Just finished up a solo game of Combat Commander: Europe this evening. I set up the first CC:E scenario, Fat Lipski, and played both sides over the course of two evenings.
There was the usual referencing the rules to make sure that I was doing everything correctly but there was a lot less of that than I would have expected for the first game in a new system. In the end the Russians pulled a win out of what I thought was a sure German victory.
The system is really unlike most squad-level games I have played. Your ability to enact your strategy each turn is inhibited by the cards you draw. You might break an enemy squad and be in a great position for An assault but not have the cards to do it. Or you might but your opponent has three ambush cards and destroys your assault before it even starts.
The scenario system is also interesting in that there are five VP locations on each map. At the start of the game you draw a varied number of chits, and sometimes secret chits as well, that assign victory points to some or all of the locations. In this game the #5 location ended up being worth ten VPs making it the only location worth fighting. Sadly the location is a building that was closest to the German starting point and so the Germans were able to grab it quite early. The Lt. and his squad were able to hold off a fairly large Russian force and things looked even more grim when a German infantry gun and crew showed up and started lobbing shells at the Russians in a wheat field.
What looked like a stalled Russian attack quickly turned around as Russian fire broke the Lt. and then, without his morale bonus, the German squad broke. The German officer was then eliminated by further Russian fire and the final German squad routed.
The infantry gun was hindered by a lack of available fire orders and the Russians quickly dashed across the wheat field to take the building. It was at this point that a German event generated an aircraft bombing run which broke the Russian in the building. Sadly there were no Germans able to take advantage of the fact and the game ended with the Russians in command of the building.
The game had an interesting ebb and flow and the frequent random events added some interesting twists to the game that really kept the game changing. The lack of ability to even execute a plan could possibly be frustrating for some people but combined with the lack of a discrete turn structure it means that there are ebbs and flows in the game and that the more action the is in game burns “time” in terms of cards in each player’s deck but also in terms of making it more likely to play a card with a Time event in it. You never know how much time you have in a game and so you have to seize every opportunity and make the most of them when they appear.
The game plays much better solo than I thought it would but it is clear that the game is really going to shine with a real opponent either face-to-face or via VASSAL. I had quite a lot of fun with this first scenario and will be trying a few more solo games and also looking to get more face-to-face games in.