23 October 2014

Developer Feature: Close Combat: Last Stand Arnhem

Strategy 3 Tactics' Jim Martin discusses all the new features in the upcoming release of Close Combat: Last Stand Arnhem.

Published on 28 JUN 2010 3:56pm by Scott Parrino
  1. world war ii, ground combat, real-time, western front, tactical, online or multi-player, single-player

CLOSE COMBAT: LAST STAND ARNHEM  -  Project Preview

Developer:  Strategy 3 Tactics / Black Hand Studios

Publisher:  Matrix Games / Slitherine

Article author:  Jim Martin – Project Lead / Strategy 3 Tactics

Game Historical Context

September 4th 1944 -  The Allies liberate the last of Belgium and halt their advance.  Three months and 450 miles have passed since the Normandy landings on June 6th.  Throughout Holland, Axis troops retreat in an uncontrolled dash toward the German border.

In Germany, Field Marshal von Rundstedt surmises that the allies have stopped in Antwerp due to short supplies.  Taking advantage of the lull, von Runstedt quickly reorganizes the scattered German troops into a fighting force.

September 14th  - Allied Supreme Commander General Eisenhower agrees to British Field Marshal Montgomery's plan Operation Market Garden.  If executed properly this two pronged assault could bring an end to the war before Christmas.

September 17th  – The largest airborne assault in history, Operation Market Garden, begins.  British XXX Corps starts the long drive to the Rhine while U.S. And British airborne troops secure the road and bridges along the route.  For Operation Market Garden to be successful, the Allies must secure every bridge along the 64 mile corridor.

Now in this classic top down real-time tactical simulation, you take command of either the Allied armored and airborne forces or the hastily organized German defense forces.  You must either successfully execute the world’s largest ever airborne operation to bring an end to the war before Christmas or prevent the Allies from reaching their ultimate goal, Arnhem Bridge.   In this highly enhanced rebuild based on the critically acclaimed and award winning Atomic Games Close Combat series of games, you are in command!

 

NEW Game Features

The Grand Campaign design and game engine

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Small preview picture of the game strat map with added historical content showing the full operational area of Close Combat: Last Stand Arnhem Grand Campaign. 

TROOP POINT BUYING SYSTEM

The Close Combat: Last Stand Arnhem Grand Campaign operational area covers the area that the allies historically intended to occupy at the end of “Operation Market Garden”.  Some give and take had to happen between the real life proportions of the geographical operational area and the strategic map proportions to keep a viewable size to the game icons and map areas while minimising empty areas of strategic map as much as possible.  We believe we have achieved a comfortable balance between all the necessary factors. 

The design of the strategic map image itself was intended to mimic military strategy maps of the period.  Many actual military maps of the area were used as reference and the image you see was created from the ground up in a style that suits the game operation well while maintaining that military map look.

The Close Combat: Last Stand Arnhem (CCLSA) Grand Campaign and engine was developed utilising the Close Combat: The Longest Day (CCTLD) engine.  All of the features introduced in CCTLD have been carried over into CCLSA while many new features have been introduced.   We decided early on to do Close Combat: Last Stand Arnhem as the last rebuild in the series, so that we could make sure that all the previous improvements were incorporated into its design and so that we would have the ability to give it more time than any of our other releases, all with the goal of doing justice to the original Close Combat: A Bridge Too Far.  CCLSA makes use of all the great improvements and features introduced to the Close Combat series by Close Combat: Invasion Normandy (CC5) and all of the improvements in our Matrix Games releases of Close Combat while re-introducing the  features appreciated by Close Combat: A Bridge Too Far (CC2) fans. 

 

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CCLSA battlegroup screen showing the frontline force pool and units slated to go into battle.

A troop point buying system similar to CC2, in which users have the ability to buy units if the battle group and parent formation have points available to spend, has been re-created as well as a parent formation point pool on which several battle groups may draw additional unit buying support.  In the screenshot to the right you can see the that there is only one battle group on this map since only the tab for the front line BG force pool is active.  The units listed in the force pool have next to them their purchase point cost and how many of each unit type remains in the battle group.  To the right of that near the top is the total purchase points left available in the battle group point pool and to the right of that the formation point pool.  The formation point pool is the parent formation to that battle group.  In this case it was the U.S. 82nd Airborne 504th PIR. 

