Peter Robbins, 20 September 2023
It’s Combat Mission. In Italy. And that is a fantastic combination.
This is truly a First Impression, after only 2 hours of gameplay. We will eventually produce a full review of the title in a deep dive after-action report of one or more of the core game’s campaign scenarios. This is very much a jump in and don’t read the manual look at the game. Also of note during this First Impression is that I am set to the default Balanced graphics level. This is not a full representation of the engine’s high-end capability graphically. You will want to review the Steam store and Matrix Games sites for the game to get a full representation of its graphical improvements. Of note, I am a cheap. Please take all of my comments on pricing with a grain of salt.
Combat Mission : Fortress Italy is outstanding. Breathtaking for some scenarios, and it’s absolutely worth buying if you have for example not forayed into its WW2 line before as a customer, but is it worth $60 to re-pay for the same game engine again?
Actually, YES, and that comes primarily from the sheer amount of content you receive in the core game. You can absolutely tell they did their homework with this title, and have included a lot of material for your enjoyment. Primarily in the form of 1943 units, which according to their website verbiage are not included in any of the other CM WW2 line of titles.
Any Combat Mission veteran, from either their WW2 or Modern era wargames series will find themselves very comfortable in this game. You still get the basic multi-waypoint system, which is, as always, outstanding. You can do a variety of combinations of movements at varying speeds and heightened awareness levels, including pauses for varying degrees of time as needed.
click images to enlarge
Also included is the outstanding spotting and C2 system, which again, will be common knowledge to existing Combat Mission owners.
And the UI is pretty much identical to all of the other Combat Mission titles; though improved graphically around the UI and buttons. Again, if it isn’t broken, repeat it and improve upon it.
Now, the elephant in the room is the price of the game. I will let you make your own judgments on that. I’m here to just show you what you get. I personally think it’s worth it, but your opinion may vary. It is a bit pricey for a game that was originally released over a decade ago.
I’ll stop yapping about money now, but it is a concern that this otherwise stellar wargame will be avoided due to its overall pricing. This particular game was originally released in 2012. It is 11 years later, and yes the overall engine has improved a great bit (the original was released with the 2.x engine and this one includes the 4.x engine of late), but you are in effect getting a decade’s old game. I would classify this more as a Combat Mission: Fortress Italy Redux than a new game. If you didn’t own it previously, it’s absolutely a great buy; and well worth it for a high quality wargame.
Ok, economics aside, this is a great overall wargame, stop being a grumpy old cheap curmudgeon and let’s take a close first look.
Let us now take a closer look at the first scenario in the Troina Campaign of the core game.
Here is that campaign overview and the first mission summary, then a set of pics from the scenario.
Some Bonus Shots from a couple other missions, regardless of DLC it is in.
Note, the above are from the Gustav Line DLC.
Note, I believe the above three are from the Rome To Victory DLC. I took so many screenshots I lost track at this point which scenario I was in.
Bonus To The Bonus. Let’s look at one more infantry heavy scenario from the Core Game, “Beyond The Belice”.
First Impression Summary
If you have to look at the sticker, maybe you shouldn’t be in the show room.
I hate to have to be resolved with that, but these are niche games within a niche genre. They are highly sophisticated wargames, with a lot of research put into them. This particular offering includes very well-researched, highly-crafted scenarios. A great variety. With all that in retrospect I can clearly state; unequivocally, YES, Combat Mission : Fortress Italy is well worth its hefty overall price tag.
A suggestion would be to buy the core game. Wait a couple months until you’ve actually finished all of the core scenarios and the core campaigns. Then buy its Steam bundle, which would then incorporate the overall Complete set at likely a 15% or higher sales rate. I don’t know that exact sales bundled pricing as it wasn’t in place when I wrote this First Impression.
Bravo Matrix/Slitherine/Battlefront on yet another well crafted Combat Mission title. Like most of the Combat Mission titles, a first impression is not enough. Play the crapola out of it, and you’ll see why it was priced the way it was priced. This overall series is a master class in computer based wargaming, and has a rightful place on all grognards’ hard drives. There is a lot going under the hood in this series of games, and a whole heck of a lot of development work to bring these titles to the public in as nice a looking end result as they consistently pull off.
Both DLC are must-haves, but get them when you can afford them. They are well worth the extra moola. They really complete out the title. But the core game does stand on its own and will and could give you months+ of play time. Most of the scenarios provided have high replay value. The terrain is extremely varied and the scenarios are well thought out and designed for surprises throughout. (of course history helped with that as well, but seriously, they are well-designed).
Get It! It’s good! You know you want it! This is a particularly good one stop shop if you’ve never forayed into Combat Mission’s WW2 line of games. This is arguably the best of the bunch.
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In gaming halls where grognards debate,
They argue about what’s deemed first-rate.
“True wargame!” they declare,
With a passionate glare,
Their opinions, they’ll never abate.
Some seek hexes and counters galore,
Claiming purism, nothing they’ll ignore.
Yet the heart of the matter,
Is the fun we all gather,
So let’s play and enjoy, let’s explore!