The webmaster has long toyed with the idea of comparing different game systems by introducing identical scenario parameters into each and using them to compare and contrast. Kevin Prouty has very competently stolen the webmaster's thunder in this very entertaining and well-informed article, and has graciously permitted his work to be published here.

Panzer Command: Kharkov vs. Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin
by Kevin Prouty,
8 May 2008

I decided to compare Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin (CM:BB) and Panzer Command: Kharkov (PC:K) based on six or seven years of playing CM:BB, and a month of playing PC:K. I played Squad Leader, Advanced Squad Leader, and other board games for over 35 years, and have played computer wargames for over 20 years.

Summary:

CM:BB is still the reigning champ of east front tactical warfare for the PC. PC:Kís predecessor, Panzer Command: Winter Storm, really didnít match up well from both a game play and extensibility perspective. PC:K comes close on the game play side, but blows CM:BB out of the water in extensibility with modability and campaign generators.

I think its game play is still slightly less than that of CM:BB. Here are a few key reasons:

  • PC:Kís units are a subset of the units CM:BB provides. No allied armies, more limited timeframe, few infantry type options, etc.

  • No covered arcs. In fact some of the designers/developers are dead set against them.

  • Order system that is still not completely matured.

  • No waypoints, chaining movement types, or color coding of movement lines for quick reference.

  • No/Limited TacAI to handle events in the middle of the action phase

  • No fatigue model

  • Use of buildings by infantry

  • A significant feel that this is basically a board game with computers; phases, opportunity fire, reaction, dice rolls, factors, etc.

What is good about PC:K:

  • New and interesting platoon command system

  • Heads Up Display (HUD) that allows you to select units from list

  • Events list that brings you to unit when clicked

  • Formations

  • Flexible camera system

  • Limited command delays

  • Mini map for good situational awareness

To make a true comparison of the two games, I was interested in comparing how PC:K and CM:BB played out on similar scenarios. I had a random scenario generated in PC:K and then recreated it in CM:BB. A major point is that you really canít effectively do it the other way around (due to the lack of a map editor in PC:K).

Here are some graphics comparisons I did while building my comparison scenario. The dates are important in CM:BB because it changes the unit textures, grain fields, and foliage. The date is July 1943.

Here is the PC:K picture looking from the northeast corner.

Here is the CM:BB picture from about the same point. PC:K's camera controls are more flexible so I had to pick the point in CM:BB and then set it up in PC:K.


 

One thing I noticed is that the vehicle graphics are a little better in PC:K. Remember, both of these images are unmodded. There are some very nice CM:BB mods out there, but PC:K seems like it has more potential to mod.

Here is the PC:K PzKpfw IVG:

Here is the CM:BB PzKpfw IVG:

Note that I ran all of these at 1024x768 resolution (due to monitor limitations) with 32 bit color.

Map Comparisons:

A few things I noticed in the map building process:

There is some kind of issue with the Kharkov 12b map.  In the southwest corner, there is a ploughed field that has no trees, but when you place a unit there, it says light trees.  This happens in a couple of spots.

  • I noticed the trees are built from 2D sprites in PC:K.  They look OK from a couple of angles, but are pretty ugly in comparison to CM:BB from any other angle.  CM:BB trees and leaves sway in the breeze. I don't really care how itís done, but CM:BB looks better. Whatever CM:BB does for trees it seems to do well. While graphic details aren't something that I really get hung up on, seeing the tall pines sway in a strong wind is kind of nice in CM:BB. There is a lengthy discussion on the Matrix forums on this subject.1
     

  • I didn't see any grain in the PC:K map.  It is automatically placed in the CM:BB map.  It is one of those things controlled by date.  The CM:BB grain looks OK from certain angles, but blocky from high elevations.
     

  • The PC:K maps have a much higher fidelity to reality.  The CM:BB terrain comes in 20m tiles and looks blocky.  Not much of an issue in fields, but in smaller tree stands is noticeable.  It is also an issue when placing roads, fences, hedges, etc.

  • Human representation is much, much better in PC:K.  This is especially true in infantry support weapons which feature realistic animations.
     

  • CM:BB has quite a bit of variability in weather, including wind, rain, snow, mud, night, etc. on the same map. PC:K has only what the map was built with and some ability to change visibility.
     

  • I don't see a lot of difference in buildings.  It seems PC:K buildings are a little more detailed.
     

