Minden Games' Combat Leader presents a man-to-man simulation of World War II combat. As I write this, I cannot recall why I decided to give this game a shot. Possibly owing to the publisher's excellent Advanced Squad Leader RETRO rules set or their extensive series of WWI and WWII naval combat games. In any event, after playing a couple of scenarios, I was hooked. The game is outstanding and why I think Gary Graber is the master of understated wargame design.
Make sure to visit Minden Games via the link to the right to pick up your copy of the game and its expansions!
ABOUT THE GAME
Each unit unit represents an individual soldier, noted with any special weaponry and combat abilities (firepower, morale, and melee bonus). Each turn, a player can activate a single hex to move, fire, or dig-in. Optional rules allow units within the same hex to take different actions. Movement is simple and hex-to-hex without any opportunity fire, lending the game a chess-like quality. Fire combat is resolved by first seeing if fire from a soldier is effective based upon range and the weapon being used. If effective, the number of units in the target hex affected by the fire are determined (rifles may only affect a couple of enemy soldiers, but a machine gun sprays the entire hex), followed by their fate (pinned or killed). Terrain effects both the range of a weapon as well as the fate of a soldier hiding in it. After both sides have taken a turn, an "initiative" die is rolled to determine if a player gets an second activation from a different hex, or if both players can make recovery checks for their pinned units. Finally, a die is rolled to determine if the order of play flips (typically the Axis goes first, followed by the Allies, but this die roll may reverse this).
That is Combat Leader in a nutshell, other than a few optional rules and a more detailed description of how fire effectiveness is determined. The game plays very quickly, and a scenario can be completed within an hour, making Combat Leader an excellent candidate for "lunch time brawls."
Of course, once I get my hooks into a game (or, rather, vice-versa), I need to make it better. Gathered here are my efforts to improve on Combat Leader where I think it could use a couple of tweaks.
Combat Units: I've decided to redo the combat units for the game, as I've found the ones that come with the game to be somewhat lackluster, albeit completely fine otherwise. They just need a little more polish and I wanted to flex my graphic design chops a little. To the left, you'll find my larger "2nd Edition" counter sheets (I decided that my first pass at the counters were too small to be easily legible). Currently, there are units for German, Soviet, Finnish, and Polish soldiers. I've also got a sheet of half-inch markers. If Gary decides to introduce additional nationalities, I'll make sure to get them posted as well.
Maps: I've redone the maps to make them geomorphic. This means adding some additional terrain around the bounds of the original maps. The original bounds are defined by the red dotted line. These maps allow you to try larger "epic" battles or mating two or more scenarios together (assuming you've got enough pieces.
Action Deck: This is the result of my efforts to develop some of the game's mechanics into a single engine. The game uses both a deck of cards and dice to resolve some issues, so I thought it would be helpful to build a dedicated deck of cards to make combat resolution a little smoother. The cards provide a means of determining target soldiers randomly, resolving combat accuracy, causing and repairing jammed weapons, and replacing the die altogether.
I hope you enjoy my efforts to support and enhance this great game!