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"What Makes Command Decision Different?" Topic

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Achtung Minen26 Jul 2022 11:00 a.m. PST

I was never really all that interested in Command Decision… It was a well-established game when I started rolling dice in the 90's and I think I simply wrote it off as a somewhat clumsy, stodgy game that was the transition between the simulationist wargames of the 1970s and 80s (like Tractics and ASL) and the second generation that focused on man over materiel, psychology over rivet counting.

I finally took a look at the game and am happy to admit that I was wrong… it's quite a clever little game. One of the things I realized about Command Decision is that it really is a terrific game for large convention and club games with multiple players. A slight tangent will help me explain…

The third generation of wargames that are popular now are really premised on the concept of "pick up" battles that foreground competitive army-list building and interaction between various special rules and game mechanics. While there aren't gaming police that come around and tell anyone what to do, what I have personally noticed in my area is that these kind of games skew towards producing a game where 1 player vs 1 player can reasonably expect to finish a game in a typical 2.5 hour game down at the local FLGS.

When I was young, however, I remember long-running private gaming clubs run at a local home. I didn't spend a great deal of time with these groups as I was younger and was always somewhat on the margins, but what strikes me in reflection is how different these games were from the kind of "bring and battle" games at the local gaming store. Enormous time was put into building the terrain (rather than a flat table with so-called "scatter terrain" on it), there was often a referee who ran a special scenario he alone had devised (including hidden objectives and information), the games involved gaggles of players instead of just two and the games went on for hours, even days… there was no "pack up by closing time" limit as you might expect at a gaming store. And I could make similar remarks about some of the large convention games that I have attended in the past, but I'll limit my comments here to gaming clubs.

Reading Command Decision for the first time recently made me extremely nostalgic for those same lost afternoons pushing crudely painted stands around a table festooned with layers upon layers of terrain effects, playing games with a large group of other players and taking orders from an older player to whom my forces were subordinate. Command Decision strikes me as that kind of a game, a type of game that hardly exists anymore.

For example, the scope and scale of Command Decision seems entirely at odds with the level of decision making it compasses. Aspiring to be a regimental level game, it nevertheless facilitates small unit tactical decisions, such as company-level maneuver and fire exercises.

But rather than being simply being a strange incongruity, this is actually quite brilliant when you realize the game plays ideally with a larger number of players. Each player can comfortably handle a reinforced battalion, managing only four or five orders per round, but then with a dozen players on each side you could have up to a division on the table. Even with a half-dozen players, you are easily managing brigade-level engagements with a ruleset that simultaneously allows you to go into relatively minute detail about platoon-level actions. To paraphrase another TMP member, who wouldn't want to be both "Patton and Audie Murphy at the same time"?

How does Command Decision streamline certain game mechanics to allow for reasonably quick games with large groups of players? For one, everything moves simultaneously, so there is no waiting for the other team to finish their maneuvers before it is your turn. For two, you don't need to wait on players to look up special rules or consider using a point from some limited dice pool or play a card from their hand. For three, the order system is incredibly mechanistic, which would attract criticism from both 2nd and 3rd Generation gamers, but actually further helps to facilitate this mass play. The game is much less about "will my little figurine soldiers follow my orders?" and much more "will that other player on my team follow his orders?"… or "does he have the resources he needs to maintain momentum and get to his objective in a timely manner?"

In effect, each player is involved in a battle within a battle, representing only a fraction of a larger front, bringing in a dynamic of teamwork and social interaction that is missing from games that simply have you pick the clever card from your hand to play against an opponent or figure out the secret synergy that the game designers carefully hid within the latest army list codex.

The key for me finally understanding Command Decision wasn't really in the rulebook itself. I mean, arguably, the game isn't really in the rulebook at all. It's in the meta of the game. I'd be curious to know if anyone else saw something similar in Command Decision, and to what extent there is still a place for this kind of a game.

Andrew LA26 Jul 2022 11:52 a.m. PST

It is an interesting discussion. I also played a lot of Command Decision in 1980s and 1990s and then moved across to Spearhead as they bought out Modern Spearhead and I wanted to play WW3, Arab Israeli wars etc. CD is great for exactly what you point out – the basic mechanics are simple but there is a lot going on with different moral levels and experience levels at the same time. Playing large games with multiple players on each side is more fun to as well but in today's online world people seem to have far more limited leisure time so the 3 hour game format seems to be the standard.

