Francis K. Lalumiere
Few ideas centered on warfare evoke as much patriotism, heroism—even romanticism—as that of a vanquished population taking arms and rising against its oppressor. The resistance fighter is unlike any other, fighting of his own volition to rid his country of invaders, often without training or even proper armament. More importantly, the resistance fighter is not always male—indeed, not even always an adult.
GMT brings us a new chapter in the Combat Commander story, one that is all about those patriotic, heroic, even romantic plot twists and the people behind them.
The fourth volume in the series comes in a thin box; not the behemoth of previous Combat Commander boxed products, but not the cardboard folder of battle packs either. So what lies inside that in-between?
Six new maps (one of which features a brand new terrain type, the cemetery), 12 new scenarios (six using preexisting maps), new units (heck, even a new hero!), new markers… and two new decks of cards.
You read that right. CARDS.
Because, when you get down to it, what the diminutive Resistance box spits out is a new faction for the game. A very different one, to be sure, but a whole faction nonetheless. And one that will require your pulling brand new rabbits out of your well worn hat.
So let me introduce the partisans.
As one would expect, the new partisan faction comes bursting onto the scene with its very own Fate Deck. But this one’s special: not only are the triggers distributed differently from previous Fate Decks (without the inclusion of any Time triggers!), but it’s also half the size of its predecessors. Count ‘em: 36 cards. Sure to keep you on your toes.
But the partisans also sport a second stack of pasteboards: the Force Deck. Here, each card features one unit in its top half, and another in its bottom half. The deck comes into play in a few different instances, one of which being the Random Scenario Generator.
As to the others? We’ll get there soon enough.
The new partisan units look like they’re just yellow versions of the stuff we already have stashed away in our Plano boxes, but upon closer inspection, the illusion quickly wears off.
Not only are they new units, but they’re also new types of units.
For starters, the standard formations are gone. In their stead are two-man crews, four-man sections, five-man bands, and even six-man gangs. And “man” here is really just a place-holder, because some of those guys are actually gals! (Grab a magnifying glass if you don’t believe me.) A soldier’s a soldier, and those resistance folks are not about to turn down an able body just because it’s wearing a skirt. Heck, even the resistance hero is female—or else Nina is one strange-looking dude.
Nina has a Russian chime to it, and indeed, partisans depicted on this first batch of counters are from the Motherland; witness the rest of leaders, such as Yuri, Nikolai, Dimitri, Katrina… Although the locations used to depict various resistance actions range all over Europe, the design team opted to go Russian for the counters. The notes inside the playbook tell us that future products might throw units of other nationalities into the mix, but that has absolutely no bearing on gameplay. (Unless you’re having problems pronouncing common Russian first names, that is.)
But then, new unit types beckon new rules. (How’s that for a segue?)
There’s a handful of minor modifications peppered throughout the 12-page playbook, such as partisan hand sizes losing one card when compared to standard postures, weapons being drawn at random from a haphazard assortment, or the inclusion of the previously encountered sewers and irregular melees. But the real meat around those Resistance bones pertains to the unit structure and the way leaders coordinate actions around them.
When a partisan unit breaks, it flips over to its red-stained side—the same way other units behave. But when it gets eliminated… well, maybe it just got whittled down a bit. The partisan player flips the top card of the Force Deck, and looks at the bottom half. If it represents a unit that’s smaller than the one being eliminated, then the pseudo-corpse is replaced with a broken version of that smaller unit. For instance, an eliminated gang (six-man unit) could become a band, a troop, a section, a crew, or even a leader (all the way down to a one-man unit)! If, on the other hand, the unit pictured is equal or larger in size to the eliminated one, then that marker is truly gone and will find a new home on the casualty track.
Partisan leaders command their fellow fighters through line of sight. That is, a leader can order each unit that he or she can see. This revolutionizes the way you’ll want to organize your attack groups—as long as a leader can see them, they can all operate together, no matter how far they find themselves from each other.
Incidentally, Resistance puts a new spin on old rules, tweaking them to fit the new mold.
