Command Modern Air/Naval Operations DLC Guide

By Bruce Postlethwaite 01 Apr 2019 2

Command Modern Air/Naval Operations (CMANO) is a bit of a dream game for me. Naval warfare games in general have always appealed to me – there’s something about the pure application of tactics and technology that scratches an itch. The CMANO offering has grown dramatically above the base game and the object of this guide is to bring together the various bits and pieces and add a bit of commentary – the views expressed here are entirely my own!

Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations (2013) (Review)

The base game pretty much covers everything you could possibly want in a modern naval game. The period extends from just after WW2 (although there are a number of WW2 units present in the databases too) until the near future. Geographical coverage is world-wide – not just a highly detailed map of the world is included but so are almost all of the world’s naval and air units of the period covered and a huge selection of ground units too. The game even includes pre-created airfields and bases (in the correct locations and with the correct structures) that can be added when designing scenarios.

Figure 13

The game ships with a large number of scenarios and also includes a very powerful scenario editor that allows not just OOBs and map data to be configured, but includes an event editor and even a programming language (LUA) to allow complicated scenario events to be produced. The game’s mission editor can be used by scenario creators but also can, and usually has to, be used by players in game to manage the large number of units in many of the scenarios.

The big barrier to entry for the game is what seems to be a huge price tag. I must admit that this caused me to pause for a while when the game came out. I then mentally worked out how much I had spent on the Harpoon games, and battlesets, over the years and realised that maybe it wasn’t so expensive after all! If the price is really a problem for you then keep an eye out for Steam sales – I’ve seen the base game significantly discounted several times.

It's not perfect, however: database errors and omissions are constantly being corrected by the developers and new mechanisms (such as air transport and paradrops) have been added, for free, over the years. The biggest problem that I have is with the strike planner – it doesn’t provide tools for doing things like setting up time on target and this sometimes makes in-game planning too much like a real job. There was talk of an advanced strike planner, but the developers have said that there would be too much work in this to offer it for free. This isn’t a game breaking problem, but for me it makes larger scenarios much less fun than they could be.

Stand-alone Expansions

Perhaps recognising that the entry price might be deterring gamers from even trying CMANO, the developers have released a series of stand-alone games based on the same engine. The stand-alones are built around a particular theme and include everything you need to play the scenarios included in the package. They don’t include the full databases, nor a scenario editor and so it isn’t possible to play anything other than the included scenarios.

They do, however, provide a relatively low cost way of trying the system. The stand-alones can also be used by owners of the full game: in this case the stand-alone campaigns and scenarios are just added to the list of available scenarios.

Command: Northern Inferno (2015)

Includes a campaign and 15 scenarios set in the cold war (1975). The action takes place in the Northern Atlantic and reminds me of the old Harpoon GIUK gap battleset (but better!). The purchase was a no-brainer for me and I haven’t regretted it.

Figure 14

Command: Chains of War (2017) (Review)

Bang up to date and includes a campaign with 12 scenarios that takes place in the Far East and involves an escalating war between the China and the USA. The campaign is set in 2018 and includes a whole bunch of high-tech weapons (e.g. EMP weapons and ship killer ballistic missiles). I’ve enjoyed most of the scenarios but have never managed to successfully complete the last one (Hail Mary). It’s a monster with really tough victory conditions and limited weapons. There are people in the forums who’ve posted that they’ve beaten it so it must be possible!

Also included in the Chains of War package are four bonus scenarios that look at USA-China conflicts from a historical perspective (1958, 1974, 1996 and 2005). These are fun scenarios, but the thing I really liked were the few words from the scenario designer about what they were trying to represent. I loved the ‘designer’s notes’ that you used to get in the old SPI board games and this reminded me of those. I would encourage scenario designers to spend a bit of time telling us why and how you decided to represent particular things in a scenario.

Command: Shifting Sands (2017) (Review)

Looks at the Arab-Israeli conflicts over the period 1956-1982 in 17 scenarios. There isn’t a campaign as such but the scenarios can be played in a linked fashion. I didn’t buy this one immediately as I didn’t think that I’d be interested in the subject matter. However I picked it up when it was on sale and discovered that I was wrong! The problem that Israel has in these scenarios doesn’t really change – they are surrounded and out-numbered, but the equipment they have does and it’s really interesting to discover the effects that new equipment has on the operational and tactical choices that are available. I’ve also developed a real hatred for early model F-4 Phantoms! This has become my favourite of the stand-alone games.

Figure 15

Command: The Silent Service (2018) (Review)

Focuses on submarine operations. I was doubtful about this one. I love sub games like Dangerous Waters, Silent Hunter, etc, but they are all tactical simulations. A big reason for this is that once a submarine goes deep there’s pretty much no way to easily talk to it. This isn’t modelled well by the standard CMANO as it’s possible to send orders to subs wherever they are. Silent Service gets around this by making you the commander of a single sub or of a few submarines. It also uses scenario events to simulate submarine communications which I really like. The package includes 18 scenarios stretching from 1950 to the present day. I’ve become a convert!

