Grogheads Interviews – Steve Grammont of Battlefront!

459029 342640865779697 2107271228 o
frontier wars 728x90 KS

For more than twenty years, the team at Battlefront has developed and published a host of classic wargames that have been hailed by many as some of the best in the genre. Most notably, Battlefront developed the timeless and long-running Combat Mission tactical wargame series, beginning in 2000 with the release of Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord and most recently with the 2021 release of Combat Mission: Cold War.  In addition, Battlefront has published other popular wargame series, such as Strategic Command and Theater of War.

We finally had the opportunity to sit down with Steve Grammont, one of the founders of Battlefront, to talk about the history of Battlefront, the Combat Mission series and some exciting new things that may be on the horizon.

459029 342640865779697 2107271228 o

By: Boggit

GH:  Steve, thank you for agreeing to talk to Grogheads about Battlefront and the Combat Mission series of games.  Before we get into that, please tell us a little about you. What started your interest in gaming and how did you end up getting into wargame design and development?

Steve:  I was interested in military history from a very young age and it progressed to wargaming.  As with most gamers, I started moving towards making games because I thought I had enough good ideas to make a go of it.  The only practical way to do that back in the late 1980s and early 1990s was to self-fund your own ideas and get someone else to publish them.  I did that, got chewed up and spat out by the horrors of the retail model, then moved on to corporate gaming at Impressions just after it got bought out by Sierra On-Line.  Did that for a while and then left to partner with Charles Moylan on what became Combat Mission Beyond Overlord and


The original Combat Mission Shock Force – the Daddy of the CMx2 series. Here I get off to a very bad start…

GH:  You have been designing successful games for many years now. What has been the game that you most enjoyed designing, and the reasons for what made it so enjoyable to you?

Steve:  Shock Force, hands down.  As fun and innovative as the original Beyond Overlord was to develop, there were so many technical limitations holding back our ideas.  Even though Shock Force was only a few years later the newer technology dramatically increased what we could do.  Plus, when we made Beyond Overlord it was the first of its kind, which diverted a lot of energy and time into things that now everybody takes for granted. I think it’s easier to be innovative the second time around compared to the first.


… but revenge swiftly follows!

GH:  What games are your personal favorites and what inspiration have you drawn from them?

Steve:   I suffer from what I termed the Game Developer’s Curse, which is getting into game development because of a love of playing games only to find that because you’re making games you no longer have the time/energy to play games.  Fortunately, I also love making games so it’s not a total loss!

My most formulative gaming experiences come from the the golden years of wargaming (roughly 1985-1995).  In my opinion everything since then has been a variation on theme, often times doing nothing to improve gameplay.  Making yet another realtime strategy or 1st person shooter or traditional wargame isn’t very interesting to me.  Combining elements of a RTS with a FPS, grounding them in solid wargame principles, and building it all on top of a hardcore sim engine is where my heart and mind is at.


American Tanks loaded with GI’s start their dawn attack on Herlissheim under the cover of light fog. (Combat Mission: Final Blitzkrieg)

GH:  When the original Combat Mission was first released it was a ground breaking game for the wargame community. Tell us about what inspired you to create Combat Mission in particular, and the design philosophy behind it?

Steve:  I’ve told this story so many times that I should say “stop me if you’ve heard this before”, but this isn’t interactive with the readers so I can’t do that. 

Back in 1995 Charles (the programming brilliance behind Combat Mission) and I were having some Guinness at a local bar while talking about game ideas.  He started pitching an idea to me about making a 3D tactical wargame.  I wasn’t convinced why it was better than isometric, so he drew some things on a beer stained napkin and waived his hands around to demonstrate some principles.  Well, that did it and I was hooked! 

The primary thing we talked about that night, and forever since, is how to make the most realistic simulation of warfare in a way that is still fun to play by someone other than an engineer.  That’s what we still focus on to this day.


Sharp action in Combat Mission: Black Sea as United States infantry clear a wood taking out a Russian APC and its infantry support.

GH:  The Combat Mission series today has evolved dramatically from the original Combat Mission series of games like Beyond Overlord.  Subsequent updates have occasionally drawn from the original series in terms of the orders available to troops, such as “Seek Hull Down” translating into the “Hull Down” order in the current series. Do you have plans to expand more features from the original Combat Mission like the “Move to Contact”, “Shoot and Scoot” orders, or the Line of Sight tool as the Combat Mission 2 series continues its evolution?

Steve:  We started working on Combat Mission 2’s engine 17 years ago!  It’s amazing how good the game engine is after all these years, however we are coming to the point where adding big things takes longer with a less satisfying end result than we’d like.  The evolutionary routes for us to explore are definitely narrowing or even dead ending.  There’s still a lot of life left in CM2, so we’re not ceasing development on it, but we are keeping our own expectations more modest than we have in the past.


