Welcome to our ultimate strategy guide for Matrix Game’s real-time tactics title Armored Brigade. The Cold War’s gone hot in Germany and Scandinavia, and you must take command of either NATO or Warsaw Pact forces and fight it out across small-to-large enagements for your side.
This is a living guide – John’s a big fan of the game and is always playing it, so as he writes up new sections with new tips, we’ll post them here so you have everything in one place.
NATO Strategy & Tips
There’s an adage in combat sports that “styles make fights” which is just as apt to the kind of fights found in Armored Brigade. The asymmetric capabilities of NATO and Warsaw Pact units will often be the determinate in how you play the game in a given scenario.
Factional differences go beyond just unit rosters however, as things like training, command delay, and morale also help to differentiate the title’s armies. In this section we will be taking a look at NATO forces and what they bring to the battlefield.
One thing to consider when thinking about Armored Brigade‘s contingent of NATO units is, just as in real life, the varied plethora of units to choose from when compared to the Warsaw Pact’s more homogenised order of battle. As such, the United States, UK, and West Germany all vary to a greater degree both in their capabilities and unit selection.
Given the huge variety of NATO units in the title, the “best” unit available to you depends on the country you’re playing as.
The iconic M1 Abrams takes the cake here. Excellent ratings in survivability and speed coupled with a potent 105mm gun and thermal imaging means the M1 is likely coming out on top of every tank on tank shootout.
As with almost every other American unit in the game, the downside is the cost. Spending all your points on M1s in the pregame unit selection phase almost certainly means your tanks are going to be outnumbered, which makes micro management and a knowledge of game mechanics prerequisites for playing as the US well.
The other standout capability of the United States in Armored Brigade is its roster of ground attack aircraft. The A-10, A-7D, and F-4D Phantom are all leagues above their peers in delivering destruction from above, but once again, at a hefty cost when compared with the more affordable air support options enjoyed by the other nations in the game.
The British army follows a similar pattern as the American OOB, with a variety of high-quality units with accompanying high costs. The main British MBT, the Challenger, also packs a 120 mm gun and hefty armor, but moves considerably slower than the Abrams.
Britain also brings some high-quality scouting units to the table, both in the form of a pair of affordable helicopters, and the cost-effective Scimitar scout section. The Scimitar’s 30mm gun is a nasty compliment to its high speed and excellent optics, making the vehicle a fantastic asset for skirmishing or pinning down entrenched infantry or light vehicles.
Federal Republic of Germany
The Federal Republic of Germany or FRG (otherwise known as ‘West’ Germany), is an army of high highs and low lows. FRG infantry is of decidedly low quality across the board, and even 80’s era FRG infantry is stuck with a Panzerfaust (you read that right) for their anti-tank needs.
The FRG does shine however, in terms of its armor and the flexibility with which it can deploy it. Though packing a marginally smaller main gun than the Abrams or Challenger, the Leopard is a solid all-around main battle tank for its cost. Adding to this, is the FRG’s ability to assign what are normally main battle tanks such as the Leopard to the recon section during pre-game force building.
Although much more expensive than traditional, lightly armored recon vehicles, this allows the FRG player to bring even more tanks to bear on the enemy should you hit your armored unit limit while assembling your army. Combine this deluge of medium quality tanks with a well round coterie of air units, and the FRG is a great choice for players new to the game looking for a well-rounded army that is forgiving of mistakes.
Although Finland wasn’t formally in NATO, a few of the title’s selection of scenarios feature the punchy Finns fending off Soviet armor with their own collection of Russian tanks. The Finns have the most eclectic arsenal in the game, with old T-55’s fighting alongside NATO and World War II era small arms.
Compensating for cheap weaponry, however, is the Finns generally cheaper unit cost given their decent quality units, especially when compared to the typically dreg quality of Soviet infantry.
Besides their respective orders of battle, NATO countries generally have a leg up on their Soviet counterparts when it comes to training and, more importantly, command delay. Training as per the Armored Brigade manual is an aggregate rating that effects “spotting, hiding, firing accuracy, pre-battle recon detection, breaching, infiltration, fatigue, slowness caused by suppression, breaching speed, and the chance to find and enter a defilade position”.
As such, although you will almost always be outnumbered in the stock scenarios, your pixeltruppen will perform at a much higher level than the Soviet conscripts being thrown at them. This increased performance also results in a general superiority of morale, as your units are much better at independently keeping themselves alive and in good order.