  • CM:BB roads are more visible, but less integrated into the surrounding terrain.
     

  • CM:BB roads also only run at certain angles.  PC:K had smooth turns and various angles.

PC:K has a haze that makes it difficult to see more than 500 or so meters.  It seems to be there on all maps.  Also some buildings disappear at certain angles.  In fact, it made it difficult to do screen shots.  I was looking at the train station from 100m and took the shot.  It didn't show up in the shot.  All the terrain and the train did, but not the building.  I changed the angle a few degrees and took the shot again.  It was there then.  Weird.

The map building process in CM:BB probably took two hours.  I think it would have been one, but I had to keep alt-tabbing back to PC:K to see what terrain types were.  I am no map maker.  This is probably only the 4th or 5th map I have ever made.  I also chose a pretty flat map in PC:K, mainly because there was no way I could see to check elevations.  This allowed me to just use a flat CM:BB map.

A general thought looking back at some of the screenshots.

CM:BB looks better up high at an angle. PC:K looks better up close and down low. Up high you don't really notice the detail from the high fidelity. Down low, the CM:BB stuff looks too clean.

The soldier graphics though are hands down better in PC:K. No amount of modding can change that.

I think the AFVs aren't that far apart, except on round objects like wheels. CM:BB appears to have a low poly count. I have seen CM:BB mods that look as good as some of the PC:K models, but I'm sure PC:K will improve beyond that with modding.

In the end, you can build maps in CM:BB, you canít build them in PC:K. PC:Kís maps look better and probably have a better slant towards realistic terrain, but how much a role that plays will show up in the scenarios.

The scenarios:

The random scenario from PC:K gave the Germans a platoon of PzKpfw IVGs, three SdKfz 251 halftracks, a PSW 231 armored car, two platoons of Panzergrenadier infantry with a platoon of machine guns and mortars.

The Soviets got two platoons of SU 76s (six vehicles total), a platoon of T70s, a single T60, 2 x BA64 armored cars, and two companies of infantry with no support weapons, other than three 50mm mortars.

Each side got a flag. There was one flag at the train station and one in the middle of the map, surrounded by woods.

I was pretty much able to match the units, with some minor deviations due to limitations in selecting units in CM:BB.

I pretty much left the default setup in each so to make it as easy as possible to compare.

Here is turn 1 from CM:BB:

Orders for turn 1 were for all light armor to head for cover because I could see some armor ahead. What is interesting is all the armor is unidentified. The 64s are just listed as AC. The T70/60s are listed only as light armor with 45mm gun. There is also some unIDed infantry coming down the RR Track. I start T1.

14 sec. into T1, one of my PzKpfw IV targets a still not completely ID T70 (I know itís a 70 because I built the scenario). After taking a shot, the T70 starts to reverse (the better part of valor). Meanwhile, another PzKpfw IV fires on the infantry coming down the RR track. My last PzKpfw IV is area firing the T60 in the woods because it doesnít have an ID on it. Also, my light armorís dash for cover is only partially successful, I lose a 251 and the 231 AC to the SU76s.

Comments: The TacAI did a very good job here. The T70 reversed because it had no chance at killing a PzKpfw IV (or probably even hitting it) at over 800m. The TacAI knew light armor was in the woods and had the PzKpfw IV area fire the woods to suppress the T60. I gave no orders except move and hunt. All combat was run by the AI. Next turn, I will tell two of the PzKpfw IVs to only fire at armor and have the other continue to suppress the Soviet infantry coming down the road. I will also continue to move the infantry around to get them in position, but keep them out of LOS until I can deal with the SU76s.

There was a lot of discussion about the T70 reversing and TacAI taking control on the Matrix boards. As you can see, in this instance, it was probably a good thing.

Order phase for T1 in PC:K

First turn orders are similar to CM:BB. Order the lights to seek cover. The 2 251s got there before the SU76s saw them. The major difference is I ordered the 231 to engage and advance up the road to see what it could see.

Comments: It is not as easy as CM:BB to fine tune the positioning of the infantry because of the order sequence with platoons. Also note that no one has seen the T70s and T60 yet or the infantry coming down the RR track. Also the replay in CM:BB is much easier with the VCR type controls.

The picture is actually the beginning of the reaction phase.