Command: Desert Storm (2019) (Review)

Fourteen historical and 'what-if' alternate history scenarios allow you to explore various aspects of the Gulf War in detail. Headline feature of this expansion is how the designer has made excellent use of the LUA-powered scenario editor to make the scenarios more dynamic and interesting. The initial briefing no longer gives you the complete picture - in-game events and pop-ups will react to events and present more off-the-cuff orders, for a more tense and atmospheric session. At the time of writing the pack needed a bit more work from a technical stand-point, but this is a definitely a pack worth checking out.

Command LIVE

The Command Live series of DLC are a group of single (or, in one case two) scenarios that are sold for around £2.00 each. The scenarios tend to be on the ‘huge’ side of the scale which gives value for money, but does require a bit of commitment to play through them. The full base game is required to play these scenarios, so you won't be able to get away with just owning an expansion.

Old Grudges Never Die (2016) - RRP  £1.99

Has Russia and Turkey trying to intervene in Syria in 2011 without drawing others (e.g. US and Coalition) into the conflict. Every game I’ve played always ends up in a massive sh**storm – I guess diplomacy is not a career option for me.

You Brexit, You Fix it! (2016) - RRP £1.99

Includes two scenarios with NATO facing Russia in 2016. One of these scenarios makes a lot of use of events to simulate confusion amongst the NATO allies, whereas the other shows what happens when everybody gets on with it. I wonder which is most realistic?

Spratly Spat (2016) - RRP £1.99

Has the Chinese facing a mixed bag of regional powers with interests in the Spratly Islands in 2016. Both sides are playable. This is a scenario that just feels all too plausible (although I’d expect the US to be involved in real life).

Don of a New Era (2016) - RRP £1.99

Set in 2016 with NATO facing Russia in Ukraine and the Black Sea. Both sides are playable and the scenario is HUGE. I’ve never been able to finish the thing, but it’s on my to-do list.

Korean Missile Crisis (2017) - RRP £1.99

Has the US and Russia trying to take out North Korean nuclear facilities with the North Koreans trying to stop them. The twist in this one is that the two ‘allies’ Russia and the US are playable and are effectively competing with one another. Really interesting idea for a scenario.

Pole Positions (2017) - RRP £1.99

Set in 2017 and has Russia and the US facing off in the Arctic. Both sides are playable. The scenario involves the Russians trying to build an early warning system and the US trying to stop them – lots of use of events and good fun!

Black Gold Blitz (2017) - RRP £2.09

Places Saudi Arabia and Iran into a conflict in 2017. Both sides are playable. Both sides get to play with ballistic missiles, but the Iranians also get terrorist cells. Good fun on either side!

Commonwealth Collision (2018) - RRP £2.09

Has India and the UK going against Pakistan and China (!) in 2018. Both sides are playable in this one too. For a live scenario this one is relatively small with the India-UK side entirely naval-based and the Pakistan side land-based.

Kuril Sunrise (2018) - RRP £2.09

One of the weakest scenarios of the series, this is a fairly simple/lite set-up that pits a tiny segment of the Japanese Navy against an equally tiny contingent of Russian forces, centred around a Russian convoy trying to land ground troops on the Kuril Islands. The Japanese part of the scenario is especially poorly designed, so you can probably skip this one.

The King of the Border (2019) - RRP £2.09

Another weaker scenario, this rather bonkers set-up is redeemed only by the fact that between the US and the Russians, you have a lot of hardware to play around with and throw at your opposite, which makes for a very active engagement. The US campaign especially has some interesting challenges against a couple of Valenzuelan ground sites.

User written scenarios

No guide to CMANO would be complete without mentioning the hundreds of user written scenarios that are available for the base game. Many of these are gathered together in a ‘Community Pack’ that is frequently updated as new material comes in. The scenarios are available through the Steam Workshop. You can’t go wrong in downloading and trying those that take your interest.

Figure 16

The verdict

If you are interested in modern naval warfare then you won’t regret buying CMANO. Truthfully, my rankings tend to change depending on the last one I’ve played. Every time I open these games I find something new to try and end up with a new favourite (or, in some cases, a new temporarily hated) scenario. My current suggestions for rank order are:

Expansions:

  1. Shifting Sands
  2. Northern Inferno
  3. The Silent Service
  4. Chains of War

LIVE scenarios:

  1. Pole Positions
  2. Korean Missile Crisis
  3. Old Grudges Never Die
  4. Black Gold Blitz
  5. Spratly Spat

What's your favourite CMANO expansion or scenario? Let us know in the comments!

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