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Have You Played... Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord?

Room to manoeuvre

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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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Tim Stone

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