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Subject: Full review - A Blast and a Half rss

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Francis K. Lalumiere
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A year after the release of the original Combat Commander: Europe—which went on to become one of the most popular and fastest-selling wargames of 2006—GMT Games unleashes another volley with two expansion sets: Mediterranean and Battle Pack #1 -Paratroopers.

MEDITERRANEAN

This huge expansion set is really half the game, for it features everything required to play the three other main nations involved in WWII: France, Italy and Britain. Any player familiar with Combat Commander will immediately feel right at home here. Each nation has its own set of counters and its unique 72-card Fate Deck, with everything color-coded: light blue for the French, faint green for the Italian and traditional tan for the British.
Fine. But those three new nations need battles of their own in which to shine or earn the scorn of their compatriots. Enter 12 new maps backed by 12 new historical scenarios. Combined with the material from the basic game, this means 24 battles worth of fun and flying lead. At an average of two hours per game, that’s a solid week of playing Combat Commander full time. I don’t know any grognard who wouldn’t get his fix here.
Aside from scenarios, the Mediterranean playbook also features complete card and counter manifests for all six nations, as well as tactical notes about playing the three new kids on the block, plus a revised random scenario generator that encompasses everything currently out in the Combat Commander universe.
A new rulebook was also thrown into the big box, showcasing version 1.1 of the rules—standing essentially a few errata and clarifications away from the original rulebook.

How good the expansion is remains a question of personal tastes. Expressed bluntly, Mediterranean is simply more of the same. It’s a great deal of “more,” but an equally great deal of “same.” Being a huge fan of the original game, I almost cried tears of joy at the sight of a dozen new scenarios with their shiny new maps, three brand new Fate Decks (each with its own quirks and moods) and armies upon armies of new counters. I expected exactly that, and I was more than happy with what I got.
But if you’re looking for an expansion set that will add a meaty chunk to the game system, you’re in for a disappointing surprise. There is not a single new rule in the Mediterranean rulebook—the system was whole to begin with, nothing was held back. The expansion merely throws new variables into the mix and makes the picture more complete.

Now, for those of you who are quite happy with their existing ruleset, you’re in for quite a treat. Each new faction has its own feel and one must learn to deal with their strengths and shortcomings. (For instance, playing the Italians is, well, a genuine challenge.)
The new scenarios feature a ton of the popular “special rules” that kept things so thrilling in the basic game. And the maps! All sorts of terrain configurations make an appearance, from the densely packed map 17 (with more buildings than you can shake a potato masher at) to the dried-up deserts of maps 23 and 24 (with barely a road or hill in sight). I just finished playing scenario 24, where my Italians threw everything but the barracks originally attached to the kitchen sink at the British, and made it up the hill (in the middle of a blasted desert, with no cover whatsoever!) in an epic battle that had my opponent and me on the edge of our seats for two hours. And now we can’t wait for the rematch.

As was the case with the original game, everything in Mediterranean has been painstakingly revised and proofread. Nothing screwy cropped up in the rulebook or playbook, and so far only one counter erratum and one map erratum have surfaced—pretty darn good work for a project of this size.

Wargamers on the go (or lacking shelf space) will be pleased to find out that the attractive expansion box is the same size as the original, making it possible for everything to fit into either container. Just switch them around when you get tired of looking at the same old thing on your shelf, or frame your favorite box (the Mediterranean box looks especially good) and use the other one to actually store components.

Pros: Great materials, thrilling new scenarios, endless replayability.
Cons: Apart from the “doesn’t add new rules” aspect that might bother some players, I can’t think of anything. It’s just a dynamite package.
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Mark Buetow
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To be clear, CC:M is NOT an expansion. It's the other half of the whole game. Chad designed the entire game called "Combat Commander" and GMT decided to split it into two parts. You refer to it in several places as an "expansion" though you also note that it's "half the game." People really shouldn't treat this as an expansion at all, but the "rest" of the game that you get with CC:Europe. In fact, there are a few scenarios in the CC:M book which use nationalities from the CC:E box, so you really do need "Europe" to play "Med."

