The Best War Games for PC (Still to Come) 201913 Aug 2019 21
We're well over the half-way mark for 2019 and approaching the end game. If 2018 tended to play things a little safer, 2019 has definitely kept us on our toes with big-budget sequels and fascinating indie projects, and year's not done with us yet!
Don't forget to check out what’s coming up in the world of table-top wargaming as well!
We’ve still got a lot to look forward to, with titles like Unity of Command 2, Panzer Corps 2, and Fantasy General 2 - all sequels, technically, but each of them is coming to the table with something big and fresh and new. Before we look at what's to come though, let's take a quick look at what's released so far this year that's been really special:
The Best War Games of 2019 (So Far)
Without further ado, here are the best war games expected to release this year:
Men of War: Assault Squad 2 - Cold War Expansion - September 12th, 2019
Well, if there was one thing that could make our entire year, it'd be more Men of War content. 1C have announced that Assault Squad 2 is getting a new expansion that will move the time-frame forward into the Cold War era, although given it's the US and Soviet Russia fighting it out directly this is probably more akin to a 'what if' WW3 scenario. To be honest, given how old Assault Squad 2 is at this point we would have preferred a new game, perhaps using an updated version of the engine, but it's better than nothing.
Unlike most entries on this list we have a firm release date for this, so listen out for Editor Joe's excited squee's floating on the wind next month. It's worth noting that there is already a mod for AS2 that exists that features Cold War era units.
Ultimate Admiral: Age of Sail - EA Release 2019
The studio behind Ultimate General is known to be working on two new games, one covering Dreadnought-era warfare and another covering land & naval warfare during the Napoleonic-era. Age of Sail is now taking pre-orders direct on their website, and backers of a certain tier can get access to an early Alpha with some simple naval engagements. The build is set to develop from there and we're still expecting the full Early Access release on Steam before the end of 2019, but watch this space.
WarPlan - 2019 (we think)
Four years in the making, this is another grand-strategy WW2 game that attempts to strike a balance between offering omnipotent levels of information, but little-to-no micro-management. It seems like the interface itslef is going to be the main selling point here, and it's been reported that this game derives its design from over 50 years experience playing similar games on table-top and PC. I'll be honest, I'm not sure the world needs another WW2 of this nature, but maybe it'll become another half-way house between Hearts of Iron and Gary Grigbsy, although again one can argue Strategic Command is alraedy doing an admirable Job there.
Still, it looks quite nice, all things considered, and the beta is already running so we should have a better idea as to what it's all about by the time we run the next update. We're pretty confident this will release this year, as Matrix have been trying to get better with the announcement timetables.
Strategic Command: World War I - 2019
Not to be confused with last year's Strategic Command Classic: WW1, Fury Software are taking all of the new engine and technology improvements made in the recent War in Europe & World at War releases, and applying them to The Great War. It's nice to see someone finally making a new WW1 game, especially given the 100th anniversary was last year. If you check out the announcement post you can see all of the improvements that this new game will have over the original, including things like a better interface, hexes and better fog of war.
We hope that the developers will be able to balance the need to capture the rather static trench-warfare of the western front, as well as the more dynamic, yo-yo-ing that happened in East. That's nor forgetting the campaigns Greece and the Near-East.
Fantasy General II: Invasion - 2019
Of all the things we expected to the be announced this year, a sequel to the classic Five-Star General game Fantasy General was not one of them. Officially our 6th favourite 'General' game, Fantasy General took the iconic Panzer General formula and applied it to a medieval fantasy setting. Fantasy Generals II looks to carry on that tradition with a new reimagined game. They've partnered up with Slitherine/Matrix Games - those what make the current Panzer General successors - Panzer Corp & Order of Battle.
Fantasy General 2 will feature turn-based tactical battles with over 75 unique unit types, and these units can grow and evolve overtime provided they can survive the tough fights ahead. Terrain and the environment will be the key to victory, and eveything is beautifully rendered in 3D. Definitely one to watch for 2019. It seems to be basing its core design of Fields of Glory II, just with a fantasy setting and enhanced campaign/map features.
