Wargame: European Escalation – A Battle Report

By Phill Cameron on May 15th, 2012 at 1:00 pm.


Wargame: European Escalation snuck up on me like a Delta Squad stealthing around the side of the map in a pair of Chinooks. The dull, heavy register of the rotors sounded a rhythmic beat that went utterly unnoticed by the net of Luchs Recon Vehicles that I’d spread like an ill-repaired net across my game-spotting flanks. Which is to say that I didn’t hear about it until a good month after it was released, both because my friends who play strategy games are useless, and no one seemed to have covered it. But once it landed that surgical strike on my wide-open brain, it was difficult to understand why there weren’t people on nearby hilltops, shouting about how great it was. It looks beautiful, has unique, interesting battle mechanics, and a meta-game of deck building that makes each encounter different, thanks to the units that people bring to the game.

It’s time to talk about those encounters, and you shake you by the lapels. This is why Wargame is worthy of your attention.

Now that the game has been updated with Comp Stomp, Siege mode, and seven new maps to expand the already reasonable roster of lovely terrain to blow up and litter with tank carcasses. So I decided to pull a few friends together, put them on either side of a bitter feud, and see if I can’t show you, through the medium of violence and war, exactly why Wargame is such a joy to play.

We’re playing on Summer Night, one of the new maps that’s a little on the smaller side, and while it defaults to a 1v1, it worked perfectly well with a 2v2. From the sky, it looks a little something like this:

Reds are dirty communist PACT, and Blue are lovely, capitalist NATO forces. That’s the kind of ideology at play here, for all you exposition fans. Anyway, the map is littered with control zones, which would be the odd grey shapes with silly military names like ‘Echo’ and ‘Delta’. The numbers are how much they’re worth to you, in deployment points. Those let you bring in more troops faster, but don’t actually get you any closer to victory. And those reinforcement arrows, thrusting deep into the control zones, let you bring in troops to those zones directly. I have lovely dreams about those long, thrusting arrows, framed by the beautiful curves of rolling hills, and lewd swell of turgid rivers… Ahem.

Victory is achieved by blowing up and generally killing the enemy. We went to 4000 points, although the upper limit of Wargame is 6000. Each team starts with that many points on the battlefield, divvied up between the players. We did a 2v2, so that’s 2000 points each. To win, we have to destroy 4000 points worth of the opponents stuff. It’s pretty simple, really. But what it means for the game is that you begin to worry more about staying alive than simply killing stuff. You can’t just throw in resources and hope for the best, because if you lose them, you are going down. What’s even more important to the mindset of playing this game is that valuable units – such as good command units – must be kept alive at all costs, because their points value is huge. It’s something that bypasses some beginners, but is critical to making sensible tactical decisions as you play.

The generals in this bitter conflict are as follows: On the PACT side we have myself and Stalin’s Ghost (perhaps appropriately), otherwise known as Greg, a founding member of Hero Squad and jaded Planetside vet. And on the NATO side we have Alethron, or Ben, one time Blood Bowl Divisions of Death Grand Champion, and his stalwart companion Heliosicle, or Louis, who’s played some Men of War and thinks it’s actually jolly good.

There’s a very good reason that I want to play PACT, by the way.This is that very good reason:

That is a TDS-1 Buritano, and it’s hell’s wrath strapped to the back of a truck. A truly ridiculous salvo of rockets that can destroy even the most powerful of tanks if they’re bunched in the firing solution.

The idea is that we place those horrible trucks into the trees near where we think the fight is going to go down, and once the enemy is in place, we unleash that horrendous firey death on the unsuspecting NATO battle tanks.

And that fight is probably going to take place on Echo. So I’m sending my main force there, while I send a few helicopters full of Vysadkari and Spetznaz infantry down the right flank to hide in the trees at Delta, in the hope that, when they inevitably take it, they can intercept and generally annoy and frustrate any troops they bring in to reinforce there.

So while I’m doing that, Greg shores up the right flank at Golf and Hotel and we just hope that they don’t have a similar idea.

Turns out they had a similar idea.

The first problem is that Heliosicle sends a full fleet of gunships and troop helicopters of his own down to Delta, and my guys get completely decimated, with chopper crashes and desperate flight into the trees only to get cut down by Delta Force making the whole thing a sorry show. A brave six Vysadkari survive, though, so at least there’s that. Not that six guys is ever going to do much.