Reaction phase for PC:K

I order the 231 to withdraw to cover after a few shots from the SU76s. At end of T1, some SU76s target 2 PzKpfw IVs, I donít think they fired yet. It is hard to catch it. At the beginning of T2, I am ordering the PzKpfw IVs to target the SU76s because they wouldnít do it on their own. I think it is because of the poor to hit chance.

Comments: You can see the difference in individual spotting here. The 251s see 4 SU76s and 2 ACs. The PzKpfw IVs only see 2 SU76s. Right now this isnít a big deal because the other SU76s are out of LOS of the PzKpfw IV anyway. The other thing is that PC:K only partially solves the borg spotting issue. Without simulating the command net, any unit that spots an enemy unit immediately transmits the info to all other units. They may not be able to target it, but they know its there immediately.

There is definitely something different in either the spotting or AI reactions. My PzKpfw IVs have yet to spot any light tanks in PC:K. In CM:BB they spotted a couple in the first 10 seconds. It may be because the CM:BB AI moved them right away and the PC:K AI held back. Something I'd like to point out again is that the CM:BB TacAI has not gotten a single positive ID yet. The PC:K TacAI, once it spots, has immediate ID, as well as knowing its status.

Also, the event list is the best feature of the entire PC series. It lets you jump around to events all over the map. Half my time in a CM:BB replay is spent looking for what is going on. In the end PC:K gives you much better situational awareness.

From a replay perspective, the frame by frame advance in CM:BB allows pretty fine tuned reviews. I have struggled with the controls in PC:K. CM:BBís replay mechanism is intuitive like a VCR.


 

CM:BB Turn 2 and a couple of things of interest

  • One thing I have always liked about CM:BB/AK over CMBO was the FOW on killing AFVs.  My last 251 was killed by a T70.  It took some time for the crew to bail.  The T70 pumped three or four more rounds into the 251.  It too almost 40 seconds for the AI to realize the 251 was dead.  If it had exploded, the T70 would have stopped right away.
     

  • Now the bad side of the TacAI comes into play.  The same 251 was about 15m away from some cover in woods.  Off to its right, the killer T70 appears.  Most humans would have kept going full tilt and in 20m be out of sight.  The 251 stopped, threw it into reverse, and had about 70m to get to cover behind it.  This does not happen with great frequency, but it does happen.  The only way to stop this from ever happening is the PC:K does it.  Shorter turns and more control by the human player.  I do like the TacAI making decisions for me when I can't intervene, but sometimes it is annoying to start a turn and 5 sec. in see it happen and not be able to do anything about it.  In PC:K, the 251 would have just kept on going.  It may have still gotten killed, but it would have been a little more satisfying.
     

  • I am seeing a lot of deflections in the SU76 battle with the PzKpfw IVs.  But the SU76s are standing their ground.  I will have to check their morale and experience level.
     

  • I rushed the infantry in the back left corner into the woods.  I exhausted them.  I will try the same rush in PC:K and see what happens.
     

  • The order delays for the Germans in CM:BB are around 7 sec.  I managed to get a HMG out of command and its delay increased to 15 sec.  It should be only temporary because I am sending him over to another infantry platoon.
     

One thing to keep in mind with CM:BB's TacAI is that it accounts for experience and morale.  A veteran experience unit, even in an inferior AFV, will stay for a while and try to take out or damage a superior foe.  Soviet AFVs in 1941/42/early 43 tended to be inexperienced and scared off easily. 

That to me is part of battle.  You, as commander, say to an 18 year old tank commander with a T70, "Go there and hold that position."  He starts out, his driver sees a German medium tank with a long gun, and the TC says screw this, I'm heading back to my unit.  That is not only plausible, but read some of the unit histories of US tankers bugging out at the first sign of a German tank with a long gun after 43.

FOW plays a huge role in it too.  If you misID a T-34 as a BT7, you'll have a bad day.  If you misID a BT7 as a T34, you'll pull back when you shouldn't have. In the end if you give a unit good morale and good experience, they are not likely to bug out or misID.  If its a T70 against an IDed Tiger or Panther, they should bug out without me intervening. Some people like to have total control and predictability based on stats and thatís fine.  I happen to like having a little of the chaos and confusion of the real battle thrown into my plans.

Turn 2 for PC:K

Orders phase a couple of the SU76s are now visible.  A PzKpfw IV takes a few shots with one deflected with no damage.  My infantry are now in position.  I have started my HMG moving to a building about 70m to the front to set up cover for my infantry advance.  By the end of the turn, I have spotted a couple of T70s on the road in corner.  A couple of infantry are now spotted coming down the RR track.

