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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

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Order of Battle

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

Over the past few years I've traveled the WW2 landscape with the Order of Battle series from  The Artistocrats,  and seen some exotic lo...

Order of Battle: Panzerkrieg Order of Battle: Panzerkrieg

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Order of Battle

Over the past few years I've traveled the WW2 landscape with the Order of Battle series from The Artistocrats, and seen some exotic locales. The series, which started in the Pacific, eventually visited such rarely gamed battlefields as Burma, China, and a hypothetical expanded Battle of the Atlantic. However, the biggest, most popular battlefields cannot be ignored forever. The series from kicked off a multi-part German grand campaign with the Blitzkrieg pack a few releases back, which featured the early war conflicts in Europe and ended at the gates of Moscow. Now with the latest DLC, Panzerkrieg, we rejoin the Germans as the bitter winter of '41 sets in.

Although one might expect to play Blitzkrieg before Panzerkrieg, it isn't required. You can customize your starting force to a certain extent, or take the default army. I went with the latter option, and quickly realized it might be best to come into Panzerkrieg with a top notch army formed during a successful play through of the Blitzkrieg campaign. Which is to say that Panzerkrieg is probably among the most difficult campaigns available for Order of Battle, at least for me. I haven't played all of them, but I have finished several and rarely had much difficulty on the default settings. The challenge of the game usually came more from trying to complete all of the bonus objectives rather than winning the scenario, which was a given.

Your forces in Panzerkrieg, much like their real-world counterparts, are up against the ropes as soon as things kick off. The first few missions have you fending off Soviet offensives from multiple directions while also attempting to achieve various objectives, usually trying to save isolated German forces. Attrition will become a key concern in your campaign, just as in the real battles. While your troops are deadly, they can only fight so many battles before needing repair, but the Soviets have a seemingly endless supply of fresh units to throw at your lines. You will also have to deal with their far more effective T-34 and KV-1 tank units. I found that as the campaign wore on I simply did not have enough resource points to keep all of my units topped off and fully upgraded, as I would expect based on past campaigns for Order of Battle. About half-way through the campaign I realized my forces were just too worn out to continue, there was no way I could win the scenario I was up against.

Surprisingly, I found this to be quite refreshing. I had always considered this series to be just a little too easy on the default setting, and it fell into that trap of similar games where things snowball and tend to get easier the better you perform. I know there are several higher difficulty settings, but I personally prefer to play most games at the default setting to get the experience that the developers intended for the average player.

I had to stop and ask myself what went wrong here. Why did I lose the campaign when I have played this game quite a bit and felt very confident going through each mission? (At first). I thought back on my play and realized that I had been sending my troops out to fight battles that were unnecessary. Instead of simply accomplishing the objectives set out for each scenario, I had rather impetuously sent units out looking for fights when they should have stayed put at their post. Many of the early scenarios include numerous Soviet units that are beyond your area of operations, and don't need to be engaged. Seeking to rack up kills, and not considering the long war ahead, I had sent full strength units off to find trouble by attacking these enemy forces. Sure, I crushed them, but then I needed to spend resources repairing those units, resources that should have been saved for other units fighting to win the scenario. I also raced to complete my objectives as fast as possible, to my own detriment. Given 30 turns to complete a scenario, I had put the pedal to the metal and tried to finish it off in 20. This usually led to far higher casualties from units getting overextended or ambushed.

This is a campaign that needs to be approached with a bit more forethought than most. You need to accomplish your objectives in the present scenario, but also be looking to build up your forces, or at least maintain them, rather than grind them down in reckless battles. My defeat actually made me want to go back and purchase the Blitzkrieg DLC so that I could control my core units from the very beginning of the war and have a greater familiarity with them heading into the harsher (for the Germans) years of the conflict. Carrying a single force through what will eventually be three linked campaigns, expanding and upgrading it with better units and leaders, should be quite the experience. I can only imagine how much more difficult the scenarios could potentially be towards the end of the war.

I haven't gone into the details of exactly how the game works in this review, since I've covered that ground in previous reviews and not much has changed here on a fundamental level. All the units you would expect to see on the Eastern Front are present, from Russian conscripts to Panzer III's and Flak 88's. You'll need a balanced force to deal with all of the threats you will face on the ground as well as in the air. Losing control of the skies can make your day that much harder. In my failed campaign I simply could not afford to keep more than a couple of fighter units in the air, and the Soviet bombers took full advantage of it.

