The View From the Bunker – The review that never was!

By Jeff Ward 29 Jul 2015 0

Though tactical games typically aren’t my cup of tea, I’ve always enjoyed Battlefront’s Combat Mission series going all the way back to their Y2K first iteration, Beyond Overlord. At the time, it was a graphically groundbreaking game and the franchise has only gotten better. 

Not only that, but one has to admire the chutzpah of an independent war game company that’s endured the worst the global economy could throw at ‘em and came back swinging. 

So duly noting that Combat Mission – Black Sea had recently been released, given my long customer relationship with Battlefront, I thought it would be interesting to write a review. But then my inquiry regarding their review copy policy went unanswered. I was a bit surprised, but we all know when you consider the sure things in life, email ain’t one of them. 

When my second digital missive met a similar silence, I kinda scratched my head, sighed, and moved on. It’s not as if any game company owes any reviewer anything because they don’t. But there is a reasonable two-pronged logic to our review copy request methodology. 

First, as we all know, PC war games can be an expensive proposition. As the general complexity level of the genre has risen, so have prices which means that freelancer stipend can get eaten up pretty quickly. And when you start getting to the $65 dollar mark, it makes me nervous. 

Second, reviews are the most time consuming pieces to write. Since we never want to give our readers short shrift, I played Scourge of War: Waterloo for the better part of 20 hours before putting that virtual pen to the digital paper. 

Could it be the fear of a bad review on Battlefront’s part? 

But I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. Unlike those newspaper critics who, bitter from failing to catch on in the industry, regularly savage movies or music, war game reviewers are glass half full kind of guys. We appreciate developers’ efforts because we know they could do a heck of a lot better applying their boundless talent to Grand Theft Auto 247. 

So much like Richard Simmons, we tend to look for the good in these offerings. It’s not that that we’ll sacrifice our integrity, it’s that we understand the kind of blood, sweat, and tears that goes into a game like War in the East. My longsuffering editor Nik will readily attest to the fact that I particularly don’t like disparaging first efforts. [Ed: all true

To mitigate the possibility of dashing a developer’s dream even further, I tend to review titles from designers with a reasonable track who dabble in areas that particularly fascinate me. That’s not to say I wouldn’t warn you if one of them faltered, but why waste time reviewing something that doesn’t appeal to you right from the get go? 

I also clearly understand that is closely associated with Matrix Games and perhaps that relationship could cause some Battlefront consternation. But I went through a number of my compatriots’ older reviews and they’ve been nothing but complementary of Combat Mission and Battlefront in general. [Ed: they’re great games and we’d love to carry more coverage and reviews …

Perhaps it’s something as simple as the fact that Battlefront doesn’t offer review copies. But then a simple, “we don’t provide review copies” response would’ve sufficed. 

As I’ve frequently alluded to in this space, I love war gamers and war game companies because, in a virtual world where the trolls are taking over, you all consistently provide that proverbial breath of fresh air that makes this endeavor so much fun. 

And the best example of this affable dynamic is a recent call to Lock ‘n Load Publishing. Baffled by my beastly bifocals once again, I was unable to determine how one could download a purchase copy of Command Ops 2 Commander Pack from their site. So I called the company for assistance. (It turned out that the download button was so small I simply couldn’t see it.) 

Despite discovering the error of my ways and leaving a second voicemail noting the situation had been resolved, Lock ‘n Load owner David Heath called me back and we had a great conversation. He wanted to be sure the download was secured and he added that they’d make an effort to make the web interface a bit more bifocal friendly. Then we discussed the industry in general. 

At the end of the call, I did alert David as to my affiliation and proposed that we get together to conduct an official interview at some point. He quickly agreed and added that Lock ‘n Load is always willing to provide the press with review copies upon request. 

That’s why my interaction, or lack thereof, with Battlefront is so confounding. It’s just so non-war gamerish. Why would you pass up an opportunity to at least communicate with someone who can put one of your games in front of a few more eyes? 

Perhaps I’m still missing something. 

So sadly, there will be no The View From the Bunker review of Combat Mission – Black Sea. Too bad. I really would’ve enjoyed doing it. 


Jeff Ward is a free-lance writer, radio show host, and former opinion columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times Media Group. He got hooked on wargames immediately after he picked up that copy of Avalon Hill’s Midway from Hobbymodels in Evanston, Illinois in 1970. You can reach Jeff at



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