The Cost Of War(gaming): Matrix Games Sale

In a world where it’s increasingly likely that game bundles will soon be given away with Happy Meals, people are often flabbered right down to the gasts when they see the prices over on planet Matrix. The wargaming/strategy publisher doesn’t discount its back catalogue as often as some companies discount their front catalogue, so when the annual holiday sale rolls around, it’s worth paying attention to. Lots of titles are discounted by 50%, including the excellent Unity of Command and its expansions. The Gary Grigsby titles are also on sale, as are many others, listed here.

Sadly, no sale price for Distant Worlds, Universe or otherwise, which is a shame. The greatest space strategy-sim of recent (perhaps any) times is available elsewhere, but there’s no discount there either. The wonderful Qvadriga has also missed out on a discount but it’s not quite as steeply priced as much of the catalogue.

There’s plenty to see though and you might just find that one wargame you’ve had your eyes on is suddenly within range of your bank barrage. You’ll have to excuse me. I’m choking on the free copy of Super Meat Boy that was hidden in my cornflakes.

41 Comments

  1. Ktanzei says:

    Having had an eye on getting into wargaming for quite a while, I recently picked up Unity of Command on the Steam sale (the trilogy’s on there as well). So barring that one, is there any kind soul out there who could give me some guidance to a good classic or entry point? I’ve quite a few hours in grand strategy (EU3-4, CK2, some HoI2 and a lot of Total War though I’m not sure I’m allowed to mention that series in the same sentence without getting branded and hoisted by a grognard) but only tried a few tactical wargaming titles before.

    • CloudPS says:

      I always recommand Panzer Corps, Unity of Command und Battle Academy as an entry point to wargaming. All three of them are excellent games und very easy to get into.

      If you buy PC or BA (or several other games) at slitherine/matrix you get both a download-version and a steam-key.

    • varangian says:

      Just a suggestion, as I haven’t played it myself yet, but the one that caught my eye was Panzer Corps. Mainly because it’s a homage (i.e. plays much the same but updated to run on newfangled Windows 7 or whatever) of Panzer General, of which I played an inordinate amount back in the good old days of MS-DOS.

      Every time there’s one of these sales I hope that War in the East will come down to a price where I could buy and try and, if I found it wasn’t my thing, not feel too bad about the hit to the wallet. Sadly this isn’t the day either, a bit north of £40 is still a bit steep. One day…

    • Shiloh says:

      If you like hexes and top-down, counter-heavy, computer-rendered versions of cardboard wargames, John Tiller’s your man. I always recommend his games – they’re old school in terms of graphics (and gameplay, to a certain extent) but they are excellent games nonetheless. The games range from ACW and Napoleonic brigade-level stuff all the way down to individual soldiers slugging it out in the paddy fields of Viet Nam.

      Have a look at Norm Koger’s Operational Art of War series as well if you like the hex-y style, it plays in a similar way.

      Highway to the Reich from Panther Games is also worth a mention – much more sophisticated AI than the above, and plays out in real time once you’ve given your units their orders. Takes into account order delay, fog of war and much more – all in an Arnhem setting.

      • ru_disa says:

        Highway to the Reich is an expansion and unfortunately you need Battles from the Bulge to play it, which is not on sale… It’s a fantastic game, though.

    • RobearGWJ says:

      Battle Academy 1 and 2 are the best intro turn-based tactical games on the market, in my opinion. Tons of fun scenarios, large variety of unit types, and enough detail that using units in their notional tactical roles will make your play stronger.

      If you want something deeper, try Combat Mission: Red Thunder, or Battles from the Bulge. Both are excellent and part of series of games using the same engines (respectively).

      For Matrix, they’ve always been pricey. Slitherine seems to have put in regular sales, which is good, but the big ticket items are best bought as groups when they are on deep discounts. War in the East, for example, is actually worth the price – it’s what, two years after it came out, and the latest free update ran to 77 pages of small print patch notes – as is Distant Worlds, but people don’t usually think in terms of amortizing the costs over time played. Don’t be put off by the big entry point if you are fascinated by the topics; both are solid games and well worth the investment (especially when on sale).

