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Close Combat: The Bloody First charges into the third dimension

What time do you call this, soldier? It’s been over a year since Fraser Brown bothered some Nazis in Normandy, and Close Combat: The Bloody First was already four years past its due date by then. Ah, well, I suppose it takes time to put together the perfect battle-plan. Developers Slitherine are finally ready to give Axis forces a bloody nose, marching The Bloody First into release today.

If you’re unfamiliar with the series, Close Combat is a largely a series of nitty-gritty wargames, more akin to fiddly tabletop wargames than anything close to Company of Heroes. There was that weird period where they made some ooh-rah modern military shooters under the name, mind. My brother had one of those, and I remember it being a bit naff. The mid-noughties were an odd time.

But The Bloody First is Close Combat as your dad remembers it – a complex, fiddly wargame for people who know every acronym in the military playbook. This is the first time the very-quite-serious tactical wargame has taken advantage of the third dimension. They still have hard edges, and even if skirmishes aren’t literally taking place on flat maps it all still feels like a well-put-together miniatures board.

Beyond just being a bit nicer to look at than maps and spreadsheets, those rolling hills and valleys make little details like line-of-sight and cover easier to visualise. It’s one more barrier removed between abstract numbers and actually feeling like you’re commanding a teeny tiny army.

Each soldier has a name and personality, giving them a particular mechanical personality while ensuring you feel extra guilty when German machine guns turn them to goo. This applies to both you and your foes, however, and the right plays can send fascists packing while keeping your jolly GIs safe from harm.

The Bloody First puts you in the muddy boots of, shockingly, the US 1st Infantry Division. The Big Red One, the jolly American Joes wot did war all the way from North Africa through Sicily and France. Hardly the first piece of media to follow the first, but hey, it’s an immediate way to play with a bloody road trip across Europe. A 36-mission campaign will take your merry band of horrified, exhausted young men from Tunisia to Sicily and Normandy.

Close Combat: The Bloody First is out now on Steam and GOG for £31/€37/$40.

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