Although Panzerkrieg covers more familiar ground than most of its fellow Order of Battle campaigns, it offers up a fresh challenge to even veteran players. Of course, many players may have been looking forward to fighting through some of the most iconic battles of the war, like Sevastopol, Kharkov, and Stalingrad within the Order of Battle system. The series continues to deliver one of the best, most polished versions of the tried and true Panzer General flavor of wargaming to date. I recommend this campaign DLC for anyone who enjoys the game, just be prepared for some stiff resistance from the Soviets!

Available directly from Matrix/Slitherine through this link or on Steam.

 - Joe Beard

Order of Battle: Burma Road is the latest campaign add-on for the ever expanding Order of Battle family developed by The Aristocrats. Ear...

Order of Battle: Burma Road Order of Battle: Burma Road

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Order of Battle

Order of Battle: Burma Road is the latest campaign add-on for the ever expanding Order of Battle family developed by The Aristocrats. Earlier this year I reviewed OOB: Kriegsmarine, which saw the player take on another side of the war not seen too often in wargames. Although Kriegsmarine was forced by practicality to move from historical naval actions to fictional Nazi pipe-dreams rather quickly, this new DLC featuring the British Commonwealth forces is loaded to the brim with historical, yet often forgotten, battlefields. 

Although I consider myself a WW2 history buff, I must admit that this theater was one I knew almost nothing about going in. I knew the British had to fight throughout the region to defend India and other holdings, but I couldn't have named a single important battle. Imagine my surprise when halfway through the campaign I take a break from fighting off the Japanese to visit Bombay where I'm tasked with tracking down and arresting Ghandi! Not the kind of thing you expect to see in a wargame. However, I enjoyed the change of pace, and the history lesson attached.

Unlike some of the other campaigns, Burma Road doesn't seem to add many new features to the overall game structure. The only significant difference I noticed was a more extensive use of friendly AI units than I've seen in the other campaigns (though I haven't played them all just yet). This fits thematically, since the Commonwealth forces were made of units from many different nationalities. Your core of British regulars will often find themselves fighting alongside various colonial forces, sometimes under your direct control, and sometimes not.  You can also add some of the weaker colonial infantry to your core units at a cheap price, or get a nice splash of flavor by adding a unit of Gurkhas to your team. There are also SAS and SBS units to unlock, and all the British machines of war you know and love: Spitfires, Crusaders, and heavy artillery are all on tap.

While this campaign does not shake up the core gameplay much, the scenarios available should please any fans of previous OOB installments. The rough terrain of southeast Asia makes for a tricky battlefield where putting units in the right positions is key to making them useful. Jungles, swamps, and hills are prominent on many of the maps, which can make even a large battlefield feel rather cramped. Frontage becomes a critical issue and you will not always have the option to make a flanking maneuver, unless you are willing to send a unit through the jungle, which may reduce its cohesion. You can, and must, use this to your advantage as well. In many of the scenarios you facing an onslaught of Japanese units that outnumber your troops. Setting up a line of defense on tactically smart ground will keep your boys in the fight longer, and save resources for upgrades instead of replacements.

I found the actual objectives of the missions to be varied and interesting. Most missions will start you off with one objective, then throw some new twist at you midway through. Your decision will usually be to determine what share of your forces you want to dedicate to different sections of the battlefield. It's not uncommon to be defending in one area and attacking in another. Given the heavy amounts of jungle on most maps, you will also want to send out fighters and scout cars to do reconnaissance when you can spare them. Fighting every enemy unit is usually not necessary, and it can make more sense to maneuver around difficult spots to complete your goals with minimal losses.

This campaign is focused primarily on ground and air forces, with naval units only making occasional appearances. I found that ruling the skies was always very important, if not particularly challenging. The Japanese have some deadly tactical bombers that will inflict a lot of casualties on your forces if you don't take them down quickly. This is pretty easy to accomplish though, since your Spitfires and Hurricanes can make quick work of the Japanese fighters and then go after the bombers. You can also pick up some experienced squadrons by completing bonus objectives. One is the American Flying Tigers, which can be added to your force to make it even more culturally diverse. 

Overall, I found this to be a solid addition to the Order of Battle line up. While it doesn't shake things up too much, it takes a proven formula and uses it to explore a less well known section of the war. No one would have been shocked if The Aristocrats had visited the old standards like Normandy, Barbarossa, or Bastogne first, but I'm glad they are taking the road less traveled. This game play, if you are the type who enjoys it like me, is perfectly suited to tackling so many small and medium sized sections of the war. A North Africa and Mediterranean campaign would fit it like a glove, for example. Final verdict: keep the campaigns coming, I think this game still has a lot of room to grow.