The Marksmanship action found in the partisan deck, for instance, only applies to leaders in battle (watch out, it’s an easy mistake to make). Infiltrate is reminiscent of the Japanese order of the same name, but it works somewhat differently. Each play of an Infiltrate order can accomplish one of two things: place a new sighting marker on the map (which will then jump around according to subsequent revelations of random hexes), or place a reinforcing unit in the next space of the time track. The former is easy enough, but the latter remains a question mark, as it also requires a flip of the top Force Deck card, upon which the partisan player must choose between the unit pictured at top or the one at bottom. That unit goes onto the time track, eagerly awaiting the next time advance. Provided there’s at least one sighting marker on the map by then!
Twelve new fights!
A handful of engagements in Byelorussia, others in Greece, Bosnia, Albania, and the inevitable stints in occupied France. As was the case with previous expansions in the series, each scenario brings to the party its own set of special rules that put a unique twist on the system.
(Except for scenario 72—we’re so used to cool special rules by now, that a “blank” scenario like this one almost feels like a step backwards.)
One of my favorites is scenario 64, where each player’s friendly map edge is reduced to a single corner hex, which shifts the overall orientation of the map—we actually played that one with the map askew between the two of us. That tiny tweak puts a whole new spin on Routs and (Axis) Reinforcements.
One could argue that each nation in Combat Commander requires tactical adjustments in order to play it well, and one would be right. But the partisan faction pretty much rewrites the whole book.
For one thing, leaders don’t need to be on the front line to coordinate their troops anymore. Nor are they required to stand one or two hexes away at the most: as long as a clear line of sight remains available, they can sit all the way at the back of the map and enjoy the show.
Because of that, partisans sometimes function better as small in-sight-of-a-leader clusters (if not as individuals!) attacking from all sides, rather than as one big task force engaging the enemy head-on with stats boosted by a hands-on leader.
For another thing, partisan units are a lot more difficult to eliminate. They tend to break down into smaller groups rather than break apart completely the way, say, a squad does when it’s hit a second time. Make the most of this! It’s much less intimidating to send a band across a road guarded by a heavy machine gun than it would be to give the same order to a squad. So what if a large partisan unit breaks twice? Chances are they’ll come survive as a smaller unit, and will find a way to limp the rest of the way to safety. Plus, you can use the new Muster order to build them back up, one step at a time.
Still not convinced? All partisan units are worth 1 and only 1 point (either eliminated or exited—even the hero!). So throw them out there.
One last thing: because of the half-size partisan fate deck, a Resistance scenario moves FAST. Things have to keep rolling, or else your cute little yellow counters are going into the ground. So get off your comfy behind.
Try as I may, I can’t find fault with GMT’s production values on Resistance.
The cards, the counters, the maps are all top notch.
One very minor gripe: this is supposed to be volume 4 in the Combat Commander series, right? Well, the OCD-afflicted geek in me winces every time I *don’t* see Volume IV printed anywhere on the box. It’s on the playbook cover, for crying out loud!
I’m always giddy at the thought of a new pack of scenarios for Combat Commander, but how could you not rejoice with a whole new faction to play? And a completely different one at that!
What’s more fun than feeling your brain create new connections to tackle a kind of problem it hasn’t encountered before? Try unlearning a few lessons—it’s one of the more delicious (and spicy!) brain snacks.
Resistance is simply a ton of fun, period.
Whenever I play Eurogames, I always grab the yellow pieces. So, at last, GMT provided me with a faction I can truly feel is my own.
What more could I ask for?
Combat Commander Archivist
Move! Advance! Fire! Rout! Recover! Artillery Denied! Artillery Request! Command Confusion...say what?!
Not only are they new units, but they’re also new types of units.
For starters, the standard formations are gone. In their stead are two-man crews, four-man sections, five-man bands, and even six-man gangs.
Actually, three-man sections and four-man troops.
The Marksmanship action found in the partisan deck, for instance, only applies to leaders in battle (watch out, it’s an easy mistake to make).
But to be pointed out, and very cool, is that the leaders have good range, most up to 6!
It is indeed a very different feel and mindset. Lots of fun so far.