Firstly, I have to mention the price point of Warfaresims Northern Inferno (NI) stand alone expansion for Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations (CMANO). It’s astoundingly good value for what you get. Basically the CMANO engine, and an authored 15 scenario campaign through the heart of the Cold War mid-70’s on. CMANO is notoriosly an expensive piece of kit. It’s a modern warfare simulation engine, complete with editor and extensive modding capabilities. NI gives you an affordable taste of what CMANO is clocking in at .
This is a brave new world for wargamers.I can’t stress it enough.
CMANO players can purchase the new Campaign and it will plug in direct to their installation. New players who want to taste what all the fuss is about, get a stand alone engine and campaign that opens the door for them. For an extensive and complex simulation wargame, this is an extraordinary level of accessibility.
You could throw your hands up in the air, and shout “If they provided a limited but FREE demo of CMANO it would give you the same amount of accessiblity!”. Limiting the demo would carve off CMANO most of what makes it great. The database. The Units. The nurtured collection of OCD detail on offer. Stripping a demo down to a tiny bite size chunk, would blinker the player to the possiblities. Is a free crippled demo going to entice a hardened wargamer to part with the investment needed for full blown CMANO? Probably not. However, for a fraction of the investment, NI gives you the full working engine, it gives you a hand crafted campaign, with many hours of play and replay, and most importantly it showcases CMANO in its best dapper outfit! A genius move, that I hope will bring more gamers into the realm of this type of wargaming.
At Matrix games
If anyone wants to see an AAR on the Air Tutorial mission of the release version of CMANO then take a look here:
Northern Inferno – Scenario 1
This is going to be image heavy, marvelling in the depicted action and the lovely database entries. I don’t pretend to know a lot about modern warfare, most of my interest has been confined to both World Wars and even before that.
I’m going to jump in, without much build up. The first scenario (which is sort of a training Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) affair) takes place in the Norwegian Sea. Here is the starting positions of my naval groups (the green circles). I have a couple of air assets in the air just north of Iceland. The selected waypoints (the locked icons) define two patrol areas for you. The premise is that the Soviet’s have a lot of submarine activity in the area, and we must protect our Naval assets and take the subs out.
Looking into the database we see that we have Nimrod’s in the air, for Maritime Air Patrol.
We also have P-3B Orion’s at our disposal for ASW.
One of the aspects of the CMANO engine that just titilates me, is that I can watch these global scale battles unfold, and each symbolic representation on the map has a full database description along with defining imagery – the dry thrill of an encyclopaedic entry – but come to life in my imagination.
As I let the game time begin, the map erupts into sensor scans by the SOSUS array. Unknown underwater targets start showing up, tagged provisionally as GOBLINS (the yellow upturned bracket symbols).
Once things settle down, the target bearings are revealed. Theres a lot of contacts, and some of them are going to be Soviet attack submarines! My poor naval groups, they’re surrounded it seems.
I decide to use the Patrol waypoints setup to create two ASW Patrols. Patrol area 1 gets 5 of my readied Orions (one is already in the air).
The second mission is ASW Patrol 2, and I assign to this one four of my Nimrod’s, one up in the air, and one ready. The others may take a little time to get airborne and on their way. To prevent them from straying I’ve unselected the “Investigate contacts outside the patrol area”.
Here you can see the highlighted area covered by the ASW Patrol Area 2. Nimrod’s away!
Finally, the message comes in. We are on a war footing with the Soviets. Nuclear Depth Charges are authorised! The Cold War just got HOT!
The first identified hostile target turns out to be an airborne bogey, a Soviet “Bear” reconnaisance aircraft. Sadly, I don’t appear to have any fighters to scramble. The bear sneaks in and out of radar contact, keeping the enemy advised on our surface groups.
Now we’re cooking, identification of Soviet submarines starts to come through.
Obviously the need to look them up in the Database to see what we’re up against is the first order of business. This is an SSN nuclear powered attack sub.
More sub contacts are being identified, even closer to my Southern most surface group. You can also see the green “biologics”, large sea creatures, whales, shoals of fish etc.
Another red SSN stalking its prey!
HMS Bacchante (in the Southern group) has a Wasp helicopter kitted out with deployable depth charges. So I quickly launch that little stinger and point it towards the November SSN target. The other frigate has a Wasp too, so I launch that one as well.
Meanwhile in my Southeastern most surface group, I have a Sea King helicopter available, so I launch that too. As you can tell, I get helo “launch giddy” at this point.
I send out my Wasps to drop depth charges on two different sub contacts. The group doesn’t display as distinct vessels, but as a “coagulated” trace on the map.
