Author Topic: Armored Brigade  (Read 2628 times)

bayonetbrant

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on: November 24, 2018, 12:44:16 PM
Some interesting thoughts from a wargamer over on FB about some scenarios he's playing on Armored Brigade


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Some folks over on the Computer Wargames: Tactical to Strategic page have asked me to give my comments on Armored Brigade, the recent release from Matrix Games. So here is what I wrote for them in case some of you wargamers are sitting on the fence for this one.

Some background first. I'm a retired USAR Infantry Colonel. I commanded a Bradley IFV equipped Mech Infantry Company in the 3d Armored Division from 1987-1988. I also was a civilian threat intelligence analyst for US Army TACOM for 24 years. I've been playing wargames since 1970.

I like this game a lot. It is accessible, easy to play, relatively quick to play and the interface and commands are intuitive. I like the view as it looks like a tactical computer screen that you would be seeing in your command post and you can zoom in to see your tanks taking on the bad guys. The US vehicles of the late 1970s even have MERDEC camouflage. Although I'm always a RTS fan, this game paces it just right. I do not feel the need to be clicking madly to get orders out, nor do I feel the need to micro manage my boys in the fight. They seem to do what they should do if you set the SOPs correctly (although there could be a "shoot and move back" type command which is how the crews are really trained).

I bought the game on release day but didn't get to sit down with it until a day or two later. I read the manual and then played a scenario from the battle generator making just a small similar force or force engagement. I did not find it hard to figure out at all (now I did watch a few videos by Commissar Roach before release, although not tutorials one can pick up how to play form watching him play). So far I've been playing reinforced company meeting engagements using various nations forces and have a blast doing so. Battles are easy to generate once you do a few you have it down. I find this the fun part, picking various orders of battle and seeing how they will do. And you can pick anywhere in West Germany to fight so I'll be able to actually play out what would have been my GDP back in the Spearhead Division in the late 1980s: Hunfeld, Germany.

Since I have been playing meeting engagements I've figured to win these you find a good position and let the enemy come to you where you force him to do so in open terrain. I so far usually shoot them up. Now I am not going to say this is poor AI because this is how we were trained to fight, maneuver to good positions and attack by fire, let the bad guy move to his death. I have yet to play the Soviet side nor have I attacked. Although in one meeting engagement I aggressively went for the OBJ and my poor M48A3s got hammered.

And speaking of Patton tanks, this game allows you to play from 1966 to 1991. This is great! not many games cover the 60s and 70s and it is fun to go back and play with the not-so-great-tanks. Heck even a caveman can win with M1A2s! try it with the older ones and its not so easy.
Its been a long time since I've been immersed into a computer wargame (I playtested Talonsoft's Campaign Series for many years) and i am so far getting into this one. There are complaints about no campaign nor multiplayer. These don't bother me a this game does just what I want it to do, give me the ability to gin up a battle covering any part of a long period of Cold War history. I can't wait for the DLC. bring on the French!

If you like modern armor, this game will likely be for you. I recommend it.

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Back to Armored Brigade.

In the last couple of games I did have some trouble commanding formations. You can give orders to each individual unit but as the scenarios get larger you need to command by formation. So back to some training so off to the NTC I go for formation practice. I played a series of short scenarios that had a few platoons of M1A1s on the map and I watched what they did when issued formation orders. So I then figured out some nuances, like when changing from line to echelon right you have to allow the units time to form up properly and terrain can cause problems. But I got the hang of after awhile. Also I got to see how nasty the Abrams is in the later years of the game,

Then for fun I set up a defense scenario in 1977 in the NTC where I had a M551 Sheridan section, two platoons of M113 Mech Inf, two platoons of M60A2s, some mortar carrier, Vulcans and a TOW carrier section. Plus artillery in support. Now I really goofed up the set up of this scenario because for some reason i couldn't dig in. Then I played it and just got clobbered by BM-21 rocket fire and artillery and no matter how many Commies I knocked out,they just kept coming. Finally they got into my positions and what was left of my poor team surrendered. Then I I looked at the AAR map and there were Russians everywhere, tons of them. I goofed the setup and the Commies out numbered me 12 to 1. Those dang Intel weenies! 😡 I'll have to reset this mission and try it again. But look at the picture.. .red symbols everywhere!

and

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Back to the NTC for more training. This time the focus was on how the contact and scout commands work. Contact will have your units advance but stop and engage on contact whereas with advance, they will fight but try to keep going. Contact makes for a more deliberate advance and it works well, especially in the desert.

Scout has your recon units probe forward and they will stop, pop smoke if they have it and move back to a covered position if possible. I find it hard to keep scouts alive as "recon by death" seems to be the preferred tactic. Scout does seem to work as one of my M551s survived the fight and the other did quite well until hit by flanking fire from the T62s in the north.

This scenario I has a M60A3 company ordered to take a Soviet position guarding the entrance into Red Pass. I was supported by a M106 Heavy Mortar Section. M901 section and a M163 Section. The commies had two platoons of T-62 which were allowed to dig in (I finally figured out how to make that happen in the scenario set up), a BRDM-2 recon vehicle and two 120mm heavy Mortars.

I pretty much did Bounding over-watch through the contact command while pushing the scouts forward scouting. I was staring in the low ground and wanted too use the M901s for over watch but couldn't make that happen. The Sovs defended with one platoon in front of the OBJ and one in a very good flanking position in the north that would fire on my left flank as i moved forward. Fortunately I was able to get my left flank platoon into an echelon left and they took care of that threat but not after it caused damage by killing my M901s trying to get into the only overwatch position I could find. Theis scenario played out at 50 minutes 50 seconds.

I took the OBJ with moderate losses (4 M60A4, 2 M901, 1 M163, 1 M551) The Soviets lost all their vehicles 9^ T-62, 1 BRDM-2)

Lessons learned:

1. recon recon recon. Taking your time in this game is crucial. I wanted those M901s in over-watch too badly and moved them before knowing what was in range. They never survive fire so their only advantage is range. If you can't get the range, don't move them forward until you have the range.. and know what is out there.

2. Mortars are crucial. (I knew this already being a former 81mm Mortar Platoon leader). They can fire suppression fire on enemy tanks quickly. That was how I defeated both dug-in tank platoon positions. I immediately dropped mortar fire on the dug in tanks which suppressed them so I could maneuver forces to acheive fire superiority on them. Dug in tanks are much harder to hit in this game as they should be so you need to use everything to your advantage to knock them out.

3. Bounding Over-watch is key to an advance on a position. Don't rush forward, take your time, find the enemy and be ready to maneuver.

4. The formation and unit commands work very well in this game. Use them. Allow the subordinate units to form up, don't be impatient and start clicking wildly... let the game do its thing. This slows down your pace so you can command as a company commander and not as three platoon leaders. It works, and works well. Train up on using these commands and learn what they do and how they do them. It makes for better control of the units and greater gaming experience.

5. Just like the real Army, training is everything. Set up certain scenarios to train yourself on certain aspects of tactics and the game. This game plays relatively quickly but learning its nuances are key. I'm now very glad it does not have tutorials as it forces the player to train and learn. The interface is easy and the commands not difficult, but you need to see what they do and how.

I've been playing wargames since 1970. This by far is the best (both computer and board) wargame at this micro-tactical level. Many RTS games are click-fests, this one is not, they got the pace exactly right and the command system is wonderful while remaining easy to use. And not everyone dies quickly like in many RTS games, although they can if you screw-up. But sound tactics work well in this game. If you like tanks, get this game and spend days learning how to fight modern era armored warfare, but be warned you may immerse into this game at the expense of real life... I have, but I'm lucky I'm retired.

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