Though best known for their prodigious output as the current benevolent custodians of Advanced Squad Leader, Multi-Man Publishing also shepherds various other wargame series, including the Tactical Combat Series (TCS) pioneered by Dean Essig (and previously released under the aegis of The Gamers, now folded into MMP). The most recent TCS title is Goose Green, designed by Carl Fung, focusing on the initial ground combat between British and Argentinian forces in and around Goose Green and Darwin on the Falkland Islands in May 1982.
As with the last TCS entry, Ariete, Goose Green comes as a ziplocked, rather than boxed, presentation, with a single standard 22″ x 34″ map on glossy paper; half a countersheet of die cut 1/2″ counters; series and special rules on glossy paper; some charts on relatively thin, glossy stock; and thick front and back cover sheets. It’s a tidy package at an agreeable price. TCS has never seemed to be as big a seller for MMP (or The Gamers previously) as the other series in their stables, so it’s good to see the series continuing in a format that gets the games out to players at a price that is as close to “impulse buy” as wargames tend to get.
Goodness knows I’ve bounced off of TCS more than once in the past, having owned (and sold and owned and sold) several titles in the series over the past two decades. What has thrown me off—and others, I would wager—is the innovation at the heart of TCS: written orders. Like ASL, TCS focuses on tactical battles, highlighting small unit engagements, typically at the platoon level as opposed to ASL’s focus on the squad. TCS, however, requires written instructions for units to act, orders that must pass through the chain of command. No telepathic, instantaneous communication between units here—orders are orders, and just because the player wants to react to an opportunity (or mishap) in one area, the written orders take precedence until new orders can be cut.
For gamers used to pushing counters at will, it’s a difficult, or at the very least different, mindset to adopt, particularly at the tactical level, and while most TCS series games have small scenarios, the thought of orchestrating a major offensive in writing can be daunting. The relatively small focus of Goose Green feels like an ideal setting to try to come to grips with TCS; even the full campaign for Goose Green should be within the realm of the possible, given that there are a grand total of 140 counters in the game, fewer than half of which are actual units. The game contains a total of five scenarios, ranging from five to forty turns, each turn representing between twenty minutes to an hour duration, depending on light conditions.
Too, with the fortieth anniversary of the conflict in the Falklands just past, Goose Green feels a somewhat timely addition to the relatively thin conflict simulation corpus surrounding that clash in the South Atlantic. Designer Carl Fung goes to significant lengths via the special rules and scenarios to portray the difficulties facing the British as they attempt to conduct a rapid assault against numerically superior Argentine defenders, themselves well dug-in but on the receiving end of an advanced combined arms fusillade. Both sides need to make tough decisions about when to press and when to yield, decisions compounded and complicated by the TCS orders process. Besides, any game with counters for that lovely homegrown Argentinian close air support aircraft, the Pucara, deserves a place in my collection.
The components themselves are up to the usual handsome MMP standards, the maps hewing broadly to the standard Gamers style, with graphics work by Nicolas Eskubi. Love them or (more likely) hate them, the trademark Gamers’ “every five hexes” printed map coordinate system rears its head here, as does TCS’ legendarily finicky line-of-sight process, but those are small quibbles to bear for a fairly unique take on one of the most important, and overlooked, land battles of the late 20th century. Goose Green promises to be worth the effort involved in finally coming to terms with TCS, in order to examine this signal moment in military history.