Joe Legan Supporting Member of TMP26 Jul 2022 1:14 p.m. PST

AM, Interesting thoughts. As a strictly solo player I can't comment on CD but sounds great for social gatherings. I have had to create the inter player conflict in other ways.
It certainly seems fun!
Agree most people want quick, fair battles now even if they are generic. It is more about the competition than the experience. That is why I play solo.

Rich Bliss26 Jul 2022 1:35 p.m. PST

You have correctly determined what CD was designed for and what it continues to do better than most other rules. It's this kind of multi-player game that I prefer and that I usually engage in. The one on one ‘tournament' type game I find very off putting. I'm glad you finally gave CD a chance.

jekinder626 Jul 2022 1:47 p.m. PST

Command Decision shines as a scenario based multi-player game. At conventions I scale my games for 6-8 players. It's best to have a player on each side as overall commander who has no troops but handles off-table fire support and coordinates the subordinate commanders. I agree with you on the simultaneous revealing of orders but the current published version of Command Decision: Command Decision- Test of Battle or 4th edition, has I go/ you go movement. It is quicker but does take away some of the suspense of figuring out what your opponent will do. I'm not sure which edition you are looking at but Test of Battle plays quicker. It also changes the turn sequence to put the morale phase after order placement. This means your troops might fail morale after you have planned their move.

Achtung Minen26 Jul 2022 2:27 p.m. PST

@jekinder I have 1st Edition in front of me but I have 3rd Edition coming in the mail. After reading that, I'll probably grab 4th and track down 2nd as well, as I like to compare various editions for myself.

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian26 Jul 2022 3:24 p.m. PST

There were some major changes between editions, as the game has been progressively slimmed down for faster playing time. You can find fans for each of the various editions.

crazycaptain26 Jul 2022 5:50 p.m. PST

Very interesting thread. I have played a lot of CD in the past three years using CD III and CD IV Test of Battle. Of the two, I prefer Test of Battle, but I can see why some would prefer CD III. I completely agree with the observation that multiplayer games are CD's strong suit and that is how I have mostly played CD.

Test of Battle made some great changes (IMO) from CD III. TOB moved the morale phase to be resolved after orders so a beat-up company may not follow the orders which was a positive change. I also like the added unpredictability in combat due to the removal of tracking hits for each stand. It is possible that a veteran platoon could get very unlucky and be destroyed after taking only minor damage or a Trained platoon holding on against all the odds. That extra unpredictability makes it more exciting and less chess-like.

Recently, however, I have become much more interested in Battlefront: WWII which I have played four times so far. The only real criticism I have for it is that the combat is quite abstract, especially in comparison to CD. CD has a straightforward but detailed combat system which is one of its strong suites.

Martin Rapier26 Jul 2022 11:44 p.m. PST

I used to play a lot of CD but moved on to Spearhead in the late 90s as it was easier to manouvre large forces using those.

I still like the order chits and differentiated training/morale levels of CD and they form the basis for my more modern brigade/division rule sets (which we still play as a large group, with a command structure etc).

Dexter Ward27 Jul 2022 1:48 a.m. PST

CD is a good set of rules, but it plays pretty slow. Lots of spotting rolls, multiple shots per stand, and tracking hits per stand all slow the game down. Some nice ideas in there though, but I prefer deterministic spotting, as it is so much faster

Achtung Minen27 Jul 2022 4:40 a.m. PST

@crazycaptain Battlefront WW2 is my mainstay ruleset for solo games. It draws a lot from CD, but is an extremely well made and superb game in its own right. I don't think it overlaps with CD at all when it comes to multiplayer games though… I find BFWW2 slower and better suited for smaller games (I have even played it with one or two platoon sized maneuver elements on a small board and found it to be a treat).

mildbill27 Jul 2022 5:15 a.m. PST

CD is almost a lifestyle game. If the players know the rules it will play out 15min game turn will take 15min in real time.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP27 Jul 2022 10:11 a.m. PST

I haven't played CD in decades, but I also considered it overly complicated, and it did not handle calling for and adjusting artillery fire appropriately.

