Command Community Pack Commentary

The latest Command Community Pack has been released, with a whopping 29 new scenarios available in it.

I made two of them, Brazil Abroad and Human Limitation, and figured I’d give a “director’s commentary”.

  • Brazil Abroad was both logistically limited power production, and a slow-paced, sustained ops air campaign, something I feel has been underutilized in Command. I wanted to give the player limited resources and a wide array of freedom when pursuing a target, which in practice meant a LOT of targets.
  • Human Limitation is a concept I’ve been interested in for a while, even before I got Command. Not just of Gaddafi’s African adventures leading him to Rhodesia, but the basic min-max concept of lots of equipment and little skill vs. the exact opposite.

What will I make next? I’m considering a Circle Trigon scen or doing what I’ve long scoffed at, making a pull-out-all-the-stops classic WWIII.

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Unleashing the Circle Trigon

So, it’s very weird how when dealing with the early “Circle Trigon” phase of US military OPFORs (a history of their progression I recorded in another post at Baloogan Campaign), my usual approach to exercise scenarios has been turned on its head. I played a largely futile attack by USMC aircraft on a battleship/cruiser pair in Command, and it was really fun.

However, instead of an American battleship and cruiser, I represented the Trigonist warships with a French battleship and Spanish cruiser. This was “in-character” for the Aggressor backstory, which featured them carved out of Bavaria, Italy, Spain, and France. The Aggressor Navy being vaguely defined gives me a lot of creative freedom (it’s neither a direct copy of an American unit or obvious Soviet stand-in). I think my approach involves…

  • For later OPFORs, using “Actor” aggressor units adds variety, as a break from the waves of units. But for this earlier environment, obscure French/Spanish/Italian units “in-character” get their chance to shine. The Circle Trigon backstory is so goofy I feel compelled to run with it.
  • The proficiency setting is not always “Ace”. Weird how, even as I focus on the ‘characters’, I shift to the ‘actors’ proficiency. These are ad-hoc units trained in Aggressor tactics and speaking Esperanto, not the full-time OPFOR that became a beast at Nellis and the NTC. But who knows, I could make them aces if I wanted to 😀
  • Just wanting to have fun.

And I certainly did. I really should make a full Aggressor scen that treats everything seriously.

 

 

 

Post-Soviet Snags

I like obscure conflicts in Command, even hypothetical ones.

However, there’s one (not insurmountable, but still present) issue I’ve fond with would-be post Soviet conflicts. The issue comes from the Soviet-era force structures. In many ex-bloc states, a conflict in the scenario editor ends up in an unequal squash. Surplus aircraft with little standoff capability go against top-of-the-line air defenses designed to stop the USAF.

Thankfully, there are workarounds. Plot ones like saying the missiles aren’t totally deployed, in-game ones using WRA and proficiency changes to make the SAMs less effective, or, in the case of large countries, taking place in an area where the best defenses wouldn’t be stationed anyway.

Old Wargames And Possible Adaptations

I remember two of my Steel Panthers games I played all the way through, and wondered if I could adapt the “plot” of them to Command

The first was an unusual skirmish. This consisted of the unconventional UN side trying to break a dug-in position belonging to Ukraine. The vanilla UN isn’t even meant to be a proper side, just a scenario placeholder for its “Allied” components (They have decent “Peacekeeper” infantry, but their only real AFV is an over-expensive for plain armor mine-plow M60 Patton).

I had two of those tanks as the peacekeepers breached the line, although one sadly did not survive the battle. The peacekeepers were not unscathed, but their opponents were hit far harder.

(The plot is difficult-the best I can think of is an earlier Crimea/Donbass style conflict that ends with a demilitarized zone patrolled by peacekeepers, a potentially unauthorized attempt to occupy part of it that the UN defuses by attacking by itself rather than having the Russians and their local allies risk reigniting it)

The second was a France-Sudan battle in Chad. This is vastly more suitable.

A company of Leclercs and APCs destroyed a large force of Sudanese armor, infantry, and militia. A few APCs and infantry were lost, but that was it in the very Desert Storm-like lopsided battle.

The aftermath of that would be something. Even better, I can use it for either side. A push-on as France with casualty-sensitive events for balance reasons, or a desperation sortie by Sudan. Then again, I have a million scenario ideas already…

Playing As a Stealth Aircraft

Now, there’s something about playing as an F-117 or B-2 in Command that is the exact opposite of pop culture stealth. The feeling isn’t a crazed “Ha! You can’t get me”. Rather, it’s a feeling of worry, that I’d be getting just a little too close to the radar, meaning it finally can get me…

F-22s don’t quite share this feeling, as they’re agile in addition to being stealthy. Note that I said “quite”-being the aircraft that takes on the toughest target is always nerve-wracking.

Given that I’ve seen accounts from the Gulf War from F-117 crews who were half-expecting stealth not to work at all, I think my feeling of dread is somewhat accurate.