During unit selection units may be swapped out at will, without point penalty as long as the battle group has not yet seen battle.  The point value you will get for returning a unit to the force pool is shown in the upper right corner of the unit icon on the Battle Group screen.  If the number is green the unit is uncommitted and the number shows the full value of the team.  If the number is red the unit has been committed to the Battle Group’s active roster and the number shown is 50% of its full value. The full details of the point system operation are clearly explained in the game manual.

DESTRUCTIBLE BRIDGES

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 Sequence showing bridge before destruction, bridge exploding, bridge destroyed, and the bridge repaired.


Also re-created is the ability to destroy bridges on the tactical map which has consequences on movement in the strategic layer.  When a player controls a bridge victory location, during a battle, a timer counts down.  If that player maintains control constantly during that count down when that timer expires, the player controlling the bridge victory location will have the option of destroying the bridge if he so chooses.  Once the bridge is destroyed, the battle automatically ends shortly thereafter and the player who destroyed the bridge will automatically relinquish control of the map to the opposing side but the opposing player will be unable to move on to adjoining maps to which the terrain on the uncontrolled side of the bridge was linked.  The player that maintains control of the map may initiate repairs to the bridge to be able to use that location as a point to cross the river once repaired. 

New graphics and system for handling those graphics were introduced into the game engine to give a very realistic simulation of a bridge demolition.  The game engine has the ability to utilise a total of 25 different bridge locations and accompanying historical graphics and is also modifiable.  The Close Combat: Last Stand Arnhem Grand Campaign makes use of 15 of those based on bridges the Germans historically had wired for demolition during the Operation Market Garden campaign.

 

FERRY AND ASSAULT RIVER CROSSINGS

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This shot shows two different river crossing locations on the strategic map.  One only has an assault crossing available and the other has a disabled ferry boat crossing with assault crossing available.

Continuing on with the new features relating to the strategic map are ferry and assault river crossings.  Various locations on the strategic map can be identified as either ferry crossings or assault crossings.  These crossing types allow the player the crossings are available to, to be able to cross a river at a non-bridge location.  In our Grand Campaign design these locations represent historically accurate locations at which a full regiment would've been utilise within the game scale and timeframe.  Various rules apply to where and when these crossings are available and are clearly explained in the game manual.

STATIC FORCES, RESERVE BATTLE GROUPS, LOCKED DEPLOYMENT TEAMS

Two new features introduced to in Close Combat: Last Stand Arnhem are the simulation of reserve and static battle groups. 

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A look at the force pool lists on the battlegroup screen.  On the left is the front line battle group force pool list and on the right is the reserve battle group force pool list.

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This shows a view of both static (oval icons) and mobile (square icon) battlegropups on the strategic screen.

Reserve battle groups refer to the ability to now have two mobile battle groups on one map at the same time.  One battle group moves as the front line battle group and the other moves as the reserve battle group.  The player selects which battle group is which by moving the battle group the player would like to have as the front line battle group first.  Any battle groups that follow will become the reserve battle group.

Once at the battle group screen where units you are taking into battle are chosen, a player may choose to bring in units from the front line battle group or the reserve battle group.  Depending on the battle group size, in some cases this will result in a larger combined battle group by through having access to and filling previously unavailable battle group slots.  For instance, a company-sized battle group will only have 6 unit slots available to it as compared to the lead element of a regiment-sized battle group which will have 15 units available to it.  If these two company sized battle groups are brought together on one map the resulting number of units by the combined force will be larger than the size if either one of the companies were on that same map by itself with a combined maximum of 15 teams total.