Tigers come under fire in a Soviet anti-tank ambush. The tank riding infantry will soon dismount to provide security in the nearby woods.

GH:  What new and original features might be seen in the future with the Combat Mission series? Do you think, for example, things like fire and its spread, or allowing heavy weapon crews to re-crew their guns after abandoning them (like vehicle crews can) is a possibility?

Steve:  At present we are thinking more along the lines of adding a host of “niceities” that people have been asking for since forever, but have kept getting pushed to the back of the line.  Things like better rendering shadows, improving framerates for larger or more intense battles, AI Player improvements, etc. are some of the things we’ve been talking about for the next CM2 Engine Upgrade.


21st Panzer Division come under fire from the Canadians. This shot includes vehicles from the excellent vehicle pack DLC, which provide a wide variety of lesser seen vehicles from the German Ersatz/Beute variety seen here to Hobart’s “Funnies” like the mineclearing Sherman Crab’s and the terrifying Canadian Wasp flamethrower carrier.

GH:  One thing sometimes speculated on is whether there is any chance in the future that Combat Mission will encompass an alternative campaign/operation map overlay to allow for a dynamically generated campaign (perhaps using quick battle maps for terrain types? I’m thinking here as maybe having some similarities in style either to some of the user moderated campaigns sometimes seen at The Few Good Men website, or to the Graviteam Tactics/Tank Warfare Tunisia campaigns made by Graviteam, who offer a broadly similar alternative to Combat Mission in terms of game style?

Steve:  Despite personally liking the thought of a campaign generator, there is no chance of it happening with CM2.  Although simple in concept, it is a huge thing to execute.  From the very start of Combat Mission we had to pick our focus and we decided we’d rather have the best tactical wargame with an acceptable campaign system than the best campaign system with only an acceptable tactical system.  We’ve never regretted our choice, though often we regret we can’t do both to the same degree of excellence.


Attention to detail is a hallmark of Battlefront. Obviously the tanks and troops are well represented, but the detail on buildings, such as the artwork for this church go the extra mile.

GH:  Do you plan to upgrade earlier Combat Mission 2 games like Combat Mission Battle for Normandy, and Combat Mission: Fortress Italy with the tank riders feature first seen in Combat Mission: Red Thunder, and Combat Mission: Final Blitzkrieg?

Steve: Back when we had a couple of titles it was easier to do this than it is now, but it is still something we’re doing as we go along.  Retrofitting all the vehicles in a game to take tank riders, for example, is a lot of work to do.  Because our time and resources are limited, everything we do now means something else has to wait until later to get done.  Someone who waited years for an expansion of Red Thunder, for example, would not have been happy if we pushed that off so we could retrofit an existing game.

GH:  What would you say has been your biggest design challenge in Combat Mission in general and Combat MissionCold War in particular? How did you resolve those issues?

Steve:  The biggest overall challenge is getting what we want out of the technology we have to work with.  Just because we can imagine it doesn’t mean it’s practical, or even possible, to implement it.  That’s frustrating from a designer standpoint, let me tell you! 

The biggest challenge for Cold War specifically was the amount of work needed to make it into a great game.  This was solved by waiting until we had much of the basics needed for the setting and then having well vetted outside people do a lot of the heavy lifting.  Trying to do Cold War a few years earlier was just not practical without significant disruption to long laid development plans for other games.


Maps used to be a lot smaller in the earlier days of the Combat Mission 2 series, but have become increasingly more ambitious as the series has developed. This is much more important in the modern scenarios where the combat range of weapons is drastically longer – as a rule – than the WW2 experience. (Combat Mission: Black Sea seen here).

GH:  Combat Mission is an incredibly hardware friendly game, that can be played on very modest computers.  How did you achieve that when other games offering broadly similar graphics quality are resource hogs, often restricting reasonable size games to only those with high end gaming rigs?

Steve:   Aside from brilliant coding and a tight design, it certainly helps that we wrote the original graphics code at a time when 3D programming APIs were mature, but the hardware was still pretty restrictive.  As hardware, especially VRAM, improved over time we were able to improve both graphics and gameplay because what we had was compatible and could benefit from the increased hardware offerings.  As processors and RAM have improved, we’ve been able to do other things like expand the map size and add new game features without compromising performance.  None of this would have happened if the underlying engine wasn’t so fundamentally solidly designed and executed.

GH:  The moddability of Combat Mission has been enthusiastically embraced by the Combat Mission community and has enhanced the series even more. In the future would you ever consider integrating, and crediting some of the most popular enhancing mods directly into the base series, for example, the Juju, Veins and Aris mods – as has been done with some other developers?

