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HowieWowie

A Couple of Ques From Potential New Player

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I have some questions before I invest time and money in this game.

1 - I heard this game requires a lot of micro management. For example If I give a unit an advance order and they come under fire along the route of advance will they seek cover and return fire on their own or do I have to issue a halt order and then fire order?  

2 - I see that there is a Demo available.  Is there a guided tutorial included that covers the basics?  I don't mind reading manuals but I would expect at least a basic intro to the UI and mechanics to be included with the game in a structured format.

3 - Multiplayer - I see that PBEM play is possible this is of interest as real time MP games are hard for me to schedule.  Is the PBEM mode widely used?  Would I have trouble finding opponents?

4 - Add-on Modules - If I purchase the base game without any of the addons how limited will I be when it comes to multi-player play?  Also the price is rather steep which is fine as long as the game is evolving and supported with regular updates???

5 - AI - I'm a little fuzzy on how the AI works in this game.  From some of the posts I read its pre-scripted as opposed to being dynamic?  So if I replay a scenario will the opponent always respond with the same tactics each replay?

Thanks for your time!

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

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Oh boy, here we go:
 

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1 - I heard this game requires a lot of micro management. For example If I give a unit an advance order and they come under fire along the route of advance will they seek cover and return fire on their own or do I have to issue a halt order and then fire order? 

 

There are, strictly, three levels to the game AI. The individual TacAI of the units, which will cover things like reacting to fire, selecting weapons, using grenades, whatever. This is usually pretty convincing.

The topmost level is user scripted per-scenario. This is something which you can edit in the scenario editor, and allows for determining where and how assigned units of troops will move. Quick battles have more generic AI plans which will inevitably do a worse job, simply because they can't be tailored to specific forces.

(For example, you might select a rifle platoon of four squads and an armoured car to be in "group 5". Group 5 can then be given orders to move to X spot after 5 minutes have passed, with some modifiers for caution, speed and so forth. There's more to it than that, but that's the briefest look at things.)

There's then an intermediate layer which will then control how Group 5 is actually moving, since the various settings on that order will control how cautiously it advances, and how much it uses alternating fire and movement, etc.


The "micro" in CM is mostly that you have a system which simulates down to the individual solider, and that you can make interesting decisions on the level of a single squad, whilst at the same time letting you command up to something like an entire battalion of a thousand troops or so in some scenarios (most are around company sized or smaller). That means that there can be a lot of work to do per turn in the larger scenarios. It's not "micro" in the RTS sense at all.

 

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2 - I see that there is a Demo available.  Is there a guided tutorial included that covers the basics?  I don't mind reading manuals but I would expect at least a basic intro to the UI and mechanics to be included with the game in a structured format.


Kinda. CM is pretty easy to pick up, but very difficult to get to grips with entirely. There is a guided tutorial in the manual.

It's a hardcore simulation, so "mechanics" for the most part are reflections or approximations of reality, rather than game mechanics. This often means that real-world infantry manuals and the like can be more useful than anything else.
 

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3 - Multiplayer - I see that PBEM play is possible this is of interest as real time MP games are hard for me to schedule.  Is the PBEM mode widely used?  Would I have trouble finding opponents?

Yes. No. I'm currently doing four of them. 

Afewgoodmen and The Blitz seem to be the two biggest PBEM communities.


 

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 4 - Add-on Modules - If I purchase the base game without any of the addons how limited will I be when it comes to multi-player play?  Also the price is rather steep which is fine as long as the game is evolving and supported with regular updates???

 


It'll be fine for multiplayer. Some scenarios will not be playable, and some units will not be usable, but the player with more modules can see that in their unit selection.
 

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5 - AI - I'm a little fuzzy on how the AI works in this game.  From some of the posts I read its pre-scripted as opposed to being dynamic?  So if I replay a scenario will the opponent always respond with the same tactics each replay?

As above, but:

Each scenario can have multiple AI plans written for it,  this means there can be uncertainty in a scenario. This scripted AI is not the strongest point of CM, but it's more than good enough to represent a challenge or something that looks plausible.

The first version of Combat Mission had a more dynamic AI that was very simple. It would respond to your actions to an extent, but would do so in a very simple manner. This iteration of the game has much more depth to the AI system, at the cost of losing the dynamism.

Given how complex the simulation is, I suspect a scripted system is actually the best solution here. I imagine that a randomised, data-driven approach would end up with suboptimal moves in most cases. 

Still, human players offer the greatest challenge, of course.

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Try the demos. You know you want to. Then, when you’re hooked and buy all the games and modules, you’ll be unable to stop playing, leading to job loss and divorce. On second thought, put the demo down and slowly back away!

Seriously, domfluff gave an excellent run-down, so try the demo. What can you lose? (Except job and wife, that is.)

