Armored Brigade Strategy Guide

By John McArdle 14 Jan 2019 0

Welcome to our ultimate strategy guide for Matrix Game's real-time tactics title Armored Brigade. The Cold War's gone hot in Germany and Scandinavia, and you must take command of either NATO or Warsaw Pact forces and fight it out across small-to-large enagements for your side.

This is a living guide - John's a big fan of the game and is always playing it, so as he writes up new sections with new tips, we'll post them here so you have everything in one place.

NATO Strategy & Tips

There's an adage in combat sports that “styles make fights” which is just as apt to the kind of fights found in Armored Brigade. The asymmetric capabilities of NATO and Warsaw Pact units will often be the determinate in how you play the game in a given scenario.

Factional differences go beyond just unit rosters however, as things like training, command delay, and morale also help to differentiate the title’s armies. In this section we will be taking a look at NATO forces and what they bring to the battlefield.

One thing to consider when thinking about Armored Brigade’s contingent of NATO units is, just as in real life, the varied plethora of units to choose from when compared to the Warsaw Pact’s more homogenised order of battle. As such, the United States, UK, and West Germany all vary to a greater degree both in their capabilities and unit selection.

Faction Overviews

Given the huge variety of NATO units in the title, the “best” unit available to you depends on the country you’re playing as.

United States

The iconic M1 Abrams takes the cake here. Excellent ratings in survivability and speed coupled with a potent 105mm gun and thermal imaging means the M1 is likely coming out on top of every tank on tank shootout.

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As with almost every other American unit in the game, the downside is the cost. Spending all your points on M1s in the pregame unit selection phase almost certainly means your tanks are going to be outnumbered, which makes micro management and a knowledge of game mechanics prerequisites for playing as the US well.

The other standout capability of the United States in Armored Brigade is its roster of ground attack aircraft. The A-10, A-7D, and F-4D Phantom are all leagues above their peers in delivering destruction from above, but once again, at a hefty cost when compared with the more affordable air support options enjoyed by the other nations in the game.

United Kingdom

The British army follows a similar pattern as the American OOB, with a variety of high-quality units with accompanying high costs. The main British MBT, the Challenger, also packs a 120 mm gun and hefty armor, but moves considerably slower than the Abrams.

Britain also brings some high-quality scouting units to the table, both in the form of a pair of affordable helicopters, and the cost-effective Scimitar scout section. The Scimitar’s 30mm gun is a nasty compliment to its high speed and excellent optics, making the vehicle a fantastic asset for skirmishing or pinning down entrenched infantry or light vehicles.

Federal Republic of Germany

The Federal Republic of Germany or FRG (otherwise known as ‘West’ Germany), is an army of high highs and low lows. FRG infantry is of decidedly low quality across the board, and even 80’s era FRG infantry is stuck with a Panzerfaust (you read that right) for their anti-tank needs.

fausty

It's a good thing they're so motivated...

The FRG does shine however, in terms of its armor and the flexibility with which it can deploy it. Though packing a marginally smaller main gun than the Abrams or Challenger, the Leopard is a solid all-around main battle tank for its cost. Adding to this, is the FRG’s ability to assign what are normally main battle tanks such as the Leopard to the recon section during pre-game force building.

Although much more expensive than traditional, lightly armored recon vehicles, this allows the FRG player to bring even more tanks to bear on the enemy should you hit your armored unit limit while assembling your army. Combine this deluge of medium quality tanks with a well round coterie of air units, and the FRG is a great choice for players new to the game looking for a well-rounded army that is forgiving of mistakes.

Finland

Although Finland wasn’t formally in NATO, a few of the title’s selection of scenarios feature the punchy Finns fending off Soviet armor with their own collection of Russian tanks. The Finns have the most eclectic arsenal in the game, with old T-55’s fighting alongside NATO and World War II era small arms.

Compensating for cheap weaponry, however, is the Finns generally cheaper unit cost given their decent quality units, especially when compared to the typically dreg quality of Soviet infantry.

General Strategy

Besides their respective orders of battle, NATO countries generally have a leg up on their Soviet counterparts when it comes to training and, more importantly, command delay. Training as per the Armored Brigade manual is an aggregate rating that effects “spotting, hiding, firing accuracy, pre-battle recon detection, breaching, infiltration, fatigue, slowness caused by suppression, breaching speed, and the chance to find and enter a defilade position”.

As such, although you will almost always be outnumbered in the stock scenarios, your pixeltruppen will perform at a much higher level than the Soviet conscripts being thrown at them. This increased performance also results in a general superiority of morale, as your units are much better at independently keeping themselves alive and in good order.

Speed Time

NATO units waste no time getting right to it.

Command delay captures NATO and Warsaw Pact doctrinal differences by shaping the way you command your virtual soldiers. An order is given to a formation, and as the order is processed, a timer counts down before your edict is acted upon. NATO forces have a much quicker command delay timer than Pact forces, reflecting NATO’s decentralized and often more autonomous command structure.

This allows the NATO player to react quicker to situations as they arise, and issue granular orders than would otherwise be feasible with a Pact force. To illustrate this, a United States platoon with a good order HQ unit takes twenty seconds to execute an order. A Soviet force with the exact same unit composition takes forty-five seconds, over twice the time it takes for US forces. This is probably your strongest asset as a NATO player, and as such, makes NATO friendlier for players who prefer micro-management.

Infantry Tactics

It's easy to overlook the humble infantryman, when playing Armored Brigade, a game replete with some of the most ferocious killing machines known to humankind. However, beneath the infantryman’s squishy and unassuming exterior lies the bane of every other unit on the battlefield.

