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Close Combat: Cross of Iron – Opening Thoughts

April 7th, 2007 by Troy Goodfellow · No Comments · WW2

I’ve been dabbling with Close Combat: Cross of Iron a little in the last few weeks. Not enough to do a complete review yet, but enough to raise some questions about the release of an updated version of a ten year old game.

While reading Bill Trotter’s eight page review at Wargamer, three things hit me. First, just because the Internet means you can have an infinite word count it doesn’t mean you should use it. Second, starting your review with an after action report is a risky thing. Third, just because a game was great once, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a smart buy now, especially at new game prices. Even with expanded mod capability.

Close Combat has all the things that Trotter praises. I agree with his general evaluation of the game and its mechanics. It helps that most of the maps are small, racheting up the tension. Close Combat was one of the best real time wargames for its time and its easy to see why it was roundly praised.

But if someone came up to me right now and asked if they should drop their forty bucks on it, I’d be lying if I said yes.

Of course, it doesn’t help that I’ve been playing a lot of Company of Heroes and Combat Mission lately.

The lessons of Close Combat were learned by many of the games that followed it and they raised the bar for what World War II combat looked like. Combat Mission has morale (and the added advantage of not having your Russian conscripts walk through platoons of their own men to surrender to the Germans). Combat Mission has random scenario generation on top of the partially random starting troops that Close Combat has.

Company of Heroes is, of course, not a real wargame; it’s an RTS. But it captures the chaos of combat in a much more compelling way than Close Combat does. People who dismiss the importance of graphics have never seen their sniper nest explode unexpectedly.

Now, if you are interested in the history of wargaming and missed the Close Combat series, you really need to find it. This, plus the Sid Meier’s Civil War games, showed how real time wargaming could improve on the traditional turn-based model. And I am still enjoying the nostalgia fix that the Matrix re-release is giving me. This is still a good game, but in the way that Civilization II is still a good game.

More complete thoughts will come in a few weeks once I’ve played around with the campaigns.


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