In the reaction phase the SU76s start advancing towards their objective, but about 5 sec. later 3 are killed by my PzKpfw IV.  Meanwhile, the PzKpfw IVs started shooting at the BA64s that are just sitting there.  Three shots from each of two PzKpfw IVs later one is dead and the other damaged.  btw, after three shots each from the PzKpfw IV, the ACs never reacted.  Not much else happened.

Comments:  The situational awareness in PC:K shines here.  While I am looking at the HMG movement, I saw the kills of the SU76s.  I am still having a very hard time finding units, even with icons on.  I have to go right down to the ground to click o infantry units or keep clicking on the unit list until I find it.  One disappointment is I wanted to have the HMGs enter the building, but they will arrive, I am guessing, about 5 seconds into the next turn.  That means waiting at least 35 seconds outside the building while I wait for the turn to end.  Also note ammo selection seems to be good.  Thin skinned SP gun got the APHE love.  One thing I am surprised at is that the SU76s decided to head for the objective even in the middle of a firefight with my PzKpfw IVs.

The infamous Borg Spotting

So has borg spotting reared its ugly head? Yes and No; I think it is less about borg spotting than different spotting routines that has the impact.  T1 CM:BB saw 5 squads immediately coming down the RR track.  PC:K only saw two on T2.  Once again, I don't know what the PC:K AI is doing with them so some may be stationary, but I doubt it.

As far as relative spotting goes, I don't think in this particular scenario it has made a huge difference.  I really thought it would.  The SU76s that were spotted by other units were out of LOS of the PzKpfw IVs anyway so it really didn't matter.  What mattered was knowing they were there.

Turn 3 in PC:K

Orders:  I don't give any orders except to mount the HMG in a building.  I get one HMG into a building, but the other is stuck outside.  I'll have to mess around a little to get him cover.  The PzKpfw IVs are heavily engaged now with the SU76s.  The 76s have stopped their headlong flight to the objective to engage the PzKpfw IVs.  More infantry is pouring down the RR track.  One PzKpfw IV is engaging them with HE.  They kill one squad.  As soon as my HMGs are in place and the 76s are taken care of, I'll start moving out to the RR station.  I have seen two T70s in the back corner heading my way, but I'll just keep an eye on that.  I also saw at the end of reaction an infantry squad pops up in that corner.

Comments:  It seems difficult to suppress infantry in open movement with HE.  My PzKpfw IV fired 6 rounds, eventually killing one squad.  But none of the other squads nearby even blinked.  They walked right by the bloody bodies.  In CM:BB, nearby squads would at least go to a cautious state and slightly susceptible to suppression.

Turn 3 CM:BB - a disaster for the Germans

First my PzKpfw IVs are in a long range duel with the remaining SU76s.  If I was the Soviet commander, I would have moved them back out of LOS by now.  But it pays off for him.  I lose a PzKpfw IV while he loses (I think) another SU76.  It was reversing at the time and went out of LOS so it may not be dead.  But still a good trade for the Soviets.  The rest of the SU76s seem to be moving back behind cover, as a good assault gun should.

Second, I was moving my HMGs to support to different platoons in an upcoming assault.  One HMG took a casualty and is pinned in the open.  I hope they crawl to cover before any more damage is done.  The other is diverted to cover by the TacAI.  I will let is rest and then bring it back over.  All my light armor is dead except one 251.  I will bring it up behind cover to support the assault on the objective.

I did manage to kill one of the T70s that killed a 251.  Luckily, the other is preoccupied pumping rounds into the dead 251.

Comments:  Not much to say on this one.  I was over confident.  I left one PzKpfw IV in LOS of all three remaining SU76s and paid for it.  I let my only two MGs get caught in the open by the armored cars, two of which are now dead.  The third reversed out of sight after witnessing the demise of its brothers and cousin SU76s.  My PzKpfw IVs are now occupied with the SU76s and the infantry squad, after a few minor casualties, is coming down the RR track unmolested.  I am putting a platoon of PG into the RR station.  Hopefully they can hold it off until the HT or a P$ can help.  As the scenario designer, I know that the T70s will start coming and keep the PzKpfw IVs even more occupied.

