Armored Brigade Nation Pack: France – Belgium Review

Armored Brigade‘s latest nation pack introduces French and Belgian kit to the Cold War sandbox, bringing the burgeoning headcount of combatants to 11. Included in the pack is also a new map featuring the Ardennes forest, a fixture in World War Two wargames, but now also available as a backdrop to NATO vs Warsaw Pact fighting. And of course, showcasing all the new additions in one place are two of the three new scenarios that come with the pack, depicting showdowns between French, Belgian and Soviet forces in the Belgian forest, as well as two of the three campaigns taking place in the snow laden Ardennes.

One of Armored Brigade‘s strengths has been the asymmetry of the different armies in the game. Effectively utilizing the unique strengths of each army is half the fun of learning the game, and the latest nation pack is no different. France’s order of battle is presented here in two distinct epochs.

French units from the 1960’s through the 1970’s are built around mobility, and maneuver and hit and run tactics are the name of the game. To facilitate the emphasis on “Rapid Battlefield Manoeuvre”, the early French order of battle is replete with fast moving, lightly armored vehicles.

The Jagdpanzer Kanone looks like something right out of World War Two.

The AMX-series of battle tanks, which hit hard and travel at a brisk 60 kph work well in concert with France’s mechanized infantry and supporting self-propelled mortars. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of my favorite units from the expansion, France’s Mirage air-to-ground attack aircraft, which come stocked with rocket pods, cannons, and in some cases, cluster bombs. When circumstances don’t allow for effective maneuver, the Mirage is amazing at breaking the stalemate, and the widespread effect of rocket barrages makes for wonderful reconnaissance by fire.

The French military of the 1980’s and early 90’s is an entirely different beast. Packing heartier armor, and a much more varied assortment of armored fighting vehicles, late France can slug it out with the best of them. The AMX-30b and it’s variants will be your bread and butter should you opt for a tank heavy approach, while the superlative quality of the Chasseurs training and morale means you will usually have the upperhand in infantry clashes. Topping off 80’s era France’s standout units is the Jaguar, which does everything the Mirage does, except better and with more boom. Another thing that I love about France is the prevalence of ATGM systems in both epochs.The Milan mounted on a recon vehicle is particularly wonderful, as it’s innate optics and great speed make for effective, low cost tank poaching in all phases of the battle. Overall, France is a great new addition to the game and almost feels like two different armies depending on what units the scenario allows for.

French ATGM’s keeping Pact units at bay while munitions last.

Although not as robust as France, Belgium is still a punchy addition to the game’s roster. Belgium comes packing Leopard tanks, and a small selection of AMX’s for troop transport, along with a potpourri of different NATO weapons systems for support and air options. Some of the more eclectic Belgian units include a Vulcan anti-aircraft cannon, a self-propelled howitzer, and a Jagdpanzer looking tank destroyer unit. The Belgian army has access to better units the later in time the scenario takes place, with the infantry always generally being the standout option. The Para-Commando units are a menacing bunch, with morale and training stats starting at 85, and small arms for taking on everything sans aircraft. Unlike many of the other smaller nations in the game, Belgium is interesting because they can’t rely on waves of low cost units to win the battle. Rather, playing this army means the leveraging the parity of the standout units with their Soviet counterparts, and using the more antiquated parts of the Belgian order of battle to keep them alive while they reposition.

The new map featuring the Ardennes is a blast to play on and a great addition to the games current selection of real estate. Maybe it’s because I am fresh off the Chechnyan civil war mod, but I found the boundless sections of forest and a large fields in-between them to be a refreshing change of pace. In accordance with the unwritten laws of tactical wargaming, clearing forests is bloody business, and I would find myself trying to go around them whenever possible. Although in a game where most units can fire halfway across the map, this is much easier said than done. Another fun tactical challenge presented by the new map is some of waterways present. Too wide to cross quickly, but narrow enough to allow for overwatch over them, the rivers add to the defenders paradise that is the Ardennes. Quite a few urban areas are present on the map as well, and World War Two grogs will recognise more than a few names that dot the landscape. Using Armored Brigade‘s campaign generator, I managed my own rendition of the Battle of the Bulge, both of which ended in disaster. Two of the three campaigns included in the package happen to feature battles in and around the mythic Belgian town, both of which are total meat grinders for the attacking Soviets.

Have fun trying to move from one side of this to the other in one piece.

The three scenarios and three campaigns that come with the package should serve well in giving players a feel for the new armies before they go wild with Armored Brigade‘s generator options. At it’s heart, Armored Brigade is all about designing your own scraps. The scale and customization options for generating scenarios, combined with great AI and a growing slew of nations, means there is ostensibly unlimited scenarios provided just a minimal amount of legwork by the player.

And this is before seasoned players hit the campaign generator, which is where the game shines the brightest. So if your like me, and see Armored Brigade as a sandbox for your own fun, the latest nation pack is a great way to bolster your options. And adding to this sense of unlimited replayability is Armored Brigade‘s recent move to Steam, meaning a fast growing plethora of user generated battles is only a few clicks away.

Editor’s Note: This review has been updated to reflect additional content present in the launch build of the game that was not brought to our attention during the review process. We apologise for any misunderstandings.