Wargame: Of Wargame, Wargames and WarGames

There’s a game we’ve not said much about in the past few months. And, well, that’s a shame, because it’s a great game, albeit with a forgettable name: Wargame: European Escalation. It’s the Cold War sequel to the RPS-beloved RUSE, and Wargame is – perhaps surprisingly – one of the strongest contenders for RTS of the year. And so it was with some urgency that we sent RPS chum Joe Robinson to investigate its workings, and to talk to its creators, Eugen Systems.

You know, there wasn’t as much wargaming in the 1983 film WarGames as I thought there would be… just a lot of running around and dramatic cuts to a countdown clock. Nor did videogames have many wargames in 1983. In all, it was a disappointing year for wargamers. Arguably the first ‘true’ war videogame was actually the 1984 title inspired by the film, but the genre itself didn’t truly kick off until a hundred years later, in the Nineties.

The “Nineties” was the time where all those classics that wargamers cherish began to appear: Close Combat, Panzer Generals (even People’s Generals), Steel Panther… In many ways that was a golden iron age for strategy games, as you also had the first Civilization (and other 4X) games, Westwood working their magic with Dune 2 and later C&C, Blizzard’s Warcraft and Starcraft, Total Annihilation and many others, lost to the mists of time.

Anyway, our subject isn’t the peculiar lineage of the base-building RTS, but the wargame: stupidly in-depth affairs with cryptically-named units and surprising emergent immersion, wonderfully grand in scale (usually), and often worryingly ugly in their low tech production. Wargames made anyone who could get to grips with them – which, let’s face it, wasn’t everyone – feel like true armchair generals. Wargame: European Escalation (released back in February) is an attempt to recapture some of that glory, but in a form rather more recognisable to the contemporary eye.

“Wargame stands in the old tradition of the wargames (that’s why we’ve chosen that name). This means, a game with a tremendous amount of units, with a huge quantity of stats for each one,” explains Alexis Le Drassey, Co-founder of Eugen Systems.

All of the classic wargames listed previously would count as Alexis’ favourites, and all have contributed to the design DNA of European Escalation. As a real-time game, it’s closer to Close Combat than anything else, but the ‘scale’ is definitely on par with Panzer Generals, with maps that can span anything up to 150 square kilometres. Enormous! If you’re looking for a more modern comparison, try thinking of Men of War but again on that much larger scale, which is actually quite apt, considering Alexis’ view on the turn-based formula:

“Turn based games are kind of old fashion now and inappropriate when it comes to multiplayer, which is maybe a reason why they have declined. A more dynamic, tactics-lead experience appeals to a larger audience.”

The recent successes of franchises like the Men of War series would seem to support that, but it’s hard to argue that the genre is in decline, especially with companies like Paradox Interactive around. Wargames may not be mainstream, but there are just as many attempts at the genre as there was back the exotic Nineties. Bizarrely, Alexis also thinks that modern wargames are more “too hardcore” compared to fifteen years ago. Hard to argue when you look at, say, Company of Heroes, perhaps but Hearts of Iron on the other hand… Yes. He might have a point.

Eugen System’s angle of attack is not all about nostalgia though – like any keen developer they want to innovate and improve on the foundations of their genre as well. Even the studio’s previous game, 2010’s R.U.S.E., was about doing things differently, and something that was not quite in-line with current trends, as Le Drassey explained:

“RUSE was more about creating a new way to play a traditional RTS. In RUSE, the base building is central to the gameplay, because it’s a way to look at your opponent… The traditional RTS also compresses time and distance in order to create a very dynamic experience. [With RUSE] we’ve kept the whole RTS formula and changed the way players look at the game and deal with the pace: You don’t need a big APM (action per minutes), which is not the case traditionally.”

RUSE veterans will recognise what he’s talking about here: it was a game with a slow pace, where reconnaissance and planning amounted to more than clicks per minute. In this sense it echoed wargames, while nonetheless playing out satisfyingly in real-time – making for super multiplayer.

“Indeed,” says Le Drassey, “a good RTS player has to play the fastest. We think that our pace, based on analysing rather than pure speed opens a lot of possibility to create new strategy experiences. That is exactly, what we’ve done with Wargame: European Escalation. We’ve dug into the wargame genre.”

Wargame is a multiplayer focused title – Eugen were clear on that from the start, but the main draw for me personally, and the thing that helps me get invested in it the most is the ‘deck’ set-up of choosing your armies. The game is set during the Cold War, specifically the years 1975-1985, and there are three hundred and sixty-one historically accurate units in the game. From Panzergrenadiers, to Green Jackets and Spetznaz, from Apache’s to Soviet Mi-xx gunship helicopters, Sheridans, Challengers and T-62 battle tanks… each of the eight nations (four for NATO, four for WARSAW PACT) has a range of units in their rosters that reflect their historical combat doctrines – a good mixture of the mass armies of WW2 but the cutting edge of modern combat. Impressive stuff. And it can all be folded into the armies you choose for the battlefield.

