Charles Moylan worked on several of Avalon Hill's computer projects, including Flight Commander 2, Achtung Spitfire, and Over the Reich. In 1997 he was unofficially working on a computer adaptation of the famous Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) board game. Moylan came to realize, however, that the game would be difficult or impossible to adapt successfully to a computerized version. Atomic Games had also attempted to produce a "Computer Squad Leader" game, but abandoned the tie-in to ASL and eventually marketed the game (successfully) as Close Combat.
In the beginning of 1998 Avalon Hill was in turmoil and unstable to work for, and Moylan decided to go his own way, as Big Time Software, shortly before Avalon Hill was purchased by Hasbro. The move from Avalon Hill meant also severing ties to ASL; the unfinished project had no references to ASL or A-H. Moylan briefly shopped the early Alpha build around (tentatively called Squad Leader) but was not satisfied with the publisher contacts he made. He teamed up with Steve Grammont, forming what eventually became Battlefront.com and re-christened the new game Combat Mission.
Battlefront produced the first game of the Combat Mission (CM) series, Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord, in 2000. The game was successful and spawned three additional titles, as well as a second generation game engine with plans for many new titles and modules bearing the Combat Mission name. Big Time Software eventually became known as Battlefront.com, with additional members being hired, including Martin van Balkom, Dan Olding, and Fernando Julio Carrera Buil and Matt Faller, who handle the company website, graphics and sound design, and organizing beta testing of new products. Combat Mission, as of 2007, remains the flagship series of the Battlefront.com line.
These three games are commonly said to belong to the "CMX1 Engine". In 2007, the series will have expanded from the three titles in the original series, to include an operational WW II themed tie-in game for CMX1. The new games will consist of titles, outlining a particular era, with Modules providing extra nationalities, weapons, and equipment types for each Title.
Finally, an operational layer has been added to CMBB with the announcement of Combat Mission: Campaign, which will allow players to order maneuver elements from platoon to battalion size on an operational grid and generate realistic battles to be fought out in CMBB. It was expected to be released in 2006; www.battlefront.com (BFC) had announced this title would be released before CM:SF.
The series also offers a "quick battle" option. Player(s) can only edit some general parameters (mission type, year, region) and then the computer creates a random map. Units can be selected by the computer or can be bought using points. Each unit has a value in points depending on type, for example a tank costs more than a squad of riflemen. Optionally, for added realism, when buying units the rarity of the unit can be taken into account. This keeps the battles true to the time period, as players trying to use rarer units are penalized. Additionally, scenario designers often carefully research a battle to create accurate historical battles.Multiplayer All games offer to play as a single player versus a customizable AI, or to play against a human opponent by hot-seat, email or TCP/IP.Scale Depending on the scenario, the players can command forces ranging from a platoon up to a reinforced battalion. Ideally, the game operates at the company level with the player taking on the role of a company commander. Given the large size of the maps in CMBB and CMAK, with enough computer processing power a player could deploy a brigade/regiment on a single map.
While every unit will try to follow commands, units under fire will react to that fire by taking cover, breaking or even fleeing in panic. Units will recover from lowered morale states, though some may be permanently affected for the duration of the game. Leadership is also modelled in the game, with headquarters units influencing the morale, firepower, and stealth of units under their command.Casualties A hit on an enemy unit does not always mean destruction. Infantry units in the game represent from 1 to 15 soldiers, and wounded/killed men disappear from the simulation. When a unit has lost all available manpower, it will show up on the map as a dead soldier icon.
Armour penetration in Combat Mission is given realistic treatment. Partial penetrations, spalling, and non-fatal penetrating hits are all modelled in the game, with realistic ballistic stats for both armour and armour-piercing weapons. Catastrophic damage to vehicles is modelled, with real life tank models prone to fires being equally prone to "brewing up" in the game.Scenario types There are two types of scenarios in the first Combat Mission series; Battles and Operations. Battles are standalone scenarios, either randomly generated Quick Battles or pre-made by scenario designers. Operations are a series of two or more battles played over the same terrain, linking these fights into a greater overall context. Forces are carried over from one battle to the next in an operation, but promotions/replacements/withdrawal of forces are generally not possible.
The second Combat Mission series will have two types of scenarios; Battles as in CMX1, and Campaigns, which will be story driven. Like the Operations in CMX1, the CMX2 campaigns will carry over forces from one battle to the next, but individual promotions will be possible and repair/retention of weapons is expected to be more realistically handled.Victory Victory is assessed by three factors; inflicting casualties, holding key terrain (when indicated by the scenario), and exiting units from the map (when indicated by the scenario). A computation of points is done after each scenario.Spotting and fog of war The player can zoom out and watch the battlefield from a bird's eye perspective as well as zoom in and attach the camera to a single unit. However, due to the games' fog of war features, the player will only see the enemy units their own units have spotted. Each unit has its own line of sight that is blocked by obstacles like hills, houses and trees. Night, dust, weather, smoke or sandstorms all reduce the line of sight.
