What makes CMBS less enjoyable for me:
I have played CMBO, CMBB since they came out and still have the boxed sets. I also played AK, and also have bought patches and recently the CM1 games on GOG so I could play them on my newer system.
So these count as games I have loved and played to death.
I’ve got bored with WW2 and so felt like a new challenge recently. CMBS sounded just the ticket.
Unfortunately there are numerous areas where I find CMBS unsatisfactory. These can come under gaming and UX issues, as well as what I think are simulation issues. I realise that enjoyable gaming and “realism” or simulation may be polar opposites, but Combat Mission has set a high bar for itself, and I think can do better.
Firstly, should I say that I have never fought in a battle, and also that modern-era, well-documented warfare has to reach a level of realism that fantasy battles with orcs or even Medieval 2 Total War’s elephants with cannon on their backs don’t – there I can suspend my disbelief where required. When dozens of 155mm shells fail to destroy or damage BTRs, I find this hard to accept. Note: I was just playing with the US forces in most of these instances, I am not pro one side or another. I think these issues are for the game in general.
1. Gaming Facilities that have been lost:
The Line of Sight LOS indicator (Blue): this was useful to gauge the terrain and could be converted into a target command where necessary. In CMBS you can do the same with the Target command but you have to cancel it all the time when you don’t want to fire. Irritating.
The Win/Lose Percentage Bar: this gave you an indication how well you were doing in the battle. It wasn’t always right, you might suddenly jump from 40% winning to 80% after destroying the last enemy tank but it was helpful. If you were losing you needed to consider changing tactics/plans.
The Objective Flags. When attacking an objective location you could see an enemy flag change to a ? and then your own side’s flag. It meant that you knew when you had captured a location, even if there were still enemy troops about, they were in a bad way; you also knew if the flag didn’t change you’d missed a bunker or foxhole or something where some enemies were still holding out valiantly.
All of the above are missing from CMBS and the game suffers for it.
2. UI issues
There seems no requirement to put in the briefing the time when the mission should start. I think that’s pretty obligatory with armies, makes any schedule of reinforcements bizarre.
I played several games before I found the time is actually in tiny figures on the Compass in the top right of the screen! Whaaat? What idiot uses their compass to tell the time? It could have just said Time: 0600 or whatever below the compass in bigger type, or had a military watch graphic.
3. Inconsistent interface for casualties
Infantry get labelled casualty, but vehicle crew just disappear. Tiny coloured blobs are not helpful.
If I set a target arc, it happens at the start of the move, not where my troops end up. You used to be able to click on the end of the move line and add another command.
Why do weapons turn brown? Is it because the soldier is pooping his panties? That’s the only explanation I can think of but I haven’t found it in the manual.
What is rattled? It says Shaken in the manual. Are they the same and why did it change?
Some of my troops got fatigued, and became exhausted, when all they were doing was hiding in the woods near the enemy. I moved them around a bit sometimes but not much. Mostly they were having a smoke, talking about women, and how bad the MREs are.
Also, an MG team were deployed, and re-deployed twice, not moving more than 100 m, in 20 mins of battle, most of the time lying down. They came under fire a couple of times but were not hit. Now they are Exhausted. I carry heavy cameras around on tripods for much longer than that, and I am overweight and unfit! This is silly.
Clearly there is a lack of realism about information reaching the commander.
I can’t access a breakdown of my own casualties, nor an estimate of enemy casualties as the battle goes on. What battle commander never has this information? Again the earlier Win/Lose bar was helpful, but you could have an Orbat screen where units are listed say from green to red depending on what their state was.
My troops never report what sort of attack is going on – e.g. mortar, arty, or air, or small arms fire from a location. This would be helpful. Many other games have an information update, where messages come up in the “dashboard”. This would be easier than recording voices for messages. In WW2, with its much lower amount of comms equipment, especially at the beginning, it isn’t so noticeable but now, with comms at even the lowest military level, it is anachronistic.
(I notice DreDay and others, were pointing this out in 2015)
6. Area Fire
In CM1 you could target area fire exactly on a particular spot, that is even if you couldn’t see an enemy you could splatter the area around them and suppress them, even if you couldn’t hit them. Or ricochet bullets into somewhere. In CMBS the indicator shifts, so you can’t place the fire precisely. I wanted to fire an MG into a house, with other infantry area firing down the alley outside the side door, so when the soldiers bugged out, they would be cut down. That wasn’t possible and all the fire hit the front of the house so everybody escaped.
In CM1 when you targetted something for AF it asked Use Main Gun: Yes/No.
This gave you a clear option better than Target Light, IMO. In my most recent QB a vehicle equipped with a 14.5mm MG failed to fire it at all, using the 7.62mm coax instead, which wasn’t what I wanted to penetrate the target.
Few enemy troops, even single crew survivors from destroyed vehicles have no compunction about taking on entire squads in firefights. I find that hard to believe. Individuals manning launchers continue fighting even when there is only 1 crew left. My hellish arty bombardment (see below) fails to deter troops from firing. Even though we know from WW2 etc that soldiers really hate and fear prolonged arty bombardment because they can’t do anything about it.