Sadly you don’t get access to everything at once, but we can understand why multiplayer games use progression systems and unlocks. It’s because it’s deeply fashionable. Anyway, you earn “command stars” through single-player and multi-player, which are then used to unlock whatever units you want from the game’s library. When you unlock enough units though, that’s where the real strategy begins. In multiplayer, you have a limit to how many units you can take with you in a ‘deck’, and even then units are split in categories (Support, Tanks, Infantry, etc…) and there are additional limits there as well. With all those units though, and all those different doctrines, you can really create armies that suite your chosen play-style. I’m partial to airborne infantry myself, with a focus on mobility and precision strikes as opposed to raw armoured muscle.

Wargame only really has a couple of differing game modes, but the eleven currently available maps more than make up for it as each one is very different. The basic gameplay revolves around controlling control zones dotted about the map, which net you points to requisition more units and thus provide natural focus points for conflict; however each map is vastly different, and so each needs different tactics – more so than what you would normally see map-to-map in other games. My favourite example, in one map all of the control zones are in one half of the map, leaving the other side completely open – I’ll let you mull of the strategic implications of that one. Another is a map divided by impassable rivers, where you can only cross via bridge and all you need is to set-up an ambush in the forest next to it…. And of course there was that one time where I set up in the forest next to a spawn point, but I admit, that one was a little cheap.

There’s a lot more you can deconstruct here that we haven’t even begun to talk about – the supply and logistics elements, realism vs. simulation, persistent armies, Wargame’s surprising lack of environment destruction – which is a bizarre considering how good the technology behind the game is, and in my opinion a must for a wargame of this day and age.

But it’s not exactly complete. Le Drassey said we can expect a content update mid-April with new maps, modes, upgrades and even a more fleshed out CompStomp offering.

Yes, it’s been a long time since Close Combat and Panzer Generals – the strategy genre has lost and gained much over the past twenty years, but I like to think Wargame serves as a beacon – a beacon to a lost age of 2D hexes, and beacon towards a new wave of titles that can capture that ‘purer’ form of strategy. Don’t get me wrong, I love Total War, and I have great affection for Company of Heroes, (Space 4X’s are my secret crush…) but if I were in the mood for asinine marketing phrases – I don’t know, something like “the thinking man’s strategy-game” – then I’d apply them to Wargame. And – unlike so much hyperbolic rubbish shovelled from the mouthpieces of publishers – it would actually be true.

(Here’s some random internet dude’s video of the artillery in the game:)

And to finish off as I started – as if anyone is actually interested – there was a 2008 Direct-to-DVD sequel made of WarGames, called WarGames: The Dead Code. It’s terrible and doesn’t quite make sense, but the tongue-in-cheek references and subtle homages to the original film were kind of amusing, and you at least got to see the main character playing a wargame… as well as a build of Stargate Worlds, apparently. Also, Claudia Black. I was watching it for research purposes.


  1. caddyB says:

    Is this guy playing minecraft at the same time or something? While shelling the city?

  2. Nallen says:

    I’ve had this for a while and I’m yet to really understand what I’m doing. Perhaps I shall have a look on YouTube for some tutorials. After I finish ME3…and Anno 2070.

  3. Zeewolf says:

    Regarding the intro: There were quite a lot of wargames in the eighties, actually. A lot of them were turn-based, inspired by boardgames. Sid Meier made a good number of them before becoming “famous”, for instance.

    • Richie Shoemaker says:

      Chris Crawford’s Eastern Front on the Atari was ground-breaking. Then there was R.T. Smith’s stuff, Arnhem, Vulcan… he went on to do Total War of course. I had a great time playing 80s wargames before leaving the genre behind to play Doom in the 90s.

      I’ve just done some digging around and it seems PC gaming in the 80s was 50% wargame, 20% adventure/RPG, 25% space and 5% coin-op conversions. My figures may be a little off on account of being completely made-up and viewed through a rose-tinted piece of perspex taped to the screen.

    • Troy Goodfellow says:

      Great to see Joe writing here, but yeah, the 1980s were full of computer wargames culminating the triumph of Harpoon in 1988 – you don’t get that without a lot of great stuff before.

      Crawford’s very early Eastern Front and Legionnaire, Grigsby’s early work, Chuck Kroegel doing a lot of Civil War games for SSI, Avalon Hill games ported to computer (usually poorly), R.T. Smith of course and the first Universal Military Simulator (which was neither universal nor a simulator, but did have a battle from the English Civil War.)

      It is true that many of these are clustered in the 1987+ period, which is why it doesn’t do us much good to think about decades as 80s, 90s, etc.

      As for the content, I approve of Joe’s message.

  4. Some_Guy says:

    How does this compare to world in conflict? as that was a great game.

    • 4026 says:

      It’s a sight more realistic (it has cover and supply mechanics), and has way, way more unit variety. But you’re probably on more or less the right track.

      Probably the biggest difference is the lack of off-map support powers. In WiC, a lot of the dynamism relied on calling in airstrikes and barrages and so on to break up enemy lines. In W:EE*, you have to just rely on your own ability to mount a decent attack, or use the vast space the maps give you and flank them.