Gates of Hell - Early Access TBD 2019
The one franchise I've always wished would be given a second (or third? fourth?) shot was Men of War. 1C tried their best, but they took the series in odd directions and then just kind of gave up after Assault Squad 2. 1C are not the creators of the engine that powers Men of War, or even the concept of Men of War however. That honour belongs to Best Way Soft, and despite being largely silent this past decade they've now decided to make a return.
Gates of Hell represents a spiritual successor to all of Men of War, and a rallying cry for the community. It promises gritty realism, the best of WW2 real-time tactical gameplay, as well as a decent learning curve and approachable interfaces. The graphics look gorgeous, and it's going to have singleplay and multiplayer. In short, they're promising the world to a community that very much wants something like this to exist, and has been largely neglected recently. We're interested in seeing how it pans out. It's due to release into Early Access on steam sometime this year and we're trying not to have our hopes raised too high.
Terminal Conflict -TBD 2019 (Currently in EA)
Fun fact: at least one of the main designers behind Terminal Conflict was also a big part of the ill-fated Cold War spin-off game for Hearts of Iron 3, East vs. West. It was a bonkers project that promised the world, but ultimately didn't deliver. It's fascinating then to see that dream re-imagined in Terminal Conflict. Using very stylised graphics that make it look like you're using an actual Cold War-era computer, Terminal Conflict is a grand-strategy political/war game that sees you trying to navigate the tense realities of the post-WW2 era.
I've dabbled a little bit in it and while the mechanics seem engaging, there's some issues with presentation and presenting information that left me horribly confused much of the time. Still, as a concept it looks great and we'll be keeping an eye on this as it heads towards a full release in the Spring.
Valor & Victory - Q3 2019
Yobowargames are essentially a one man team like Digitalgameworks, so their projects can be a bit hit and miss at times. They recently released Battle for Korsun & Invaders From Dimension X!, and as far as we know they're working on an adaptation of Barry Doyle's squad-level WW2 tactics game of the same name. It's going to be hitting Early Access first when it releases later this year, and will feature 12 scenarios and AI opponents. And Tanks, we can't forget those. Hit up the Steam page to find out more.
While we're not sure if this will effect Valor & Victory specifically, it was recently announced that Yobo have now partnered with Matrix and Slitherine, who are publishing the developer's first two games.
Lock'n Load Publishing
This more of a quick note, as details are sparse. We've known that Lock'n Load have been working on digital products for a while now, but news has been few and far between. As far as we can tell there's been no meaningful update as to the state of Nations at War Digital and Lock'n Load Tactical Digital at all this year. All we can share is the most recent videos they've put out... which are at least a year old. These projects might slip into 2020.
Radio Commander - Q3 2019
This is an interesting project that cropped up on our radar recently. This games puts you in the shoes of an American military commander serving in US Army during the Vietnam War, coordinating military operations taking place between 1965 and 1967. It's an RTS, but instead of being able to see and directly control your units, all you have is a command tent and an operation map. Icons will flash up to denote the presence of troops or other bits of information, and you must use your radio to issue orders. It's technically an RTS, and you can drag and drop icons onto the map to issue new orders.
Radio General - TBD 2019
Surprisingly enough, there's another game similar to Radio Commander also in the works, only this one covers WW2. Radio General has only recently put its Steam page live, but it sports much the same kind of concepts that Commander does. The single-player campaign follows the 1st Canadian Army, which rarely gets much love from WW2 entertainment. There will also me multiplayer and a map editor.
Unity of Command 2 - You know, it might actually be this year
We’re not into wargaming to win any beauty pageants, and neither are our games - but if we held one, Unity of Command 2 is likely a shoo-in for the top spot on the podium. It’s just flat-out gorgeous in screenshots, and it’s clear from 2x2’s dev diaries that the studio is putting a lot of thought and effort into presentation.
