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Uncle Mark's Tutorials Review

 
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Uncle Mark's Tutorials Review - 3/20/2019 3:33:19 PM   
fitzpatv

 

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Joined: 3/20/2019
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Having recently purchased Command and played through most of the Tutorial scenarios, I'd be interested to know how my experiences tally with those of other players. Let's take a look at the six 'Uncle Mark's Tutorials'.

The first one pits three NATO destroyers/frigates and a submarine against three Soviet destroyers/cruisers and a submarine. Both sides have one or more ASW helicopters. Overall, I found this a good, balanced game with atmosphere. Used my choppers and surface ships as a recce screen and kept the US sub back to provide heavy duty firepower against confirmed targets. After a lot of tense shadow-boxing, things burst into life and I managed a minor win by sinking the Soviet flotilla at a cost of one of my frigates and a chopper. There wasn't much alternative to manually marking contacts as hostile if you wanted to win, but the game does give you enough clues to do this reliably most of the time. Didn't find the enemy sub, but this didn't overly matter.

Next up was a 1970s air scenario, postulating a British strike against Idi Amin's Uganda. This is complicated by the latter having bought rather a lot of Russian MiG-21 jets. Found Shackleton long-range recce planes very useful for spotting hostile contacts and my Lightning fighters frustrating short on endurance. Took a few more losses than I'd have liked (six planes)and was taken aback by the numbers of defenders, but shot down 20 enemy jets, completed the recce missions and did enough damage to the airport at Entebbe to get a major victory. Exciting stuff!

The third scenario gives you the US cruiser Yorktown and her ASW helicopter on a mission to confirm the principle of freedom of navigation in the Gulf of Sidra, off Gadhafi-era Libya. Enjoyably, the idea here is to avoid hostilities if at all possible and there are some interesting judgement calls early on as you are buzzed by Libyan jets while seeking to find a diesel submarine and show it you COULD kill it if you wanted to. Did all this, at which point the Libyans turned nasty. Yorktown can defend herself pretty well, but it probably only takes one stroke of bad luck to cost you dearly. Thankfully, this didn't happen and I won another major victory.

So far, so good. Unfortunately, the next scenario was a far less satisfying experience. In 'Boston Guards the Denmark Strait', you have a US nuclear sub, charged with destroying a Soviet convoy, which is incongruously en route for North Africa. This is guarded by a trio of surface escorts, a pair of admittedly-inferior subs and a couple of ASW choppers (though you have to find this out by trial and error). There are a couple of British units in theatre, but they are useless, out of your control and don't get near the action. You have a whole pile of problems. Without foreknowledge, it is easy to miss the convoy completely as it goes down the Greenland side of the Denmark Strait (I initially bet on the Iceland side). Your sensors are inefficient and it is very hard to spot the convoy, especially if you obey your EMCON orders. Turning on your active search sonar helps, but makes you easier to detect, which doesn't. You sometimes have anti-surface missiles loaded when you need ASW ones (or vice versa), which is just great when you're fighting both at once. Targets can go from precise to imprecise and, on one of my many attempts, this caused a Tomahawk to sail past the convoy, fly into the blue and randomly sink a neutral trawler that just happened to be in the way and out of detection range over 100nm off. You only have 4 Tomahawks and 4 Harpoons with which to do a LOT of damage if you want to win, as it's too risky to approach within torpedo range of the convoy. Above all (as seems to be standard in Command), once an ASW helicopter gets wind of your sub, you are doomed. It didn't help that Boston refused to release decoys on one occasion, but they are of only marginal use, anyway.

Frankly, it would need a miracle to win this one - unless anyone out there has thought of something I haven't.