      Oh, and the victory conditions are different: in WiC, you won by holding command points; in W:EE, you win by killing more of the enemy’s units than they kill of yours. The ramifications of that are actually pretty huge. The team with fewer command points but an IRON DEFENSE can beat out the zerging team with massive map control.

      * – Serious, beardy wargamers do not laugh at this comical acronym. Neither should you.

    • Mavvvy says:

      To be fair to each game you couldn’t compare them really the, only thing these games have in common is the setting. It would be like trying to compare company of heroes and men of war. Think wic if it was bigger, heavier focus on recon, less rock paper scissors with units, where a small well supplied force can hold its own against a larger strung out force. Supplies are key!!

    • Caleb367 says:

      Much better than World in Conflict, imho. WiC is quicker and easier to play, and prone to rush tactics. Try rushing in W:EE and you’ll get wasted in no time. I’ve had a blast in skirmish vs. AI – which is actually quite decent – in setting up infantry ambushes in forests and buildings, trying to cut off enemy supply lines by conquering reinforcement points, and sometimes getting slaughtered by a well placed artillery strike. Best part of it is that the AI is a devious sneaky bastard and tries to cut YOUR supply lines off too.

    • cassus says:

      I feel that might be the game that’s closest.

      I usually tell people that it feels very much like a really large, real-time version of the board game Memoir ’44. Or other hex based board games, for that matter. There are the same line of sight rules (top of a hill in forest, dudes below need to get really close to spot you. Forest or house between you and enemy and you won’t see them, that sort of thing) and the gameplay feels very familiar if you’ve ever been into board games like that. Or PC games based on those types of board games.

      I really liked this game a whole lot, but competitive online play in RTS’es are basically not happening for me. I’m pretty good at shooters and all types of simulators, but I could never multitask enough to really get good at RTS games. And getting your ass handed to you constantly is a horrible feeling. I’ll give this game props for at least being really slow, and for the fact that laying ambushes and actually using strategy has great value compared to games like SC2 where strategy means very little compared to just all out speed and micromanagement.

      Haven’t checked in for over a month, but the online community a week after launch seemed pretty good. 2000+ players online.

    • 1q3er5 says:

      Just by looking at the videos, hands down WIC still pwns this game graphically. The explosions look lame as hell in W:EE and the fact they all look the same!!! In WIC you have nukes, carpet bombing, napalm, daisy cutters, heavy arty blah blah blah. the smoke, explosion, destruction, ground deformation (craters) in the game are superior. Not saying WIC was perfect, just dam close. I just wish it had the same scope as W:EE. Multiplayer was very satisfying when you had COMPETENT players. I just really want to see a WIC 2 doubt it will happen though.

  5. battles_atlas says:

    So are we getting a WIT on this or what? RPS had gone so quiet on it I’d assumed it turned out rubbish, but apparently not. What are you waiting for? Tell me what to think.

    • Dominic White says:

      It’s doubly sad how little press this has gotten from various sites, because pretty much everyone who played the beta version was singing it’s praises, and then the game comes out and…. nothing. Nobody wants to talk about it, even when pressed. It’s like the entire game reviewing apparatus isn’t configured to accept something like this.

    • Resurgam says:

      I bought it in the first week and I think it’s a great game. However it is quite slow and tactical when compared to a lot of other games and is pretty niche to say the least so i don’t think it is ever going to have a big community.
      For me it’s great and even better than World in Conflict. It really depends on your taste in games. I for one did not like RUSE at all due to its arcadish nature, but this feels more like a sim. There are compromises here and there such as very few one shot kills with vehicles and insanely small fuel tanks but it adds to the strategy for me.

  6. Mordsung says:

    I never got around to playing RUSE, is it, and I assume Wargame, an RTS that is more macro or micro heavy?

    Also, is defensive gameplay a viable method of winning, such as in Supreme Commander 1 and 2?

    • 4026 says:

      It’s totally possible for a defensive team to win (see my earlier post), though not in the same way as in the Supreme Commanders. There’s no base-building in W:EE, so turtling behind a big wall of turrets and shields while your artillery and nukes rain down on the enemy isn’t really an option.

      Wargame doesn’t have a whole lot of micro. You can enable/disable certain of your units’ weapons, which can come in handy in some special cases, but mostly you’ll ignore that and leave them all enabled all the time. You can also toggle the altitude of your helicopters, which is mostly a way to get them out of trouble quickly. That’s about it for micro, really. The relatively sedate pace of the game makes almost everything else about unit control quite relaxed.

      Keeping your supply trucks ferrying back and forth between your depot and your lines is pretty tedious, though.

    • DigitalEccentric says:

      Artillery makes purely-defensive gameplay difficult in both R.U.S.E. and Wargame… although Wargame does have the supply and logistics system that RUSE doesn’t, so if you kept your units in good supply you could in theory withstand some serious bombardment.