Sometimes units can hear the enemy. That is represented with a grey symbol featuring a red question mark and the text "sound". Sound contact information tends to be less precise than visual information. Also previously spotted units may disappear again, if they hide or move out of line of sight. Long-range visual contact is not always sufficient to correctly identify an enemy unit.Line of sight Every unit under the player's control can be clicked and forced to display a graphical line of sight representation. The line of sight is sometimes the only way to decide if a unit can see a specific spot or not.Weather and terrain Weather and terrain is highly variable and includes different visibility (sunny, fog, precipitation, night), ground cover (mud, snow, clear), temperature (with extreme temperatures affecting vehicle and weapon performance) and ground type (dirt, sand, rock). Terrain is laid out in 20 metre tiles in CMX1 (to change to smaller tiles in CMX2) and includes terrain types appropriate to each individual theatre (western Europe, eastern Europe, the Mediterranean) including brush, marsh, light trees, forest, pine forest, hedges, low fences (wooden and stone), graveyards, small and large buildings, stone and wood buildings, small huts, steppe, desert, rocky ground, palm trees, cratered ground, dirt roads, paved roads, deep and shallow fords, rivers, and various types of bridges.
Different vehicles have different engine sounds, while the troops will shout different sayings in their native languages as a cue to the player that units are moving, coming under fire, panicking, low on ammunition, surrendering, or other battlefield occurrences. Different weapon systems also have different sound effects.
Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord covers the western front of the European theatre from June 1944 to May 1945. Being the first incarnation of the Combat Mission series, the graphics appear the most dated. Explosions and the firing of guns are displayed with white ellipses (known to the denizens of the Battlefront Forums as "shockwaves" and having a fan following crying out for their return), and every shell shows as a yellow blob. Nationalities included in the game (represented by specific orders of battle, in game graphics, and accurate voice files in their native language) are German, British, Canadian, Free French, American and Polish.
|Covers the Eastern Front of the Second World War, including fighting in Finland, the Soviet Union, Germany, Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia and the Baltic States from June 1941 to May 1945. CMBB shows various improvements over its predecessor in the fields of graphics and user interface. Infantry Units have new commands available (Soviet Human Wave Attack) and explosions are now bitmaps, no more ellipses. Interface is more sophisticated; commands like "crawl" and "sneak" from CMBO are now transformed into a single "sneak" command. The old "ambush marker" is replaced with a more elegant solution: "covered arc" and "covered arc (armor only)". By clicking this command you can define a field of fire so that units will fire only when enemy targets of a certain type come within a certain range or arc of fire. The artillery is modeled in a slightly more sophisticated way (allowing precise fire plans) and infantry sprites look a bit better. Tanks have the very useful "shoot and scoot" command, letting the player define a fire position and a retreat position for his tanks. CMBB is the only game in the series that allows the player to fight in big factories and use sewers. Nationalities included are German, Italian, Soviet, Hungarian, Romanian (both as Allies and Axis), Finnish, Polish and non-nation specific Partisans.|
|Covering battles in North Africa, Italy and Crete, this last incarnation of the CM series using the original game engine, features much improved graphics over CMBO. Included are 3D models with many more polygons, and subtler effects such as dust clouds. Multi-turret vehicles are introduced though weapons in separate weapons mounts still cannot target separately. Included nationalities are British, American, German, Italian, Canadian, Polish, Australian, New Zealand, French and South African, with dates ranging from late 1940 to May 1945. CMAK can also be used to play Western Front battles (i.e. CMBO battles) with the newest graphics and updated order menu, but unfortunately without the full range of vehicles, as some German tanks (King Tiger) were not used in Africa or Italy.|
|Covers Battles between US Stryker Brigades and Syrian forces in the year 2007. The last original incarnation of the CM series using the new "CMX2" game engine, CMSF features improved graphics and 3D modelling, including such esoterica as sun and star positions in the sky. Modelling of infantry offers a 1:1 representation (every single soldier is depicted in the 3D world by its own animated graphic). The game was released on July 27, 2007. The game required an immediate patch to 1.01 status upon release and as of March 2008 has had seven official patches with more announced.|
|Allows players of Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin the ability to create CM:BB battles in an operational (division sized) setting. Announced October 2005, no release date has been set. Announced campaign settings will include Kursk, Stalingrad, Berlin, third Kharkov and Operation Mars. Only Russian and German nationalities will be playable in the initial release.|