Also, in Scenario 24, I think you mean the Italians threw everything they had at the British. That's the scenario.

You also comment on the great 24 maps and scenarios. It's certainly true that these will give you lots to play over time and even the exact same scenario can be vastly different each time you play. But don't forget that the CC:M Playbook has a revised and expanded [echoing stadium voice here] "Random Scenario Generator" which allows you to "roll your own" and play CC with nearly infinite variety.

It's clear that you are excited about having the rest of the game! Me too! CC is at the top of my list and it doesn't every seem to get old. The old saw I like to use when talking about CC is that it's one of the few games I usually have as much fun playing when I lose as when I win! laugh
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Francis K. Lalumiere
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Malacandra wrote:
To be clear, CC:M is NOT an expansion. It's the other half of the whole game. Chad designed the entire game called "Combat Commander" and GMT decided to split it into two parts. You refer to it in several places as an "expansion" though you also note that it's "half the game." People really shouldn't treat this as an expansion at all, but the "rest" of the game that you get with CC:Europe. In fact, there are a few scenarios in the CC:M book which use nationalities from the CC:E box, so you really do need "Europe" to play "Med."

I see your point. But I think that a product that's an add-on to an already existing game, that requires ownership of the basic game (i.e. NOT standalone) can reasonably be called an expansion.
When you say that people shouldn't treat this as an expansion... why? That's what it is. No matter what the designer's original intent was (and I was aware of it), the design was published first as a basic game, and then as an added block that can't exist without the basic game. Everyone will say that's what an expansion is. The same argument could be made about Seafarers of Catan, to name but one.

Malacandra wrote:

Also, in Scenario 24, I think you mean the Italians threw everything they had at the British. That's the scenario.

Quite right! Good catch. I've just corrected it.

Malacandra wrote:

You also comment on the great 24 maps and scenarios. It's certainly true that these will give you lots to play over time and even the exact same scenario can be vastly different each time you play. But don't forget that the CC:M Playbook has a revised and expanded [echoing stadium voice here] "Random Scenario Generator" which allows you to "roll your own" and play CC with nearly infinite variety.

Yes, and I did mention it in the review. I also refer to "endless replayability" in my "Pros" at the end.

Malacandra wrote:

It's clear that you are excited about having the rest of the game! Me too! CC is at the top of my list and it doesn't every seem to get old. The old saw I like to use when talking about CC is that it's one of the few games I usually have as much fun playing when I lose as when I win! laugh

Absolutely! I've played 48 games of Combat Commander this year, and I'm sorry I couldn't make it past the 50 mark. I'll try harder next year...
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Tom Duensing
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Semantics aside, I would also call this an "expansion" as it isn't necessary to own it to play the "1st half" of the game (which itself implies that CC:E is incomplete--it isn't).

The designer would also agree with this. Here's something he wrote in another message in this section: "CC:M is an expansion and should be treated as such."

Either way, it looks like a nice addition and worth getting if you have the cash and want more Combat Commander material.

Cheers.
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Daniel Corban
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weishaupt wrote:
No matter what the designer's original intent was (and I was aware of it), the design was published first as a basic game, and then as an added block that can't exist without the basic game. Everyone will say that's what an expansion is. The same argument could be made about Seafarers of Catan, to name but one.

Although I have nothing but anecdotal evidence to back this up, and I have even forgotten the source of this, someone met Klaus Teuber (at Essen) and specifically asked him if he originally intended ships to be part of Settlers and he said no.
 
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Francis K. Lalumiere
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dcorban wrote:
weishaupt wrote:
No matter what the designer's original intent was (and I was aware of it), the design was published first as a basic game, and then as an added block that can't exist without the basic game. Everyone will say that's what an expansion is. The same argument could be made about Seafarers of Catan, to name but one.

Although I have nothing but anecdotal evidence to back this up, and I have even forgotten the source of this, someone met Klaus Teuber (at Essen) and specifically asked him if he originally intended ships to be part of Settlers and he said no.

Interesting. Especially since sheep are completely unbalanced in Settlers, but are brought back to an even keel (he he) with Seafarers.
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