Static forces refer to battle groups that are not moveable by the player but represent a fighting force tied to a particular map for as long as those units survive and are able to maintain control of that map.  In Close Combat: Last Stand Arnhem these are meant to represent the German Bodenständige Einheit (which translated roughly means troops that guard fixed installations or fixed defence lines) that were involved in the initial fighting during Operation Market Garden.

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 Shows the three gun emplacements around Best Bridge to represent the units historically placed around the bridge to protect it from aircraft fire.

Similar to the static battle groups on the strategic map is a partly re-created and partly new feature that allows for locked deployment teams to be placed on a tactical map.  This feature was introduced to the game engine to allow us to represent historically important units that were not part of a larger battle group to be represented without taking away from a unit slot in a mobile battle group.  For instance at Son Bridge two German 88mm Anti-Aircraft guns had been placed in the area of the bridge to defend it from attack by allied planes.  In Close Combat: Last Stand Arnhem these units are represented.  During the first battle on this map these units are statically positioned and the German player will be unable to move them but on subsequent battles able to reposition them during the deployment phase and they remain available for as long as they survive.

BATTLE GROUP STACKING ON THE STRATEGIC LAYER

Along with the concept of having a front line and reserve battle group on a given map area, we now have the ability on the strategic map to move a battle group through a map area even if another battle group is already stationed on that map.  As long as you control VL's from all connected strategic areas a battle group can move “through” a map area on the strategic map.  The inability to do this has been a shortcoming of the CC strategic map since CC4 introduced the improved strategic layer and many Close Combat veterans will most certainly appreciate this new feature.

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The text briefing screen superimposed over the unit selection area of the battlegroup screen 

NEW SCENARIO EDITOR FEATURES

Several new features and enhancements have been added to the scenario editor.  One is the ability to add a text briefing for custom scenarios.  This appears in the game as a pop up window prior to unit selection on the battle group screen and the player clicks once to remove it from view.  It is an opportunity to introduce additional historical content specific to a given scenario.

Another new feature added to the Scenario Editor screen is the ability to set entry locations for arriving battle groups in a custom scenario.  By shift+LMB a map diamond in the scenario editor screen a pop-up dialog appears.  All battle groups present on a map not on the controlling side will have a drop-down menu next to it where you may select a specific VL that battle group will allowed to be deployed around.  This gives a scenario designer considerable flexibility in creating historically realistic scenarios.

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A screenshot of the scenario map entry information screen activated by shift+LMB a map diamond in the scenario editor screen.


Yet another new feature added to the scenario editor is to allow the scenario designer to set custom point allowance for battle groups to use for purchasing units.  This gives the scenario designer an easy way to influence battle group strength without having to redesign the force pool data.

In addition some enhancements have been made to the way the scenario editor operates.  The side control states that determines which side controls a given map now has the ability to scroll forward through the states as well as backward by LMBclicking or RMBclicking respectively.  This way if you accidentally bypass the control state you intended to use a simple RightMouseButton click returns you to that state rather than having to scroll through the entire list. 

Also the date bar slider operation has been improved over Close Combat:  The Longest Day.  The sliders are easier to grab, are easier to see and allow for specific selection of a given turn easier.

Features carried over from Close Combat: The Longest Day

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An illumination flare lighting the battlefield.

Night time effects


Night time effects simulate the conditions you'd expect to find during night battles.  Besides the visual effect of a darkened map environment we've enhanced the Line Of Sight(LOS) model to effect what your units are capable of seeing during night battles. 

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Explosives from bridge demolition lighting up the area.

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 Flames from burning tanks illuminating the immediate area.

To take that one step further we've added the ability to deploy illumination flares to improve LOS in those areas of the map illuminated by those deployed flares.  As a realistic looking depiction of real flares the size of the lit area fluctuates in size to simulate how real flares fall through the air, flickering and swinging back and forth as they fall to the ground.   Each player receives approximately two per 15 minute battle and more for longer battles.

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Artillery round flashes lighting up the surrounding area.

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When used this is what airborne deployment zones look like. 