Joe Legan Supporting Member of TMP27 Jul 2022 2:30 p.m. PST

Agree with the comments about battlefront. Great solo game. AM and Martin suggested it to me when I was looking for a ruleset.


batesmotel3428 Jul 2022 11:06 a.m. PST

As a brief commnet, CT ToB is significantly streamlined by the elimination of spotting rolls (now spotted at a fixed distance) and it handles artillery much better in general. Overall it makes the game significantly more playable than the same size game with the previous versions.


Achtung Minen02 Aug 2022 1:43 p.m. PST

Honestly, if you look back in TMP Search you can find people saying extraordinarily similar things about "the latest edition" for every game under the sun. I don't buy it anymore… I investigate these things for myself and come to my own conclusions. I'm not saying Test of Battles isn't a great game… it probably is, but I take it with a huge grain of salt when people recommend the latest version of any ruleset.

pfmodel03 Aug 2022 3:48 a.m. PST

I take it with a huge grain of salt when people recommend the latest version of any ruleset.

I tend to agree, these rules were good when they first came out and have improved dramatically but I suspect the state of the art has moved on. Rules like spearhead still get played a lot and Panzer Korps, another older set of rules is still commonly being played, but I rarely see a game of Command Decision these days. I get tempted to try, but then I get distracted by something and the desire reduces.

Achtung Minen03 Aug 2022 5:27 a.m. PST

Yes I suspect you are right, but on the other hand, I also personally prefer those forgotten games that were great once but have already had their time. I won't touch a game like Bolt Action or Chain of Command or Flames of War or whatever now because they are simply too popular for me to have any interest in them whatsoever. But I love Battleground WW2 (the Easy Eight skirmish game popular in the 90's), Arc of Fire, Battlefront WW2 (Fire & Fury) and I'll probably love Command Decision too (still waiting for the other boxed sets to arrive… hurry up mailman!), in part just because it is a golden classic that simply has a little tarnish on it. I don't know if that is just me being contrarian, but I suspect I actually prefer the old style of game rules that tried in some small way towards simulation, over the new style rulesets out now that focus on quirky and cutesy dice pool mechanics that just leave me cold.

gazzavc21 Feb 2023 10:00 a.m. PST

Battlefront WWII is a great skirmish game, however the armor values and some of the weapon stats are utter rubbish. The armor values are riddled with mistakes, and the "25% bonus penetration" for being at point blank range is just silly. Back when we were playing it a lot, we completely re-wrote the armor values and the penetration fall off over range table to make the game resemble some form of historical reality.
When a 75mm Sherman can knock out a Tiger 1 from the front, you know there just might be an issue with the rule set….

Personal logo FlyXwire Supporting Member of TMP23 Feb 2023 5:31 a.m. PST

I don't play Battlefront WWII, so no 'fan-dom' response here ok, just some general observations.

After decades of playing WW2 armor games, and while still enjoying the study of the conflict's history, I feel there's still too much game focus on technical stats, and far less on tactical stats.

"Knock-outs" did occur from all manner of damage – mobility hits, external systems hits (disruption of com gear & observation/optical gear), and internal equipment disruption. This damage is rarely detailed in game rules, where combat effects are distilled down to armor penetration "on/off" results.

After researching tank actions, it's interesting to correlate the repair rosters that resulted from them.

A recommended book might be Tank Action, by David Render with Stuart Tootal, in his book Render recounts from the fighting around Hottot, Normandie –

"If you stared long enough at an opposing hedgerow, you could sometimes discern the presence of an enemy tank from the shimmer it produced in the air above it. The Panther in particular was fitted with two large extractor fans on the top of its rear decks, which expelled the fumes and the heat from its engines. In the process it warmed the immediately surrounding air and created the faintest visual distortion. It took a practised eye to spot it, but when we did we would engage the area with HE. The top of the Panther's armour was much thinner than its front and sides, which meant that there was a chance of penetrating it with HE shrapnel. There was also a slim possibility that a round might ignite the petrol fumes that were expelled into the air.
Regardless of the circumstances, when a German tank revealed itself the whole troop would open up and pump as many rounds as possible at it. If we didn't knock it out, the combined weight of our fire was usually enough to force the enemy to withdraw if we were able to overmatch it with our quick-firing 75mm guns. High explosive was the preferred nature type of ammunition. We had little faith in the AP variant due to its lack of penetrating power. But a rapid rate of HE shells could smash an enemy tank's optics and damage it tracks. However, we never remained static too long, as constant fire and movement was the way to stay alive. Having fired three to four rounds at a target in rapid succession, each Sherman would jockey backwards and then drive back into a new attack position to observe the effects of its fire and re-engage a target if necessary."

