Have You Played… Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Migrating, as many PC wargamers did at the turn of the century, from the Close Combat series to Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord, was like clambering out of a Carden Loyd Tankette after a long cross-country drive. The revolutionary 3D battlefields felt vast, the length of the Grim Reaper’s scythe preposterous. The countless Shermans I lost to distant specks of dunkelgelb gave me a new respect for the Allied tankers compelled to push Berlin-ward in the days following D-Day.

Arrestingly realistic, CMBO even had the power to contaminate country walks. After a few nerve-fraying weeks of hex-free company-level combat choreography, it was almost impossible to gaze at a real rural vista without seeing peril and potential amongst the prettiness. That thicket’s a perfect Pak 40 position. That hilltop farmhouse would make an excellent Observation Post. If I was the enemy I’d have mined that crossroads and slapped a Target Registration Point on that National Trust overflow car park.

Complimenting the game’s authoritative ballistics, spacious venues, solid AI, and trim Close Combat style order selection (in later CMs order types would multiply) was a tension-magnifying turn structure borrowed from Major Holdridge’s TacOps.

Where the units in most other WW2 wargames took turns moving and trading fire, in CMBO the ire was interleaved. Leisurely order phases preceded sixty-second bursts of action in which intervention was impossible. As ‘Action Replays’ could be rewound and paused, there was no danger whatsoever of missing that marvellous moment when your Stuart humbled that Panther, or that mortifying one when a friendly artillery round fell short pulverising your favourite flamethrower team.

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  1. pnic101 says:

    I’ve tried the new ones, but they lack the simplicity that makes this sound appealing. So many orders to give, and there doesn’t seem to be that 60 second delay (perhaps that’s an option I missed in the demo).

    Is this the best one to start with?

    • The Petulant Platypus says:

      The original Combat Mission offers the most straight forward gameplay and the games as they progress slowly become more indepth from there.

      There is a wonderful simple charm to the original Combat Mission – I played the demo to death back in the day and I still enjoy the game now though graphically and gameplay wise it is inferior to newer versions (but also less complicated, and even, less laborious).

      Combat Mission: Beyond Barbarossa and Combat Mission: Afrika Korps round out the CMX1 engine games – the pretty much play the same as each other with control option improvements throughout.

    • mike2R says:

      The current ones have an option to switch between standard RTS and Wego (the 60 second chunks thing), with RTS being the default I think. Wego is much better IMO.

      Not played these older ones but I’ve enjoyed the new ones, though personally I find using tanks a little dull – infantry, perhaps with a bit of armour in support, is a lot more interesting for me.

  2. BobbyDylan says:

    I’ve not but I’ve been looking for a Close Combat successor to play. Perfect timing. Is it on GOG?

    • Pogs says:

      Yes it is for £7.59. Its the only Battlefront title that is though the rest you need to go to their web site.

  3. Shiloh says:

    Indeed I have – many hours logged creeping through the bocage (and in the game). And then I graduated to the Ostfront with CM:BB, and lost even more hours to that.

    Re. the country walks, I think it was Steel Panthers that got me thinking like Guderian while out and about. “Good tank country, this” I’d mutter, pipe clenched firmly between teeth, eyes glinting in steely fashion, as I surveyed some rolling Yorkshire hill country.

  4. chromedbustop says:

    Yep, I played it. I wasn’t very good though, but it was a fun game. Wasn’t really anything like it at the time and it was a nice balance between traditional strategy games and the more hectic RTS genre.

    The operation scenarios were cool too, where you could play several battles in succession and the game kept track of your progress.

    I think one of the mistakes I made was overestimating the value of tanks. It was just so tempting to have as many tanks as you could, but you realized how vulnerable they were.

    Good game, although I think the sequel: Barbarossa to Berlin was probably my favorite of the whole series.

  5. Sin Vega says:

    One of few wargames that I’ve played and not immediately quit. I definitely need to get back into it

  6. Stugle says:

    I haven’t, but you keep tempting me, Mssr. Stone. :)

    Does anyone know if Beyond Overlord has a custom battle creator like the later ones? Thinking of easing my way into the series with a couple of custom skirmishes.

  7. Dinger says:

    The whole CM series is classic; I read the Combative Commentators missions religiously (Somebody move the “scout truck” away from those Italian contact, by the way).

    Fond memories indeed. The morale, experience, and leadership mechanics really worked wonderfully together in a way that was immediately understandable, simple, and deep. For example, on one randomly-generated map, my friend had a bunch of German armor, and I had some British infantry. But the ace up my sleeve was a tube of something nasty (maygbe a Veteran 75mm howitzer?) which, when paired to a +2 targeting captain and stuck in some woods staring at a crest, singlehandedly removed the pants from many panzers.

    • Dinger says:

      Too late. My condolences to the two gents in the Bedford. I’ll sleep with difficulty, knowing their fate.

  8. Lunsku says:

    CMBO was massive for me back when it came out, as was Barbarossa to Berlin later on. It really combined playability and simplicity in a way that made for much more “real” feeling battles than purely “I go, you go” style turn based strategy like Steel Panthers didn’t.

    It’s a bit unfortunate that the “new” Combat Missions have in a way taken a step back in the pure playability, even when there’s more good options and fidelity in the foot soldier simulation. With both CM: Battle for Normandy and CM: Black Sea, the game still being incredibly slow and clunky on the modern computers, and simply much more tedious to play for all the additions, really is a bummer. On the technical side the series feels like it hasn’t really gone anywhere with the new engine.

  9. nathan.wailes says:

    I love this game! If anyone wants to play by email (PBEM), let me know! I’m fairly busy so I won’t be able to play that often, but it’d be good to have some people who are interested in it. nathan.wailes@gmail.com

    Here’s a playlist of 3 missions I played ~ 6months ago: link to youtube.com

    This mission was my favorite, it was extremely close and I had my guys running nonstop at the end to make it to the extract point within time:

  10. klops says:

    I have! Getting it was no easy thing. Underaged me had no credit card so my sister living in the States bought ordered it there to herself and shipped it to me to Old Country.

    Didn’t care much for single player, I think it lacked the soul Steel Panthers and Close Combat 2 had, but multiplayer (hotseat) was pretty great.