Middle-aged or older players will no doubt get a frisson of déjà vu when they read today’s headlines: two super powers and a confusing mix of proxies involved in the volatile Middle East and Russia apparently trying to regain lost areas of the Soviet Union as NATO loses coherence. WarfareSims and Slitherine/Matrix uses Command Modern Air and Naval Operations (CMANO) to simulate both these situations in the first two expansions of their new Command Live program: “Old Grudges Never Die” and “You Brexit, You Fix It”. Insights gained in these DLCs will disrupt a restful sleep.
No Game for Lazy Minds
Command Modern Air and Naval Operations is not a simple game, as anyone who remembers my original review will know. Players must understand the complex technology of post-1950 naval and air warfare. Help can be had at http://www.warfaresims.com/ and http://qa.commandmodernairnavaloperations.com/ but there is no substitute for repeated play and patience. Key concepts are using the message log information to identify enemies early and to match load-outs to targets, i.e. don’t bring an iron bomb to a laser-guided missile fight. Play is also aided by the many linked data screens jam packed with the latest details on craft, weapon and sensor platforms. Another thing to remember is game speed: playing a day-long scenario at 1:1 seconds (real time) can get boring but revving the speed up to one of the higher speeds can catch players on the hop. A compromise is to run at 5x (five seconds game time to one second real time), keeping a finger ready to pause and then dropping back to real time when crises pop. Regardless of play style, the game is very demanding but rewards players with great excitement and insights.
Where Nobody Wears a White Hat
Although the community has developed a multitude of fine scenarios, WarfareSims have initiated a line of add-ons called Command LIVE focusing on current world events. The first episode, complete with faux newspaper articles, is Old Grudges Never Die. Set in Syria, a myriad of factions are represented: Syrian government troops, pro-government militias, anti-government Western supported rebels, the Western coalition, Russia, Kurds and Turkey. The only common denominator among these groups is the urge to destroy everything ISIS. In the scenario, players can choose to play either as Russia or Turkey. An easy way for both parties to play is just to hit ISIS troops and buildings with air or UAV strikes over a 24-hour period; a modest but satisfying score can be racked up this way. ISIS SAM batteries may knock down a few jets but nothing substantial. However, the AI-controlled ground war continues with the possibility of some opposing militias firing on each other. When that occurs, the sponsoring nation, Russia or Turkey, may step in to help their proxies. One event will lead to another and hostilities between the larger powers can begin. In one session, Russia helped the Kurds take a bridge near the Turkish border. Turkey responded by having a submarine sink a Russian frigate. Other powers stepped in to force a truce and end the session in this instance but the situation could have escalated. A mirror-image situation was when Turkey put an air patrol over the same bridge and Russia retaliated with air strikes including some from the Caspian Sea.
Replay is assured because events may not “fire” when triggered. Thus, the strategy and tactics that worked last time may not work next time. The game does a fine job of portraying the incredibly complicated, confused and tragic situation in Syria. Players may wish they could play coalition forces but the system evidently is binominal. Old Grudges Never Die came out with patch 1.11 SR 3. The add-on ran well when this patch was tweaked. SR 4 is out now and problems have been reported. The developers are working on SR 5 so caution should be exercised.
Got Along without You before I met You, Gonna Get Along without You Now
In a year of political surprises, Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union stands out. The initial economic aftershocks have calmed down but the long-term ramifications are unknown. One possible effect may be a weakening of NATO. With Putin’s Russia flexing its muscle, confrontation along Russia’s western borders is possible if not probable. The stretching of the US military in the Middle East and Afghanistan changes the Cold War calculus to the advantage of the Bear.
The add-on You Brexit, You Fix It comes with two scenarios: one is NATO’s worse case with member countries slow to respond to a Russian invasion of Estonia and Lithuania. Only one small airfield in Lithuania equipped with an American squadron of F-16s and an equally small airbase in Estonia housing a small EAF contingent are ready to intercept bogies. American F-22s become ready quickly but are based in Germany. The other NATO forces dribble in during the day when certain events are “fired”. The Russian player must quickly use a combination of “Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD)” missions and bombing the runways and buildings of the small bases, allowing ground forces to roll in with impunity. NATO forces must hustle north to turn back the Russians before the Baltic States are swallowed. With luck, NATO naval forces can act an auxiliary deterrent. The other scenario is basically the same but with NATO as a unified, effective force. As this scenario remains hypothetical, the immediacy and drama of the Syrian clash is lacking yet it serves nicely as an exhibition of the balance of forces between today’s East and West.
You Brexit, You Fix It came with patch 1.11 SR 4 and, as with so many patches, broke as many features as it fixed. Reports of screens being scrunched, crashes and events not performing correctly have been reported. Again, players should watch forums for the arrival of SR 5.
The base game can be made more accessible with larger font or resolution. The order of battle function lists every type of craft, structure and building. Players must scroll through a very long list when they only need to know where bases and ships are so they can jump to them. A collapsible order of battle of a separate tab would help immensely.
All players who own and play should grab both of these add-ons now. They’re relatively cheap and the Syrian add-on is bug-free. Kudos to the developer for giving us good insights into today’s military climate so we can understand the situations at some levels better than the media’s explanations. The next add-on should be about the South China Sea or the Pacific Rim. However, before taking up a new project, crush those bugs!
This review covers products published and/or developed by a member of the Slitherine Group of companies. For more information, please see our Reviews Policy page.