This was a tactical response, practiced by tank crews as they adapted to battlefield conditions in Normandie, often against veteran German tankers.

Reverse the situation, and transition the fight to the US 4th Armored Division's Sherman and Hellcat combat around Arracourt, France against green Panzer crews, who were operating with some of the best tanks and SPs from the Reich's summer-time production, in their newly-formed Panzer Brigades engaged there.

Much of the difference depended just on the tank crews and platoon/company leaders knowing "what to do" [learned and executed tactics].

I can't recall a WW2 ruleset that details these engagement tactics, like Render mentioned, but sometimes have seen their effects reflected as the scale of games goes up from the technical rule systems, to the more operations-level of results.

Which wargame level or ruleset played may be more accurate then? That's a fool's errand I'll claim giving up the chase for long ago. ;)

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP23 Feb 2023 2:35 p.m. PST

Excellent info, I'll check out the book.

The Panther had another problem as it needed to keep its engine running to traverse the turret. Traverse speed was variable based on the engine RPM. To traverse quickly (about 20 degrees/second rather than 5 degrees manually) the driver needed to rev up the engine (potentially damaging it) which produced a plume of smoke giving away his position before it fired. An unbuttoned Sherman commander could spot the plume and use his turret traverse lever to get the gun on the target and a vane sight to line up the shot and shoot before the Panther does. Then the Gunner takes over and delivers another round in 4-6 seconds.

IIRC the Sherman turret ran off a battery that was charged by an auxiliary power unit with the engine off which also saved gas and did not give away its position.

Which wargame level or ruleset played may be more accurate then? That's a fool's errand I'll claim giving up the chase for long ago. ;)

OK, I'm fool enough to take a crack at it.

Sherman crews often fire HE-Delay to ricochet a round for an air burst over the target:

The way I simulate this rule is to give the Sherman a slight positive accuracy modifier (not going for a direct hit) reflecting firing at a point in front of the target. A "hit" means a successful air burst over the target. This is especially effective against dug-in anti-tank guns, unbuttoned and open-top crews, and StuGs because their low profile is harder to hit. Anti-tank gun crews and crews in open-top vehicles have a high chance of becoming a causality as do unbuttoned commanders. Tanks have a small chance of catching fire.

To simulate the chance of an HE barrage causing enough damage for mission kills or retreat all vehicles have a customized Critical Hit Chart. When rolling a D20 for the hit location a 20 is a Critical Hit. The shooter rolls another D20 to determine the Critical Hit result. Below is an older one for the Panther A model:

Locations in red are hull-down misses. The number is the armor in millimeters. Yes, I know the Panther does not have a storage bin, this is an older version.

This is not a scientific rendition of the variable chances to hit specific areas, it's a game. It's somewhat subjective to give the results that I think would be accurate. The main value is that a barrage of HE rounds on a Panther will eventually force it to retreat or become a mission kill which makes the Panther historically vulnerable to HE fire.

Also, HE hits on the turret front have a chance of jamming the turret or the shot trap..

I use a Time Competitive game system that allows a Sherman to fire a round every 4-6 seconds just as they did in the above example and "Shoot & Scoot" to relocate to a new position to avoid return fire. We also use WP rounds for the Sherman which makes it even more effective than HE and can screen the Sherman with a chance of fire or the Panther crew bailing.


Personal logo FlyXwire Supporting Member of TMP23 Feb 2023 3:08 p.m. PST

Wolfhag, you have defintiely taken up the tanker's challenge here, with your technical/tactical presentation!

Here's a few more examples of tanker tactics used in NW Europe, these from US field practice.

III 3.

III 1. above is interesting too, in that it list a closing distance from which the stabilizers were effective in supporting fire.


US Infantry could use similar tactics (albeit, these GI tactics recommended by 'Roosevelt's SS' – those doughboys of the 30th ID).


Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP24 Feb 2023 6:55 a.m. PST


TMP link
The British in NWE thought the Sherman stabilizer was worthless and many removed it. The reasons may be no formal training or seeing the need to use it. IIRC British crews were trained to fire on the move in tanks mounting shoulder-fired 37mm and 6pdr guns in N. Africa. Crews that knew how to use it had good results but I think that was limited to two battalions or regiments.

