in scenario 1 (perhaps pleasing to the French designers?!🙂). In his book, Rommel brags how the use of initiative and surprise yielded amazing results, but in this game his accomplishments seem impossible.

I would welcome alternative perspectives from others who have played this game, as I would not to give up on it yet.
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Peter Svensson
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drdranetz wrote:


1. ... But having the right cards is so important that it adds an unacceptably high luck factor to a game already filled with other random elements. Not being able to Recover, Advance, or Fire when you need to is game deciding.

Yup, you are a Great War *Commander*, and some times, through no fault of your own, the troops don't do what you need them to do. This is much more realistic than games where you have fine control over every man on the board. This part of the system rewards players who think of broad goals and strategies. Hand management represents the effort needed to coordinate your troops, and it's a big part of the game.

drdranetz wrote:

2. Opportunity Fire seems broken. The greatest factor in whether an advance on an enemy position is successful is the presence or absence of Fire card in the defender’s hand, something an attacker will never know.

Some times, even on Omaha Beach, the enemy guns would fall silent for a while. As the attacker, you never know the reason. As the defending commander, you may not know either! Maybe that squad is out of ammo, distracted by another threat, or just plain doesn't see the attackers. As the attacker, assume they will fire, rejoice if they don't. Just like combat.

drdranetz wrote:

3. Given that additional members of a fire group only add one FP, firing individually seems usually much better than group fire, given the wide range of outcomes possible with both players rolling 2d6.

I've done a bit of math on this, and there are some cases where splitting the attack will do more damage. For instance, if your choice is between a 14 FP attack or two 12 FP attacks against a defender with morale + cover of 11, you are better off splitting. But in the more common case of your FP being are equal to or below the defender's Morale, you are virtually guaranteed to be better off making one attack that's as big as you can make it.

drdranetz wrote:

4. Melee, even against broken defenders, is a game deciding luck fest.

I agree there's a lot of luck in the Melee, but the luck is on the side of the player who's circumspect about getting into these fights in the first place, and keeps Ambush and Bayonets cards in his hands when he needs them. More bothersome to me is the fact that it's good to bring a a team of specialists along when you expect a fight....

drdranetz wrote:

5. The stacking rules punish overstacking at the end of a turn with elimination, and restricts each hex to one platoon since each one uses 4 of the 7 available stacking points. Without the ability to stack platoons, attackers have almost no ability to concentrate force upon key positions, especially with the harsh overstacking penalties, the OP fire risk mentioned above.

Yeah, I don't like the stacking rules either. It's historically accurate to spread troops out, but elimination is a poor way of enforcing it. Combat Commander: Europe has the same rule but the designer amended it in Combat Commander: Pacific, where overstacking yields negative cover. Overall, it's plain that GWC is based on CC:E rather than the somewhat more evolved CC: P.

drdranetz wrote:

This is extremely bad in scenario 1, given the limited lines of sight, small number of platoons, and lack of artillery.
I realize this problem maybe historically accurate to a certain extent, but makes for very little tactical control or chance of success for the Germans in scenario 1 (perhaps pleasing to the French designers?!<span class="emoji-outer emoji-sizer"><span class="emoji-inner" style="background: url(chrome-extension://immhpnclomdloikkpcefncmfgjbkojmh/emoji-data/sheet_apple_32.png);background-position:61.98589894242068% 87.95534665099882%;background-size:5418.75% 5418.75%" data-codepoints="1f642"></span></span>. In his book, Rommel brags how the use of initiative and surprise yielded amazing results, but in this game his accomplishments seem impossible.


But Rommel lost that first fight! He had to withdraw from the village. It's possible to do better than him in that scenario.
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dave bcs
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Thanks for the feedback. It’s been awhile (~20 years) since I read Rommel’s book!

Do you find the OP fire as tedious as I do? So many cards to draw and event interruptions. And, as I said, I hate how OP fire artificially speeds the game to conclusion by causing Time card draws.