Sadly my Wasps failed to make any significant hits with their depth charges, and I had to return them to their home vessels. Meanwhile, the SSN’s have crept up very close to my group, and I’ve failed to re-direct one of my patrolling aircraft to intercept. Although this zoomed in screenshot doesn’t show it, the map does become very busy, and you are constantly monitoring four groups and their dangerous contacts. I’m afraid on this occasion I must have taken my eye off the ball, whilst hoping the Wasps would do something, and the missed opportunity to get that aircraft (Nimrod or Orion) on target is terrible.
My northern most surface group, the Canadian HMCS Fraser had a Sea King, guess what, I launched it and this time it managed to crack open a Soviet sub with a deployable Mk-46 LWT Mod 1 torp!
As time goes on, I’m starting to get worried about a cluster of three subs (selected in white boxes) in the Patrol 2 zone that are free roaming and not targetted by anything.
So I set up an immediate Strike mission. I push 2 Orion’s into it, and use the selected enemy subs to construct the target list. Go, Go, Go!
The next moment, the worst news possible. HMS Bacchante has been hit and is sinking. My mistake is now taking its toll.
The Southern surface group is now a single vessel, the Netherlands Frigate HNLMS Van Nes. Not only that, its now surrounded by two Soviet attack Subs!
To cheer myself up, after having lost a vessel, I take a look at my Strike mission. The two Orion’s are on their way, and they’re spotting potential targets whilst making their way to the three I designated.
I’ve got an ASW aircraft on its way in to try and save the HNLMS Van Nes, but I’m not hopeful. The Soviet pack are closing in, and it looks like a fish is already in the water with the Van Nes’ name on it! (sad face).
Indeed. Not entirely unexpected. I fail to protect another ship, and my Southern surface group is now sleeping with the fishes. (sad sad face)
My Destroyer supported (USS MacDonough) central surface group is in pursuit of a sub, with ASW aircraft finally swarming over the targets – apart from the north eastern enemy sub loitering around the biologics. You can just make out my Strike 1 mission team hurtling towards the sub pursuing my Southeastern group.
My Strike 1 mission hits first target with a 20kT Nuclear Sub Bomb (air-bursted!). Now that’s what I call Cold War Fishing!
With that, I thought it was worth another look at the Orion in the database. These two were launched from Norway. With NI and CMANO, you can never have enough eye-candy. Or do they call it “Military Porn” nowadays?
Finally, one of my surface groups (the central one) gets to fight back without the use of little birds. USS MacDonough fires a couple of rockets (RUR-5A ASROC (Anti-Sub Rockets)) at the fleeing sub, and I ultra-zoom, drop the time to 1sec and watch the fireworks with satisfaction.
I look up these ASROC puppies in the database, but am bamboozled by statistics. Essentially, they are torp warheads strapped to a rocket. I really should research the hardware involved more, its so fascinating and out of my comfort zone. I always get “modern war crazy” or over enthusiastic when I play CMANO.
All my patrols are mopping up whats left. Dropping sono-bouys, then circling the sub, until the angle of attack is right, and finally dropping their payloads to snap these deadly fishes backs! You can see the successful ASROC hit top left of this screenshot.
I adjust my Strike 1 mission, to include the remaining red fishes.
I really like the Mission Editor in the game, although its quite daunting to look at, it has a real flexibility to it. Dropping assets in and out of a mission, rejigging the target list, or patrol areas as you want. Once its closed the orders are transmitted and you’re back to seeing the cause and effect of your handiwork. Your micro-management is kept to a minimum (if you want) by crafting large scale missions that the sub-ordinate AI will run for you. However, if you like micro-management and you want to tweak each asset, speed, bearing, and use of its weapon loadouts you really can.
I think as we mop up the subs, my aircraft start to fight over targets, three ASW aircraft swarming this sub. Overkill, some would say. Payback, I say!
Lastly, the final red contacts are sortied against and wiped out.
Splash one Goblin!
Now the evaluation. I’m dreading this, since I lost two vessels. But Major Victory! Somehow I clawed this back, even with those losses. I think this initial mission is designed for you to play with control of the air and sea based assets and you’re not judged too harshly.
Theres a healthy amount of sub losses on the Soviets part.
Sadly, to my shame, the two Frigates sunk are listed here, and their returned Wasps were sunk with them. It certainly took a lot of ordnance to clear the Norwegian Seas of subs.
Finally, I can peruse the scoring log, and you can see my initial losses had me in negative points (-200!), but the actions of my ASW patrols and Strike force pulled it back with all the successful sinkings. Phew.
Thanks for reading this overly long, generalised waffle on the first scenario in Northern Inferno. I hope its give you a glimpse of the excitement that can be had in the modern era combat, and has shown you how easy to use, but also how deep the CMANO engine can be.
Or read a review on Real and Simulated Wars.