Stabilizer technical issues:

There was about a 1/10 of a second delay from pressing the firing button to round firing. That means the gun was not pointing at the target when fired unless the gunner compensated for that making it hard to correct for follow-up shots.

Regarding the 1500 yards advance:
At 10 mph it would take 5:07 seconds to advance 1500 yards. According to the published data the tank could fire about every 10 seconds which means pumping out up to 30 rounds in addition to machine gun fire. So a unit of 5 tanks fires about 150 rounds. I understand how the pillbox was neutralized.

Let's examine the accuracy:

Firing from the Halt and while moving:

A big advantage was that it was easier for the gunner to view targets through the sight than without the stabilizer. It also held the barrel level while decelerating making a quicker halt fire the first shot. It also worked for advancing Recon by Fire into tree lines which did not need pin point accuracy, especially for the coax mg.

The torsion bar suspension on the Panther does stabilize the entire tank to a fair degree as do shoulder-mounted guns.

Regarding WP:
Got a quote here from Steven Zaloga's book "Armored Thunderbolt" about WP rounds against the German tanks

"When fired against a German tank, it gave the Sherman a temporary advantage since the panzer would be blinded for a minute or more, (…) In many cases, the acrid white phosphorus smoke would get sucked into the panzer by its ventilating fan and become so unbearable that the panzer crew would abandon the tank. Sherman crews soon learned to fire a "Willy Pete" smoke round at a well-positioned panzer, wait a few seconds for the smoke to take effect, and then machine-gun the tank in hopes of killing the crew."

Willy Pete rounds are one of the most underrated rounds used by the 75 mm Shermans. People focus on AP and HE (and I don't blame 'em) because it's the primary rounds to use against armor and soft targets, but Willy Pete can do a whole lot more as well than create a little smoke.

I don't think the WP rounds were available until after June 1944. If you have a WP round loaded you are ready to engage vehicles, guns, fortifications, buildings, and infantry.

In my system firing on the move can only be on flat round at a maximum range of 600m. The greater the speed the greater the accuracy penalty. Stabilizers also fire a few seconds sooner too for Halt Fire.

I let players fire WP short for screening or for a direct hit. A direct hit burns for 60 seconds, and has a small chance of starting a fire and the crew takes a morale check. I saw a German Panther crewman interviewed that claimed his Panther was hit by several WP rounds before catching fire.


Personal logo FlyXwire Supporting Member of TMP24 Feb 2023 9:28 a.m. PST

Wolfhag, you make a great point.

If in some scenario in the future, someone asks if their US tanks are using gyrostabilization, tell 'em wait about a half hour……maybe we'll get back to them.

(GMs should have fun too) :)))

Bill Owen26 Feb 2023 10:25 a.m. PST

I agree with the veteran gamer feel that the game is good judged, multi-player simulation. But each need to be clarified:

1. It doesn't have to be a judged scenario but that adds a lot of interest and excitement. All Toys On Table does not appeal to many of us and having a judge allows for at least partial hidden setup and movement.

2. Multiplayer itself builds in realism without rules as your fellow commanders do what you think they should!

3. Simulation need not be complex. ToB has gotten away from complexity but added realism with few rules and reduced predictability.

A key difference over many contemporary games is that each stand represents a platoon. Many gamers' whole force is a platoon and really a bulky skirmish. CD portrays a bigger battle.

PS I list pro & con of ToB here:


Bill Owen26 Feb 2023 10:26 a.m. PST

I agree with the veteran gamer feel that the game is good as a judged, multi-player simulation. But each need to be clarified:

1. It doesn't have to be a judged scenario but that adds a lot of interest and excitement. All Toys On Table does not appeal to many of us and having a judge allows for at least partial hidden setup and movement.

2. Multiplayer itself builds in realism without rules as your fellow commanders do not do what you think they should!

3. Simulation need not be complex. ToB has gotten away from complexity but added realism with few rules and reduced predictability.

A key difference over many contemporary games is that each stand represents a platoon. Many gamers' whole force is a platoon and really a bulky skirmish. CD portrays a bigger battle.

PS I list pro & con of ToB here:


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