Sunday, April 11, 2010

Combat Commander: Europe

I don't remember where I got Combat Commander: Europe, only that I got it last April for $35 (plus shipping) and I didn't actually play it until June last year. When I finally played it, I realized I had got a bargain. Not because of the price, but because it was such a good game. The game felt like I had been thrown into Saving Private Ryan - chaos. Controlled chaos to be sure, but the game does such a good job of being a story and a game. Sadly, I hadn't played it again until last week. Dion Garner called to see if I'd be interested in getting together for a little gaming. I asked if he'd be interested in playing CCE, since it had been so long since I played. He agreed and so I brought it over to his place and we got setup. He hadn't played in a couple of years, so we played the first scenario - Fat Lipki. Despite fumbling a bit through some rules, we had an interesting game. The objectives were not great and so I put my German forces into the houses near my starting point and waited for Dion's Russian to come to me. He looked to have a good numbers advantage and it was only through some good recovery rolls that I was able to frustrate his efforts. Then he made a mad dash at me and had a really bad round. I was able to get up on him by six points when time ran out.
A week later, Robert Bolan came over so I could teach him CCE. We also played Fat Lipki, but since I had only played the German side, I took the Russian this time out. Also, the first thing we drew was the 5 point #5 objective - one of the houses. This meant that instead of random skirmishes, the game was going to be mostly about #5. It only took about two turns for Robert to declare that he loved this game. Maybe that was because at the end of the turn, I rushed the house with a rifle squad and a leader and got turned away. Down almost immediately with my best leader, I scrambled to get into position to take the house. Again I rushed the house, this time with two rifle squads and luck was not with me. The battle was looking rather hopeless and my casualties piled up. I tried to get my units into position again - looking again for an advance and ambush card and hoping Robert wouldn't have one too. His Germans flanked my team and started shooting from the woods, but the Russians held and managed to get dug into some foxholes. Then they started returning fire ferociously and a few routs pushed his wounded men back. Finally the cards were right and I went for a last ditch melee. This time the Russians were victorious. A bonus card for surviving the melee brought me back to within 5 points. If time ran out, we'd be tied - and Robert had the tiebreaker card! I hoped to massacre his remaining troops when they crossed the road (I had multiple cards for using my machine guns on moving targets), but time ran out and so did my luck. The game ended in a tie, and Robert still held the initiative card.


Mike G. said...

One of the best games ever made.

Matthew Frederick said...

I really look forward to trying it.

Jaybird said...

Wait until you try some of the later scenarios. Ones that include mortar fire.

I had a greenhorn manning my mortars one game. His aim was awful (was it his shaking 18 year old hands or his distracting flashbacks to 6 months ago in english class?), and he forgot to take into account wind. Those two, coupled with poor communication from the field, and one of his volleys landed right next to my own guys, wounding a few men and rendering them near useless.

I can see how people might not like this game, or even hate it. The chaos is rampant, the card flips are so unpredictable, and it can take awhile.

But the story that each game creates can be unforgettable. I still remember vivid scenes from a game I played last November. Truly one of the all time great games in my opinion. Those who dismiss it because it is a wargame, or because it has wargame components might be missing out on one of the greatest combinations of mechanics, narrative, and metagaming to ever come to the world of board gaming.

rdbolan said...

I love this game

Bobby said...

It truly is the best small unit WWII game I've played. I used to love Squad Leader back in the day, but there are just too many chits and rules to remember. This is streamlined, yet is a robust gaming experience.

Mike G. said...

Not to mention that the average scenario can be played in no more than 90 minutes