Command LIVE: Operation Broken Shield 300 Review24 Feb 2020 0
The latest LIVE scenario for Command: Modern Operations (CMO) is out now and it’s a cracker! A word of warning however for those who might have missed the announcement; the scenario is exclusively for CMO – if you haven’t upgraded from CMANO then you won’t be able to play it.
Broken Shield is a banger right up to the last minute. As with all LIVE scenarios the marketing has included ‘news reports’ that outline the back story. In this case the back story is very believable with the Israelis deciding to do something about some S-300 missile batteries that the Russians have recently delivered to Syria. The Israelis also have decided that they are not too fond of the Iranians in Syrian either, and have added them to a list of possible targets. In addition to the back story the scenario and side briefings are very comprehensive and well-written and really add to the immersion in the game.
The scenario starts with a long (16 game hours) period of a ‘phoney war’ where a negotiating team flies to Russia to discuss ways of de-escalating the situation. During this period there’s plenty of time to arm aircraft and move ground units as required, and there’s a wide choice of interesting weapons to use. It’s even possible to load helicopters with infantry teams with AT weapons that made me consider some sort of commando raid into Syria. During the ‘phoney war’ there are updates on how the talks are going and a number of small jobs to do that break up the time a bit, but there is still a really long, real-time, wait before the action starts. I feel this is the weakest part of the scenario but you only really have to go through it once – just save the game a few hours (to give you time to rearm aircraft) before the attack is authorised (which is when there’s eight hours to go) and use the save game to try different approaches to the attack.
When the attack takes place you really have a lot of options. Special actions allow you to undertake cyber warfare to knock out your choice of integrated air defence system. You can also choose to violate Jordanian airspace or ask for more resources. All of these choices come at the cost of victory points, so there is considerable scope for multiple replays just looking at the effects of the various decisions. When you add in the scope that is available for rearming aircraft as you choose, the replayability of the scenario is huge.
I have a confession to make - I suck at attacking IADS. My normal approach is to throw every long range weapon I have at the enemy and rely on attrition to eventually wear the SAMs down. This doesn’t work in this scenario. The Syrians have got a lot of SAMs; many of them aren’t great, but they are still a threat to aircraft. Some of them are absolutely deadly and the victory point penalty for losing an Israeli aircraft means that losing one or two is likely to lose you the game. I ran the scenario three or four times trying different approaches and each time lost aircraft and failed to hit a single S-300.
Rather than blame myself I decided that the game was grossly unbalanced and unplayable, at least until I tried it from the Syrian side. The scenario warns you that the Syrian side isn’t intended to be fully playable, but it’s worth doing at least once. The sight of missiles flying in from multiple directions and S-300s and other targets disappearing within minutes of the attack starting is terrifying. If I can figure out how to do this when playing as the Israelis it might change my whole approach to handling IADS.
The scenario makes extensive use of events to model the changing circumstance during the negotiations and in response to special actions. It’s also possible to choose to receive ‘hints’ via the events engine which remind you of things you really should be doing at particular points. I thought this was a great idea and not just for new players – it was a bit like having a junior officer who was a bit better than me politely pointing out the stuff I’d forgotten to do. The amount of work that has gone into this more than justifies the £2.09 asking price.
Quality control continues to be a problem for CMO. The release version of the scenario had completely empty magazines at all of the airbases and I had LUA crashes when trying to activate the hint system. However, when I checked the forums a patched version of the scenario was already available and this works fine. I just don’t understand why they don’t get someone to play the release version to check it before it is actually released. I think most of us who’ve played CMANO, and now CMO, for a while just accept that this is the way things are and that bugs will be fixed, but it must be off-putting for players who are new to the game.
This is one of the best LIVE scenarios I’ve played and if you have made the jump to CMO you should buy it!