      In my experience though you need to do a bit of both. Taking and holding areas and then setting up defensive ambushes are good, but either you or a team mate need to also push out and meet Jerry (or the bear) out in the field.

    • Caleb367 says:

      No microing on Starcraft levels, no, but – unless I’ve managed to not notice that – neither macroing a’la Supreme Commander.
      I’d say that gameplay-wise looks more like the first Dawn of War / Company of Heroes than either Stacraft of Supreme Commander, though – as in, the more objectives you have, the faster resources trickle in, but as you need a command unit to lock down an objective and those are both VERY expensive and frail, you’d do better to expand carefully, choose the next target and be costantly on the watch for sneak attacks – which do happen very often.

      (Besides, you may like those hulking tanks and badass spec-ops, but the units that save the day? Recon. The lowly, cheap, weak recon units are VITAL.)

      • Chimpyang says:

        Micro-ing in W:EE largely consists of:

        1. Dodging Arty fire
        2. ATGM management
        3. Flanking flame-vehicles
        4. Getting vehicles to retreat whilst only showing the enemy your front armour.

      • Mordsung says:

        It’s actually Starcraft and SC2’s style of macro that bugs me. Sure, the game’s have heavy micro, but in the end the macro is what wins or loses games more often than not and I really dislike an RTS where getting a pylon/farm/whatever out 3 seconds earlier in a mirror match means I likely won the match.

        I dislike RTS games that revolve too heavily around perfecting a build order.

  7. AshEnke says:

    The Dead Code is litteraly the worst movie I’ve even seen in my life. I watched it with my wargames-fanboyish eyes, but it was an awful experience.

    • Gnoupi says:

      I was unaware of this until today.

      I will now proceed to wipe my memory of the last 10 minutes, for safety reasons.

  8. Strange_guy says:

    I’ve been a bit intrigued by this game, but I’ve always been a bit wary of pvp RTS even if this one isn’t based on APM, so a content update that adds more for fighting against AI players could get me seriously considering getting it.

  9. mrpier says:

    How is the single-player/skirmish vs AI in this? Is it worth shelling out for if that’s (probably) all you’re going to do with it?

    • DigitalEccentric says:

      The single-player campaign has 22 missions split across five chapters, and I’ve found the AI to get a little punishing the further you go alon in the campaign. There’s no difficulty setting and the AI does use tactics, so it won’t be that easy.

      Not so sure about Skirmish – it’s not a very good mode at the moment as it only does 1v1 so don’t use it much myself, but I’ve found the AI to be as competant as in the single-player.

  10. Calculon says:

    Im wondering if one of the issues regarding publicity/uptake is the game trailers? When released, I checked out a few of the trailers in an attempt to figure out how the game played or what it might be like, and quite frankly, I couldnt make heads or tails of the game. I couldnt figure out if it was supposed to be a tactial overhead view style game, or a first person “Command X division” type of game etc.

    Reading this review, and looking at the video I have to say it looks interesting. I did play RUSE for a while, and enjoyed parts of it but didnt stick with it. The concept of “creating a deck” is very interesting, and if they have improved the gameplay from RUSE it might be worth a shot.

  11. Chimpyang says:

    I feel that some explanation of what the game is to interested parties, and how it works may be necessary here:

    Simply put – the game is between 2 sides – NATO and PACT – in each there are 4 constituent nations (NATO – US, UK, FRA & W. Ger PACT has USSR, Poland, Czechoslovakia and the E. Germans). However, you don’t choose the nations individually, just the side. For both online MP and in the SP campaign, you unlock units groups i.e. the Leopard 2 family of tanks, and further improved units within the group – e.g. Leopard 2 on NATO has 3 variants, and by unlocking the initial family you get the base variant, you can then progress up the ‘family’, unlocking the other variants – which are different/better stat wise, but cost more accordingly. Only when units are unlocked, can they be added to your deck, there is no trialling of units in SP without unlocking it.

    So far – nothing craaaazy right?

    To unlock vehicles – you need “Command Stars”, these can be gained by increasing your level (not ELO rank) in online MP, or by playing through the SP, in which you gain command stars from completing objectives – some of which are devilishly tricky. I wouldn’t worry about unlocking, the advanced/specialised/expensive units require a bit of looking after, so the unlocking introduces you to new units slowly, so you dont end up thinking OMGWTF! How do I look after everything?! I found in both the beta and post release, you can unlock everything you need for 1 side by around level 12-15. After that, its about unlocking strategic flexibility rather than game changing unit types.

    Now – assuming you’re still with me – lets look at the ‘Deck’, with which you decide what units you bring to a game.

    A deck in W:EE, is a combination of up to 25 units of one belligerent (NATO/PACT – no mixing sides in MP) that you can tailor to your own individual specifications. Wargame divides the units of each side into the catagories of: (Logisitics, Recon, Tanks, Infantry [this includes recon INF], Support and Helicopters). When building the deck, you are allowed 5 unit families in each section. (NB not individual units, although some unit families only consist of 1 variant i.e. Challenger 1) Obviously, 6 x 5 = 30 against a cap of 25 means that you will have to find compromises somewhere and different players will choose to skimp in one place to buff up their available options in another.