One more thing... In Squad Leader the road between buildings are separate hexes, creating fire lanes and making running across the street very dangerous. In GWC, the roads share hexes with buildings. The fire lanes are still there as LOS is blocked only by the actual building, not the whole hex, but moving troops get the cover advantage of buildings even as they should be running across a street. I am not sure I like this aspect of the game either.
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jumbit
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The basic problem with Combat Commander games is that Squad Leader players really want to play Squad Leader. Being in total command of your men is highly attractive for a lot of players. CC puts you in the role of leader and much will be beyond your control. Clausewitz said it best: three-fourths of war is out of the hands of the commander.
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Michael Knarr
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Regarding keeping a fire card at all times: yes, you definetely want to do that!
But also, you want to keep other cards, especially (as has been mentioned), Ambush and Bayonets.
But also, you REALLY want to play that fire card during your own turn, because there is a broken Platoon in your sight right now and if you don‘t take the opportunity, they might rally or disappear into the heavy cover nearby.
But also, your fire card might have an action on it that would be really beneficial to use that turn, i.e. Crossfire.

Different discard limits to each nation add to your considerations.

To me, that feels pretty close to what I‘ve read so far a platoon leader‘s job is. Situational awareness, considering how many risks to take and trying to „read“ from your enemies‘ actions what they might be capable of during your turn.

I can totally understand how some people find that logic a bit too far-fetched, but I never have any problems during GWC (or CC) games to feel immersed in the situation. To me, it‘s never: „Does my opponent have a fire card in hand?“, but rather: „Can I get my troops safely across that blasted meadow now or do I need to wait for a friendly artillery strike to be sure?“.

About the movement to a building hex and OP fire: I‘m kind of feeling similarly on this one, sometimes I miss the CoH -1 defense penalty for moving, but GWC has that built in to a degree: your formation breaks on a tie when it is moving (and 2d6 means ties are more common than with 1d6) AND crossfire (4x per deck) is a thing.

Regarding separate attacks vs. fire groups: that is an old CC classic. The general consensus is, when you are winning right now you want time to speed up (so seperate attacks), when you are losing (usually as the attacker) you want to avoid time triggers by making every shot count, but it really depends on the situation. CC is a bit weird that way, although I can see that when you are holding an objective it is more or less ok to half-heartedly take some potshots here and there to keep discouraging the enemy from advancing whereas when you are about to storm you want to inflict some casualties to remove some and tie down some other defenders during the following battle.

Hope, some of that made a little sense, I‘m just rambling now .
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boredoom wrote:
drdranetz wrote:


1. ... But having the right cards is so important that it adds an unacceptably high luck factor to a game already filled with other random elements. Not being able to Recover, Advance, or Fire when you need to is game deciding.

Yup, you are a Great War *Commander*, and some times, through no fault of your own, the troops don't do what you need them to do. This is much more realistic than games where you have fine control over every man on the board. This part of the system rewards players who think of broad goals and strategies. Hand management represents the effort needed to coordinate your troops, and it's a big part of the game.

drdranetz wrote:

2. Opportunity Fire seems broken. The greatest factor in whether an advance on an enemy position is successful is the presence or absence of Fire card in the defender’s hand, something an attacker will never know.

Some times, even on Omaha Beach, the enemy guns would fall silent for a while. As the attacker, you never know the reason. As the defending commander, you may not know either! Maybe that squad is out of ammo, distracted by another threat, or just plain doesn't see the attackers. As the attacker, assume they will fire, rejoice if they don't. Just like combat.

But you're not in real combat, and you're not a real commander. It's just a game. For me, the relevant question is whether or not victory is mostly decided by skill or by luck. Can the luck be mitigated so that the best player will usually win?
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jumbit wrote:
The basic problem with Combat Commander games is that Squad Leader players really want to play Squad Leader. Being in total command of your men is highly attractive for a lot of players. CC puts you in the role of leader and much will be beyond your control. Clausewitz said it best: three-fourths of war is out of the hands of the commander.

There are at least three types of wargamers. Those who think of themselves merely as gamers (i.e. playing wargames is no different from playing chess), those who think of themselves as commanders and those who think of themselves as historians. I'm not at all in the second category. I am interested in how a wargame represents history, just not from the commander's perspective. Full control isn't really a problem when you don't want that perspective, and in the end Squad Leader is at least as realistic as Combat Commander (and I assume Great War Commander), when you look at what happens from above.

If I'm going to consider Great War Commander (or start playing Combat Commander again), I would need to be convinced that hand management is a lot more decisive than luck.
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Pascal TOUPY
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oivind22 wrote:
Can the luck be mitigated so that the best player will usually win?


if you take a look at the Combat Commander tournaments and the ongoing ladder, you'll see that the winner(s) are always the same persons. So, the best players win.