Moved on to the next scenario, Motozintla Incursion. This, too, was a sobering experience. Guatemala is retaliating against Mexico for firing on one of its fishing boats by sending a ground column to trash the border town of Motozintla. To stop them, you have an infantry recon platoon, a recon drone, four helicopters armed with rockets and four F-5 fighters that, in practice, can't get there in time. The drone is very useful for recon, has great endurance and should be gotten out there ASAP. The infantry are very vulnerable if spotted (as they were first time despite being motionless in close terrain). They get a chance to snipe at a Guatemalan recon chopper but, in practice, you are lucky to see it long enough to draw a bead. I never managed to get a shot off and the chances of a kill aren't great even if you do. It's best to see if this happens, then get the infantry out of Dodge, as you lose too many points if you get them killed. The choppers are hopelessly inaccurate. Despite slowing down to attack, I fired 128 rockets in two playthroughs and didn't manage to destroy a single target. Maybe I'm just unlucky? As the F-5s can't get there in time because they take too long to ready, the Guatemalans have time to wreck Motozintla before the helicopters can return for another go. The Guatemalan order of battle seems to vary from one playthrough to the next, by the way, which is good in some ways, but makes a bad situation less predictable.

Again, you need a miracle to win this one, but does anyone have any suggestions? For that matter, it's supposed to be a tutorial for new players like myself, but it only gives you very high-level tips which I could have worked-out for myself.

Haven't played the last scenario in the series (Toledo Hits 'Em Hard') yet. May report on it later, depending on what response I get to this.

There are many things going for Command as a game and I badly want to like it, but play balance definitely seems to be an issue in some scenarios at least. In the other tutorials, the author of Northern Inferno warns that it's very hard and success can be measured in terms of how badly you get beaten (haven't bought it yet, but am not encouraged to). Again, opinions, please!
Post #: 1
RE: Uncle Mark's Tutorials Review - 3/20/2019 10:53:14 PM   
dcpollay


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From: Upstate New York USA
Status: online
I haven't played Uncle Mark's tutorials, as I was a player before they came out. I could probably benefit from it, though!

A lot of the points you brought up are some of the real-life issues that Command replicates so well. Bad Luck; wrong weapons; collateral damage; difficulty with IDs; weapons that aren't really available or useful; detected sub = dead sub; unbalanced teams.

Play balance is something that is more in the eyes of the beholder. For many scenarios, balance doesn't come from the weapons systems, but rather is built into the victory conditions. In your FON scenario, Yorktown is a powerful ship that the other side can't match, but if the Libyans can do even a little damage to her, that could be a "win" for them. As the Northern Inferno author said, a win could be that you only got beaten up a little instead of wiped out.

I can't really speak to the "high-level tips", but for me a lot of the fun in the game is playing around with the toys and learning first-hand how they work. Some time spent with the manual is good as well, I'm constantly surprised at the number of people who don't bother to read it. Most game mechanics are covered there; the tactics and strategies are something that you need to learn for yourself, either by trial and error and error (and more error), or through outside research.

It is a steep learning curve, but well worth it. The game is supposed to be a challenge, so don't get too frustrated. And Welcome Aboard!

_____________________________

"It's all according to how your boogaloo situation stands, you understand."

Formerly known as Colonel Mustard, before I got Slitherine Syndrome.

(in reply to fitzpatv)
Post #: 2
RE: Uncle Mark's Tutorials Review - 3/23/2019 11:32:03 PM   
fitzpatv

 

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Thanks. Sensible comments and I agree with everything you say. Part of the attraction of the game is that it's educational and I've certainly learned from it so far. Will probably continue to do so as I play more scenarios. I'd still be interested to hear if anyone has managed to win Denmark Strait or Motozintla, though!

(in reply to dcpollay)
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RE: Uncle Mark's Tutorials Review - 3/24/2019 5:30:43 AM   
Whicker

 

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I just gave Boston Guards the Denmark Strait a try. First try, missed the convoy and mis-read the coordinates that gave a location.