That’s not something we generally run into a lot around these parts, but it’s part of what makes Unity of Command 2 such a potentially exciting title: It’s lovely to look at, and it may be an entry point for a lot of non-wargamers into the hobby thanks to 2x2’s mindful approach to tutorialization and simplification. We still don’t have a release window, but from the looks of things, UoC2’s bright and beautiful take on World War II shouldn’t be too far out. We’re hoping to get our hands on it this year.
Burden of Command - TBD
Green Tree Games announced late last year that their leadership role-playing game, Burden of Command, was going to take a bit longer to finish than they’d initially estimated. They haven’t committed to a new date yet, instead promising that Burden of Command will be done - “When it’s done right.”
While it’s of course disappointing that we won’t be able to see this new vision of military leadership in games for a while yet, a delay was likely the correct move. Burden of Command is doing something genuinely novel: it wants to convey the emotional, physical, and spiritual toll that wartime leadership exacts on the people who take on a captain’s bars and lead soldiers into what Vietnam War veteran Karl Marlantes called “The Temple of Mars” in his memoir, What It Is Like To Go To War.
Close Combat: The Bloody First - TBD 2019
Matrix Games’ new take on the Close Combat series probably won’t make the dais in our would-be Wargamer beauty pageant, but the US 1st Infantry Division isn’t going to be all that fussed about that. What we’re looking forward to with Close Combat: The Bloody First is a modernized version of the classic, and even if the transition to 3D is still a little rough-looking aesthetically, the amount of information and the level of detail look like more than enough to make up for any visual warts.
I love the look of the high-res maps (I am a bit of a sucker for topo lines), as well as the refocus on soldiers rather than squads. Moving to 3D means there’s space to simulate line of sight dynamically, as well as model individual ammunition types and more kinds of damage. Joe got an early hands-on with an alpha build last year, and he wrote at the time that combat feels very familiar - which is exactly what I imagine fans of the series were hoping to hear. If you're interested in helping out and getting your hands on the game early, Matrix are taking Beta sign-ups.
General Staff Wargaming System - TBD
Dr. Ezra Sidran has been working on this suite of software for the past several years, and he’s bringing to it a lot of academic heft - he’s a computer scientist who has devoted his career to wargaming and artificial intelligence, and his previous work in military simulations has been supported by the likes of DARPA.
Over the course of 2018, he released several pieces and beta builds of his powerful suite of wargame design software, map editing software, and army editor, and we’re looking forward to seeing the finished project, hopefully sometime this year. At the base level, there’s General Staff, the Game of Military Tactics (the “beer and skittles” Kriegsspeil mode), and then there’s the Wargaming System, which allows armchair designers to put together their very own rulesets and scenarios, or even more complex simulations.
Sidran’s work will likely have impact well beyond the usual scope for consumer wargames - we’re looking forward to the research published based on this as well.
Panzer Corps 2 - 2019
Panzer Corps was an early entry into the modern generation of approachable wargames, and after a foray into the world of Warhammer 40K, developer Flashback Games is returning to battlefields of earth for a full sequel, this one built in Unreal Engine 4.
This time around, in addition to a brand-new Wehrmacht campaign, there’s going to be a random map and scenario generator, providing an endless supply of tank battlefields on which to go to war with some 450 different lovingly-modelled 3D units. Panzer Corps 2 also has a shifting day/night cycle and changing seasons, all of which are reflected on the beautiful map.
To be honest, considering this was originally supposed to launch in 2018 we're getting a little nervous that we're heading towards the end of 2019 with no release window yet. There's still time, mind, and the prime-time Holiday release season is still ahead of us, but we're still hoping we hear something soon.
Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) - TBD 2019
The idea behind Grand Tactician is to create a detailed, historic recreation of the American Civil War in a real-time tactics game that allows you to re-fight the major battles of the war, while also giving you the chance to rewrite history in a powerful strategic layer. It’s an impressive project - all the more so when you realize it’s being developed by a three-man production team!
It’s easy to get caught up in the lovely maps and order of battle diagrams, which evince the 19th century brilliantly through design aesthetic and even typeface selection. Instead of a mini-map, for instance, you’ll zoom out to a hand-drawn terrain map. But on the ground, the level of detail is amazing: your men will respond more quickly when they’re in bugle range, for instance, and you can set orders for movements at specific times or signals. Battles can range from small skirmishes to massive engagements, with artillery, infantry, and cavalry all present and correct.