I've played dozens of games of ASL. How many times my best plans have been anihilated by my opponents rolling snake eyes or me rolling over 9 all along the game.....? Plan B was there to save my day.

In GWC you have the Strategy Cards that can be used to add +1 to any dice roll and will downsize the luck effect of rolling dice. But it is YOU the commander who will decide which dice roll you will affect or if you'll keep this nice strategy card for the advantage of the situation on card.
This is playing the game.
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THE REVENGE OF THE GOLDFISH
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For me the most frustrating part of the game are recovery rolls.There are too many rolls who can generate many events,this part of luck can affect the game,i prefer the way CC Pacific use for recovery.
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jumbit
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oivind22 wrote:
boredoom wrote:
drdranetz wrote:


1. ... But having the right cards is so important that it adds an unacceptably high luck factor to a game already filled with other random elements. Not being able to Recover, Advance, or Fire when you need to is game deciding.

Yup, you are a Great War *Commander*, and some times, through no fault of your own, the troops don't do what you need them to do. This is much more realistic than games where you have fine control over every man on the board. This part of the system rewards players who think of broad goals and strategies. Hand management represents the effort needed to coordinate your troops, and it's a big part of the game.

drdranetz wrote:

2. Opportunity Fire seems broken. The greatest factor in whether an advance on an enemy position is successful is the presence or absence of Fire card in the defender’s hand, something an attacker will never know.

Some times, even on Omaha Beach, the enemy guns would fall silent for a while. As the attacker, you never know the reason. As the defending commander, you may not know either! Maybe that squad is out of ammo, distracted by another threat, or just plain doesn't see the attackers. As the attacker, assume they will fire, rejoice if they don't. Just like combat.

But you're not in real combat, and you're not a real commander. It's just a game. For me, the relevant question is whether or not victory is mostly decided by skill or by luck. Can the luck be mitigated so that the best player will usually win?

Yep, that's a control gamer all right.

Clausewitz, the patron saint of all wargamers, states you can give the best commands in the world and still lose through no fault of your own. That's war. Any wargame that offers this experience is an accurate simulation.

There are lots of other games, many from Europe, that offer the gamer high control and low or no randomness. Completely out of the realm of wargaming, where you can make an excellent plan and watch your troops screw it up. Military history has far too many factual examples to list. But a lot of people like these games because just about everything is under the control of the player, and luck can be mitigated so that the best player will usually win.
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dave bcs
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jumbit wrote:
oivind22 wrote:
boredoom wrote:
drdranetz wrote:


1. ... But having the right cards is so important that it adds an unacceptably high luck factor to a game already filled with other random elements. Not being able to Recover, Advance, or Fire when you need to is game deciding.

Yup, you are a Great War *Commander*, and some times, through no fault of your own, the troops don't do what you need them to do. This is much more realistic than games where you have fine control over every man on the board. This part of the system rewards players who think of broad goals and strategies. Hand management represents the effort needed to coordinate your troops, and it's a big part of the game.

drdranetz wrote:

2. Opportunity Fire seems broken. The greatest factor in whether an advance on an enemy position is successful is the presence or absence of Fire card in the defender’s hand, something an attacker will never know.

Some times, even on Omaha Beach, the enemy guns would fall silent for a while. As the attacker, you never know the reason. As the defending commander, you may not know either! Maybe that squad is out of ammo, distracted by another threat, or just plain doesn't see the attackers. As the attacker, assume they will fire, rejoice if they don't. Just like combat.

But you're not in real combat, and you're not a real commander. It's just a game. For me, the relevant question is whether or not victory is mostly decided by skill or by luck. Can the luck be mitigated so that the best player will usually win?

Yep, that's a control gamer all right.

Clausewitz, the patron saint of all wargamers, states you can give the best commands in the world and still lose through no fault of your own. That's war. Any wargame that offers this experience is an accurate simulation.

There are lots of other games, many from Europe, that offer the gamer high control and low or no randomness. Completely out of the realm of wargaming, where you can make an excellent plan and watch your troops screw it up. Military history has far too many factual examples to list. But a lot of people like these games because just about everything is under the control of the player, and luck can be mitigated so that the best player will usually win.


Undeniably, the enjoyment in wargames involve a greater degree of theme immersion than in Euros, which results, ironically, for most war gamers I have known, in less importance on needing to prove skill and win than for Euro gamers. This is why wargamers, despite the aggressive nature of their games, often accept luck and losing more easily than some Euro gamers.