Turn 4 for CM:BB

I suck.  I lost another PzKpfw IV.  Thought I was smart and hunted my two PzKpfw IV's forward and two SU76s popped up and killed one with 4 combined shots.  My HMG broke and ran.  I did get my PG platoon to the station and my other HMG, along with the useless 50mm mortars into position to suppress the SU76s.  Without giving any orders, the HMG opened up on the lead SU76 and forced it to button.

Comments:  So far CM:BB seems a little better at target selection.  My PzKpfw IVs have appropriately switched targets and prioritized them as I would have.  The HMG, once through its setup, opened up on an SU76 that was 200m away to button it.  I am hoping to shock it with a crew casualty.  While the SUs were out of LOS, my PzKpfw IVs went back to suppressing the infantry coming down the RR track and forced a lot of them to ground and cover.  This gave me time to get the PG to the RR station.

Turn 4 PC:K

I am much better at PC:K.  My PzKpfw IVs advance slowly forward and stop.  At the same time I rush the 251 that was on their left to the RR station.  It distracts the SU76s, which had stopped to engage the PzKpfw IVs.  The PzKpfw IVs pick off two of them after they fired 6 or 7 shots at the 251 before killing it.  I am guessing it took between 10 and twelve shots for the PzKpfw IVs to kill the SUs.  Seems like a lot for non-moving target less than 500m away.  I also start the other 251s forward to scout out the T70s I saw earlier.  The infantry coming down the RR track seems to have paused, but I am most worried about them.

Comments: One of my PzKpfw IVs became obsessed with the BA64 and ignored SU76s for three or four shots. Only when the BA64 was dead did it switch targets. In the CM:BB turn, the PzKpfw IV immediately switched from the BA64s as soon as it spotted the SU76s. That is why the one 64 got away.

Turn 5 for PC:K

I don't want to speak too soon, but this is a cakewalk.  I just finished off the last of the SU76s.  The BA64s are dead.  One T70 is dead.  Infantry is the only real threat left.  The PzKpfw IVs have turned their attention to the company coming down the RR tracks.  It previously killed one and now has one suppressed.  On the other side of the map, I accidentally moved two squads out into the open when I was trying to move a platoon HQ up to a jump off point.  I withdrew them in reaction with no issues.  I did have to rush a couple of HT out of LOS of a T70.  They started the turn in LOS after the T70 came out of a clump of woods about 200m away.  I had to sit through 40 seconds of the T70 missing shot after shot until it was distract by a 50mm mortar moving a few hundred meters away.  At least the 50s are good for something.

Comments:  I am not sure what I am doing differently between PC:K and CM:BB.  I have totally different results.  In PC:K, no more than 3 hits were scored by the SU76s on the PzKpfw IVs.  The only AFV they killed was the 251 sprinting across the map.  In CM:BB, the initial volleys from the SU76s and the PzKpfw IVs were off, but they homed in quickly.  It also seems like I am able to suppress the infantry in CM:BB more readily, but they recover quickly after the fire is lifted.  In PC:K, it seems that once the infantry is suppressed, the odds are they won't recover and eventually are dead.

Turn 5 in CM:BB

I still suck.  Two PzKpfw IVs down and the T70s are coming on support by the two (one?) SU76.  That last AC is still hanging around suppressing some infantry.  I have started dropping mortar rounds on one SU to see if I can suppress it.  I still have almost a company of PG left, but one platoon is stuck in the RR station and the other tow are in the woods waiting to jump off.  They have a lot of open ground to cover and I can see T70s hanging around along with at least a platoon of infantry.  If I can just KO the SUs, I have a chance to take on the T70s before range closes and the 45mm becomes a threat.

Comments:  I still suck. The firefight ranges for the armor battles were generally between 800m and 600m in both.  The final firefight in PC:K was about 600m.  The ongoing fight in CM:BB has not been below 650m.  All hits have been front hull or turret. Also, it may be just the fact the infantry is walking down the middle of the road on the suppression issue.  One difference between CM:BB and PC:K is that the PzKpfw IVs in CM:BB engaged the RR track infantry with hull MG while also shooting at the SUs.  This kept that infantry company in check for a while.  In PC:K, they kept switching targets, but never engaged two at the same time.