Simulation of airborne battle group deployment drop zones

This feature simulates realistic deployment conditions of airborne drops.  Older versions of Close Combat only allowed battle groups entering a tactical map to be deployed by the map edge. In addition to allowing airborne battle groups to be deployed to the map's interior rather than forcing them to deploy on the edge airborne deployment is now random on the first turn or multiple turns of a campaign.  When your battle group deploys on a tactical map prior to battle you may find you're in control of the center of town, two opposite corners of a map, in the middle of a field or any combination or number of VL's possible.  Prior to battle during the deployment phase you may move any of your units around in any of those lighter colored areas or to take the realistic simulation a step further you could opt to not move any of your units prior to battle so that the initial minutes of the start of the battle are spent organising your units and positions on the map while under enemy fire.

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Stratetgic screen menu for accessing the "Rest" command.

Resting of  battle groups

Most previous versions of Close Combat did not take into account the cost of doing battle and the effects of constant activity on a battle group on the strategic layer.  Similar to the Close Combat: Cross of Iron feature of being able to rest and refit units, we've added the ability to rest battle groups on the strategic screen to reduce a battle groups units fatigue as well as restore cohesion to those units.  Players will find that resting a battle group for a turn will see improvements to the fatigue and cohesion levels as well as enhanced performance the next time that battle group encounters battle.

Battle groups of varying size

This feature allows for the simulation of battle groups of varying size as they pertain to military organisational structures.  For example previous versions of CC only allowed for battle groups to consist of 15 units in size, no less, unless the force pool file was set up to do so.  With this new feature an extra level of control is available to restrict a battle groups size to 14, 13, 12 or fewer units.  

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 Showing two different sized battle groups.

 

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The extended force pool list of Close Combat: Last Stand Arnhem.

In the context of Close Combat: Last Stand Arnhem a battle group of 3 battalions (9-12 Companies) has 15 units available to it on the battle group screen.  A battle group consisting of 2 battalions (6-8 Companies) will have 12 units available to it on the battle group screen.  Battalion size battle groups (3-4 Companies in size) will have 9 units available to them on the battle group screen.  And a 1 or 2 Company size battle group will have 6 units available to it.    The bottom line here is that there is far more flexibility  in the portrayal of historical events than offered previously.

Extended Force pool list

Although previous versions of Close Combat had 25 slots available in the Force Pool files only the first 20 of them were utilised in the game at any given time.  We've added the ability to not only utilise all 25 slots but to see them on the battle group screen when selecting units.  More depth and variety of unit types can be portrayed in the game as a result.

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Force morale and Victory Location report on the battle debrief screen. 

Force morale/cohesion and Victory Location(VL) control report

The original Close Combat: Invasion Normandy contains an end of battle loss report which is nicely detailed but only vaguely indicated the changes that occurred during the recently completed battle. 

We've added a report on that screen that shows you exactly how many VL's changed hands as well as the effect that battle has on your Force Morale and Overall Cohesion for the game just played, displayed  in a graphical format that is easy to understand at a quick glance.  It aids each player in understanding the changes his battle groups are undergoing and allows him to make better decisions on the next strategic turn.

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Battle group Cohesion and Fatigue status on the upper right corner of the battlgroup screen.

 

Summary of battle group cohesion and fatigue status

A graphical report of your battle groups current cohesion and fatigue is now displayed on the battle group screen so that you can make proper decisions about your battle group composition on the battle group screen.

These graphical meters give you realtime info on how cohesively you should expect your battle group to react in the next battle and how well you should expect them to carry out the orders given to them.

Usage of 4800pixel x 4800pixel maps

Previous versions of Close Combat (versions 3 through 5) only allowed for the use of map images up to 3600pixels x 3600pixels and this was a limitation on the amount of area possible to depict on one map.  In game scale the maps are now capable of depicting an area 960 meters square which is an increase in overall map area of nearly 1.77x the original.  That's 0.59 miles in either direction.  One very effective use of this particular feature in Close Combat: Last Stand Arnhem is the Valkenswaard map.  Historically it was the stretch of road on which British XXX Corps began fighting their way to Arnhem in an attempt to relieve the Frosts' 2nd Battalion holding out at the Arnhem bridgehead.  A long stretch of roadway across open ground on a raised road under heavy fire.  With stock CC5 map allowances this would not have been doable with any semblance of accuracy.  It also assists in creating a game play balance that gives the German battle group on this map (which consists of a skeleton of guard troops to create a basic defensive line) a chance of delaying the heavily armour battle group of XXX Corps long enough until the German players full battle groups appear on the scene to give XXX Corps a good fight.