And, at this point, this is how things are looking. Which is like a grim weather forecast:

The second problem, you see, is on the left flank, where things aren’t holding up as intended. I’ve made it to Echo at a good speed, with my tanks thundering down the roads, churning up tarmac, but just as I arrive I realise that, well, Echo has bugger all for cover. I need trees and hills to hide my tanks in, and all I’ve got are wide-open fields. It could be fatal to be out in the open like this.

And then Alethron’s tanks show up, and his tanks are better than my tanks.

I’ve got a force full of T-55s (15 points), T-64s (30 points) and a few T-72s (45 points), whereas he’s full of MBT-70s (75 points), Abrams (110 points) and more than a little artillery support. While I can get a ratio where I kill one of his tanks for every three he kills of mine and still get more points than him, I just don’t have the numbers or the support to do that kind of damage.

So we unleash the Buritano from some nearby trees, in a hope that it might turn the course of the fight. It doesn’t quite manage it, but it does make Alethron withdraw, and I’m able to pull my forces back to the safety of a nearby wood, to regroup and resupply – rushing in trucks to get the tanks back online. It’s at this point I do a tally and realise that one of the NATO artillery shells managed to blow up my Command Unit, ruining my chances of controlling Delta (you need one to hold a point) and netting them 200 points.

Command Units are Expensive. Losing them is a major problem.

With the failure of my little foray into Delta, NATO forces secure it without any opposition, while I’m forced to retreat further back from Echo once they figure out which wood I’m hiding in and start shelling it with artillery. I’m on the other side of the river now, with just a single bridge to make it across.

At this point they have 2179 points, to our 1088. Which, as you might assume, isn’t exactly promising.

With Echo temporarily theirs, and a proper forward operating base in Delta, they start to gather their forces to mount an assault on Hotel. Luckily Greg has a bunch of recon units littering the countryside, and – thanks to their huge spotting range – they give my Malka artillery something to shoot at. It’s pretty hilarious watching tanks start to falter and try to run away once a few hundred pounds of explosives fall on their heads. It’s working as I’d hoped!

This is one of my favourite things that Wargame does, and it does it so well. It’s not out and out action all the time, but instead a series of skirmishes that have very valid options presented that preserve troops and don’t lead to the complete destruction of one side or the other. Retreating is always an option, because these control points aren’t the be all and end all, as they are in so many other RTS games. It’s better to sacrifice a position than a bunch of troops. Not to mention the sheer size of the maps means that there’s a lot of room to maneuver in. Making a huge detour to attack from a flank is almost always a possibility, especially when you know that enemy spotters and recon are generally only going to be able to see you in the places where they’ll expect you to be. This is an RTS with tanks in, that also has stealth going on.

And yes, we’re in a lull, here, where both sides have been bloodied and forced to regroup. The next moves will be crucial. While they have got an offensive to press, they also haven’t encountered the body of Greg’s forces, and I get the impression they know that. That’s why they won’t make any sudden moves, for fear of being caught out. But with the gathering front headed to Hotel, that presents Greg with the opportunity to move in on Delta.

While I lick my wounds on the left, Greg makes plays his hand, pushing forward with a mix of troop transports, tanks and the odd Havoc helicopter, just as my artillery finishes laying down some explosive psychological warfare on the NATO tanks. They’re retreating, and their retreat is met with the full force of our attacking units.

Retreat is a disaster for the NATO forces, with almost all of that force destroyed. It’s a gaping hole in their lines, leaving Greg the opening to push on an almost undefended Delta. Unfortunately they manage to sneak their Saracen Command Unit out and across to Echo, depriving us of a vital 200 points. A critical 200 points. It could be the move that decides the game.

Scores: They have 3475, we have 3028.

The battlefield:

With the game this close, losing even a few helicopters and a tank could throw the game for us. Likewise, if we can grab a Command unit we’ll close the gap between us, and it’ll be everything to play for. This means that everyone starts acting as if they’re leading troops while babysitting a six week old, all orders hushed, and every action riddled with anxiety.

So we do the only logical thing: we fire the Buritano in the vague direction of where we think the Command Unit at Delta is. Brilliant Tactical Minds of the 21st Century.