    • ru_disa says:

      Personally, if a game doesn’t model logistics and/or command and control in some convincing form, it’s not really simulating war at all. In my opinion, Panzer Corps is more of a lovingly crafted puzzle game, rather than a wargame. Unity of Command is a way better entry-level wargame. I love it.
      If you’re looking for something more involving, my recommendations for you are: Flashpoint Campaigns Red Storm (new game, great graphics, relatively friendly interface, personal twist on the genre).
      The Decisive Campaign series (great hex-based wargames).
      If you’re looking with something not hex-based, I’d say take a look at AGEOD games (Revolution Under Siege and Alea Jacta Est being my favourites); Also, the Command Ops series is great.

  2. Hedgeclipper says:

    Some of these games look interesting but they always give me sticker-shock. I find it hard to believe that wargaming is such a niche market that they need to be that far up the demand curve, is it just lack of competition?

    • mouton says:

      I think they just try to oppose the trend of games – especially indie/small publisher – costing almost nothing very fast. Can’t really blame them, even if it is an uphill struggle.

      • Hedgeclipper says:

        I’m just wondering if that makes sense though, of if they’d be moving more copies and making more at a cheaper price point while broadening their market. Certainly for me, I’m interested but not buying at that price and I did get Unity of Command and all its expansions on steam sale a while back.

  3. Jams O'Donnell says:

    I’m pretty sure Unity of Command is a big scam. Sure, it looks like it has a whole bunch of missions but since you’ll never see them because it’s so bastard hard nobody knows whether they actually made them or not.

    Or it could just be that I’m terrible at it.

    • CloudPS says:

      It really isn’t that hard. As soon as you understand the importance of supply lines (and how to handle them) it gets quite easy to unlock all scenarios. For me it was harder to beat Panzer Corps (on normal difficulty) or Battle Academy.

      • Hedgeclipper says:

        Supply lines and the extended move if you don’t attack. Once those came together I found it all made much more sense.

    • MartinWisse says:

      What you might want is to take a look at ImperialDane’s Unity of Command videos which are great at showing how to beat specific scenarios and provide general insights in how to play the game.

    • overthere says:

      The key to me making progress was realising that you need to focus your attacks. By rotating units through you can get multiple attacks on a single enemy unit so that it routs or is destroyed. If its a part of your line with a strong attacking force ie mechanised elite panzers, then if your careful with the order of attack, you can breach the line and move through in a single turn. As the others said with supply being critical you can then move to a phase of maneuver, disrupt the supply lines and its game over :)

  4. Great Cthulhu says:

    Shame about Distant Worlds. There’s no way I’m paying that much without so much as a demo to see if I’d like it.

    • AshRolls says:

      Yep, no way I’m paying that price for Distant Worlds despite really wanting to play. If it was around £20 I would snap it up though. I’m a patient man, I can wait.

      • Lagran says:

        Same here. I did just buy AI War so that should keep me well occupied in the meantime.

      • SAM-site says:

        Another vote in this camp, and I’m no cheapskate, but I cannot justify spending £45 on a single title rather than the same money on 4 or 5 titles from my current wishlist. I really do want DWU and will pull the trigger on purchasing around 5 seconds after I notice the price has dropped to the £20 mark.

      • briangw says:

        Well, in the defense of DW, it does include all of the DLC which is about 4 or 5 packs if we are talking about the Steam version.

        • SAM-site says:

          That’s grand and warrants the extra charge, but I tend only to buy DLC if it becomes apparent that I’ll stick with the game beyond its original parameters, in the case of a game like DW that’s the 40-50 hour mark.

          Just as likely is that I pick it up to add to my (virtual) pile of shame, which for 20 quid I’m happy to do but for 45 I will have to know with absolute certainty I’m going to play the nuts off. I’m looking at you Sid Meier and friends.

      • BlueTemplar says:

        You’ll probably have to wait several years.

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      teije says:

      It is an awesomely deep, well-crafted game with lots of different playing style options. To my mind, the most complex and sophisticated 4X ever made. (I’m not implying that makes it the best, since the complexity can be too much, even with all the automation options).

      However, it really is a game that you either love or totally can’t get into. I’ve gone back and forth over the years of playing it. Right now, it’s not appealing to me even though I have all the expansions, so playing EUIV for something lighter.