Game operation in windowed mode

This handy enhancement allows the user to play the game in windowed mode without the game automatically pausing or being interrupted like it used to in stock CC5.  With windowed mode activated in the user options menu, upon restart the game will display in a window that allows simultaneous use of chat programs, or any other app running at the same time.  Also windowed mode allows players connecting for a multi-player game to monitor the connection process via a text chat program without risk of interrupting or causing the connection to process to fail.

Off-board or off-map support quantities now tied to difficulty level

This feature allows the support quantities to be tied to difficulty level so that if desired, support levels can increase with the easier levels of difficulty or vice versa or any combination therein.  In CCTLD players will find that the easier difficulty levels give each player more support and more difficult levels less support.

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Shows strategic map connections between all maps when you hit the space bar.


Improved graphical communication of strategic map connections

Stock Close Combat 5's only method of communicating to the player what directions he could move his battle groups in on the strategic layer was that any map area a given battle group could move to would be outlined with a yellow outline if the said battle group was left-clicked+held.  Now if you hit the space bar ALL strategic map movement arrows will appear showing all possible connections.  So in combination with this new feature players will be able see all available map connections through which a battle group may move if a given tactical maps victory location is controlled.

New planes, vehicles and assorted other graphics

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Just a few of the planes and vehicles in Close Combat: Last Stand Arnhem.

Besides the two dozen new maps we've created for your enjoyment of the CCTLD Grand Campaign, we've added historically accurate planes and vehicles that are replicas of exact color schemes and designs of the theatre.  Painstakingly researched and drawn down to the very last details.

Comes with all new 60+ battles, operations and campaigns

To get players started we've created and included single battles for each and every one of the 64 tactical maps as well as operations and campaigns intended to simulate historical actions in Normandy.  Only time for one battle?  You can then sample any one of the 64 beautifully hand drawn maps.  Want immersive extended operation or campaign you can either play against the AI or versus another human player and partake in operations or campaigns where you can track your units progress and be in command of Allied or Axis forces.

Features carried over from Close Combat: Wacht am Rhein

Expanded strategic layer to 64 maps

No longer requires 3rd party utilities for modding

As part of the scope of the rebuild projects we've allowed for all data files to be edited using a basic spreadsheet program of any type.  Also many details previously inaccessible in the exe have been exported to text files which are also editable features.  With a basic graphics editor and spreadsheet editor many features previously uneditable are now easily altered with minimal effort or utilities.  Among the modifiable features: ALL strategic layer features, ALL campaign details including weather, turns per day, scoring, all support mission types for both sides and locations, battle group recycling, battle group retreat/disband, supply and much more!  The possibilities are nearly limitless!

Data file maximum entries expanded

Teams, battle groups, elements, force pools soldiers, vehicles, and weapons files maximum number of allowable entries extended.  Previous versions of Close Combat were somewhat limited in the number of possible entries allowable in the data files so with expanded limits it's now possible to mod a larger range of historical scenarios than ever before.  It's now possible to represent multiple nationalities with varying capabilities available to both sides.

Improved AI

Further improvements have been made to the AI from to reduce some of the more inadequate performance issues, in particular with respect to vehicle pathing, the 'crawl of death', and Team and Unit morale and response in general.

 

STANDARD FEATURES FOR ALL CLOSE COMBAT VERSIONS

The features listed in this section are features that have always been a part of Close Combat so if you're new to Close Combat, as we hope you are, these are additional features you should expect to see.