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17 minutes ago, HowieWowie said:

LOL!  Thanks Domfluff for your response, very helpful.  I've been warned but I'm going to try the Demo anyway 😀

..and when you have the basic controls down, head on over to my Battle Drill blog and refer to the entries in the Tactical Toolbox (links on the left side of the screen).

Welcome to the community!  You will have no problems finding PBEM opponents, its the only way many of us play the game.

Bil

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Oh wow @domfluff wrote a kick ass response. I'm only going to add a bit to one thing and then @Bil Hardenberger hooked you up with a great tactics resource. I will also add that there is a FAQ - some of it goes pretty deep on some esotaric stuff but lots of it would be very readable by a new player. Skim the titles every now and then and read up on the details:

 

2 hours ago, HowieWowie said:

1 - I heard this game requires a lot of micro management. For example If I give a unit an advance order and they come under fire along the route of advance will they seek cover and return fire on their own or do I have to issue a halt order and then fire order?  

I don't micro manage much. If you want to, you totally can - and some people complain as they do :)  To answer your specific case - it depends on what orders you gave. If you issue Fast move orders your troops will tend to ignore the fire and keep moving, quick they will pause and fire back but complete the move, hunt means the will stop and engage the enemy. You do not need to give target orders your self. The TacAI does a pretty good job of picking its own targets. So, if you choose the appropriate move orders you have no work at all to do. Or you can get down in the weeds with your troops and coordinate every little thing. Your choice.

 

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Some days you just want to watch the spectacle unfold so you give everyone a single 'move' command to the far side of the map, sit back and watch the fireworks. Other days you want to forget the real world and get lost in this world for awhile. So you move your individual units from place to place with great care, make a point of fussing over the details and terrain features and assessing the tactical possibilities.


If you're a detail-oriented person and select a Quickbattle game with a full battalion of infantry on the map its sort'a you're own fault if you become overwhelmed. Keep your battle size to within your capabilities. I know what my own 'ideal' force size is for max enjoyment, its may be half the size of someone else's.

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1 hour ago, Bil Hardenberger said:

Welcome to the community!  You will have no problems finding PBEM opponents, its the only way many of us play the game.

Bil

 

Not this cat...  the AI is just fine for me, my reasoning is real life time allocation.  However, PBEM is also lots of fun, my turn rate for a human opponent is not up to par usually, hence why I don't hook up with others much.

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Just installed SF2 demo.  I haven't come across the Guided Tutorial that domfluff referred to??  There is a manual but no other document am I missing something?  I was hoping that there would be a structured tutorial which used a simple mission to introduce a new player to the UI and basic mechanics.

Edited by HowieWowie

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4 hours ago, HowieWowie said:

5 - AI - I'm a little fuzzy on how the AI works in this game.  From some of the posts I read its pre-scripted as opposed to being dynamic?  So if I replay a scenario will the opponent always respond with the same tactics each replay?

While the basic scenario/mission is scripted, the scenario designers will usually incorporate triggers with a number of different actions that are randomly selected for that trigger. For example, unit A (player) is detected by unit B (AI). Unit B reacts to unit A (the trigger) in some way that could be different each time. Also, each and every round is tracked to it's target based on real life physics. To test this, you can save a turn at the end of your command phase, hit the "Go" button, and watch the result of that turn (only in WEGO though), then load the saved game, hit "Go," and the resulting AI turn might be completely different.. Think of it as playing a cardboard counter game such as Advanced Squad Leader where you roll dice to determine if you hit your target, then roll dice to determine if you kill, wound, pin, or reduce the moral of your target, except the game is making all those dice rolls under the hood and determining the result, but on a much, much, much finer level. Replayability is very good in the CM games.

The Demo also has a training mission to give you an idea of how to use units and commands. Beware though, I have heard that the AI shoots back in the training mission. In the full game, there is a "mini" training campaign ( a few missions vs many missions in a full campaign) designed to teach you the basics of the game in a structured manner.

Edited by Vet 0369

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CMSF 2 demo has a single tutorial mission (Stryker platoon attacking a village). I know the actual CMSF 2 manual (as with all of them) has a fully stepped-out tutorial, but I don't think the demo manual does. I don't think the CMSF 2 manual is available for download anywhere.
 

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21 minutes ago, HowieWowie said:

Just installed SF2 demo.  I haven't come across the Guided Tutorial that domfluff referred to??  There is a manual but no other document am I missing something?  I was hoping that there would be a structured tutorial which used a simple mission to introduce a new player to the UI and basic mechanics.

Start the game, and at the main screen, select the "Battles " button. You'll be presented with four or five battles, one of which will be the training mission. The guided tutorial would be in the PDF manual that you get with the Demo. It will actually be the guide for the training campaign in the full game though. Part of it might apply to the Demo training mission though.

Edited by Vet 0369

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The point of the tactical sim is real world immersion. If you obsess too much over the mechanics of the AI it'll take you out of the moment. Better to first get some demo game time under your belt first before thinking about how the sausage gets made. You can enjoy a car ride without having to understand how a fuel injector operates.