There is a balance, though. There is a different threshold of “realism” that a wargame much reach for each gamer for the gamer to willingly suspend disbelief. Beyond this, if a game tries to push too far into “realism”, one risks sparking debate over what “realism” truly is (is “Saving Private Ryan” truly more realistic than “Paths of Glory”(the movies)?), and, more importantly, removing too much control from a player can create a random feel for the whole game. This latter phenomenon is worse for a game, in my opinion, the longer and more complex the game is. At a certain point “event cards” with historical events can feel no different than rolling dice to see who wins.

Some days, I wish I could just enjoy playing Afrika Korps, or Blue and Gray Quad again....
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Øivind Karlsrud
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jumbit wrote:
Yep, that's a control gamer all right.

Clausewitz, the patron saint of all wargamers, states you can give the best commands in the world and still lose through no fault of your own. That's war. Any wargame that offers this experience is an accurate simulation.

That's taking it a bit too far. It just means that the game in question offers one small part of the experience of command. It's not an experience I'm seeking, so for me it's irrelevant. And there's a lot more to realism than this one thing. For tactical level games, I'm interested in accurate weapon interactions. I also want defensive fire to be pretty lethal against units running across an open field. Discussions about realism are usually pointless, because we all want different things.

But apart from realism (whatever that means), I want a good game, and that means skill must matter more than luck. I'm not saying it doesn't in Great War Commander or Combat Commander. I'm just saying that one should respond to the reviewer's concerns regarding gameplay by talking about gameplay and how to mitigate luck, not by referring to Clausewitz and how real commanders don't have full control, etc. Playing a game with gameplay you don't like because you think it's more realistic than other games seems pretty delusional to me, especially when it comes to squad level games, which all have pretty low simulation value, in my experience. If you're not enjoying the gameplay, you are wasting your time.
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bonzillou wrote:
oivind22 wrote:
Can the luck be mitigated so that the best player will usually win?


if you take a look at the Combat Commander tournaments and the ongoing ladder, you'll see that the winner(s) are always the same persons. So, the best players win.

That's a good thing. I have always suspected there's plenty of skill in Combat Commander, although it might be a skill I'm not willing to learn.
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robert tunstall
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Some don't like the mechanisms in any CC game. Too little control is often cited. Having read my fair share of battles, control over everything has not been present in any battle. Reacting to situations with what you have on hand has been though.

At the end of the day, I like CC games as it mostly, in my experience, comes down to the end of the game. That and each battle tells a great story in our group.

Just keep in mind, that just because a game doesn't work for you, doesn't mean it is a bad game. Design is tight on all the CC games and never have I heard the series is broken. Other games, yes, but not CC.

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dave bcs
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On the contrary, it is a remarkably good design, though I do think more stacking options and open terrain penalties (such as fullhex roads mentioned above) would have led to more tactical decisions regarding concentration of force and key locations.

This discussion has been helpful to me in putting a finger on what I am finding lacking. The hand management aspect of the game appears to be more critically important than management and tactical positioning of units. In other words, your cards are your key assets, not your units. Superiority in strength and concentration of firepower (unit, not card, firepower) is made difficult due to the terrain and stacking rules, and, even if obtainable, is of no consequence without the right cards.

Is GWC, then, the Dominion of wargaming, sans the ability to deck-build? The emphasis in deck-building and hand management Euros of the deck over tangible board asset placement is probably why I dislike games like Dominion so much. To each his own.
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robert tunstall
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I have always found "management and tactical positioning of units" to be of the utmost importance in any CC game.

You may not have the cards to do what you want at the moment, but leaving units without cover/support/etc is a good way to loose the game fast.

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Sean McCormick
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My take on Combat Commander as a system has always been not that I don't like the chaos but rather that it does a poor job of actually showing what chaos on the battlefield looks like, at least so far as I can tell. But everyone's mileage is going to vary.
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Peter Appleton
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I don't much like the stacking rules in GWC - even in the original CC:E you got to do a free deployment at the end of a turn when you were overstacked so it wasn't as devastating as it is here.

The chaos aspect with a bit of fog of war mixed in really works well though and works much batter for me than those games where you have full control over every aspect of your troops.
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Noel Houben
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A quick comment about the choice of one big fire attack vs many small fire attacks the OP mentions: in the case of opportunity fire you can only make one fire attack per hex entered by the moving unit. That means that you would most of the time choose to fire in one large fire group. The number of rolls, triggers, etc. is far less then.
 
