DGS Games

Review of Combat Mission Battle for Normandy – Market Garden, part 2

How does Battlefront’s latest Combat Mission game stack up? Boggit continues to fill us in.

Developed and Published by Battlefront Inc.

Reviewed by Boggit, 23 March, 2014

Click images to enlarge

Read part 1 of this review here

Formations and Weapons (cont’d)

As with Combat Mission: Battle for Normandy, and the Commonwealth expansion, combat formations remain well researched reflecting historical unit organisation during the Market Garden Operations. In game terms Market Garden specifically adds:

  • Nine new US formations including the Glider Infantry Battalion and the more esoteric Parachute Demolition Platoon.
  • 31 new, and updated German formations from across the following ground forces: Heer, Waffen SS, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, and some common force formations. These include new formations that vary widely in quality from the fragile Sicherungs (Heer), Fliegerhorst (Luftwaffe), and Schiffstamm (Kriegsmarine) battalions to the definitely more punchy Tiger Battalion (Henschel) (Heer, and SS), Panzergrenadier Kampfgruppe (SS), Fallschirmjäger Battalion (Luftwaffe), and Panzer Brigade Panzer Battalion (Heer). Common formations are all flak units, but they are not boring. The Armored Flak Platoon (37mm and Quad 20mm) in particular can be a total swine for infantry suppression. Just make sure 30 Corps arrives quickly with its tanks!
  • Three new Polish formations, the Parachute Battalion, Parachute Engineer Squadron, and the Air Landing Antitank Battery. It doesn’t sound much, but they’re good troops.
  • 21 new, or revised British formations including the renowned Glider Pilot Company (the glider pilots having landed formed their own elite unit), and the Airborne Recce Squadron – so now, unlike the real event (many of their gliders crashed, and the rest mainly got shot up in an ambush) – you have another chance to rush to the Arnhem Bridge, as was part of the historic plan.
An MG42 opens up on a British patrol advancing to an Oosterbeek crossroads. Note the rather neat looking signpost.

An MG42 opens up on a British patrol advancing to an Oosterbeek crossroads. Note the rather neat looking signpost.

 

In addition to new formations, Market Garden also adds much more to the Battle for Normandy weapon and vehicle mix. Taking inspiration from their Fortress Italy Gustav Line expansion, both sides now have antiaircraft weapons in both towed and vehicle mounted configurations. But it’s not just new flak units, as there are plenty of other goodies too:

  • One new small arm type, namely the FG-42 rifle.
  • 12 new heavy weapon types ranging from the Bofors 40mm AA gun to the LeGrW 36 50mm mortar.
  • Four new US vehicles ranging from the agile M18 Hellcat to the awesome firepower of the M16 MGMC quad 50.cal AA halftrack.
  • 27 new German vehicles, including a ton of halftrack variants. At the heavy end they include the King Tiger tank with the Henschel turretand the Jagdpanzer IV/70 tank hunter. At the lighter end there are vehicles like the Protze 70 light truck, the Wirbelwind AA vehicle, and its less successful cousin the Möbelwagen AA vehicle.
  • Seven new British vehicles ranging from the agile and hard hitting Challenger Mk VIII tank, to Major Gough’s pet project – the Jeep with a mounted Vickers K machine gun. (He actually wanted twin K guns similar to what the SAS had in the desert, but was refused on the basis that it would be impossible to supply their ammo needs during an airborne operation.) If a player only owns the Combat Mission Battle for Normandy core game then they’ll get the additional benefit of a further 21 vehicles, and variations thereof from the Commonwealth module.

Whilst I’ve mentioned some of the new terrain eye candy, the landscape in the Market Garden area deserves a mention. In common with Normandy are the urban areas, wooded farmland, and heavy woods such as in the Groesbeek area. However, the landscape can be quite different to that found in Normandy. The Normandy bocage has gone, and instead open fields of polder, heathland, drainage ditches, and the canals of northern Belgium and the Netherlands make their appearance. The Market Garden area is often much flatter than in Normandy, and the hardened “Normandy” player must adapt to a different combat environment, as even small elevations in the terrain can make a huge difference for spotting and combat. Outside of towns, except for wooded areas long range weapons really do hold sway, and a well sited MG42 really can ruin your day. The effective use of smoke to cover advances is in many ways now more important than ever.

Scenarios and Campaigns

There is a greater variety of terrain outside of the supplied scenarios, and campaigns. Quick Battles can now be chosen to be fought in either France, or Holland, which varies the terrain set. This gives some fantastic flexibility, as aside from choosing the timescales into September 1944, players can also choose the operational area. This opens up the possibilities for Quick Battle games – (or indeed design full scenarios) to explore the what if situations for the battles around Aachen, and Lorraine both going on in September 1944, as well as being able to play out other actions in the Low Countries. If a player also has the Commonwealth module, there are many opportunities with the Quick Battle generator to examine what if situations using the Canadian Army, who whilst uninvolved with Market Garden were heavily engaged in Belgium and Holland at the time.

cmmg11

Choose your Quick Battle region for September 1944.You can do Quick Battles for Patton in France or Montgomery in Holland if you wish.