    Happy? Ok, lets have a look at the units themselves!

    Now, it would be easy to assume that all the units within a certain catagory would work in a similar role – whilst this is true to an extent (a tank is a tank is a tank after all!) the individual stats of the units and the roster of units availalbe give lots of strategic options to the budding generals of each side. e.g. some units are fast but lightly armoured, whereas others are cheap but have poor accuracy

    But chimpyang? How do battles actually work? I hear you ask…well….:

    Battles are currently (pre April 12th update) fought in ranked or unranked mode. In ranked you assemble your team (or yourself), pick a side and search for a game – and you’ll get matched up to others who are also looking for a game (although currently numbers are a bit low and more than 2v2 ranked can be hard ot find) In return, the outcome of the ranked game affects your ELO score (as well as giving you xp). In ranked, the starting deployment points are set and cannot be changed, and the map chosen is at random from a selection of those suitable for the player numbers.

    In unranked, hosts have the option of setting map, number of players (teams can be uneven and still play a balanced game – which will become apparent later) starting deployment points and game mode. At the end – players gain XP (and eventually gain levels for command stars)

    Once the game has started, players have an opportunity to buy units using their starting deployment points and place them within their starting deployment sectors (there can be 1 or more starting sectors, depending on map). Any points unspent will be carried over once the game starts, to be used in calling in reinforcements. More individually powerful/capable units obviously cost more deployment points, so a balance has to be struck of being able to deal with top tier enemy units, and also being able to counter a massed attack (be it land,air, arty etc…). In team games, the deployment points that is set by the host is split evenly between the players on a team – so in a 3000pt 3v3 game – each player recieves 1000 pts to deploy units as he/she sees fit.

    Income within the game is accrued by holding onto command sectors – to capture these, you need a command vehicle – which is classed as a Logistics vehicle – each player recieves a ‘free’ command jeep at the start of the game, and each team (1v1+) must have 1 command vehicle alive at all times or they instantly lose the game (however, at deployment all players must own 1 command vehicle, but in team games, you can lose these without insta losing if your teammates have 1 alive between them). In order to capture a sector, the command vehicle must move there and be stationary within the ‘sector’, once captured, the sector overlapy changes colour and all players in the game can see the sector has been captured. Most sectors will have a value attached to them – showing the number of deployment points they provide to the owner’s team.

    I’m a little unclear about the next bit – but I think the game every 4 seconds counts up the sectors that a team has, and then distributes the income evenly between the team members (so in 1v1, you get all of it…)

    To order in more units – you order things in from reinforcement sectors, which are shown by big arrows attached to the sector – showing you where the reinforcements will come from (all of which can be camped and is a perfectly valid tactic – you should defend your supply routes after all….money you spend camping is money you dont spend at the front line….). There are limits to how many of each unit you can order in (including the initial deployment), generally speaking, the more prototype/expensive/modern units have very low limits (max 2x T80Us per player per game – top teir PACT tank..) whereas cheaper, widely used units have much higher ceilings – to my fading memory….you can get 30+ basic T62s per battle.

    The victory conditions are few at the moment – but the upcoming update promises to add more. Basically speaking, you get points for destroying enemy units, and the most simple game mode (Destruction) ends the game when 1 team surpasses the points limit (also set by the host – but is a minimum of the starting points total and a maximum of starting points total + 1000pts). The team that passes the total usually wins, unless the other team has a score of within 10% of the winning team – in which case it is a draw.

    There is also time based, in which a time limit is set for the game, the team with the highest score at the end of time limit wins.

    Finally – if all enemy command vehicles are destroyed, then the game ends immediately, and the team with command vehicles remaining wins.

    Thats about as much as I can be bothered to write at the moment – sunshine calls!

    TL:DR I love this game, to the extent that I wrote the above in the hope that with some more details on how the game plays, I can persuade more people to buy and play it!

    EDIT : I’d also like to add that screenshot 6 is the only one close to where you’ll be playing the game – you spend a lot of time a couple more steps more zoomed out. The pweddy graphics are a treat in replays though.

    Also – buildings do get destroyed and trees do get run over by vehicles, but you only really notice it in replays – since you’re usually too busy playing. The only thing I can usually notice are tank tracks in fields – great for trying to pre-empt where the enemy tank column might be going!

    • purdz says:

      I’m glad someone wrote all this or I would have had to.

      The game is an absolutely brilliant game. It is perfectly reasonable to expect to lose all your units if you blob like you do in most other strategy games. Multiplayer is absolutely fantastic! Ive played through a few of the SP missions and a couple of ranked games but the more open multiplayer un-ranked games are where for me the fun is to be had.

      Kills are where you get the points that take you closer and closer to victory so its not all about who can take the most territory I’ve won games where we were losing in the territory stakes heavily but the other team neglected to defend their command vehicles miles behind their lines so a recon chopper with a few apaches and a couple of squads of delta force loaded in blackhawks simultaneously killed off the enemies command vehicles thus winning us the game.

