Combat Storm is a rule set produced by Strategy Wave Studios. It is designed for two to four players, ages 12 and older. Combat Storm is a turn-based tactical wargame, intended for use with plastic Army Men as miniatures. The implied scale is 1:35 or 54mm, i.e., one inch of tabletop represents three feet in the game.
The rules are available at combatstorm.com. The rulebook retails for $22.99 U.S., but for an additional $7 U.S. you can purchase a boxed set including the rulebook, about 60 Army Men of various poses and colors, and four vehicles: a main battle tank, a light tank, a self-propelled artillery vehicle, and an air defense/ground support vehicle. Purchase of the rulebook, whether in the boxed set or by itself, grants access to the online Combat Storm Player Portal, through which you can subscribe to newsletters, download exclusive content like print and play tokens for identifying squads and troop states or papercraft terrain, and access utilities such as an army builder tool. You can also purchase additional Army Men, armored vehicles, dice, and additional paid papercraft downloads on the Combat Storm site.
This review describes the boxed set, including a review of the rules.
The rule book, enough army men for each side, some items to serve as terrain, a suggested play area measuring 4′ x 6′, a handful of six-sided dice, and a tape measure or ruler. The print and play tokens available through the Combat Storm site, or this custom set produced by Army Men Wargaming (Sheet 1 and Sheet 2), are helpful, but not entirely necessary, especially for small games.
Combat Storm features two armies: the U.S. Army and the fictitious People’s Coalition Front (PCF), a generic, Soviet-equipped guerrilla force. Each side has the same 10 soldier types: rifleman, medic, support infantry (machine gunner), sniper, sergeant, grenadier, supply soldier, forward observer, demolitions expert, and the anti-armor soldier, along with special forces stats for some types. The equipment for both sides is highly specific, accounting for subtle differences in rate of fire, accuracy, and range, and there are even upgrades for troops, such as body armor or upgraded weapons. All troop types and upgrades carry a point value, so each side can build to forces that are roughly equal in strength, if the players so choose. Such a high level of customization makes this game a list builder’s dream.
The game is turn-based. Players divide their forces into squads. Player one activates one of his squads, allowing it to move and/or shoot, then places a marker or token to indicate that the squad has been activated; player two does the same. On player one’s next turn, he can move and/or shoot with any of his squads that hasn’t yet been activated; player two does the same. This process continues until all of a given player’s squads have been activated. When a player starts his turn with all of his squads bearing activation markers, all of that player’s activation markers are removed and the process begins again.
60 to 90 minutes for a standard game.
- Customization. Combat Storm has the highest number of troop types we’ve ever seen in an Army Men wargame. Players can assemble hordes of fast but weak troops, employ a handful of highly trained operatives, deploy lots of heavy firepower, or field a mix of all types.
- Specificity. The rules go into considerable detail about what specific weapon systems the soldiers are carrying, and account for their perceived differences. The equipment presented seems to loosely emulate current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thus, American troops boast better accuracy at range and heavier firepower than their PCF foes, while the PCF are much more dangerous at close range.
- Firing is resolved separately for each attacking soldier, but hits don’t automatically equal casualties, as the target gets to roll to see if body armor stopped the damage. Squads take damage only if body armor fails, and the target determines which troops are eliminated from the squad as necessary.
- Highly detailed vehicle rules. Vehicles are treated like squads, but can only be harmed by weapons capable of doing armor damage. There are even specialized tables for vehicle damage; for example, a vehicle can have damaged treads, resulting in the game equivalent of a mobility kill.
- Air strikes. While aircraft aren’t represented in miniature, the effects of air strikes can be. Air strikes are purchased with points, just like regular troops, and a player will need a forward observer to “paint” the target area with a laser. Strikes can come from a bombing run (more effective against vehicles) or a helicopter strike (which is more effective against personnel).
- There are eight sample scenarios in the rulebook, all presented as alternatives to the pitched battle.
- Price. By Army Men Wargaming standards, the price of this product is extremely high (remember we like free rules).
- Predictability. The weapons employed by each side have well-known strengths, and while there may be minor differences in play based on squad composition, it doesn’t take long for players to figure out that PCF forces will try to close quickly with the Americans, and that the Americans will try to maintain distance for as long as possible.
- Playability varies by terrain. This game plays best in – and was presumably designed for – an urban setting, with lots of terrain pieces providing cover and blocking lines of sight. In even slightly more open terrain, casualty rates spike dramatically. You’ll need lots of terrain, either papercraft or otherwise, to play an enjoyable game.
In spite of the price and demand for terrain, we consider the versatility and playability of Combat Storm to be so high that it is worth the investment, and we recommend this rule set without reservation.