The Beginner’s Guide to Wargame

This entry is part 12 of 12 in the series Wargame: European Escalation/AirLand Battle/Red Dragon

Wargame is one of my favourite RTS series. It can also be daunting — I know several readers have picked it up on sale, only to bounce off. I hope the following guide will help.


Introduction to Wargame


Wargame is a series of real-time military tactics games (European Escalation, AirLand Battle, and Red Dragon) set during the Cold War. Like Total War or a real-time Panzer General, Wargame bridges the gap between dedicated simulations and traditional real-time strategy games such as Company of Heroes. It’s also really, really good.


If you don’t own any of the games, I don’t recommend the original game, European Escalation, which has been superseded by its sequels. Instead, I recommend starting with the middle game, AirLand Battle. First, AirLand is much cheaper than the latest game, Red Dragon. At the time of writing AirLand regularly goes on sale for <$10, while Red Dragon, even on sale, is seldom cheaper than the mid-$20s. Second, AirLand introduced many of the series’ best and most distinctive mechanics — the jump to Red Dragon is more modest. If you plan to play a lot of competitive multiplayer, you may wish to start with Red Dragon, where the multiplayer community has migrated. Otherwise, start with ALB, and if you enjoy it, upgrade to Red Dragon later.


The rest of this guide assumes you are playing either AirLand Battle or Red Dragon. The guide is current as at v564 (DLC 1) of Red Dragon.

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Games of the Year: 2013

This entry is part 4 of 11 in the series Gaming year in review / Game of the Year Awards

1st Place Award RibbonAs promised, here is my list! As with last year, I’ve highlighted noteworthy achievements, as opposed to trying to single out favourites (so you will see some that I thought were more interesting than fun). I’ll kick off with what I thought were the year’s overarching themes:


Theme of the year I: march of the small games. Every year has its notable short and/or cheap indie games, such as FTL in 2012, and in 2013 these included Skulls of the Shogun, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Papers: Please, and Gone Home. However, the year also saw a large publisher, Ubisoft, throw its hat into the ring with Call of Juarez: Gunslinger and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. Ubisoft is set to continue this trend with Child of Light, and it’ll be interesting to see the extent to which other publishers follow – especially after Tomb Raider missed Square Enix’s expectations, sparking the latest bout of soul-searching about the future of AAA games.


Theme of the year II: iteration. In 2012, my favourite games (XCOM, Wargame: European Escalation, Analogue: A Hate Story), as well as other notable titles (FTL, Journey) were all quite novel. Even XCOM, while thematically faithful to the 1994 original, was mechanically unique. 2013, though, was more like 2011 in its preponderance of evolutionary rather than revolutionary games, from the big end of town (Assassin’s Creed IV) to the little guys (Dominions 4), plus expansion packs (Civilization V: Brave New World, XCOM: Enemy Within). That said, we’ll see exceptions below.

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Wargame: AirLand Battle — The Verdict

This entry is part 10 of 12 in the series Wargame: European Escalation/AirLand Battle/Red Dragon
Wargame players will spend most of their time looking at blips on the map...
Wargame players will spend most of their time looking at blips on the map…


Eugen Systems, the studio behind Wargame: AirLand Battle, is now one of my favourite developers of strategy games, of historical games, and indeed, of historical strategy games.


I don’t say this lightly. That is exalted company to be in, alongside the likes of Paradox, Firaxis, and Creative Assembly, but I think it’s deserved. With AB, Eugen has demonstrated three things:


1. They can capture the spirit of a setting – in this case, a Cold War gone hot in Europe.

2. They know what makes a good strategy game: a series of interesting decisions that produce clear, understandable outcomes.

3.  They can learn from past mistakes.

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Wargame: AirLand Battle: right troops, right place, right time

This entry is part 7 of 12 in the series Wargame: European Escalation/AirLand Battle/Red Dragon
A view to a kill: a French Super Etendard strike plane fires a missile at a command vehicle.
A view to a kill: a French Super Etendard strike plane fires a missile at a command vehicle.



My last attack failed. This one, I promise myself, won’t.


I’m playing a NATO vs NATO mirror match, one of the options available in skirmish and, in this case, multiplayer. (In universe, I imagine it as an especially realistic military exercise.) Last time I made the rookie mistake of advancing without reconnaissance; my raiding force drove straight into a platoon of Challenger main battle tanks. This time, I’ve infiltrated an SAS patrol behind enemy lines to scout out my objective, and they’ve spotted nothing but a platoon of mechanised infantry. Since then, I’ve spent several minutes hatching my plans: Norwegian infantry will assault from the south, US marines and French tanks will come from the southeast, and I’ll use artillery smoke shells to screen their advance.


It’s time to go. A smokescreen billows into life, and my tanks and APCs burst out of cover. No resistance so far – the recon work paid off. Excellent. I look at the minimap… and see an enemy horde advancing on the other side of the map,  towards an objective I’d secured earlier. My opponent, it seems, chose the exact same time to make his push.