 

Market Garden adds another 22 stock scenarios to the Battles for Normandy scenario bank. All have the Germans on one side facing US forces in seven scenarios, British in nine scenarios, and mixed US/British in six scenarios. The Polish Independent Parachute Brigade doesn’t get any stand-alone scenario at all, nor any battle in either of the Campaigns. 15 of the scenarios were historical, or semi historical, with the remaining seven being what-if interpretations of events. Of the 22 scenarios supplied with the module 17 are playable by either side. Of the remaining stock scenarios, four are recommended for Allied play and one for the Germans.

Although the Market Garden module concentrates on the actions around Arnhem, Nijmegen, and Eindhoven, there are a couple relating to actions outside the Market Garden operation outside Brest in Brittany, and east of St Lo in Normandy. Whilst these are outside the Market Garden operation, both present interesting tactical challenges.

As a Grumpy Grog, if I have any disappointment with the supplied scenario mix it is an absence of scenarios for the Poles at Driel, and for Gräbner’s attack on Arnhem Bridge… I can’t resist the iconic cameos from the film A Bridge too Far! I hoped there was something on Battlefront’s scenario repository for this, but at the time of writing there is nothing yet.  But all is not lost. Apart from fudging a solution from a Quick Battle game, a budding scenario designer can still get a historic battle for them without struggling too much.

Whilst there is no master map for Driel, the Oosterhout master map is a shortcut for a historical scenario with the Poles. Historically this was a key sector for the link-up between the Poles, and 214 Brigade, of 43rd Infantry Division of 30 Corps. During the 22nd September it was held by KG Knaust, and the Ersatz Abteilung of SS “Schwappacher” Artillerie Regt No.5. Basically 30 Corps was coming from the south, and the Poles from the north and west of the map. The scenario basics for including the Poles are still there.

I played several sample scenarios across the range of stock scenarios released with Market Garden to get a flavour of the game as a whole. Despite some common themes in the terrain, the scenarios I played made for a variety of interesting situations. The scenario designers have created some excellent tactical challenges, and I enjoyed playing them.  Compared to the releases of the core game, and the Commonwealth module, I got the impression that the stock scenarios with Market Garden were somewhat larger, map wise, than before. It’s just an impression, but one I was happy with.

 

Who dares dies! Façade Troop comes under fire while trying to seize a bridge objective.

Who dares dies! Façade Troop comes under fire while trying to seize a bridge objective.

 

 

To give an example, the Façade Troop scenario is a lot of fun. It is one of the smaller scenarios, and I ended up playing the scenario from both sides. Essentially it is a contest between a small élite British recce force, and a much larger second line German force over a mixed terrain map. It is actually quite balanced, but it forces the players to play to the strengths of each force. At close quarters the élites have the edge, and the urban area on the map can prove deadly in the vicinity of the bridge choke points. The problem for the Brits are their numbers, they can’t afford heavy casualties. Conversely, the Germans can absorb losses far better in a protracted firefight, but do less well in hit and run ambushes. The AI scripts worked well, and I found myself in several tense situations during the game.

There is a fair bit of diversity with the scenario makeup. There are actions in fog, at night, and in the daytime. Missions range from all out assaults, to probes, and all round defence using troops of sometimes very disparate quality. Battlefield terrain varies from urban fighting in Nijmegen, and Arnhem where close range fire-fights and house-clearing are the norm, to fighting in relatively open land where the use of smoke, and supporting fire are critical to the success of any attack.

Market Garden adds two new Campaigns to the Battle for Normandy campaign bank. There is an Allied campaign, The Road to Nijmegen; and a German one, A Moment in Time.

The Allied campaign focuses on the first five days of the early stage of the campaign, with up to 16 missions – a bonus mission is available if you do well in the campaign. Scenarios are centred on the advance of 30 Corps (mainly the Irish Guards), the defence of Hell’s Highway, and the seizing of key bridges by the 505th PIR. As with the scenario bank there is a range of mission types, a variety of weather conditions, and battlefield terrain. The scenarios offer interesting situations from armoured exploitation attacks (such as the Neerpelt Breakout) to a night ambush. The campaign was in my opinion extremely well designed, and challenging. In particular, I found mission 12 – Bloody Aalst – full of nasty surprises for my troops as they fought for the village. My own game was a fair reflection of history, where the Guards were themselves delayed by heavy fire: After a vicious firefight, I eventually cleared the village, but I struggled to successfully exit any of my units during the battle getting a draw. A nicely designed scenario, and a tough challenge.

Just one of the nasty surprises awaiting 30 Corps at Aalst!

Just one of the nasty surprises awaiting 30 Corps at Aalst!

