Wargame: Red Dragon the Cold War goes East

By Matthew Flanigan 13 Jun 2014 0


?Wargame: Red Dragon? is the sequel to the 2013 title, ?Wargame: Air Land Battle,? and the third game in the series which started in 2012 with ?Wargame: European Escalation.? To the casual viewer, the games are nearly identical. The biggest addition to ?Red Dragon? is naval units and naval combat. ?Air Land Battle? included naval actions, like bombardments, but they were all strategic map between-turn items rather than in battle units like ?Red Dragon? has. ?Red Dragon? is an incremental upgrade to the previous version of the game.

?European Escalation? had no air units aside from helicopters, ?Air Land Battle? added fixed wing aircraft and, as previously mentioned, ?Red Dragon? added naval units.  Just as ?Air Land Battle? air units lacked a fleshed-out air superiority mode and really only allowed for close air support and extremely limited air to air elements, ?Red Dragon? adds naval units in the same model, where they are added mainly to support ground combat and not for open ocean naval combat. Another big change in "Red Dragon" is that unlike the previous games in the series, the theater of operations shifts from a Cold War gone hot in Europe to Asia. The timeframe of the game is between 1975 and 1991. The game adds several new nations as a result of the shift in geography such as, China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea and more.


Game Modes

Game modes have not changed since the last installment of the series. The game includes two different game modes and a tutorial. The tutorials are effective, yet brief. The first mode of the game would be the campaign game, which includes five different campaigns. The first campaign is very small and almost feels like a tutorial of the campaign game, while the larger campaigns have the potential to last many hours. The second game mode is skirmish mode, which could be accurately described as a sandbox mode, where you generate random or player-defined battles in a single engagement. The skirmish mode is also essentially the online multi-player mode and allows for playing anywhere between 1 vs. 1 up to 10 vs. 10, but multiplayer does not allow a campaign to be fought in single battles.



The gameplay in "Wargame: Red Dragon" is almost identical to previous "Wargame" installments, in that the game uses the same engine, the same interface, and the vast majority of the units are also ported over from that game.

First, let?s look at what?s the same. Now when I say gameplay is almost the same as "Wargame: Air Land Battle", I mean it?s literally the same. So here?s a slightly modified excerpt from my previous review of "Wargame: Air Land Battle" (see the quoted section below if you are unfamiliar with the series). If you?ve already played and want to know what?s new, you can skip this segment and see below where I talk about naval combat.

Modified Excerpt from Wargame: Air Land Battle Review on Gameplay

?Gameplay is almost like a melding of more traditional RTS's in the Age of Empire vein, and more tactical based games such as the Combat Mission series. Battles start with a deployment phase. Players are given a set number of initial points with which to purchase various units and place them on the map. Once the battle is underway, a player slowly accumulates more points. This allows the player to call in new troops once the engagement is underway but, unlike most traditional RTS's, there is no resource gathering or base building. The only user-created building of any importance is the FOB (Forward Operating Base), which allows units to resupply both ammunition and fuel. Unlike more tactically- oriented real time games, such as Combat Mission, you are able to call in reinforcements on the fly using your initial points as you see fit. The game has no scripted reinforcements, and in this sense you are able to adjust your strategy based on how the battle unfolds. Reinforcements can only be called in from certain parts of the map. The battlefield is split up into numerous hex-like regions and, while these areas have no impact on movement or game play, like in a hex-based game they do handle how reinforcements are allowed to enter the field of play. Reinforcements can only be brought into a battle from a region that boarders the edge of the map, though not every boarder region is allowed to bring reinforcements in. Additionally some regions earn you reinforcement points that can be spent on said reinforcements, you earn stated number of points for each of these sections every 5 or so seconds while other sections of the map earn you nothing and have limited value. This does give a sense of tactical importance to certain parts of the map over others. Also it?s worth noting boarder sections that can are annotated on the map with arrows pointing from the outer part of the map inwards. This appears to be an attempt to simulate the impact that roadways and other transportation systems have on a battlefield.

