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The test of a good war game is when you have to take responsibility for your losses when you win


Bahger
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Most war games, including the average-to-good ones, enable the player to rationalise his losses even -- or in fact especially -- when he wins, because it is often possible to blame some or most of them on "game" issues such as faulty LOS mechanics or "cheating" AI.  The very rare truly exceptional war game does not allow this because player losses can only be attributed to player error such as flawed tactics, impatience or bad judgement.  Without a doubt, IMO, Black Sea falls into the latter category.

 

In my last QB, leading a group of Blue armour (mainly M3s with a single M1A2 SEP) in the attack against a Red group defending with mainly T-90s, I won a convincing Total Victory on Veteran with ten minutes to spare, having killed all nine enemy tanks and the single "tank killing" vehicle.  In almost any other game I would have been gleeful at this result, especially if relatively inexperienced at playing it.  However, in this battle, because I was unable to lay off the blame for a single loss of mine (four Bradleys, too many) on iffy game mechanics, I felt the way a r/l commander would, i.e. I experienced a painful sense of responsibility that made the victory less sweet.  This is a huge tribute to the game.  I lost two vehicles to very high quality enemy AI and the other two purely to player error on my part.  In my own mental AAR, therefore, I blamed myself for at least two of these losses and IRL I would have found it particularly difficult to write letters to those next of kin.  I felt determined not to let this happen again, and not just to win next time but to do so with at least 25% less attrition.

 

I have never felt this way, including in previous CM titles.  Even in Steel Beasts, a very good sim, I have "rewound" the game when I've been sure that a tank in my platoon or company got killed because bad AI pathfinding led it somewhere I hadn't directed it to go, or an AI TC did not see the attacking unit first when he had the superior relative position on the battlefield.  In the eight or so hours I've played in CMBS, I have never yet been able to rationalise failure as the result of being "gamed".  Considering how many complex calculations a game like this has to make in order to be consistently realistic, this, I think is the ultimate tribute I can pay to the developers of a superb title.  It's why I abandoned CMSF in the first, difficult months of its release and why I will continue to play CMBS for several years to come.  ChrisND and his team deserve tremendous kudos.

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Well, this was not a Pyrrhic victory because the toll inflicted on my force was not disastrous in military terms (13 KIA out of 43) when set against the scale of the victory but there was avoidable attrition, once when I ran a FISTV down a reverse slope with insufficient recon and another when I tasked a Bradley to duel with a stationary T-90 when I should have been patient enough to realise that the tank would remain stationary while not under threat in order to occupy a victory zone, and I had a spotter nearby who could direct a precision round onto him.  In retrospect I did not need to expose my M3 but on the other hand it took four agonising minutes for the arty to fire the round and if the T-90 had decided to do a bit of marauding around my flank I would have been in real trouble.  This dilemma in itself represents the high level of real-life decision making at tactical command level presented by the game

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OP I must say I really agree with you. Combat Mission games (At least since SF, for me) have always given me a feeling like the one you describe. Can't really remember another strategy game causing said emotions, except maybe for Hearts of Iron 2 and 3, but in that case we are talking about the higher strategical level - You feel "responsible" for the entire management of your nation resources in a time of great effort and grief

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The whole Ukrainian mess, real and fictional, is a pyrrhic victory for whoever wins.  Both sides are going to be poorer, fewer and less happy than before.  It just that the losers are going to be much MORE unhappy. Which the winner will find satisfying, but rather insufficient compensation.

Edited by dan/california
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