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Order of Battle: World War II grows ever larger with the release of yet another DLC campaign for the Panzer General-esque strategy game ...

Order of Battle: WW2 - Red Star Order of Battle: WW2 - Red Star

Order of Battle: WW2 - Red Star

Order of Battle: WW2 - Red Star

Order of Battle: World War II grows ever larger with the release of yet another DLC campaign for the Panzer General-esque strategy game that I have really enjoyed since its initial release over four years ago. While Red Star doesn't change up the formula in any significant way, it does give you another 13 mission long campaign covering plenty of famous, and less well known, battles. 

Red Star is the first of a trilogy of linked campaigns covering, you guessed it, the actions of the Red Army across the full spectrum of WW2. Now, you're probably immediately picturing the Eastern Front, Barbarossa and Stalingrad and so on. Hold on though, this is Order of Battle, a game which was created by developers who seem keenly interested in showcasing some of the less well known and less gamed theaters of the war. Red Star covers actions of the Red Army from 1938 to 1941, which means you'll be rather deep into the campaign before you see a single German panzer. 

The DLC starts off with a trio of missions against Imperial Japan, at the battles of Lake Khasan and Khalkin Gol. These are battles which I've read snippets about here and there, but never studied in detail. Seeing very early war tanks and even bi-planes roaming the battlefield made for a fresh experience. The Japanese are tough early game opponents, as you must make due with poor equipment and inexperienced troops.

Next you go for a quick trip to Poland for a single mission. Although the historical outcome here was 100% inevitable, it was actually one of the more memorable missions of the game. To give you a challenge, the scenario casts your forces as the very tip of the invading spear, racing ahead of supply lines. You have only a very limited number of points available for deploying units, and every turn your total available supply is shrinking. The only way to get more supply is to capture Polish cities and towns. This means you must charge forward and overwhelm the defenders as quickly as possible, in order to keep your units in supply. 

After conquering Poland it's time for the Winter War against Finland. Some of this conflict has actually been covered from the point of view of the Finns in the Winter War DLC, but now it's time to play it from the Soviet perspective. As you may know, despite massively outnumbering the Finns, especially in terms of tanks and aircraft, the Soviets got a very bloody nose in this conflict. Here a major feature of many of the scenarios are the Finnish ski troops who constantly pop out of nowhere on your flanks and attempt to cut off your lead units from their supply sources. The terrain itself is against you, as the heavily forested maps slow down your mechanized forces, and conceal ambushes at every turn. I enjoyed these scenarios, as I was forced to patrol the edges of my advance instead of blindly pushing all of my units forward to the objectives. 

After the conclusion of the Winter War, we finally reach the main event, the German invasion of the Soviet Union. These missions make up the final third of the campaign culminating with the defense  of, and Soviet counter-attack outside Moscow. The battles here scale up in size as you are now facing a more than equal foe, coming at you with all the tanks and aircraft you can handle. To counter that, you finally get to upgrade your own tanks and aircraft and leave those inter-war units behind. The battles here will be more familiar to most than the earlier ones, but the scenario design continues to be well done. As in all the OoB campaigns, every mission gives you primary objectives which you must accomplish to win the scenario, but there are also optional objectives which give you some kind of bonus if you can complete them. 

My one major critique of the campaign is that the specialization tree (permanent perks which you can spend points to unlock between missions) does not offer many interesting choices, or many choices at all.  I would have thought that for a DLC on the Red Army, we would see a big tree with lots of interesting and flavorful choices, but really there were only a couple which did something unique. The rest were all either generic options from other campaigns, or very minor benefits with some Soviet flavor text tacked on.

Overall, Red Star does not bring any big changes to the tried and true formula of Order of Battle, but if you like what you've played before, you will have a good time with this one as well. I do love a grand campaign of this sort, so I'm looking forward to carrying my experienced core units further into the war in the next two installments.

Order of Battle: WW2 - Red Star is available directly from Slitherine as well as on Steam and GoG. As always with Order of Battle, you can play the training campaign as well as the first scenario of each campaign (including Red Star) for free if you want to try before you buy.

- Joe Beard