23 November 2014

PC Game Preview: Close Combat: Wacht am Rhein Preview

Calling Close Combat: Wacht am Rhein a “rebuild” of Close Combat 5 is a major understatement. Find out what’s changing in Strategy 3 Tactics’ version.

Published on 10 SEP 2008 10:57am by Scott Parrino
  1. Strategy 3 Tactics
  2. Matrix Games

More Than Just A Wacht

Strategy 3 Tactics’ Jim Martin attended GenCon this year and I took the opportunity to chat with him about his latest project, Close Combat: Wacht am Rhein.  As the name suggests, the game will cover the Battle of the Bulge during the bitter winter of 1944 – 1945.  Focusing primarily on US and German forces, this real-time tactical game has been heavily modified from the original Close Combat IV and V games. 

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One of the things Jim told me right off the bat is that calling Close Combat: Wacht am Rhein a rebuild is a “vast understatement.”  “…there really weren't any parts or pieces of the game left untouched,” he told me.  From the UI to the artwork to gameplay, Jim isn’t kidding when he says that every aspect of the game has been improved. 

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After GenCon was over, Jim sent me an email listing many of the changes.  The Strategy 3 Tactics team has blended the engine from Close Combat V with the gameplay of Close Combat IV in order to get the most out of the code and gameplay, so readers shouldn’t be confused if the references to both versions are mentioned in the list of improvements.  Let’s get right to them:

The first two are biggies, he tells me.

  • There are now 64 maps allowable as compared to the original 43.  Many stock CC4 maps are included and some have been enhanced with 30-40 brand new landscapes never before seen by CC4'ers.
  • The strategic map data is now exported to a text file, which is editable in a spreadsheet program for players wishing to customize the strategic game.
  • Strategic turns per day are now editable up to four per day.
  • The campaign data is editable as well, with slots added so BOTH sides have naval/heavy artillery, regular artillery, air strikes as well as supply drops.  Previously the Axis side slot did not have all these options.  Next to none of it was editable.
  • Weather is editable, with weather effects on tactical battles enhanced to have a greater impact.
  • Battlegroups can now be recycled if disbanded or never come back to game play.
  • Unit selection in the battlegroup screen can be locked or made editable by both players to their liking.
  • A point system has been included so players can agree to keep their side to a specific number of unit points.
  • Recon sighting % chance on the strategic map is now editable.
  • The AI battlegroup S.O.P. plans are now editable.
  • All graphics locations are now editable on the strategic screen.  This is a fix to an issue that has been a long standing beef for some hardcore Close Combat grogs.
  • A "retreat" function has been added to the strategic system so that instead of simply disbanding 100% of the time a unit might retreat to a friendly unoccupied map, depending on the outcome of the battle.
  • The number of artillery supported maps are now editable between 0% and 100%.
  • ALL other data for units, soldiers, weapons, etc. all has been ported to text file format for ease of editing.

As for the artwork, Jim Martin has completely revamped the UI and the strategic maps.  Although there were many contributors (see the list of credits below), some of the major contributions include Neil Nello’s painstakingly crafted new graphics of the weapons and unit icons.  Shane Cameron created the majority of new maps, and John Ross and Andrew Bruce created new vehicle and wreck graphics. 

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Game Credits.

The result is a game which modders will absolutely love.  As seen from the list above, Strategy 3 Tactics has expanded the various aspects of the game that can be modded.  Of course, a number of bug fixes have been included, too.  But enough of that.  How does it play?

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Scrolling down the strategic map.

Nothing Like A Little Historical Accuracy

When I first fired up the game, I decided to play the first scenario, Andler.  A logical choice, right?  In playing Close Combat: Cross of Iron, there weren’t many scenarios where I found my abilities taxed.  So I figured the first scenario would be a pushover, right?  Wrong.  I had a bunch of infantry, a couple of MG squads, a couple of mortar teams, and a couple of bazooka teams.  And what pops out of the woods?  Some Panzers and Jagdpanzers.  Not good.  I emailed Jim Martin and shared my experience.  I could almost hear him chuckling in his reply: “Glad you're having fun with it.  RE: Andler - It kicks everyone’s butt.  Actually the first two rows of maps should if you're playing as Allies.  Nothing like a little historical accuracy to put you in the same state of mind as the infantry dude on the initial splash screen.”  Well, good morning, Sunshine.  He succeeded on that account. 

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 The introduction and setup to the Andler scenario.

To veteran players of the Close Combat series, the game mechanics during a battle will be familiar.  The new strategic layer allows players to pick their battles, so to speak. The front is surprisingly broad and this introduces a truly strategic context to the tactical battles being fought.  Players will now face choices as to where to apply their forces along a broad front, and this looks like it will make for some really awesome gaming.

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It didn't take long to realize that that I was massively outgunned.

Needless to say, this scenario didn't end well.

Given the modability of the game and the new dynamic strategic campaign, Close Combat: Wacht am Rhein looks like it’s going to be keeping Close Combat fans gaming for a long time to come. This game looks like the best one yet, and it's going to rock!

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The my deployment in the Asenois scenario. Calling in a P-51 airstrike on the Germans.

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Bringing down some artillery.

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Total American Victory.  


About the Author

Jim Zabek has been wargaming since dinosaurs roamed the earth.  He fell in love with the hobby every since first playing RaptorBlitz.  Since then he has played many different wargames, but as he likes to say, "You can't play them all!"  These days he mostly plays PC wargames.  He's currently playing Civilizations IV, Call of Duty 4, and looking for any other 4th edition game out there.  Good things come in fours apparently. 

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