  5. Fede says:

    Unity of Command seems cheaper on the dev’s website: 7.49$ vs 9.99$

    • CloudPS says:

      It’s even 7,50 for the trilogy bundle (developer site & steam) vs. 10 for the base game (slitherine/matrix).

  6. Gothnak says:

    I found Unity of Command a bit too bland and simple, but very clean. I got to about the 4th mission without any trouble and just sort of stopped playing.

    My favourite wargame was back in the 00’s, Steel Panthers 2 which played fantastic with bullets and shells pinging off my tanks’ armour, closely followed by the original Close Combat series.

    Any recommendations with those two games that i should try next or are the new Close Combats any good? Also, i really enjoyed the Normandy version as it had a map based campaign rather than a linear list of missions.

    I’ve also found Panzer General a bit too simplistic and more like Battle Isle than a proper tactical wargame.

    • Gothnak says:

      In fact, just get Steel Panthers: World At War here for FREE… and then donate if you like it:

      link to spwaw.com

      It’s a great game.

      • Shiloh says:

        Totally agree. I played SP2 and then SPWAW for many many happy hours. Agree re. UoC as well – despite Tim Stone’s liking for it, I just found it too simplistic and lacking in detail. Then again, I am a sucker for detailed OOBs, TO&Es etc.

        • Gothnak says:

          So, what new games do you recommend then? :)

          • Shiloh says:

            Not sure I can to be honest – seems all the wargames I play are at least five years (or more) old!

  7. cpt_freakout says:

    Very tangentially related, but has anyone tried that new Warhammer 40k wargame that just came out? It’s a Slitherine game, so it’s probably good, but I haven’t seen anything anywhere about it.

    • Volcanu says:

      I have been wondering this too. From what I gather it’s probably much like a re-skinned Panzer General. But I havent played that either.

  8. jnik says:

    Starships Unlimited is down to ten bucks (Colonial currency, sorry), and well worth it at that price. Yes, it didn’t come out yesterday, and the interface takes a little getting used to, but it’s a great fun little 4X.

  9. Shiloh says:

    Hellfire, I’ve just looked at the list of titles on sale – now really might just be the day to finally get Scourge of War.

  10. Jp1138 says:

    Many games included in the offer show as Discontinued on the web. Did they run out of digital downloads or what?

  11. Phier says:

    I bought distant worlds, at full price, before the last installment. No regrets. People have to eat, and games like this are not “mass market” games. I’m guessing the same people who say they would never buy a game like that at its listed price are the same ones complaining about “Uplay” or bad console ports.

    These are indy games catering to old school PC gamers. Distant worlds is finally a game worthy of being a spiritual successor of MOO2, you will NEVER see that from an AAA title, ever again.

    • Great Cthulhu says:

      I’d have absolutely no problem paying full price if I I was sure that I’d like it. Without a demo, a free weekend, or a refund policy though, it’s a total gamble. And at 55 euros I’m not going to take that gamble.

    • BlueTemplar says:

      So, how much did you pay for it? More than $100? How much did the upgrade to Universe cost for you?

      I’ve tried DW, liked several aspects of it (though, like most complex games it has some issues), and I’ll probably buy it even for 55€ if I ever happen to play it again.

    • malkav11 says:

      There are a lot of games on Steam that sell very well through major sales despite not being “mass market” friendly. Paradox’s grand strategy games, for example. They might be a bit lighter than some of the stuff Matrix sells, but they’re not exactly mass market. Or the ARMA games, which are about as hardcore as shooters get. What guarantees that you won’t get a large audience is charging more than that audience is willing to pay to see if they even want your product. I dug the ARMA games, it turns out. I’ve not actually been able to get into Paradox. But I know both these things because those games got cheap enough not to be a huge risk.

  12. wodin says:

    Flashpoint Campaigns Red Storm..the wargame I can hand on heart thoroughly recommend from Slitherine\Matrix.

    You really wont be disappointed.

  13. BlueTemplar says:

    It’s a shame (though understandable) that Eclipse of Nashira, the expansion for Pandora : First Contact, is not on sale either…