Stealth, versatility, and return on investment are three foundational strengths shared by every infantry unit, and in this section we'll be looking over these traits and how to best leverage them to your advantage while playing.

Stealth

As we mentioned in our review, Armored Brigade’s levels are sprawling pieces of real estate, where urban areas, patches of wilderness, and hill formations can all be found on the same battlefield. The vicissitudes of the terrain play right into the first of the three infantry strengths: stealth. Being a fragile and unprotected lot, infantry units by necessity need to constantly be either in, or on the way to cover. Once there, the cover is where the infantry goes into hiding, and a well-placed unit may as well be invisible. A furtive squad coupled with a hold fire order can act like something of a ten-man minefield, holding up a much larger force.

AB tips 1

Even when out of reach of AT weapons, some enemy vehicles are still susceptible to suppression from small arms.

There is more to a unit’s ability to successfully hide than just the terrain, although shrewd usage of the map’s features is a prerequisite for keeping your pixeltruppen from being spotted. A unit’s “training” stat is also crucial in quickly and effectively securing a hidden spot units possessing a high training stat are more likely to remain undetected by close-up enemy units. The other “soft” factor essential in successfully hiding your units is their fatigue level—tired units take more time to get hidden, so if possible, try to gingerly set-up in the woodline for best results. Armored Brigade at the moment does not allow for area fire with anything besides ordinance, so use this to your advantage. One surreptitiously placed unit in the right spot can lead your opponent to thinking there’s more of your units in that woodline than there really is, causing him to waste precious munitions on the whole area thinking there's more there than your single stalwart squad. 

Versatility

For all the complexity of the combined arms warfare in the game, at its core, it is something akin to a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Air generally trounces ground units, unless there's anti-air, which hard-counter’s air, which in turn is vulnerable to anything on the ground, and so on and so forth. Working within this network of relationships—where one weapon system is tailored to neutralize another—is the key to being a good Armored Brigade player. In keeping with the Rock, Paper, Scissors analogy, the infantry unit doesn't fit snugly into any one category (e.g. anti-armor, anti-air) but rather acts as a prickly wildcard that has the potential to counter everything, provided a good player is at the helm of things.

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Even this relatively underpowered (compared to it's NATO Peers) 1976 German squad still packs a wallop with 24 grenades and a light machine-gun.

As stated, infantry units are at their best in feature-dense areas where they can take advantage of their small size, hiding from AFVs and lying in wait. But there is so much more an infantry unit can perform given the right circumstances. If you have an abundance of foot soldiers in a scenario and aren't particularly squeamish about losses (because there will be losses), infantry make an effective screening force for your more precious units. While Armored Brigade does an admirable job with its inclusion of recon units and their spotting capabilities, a wall of foot soldiers making haste towards OpFor’s side of the map is a surefire way to find out where his guns are hiding. Often times, your infantry will come with armored personnel carriers, which provide a serious buff to both survivability and firepower. The ability to roll-up somewhere, dismount, fight, remount and drive away is of extreme value on the largest maps—both for retreating if you’ve bit off more than you can chew, or as a means of baiting the A.I. into committing its reserves right where you want them…

Part of what enables the Swiss-Army-knife-like nature of the infantry unit is its load-out. Granted, given the game’s span of time, the kit used may vary from scenario to scenario, but generally an infantry squad is equipped to deal with just about any threat on the ground. A paragon example of this robustness is a 1980s era American infantry unit. Packing assault rifles, a light machine gun for suppressing other infantry and/or light vehicles, a 40mm grenade launcher, and both a LAW and ATGM for heavy vehicles, this single squad used correctly can remain self-sufficient for quite some time given the right position. This is especially evident on the defense, as Armored Brigade allows for the scenario defender to set-up “dug in” in a trench, providing a serious boon to the survivability of an infantry unit out in the open.

Return on Investment

Armored Brigades main course, the scenario generator, tasks you with building your force with a set amount of points a la tabletop miniatures games. This preamble to battle forces you to make tough decisions about where to spend your precious points, but also lays the ground for the infantry unit’s final strength over other unit types. Next to weapons teams, infantry formations are the cheapest units in the game making them a favorite for frugal commanders. Sure, three M1 Abrams sounds nice, until you realize you can muster an entire battalion of infantry for the same price (of course, depending on what your objective is, an entirely infantry force might not be the most viable, say if your attacking over a large swath of open ground).

APCs and guys

Dismounted infantry and their APC make a great duo when clearing out woods and buildings.

The return on investment comes once you and your A.I. nemesis have your forces assembled and the scenario is underway. There are few things in the world of wargaming more satisfying than having your humble 45-point infantry squad decimate a 270-point T-80 up close with the LAW. Should the situation be reversed, with your infantry ambush failing and its participants being sent to digital Valhalla, well you’ve only lost a fraction of your army while your opponent still has to maneuver around the map on eggshells. Infantry can be made elite, and consequently more expensive, in the purchasing phase via sliders for morale and training, but this should be done with care. A 90-point infantry unit dies just as easily as a 45-point one, and beefed-up infantry units should be in charge of clearing and defending the map’s hardpoints that are suitable for infantry.

With proper use of infantry units, you’ll outnumber your opponent, dictate where the fighting on the map happens, and have a force that can reasonably respond to anything your adversary throws at you. Of course, like all the units in Armored Brigade, your foot soldiers work best as a cog in your combined arms machine, clearing city blocks, acting as a screen for your tanks, and deferring to the big guns when the need arises.

Do you have any favourite tips or tricks for using infantry in Armored Brigade? Let us know in the comments!

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