Anyone wondering whether troubled contemporary wargame Combat Mission: Shock Force is now fit for duty should definitely give the new 1.11 ‘Marines’ demo a spin. Battlefront have lashed together a bland training scenario, a dreadfully imbalanced armour clash (‘Smashing Metal’ – play as the Syrians if you want any sort of challenge), and – thank God – two variants of a quality FIBUA engagement, to showcase a year’s worth of improvements. I still have a few issues with the full game, but nervously hunting Syrian airborne troops through the streets of Tadmur (‘USMC – Going To Town’), it’s impossible not to admire what CMSF has finally become.
Read on for a few beginner’s tips.
The demo scenarios can be played real-time or ‘WeGo’ fashion (plot a minute’s worth of action then watch as that minute is played out). WeGo gives you more time to think and plan, but less chance to speedily extract chestnuts from fires.
If you’re going to play in real-time, quick camera manipulation is vital. It’s worth remembering that the WASD keys can be used in concert with the mouse, TAB puts you behind the currently selected unit, and the number keys switch to handy fixed perspectives.
I tend to play with all unit paths visible (Alt + P) and issue orders via the SPACEBAR menu rather than the multi-pane panel in the bottom right corner. Should you need to drag-select a bunch of units, then hold down SHIFT as you drag.
Tactically, the best advice I can give is ‘Be bloody cautious’. Playing as the US you’re often up against a cagey enemy armed with all manner of portable anti-tank gadgetry. One hit from an RPG or similar can destroy an APC/IFV plus most of its crew and passengers, so it pays to scout carefully and use smoke generously. Most vehicles will pop smoke if ordered (sometimes they’ll do it unbidden). Grunts have smoke grenades too.
There are numerous types of movement order in CMSF. When in doubt ‘hunt’, is a good general rule.
And lastly, all Strykers are not the same. In the non-Marines version of ‘Going To Town’, you’ve three types at your disposal. The basic M1126 comes with an MG good for infantry suppression, the M1126 (40mm) packs a powerful grenade launcher that will level buildings and walls given time, and finally you’ve got the mighty M1128, effectively a poor man’s tank.