It's always a slightly scary moment when you meet someone face-to-face that you have so far only got to know over the internet. Will he turn out to be a psychopath, or, even worse, someone with personal hygene issues? Thankfully Marty, who was fishing for local wargamers on BoardGameGeek, and who lives only a mile down the road, turned out to be neither, but was instead a charming and hospitable opponent when I met him on Monday.
He introduced me to Combat Commander: Europe, a game that has intrigued me without obsessing me, although I have been put off by negative reviews from Chris Farrell and the boys on the Point2Point podcast. We played scenario 3, with me in the attacker's role as the Germans. The mechanics of the game are nice and simple, with table-free resolution of fire attacks, and the cards add a whole dimansion of chaos and hand-management. And it is a chaotic game. Early on a fire broke out in the middle of the board, which continued to spread as the scenario wore on, so that by the end a large chunk of the battlefield was ablaze! New units popped up in strange places, and at one point I gained a hero who sprinted past the Russian HMG to capture a key victory hex.
I can't help making comparisons with the ASL Starter Kits. Compared to an ASL board, a CC:E board feels very small and cramped (in game terms - obviously the hexes are physically large). And the way the action unfolds feels strange when you are used to ASL's account of WW2 tactics. For much of the game we had infantry units in the woods blazing away at point-blank range without either running away or closing for close-combat. This felt odd - more like the American Civil War than WW2.
Still, I enjoyed it a lot, even though I lost by a huge margin, and will happily play it again. And now that I have a local wargaming opponent at last, I shouldn't have to wait too long!