Second try, knowing a little better where they would be went north at creep speed and shallow, eventually got close to the convoy and loaded the harpoons. My first idea was to sink the ships that carried helos and take them out with the harpoons and tlams. That almost worked, sank one cruiser and damaged another. Thought I was ok until I got sunk.

Next try I decided to just win and sink some merchants so I fired all the missiles at merchants and sank 4. Then I sank a sub that came to see what was going on, I think I got 500 total and an average score.

The sub stuff is hard for me, it requires a lot of patience, and after you launch harpoons I think you really need to go hide for a couple hours which is hard to do.

Also, whenever I have trouble with a scen especially short ones like this one I open them up in editor mode and switch sides occasionally to see that they see - there is no way for me to learn without doing that. This goes for sub stuff as well as AC stuff, you really need to experiment with what the other side can see so you can figure out what you can get away with. I try not to outright cheat, sometimes I will zoom in really close to one area just to see if they can see me but without me seeing them. Other times I do look at their whole setup and see what they are doing.

(in reply to fitzpatv)
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RE: Uncle Mark's Tutorials Review - 3/24/2019 5:33:48 AM   
Whicker

 

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Also, on scoring, sometimes a Triumph is practically impossible, other times it is not. I try to take that part of the scoring with a grain of salt. 4 ships, 1 sub and I lived, that is a good win to me.

(in reply to Whicker)
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RE: Uncle Mark's Tutorials Review - 3/30/2019 6:53:33 PM   
fitzpatv

 

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Sounds fair to me. If the game just gives an Average rating for 500 points, that seems the only outlook that'll keep players sane!!
My best effort at Denmark Strait was two merchants, a sub and lived using similar tactics - launch at range, then run.
Anyone managed to win Motozintla?

(in reply to Whicker)
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RE: Uncle Mark's Tutorials Review - 3/30/2019 8:58:28 PM   
Whicker

 

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I tried that one a few times and found it basically impossible, little frustrating. I wouldn't let that get to you though, sometimes the game mechanics change and what may have been easy is not any more - not saying that is what happened to that one, but it could have. As a tutorial it was not particularly helpful I didn't think.

There was one time that I was able to get the F5's in - not sure what I did to delay the advance, I think the choppers took something out - and your accuracy issues may have been related to the clouds. The last time thru I was cheating a little so I never bothered to check the score, there really wasn't much going on, and you had practically nothing to work with. I think the main lesson was probably about the effect of the weather.

(in reply to fitzpatv)
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RE: Uncle Mark's Tutorials Review - 3/30/2019 9:28:34 PM   
fitzpatv

 

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Joined: 3/20/2019
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Yeah, I guess the game is supposed to be educational in part and Motozintla does point-up the deficiencies of mid-range weapon systems against ground targets in low visibility. Best to put it down to experience and move on to less frustrating scenarios.

Just played the final Uncle Mark Tutorial, 'Toledo Hits 'Em Hard'. This is about taking out a pair of Al Qaeda safe houses in a Pakistani town using a cruise missile strike from a US sub. Doing so is, in itself, a straightforward business of flying a Predator drone over the town a couple of times to positively identify the targets, then launching two pairs of Tomahawks to get the job done. What makes it interesting is the need to avoid being countered effectively by the Pakistanis (without engaging them).

This involves making judgement calls about when to launch the missiles, delaying until the drone has had a chance to escape to Kabul (the Pakistanis won't shoot at it unless you've fired missiles). You then have to get the sub clear of Pakistani naval forces, which I did by changing course away from the shadowers at speed (and the hell with cavitation), launching the Tomahawks once clear (they can theoretically be shot down, but no attempt was made to do this in my playthrough), then taking an indirect route to the designated safe zone, approaching it from the SE. This has to be done right, as the Pakistanis have one of the dreaded ASW choppers, which is quite liberal with sonobuoys. Managed this and scored a Triumph with 300 points.

Moving on next to some 'real' i.e. non-tutorial scenarios!

(in reply to Whicker)
Post #: 8
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