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dave bcs
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knoel wrote:
A quick comment about the choice of one big fire attack vs many small fire attacks the OP mentions: in the case of opportunity fire you can only make one fire attack per hex entered by the moving unit. That means that you would most of the time choose to fire in one large fire group. The number of rolls, triggers, etc. is far less then.


Thank you, I do realize this. Even with only one attack per hex, if there is a large group of units moving through multiple hexes, that is still a LOT of card drawing; So much so that a good chunk of the game clock could be run through there and then.
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Noel Houben
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drdranetz wrote:
knoel wrote:
A quick comment about the choice of one big fire attack vs many small fire attacks the OP mentions: in the case of opportunity fire you can only make one fire attack per hex entered by the moving unit. That means that you would most of the time choose to fire in one large fire group. The number of rolls, triggers, etc. is far less then.


Thank you, I do realize this. Even with only one attack per hex, if there is a large group of units moving through multiple hexes, that is still a LOT of card drawing; So much so that a good chunk of the game clock could be run through there and then.


This was a rule that my regular opponent and I misplayed for years in Combat Commander. So I thought I should mention it

You are right that it is vital to keep some tempo in the game. Keeping on firing for turns in the hope to break your opponents units won't work most of the time. In my experience almost always there are still a lot of turns to achieve your goals before there is a sudden death.
 
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Dudley Albrecht
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jumbit wrote:
The basic problem with Combat Commander games is that Squad Leader players really want to play Squad Leader. Being in total command of your men is highly attractive for a lot of players. CC puts you in the role of leader and much will be beyond your control. Clausewitz said it best: three-fourths of war is out of the hands of the commander.


This, In many ways CC shows the chaos of tactical combat much better then ASL does.
CC was not meant to be another ASL. There are already 2 ASL clones( GMT Panzer system and Critical Hit's Advanced Tactical System) on the marker.
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dudalb wrote:
This, In many ways CC shows the chaos of tactical combat much better then ASL does.

I am in two minds about this. Yes, the fact that you need movement cards to move is a good way to represent chaos. The same goes for fire cards in order to fire offensively. The biggest problem I have with the system as a simulation is regarding defensive fire. One squad could easily miss in ASL, even against infantry running across an open field. But 10 squads won't all miss. In CC, they will, if you don't have a fire card. Moving should be more dangerous if there are more defenders with line-of-sight to the moving unit (and not just because they can all be activated by the same leader, i.e. the same fire card). At some point it should be downright suicide.

All squad level systems have their strengths, and defensive fire is IMO one of ASL's biggest strengths.

BTW, ASL is pretty chaotic too, with snipers, heat of battle, routing etc. Plenty of things you can't control. In the end, I'm not sure I agree CC is more chaotic.
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Very Small Unit Tactics
oivind22 wrote:
dudalb wrote:
This, In many ways CC shows the chaos of tactical combat much better then ASL does.

I am in two minds about this. Yes, the fact that you need movement cards to move is a good way to represent chaos. The same goes for fire cards in order to fire offensively. The biggest problem I have with the system as a simulation is regarding defensive fire. One squad could easily miss in ASL, even against infantry running across an open field. But 10 squads won't all miss. In CC, they will, if you don't have a fire card. Moving should be more dangerous if there are more defenders with line-of-sight to the moving unit (and not just because they can all be activated by the same leader, i.e. the same fire card). At some point it should be downright suicide.
I only have experience with the CC Europe WWII version, but my perception is that unit density in CC is far less, so having 10 squads eye-balling a single approach is highly improbable.

The main thing that retired me from Squad Leader was the god like overview afforded to a player. It wasn't there so much in the original base game, but eventually evolved away from chaos, into being very gamesy. In CC you try to do sensible things - then hope for the best. That feels more realistic to me.
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oivind22 wrote:
The biggest problem I have with the system as a simulation is regarding defensive fire. One squad could easily miss in ASL, even against infantry running across an open field. But 10 squads won't all miss. In CC, they will, if you don't have a fire card.

They are firing. They are blazing away with every weapon in their inventory.

What a fire card represents is effective fire.

Every time I see ASL/SL players say CC sucks, they always include the "but they just waltzed across an open field because I didn't have a fire card! This game blows!" complaint.
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