 

 

The German campaign focuses various actions on one of the critical days – the 19th September 1944 – It is a six scenario campaign played out across the different sectors of the operation with different German forces. Again there is plenty of variety within these scenarios. The different branches of German forces are all represented, and actions include defending bridges against a dawn paratrooper attack, to leading an intense tank and Panzer Grenadier assault towards Son Bridge against veteran US paratroopers with British armour support. This is perhaps wrongly described as a campaign in the traditional Combat Mission sense. Here we see a series of various cameo actions involving different German forces. There is no carryover of losses etc. to following scenarios because each action is specific to a different unit. However, the “campaign” in my opinion really works. It provides a distinct flavour of its own, by giving a snapshot impression of one day’s action across key areas of the whole operation. It’s actually a novel, and interesting way of portraying just how varied actions could be in just one day across the whole battlefield.

Any gripes?

As a whole I found the expansion truly excellent. If I really must find fault, it is the delayed gratification resulting from the relatively slow loading of the larger battles – due most likely to the larger maps in this expansion. My other nit-picking is more in terms of missing extras, rather than for what has already been provided. I would like to have seen a Red Devils campaign for Arnhem Bridge, a Driel, and/or an “Island” scenario for the Poles, and one for Gräbner’s attack.

It’s all insignificant criticism really, given the massive amount of work that has gone into this expansion – I can always create a Quick Battle for the Poles, and for Gräbner. The British airborne at Arnhem have a reasonable number of stock scenarios, so the absence of a Red Devils campaign is really not a big deal. That said a three day campaign following Colonel Frost’s gruelling battle with 2 Para at Arnhem Bridge would have been fun, and might also have included Gräbner’s attack! Of course, this is all wish-list issue, and frankly doesn’t really detract from the fact that Battlefront has yet again delivered a truly excellent expansion with Market Garden.

 

I thought I’d suppressed the Flakvierling.  Apparently not!

I thought I’d suppressed the Flakvierling. Apparently not!

 

The Verdict

The Combat Mission series remains one of my favourite games, and Market Garden just makes it even better. I say Market Garden is an essential “must have” expansion for any Grog who has enjoyed or plans to buy Combat Mission Battle for Normandy.

Grumpy Grog Says: “Combat Mission: Market Garden is just so immersive. You feel the adrenalin rush and the tension just as your Paras make contact approaching that vital bridge”

 


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Further Reading

Histories

A Bridge Too Far – Cornelius Ryan

Nijmegen: Battleground Europe World War II – Grave and Groesbeek – Tim Saunders

— (Also check out the Hells Highway book by Tim Saunders for a write-up on the Aalst battle in the Allied campaign)

Major and Mrs Holt’s Battlefield Guide to Operation Market Garden – Tonie and Valmai Holt

— A unique take on the history of the operation, probably the definitive battlefield guide.

It Never Snows in September: The German View of Market-Garden and the Battle of Arnhem September 1944 – Robert Kershaw

— One of the very few accounts dealing with the German perspective on the battle

Hell’s Highway: A Chronicle of the 101st Airborne Division in the Holland Campaign, September November 1944 – George Koskimaki

Memoirs

A Drop Too Many – Major General J. Frost

Major General Frost’s personal account of his WW2 career culminating in Arnhem as CO, 2 Para, at Arnhem Bridge

Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters – Dick Winters , Cole C Kingseed

— Serving officer in E Coy 506 PIR, 101st Airborne (USA)

Arnhem – R.E. Urquhart

— Memoirs of the battle by the CO of 1st Airborne Division (UK)

On to Berlin – General James Gavin

— Part of the book deals with the 82nd Airborne actions at Nijmegen, Grave, Groesbeek etc.. Gavin was its CO at the time.

With the Red Devils at Arnhem: Personal Experiences with the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade 1944 – Marek Swiecicki

Freely I Served: The Memoir of the Commander, 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade 1941 – 1944 – Stanislaw Sosabowski

Shifty’s War: The Authorized Biography of Sgt. Darrell “Shifty” Powers, the Legendary Sharpshooter from the Band of Brothers – Marcus Brotherton

Arnhem Lift: A Fighting Glider Pilot Remembers – Louis Hagen

— The last memoir is of particular interest as you will see from the following links leading to the 1946 Docudrama Theirs is the Glory:

 

Fiction

Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway: A Brothers in Arms Novel – John Antal

 

3 Responses to Review of Combat Mission Battle for Normandy – Market Garden, part 2

  1. Jeff Roland says:

    You say that “Gräbner’s attack on Arnhem Bridge” is not included but it is indeed one of the single battles included with the module. It’s not labeled Grabner’s attack, I suppose because it would be a dead giveaway of what and where to expect the enemy.

  2. Scharnhorst says:

    I really don’t get why this game keep getting these 10/10 reviews from grog sites. After 3 years, there isn’t really that much that is different in Combat Mission, and Battlefront’s bewildering game/module/upgrade scheme seems to be just another way of putting in less content for a higher price.

    Why do grog sites lack any kind of criticism when it comes to such games? The reviewers and game developers are too close in this business, methinks.

  3. Marcin Nowak says:

    Battlefront.com policy is to block any “suspicious” ip , sometimes they block half a country. This is reason why you shoun’t buy this game. You may find yourself in situation (like some friends of mine) when you are unable to activate a game that you purchased some time ago, or get any support. The only response from battlefront is : change your ip provider.

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