Scenario Editor - Create your own "what if" Scenarios

The scenario editor allows the user to create your own scenarios with control over many of the game details right from within the game.  You have control over the length of the operation or campaign or create one turn/single battles.  You can control how many battlegroups participate in the operation or campaign and you can even control when reinforcements arrive on the strategic layer in the operation or campaign. 

The scenario editor also allows for historical setting of weather conditions which effect vehicle and troop mobility as well as the amount of supply and naval, artillery, mortar, air support and supply each side gets.  A very flexible system that allows for hours and hours of gaming enjoyment far beyond the 60+ battles, operations and campaigns we've already provided.

Enjoy the huge variety of modifications available from the Close Combat Community providing years of additional gaming pleasure.

From the first release of the game right up to now Close Combat has ALWAYS had a devoted talented group of fans with a steady stream of game modifications that alter the installation configuration beyond what we've provided.  As an owner of Close Combat you would be joining a rich, long standing gaming history and be able to utilize those fantastic modifications as well as many web forums created by Close Combats loyal fans.

Enhanced to run well on modern DirectX systems

We've made many improvements to the game engine to ensure the game will be playable on newer operating systems long into the future.  This includes updates to be compatible with DirectX 9c.

Accurately depicts World War II tactical warfare and its challenges

One of the real features of Close Combat has always been its ability to reasonably depict historical events with an accuracy far beyond many other tactical games.  The psychological model combined with with astonishing detail in equipment types and modeling for soldiers on up through planes is what earned Close Combats the awards it earned upon it's release as well as the adoration of fans for over 15 years.

Realistic soldier psychological profiles during combat

This is really what makes Close Combat what it is.  How the stress of combat and the potential loss of your life or your buddies effects a soldiers performance and ability to carry out his duty.  Besides being effected by bullets flying through the air and bombs bursting nearby there is a radius of command model whereby the soldiers effectiveness is altered by the presence or loss of his immediate superior officer as well as the overall success of the battle from minute to minute.  Combine this with the excitement of playing against the AI or another human player and you can quickly see why the game has been so popular for so long.

Accurate and realistic equipment modeling 

As mentioned above there is great depth to the amount of detail included in all Close Combat releases.  The games data files include how many grenades a soldier carries, what type, how much ammo he carryies, what kinds of secondary weapons he carryies, if a weapon requires an assistant gunner as a crew, how heavy a weapon is and how that effects his mobility, how much armor a weapon has the capability of penetrating, what type of rounds tanks carry whether they be armor piercing, high explosive smoke or some other type of round, if the tank has the capability to fire while on the move or not and on and on.  Nearly ever conceivable detail is modeled in some fashion and has a direct effect on the gameplay.

 

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Close air support and direct and indirect fire

The original game creators were quick to realize that a game about individual soldiers and their comrades and units they belonged to would not be complete without that unseen angel of air support and support artillery.  Depending on the scenario design players will possibly see the appearance of this type of support sometime during the battle.  Simulated in these new Close Combat releases are close air support, naval barrages, artillery barrages and mortar barrages as well as illumination flares.  All added to simulate the support echelons found on the battlefield.

Protect your men in buildings, bunkers, and trenches

The map design allows for many different terrain types including multi-level buildings, trenches, bunkers, trees, varying elevations, road types, terrain types  and just about anything you'd find on the battlefield viewable from 500ft in the air above the battlefield.  All have differing levels of protection and differing effects on movement.  It creates a very realistic environment that requires the player to make smart choices about his battle plan and to carefully consider each command he issues.

Includes specialized squads, weapons, soldier types, attack Aircraft & Artillery

Close Combat has always included specialized squads such as flamethrower teams, anti-tank teams, anti-tank guns, a plethora of tank and vehicle types as well as nearly every conceivable type of aircraft and artillery piece you'd expect to see on a battlefield.  For the new Close Combat games, the data design includes engineer teams, rifle squads, machine-gun squads, assault squads, command teams, anti-tank weapons, flamethrowers, anti-tank guns, tripod mounted machine guns, mortar teams, tanks, half-tracks, armored cars, off map close air support, naval barrages, mortar barrages and illumination rounds.