Steve:   We’ve talked about it, but people seem to be pretty happy with the choices they have and the fact they don’t have to pay for them.  The bigger thing is that as much as one group of CM fans my love a particular mod, you’ll find a large number (sometimes larger!) doesn’t like it or is even hostile to it.  I think everybody’s better off if Combat Mission stays neutral and lets Modders and players figure out where to take things instead of us.

GH:  Now that Combat Mission Cold War is complete, what is next for Battlefront? Do you plan any new base games like a Combat Mission Pacific, Combat Mission: The First Blitzkrieg, or a Combat Mission: The Great War? Will you surprise us and do something completely different?

Steve:   We are stepping away from creating brand new Families (Base Game + Modules + Packs) and instead are committed to having at least one Module for each of our existing 8 Families.  At present that means adding Modules to Black Sea, Final Blitzkrieg, and Cold War.  We are also interested in adding various types of Packs to other Families.


Russian T-62’s form up for a night attack. (Combat Mission: Cold War)

GH:  You have worked closely with your friend and business partner Charles Moylan for many years now. Charles, prior to the formation of Battlefront, developed – in my opinion – some of the best tactical air war games to have ever hit the market; namely Achtung Spitfire!, Over the Reich, and Flight Commander 2. Is there any chance that Battlefront will ever revisit this genre to produce a similar, but updated series of games like that in the future?

Steve:   Charles loves these games as well, but there are no plans for us to bring them back to life.  We have too many other things booking up our time and revisiting these games just doesn’t fit into those plans.  I’ll also have readers know that the bad (and slightly buzzed) German pilot voice is in Over The Reich was done by me.  Apologies to native German speakers everywhere!


The Screaming Eagles return fire with their first contact on the way to their objective. (Combat Mission: Battle for Normandy – Market Garden Module).

GH:  You have been successful in business for a long time now both as a developer and as a publisher. You have a small team, and yet you manage to consistently produce a high quality product on a fairly regular basis, and – in my experience –you provide a very good support service. What general production and marketing challenges do you regularly face, and what strategy have you adopted to overcome them?

Steve:   Our biggest challenge is not the usual money thing per se, but time.  We have more stuff we want to do than we can possibly do in a lifetime.  Even if someone dumped a truck full of Amazon stock on our doorstep we would never see the end of our ToDo List because we’d keep adding to it.  Call it a genetic problem of game developers! 

On the marketing side of things, there’s few that can say they’ve been free to do what they love when they want and how they want for 20+ years.  We can and now also have access to larger markets thanks to our partnership with Slitherine.  I’ll say a bit more about that below.

GH:  If you could make any game you liked – free of any commercial considerations – what would it be?

Steve:   It’s going to sound like a total suck up to our earliest CM fans… but it has got to be Space Lobsters of Doom!  I am a total sci-fi geek and if we could swing a tactical space combat game on top of everything else we do, I’d for sure sign up for that.  I’m still holding out hope that, like Cold War, its time will come.  After all, I did say for almost 20 years that we’d never make a fictional Cold War game.


A job well done. Two to three German zug’s virtually wiped out in a well planned and executed ambush by British Paras. (Combat Mission: Battle for Normandy).

GH:  Is there anything else you think our readers should know about the Combat Mission series and specifically about your latest game, Combat MissionCold War?

Steve:  Yes!!  A big thanks to the Cold War team that pulled off the core development, in particular Bil, Warren, Justin, and Battlefront’s own Chris.  Another shout out to our steady stable of testers who did a fantastic job getting it across the finish line in record time.  Without their collective passion and decades of pleading to do this game we would not have CM Cold War today.  It was a great collaborative effort done at just the right time by just the right people.  Hat’s off to the crew!

GH:  I’ve tried to cover a wide variety of topics, but is there anything else I might have missed that you would like to share with us?

One of the biggest things to happen to Battlefront, and by extension Combat Mission, is our partnership with Slitherine.  Our successful work together on developing an analytical tool set for military customers led us to an equally successful venture bringing Combat Mission to the broader wargaming audience.  Their resources and compatible business philosophy are already proving our faith in them was not misplaced.  This isn’t just about Battlefront making more money and having more people happily playing CM.  It’s also about gaining access to resources to take Combat Mission to the next level.  We are very excited about where things are headed.

GH:   Steve, we really appreciate you taking the time and trouble to answer my questions and sharing your thoughts with our readers at

Steve:   Pleasure is all mine!  Thanks for the great questions and doing your part to keep the wargaming community alive and well in this ever changing world.


Chat about it below, or in our forums, or hit our FaceBook page >>