Thursday, March 29, 2012

Combat Commander - A revisit

What game are you still playing regularly five years after you purchased it?

It's been just over five years since I wrote my initial review of GMT's Combat Commander Europe.  Tonight, I went back and reread that review.

Aside from the mention of the game just recently being shipped, the review stands as written, and I still feel the same way about this outstanding game.  Since that original review in March of 2007, I have added significantly to my Combat Commander collection, and I continue to play the series with great regularity.

As I look at my game shelves, I don't see very many boxes that are over five years old that continue to be played week after week.  But, Combat Commander stands out, just as I predicted it would.  Congrats to Chad Jensen for creating a great and long lasting game.

Just for fun, below is the original review, as it was posted on Boardgamegeek on March 9, 2007.

At the time of this writing, Combat Commander: Europe (CC:E) has been shipped direct to GMT enthusiasts, stocked in game stores around the country (the world?), and has been taken down from many gamers’ shelves to be played again and again. The game has been out for a few months, and the hype that preceded it has been realized. I was an interested, albeit not an overly excited gamer waiting to see if the box of maps, cards, and cardboard chits was going to be as-good-as anticipated. Then on a recent Saturday afternoon, I was fortunate enough to be sitting across from an opponent contemplating his copy of CC:E and reading through the rules prior to starting my first game. By Sunday evening, I was clipping counters from my own copy!

You, as the reader, should know something about me before reading my review. I do not work for GMT (although I wouldn’t turn down an offer surprise), I have never met the designer, Chad Jensen, and I do not have a complementary copy of CC:E. I bought my copy; I learned how to play be reading the rules and not through a game demo, and I play the game as often as possible. This review is unbiased, although it should be clear I am a proponent and fan of the game.

To describe CC:E as “a good game” is an understatement. CC:E is a great game, and it is one of those rare finds that pushes the genre to something a little bit beyond a mere game. The best way I thought of to describe CC:E is a vehicle for watching a story unfold that is unique each time you open the box. Imagine reading a fantastic war narrative or watching a classic WW2 movie – that’s what the game feels like. Actually, a more accurate description would be reading a book or watching a movie that has a different plot every time, and you have significant influence over the story!

CC:E accomplishes the storytelling because the well tested, natural feeling mechanics are relatively easy to learn and allow play to feel seamless. There is no down time for players, since both the “active” and “inactive” players are engaged and responsible for playing cards and making decisions during every turn. The richness and variety of the game comes from the varying scenario objectives, random events, and unpredictable combat outcomes.

I realize some of you may be turned-off by the mere mention of the dreaded “random” word. I admit I was frustrated a few times when my well planned actions were overcome by events. My “100-feet General” view of the battlefield was brought into question, and I didn’t like the loss of control. However, it is this mechanic in CC:E that puts the game in a different category from so many hex and counter games that have come before. CC:E captures the actuality of war – battle plans are only good until you encounter the enemy; troops don’t always get their orders right, if at all; sometimes the enemy is lucky; and more often than not, battlefield information is outdated or wrong.

During the course of a CC:E game, both sides will be frustrated and lucky. Fortune will bestow your cardboard troops with a lucky and timely air strike. However, your opponent may have a few too many “Ambush” cards in his hand when you make that last desperate melee attack into an objective.

So, will CC:E last? In my opinion, it has more staying power and replayability than many of its contemporaries. Even the provided scenarios have variety through the use of the objective chits. The map objectives can vary (significantly) in value from one game to the next. Therefore, although the map and starting counters may be the same for a given scenario each time it’s played, a player’s focus may be completely different from the last play. Furthermore, some of the objectives are kept secret from your opponent, so only you know what specifically you’re after. Of course, your opponent may have a secret objective too, so a player must balance achieving his objectives with preventing his opponent from doing the same.

Beyond the provided scenarios, CC:E offers a well thought out “Random Scenario Generator” that allows a player to create an infinite number of scenarios. One can keep the favorites and add them to the provided scenarios, essentially building an unlimited library of tactical conflicts.

If you have the slightest interest in getting a copy of this game, I highly recommend you add it to your collection. The game is a tremendous value – high quality components, high replayability, and solid mechanics. Furthermore, through the growing CC:E community, new scenarios and opponents will be readily available. 

1 comment:

  1. Check out my review -