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Posted on Jun 15, 2010 in Electronic Games

Combat Mission Shock Force: Afghanistan Interview

By Rick Martin

Unlike the more lightly armed and decentralized unconventional forces in Combat Mission's Syrian campaign, the Afghan guerillas are very well organized.

World War II–era bolt action rifles and SMGs are carried right along side G3s and M16s

Battlefront, in cooperation with the Russian game development and publishing company Snowball, will soon release the latest installment in Battlefront’s popular Combat Mission Shock Force series. Combat Mission Shock Force: Afghanistan covers the often-overlooked Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, the period depicted in the Tom Hanks movie, Charlie Wilson’s War. In this exclusive Armchair General interview, Steve Grammont, the production lead for the game, talks about what players can expect.

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Armchair General: The original three Combat Mission games plus Combat Mission Shock Force and its expansions, have been almost universally acknowledged as classics of the PC-war-game genre. The newest Combat Mission game takes players to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan during the 1980s. Why choose that conflict?

Steve Grammont: The idea was pitched to us by our long-time Russian development/publishing partners, Snowball. The Afghanistan War is one of the most important events in recent Russian history, so it seems very natural for them to want to portray it. Of course their interest is to have a Russian language version, which obviously would limit its appeal outside of the Russian-speaking wargaming community. From our perspective, this conflict is fairly fresh subject matter for most of our customers; therefore, we decided to make sure there is an English language version available as well as the Russian.

ACG: How will you model the asymmetrical combat aspects found in that conflict?

SG: The asymmetrical elements found in the Afghan war of 1970s and 1980s are actually not very different than the one CM-SF portrayed in a fictional Syrian campaign, the primary difference being the scale of organized opposition. In CM-SF, the unconventional forces are portrayed as being fairly lightly armed (even though some of those weapons are VERY deadly) and decentralized. In contrast, the Afghan opposition forces were very well organized and had, to some extent, mimicked conventional combined arms forces.

Another difference that is accurately portrayed in CM-Afghanistan is the variety of weaponry within the opposition forces. World War II–era bolt action rifles and SMGs are carried right along side G3s and M16s. This sort of diversity and random variety is not found in CM-SF because the Syrian asymmetrical forces would be armed with basically modern-era Soviet weaponry only.

ACG: Will collateral damage—civilian casualties—be a factor in the game?

SG: As with CM-SF this is left up to the scenario designer. The designer can give either side disincentives for destroying buildings, which symbolize civilian collateral damage, or not, if that is the desired approach.

ACG: What new units can we expect in this game?

SG: While there is some overlap with the equipment in CM-SF, there is no overlap in the units themselves. Soviet Army forces of the 1970s and 1980s were organized very differently from the Syrian forces people are used to from CM-SF—not only organizationally different, but much of the weaponry they use is also different. For example, the Soviet Airborne forces have access to BMD-1 and BMD-2. Variants of the BMP-1 and BMP-2 commonly found in Afghanistan, but not used by Syrian forces, are also present. The older RPG-2 anti-tank rocket launcher is in use in places, as is the Carl Gustav. The Soviet forces have a full range of air support options as well as a diverse assortment of artillery. And as I mentioned above, lots of new small arms are also present. Last but not least, the game introduced the Drozd Active Defense system (on T-55AD and T-62D; shoots down incoming RPGs) and units with multi-barreled rapid-fire cannon, such as the ZSU-23 Shilka and Kamaz ZU-23, for the first time.

ACG: Will the Afghanistan campaign of the current “War On Terror” be an option for the Afghanistan game?

SG: No. That would require merging CM-SF and CM-Afghanistan together into one game. Currently there are no plans to do that—although you’re not the first one to ask. (Smiling).

ACG: One of the rather dramatic changes between the original Word War II Combat Mission games and the Combat Mission-Shock Force games is that the computer randomly generates a player’s units for a scenario in the Shock Force games. What was the thinking behind going that route instead of letting players purchase units? Will that ability ever be incorporated into the Shock Force games?

SG: Yes, but it will not be ready for CM-Afghanistan. The first game to have a new OB system will be the first of CM’s WWII games, which is set in Normandy and beyond.

ACG: So Combat Mission will be returning to its World War II roots—perhaps in modeling the Pacific ground fighting? Any chance of a World War I expansion?

SG: There will be full coverage of the European Theater of Operations (including the Eastern Front) over a period of many years. It’s a mammoth task, but one we are committed to seeing through. There is always a possibility of covering other theaters and time periods; however, at present we have no plans for Pacific Theater of Operations or World War I games.

About the author

A college film instructor and Executive Director of Nouveau Cinema Group, Inc., an organization which rescues old movie theaters, Richard A. Martin has also worked in the legal profession, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War 1 and 2 gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!

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