Combat Infantry is a brand new block wargame from Columbia Games, so new in fact that it isn’t quite on the shelves yet (as of early September 2017). I was lucky enough to sit down and play a scenario at Gen Con 2017, however, and test out the game that was successfully funded on Kickstarter earlier this year.
Combat Infantry is a block wargame that has diverged from the ones that I’ve played from a scale stand point. Most of the block games I’ve played were on a much larger scale: Richard III, Fields of Despair to name just a couple. Combat Infantry is a tactical war game where each block represents a single tank, a section of riflemen or a heavy weapons team. There are blocks for your Platoon Leaders and a Company Commander that has control of any special weapons allocated to the company from the Battalion.
The game play has a lot of familiar elements to it; large hexes that can hold all the blocks, stacking limits, hidden block fog of war, etc. But there’s some great nuances we came across whilst playing. The movement and line of sight rules trace across hex sides. So one single hex isn’t a given type of terrain. It might have a wall on one side, a row of tress on the other and road crossing all of it. This means you have to think tactically with not only which hex you enter, but how you enter it. Road movement was very quick, but crossing small bridges bottle-necked movement very quickly. And getting caught in a log jam was never a good thing if you’re caught in enemy fields of fire.
The combat system is very easy to learn, and if you’ve played any block wargames you’ll be familiar with it. Each block has a number on each side which represents how many hits the block can take. It also denotes how many dice it rolls in combat. A unit with the 4 facing up can take four wounds before it is eliminated. On top of that it will also roll a number of attack dice equal to that number, which is fairly intuitive. Each block will have a number in the top right hand corner that they need to roll equal to or less than in order to hit. The dice rolled in Combat Infantry are d10’s, which are great because they enable a lot of different units and odds based calculations to be made without having to chuck a mountain of dice, or use a bunch of different types of dice.
I found Combat Infantry to be a fun, and reasonably fast paced war game. At times the movement can be a little slow, so you need to be careful about positioning and activation order, but once you get into range the game becomes furious and the battles resolve quickly. Each turn consists of one Leader (a Platoon Leader or Company Commander) activating and in turn activating each block in their platoon or under their command. You’ll want to keep them in command radius to ensure they can all activate, otherwise you’ll need to roll a dice for each unit out of command to see if they can activate.
A scenario will have a given number of turns, the end of which had victory conditions. The scenario we played was a race to the river and the victor would win based on victory points accrued from bridges and fords held in conjunction with number of enemy units eliminated. The game typically revolves around Normandy and late war American infantry units fighting Germans. The scenario felt like this too. The combat was violent when it got going but there was also some navigation prior to that of hills, bocage and farm buildings that channeled movement in interesting ways and also protected (at least a little) against off map bombardment assets. The CO can call in both air strikes and artillery volleys that are off map and scenario dictated. Those were fun as they required a spotter and you’d rain down fire on the enemy.
I had a blast playing this game, and cannot wait for the final product, which by all indications looks to be fantastic. We used playtest maps and pre-production pieces, which looked amazing really, but I’m thinking this will be a mainstay game alongside Combat Commander and Old School Tactical.
After our play, we sat down with Tom and Grant Dalglish, who designed and published the game and had a great time discussing the rules for cover, line of sight, movement and firing. There’s a lot to love and it’s clear that the guys from Columbia Games put a lot of thought and effort into this one. So thanks guys for the opportunity and we’re eagerly awaiting this one very soon!