I’ve already committed my ground reserve, but I have one last lever to pull – RAF Tornados loaded with tank-busting cluster bombs. Aircraft are as fragile as they are valuable, and if the attackers brought enough anti-air units, my Tornado pilots could be flying into a suicide mission, their planes’ advanced countermeasures notwithstanding. But sometimes, fortune favours the bold…


Welcome to the second part of my Wargame: AirLand Battle preview, based on the game’s current pre-order beta! I’ve divided this into two sections, below – one for new players, and one for returning European Escalation veterans – before offering up some concluding thoughts.

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Wargame: AirLand Battle: opening a box of virtual chocolates

This entry is part 6 of 12 in the series Wargame: European Escalation/AirLand Battle/Red Dragon
The raciest thing you'll ever see on this site
The raciest thing you’ll ever see on this site


Wargame: AirLand Battle is the upcoming sequel to Wargame: European Escalation, a Cold War-themed fusion of two genres: the RTS and the beer-and-pretzels wargame. EE was one of my favourite games of last year, and despite its beta status (1), AB is shaping up to be one of my favourites of this year, too.


AB’s appeal begins even before the first shot is fired. In AB as in EE, players start by choosing the units they will take into a match, and then grouping these into a “deck”. However, where EE offered “only” 361 units, AB offers a whopping 826! More units are not necessarily better, but here it works for two reasons.

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What we know about Wargame: AirLand Battle

This entry is part 5 of 12 in the series Wargame: European Escalation/AirLand Battle/Red Dragon

#6 – May 2013 – The game’s preorder beta has begun! Check out my impressions of the beta!


#5 – 16 February 2013: Big news! The game’s website is now up, and so is the dev diary. Recent preview include PCGMedia’s and RTSGuru’s.


#4 – 24 August 2012: Confirmation of the four new nations! Sweden, Canada, Denmark, Norway.


#3 – 18 August 2012: Some details out from Gamescom, if you can read French! The highlights, according to Google Translate, include a co-op campaign and confirmation Sweden and Canada will be in the game.


#2 – 14 August 2012: . In response on a question I asked on the official forum about AirLand Battle‘s “dynamic campaign”, an Eugen team member stated:


Dynamic means fully dynamic -so much more than in W:EE :D


That sounds promising to me!


#1 – 12 August 2012: Eugen Systems and publisher Focus Home have announced Wargame: AirLand Battle, the upcoming (2013) sequel to European Escalation! I’ve quoted the full press release at the bottom of this post. The highlights are as follows:


1) The new game still takes place in the 1975-1985 time period, and the protagonists are still NATO and the Warsaw Pact; however, the action has shifted north to Scandinavia.

2) Fixed-wing aircraft will be in the game! This is a change from EE, where the only aircraft are helicopters.

3) There will be four new countries in the game. The developers have all but confirmed one of them  will be Canada, with the other three being chosen from amongst Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland.

4) The number of units has increased to 750 (more than double the 361 in EE!), of which 150 are planes.

5) Edited in due to my bad memory: AirLand Battle will have a “dynamic campaign”! This is the feature that has me most excited, as I felt the campaign was the weakest part of the original game.

6) You can view the first teaser trailer below:



I’ll update this post as news about ALB emerges, so stay tuned!



PARIS- Aug. 10, 2012 – Released in early 2012, Wargame: European Escalation by Eugen Systems became the new benchmark in real-time strategy games, praised by critics and players alike.


Today, its sequel, Wargame: AirLand Battle, has been unveiled for the first time in this teaser video. Planned for released in 2013, Wargame: AirLand Battle will bring the series to a brand new dimension. Today’s video gives a glimpse of the spectacular new features to come!


Wargame: AirLand Battle will be presented for the first time at Gamescom 2012 in Cologne next week at the Focus booth in the business area (Hall 4.2, Stand I-050a) and at Koch Media’s booth in the public area (Hall 7.1, stand B051 – B041)!


While the first Wargame made a splash with its powerful engine, Wargame: AirLand Battle will be the series’ leap forward by bringing a level of detail never before seen in a real-time strategy game. The new version of the IRISZOOM Engine™ will display spectacular graphics with a wide variety of units, scenery, and impressive topography reproduced from satellite maps, all of which are visible in today’s teaser.


Just like its predecessor, Wagame: AirLand Battle takes players through a series of conflicts commanding NATO and Warsaw Pact troops between 1975 & 1985 at a turning point of the Cold War. In this episode, war rages in Northern Europe, notably Scandinavia, whose architecture and magnificent landscapes are faithfully recreated in the game.


Wargame: AirLand Battle allows players to command all military resources of the Cold War era from tanks to planes. A total of 150 planes strengthen the playable arsenal of the game, from fighters to bombers to electronic warfare planes. Four new nations and their vehicles join the original eight from the first installment, making a total of over 750 vehicles and combat units rendered in realistic detail! Wargame: AirLand Battle also brings authenticity to the next level thanks to a new weapons system, better handling of fire effects, and a new Urban Combat Interface (UCI) allowing for battle inside cities.


The solo campaign is composed of several new dynamic campaigns, during which players manage all aspects of battle by leading each squad of the Theater of Operation and making good use of reinforcements and strategic support. Wargame: AirLand Battle still allows customization of armies in solo and multiplayer modes thanks to the ‘Deck’ system, which is now being enhanced with an integrated ‘viewer’. Ultimately, each decision made will have an impact on the tactical outcome of battles and evolution of the global conflict! Prepare to re-enter the Cold War in 2013!