The Gameplay Reason For A Soviet Iceland

Having mentioned the common trope of the Soviet Union launching an amphibious attack on Iceland popularized in Red Storm Rising, I was playing another Command scenario set with that premise when I saw something.

I can see the reasons for a Soviet invasion of Iceland being so common in potboiler fiction, regardless of the real (im)plausibility. Attacking Iceland is dramatic by itself. To have the invasion initially succeed also gives the “heel” (wrestling villain) the credibility they need to be more than a “jobber” (constant loser) so that the “face” (hero) can have an earned victory.

(Sorry, VGCW has inserted pro wrestling terms into me 😀 ).

But as I played, I saw the gameplay advantages an Iceland base gives. It makes sending aircraft to the North Atlantic far easier than it would be if the AI had to stage them from Kola, even with the refueling changes.

So at least for Command, gameplay reasons may be another (sometimes unintentional) reason for the popularity of the Soviets taking Iceland.

Attack of the Mosaics Lives-As A Campaign

So, I shelved Attack of the Mosaics in favor of a story that I also shelved. Thankfully, I can return the former to service-as a Command scenario set/campaign. Right now it’s still nothing more than basic editor strength experiments, and like many other campaigns, it could very well end up as part of the giant trash pile. But I’m oddly attached to it because the setting works well with Command.

  • The most obvious is the setting involving military equipment.
  • The “multiversal” nature of the setting means I can include anything I want.
  • The (REDACTED) “rules” mean I can go from semi-realistic surplus fleets to superpowered aircraft carriers launching A-12s, all controlled by the seemingly private army.
  • Similarly, the antagonists can be as plausible or implausible as can be.
  • Mosaic has a general “No nation-states, please”, approach to contracts, except in unusual circumstances. They don’t like the political wranglings of fighting nations, and will resort to training and support-even that is iffy if their would-be client has gotten into something it can’t handle.
  • Of course, there are exceptions…

So, I can theoretically make something only somewhat exaggerated, and I can make something as out-there as the old “Ancient Armies, Modern Weapons” I did, all in the same campaign. What’s not to like?

When a scenario is too balanced

Here it goes.

I’ve been having less fun making Command scenarios than I did when I first made a few. They haven’t become unfun, just less fun. I didn’t know why, until a Tasteful Understated Nerdrage (excellent video series, btw) video described it.

The games were described as “too balanced”, and having “too much choice”, and the video explained why that was the case. To me, I emphasized with “too balanced”-and the mindset that made games shift from unbalanced to the opposite extreme.

I missed the original Infinity Engine games almost-OK, totally completely. But in other games of that era, I can see the imbalances described at work-the original Pokemon, with its overpowered Psychic type, the stuffing of “poison” to all but one grass-type, the glitches, and so forth.

So, exploring Command, exploring the editor, exploring the circumstances, and, without the clearest picture, making something, was an experience that was majestic. This was also an experience that could only happen once. Even if I made an unbalanced scenario, it would be a calculated one-one of “Ok, let me handicap the Italians with third-gen fighters”, not “Ok, what do they have, hmm, F-104s, ok, I’ll use those”. I know too much about the context and the game mechanics to repeat my initial experience-and that’s both a good and bad thing.

Special Actions

The updates making their way to the 1.10 release candidates of Command are excellent. There’s one that I’m particularly excited about, but nonetheless have trouble thinking of ways to use effectively. That is the special action setup.

A rough description of how special actions work can be explained as follows. The scenario creator goes to “Editor/Event Editor/Special Actions”, inputs a Lua script, and saves it. Then, in-game, the player can go to “game/special actions”, and by clicking on it, can run the script.

That’s the simple part of it.

Now the hard part-how do I do it effectively?

Some of the reasons I’m wary of using special actions are mechanical (having to write long Lua scripts). Others are thematic (most of my scenarios are small and thus have little scope for such grandiose actions). But the biggest is-I don’t want the player to get something for nothing.

One idea I’ve considered is just using a simple random element to give the operation a chance of working, and if it doesn’t, either nothing happens or they lose points. (SOF insertion is where this would fit perfectly). This can work, but a part of me feels it’s back to the “luck-based random”, where you have a chance of getting a huge SSGN or a tiny diesel.

Another, and the simplest, is to just subtract points from the player if they use the special action (political capital expended, or some other justification), making them have to earn it back with what they get from it.
Finally, it can change the stakes of the scenario. If you escalate, so do they. This is the hardest mechanically, but can be interesting. While I might be wary about special actions, I’m certainly eager to try them out, for they offer so much potential.

Writing in Dashes

I find my approach to creative work, from story writing to Command scenario making, is like a sprinter. I will, whether as part of a whole or making a portion of it, sit down and throw myself into the project and nothing else for a time, and only stop when that portion is done.

Such an approach has worked, but not everything is suited to it. In writing a story like One Two Three Dead, I need to be measured, for everything is too big to do in one shot. For Command, this increases my bias towards small scenarios because they can easily be made in that fairly short time.

I want to be more measured. But it’s a hard habit to change.