Blue is probably how the Germans felt after this case
Genre: Strategy, Tactics
Developer: 2×2 Games, Croteam
Publisher: 2×2 Games
Release date: 15 Nov, 2021
Unity of Command 2 is on a roll with its DLC releases. About 2,5 months after the last one, Moscow 41, another DLC has been released. 2×2 Games are giving Slitherine a run for their money with the number of DLCs they’re releasing! This time it’s back to the German side, and covering their southern offensive towards Stalingrad, the (in)famous Fall Blau (Case Blue).
This is not the first time we’ve seen this offensive covered in a Unity of Command title. The base game campaign in the original Unity of Command covered this very offensive, and thus we’re re-threading some old ground here, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Unity of Command 1 and 2 are very different games.
The rapid advance of the German army into the Soviet Union during 1941 had the allies worried. While the Soviet Union was huge, its population, as well as its industries, were concentrated to the west. The loss of Ukraine, known as the breadbasket of the Soviet Union, was a harsh blow against the USSR. But the Soviet Union held. Unlike Poland and France before it, the Soviet Union did not surrender to the advancing Germans. And during the winter of 1941/1942 the Soviet union was able to mount a counter-offensive against the over-extended Germans. This was not enough to push them back out of Russia, but they were able to re-take some land, and show to the world that the Soviet Union were not out of the game.
During the summer of 1942 it was time for the German army to once more go on the offensive. The vast oil fields of current day Azerbaijan were the true objectives of the campaign, though taking the industrial city of Stalingrad (current day Volgograd) was also considered important. It was believed that by cutting the oil supply to the red army it would cripple them, and at the same time Germany was in dire need of more fuel, as they could not easily import it anymore, now that some of their former trade partners were now their enemies, and the British navy blocked most shipments of oil that were meant to go to Germany.
Before continuing it’s worth looking at a map of the eastern front. In 1941 the German forces had their supply lines stretched to their limits, and they had to make the tough choice between supplying their forces with winter clothes, or food and ammunition.
Initially the offensive to the south took the Soviet Union by surprise. They had expected the Germans to continue their push towards Moscow, and had placed a considerable portion of their troops in that region. Even when the offensive to the south began, the Soviet forces were slow to react, still believing that Moscow was the actual goal. This mistake meant that the forces trying to hold out against the Germans were woefully unprepared for an offensive on this scale, and the Germans were able to penetrate deep into Soviet territory once more, even reaching the Caucasus region and nearly allowing them to accomplish their main objective, though thanks in large to over-extended supply lines the German army were unable to reach their goal. At Stalingrad the Soviet defenses held though, and a long and bloody fight for the city ensued, one that would prove to be costly for both sides, but one which the German forces could not afford. The failure to take Stalingrad would ultimately mean that the Case Blue offensive would fail, and the German forces were once more on the back foot.
Unity of Command II – Stalingrad adds a new historical campaign focusing on the Fall Blau campaign of 1942, with an alternative history track being available a few levels in that sees the Germans ignore Stalingrad and focusing entirely on taking the rich oil fields in the Caucasus region. The main historical campaign is 15 levels long, while the alternative branch adds 9 new levels.
There’s not a lot of surprises in the Stalingrad DLC. The mechanics remain the same as in the past, and while there’s a few new units & specialists that can be added to units, they don’t radically alter how the game is played. It’s nice to see the US/USSR lend-lease program getting a nod though, as the Soviets are now able to use M3 medium tanks (that is the weird looking US tank that has a small gun in its turret and a larger gun in a sponson on the right side). While the stats of the new specialists might not be identical to what came before it, they’re not enough to really change how you use the units compared to if you were using similar specialists that were already in the game. It’s nice that they’re there though, and they add some more historical flavour to the game.
The star of the show is the new campaign, which once more sees you take control of the German army, fighting against the Russians. This is one of the better balanced campaigns we’ve seen thus far in Unity of Command II, as it starts reasonably easy, but gets quite difficult towards the later parts. The gentle introduction is great if you’re feeling a bit rusty, but some of the later levels will give UoC II veterans a run for their money.
What has set Unity of Command apart from other wargames of this scale has always been the importance it puts on keeping your units in supply, and that is something that is particularly important here. With the German supply lines stretched beyond their limits keeping your entire army in supply is tough and sometimes even impossible. You really need to prioritize what units are being supplied, and try to minimize the damage done by being out of supply. The limited supply drops that you get become even more important than usual, as you need to decide if they’re worth using in order to keep a tank division that’s been sent in behind enemy lines to cut off their supply lines in supply, or if you need to keep an infantry division that’s keeping the enemy from crossing a river from crumbing. The defending Soviet forces usually don’t have the same supply issues, though they still often need to keep long supply networks, which gives plenty of opportunity to cut them off.
In Moscow 41 (the last DLC) unit placement could feel somewhat “spammy” with the frontlines clogged up by vast number of troops. That’s not really an issue here, most levels are large and don’t have too many troops, making it possible to outflank the enemy and shuffle your troops around without too much of a hassle. Some levels are more cramped than others, but overall they don’t feel as cramped. The German forces also got a good amount of variety between their units, as they’re also regularly backed up by Romanian and Italian troops. These troops are generally pretty weak and best for non-fighting roles (like cutting off supply, or holding crossing at major rivers), or for chasing down enemies that are out of supply or disorganized, rather than fighting the enemy head on.
According to the storepage the AI has also been improved. It’s always tough to tell how much the success of an AI is due to the level design, and how much is due to it just being good, but the AI does seem to be pretty good at isolating units and knowing how to disorganize them with HQ abilities, more so than in past DLCs.
This is the 3rd DLC released for Unity of Command II this year, and it’s impressive that 2×2 games have been able to keep the quality this high despite the rapid release rate. Overall this is another good addition to Unity of Command II, with a challenging and well balanced new campaign that is likely to, towards the later half, offer even UoC II veterans a run for their money. The heavy emphasis many of the levels put on supply really plays to the strengths of UoC II, and what sets it apart from its competitors. The AI also seems to have been touched up a little, though it’s hard to tell exactly how much of the AI’s good performance is down to the levels being built with its limitations in mind, and how much is due to it being improved.
If you enjoyed Unity of Command II this is DLC is well worth getting, particularly if you enjoy levels that forces you to pay very close attention to how well supplied your units are. It’s not a DLC for those who are brand new to the game, as the DLC really does get quite challenging later on, but if you’ve played some of the past DLCs and are looking for more UoC II goodness, then make sure to get this one as well.