      Tactics are key and great fun, as I mentioned rushing headlong into the enemies defenses or neglecting to defend your supply lines or just keep your units motionless in the open are all recipes for disaster.

      Buy this game!

  12. Maldomel says:

    So how about a wot I think, or some more coverage about this game? From what I’ve seen and heard, it’s truly a masterpiece, and I’m quite confused to see that RPS only has one article (which I enjoyed a lot by the way) a couple of months after release on it.

    • Tiax says:

      I second a Wot I Think on this game, it truly deserves more attention.

      Hell, there’s a free DLC coming up in a few days.

  13. DogKiller says:

    Pedantic nitpick: it’s Panzer General and Steel Panthers. I still play the Steel Panthers games for their excellent and thorough unit databases, many scenarios and campaigns, and their random campaign generators.

    Wargame: EE is criminally under rated, in my opinion. I wish it were a little bit more like a 3D version of TacOps 4, but it does a surprisingly good job of walking a balance between accessibility and wargame tactics. It’s a really big shame it hasn’t gotten more press coverage and just slipped under the radar.

    The landscape in the game always reminds me of that BBC docudrama Threads, for some reason, which scared the shit out of me when I was younger and first saw it. It’s so brutal, but I can never look away when I see it.

  14. Khemm says:

    Is there a demo? It sounds like my cup of tea, but…

    • Calculon says:

      There’s a lot of cool games coming out and it’s getting expensive? :)

      Personally I think RPS is going to have to pick up part of the tab for my divorce proceedings if they keep bringing to my (short) attention (span) all of the awesome-sauce games coming out.

  15. Phinor says:

    This is my surprise game of the year. I wasn’t paying much attention to it until it was released and I bought it after watching a single youtube video of someone playing the game. I haven’t even started playing the multiplayer yet, I’m more than happy with the singleplayer offering for now. Also the upcoming patch sounds excellent, I’ve loved compstomping ever since I first started playing Company of Heroes. Some people are actually saying Wargame is pretty much the game of the decade already and while I wouldn’t go that far (yet), I can see where they are coming from. It’s amazing and offers a very specific gaming experience that we haven’t really seen yet.

    The only worrying thing is that it contains some derivative of good old Starforce. I’ve yet to experience any problems with it but it’s there, doing something behind my back and I don’t like it. On the other hand there’s no working pirate copy of the game and it’s been out nearly two months. That’s pretty amazing in this day and age.

  16. bsones says:

    “Turn based games are kind of old fashion now and inappropriate when it comes to multiplayer, which is maybe a reason why they have declined. A more dynamic, tactics-lead experience appeals to a larger audience.”

    Not to pick on Wargame EE, which I think is a fantastic and underrated game, but I think the devs are stone-cold wrong about the appeal of multiplayer turn-based games to modern audiences. On mobile devices like the iPhone, asynchronous turn-based games are hugely popular. They definitely appeal to me in the sense that they are much easier to fit into a busy schedule than realtime multiplayer games. I think PC developers are letting the mobile market eat their lunch when it comes to multiplayer turn-based games, and it’s unfortunate. More Panzer Generals, please!

    • Craig Stern says:

      I stopped reading the moment I got to that quote. How is “tactics-lead” in any way opposed to “turn-based”? These are the words of a man who has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about.

    • Fumarole says:

      Yeah, Frozen Synapse would like a word with that gentleman.

      Anyone else find it strange that he’d deride turn-based games so flippantly and subsequently praise Ruse for slowing down the pace?

  17. Bobtree says:

    I love it. WEE’s not perfect (the interface needs work), but I’m 47 hours in, around 60 units unlocked, and haven’t even played multiplayer yet, with 2 missions left to finish and 107 command stars unspent (of 202 earned, and 800+ total). The essence of the game is picking the right units and putting them in the right places, with limited unit counts and persistent experience and losses during a campaign, and in doing so you become seriously invested in them. It really is brilliant and satisfying.

    This article barely scratches the surface: scouting is critical, there are optics ratings and unit sizes and terrain cover with layers of visibility, units can get temporary debuffs (stuck in mud or de-tracked, targeting computer rebooting), morale may cause units to panic or route (artillery is often better at spooking units than killing), armor (front/side/rear/top) and penetration are modeled, multiplayer command vehicles can be killed for a decapitation victory, and you must always be mindful of supply logistics. It’s very painful to have your supply trucks intercepted and used against you!

    The Steam store page has the PDF manual for download. Do at least read the weaponry section, you need to know the difference between HEAT rounds and tank main gun AP fire, and anything that’s high explosive.

  18. Calculon says:

    Ive seen one review criticize that Multi-player is little more than Rock Paper Scissors due to the rush strategies used. Can anyone that has played the multi-player confirm or deny this?

    • Dominic White says:

      Deny. A lot of inexperienced players think in traditional RTS terms – if they see a huge wall of tanks coming at a command point, they think ‘How do I stop that?’.