Grand Tactician also promises hundreds of historical officers and generals to lead your armies, footage of historical re-enactments, and the ability to play “what if” with scenarios like major European intervention or Lincoln losing the presidency. Look for it on Steam late in the year.
War of Rights - Currently in Early Access
War of Rights is another U.S. Civil War title, although instead of taking command as a Grant or Lee, here you’re given the perspective of an individual soldier on the ground at Harpers Ferry or Antietam. While it’s technically a first-person shooter rather than a proper wargame, War of Rights takes pains to make the experience more like participating in a re-enactment rather than running around like Rambo in a Battlefield game.
You’ll have to follow orders from sergeants and lieutenants (or take charge of a platoon as one of these leaders). You’ll form firing lines, shoulder to shoulder with other players, and painstakingly reload your Springfield with shot, wadding, and powder. And you’ll get to do all this on stunning recreations of Civil War battlefields rendered with CryEngine tech.
War of Rights is currently in early access on Steam, and Campfire Games says its current plans are to continue developing the game and adding features - there’s no set date for a “full release” just yet. But having played a few rounds since the latest backer build was sent out in December, I’m excited to see where this goes this year. When it works, and players are working together and taking it seriously, it’s one of the most immersive historical experiences I’ve had on my PC.
Other things to watch out for:
Order of Battle WW2 Console - the series is supposed to be coming to console sometime this year as a premium package with the base game bundled with the U.S Pacific expansions. The rest of the DLCs are to be made available as separate purchases on launch day as well. Last we heard 'spring' was the release window, but we're nearly out of summer now so we're not sure what the plans for this one are.
Military Operations - This ambitious WW2 RTS/Simulation caught our eye last year when it was announced, but there's been no information on how the project is shaping up in 2019. We're not sure it'll even release this year, but it's good to remember that it exists as it's probably the most fascinating war game project around right now. We took the free Benchmarking Tool that was released last summer for a spin, if you want to small insight as to what it's about.
Battlefront - Combat Mission Shock Force 2 may have been the main talking point for this company in recent months, but they are supposed to have other things in the works as well. There's still bits of CMSF2 that haven't been finished yet as far as we're aware, and there is also supposed to be a new module for Combat Mission Fortress Italy titled Rome to Victory. Whether we see any of this or the as-yet unnamed Red Thunder module anytime soon, or even this year, is anyone's guess.
UBOAT - this is a new WW2 Submarine simulator that features crew management and survival elements, whilst also throwing you into the midst of the Atlantic theatre of the naval war. It's currently in Early Access but is not due to leave until 2020, but we wanted to give it a brief mention here anyway. Check out our preview.
Campaign Series: Vietnam - The new game from CS Legion, who previously did Campaign Series: Middle East under Matrix. We were expecting it last year, but it never showed up. We're told that it's definitely coming this year, however.
Strategic Mind: The Pacific - The Pacific-focused sequel to last year's Panzer Strategy. It released into Early Access on April 30th, and is due to be there for six months. We haven't given it a full entry because the first game was a bit... eh. Panzer General-like experience made in Unreal. Hopefully the team have learned from their experience of the previous game, although our initial impressions aren't promising.
Digital gameworks - This one-man band indie studio creates some niche, if sometimes limited, war games. We’re not sure what they’re currently working on but keep an eye on them.
Wargame Design Studio - These guys are finally finished with their 'Gold' upgrades for all of JTS' Panzer Campaign games, and are not hard at work on their new stuff. Hopefully we should see at least one new game from them by the end of the year.
Wolfpack - This is more sub-sim than war game, but it allows for small groups of people to 'crew' a German U-Boat and pit it against AI-controlled flotillas and fleets. You can even team up with other crews to form the 'wolfpack'. It's currently in Early Access.
Seen any computer war game projects you’re excited about? Let us know in the comments!