The "CM Engine Manual v4.00.pdf" is a 160-ish page how-to manual covering everything from basic screen layout to how to build your own campaigns.

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No one has commented on it but you do have the choice of doing real time or we go. I always choose we go. Some others like RT. Too much to try to remember if it gets above company level.

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Another aspect is that there is a wide variety of sizes of scenarios and amounts of units in them. Starting small it is no big thing to micro manage all the units, while in the bigger ones it can be intimidating at first. In time also, you will learn in what critical situations micro management is vital and what situations you can give orders to units to carry out over several turns. 

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This tutorial series is from 2012 but is still a worthy primer for the basic controls and commands. It'll get you up to speed on the essentials right quickly.

More Youtube searches might lead to newer info but for the most part the only command I can think of that's been added since 2012 is Hull Down, so these vids should suffice for what you need to learn right now.

 

 

And two things I'd like to add that weren't really touched on (Jim ninjad one while I was typing):

1.) WEGO is the absolute best way to enjoy CM in my opinion. So much can happen in a game and having the ability to rewind and rewatch specific moments anywhere on the map will reward you with so many cool moments you may otherwise miss playing RT. We usually refer to these moments as vignettes and they are worth the price of admission. Also it may be better for you to start off in WEGO as it affords you a less stressful pace as you are trying to learn.

2.) In reference to BF supporting the titles, as it stands now ALL CM games (minus Afghanistan) are at the same engine level. As time goes by, and new features appear, all titles will be back ported these additions (unless they aren't conducive to the time period/setting). So, no title will be left to languish in feature envy hell.

 

 

 

Mord.

Edited by Mord

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You could also go to youtube and look at the "Combat Mission: Black Sea Training Videos" by "ChrisND"

That basically covers a lot of information regarding the "How do I do this?", or, "How does this work?" elements of the game, those video's, cover the Game 3 engine; the game 4 engine changes to the game 3 engine are shown in your demos "Game Engine 4.0" pdf file. There is nothing major in 4.0 that makes you unlearn or learn between the two.

The differences between the two games (CM:Black Sea & CM:Shock Force 2)  are the time period's and relevant equipment of the time period's.

The Black Sea game has been upgraded to 4.0, the game play and the mechanics, for both games, remain the same.

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3 hours ago, Mord said:

This tutorial series is from 2012 but is still a worthy primer for the basic controls and commands. It'll get you up to speed on the essentials right quickly.

More Youtube searches might lead to newer info but for the most part the only command I can think of that's been added since 2012 is Hull Down, so these vids should suffice for what you need to learn right now.

 

 

And two things I'd like to add that weren't really touched on (Jim ninjad one while I was typing):

1.) WEGO is the absolute best way to enjoy CM in my opinion. So much can happen in a game and having the ability to rewind and rewatch specific moments anywhere on the map will reward you with so many cool moments you may otherwise miss playing RT. We usually refer to these moments as vignettes and they are worth the price of admission. Also it may be better for you to start off in WEGO as it affords you a less stressful pace as you are trying to learn.

2.) In reference to BF supporting the titles, as it stands now ALL CM games (minus Afghanistan) are at the same engine level. As time goes by, and new features appear, all titles will be back ported these additions (unless they aren't conducive to the time period/setting). So, no title will be left to languish in feature envy hell.

 

 

 

Mord.

One of the other improvements is that of when you specify a movement command with multiple waypoints, you can click on an individual waypoint or the end point and drag it to a different action hex to better use cover or concealment or to avoid obsticles while moving.

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3 hours ago, Jim1954 said:

No one has commented on it but you do have the choice of doing real time or we go. I always choose we go. Some others like RT. Too much to try to remember if it gets above company level.

Real time (RT) is probably a faster game form though, and it's less "immersion" breaking. I also prefer WeGo (AKAturn based) as I'm old and my mind doesn't work quickly anymore. I need time to think about what has happened before changing my orders. I have played RT in CMFI, and admit it's pretty cool. Just not for me.

Edited by Vet 0369

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4 hours ago, Ch53dVet said:

You could also go to youtube and look at the "Combat Mission: Black Sea Training Videos" by "ChrisND"

That basically covers a lot of information regarding the "How do I do this?", or, "How does this work?" elements of the game, those video's, cover the Game 3 engine; the game 4 engine changes to the game 3 engine are shown in your demos "Game Engine 4.0" pdf file. There is nothing major in 4.0 that makes you unlearn or learn between the two.

The differences between the two games (CM:Black Sea & CM:Shock Force 2)  are the time period's and relevant equipment of the time period's.

The Black Sea game has been upgraded to 4.0, the game play and the mechanics, for both games, remain the same.

+This definitely! One word of caution though. ChrisND had a reputation for getting all his scouts killed, so adjust accordingly😬

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