What’s Gus Playing? Order of Battle – Red Steel!

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Looking out my window I see the woods and the hill behind my house covered in about 2.5 feet of snow. There’s barely any color out there besides gray and white and it’s about 25 degrees. The warmth and love in my home can’t overcome the chill.

What is not difficult to imagine on this cold February morning is the vast, freezing steppe of the eastern front during World War II, and to bring it further into focus I just fired up Order of Battle: Red Steel, a set of scenarios placing the player in the boots of a Soviet commander taking charge of the titanic effort of continuously pushing back the invading Germans just after they were stopped outside of Moscow in late 1941.
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By: Lloyd Sabin,

This is the first Soviet campaign I am playing in Order of Battle. There are two others, one set before Red Steel from 1938-1941 and one after (1943-1945), but I chose this one to tinker with just because I was interested in seeing what it had to offer.
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Maps and documentation make simple sense out of what could be an extremely complex theater of war.

The last full campaign I played in this series was Morning Sun with the player taking the role of a Japanese commander fighting in mainland China in the mid 1930s. I loved that campaign and played every scenario ’til the end, actually completing it with a victory!
Gameplay is similar here in Red Steel – turn-based, with the option of bringing over core armies if the player goes through the scenarios in chronological order. I may do that at a later time to get the full Order of Battle experience, but right now getting this small taste of the tide turning on the Eastern Front is scratching the itch well enough.
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Campaign chooser screen – with a dozen available campaigns, Order of Battle is a WWII gaming force to be reckoned with.

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The intro is set up very well for players who may be new to the topic, etc.

The turn mechanics are virtually identical, with a few tweaks here and there, with Soviet ‘hero’ units (think of generals like Zhukov and others) available to boost the morale and attack of your troops. It was very cool to see heroes appear on the German side as well, like tank aces and ace ground attack pilots. It felt like there were more of those types of unique characters appearing here in Red Steel than in previous installments like Morning Sun, which adds nicely to immersion and even story-telling, which can be lacking sometimes in wargames.
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Heroes are more prolific here, which I welcomed. They buff the morale of the unit they are attached to.

If you are an armor aficionado, Red Steel is a great place to be. The full array of German and Soviet armor, along with tech advances, is on display, with the player given a bit of control of which way Soviet tech development will go as progress is made.
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German heroes also appear, which the player will have to deal with as the Soviet commander.

Combat is satisfying and crunchy, with successful armor units able to blast enemy wrecks out of the way to seize their hex. Artillery, including the notorious Katyusha, is available and although not particularly effective, is literally a blast to use. Engineers, conscripts, professional regulars, naval infantry and more are also available to the Soviet player, as well as early Migs, Yaks, Pe-2s and other hard-hitting Soviet aircraft in fighter, bomber and ground attack roles. Obviously I haven’t encountered any naval units yet but that may change as the campaign advances and I get closer to the Crimea, the Black Sea, etc.
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Most Soviet aircraft, infantry types, armor and other units are represented, with some not available until later in the campaign, reflecting history.

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Stalin’s er…organ…available and ready for…duty.

Newer releases like Panzer Corps 2 may have sexier graphics, but the array of scenarios and campaigns available for Order of Battle make it the king of mid-range difficulty WWII PC games right now, for me anyway. The gameplay in earlier missions was more tightly scripted and puzzle-like, but that seems to have faded away or been more well hidden a bit in Morning Sun and here in Red Steel as well, which is exactly what Order of Battle needed.
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There also appear to be more historical events here in Red Steel, whether welcomed or not.


Another unwelcome development, as I wasn’t fast enough in chasing the Germans across the steppe. This will come back to bite later, I’m sure.

So if you’re looking to warm your cockles on a freezing winters day, what better way to do it than by blasting the Germans back to west in Order of Battle: Red Steel? None, I say!
Order of Battle: Red Steel is available from Steam for $14.99

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