Typically each army will start with one or two regions along the borders, with which they can deploy forces into and call in reinforcements through. Reinforcements can only be called into a region that a side controls and in order to control a region, a player must have at least one stationary command unit in the region.  Command units come in various sizes and capabilities and represent senior officers on the battlefield. These units can vary between lightly armed and largely helpless jeeps, to command tanks which are more than capable of defending themselves against enemy units. As already stated, reinforcements can only be called in from the regions on the edge of the map and, similarly, each side almost always starts in possession of a region capable of calling in more reinforcements.

When maneuvering your army terrain plays an important role: wooded areas provide concealment, open fields are death traps for infantry, bridges can become fatal funnels, buildings provide useful defensive cover for infantry, and rivers provide natural barriers and should be used to provide protection to your flanks as you advance down the other side of the map. With that said, height fields don't seem relevant. Apart from some buildings, you rarely see a chance to get your troops higher than the enemy. Tanks may get slowed down by trees and mud, but they rarely have to navigate mountainous passes or hills. The map has some nice eye candy along the corners, but despite the theater of operations being in some mountainous areas like Korea, most battles still feel far too flat. The terrain has improved somewhat from ?Wargame: Air Land Battle? but overall it?s still a huge disappointment, though at least there is some progress. Also, while you have multiple choices for setting up skirmish battles, all the battles still feel like meeting engagements with defensive lines with other defensive tactics having only a limited importance. Sure, defensive tactics can still be used, but it's less relevant to holding the line or strategic location, but rather for the purpose of destroying the enemy. The various victory points awarded by parts of the map and the reinforcement points provide some strategic incentives but for a war and conflict as fast as a cold war gone hot it feels there should be a way to make these pretty large battles feel more epic and like something bigger than just a battle of attrition.

Whilst the impact of elevation and engagement variety might be somewhat limited, what the game does have in spades however, is units. There are over 1,200 units included (an increase of some 400 units from Air Land Battle and despite being focused in the pacific theater the majority of Air Land Battles units do carry over and can be used in skirmish modes and multiplayer) in the game from a seemingly endless list of nations: The expected, American, Russian, Chinese, Korean and Japanese troops are there but there are also, Polish, East German, and the list goes on. ?Red Dragon?s? biggest addition in terms of gameplay and units from its predecessor is the inclusion of naval units.?

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Naval Combat/Gameplay

Naval units can be broken down into a few broad categories, Destroyers, Frigates, Corvettes and Patrol crafts, in addition to that there are aircraft carriers that partake in the campaigns and can be moved around the operational map which basically acts as a mobile airbase. While just like air units, naval units are mainly a side show to the ground pounding they are a bit more involved in Red Dragon. That?s to say unlike air units it?s possible to fight strictly between two naval forces over control of the sea. This gives the game an ability to model the fight for naval supremacy through ship only engagements, as well as supporting the now possible amphibious assault landings. Naval combat however is extremely arcade like. Battles take place between ships at obscenely close ranges and ships fire off surface to surface missiles at ranges that look like they should be trading broadsides during the age of sale rather than firing SSMs and what?s incredible at these close ranges missiles often miss, in fact surface to surface missiles act more like rockets in that they don?t follow their targets but seem to fly a straight course and are unusually inaccurate and underpowered. I love using naval forces to support landings as it seems a genuinely fun and interesting addition to the game, but the naval on naval battles just feel poorly done and really don?t work well in a small map environment or within this type of game engine that?s clearly designed for land combat first. It?s an interesting experiment but it doesn?t feel like it works very well.

Both land and naval battles can be won in two ways: every unit is worth a certain number of points and each battle will have a points threshold for the battle. If you hit this threshold before the enemy, then you win the battle. The second way to win a battle is by destroying all the enemy command vehicles. If a battle ends with time running out and neither side meets the afore mentioned victory goals, then the fight is considered a draw and will continue during the next turn if the battle being fought is part of a campaign.


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