Even More Wargames
Hailed by many to be the real deal of operational level wargames, an opinion I don’t share but can’t help to understand nonetheless. A game engine so powerful it can recreate conflicts from the age of gunpowder all the way to the war in the gulf. What it is, is the ultimate definition of a “traditional wargame”. Its UI is somewhat obtuse by today’s standards (even if the game came out in 2017) but few other games can say that within its content pack lives 200 different scenarios. Some, like the Normandy landings, can last for hundreds of turns. It’s not as detailed as War in the East but it sure is powerful for those who are imaginative enough to create their own scenarios.
Cauldrons of War is weird and delightful. On one hand, it’s a really different kind of game from what I’m used to and if something is new, it usually excites me. On the other hand, it’s so fast-paced and so simple I tend to lose interest in the campaign I’m playing currently and every time I boot the game up I start a new one. The game even describes itself as a “turn-based strategic wargame you will launch whenever you want your WW2 shot but don’t have time for a monster strategy game”. It’s a nice mix between a choose your own misadventure World War 2 game paired up with a turn-based, grand strategy with some superficial management when it comes to battles. It gives you the feeling of being in Berlin or Moscow making high-level, strategic decisions without all the fluff and micromanagement games like Hearts of Iron entail. Speaking of which…
Similar games: Cauldrons of War Stalingrad.
For a more grounded approach to the military nature of the second world war, the previous entry is probably the most enthralling. But ease of accessibility, a metric ton of options for what-if-scenarios and focus on production create a fertile ground on which to grow your own adventures. HoI IV might be overstepping the ridiculous barrier but few games allow players the freedom to take minor nations and turn them into world powers in a couple of years. Conniving diplomats, military genius, and production might be the names of the game. The constant flow of DLC is doing wonders to keep the game fresh. New units, new focus trees, new features, and mechanics overhauls make Hearts of Iron IV the ultimate GRAND strategy for the Second World War.
Other similar games: In the series, the third is the one who focuses mostly on warfare and is a micromanager’s dream, so if you’re that kind of player, you should go with that. Players wanting to go back to the previous world war should go instead with Darkest Hour: A Hearts of Iron Game and put their colonial ambitions to the test.
“Hold on!” I hear you say! “What do you mean, Armoured Brigade is one of the best World War II strategy games of all time? I thought AB sole focus was on the Cold War and the hypothetical invasion of western Europe by the Soviet Union?”. My dear reader, you’re absolutely correct, however(!), K-Taco, the man behind the breathtaking mod “AB 1943” single-handed rekindle my interest for this game by dismantling the basis of Armoured Brigade, taking out the Cold War and stuffing it to the brim with mid-20th-century hardware and infantry formations. Describing the mod like this is a disservice to the work done by K-Taco. At the time I’m writing this piece, AB 1943 already features the US, British, Russian, and German forces with hundreds of units, with sprites meticulously designed to enhance even further the focus AB 1943 is putting on infantry combat. The best news is that K-Taco is far from over, a recent post on its mod page in the Steam Workshop, announced that he’s currently working in a new faction and in a not-too-distant future he’s getting busy with campaigns and scenarios.
Other similar games: Command Ops 2.
It’s Panzer General but new-ish! Yes… I know Panzer Corps II is already out and that less aware customers might be tempted to get it. Hear me out first and allow yours truly to steer you back into the first one. The Gold Edition has hundreds of detailed scenarios and units, covering pretty much every aspect of the war from accurate, real-life events to “what if” scenarios such as “Sea Lion” (Invasion of the British Isles by Germany). It’s another classical beers and pretzels, a turn-based affair that has players moving abstract unit formations across wide swaths of maps conquering pre-assigned victory locations. Panzer Corps comes swinging with hundreds of scenarios and thousands of units, each one with its own stats and nicely drawn sprites. It also has more than a dozen campaigns that can be played one after another, making Panzer Corps one of the most comprehensive and feature-complete games in the market. This is also one of those that usually go on sale and can be found on bundles at Fanatic and it will cost pennies. For the amount of content provided, it sounds like a fantastic deal to me.
Another entry-level wargame that’s always ranking high on any “beginners guide”. In fact, I started playing this game in 2017 and I remember penning some thoughts into paper on how great it was for someone starting out, which was my case. Unlike many other genres, wargaming, and strategy gaming as a whole can be a hard hobby to get into and might take more effort to learn. It also doesn’t help that UIs are historically bad and engines old and outdated. Fortunately, Battle Academy took a more modern approach of simplifying rules and the UI to the bare minimums. Sure, it doesn’t even come close to games like WDS Squad Battles in terms of realism but if you’re just getting started, then it doesn’t get any easier than Battle Academy.
Other similar games: Battle Academy 2: Eastern Front.
To me, this is what ArmComII does better, by being not only tactical in a military sense of problem-solving, but also tugging at those dormant, hidden locations within our brains that stimulate the imagination. I’ve read that understanding a game in this style is like slowly turning into Neo from the matrix, creating scenes from strings of letters and numbers. I would argue that it’s more like reading a book, where you create your own mental image of what you’re reading. Reading most reviews, you could be excused by scoffing at it, dismissing it based on its looks alone, but behind the ASCII aesthetic lies a fantastic tank sim/roguelike/turn-based wargame unlike any other in the market.
Other similar games: Not one!
It seems such an obvious concept that it boggles the mind on how it was never done before. Use the radio to command the soldiers fighting in the front lines. Use only their voice lines to keep track of what’s going on and to delegate new tasks and orders. Here’s what I wrote about it a couple of months back- “The game is intense, loud, chaotic and stressful, perfectly capturing the feeling of helplessness of a commander relaying orders unto the front-line without actually being able to physically impact the fight going on on the ground”. Also, the fact that this game can be played with a microphone, yelling orders at units under fire makes for a very peculiar, unique experience.
Other similar games: It’s also unique!