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A year after the release of the original Combat Commander: Europe in 2006, which was one of the most popular and fastest-selling wargames of that year, GMT Games produced another double barreled shot of high-powered games with the release of Combat Commander: Mediterranean and Battle Pack #1 Paratroopers. Mediterranean was a big box game that added 3 new playable factions in the French and Allied minors, British and Commonwealth forces and the Italians and Axis minors that was not seen as a true expansion but more of an addition to the base game.  It did have new counters, cards and additional scenarios but no new or significantly changed rules. The Battle Pack is seen as an expansion or supplement that is reliant on the base game to be able to be played.  Battlepack #1 was even nominated for the 2009 Charles S. Roberts Best Expansion or Supplement for an Existing Game award so you know it was good!

What does Combat Commander Battle Pack #1 Paratroopers Contain?

The quick answer is….LOTS! The Battle Pack comes in what appears to be a school folder in a plastic bag.  Not really exciting upon first glance. But, the art on the front of the cover of the folder (see above) of an American Paratrooper in full battle dress is a very well placed image as it immediately got me excited about more scenarios using Paratroopers, one of the more powerful units in the game. When I received it, I admit that I was a little taken aback and initially felt disappointed in the product.  But, when I finally opened it up and began looking through it, my initial feeling of regret in purchasing it was immediately replaced by utter glee and excitement.  Paratroopers is a small expansion set that focuses on some of the action seen by airborne units from the US, Germany and Russia (unfortunately only 1 scenario for the Russians, “Red Skies at Night” Scenario #30, which reuses Map #8 from Combat Commander: Europe).

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Picture showing parts of Scenario #30 called “Red Skies at Night”, the only scenario in the Battle Pack that involves the Russians. This scenario also reuses map #8 from Combat Commander: Europe.

The pack includes four new maps and 11 new scenarios, but no new units or counters and no new cards. Six of the new scenarios make use of maps found in the original Combat Commander: Europe, and ownership of Mediterranean is not required to use the material contained herein.

Paratroopers contains some of the most interesting battlegrounds and most outrageous battles introduced to date in a Combat Commander product. Scenarios #25a and #25b, for example, are playable as a running mini-campaign that stretches from the morning of December 16, 1944 through the afternoon of that same day which was the opening shots of the infamous Battle of the Bulge. The special rules for those scenarios alone take up one half of an 8 1/2″ x 11″ page.  For example, one special rule that I found very interesting in #25a “Fields of Fire” was the Morning Barrage. After the American setup but before the German setup, each player draws 5 random hexes from their Fate Deck, removing any existing fortifications in those 10 hexes and then placing a foxhole. This represents shell craters from the artillery fired prior to the battle and can make for a very chaotic and interesting battlefield with available cover in very odd places!

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Picture showing parts of Scenario #25a called “Fields of Fire”, which is a multi-part mini-campaign when combined with Scenario #25b that occurs on the morning of December 16, 1944, the 1st day of the infamous Battle of the Bulge!

The scenarios included in Combat Commander Battle Pack #1 Paratroopers are as follows:

  1. “Fields of Fire” and “Fields of Blood” set at Lanzerath, Germany, 16 December 1944 – both morning and afternoon attacks (using a new map 25)
  2. “Turnbull Turns ’em” at Neuville-au-Plain, France, 6 June 1944 (using a new map 26)
  3. “Carentan Causeway” at Carentan, France, 10 June 1944 (using a new map 27)
  4. “No Ingouf Around” at Carentan, France, 11 June 1944 (using a new map 28)
  5. “Operation Repulse” at Bastogne, Belgium, 27 December 1944
  6. “Red Skies at Night” at Veliki Bukrin Bridgehead, Russia, 25 September 1943
  7. “Blizzard Baptism” at Flamierge, Belgium, 4 January 1945
  8. “Look Mom, No Tanks!” near Trois Ponts, Belgium, 24 December 1944
  9. “We Go!” at St. Mere Eglise, France, 6 June 1944
  10. “Encircled at Hill 30” at Caponnet, France, 8 June 1944

As you most likely know, Combat Commander Battle Packs are NOT stand-alone games and will require ownership of one or more of the Combat Commander boxed games in order to be played. Paratroopers only requires ownership of Combat Commander: Europe but starting with Battlepack #2 Stalingrad, you will need to own Mediterranean as well. One of the most interesting aspects of the scenarios in Paratroopers is the fact that, each time, at least one side will have Paratroop units at its disposal. As I know from great scenarios in CC: Europe such as Scenario #6 Paralyzed from the West Down Paratroops are amazingly skilled and versatile units that make assaults much more fun and effective. If properly used, 3 or 4 Paratroops can be worth 7-8 Regular or even Elite units.  Scenario #27 “Carentan Causeway” is an example of what I am talking about.  In this scenario, the Americans have 8 Paratroop units and the Germans also have 8.  Also, both sides have very strong leaders (Americans have Cpt. Sitner – Command 2, Morale 10, Sgt. Buehler – Command 2, Morale 8 and Lt. Blankenship – Command 1, Morale 9 while the Germans have Lt. v.Karsties – Command 2, Morale 9 and Sgt. Esser – Command 2, Morale 8), as well as mortars and radios and to make matters worse, the battlefield is very open and nearly devoid of good cover (only 1 building, a line of hedgerows and woods along an open road). This scenario is sure to be a total bloodbath and guess what, the Surrender limits are set at only 5! That is insane! The Americans do get to increase this limit by 3 at Time Marker 2 and again at 4.  Scenarios #28, #30 and #31 are also amazing and are sure to be some of your favorites after playing.

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Conclusion and Summary

Overall, this is a great expansion for the base game and all true Combat Commander fans should include this in their collection. The only concern or complaint that I had about the Battle Pack was that the American Forces colors on the scenario cards are almost all different.  Some appear as Lime Green, others are Olive Drab and more yet are Forest Green! I don’t know if this is simply my copy’s problem or the entire run during the printing. Not a major issue and it definitely doesn’t change my opinion about this expansion.  The scenarios are printed on thick card stock and are very durable and as usual the Situation Reports are some of my favorite parts as they set the tone for the scenario by giving historical analysis of the happenings. Great stuff that you simply must own!

-Grant