Unity of Command: Red Turn: game diary on a website

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Developer 2×2 Games deserves an award for the most literal name for an expansion pack ever conceived. Unity of Command: Red Turn is a 17-scenario campaign for the Soviet Union in World War II. It’s the sequel to Unity of Command: Stalingrad Campaign, which I called an excellent introduction for new wargamers (because I am one).

Something bothers me right away about Red Turn. At the end of Stalingrad Campaign, the Soviets go on a long campaign to drive the Germans back from Stalingrad. Now the Soviets get to take another huge turn again. The Axis only get two measly scenarios this time around. That hardly seems fair. I suppose Germany must get two turns in a row later in the war. I’m not sure.

No matter. The most important thing about a new wargame is what the new unit icons look like. Red Turn adds a few attractive new models to show the progress of the war. Let’s take a look.

After the jump, feast your eyes on these novelty-sized upper torsos.

You won’t see many dramatic changes right away. At the beginning of Red Turn in 1943, the situation is still roughly similar to Stalingrad Campaign. The first thing you’ll notice is a tough new look for German armored divisions. It’s an up-armored Panzer IV tank with side and turret skirts. German Panzer units get a small boost to defense to reflect the visual change. What surprised me is that I didn’t need to unlock the costume through any kind of crafting metagame. It could’ve made a great preorder bonus too. Gamestop must be pissed.

Later in the campaign, the special mechanized SS units receive a bevy of Panther tanks. They get an upgrade in looks and attack factor. These elite groups do eye-popping damage against even the best Soviet mechanized units. The Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler was particularly scary when it appeared in a scenario. But that’s not nearly as scary as their brutal history I read about on Wikipedia.

I didn’t notice any big changes to the infantry icons. A few new units provide colorful variety, such as the German Fallschirmjager. You’ll find more units in the new scenario editor, which will also be available for the base game. These units were going to be a part of scenarios that didn’t make the cut. Modders should make good use of them.

(Click to enlarge)

There is one big change to infantry: specialist steps are everywhere now. Many Soviet infantry have artillery attachments. These provide shift bonuses to give the units a head start against entrenched German lines. Battles in Red Turn feel more like the historical accounts I’m reading in Hell’s Gate by Douglas Nash. Artillery softens up the static front lines. Mobile units shatter them and race through the breach. Infantry follow behind to expand the “shoulders” of the attack. But if I want to use my ground artillery after the initial turn, I’ll have to plan carefully. Some artillery specialists are suppressed after moving the unit, to reflect the time necessary to transport and set up the heavy artillery pieces. I need to move those units on the previous turn so they’re ready when I want them.

Artillery is extra important due to one of the new game mechanics in the engine. No matter how bad the attack odds are, there is a chance to breach entrenchment and remove that bonus shift from enemy units. Often I don’t have time to circle around dug-in positions to cut them off from supply. Now at least it’s a little easier to go straight through them.

It’s not all easy. The new “repulsed attack” mechanic has forced me to rethink how I play Unity of Command. Previously, units could be sacrificed in low-odds attacks to suppress some of the enemy steps (or combat readiness). It became a game of shuffling weak units around to save the best units from taking any losses. Now there is a chance the weak attack will be completely repulsed and broken off before any damage can be done. I need to find a better use for my weak units than throwing their lives away for a slight chance at a meager advantage. Hey, I’m not Stalin.

Perhaps the only disappointment is this tantalizing glimpse at what might have been. Spurred by a suggestion from a forum member, the developers released a hypothetical rendering of what the new tanks would like in winter livery. Because of their tight schedule, 2×2 Games had already decided to stick with summer camouflage. I think this would make a great post-release mod or official DLC.

Unity of Command: Red Turn, which requires the base game to play, is out now.

Up next: the inescapable feel of the Eastern Front

Aside from writing about Unity of Command, Tim James is also an aspiring amateur cheerleader. For Unity of Command, that is. He’s excited to find this gateway into wargaming and wants you to feel the same way.