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. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wargames Factory 15mm Germans Review

Some of the newest 1/100th scale (15mm) miniatures to reach the market are from Wargames Factory.  The first box set is WWII German Infantry Company Late War.

Wargames Factory - Fresh from the store

The box set contains

  • 84 figures
  • 2 mortars (each in two pieces)
  • 16 "medium" bases for squads 
  • 8 "small" bases for command or special teams
Retail price that I've seen is a consistent $19.99

Each of the figures is a single piece - no gluing arms or heads to torsos...

Inside the box are four sprue (two identical sets of figures and two identical sets of bases)

Box Contents - Four Sprues

I am very impressed with the quality of the scupts and the manufacturing.  The figures have excellent detail: ridges on the gas mask canister, webbing wrapped around blanket rolls, ammo pouches along the belts, and very nicely sculpted folds in the uniform fabric.  There appears to be little to no flash and undetectable parting lines.  

The bases are just slightly larger than the Battlefront versions.  I estimate about 1/16" longer and wider, and the corners are square instead of rounded.  

By my count, it appears that there are 21 unique sculpts.  Per sprue: some sculpts are a single figure, for example a kneeling infantry with a Panzerschreck, and range to a maximum of 6 figures of the same sculpt (standing infantry with scoped rifle).

The Wargame Factory figures appear to be true 1/100th scale, and because they are made of hard plastic, the proportions of the figures are more true to life than figures made from metal.  I believe one could easily mix a platoon of Wargame Factory figures with platoons of Battlefront or Old Glory/Command Decision figures on the table.  However, I don't think one could effectively mix the figures within a platoon or on the same base.  The difference would be noticeable that close together.

Below is a size comparison.  I tried to find figures as close to the same pose as possible to compare.

From Left to Right: Wargames Factory, Battlefront, Command Decision

Wargames Factory got it right; these figures are excellent - high quality manufacturing combined with very good sculpts.  And, at $19.99, these figures may be the absolute best value on the shelves at the moment.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

WWII German Reference Photos

Since I'm working to complete my German Flames of War army (which will never truly be complete), I'm always gathering reference photos.  I've included a few of my favorites here.  All of these photos were shot during the previous two Americans in Wartime Museum Open House.

Fallshirmjager Splinter Camo Pattern 

Fallshirmjager Uniform

Okay, so this next one is as American as apple pie, but I can't resist posting my favorite picture from the Open House.  Nothing beats an American flamethrower!
USA Flamethrower Demonstration

Monday, March 26, 2012

Battlefront Panzer IV

Here are a couple photos of the first Panzer IV-H I completed.  Sorry for the less than perfect focus; I'm still trying to get my camera to take a good close up of the 1/100 scale models.

This is a Panzer IV-H from Battlefront.  Overall, these are a fairly simple build, except for adding the Schurzen.  That has several parts (6 per side), including 4 individual brackets.  I went a little overboard and added the pink piping on the shoulder boards of the commander.

Here's an additional view.  Note the battle damage; this one has seen some machine gun fire. 

The three color camo was done with a stippling method using a brush instead of an air brush.  After the model was painted, I brushed on a gloss coat and used a black ink "magic wash."  I applied the decals using Solvaset.  After everything was dry, I sprayed the whole model with Testor's Dull Coat.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Huzzah Hobbies

I spent some time this weekend at one of my favorite hobby and game stores: Huzzah Hobbies in Ashburn, VA.  This is a great store, and each time I stop by, I always feel welcome and at home.  Huzzah Hobbies is a relatively new game store, and I admit when they first opened, I was concerned about anyone trying to open a brick-and-mortar store of this type.  However, the owner really knows his stuff, and he has gathered a great following.

Huzzah Hobbies

Unlike most hobby stores that are on the way out of business, Huzzah Hobbies is expanding to a larger store around the corner from their current location.

If you're in the Northern VA area and have an interest in boardgames, card games, historic miniatures, and other tabletop gaming, be sure to stop at the store.  There are tables in the back for getting in a game, and I've often been greeted by the players and offered a chance to join in.  I don't know if it's the area or the store, but most of the clients and gamers are nicer than the average crowd.

Huzzah Hobbies also carries the Winsor & Newton Series 7 brushes that I praised in an earlier post.  I picked mine up from the store recently.

Winsor & Newton Series 7 Brushes

I finally broke down and added a Winsor & Newton Series 7 brush to my collection.  I decided to start with size 00, since if you're going to get a Series 7, it may as well be able to do super fine work.

Right from the first painted line, it felt almost like cheating.  I was painting 15mm figures, specifically painting splinter camouflage on some Fallschirmjager Battlefront figures.  The tip of the brush holds so well; I was able to paint the zigzag brown pattern of the splinter camo on 18 figures without having to clean and reform the tip.

So far, I'm very impressed with the Series 7, and I can understand why they are often referred to as the gold standard for miniature painters.  Unfortunately, my painting skills will need to continue to improve if I'm to take full advantage of this great brush.


Welcome to TabletopHistory.  Here, the focus is on all things historic that may hit your table - wargames, miniatures, models, and books.  I'll throw in a discussion on movies and documentaries from time-to-time.  Watch for reviews of games, tutorials on painting miniatures, model and diorama building, and book recommendations.

Fighting Formations by GMT