It doesn’t work. We don’t hit anything at all. But they probably know where our artillery is.

With things as they stand, we’ve got rivers on every line. That means that land assaults are pretty much out, if only because bottle necking your troops like that is going to lead to a slaughter, and a free victory for the other side. Similarly, it’s at that stage of the game where everyone has more than enough AA to deal with any helicopter assaults. Which doesn’t necessarily stop the NATO guys trying.

They send around a pair of Chinooks, presumably laden with Delta Force commandos, but Greg has a pair of Havoc helicopters in the region, forcing them to retreat back the way they came. It’s a constant game of chicken, trying to get one side or the other to commit to an assault, and allow the defenders to cut them down. That seems to be the only way this was going to end.

At this point we’ve almost closed the gap on the victory, getting within only 200 points of the final goal, with them at less than 50. That means that if we can somehow get a Command Unit, we win. But if they get almost any unit, they win.

Greg gathers some troop transports, sends them down the right flank in the hope that they haven’t defended their home base, because that’s sure to have a bunch of juicy artillery and more than enough Command Units (1) to win us the game.

Turns out, however, they just called in a bunch of Leopard Tanks as reinforcements. They’re rolling through the fields, guns hot. Caught out in the open, Gregs troops are cut down before they can even hit anything with their rocket launchers. The point ticker ticks over 4000 points, and NATO wins the game.

Balls!

NATO: 4052 PACT: 3601

And that is how it went down.

Wargame: European Escalation is out now.

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31 Comments »

  1. Latterman says:

    You make me want to play this again. For some reason I despise playing randoms but up against the various RPS-types was always great fun.

    Also this might be the only game where I’m confident enough to say that you wouldn’t have lost with me on your side.

    - Wolfenswan

    PS:
    that having said we have both a ingame RPS “clan”, a Steam group (Rock, paper, Stalin) and a thread in the forums: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/forums/showthread.php?3151-Wargame-European-Escalation-unofficial-RPS-group-RockPaperStalin&p=125803&highlight=Wargame#post125803

    it would be ace to get some games going with other rps folks.

    • Sweedums says:

      a member of rock paper stalin joined one of my hosted games once, but left while still in the lobby :(

      when i get home for the summer i might sign up, i absolutely love this game. I’ve taken to going almost entirely infantry, motostrelki kill EVERYTHING if you get em in close combat fighting, and are dead cheap, their cost effectiveness can be staggering.

      mixing an infantry force with a few BMP 685′s for the ability to push usually works out rather well for me.

  2. Tiax says:

    Guys, it’s great that such articles are made on this brilliant RTS, but a Wot I Think would really be *the* thing to improve its visibility !

  3. buzzmong says:

    War, never been so much fun….

    It’s a good game though.

  4. Eraysor says:

    It’s a superb game. People complain that the campaign is hard but when I lose I always want to retry the mission, so they must have got something right!

  5. brat-sampson says:

    I swear this game came out back in February or something, and i saw it on Steam but heard *nothing* about it from anyone. Eventually in April there may have been a couple of reviews, but that’s it. Weird as by all accounts it’s a great game.

  6. Dominic White says:

    At long last – I’ve been asking why RPS have been silent on Wargame for *months* now. The coverage of the game basically went:

    This game has been announced!
    This game has a trailer!
    This game has a beta!



    This game that got released ages back and went unreviewed by everyone has gotten a huge pile of free DLC!


    Oh yeah, here’s an after-action report!

    Why the hell has PC games journalism completely failed here?

    • Latterman says:

      It’s true, especially as the playerbase has stagnated, with a lot of high level players. A free weekend or a proper sale (let’s hope for summer) could help revitalizing it.

      • battles_atlas says:

        Yeah I waited in vain for such a thing. RPS’ lack of a WIT is rather bizarre. Heard enough now to buy it, but I still think it was a curious dereliction of duty by the site.

  7. purdz says:

    I played with a few of the other RPS guys before, but some of you have probably played me as i’ve had many OOOOOHH RPS guys!! comments when joining a game.

    The game is brilliant. Im not so into the 1v1 ranked at the moment as its hard to know how to play properly 1v1 on some of the maps that dont feature in the skirmishes too often.