      The answer is: You don’t. You retreat. You can do that – pull your troops to somewhere else, but leave a couple of squads of anti-tank infantry in the woods to cover the retreat. I bet each of those infantry units will kill 3-5 times their worth in tanks. Matches are won based on points earned through either kills or holding areas – if you lost an area but the enemy spent a ton of tanks doing it, you come out on top.

      • Calculon says:

        Crap. You’ve just increased the liklihood that I will be $40 poorer, and my wife 30% angrier at me.

      • Chimpyang says:

        In close up forest fights, ATGM INF is less effective than standard INF with shorter range AT weapons, given cost and reload rate issues. However, if they’re coming at you from across the field, or you just want to poke them from the forest with a sharp stick – ATGM INF can be fantastic.

      • Mavvvy says:

        Spot on Dominic, that’s what I love about this game its a sandbox for strategy, giving up ground, using air-bridges to resupply units behind enemy lines…it all works and its amazing.

      • purdz says:

        Yes exactly!

        I’ve played a fair few people who treat it like an old school RTS with a base of operations. You dont have that, sure you have a starting sector with a resupply depot but in 1v1 I usually sell the depot for some extra units and move my starting sector.

        As Dominic said if someone rushes you then simply move out the way of their wall of tanks, they will have to spend time scouting for your troops and will have ridiculously overstretched supply lines so just wait for some of their units to fall behind or run out of fuel and pick them off from behind where their weak armour is with a little hit and run tactic of fast vehicles loaded with infantry, then retreat into the woods where you can’t be seen.

        My favourite tactic is seeing the enemy rush down a central road have short range infantry and flame tanks hidden either side of the road wait for them to pass move to the edge of the woods and attack, stunning them routing them and destroying them all while your artillery pounds their escape route. If you target their AA specifically then you can soon bring in the big helicopter gunships to pick the heavy tanks off from a distance. So satisfying to see that level of destruction. Meanwhile you’ve deployed a few squads of delta force in the trees near their reinforcment arrows ready to pick off any unit they try to bring in to help. You’ll soon beat the rush.

  19. Chimpyang says:

    Depends on what you class as a rush – I would say the ALL-IN approach of spending all points and charging is a rush, whereas aggressive play is something similar to, but less than that. I’m happy to report that whilst it happens (and is very effective, especially against lower levelled players who might not have the unit availability to counter the rush), I rarely encounter it in play. Good recon allows you to head off the rush and plan accordingly, which the size of the majority of maps lets you do, especially if you keep some points in reserve.

    You eventually just learn to deal with the rushes – some of them get the player way more points than they really deserve – but they almost always lose against a semi-exeprienced player who doesn’t lose his/her head. The only rush that is really dangerous is an AA supported NATO Marder VTS-1 rush. There was a fairly successful PACT APC rush used by one player in particular, but people got wise to it and countered appropriately.

    I usually just get very disappointed when I see the enemy rushing, I usually feel they have robbed me of a potentially interesting match. But it ends quickly, and I get to move on to another match.

  20. Lone Gunman says:

    This game is great and the ability to do well without insane micro skills gets a +1 from me.

  21. Walsh says:

    I like this game a lot but some of the design is a step back from RUSE, which doesn’t make sense to me.

    Like I want to hover my mouse on a unit and see their queue’d move actions. Or when I zoom out to see the NATO identifiers, I would like to see the giant arrows indicating their path like in RUSE. I would also like to see a hotkey or something to basically show all who is engaging who with little red lines everywhere. The biggest one is to be able to right click and select facing, which is critical for tank warfare.

    For a modern wargame, its suprisingly light on providing the player information.

  22. Vandelay says:

    Was instantly uninterested in this from the dull sounding name. Then I read it is a follow up to RUSE and I’m suddenly interested.

  23. le soldat purdu says:

    This game needs a demo.

    I am finally returning to pc gaming after a long hiatus, and sticking my toe back into simulation and strategy waters. And absolutely loving it.

    Bottom line: “Wargame” really interests me- it is on the top of my steam wishlist- but with a big backlog of time-intensive games I’m not even sure if I have time for it. However, I would certainly play a demo immediately, and it could put the game it right on the top of my playslist.

    Any word if there will be a demo? Do strategy games like this typically have demos supporting them?

  24. buzzmong says:

    Was uhmming a bit from the article but the comments have turned this into a potential buy.

  25. RawJoh1 says:

    Really love this game. First PvP RTS I’ve really enjoyed. You quickly get a feel for the game, though obviously your first couple of games against experienced player are not liable to go well.

    As for unlocks – you can unlock plenty of stuff just by doing the first couple of campaign missions, and you can get a decent deck of units pretty quickly. What’s important is spending your initially earned command stars on stuff that’s actually the most useful instead of just going for big name but expensive units like Apaches. Thread on this here (some of the advice is a bit out of date due to patches, but the basic thrust of it is bang on):
    link to wargame-ee.com

    Can’t recommend this game enough. Well worth the money.

