Genre: Strategy, Tactics
Developer: Veitikka Studios
Publisher: Slitherine Ltd.
Release date: 25 Feb, 2021
Armored Brigade is seeing its third expansion, and like the past two we’re getting two new nations, this time the Netherlands and Czechoslovakia. The later of course being a country that no longer exists despite the fact that you still occasionally hear people who should know better referring to it as if it does.
Apart from the two new factions there’s also a new map, set in western Czechoslovakia, current day Czechia, three more single missions and a series first: A story driven linear campaign. You can still generate your own campaigns and missions on the new map, the story driven campaign is just another way of playing the game.
The New Factions
The star of the show here is the new factions. They are what will add further longevity to the game. Between them there are over 200 new units according to the store page, and without counting the new units by hand, that does seem true. There’s a lot of new stuff here. Though as this is a relatively realistic wargame, and not something like Command & Conquer, the factions are based on real world fighting forces, so they’re not completely different from what came before. After all both NATO and the Warsaw pact shared a lot of equipment internally and there are also rough counterparts on both sides. But the new nations still bring something new to the table.
First up is the Netherlands, representing NATO here and they are a force you don’t want to be ambushed by. The Netherlands mostly lack the really heavy armour of the US and British forces, but have good access to things like anti-tank guided missiles. And they’re not lacking in the armour department, as they still have access to the respectable Leopard 2. It’s just that in a straight up shootout the Netherlands will likely not come out on top, but thanks to an abundance of lighter heavy hitters they pack a surprisingly heavy punch. Overall the Netherlands skew towards well trained but lightly armoured. And one should be careful with underestimating their infantry, particularly their marines.
The Netherlands does not change a whole lot over time. They do, like any other nation, get access to more advanced equipment towards the end of the cold war, but no matter what date you set the basics remain more or less the same. Quality troops that can’t take a massive beating.
Czechoslovakia is very different to The Netherlands. Their equipment is in large somewhat outdated and they even use World War 2 tanks as late as the mid 80’s, though at that point they have access to better ones. Their tanks are of soviet design, but often a few years out of date, even if not all are T-34s. A lot of their equipment is also similar to other Warsaw pact members and they still have access to some very respectable fighting vehicles and some weapons that are not seen anywhere else, even if their tanks might not be quite up to specs.
What makes Czechoslovakia unique is how much the troop quality changes over time. Up until 1968 their troops are of a reasonable quality, not elite, but not bad either, but after the Prague spring and the purge following it Czechoslovakia ends up with the worst quality troops in the game. Then training and morale goes up over time again but never quite reaches the pre-68 levels. Changing the date from 68 to 69 does in other words result in a significant change in how Czechoslovakia is played, even if their equipment remains the same.
The New Map
The Plzeň Region was located in western Czechoslovakia, bordering Germany to the west. It’s the smallest map yet, and feels in terms of terrain like a mix between The Ardennes and the North German Plain map and has quite a few small rivers running across it, which makes for an interesting challenge.
A new map in a region that rarely sees much love in games is always fun, but the Plzeň Region map is unlikely to force you to switch up how you play all that much. It feels like a pretty typical map, whatever that means, unlike say the new map that came with the Italy/Yugoslavia DLC which really forced you to play differently. Still, it’s good that the map is there, but it’s not so different from what’s already in the game that it’s worth getting the DLC just for it.
The New Campaign and Missions
There are three new pre-made missions, and interestingly enough none of them are set on the new map and all three see the Netherlands squaring off against the USSR. It’s weird that Czechoslovakia did not get a single new mission, nor is The Netherlands forced to face any other opposition than the USSR itself. The new missions are at least well made and offer a decent challenge, even if they feel a bit limited in scope.
Luckily the new campaign lets Czechoslovakia shine. Well, not really shine per-se, they did after all lose, but you get to play as them. It’s set during the Prague Spring, a historical event where the Warsaw pact invaded Czechoslovakia in order to suppress reforms that they did not agree with. Reforms that would to some extent decentralize the Czechoslovakian economy. In the campaign you’ll get to try and fend off the USSR, its allies and even other Czechoslovakian troops loyal to the USSR. Every level starts with a, for a game, pretty long writeup about the events and treats you as a character stuck in the middle of all of this. The writing in the campaign is surprisingly good, better than even that of some far more story focused games with big budgets. It’s still not the main draw of the campaign, but it’s a pleasant surprise when the makers of a game like this does not just treat it as an afterthought. And along with the strong writing the level design is also quite good and it feels varied.
The latest expansion to Armored Brigade is, apart from the new campaign, ultimately more of the same. But much like past expansions that’s not a bad thing as “the same” is still very good. If you’re looking for even more nations and units for a game that’s already full of them then this DLC is well worth getting. The new story campaign is what makes this DLC stand out among its peers though. It’s really well made, and while it does not have a whole lot of replay value that’s covered by the new nations and the ability to generate your own campaigns. The only thing that really holds this DLC back from being a must buy for fans of Armored Brigade is how insanely content rich the base game is.