    BUT multiplayer in general is a LOT of fun once you start building up your troop rosters and unlocking newer units you can start working out and building some nicely balanced forces suited for any scenario i.e. air cavalry for big maps and sneak attack tactics or armour heavy decks for wide open maps such as the one show in the review above.

    I’d like to point out that this is not a game about spamming units, while it can be effective against n00bs as soon as you go against someone who knows what they are doing they will completely destroy you, so it is definitely about force composition rather than who has the most little men running around.

    If you haven’t played it yet you should.

  8. Wild_Marker says:

    I’d like to see some coordination from Rock Paper Stalin. Currently I’ve never managed to get a game going with any of them. Is there a particular time you guys meet up?

    • Latterman says:

      Unfortunately not, we are in a bit of disarray.

      Check the thread linked further above, i’m trying to get something organized.

  9. wodin says:

    Well I’m a wargamer and it did nothing for me. hough I haven’t played it the pre release vids put me off no end, especially the Infantry swarm. A wargame must have solid Infantry mechanics for me to want.The game has been covered here, possibly by Flare Path. Though maybe it needed to be mentioned outside of flare path due to it’s mainstream leanings.

    Thing is any game that really requires Multiplayer to keep the interest up usually has a limited shelf life. Frozen Synapse anyone? It has to be a massive success to keep people player for longer than 6 months or so or keep enough people playing that the servers are busy with newcomers etc.

  10. mentor07825 says:

    This game is a lot of fun, and definately worth your time.

  11. Caleb367 says:

    That’s a Buratino, not a Buritano. You shall serve on the firing line for this and hope you redeem yourself in the Emperor’s glory!

    Wait, wrong franchise.

  12. Nallen says:

    I was left somewhat confused by this game. By which I mean completely confused.

    Is there an RPS Center For People Who Can’t Tactics Good And Wanna Learn To Blow Stuff Up Good Too?

  13. Real Horrorshow says:

    Could you upload the replay, Phill?

    http://www.wargamereplays.org/ works

  14. Fumarole says:

    One of these days someone will use the word decimate in its original meaning. I can dream.

  15. Bracket says:

    I made it about half way through the single player campaign. T’was very enjoyable but then I got bored on one of the defence style missions. Never played an RTS online, always feared getting a drubbing. Might give it a go after reading this. Chinooks are awesome!

    • Alfius says:

      The focus on the team effort really sets Wargame apart from other online strat/tactics games. Best played with a group of mates via skype or similar, even so you occasionally find a PUG which cooperates pretty well.

  16. psaldorn says:

    I got this recently, after the RPS background became a giant advert for it (yeah, really stealth) and i heard it was made by the chaps that made RUSE.

    Now.. I played the beta for that and was underwhelmed, perhaps I was actually overwhelmed leading to misunderstanding and over-misunderestimation. Thus, I never purchased.

    But seeing the more modern setting, the wide selection of hardware on offer and gratuitous artillery in the trailer, I was sold.

    The main interface is somewhat.. clunksome. Small buttons reminiscent of MFD buttons, entirely unsuited to playing on a large TV. But the engine, gorgeous! And the sounds and explosions are great.

    I was somewhat negligent of the mechanics.. being able to buy new deck entries mid-mission thereby allowing you to access more units. Also the fact the unit counts carried over from mission to mission. Just as I became skilled with Luchs and Leopards.. Oh. The cupboard is empty.

    Unfortunately, I only learned of the mid-mission unlocks in the next mission, thereby having to resort to herculean feats of frugality to win the remainder of the mission I was on.

    I genuinely sit, rapt, watching my TOW missiles squirm around, seeking out their crunchy, armadillion quarries. Often to rage and rant as it ploughs harmlessly into some German farmers awkwardly placed hedgerow.

    I’ve said enough. A recommendation from me.

  17. Darthy says:

    Its been out this long and there’s no demo? :(

  18. Malakie says:

    I had never heard of this game either until one day accidentally finding it.. Now I cannot stop playing it.. THIS is a game worth buying.

    • Man Raised by Puffins says:

      I had heard of it but completely forgot about it until it popped up on Three Moves Ahead, which lured me in by comparing the setting to Red Storm Rising and Third World War: The Untold Story (both of which were much drooled over during my mis-spent wargeek teens). Suffice to say, despite being utterly rubbish at it, I’ve never regretted my purchase for a second.