8. The Tank Gavotte Sedately
I order my M1A2 SEP2 Abrams into attack, 2 forward and two back on overwatch.
Something paints them with a laser. The front two pop smoke and go backwards.
I order the other two forward, they move, then pop smoke and retreat. Repeat as necessary.
You can have hours of non-fun with this, I tell you.
9. Air Attack
This is particularly important in relation to air attack/defence. In WW2 games it didn’t seem to matter much – the planes just came over and strafed or dropped a bomb, in a stylised manner and didn’t affect the game much. That is no longer the case.
Yet none of my troops tell me they are under air attack and it isn’t easy to tell by the rotor blade sound where the aircraft are. Surely AA troops like MANPADS would report things like: “enemy helo hit – that’s a kill, it’s going down in flames” “Missile missed target. Aircraft is retreating south and firing countermeasures”
You simply have no idea what is going on, or what to do to counter it. Nor can you call for fighters if you are being plagued by enemy attack aircraft. As the helos often seem to attack directly from the rear, notionally they are in my air defence zone, and should get a hot reception, surely?
My own attack helicopters often seem to not attack the target but do not communicate this with the ground, you just hear “ingressing to attack position; coming in hot” or something like that over and over again, when a real pilot would tell ground control what the problem is – no target sighted, too near to friendlies etc etc. If you knew what was happening you could abort the mission or redesignate a target.
If this is in the battle AI anyway, it’s just a matter of adding a few pilot voice files.
Also, they only seem to use ATGMs, and do not fire the cannon(s) or rockets. I’ve only played a few games so this may be an unusual result.
10. Artillery - (the skanky Teen of Battles? :-) - sorry couldn't resist...
I have found that this is hopelessly ineffective, both mine and the enemy’s. WW2 CM1 arty, less accurate surely than today’s and smaller - 105mm / 25pdrs, etc, I found to be pretty deadly, a force multiplier, when aimed well. Modern 155’s are about as useful as flour bombs.
General/Personnel: surely this should be ground burst / air burst? That doesn’t seem like proper military language (though I stand to be corrected on this).
You can't see the vehicles here as this is after my drone got whacked, but they are still there.
I have fired over 100 155mm rounds ground burst and 12+ PGMs at the main objective town (Tomahawk) in Into The Gauntlet. It has had minimal effect on the BTRs. I knocked out one. Aiming point target on a building (centre left, with HQ flag) didn’t score a single hit. PGMs seem to have about a 10% chance of hitting 3 did for a Tunguska but the rest no effect, and near misses do sod all. All the BTRs have shell craters all around them, yet not a sausage of damage afaik. One of them is 100% OK because when I attacked it with my infantry it reversed at high speed, firing its 30mm very effectively. People have posted here about the real effect of arty on vehicles – imo the BTRs should have their tyres shredded, suspension and engines damaged, sights and aerials smashed and possible gun damage and crew concussion/shrapnel injuries. Not happening.
Also, every armoured vehicle just sat there, rather than exiting the beaten zone quickly.
The enemy artillery seems pretty pathetic too.
Hat tip: Forward Observer
Quote: “The model predicted 30 percent damage to armored vehicles and tanks; however, 67 percent damage was achieved. Fragmentation from the HE rounds penetrated the armored vehicles, destroying critical components and injuring the manikin crews. (See an example of such damage in Figure 1.) In addition, the HE fragmentation damaged tracks, road wheels, and tank main gun sights and set one vehicle on fire. Interestingly enough, none of the damage to the armored vehicles or tanks was the result of direct hits—all the damage was caused by near hits”
11. Gaming issues
It would be helpful in the game, perhaps not the same as in the real world, to know what incoming you are taking.
It would be nice to have different colours of tracer for each adversary, I know this isn’t “realistic” but otherwise it can be hard to tell who is shooting at who.
Likewise rocket trails for unguided AT rockets and ATGMs. From videos they seem to fly quite slowly and (the Russian ones) spiral in as they attack. If, after your AFV blows up, you see a smoke trail, you would know what hit you. I find it annoying to have no idea what destroyed your vehicle, which I would have thought would be obvious to the troops nearby.* If your tank is hit by a high velocity tank round, then by not seeing other indicators, you would be able to discern what had happened.
*If I am wrong I am sure people on this board will enlighten me.
There are, in my view, serious deficiencies in CMBS’ programming which can make it a grim grind, and a lack of information which unsuspends disbelief and does not make for an enjoyable game. Or at least enough of one that I would have more enthusiasm play it a lot. The sheer deadliness of the weapons makes caution essential, which means a plodding game, which means that you don’t meet the full mission objectives, which in turn means less player satisfaction. I end up not finishing games because the enjoyment has run out. This rarely happened with CM1.
So this seems quite retrograde compared to CM1. I’d be happy if points 1, 9 and 10 were actioned.
I am a bit disappointed that a newer game from the same illustrious stable did not match up to its predecessor. I hope this doesn’t sound too negative – I realise making “limited edition Grognard-friendly games” is difficult and compromises have to be made, but I would give CMBS only 3 ½ to 4 stars, whereas I rate CM1 as five.