  26. MadMatty says:

    I DO NOT WORK for them, but g2play.net is a pretty damn cheap Steam code site- me and my friend have gotten a few games from them without complaint, and they have like 70 000 facebook likes- Wargame and other major releases are about 30-50% off Steam prices

  27. RawJoh1 says:

    Apparently Wargame is going to be on sale on Steam tomorrow:

    link to wargame-ee.com

  28. BathroomCitizen says:

    Question: I still have to buy this game, but I’m quite tempted tho. The thing that I heard and that would give me a problem is the unlocking of the units in multiplayer. Shouldn’t this be a game that rewards witty strategy and that shouldn’t restrict you with your unit roster?

    • gurkha says:

      I would say play the campaign first that will enable you to unlock many units before you get in to the multiplayer. However if you don’t want to do that you can play with the initial deck but that is a bit limited, as you only have 15 of a possible 25 units used

    • RawJoh1 says:

      You unlock stuff quickly. XP earned scales with the average level of players in a game. So you’ll get more XP now given that most players are higher levels than you would be. The unlock system is more so that you get introduced to new units slowly – there are so many units it might be overwhelming if you got them all at once.

  29. gurkha says:

    I bought this game on essentially a whim since I like the setting and I have not bought a RTS in a awhile time. And man I have not got such a great whim purchase since X-wing. Seriously this game has a great amount of depth there is no “winning” strategy. I have seen rush’s win I have seen them flop terribly. I have had great defensive games pay great dividends and have seen them fall flat when someone brings over whelming for to one are of the map and over run you. I hope there is expansions in the future. The level of detail is great and the deck idea constantly keeps you shuffling your units about to try and get the optimal deck. However I would have to say there is no “optimal” There is no perfect combination of units. There are almost no useless units (thought there are a few I personally will probably not be using). While this is not a war sim its not exactly a a casual RTS either its far more in depth and there is much more to consider then just which unit to pick. Its how you utilize your units. The opponents choice of units will dictate your play as much as your choice. The Interface is not always perfect and sometimes picking the exact unit you need from a cluster of them can be tricky but over all none of that has ever dampened my gaming experience. This game is freeken sweet, and its a shame its not getting mentioned more. ( Heck I created an account just to comment on this game)

    • gurkha says:

      Also Scouting.. someone else pointed it out but scouting is vital. Your T80U or Leopard2A4 may be bad ass tanks but if you have no scouts its unlikely that you’ll be able to crush your opponets and most likel y run your ass into a trap

  30. crinkles esq. says:

    I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I’m getting older, or that these war simulations are looking a bit too real for comfort, but the empathic part of my brain is starting to overrule the Wooly Mammoth Hunter part of my brain. When I was kid I used to play Civ, and Harpoon, and all manner of such things, but now I see the footage of a town being shelled and that imagery could just as well be a town in Syria, with real people being blown to bits in those houses. It was easier to focus only on tactics when your units were basically digital board pieces.

    It’s not just wargame simulations either; it’s also the hyper-real man-shooters. I play Battlefield and wonder where the villagers are. I think it’s a disservice to the notion of war; it takes the human consequences of war away. I’m not saying these tactics-only simulations shouldn’t exist, but it seems like they simulate robot worlds and not human conflicts.

  31. Somefriend says:

    Please excuse my disturbance but it seem that a little mistake showed up in your article.

    It seem that the founder of Eugen System is: Alexis Le Dressay and not Le Drassey.

    Nothing really big.

  32. thebigJ_A says:

    If this weren’t multiplayer-focused I’d be all over it.

    Ah well.

    • Dominic White says:

      Every RTS is multiplayer-focused. It’s how they’re designed. It still has campaign and skirmish modes, but seriously, the entire genre is designed around playing with other people.

  33. DigitalEccentric says:

    The DLC (as well as an update patch) has just gone live. You can get details on the official forums here: link to wargame-ee.com (Patch Info) & link to wargame-ee.com (DLC Info)

  34. purdz says:

    It’s 40% off on Steam this weekend too!

    No excuse to not pick this up now that it’s less than 20 notes!

  35. Bobtree says:

    The DLC is a separate download on the Steam store page.

    There’s a supply/repair bug with the new patch. They made repairs slower, but did not decrease the rate of supply consumption proportionally, so units taking a long time to repair will suck up a LOT more supplies than they ought to.

    • RawJoh1 says:

      Bug’s gonna be fixed quickly. Monday at the latest the devs say.

  36. MistressAthena says:

    I’m surprised the article didnt mention the game that this really takes after, and thats End War. Another unsung game that was great at its time. honestly this game should NOT be compared to RUSE as its entirely different, RUSE is honestly, no different than C&C or Red Alert type games, except for the fact it “looks” more realistic, and your limited on where you can build buildings. Its just another spam units fest.

    Whereas this game is more on using every unit you have to the best of their ability while using the map strategically, and holding supply zones/transport zones, and key areas, just like real war is played, and also how End War was.. It was about the units, not buildings, and using your units effectively.