Turn 6 in CM:BB

I don't suck as much.  The PzKpfw IV killed the last two SUs just in time to start suppressing the infantry coming down the RR track.  I have given it an armor covered arc and hunt command towards the center of the map to hopefully pick off the T70s.  For those not familiar with CM,   the covered arc tells the PzKpfw IV to only engage enemy in an arc set by me.  An armor CA means only engage armor.  It will ignore the CA if threatened outside the arc.  Hunt means move until a valid target appears, stop, engage, and keep moving if enemy is destroyed.  I think itís similar to defend move in PC:K.  I am having all infantry remain in place until I either win or lose the armor battle.

Turn 6 in PC:K

I am 3/4 of the way to victory.  I am bounding the PzKpfw IV platoon to the RR station.  My infantry is somewhat useless at this point.  I have set up a platoon in woods in the middle of the map to cover the PzKpfw IVs flanks, but the PzKpfw IVs are picking off the T70s as they do their bounding movement.

Comments:  Something about this was way too easy.  It may have been the initial setup.  I let the computer pick setup in PC:K and then copied it CM:BB.  I do think something is a little off in PC:K.  6 SU76s sitting in LOS of three PzKpfw IVGs should have taken out at least 1, probably 2, before being wiped out.

Turn 7 in PC:K

All three PzKpfw IVs firing at the rifle company on the RR tracks broke their back.  In over 80 seconds, three squads dead, the rest heading for the hills.  But it is a little dicey on the right flank.  All that infantry and the remaining T70s are making a run at the Soviet objective in the middle of the map.  They killed a second 251.  A remaining 251, two 50mm mortars, and a gaggle of infantry are holding them off.  I would like to send a PzKpfw IV over there, but am not sure I want to deal with the command issues.  I may just send the whole platoon over.

Comments:  One of the 50mm mortars is taking an immense amount of fire and shrugging it off.  It is the first real heavy fire any of my infantry have seen.

Turn 7 and Turn 8 in CM:BB

I suck again.  That SU76 I thought I had killed wasn't dead.  It engaged my PzKpfw IV at the end T8 from 800m just as it cam around a corner.  Now I have to deal with that threat.  If I had been more careful in tracking how many SUs my PzKpfw IV killed I wouldn't have been surprised.  One of my issues is keeping the two games separate in my mind.

What is amusing is that in RL, I couldn't have done the coordination I have in either game.  I would have had the infantry jump off at a selected time without knowing what threats had been dealt with.  My god's eye lets me hold back the infantry until the armor affair is settled.

Here is the final turn/screen in PC:K

It only took 10 turns. I kept my PzKpfw IV platoon together to clear out the train station. They killed the last T70 from across the map. That allowed me to rush up my 231 AC and that help wipe out the infantry on the right flank.

CM:BB final turns/screen

I suck, but not as bad as I thought. I had to make an infantry assault to finally push the soviets to the breaking point. I had already captured the objective, but it was a hidden objective and the soviets built their last stand around the wrong flag.

My lone PzKpfw IV had a final confrontation with an SU76 and won, but in the middle of the fight a soviet mg killed the TC, who was unbuttoned. The shocked PzKpfw IV shrugged off 3 hits. I was very lucky. The PzKpfw IV went on to wipe out the last soviet armor and pin the cluster of squads defending the false flag. I had to do the final assault to end the game and took a few casualties doing it.

The final score really doesn't reflect how close it was. If I had lost my last PzKpfw IV, it was over. If they had managed to take and hold the true objective, I would have had at best a draw.

Comments: I gave myself 45 minutes in this and in the end, if it had been 30 minutes, I would have lost.

Conclusion of Scenarios

I am not sure what to make of the completely different way the two games played out.  I am going to replay the PC:K scenario again straight through and see if it was a fluke.

Off hand I would say the PC:K AI waited too long to bring the T70s and infantry company on its left into play.  If it had been coordinated with the SU76s and the company on its right, they may have taken both objectives and decimated my infantry. 

What I have a problem with is the "uberness" of the PzKpfw IVGs.  6 SU76s should have been able to get more than 3 hits on 3 PzKpfw IVs not moving in open at 650m on average.  I am going to go back to the editor and check the experience/morale of the SUs and see if they are OK.

The other thing was the complete uselessness of infantry on both sides.  I am not sure what to make of that either.  Is it they were handled badly by both myself and the AI.  I don't know.

Now as to why I did this...I have seen BFC fans completely ignore any thing that remotely competes with CM:BB.  I am hoping some of them look at this and it allows them to make a rational decision.  Face it CM:BB/AK is dead.  So, depending on your priorities, you should look at any new bandwagon that comes to town.

Comments on command system

I think the platoon orders also make sense, as long as they are not artificially restrictive.   Right now PC:K seems to have gone a little too far.  It restricts or makes difficult some real world tactics with restrictions a commander in the field would not have.  I have always thought command delays struck a nice balance of simulating a command net, or lack there of. 

Platoon orders is a good idea, but right now, there no inherent flexibility in the system.  And, in some ways it doesn't do enough.  If all I have to do is one or two more clicks, what is the point?  Instead of trying to reflect a real world limitation, you are just making a player click through a few more times.

In my mind, the platoon orders system should be kept the same as it is, but add detach/attach, morale penalties based on communications capabilities, experience, training, and current morale.  Add in delays based on the same parameters.  Now you have a flexible system where the player has to make choices, plan ahead, can react, and has the flexibility to put troops where they are needed, not based on whether he wants to deal with the menu system. Without some of these things added, it really is only a less flexible menu burden, not a true command burden.

In the end all I'm saying is that if you put platoon orders in place for a game that details squads, give the player the tools to manage the squads as needed, with the penalties needed to make the player feel the burden of real command.  Otherwise, why not make a platoon level game that doesn't show the squads or abstracts them.

Recommendations

I actually had more fun with CM:BB, mainly because of the lopsided nature of the engagement.  Once the SU76s were gone, it was basically over except some minor skirmishes that occurred because I was rushing to get the scenario done.

Frankly, the platoon orders continue to annoy me.  Its not that I don't mind the concept, but I have to constantly make adjustments to orders.  Part of that is that the hot keys aren't second nature yet, but getting a platoon into a non-linear tree line is a click fest unless I want squads hanging out of cover.  This is what makes it artificial feeling.  If I could detach, with penalties, I would find it much more believable.

The turns also played faster in PC:K because the better tools for situational awareness meant I didn't have run through the turn ten times to see what happened.

Follow up

I just played my same scenario from the Soviet side.  The Germans rushed a bunch of HTs and infantry forward that were quickly dispatched by the SU76s.  I kept the SU76s back in over watch while I moved the rifle company down the RR track.  I captured that flag.  I was unable to get the infantry and T70s across the field in any semblance of order and that attack feel apart once it crossed the tree line on the road.  By the way, 5 of 6 SU76s were killed between Turn 4 and Turn 7 without hitting any of the PzKpfw IVs firing on them.  I checked their morale/experience.  They were all veteran.  To say the least, I did not fair well.  It took a little longer than as playing as Germans, and I scored a few more points, but the end result was only slightly less lopsided.

Conclusion on follow up

It isn't necessarily the AI that caused the lopsided German victory (or my tactical skills).  It would seem this particular setup favors the Germans.  Also keep in mind I left the setup as scenario default.  Adjustments would have helped.  One issue I had was trying to set an ambush by my T70 to catch a PzKpfw IV in the flank.  If I put it on hold fire, the PzKpfw IV usually came in and out of sight too fast for me to react.  If I took it off hold, it would pummel away on a hapless HMG team until the PzKpfw IV showed up to blow it apart.  I tried this ambush several times.  What I would like to do is force it to face a certain way and not change.  Any suggestions on this are well received.

To balance the commentary, here is my game in CM:BB as the Soviets.

The main difference in this game was I rushed the rifle company on the RR tracks to the station and held it with supporting fire from the SU76s. They all got killed quicker than in my germen game, and only killed one PzKpfw IV. The main difference is my rushing infantry to the flags early, setting up a defense and hammering the AI's infantry assaults. Once again, all Soviet armor was destroyed, but getting to the flags early won the game.

Bottom Line

Would I buy PC:K? Yes.

Is it a better tactical game than CM:BB? No, but it is close, and closer than anyone else.

Why would you buy it? It has a developer listening intently, has a unique command system, is growing, is completely moddable

What is the downside? It still feels and operates like a table top game. Phases, opportunity fire, dice rolls, a lot of subjective factors.

Downloads (right click and select "Save Target as" or "Save Link as")

Notes

  1. The original discussion at the Matrix Forums occurred here.

 

Notes: An update to Panzer Command entitled Panzer Command: Ostfront is slated for release in the spring/summer of 2011. The first Second World War title of the second generation Combat Mission game engine is also expected to be released in April 2011.

Update: Combat Mission: Battle for Normandy was released on 17 May 2011.

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