Command delay captures NATO and Warsaw Pact doctrinal differences by shaping the way you command your virtual soldiers. An order is given to a formation, and as the order is processed, a timer counts down before your edict is acted upon. NATO forces have a much quicker command delay timer than Pact forces, reflecting NATO’s decentralized and often more autonomous command structure.
This allows the NATO player to react quicker to situations as they arise, and issue granular orders than would otherwise be feasible with a Pact force. To illustrate this, a United States platoon with a good order HQ unit takes twenty seconds to execute an order. A Soviet force with the exact same unit composition takes forty-five seconds, over twice the time it takes for US forces. This is probably your strongest asset as a NATO player, and as such, makes NATO friendlier for players who prefer micro-management.
Warsaw PACT Strategy & Tips
As the Yin to NATO’s Yang, the Warsaw Pact forces, play something akin to a sledgehammer. In the base game, the USSR and punchy East Germans are the two Pact factions, and although there is a huge disparity in unit quality between the two, both share the same requisite lines of thinking to play well. Namely, giving overarching orders at the beginning of the game and working with this lack of flexibility compared to the NATO forces. And while at first glance this might sound like a handicap, T-80’s, scads of cheap effective infantry, and a nice selection of air to surface support options more than make up for any difficulties with improvisation and thinking on the fly.
Pact forces on average take one and a half to double the time to act on orders as their NATO counter-parts. This of course is variable according to the many “soft” factors baked into the unit stats (training, morale, etc), but effective use of Soviet forces requires a planners eye of the situation when setting-up a battle. Especially on the attack, your success is largely determined in the opening moves of the match, as when things get going and command delays are stretched thin on account of combat, you rarely have the luxury of waiting two minutes for orders to adjust. I have found in my playing that keeping reserves, even on defense, is almost mandatory for such a ponderous playstyle. Away from the fighting on the frontline , the reserves are not encumbered with the excruciatingly long wait times that embattled Pact forces suffer, and will often arrive to assist quicker than a retreat order could be acted on.
Regardless of when in Armored Brigade‘s depicted timeline you play; you will always outnumber your NATO opponent. This comes down to the affordability of most Pact units and barring an army list comprised of state of the art armored vehicles, part of the joys of being a Pact player is swarming objectives in large, set-piece attacks planned prior to the battle. The average USSR infantry platoon is 25 points cheaper than a NATO one, and this “discount” carries throughout the other types of units. Morale and training is typically lower than the United States, West German, and British forces but quantity has a quality all its own. When an attack starts to falter, rallying broken Pact forces can be like herding cats, so the Pact needs to invest more heavily than NATO in a plentiful supply of morale bolstering command units for infantry and light vehicle units to ensure sure pushes don’t break down at the first signs of trouble.
Of the two Pact factions included in the base game, the USSR is easily the more dominant of the two. Over the course of time the game covers, the USSR is host to a bewildering number of units and can be best described as a jack of all trades, with an emphasis on armor and air to ground helicopter support. The USSR’s T-72 outclasses NATO forces armor up until battles taking place in the late 70’s/early 80’s when the West began to produce armor capable of slugging it out with the T-72. And while the Abrams is probably the best tank in the game, the USSR’s marquee armored fighting vehicle, the T-80 is still a tough piece of work. With a 125mm main gun and 445 mm armor, it is still capable of handily punching holes in an Abram.
A beautiful compliment to USSR armor, the Mi series of attack helicopters are a fearsome lot. Starting in the early 70’s with the Mi-4Av gunship and reaching its apotheosis with the Mi-8Tv, the USSR always has an edge as far as helicopter gunships are concerned. The Mi-8Tv sports a 12.7mm heavy machine gun, with rocket pods and an ATGM, making it ideal for taking out high value targets, or prepping an area for one of the USSR’s trademark set piece attacks.
East German Tips
The other 50% of Armored Brigade‘s Warsaw Pact roster is East Germany, or the German Democratic Republic (GDR). While not packing the sophisticated kit of the USSR, the GDR are no slouch either. While denied some of the higher end Soviet goodies like the T-80, they are still granted access to the T-72 from its inception in the early 70’s, meaning in earlier scraps the GDR will often have an edge insofar as armor is concerned. GDR troops are usually lacking in the morale department and are often hamstrung by their infantry selection.
Although Grenztruppen and standard infantry perform well enough, the GDR militia units will often be used on account of price. With an abysmal base morale and training stat of 50 out of 100, these units are best used as static defenders. From my experience, the later in time the battle takes place, the worse off the GDR are, as their order of battle is for the most part set in stone, and you are confined to T-72’s and blobs of so-so infantry as late as 1991. They are a fun faction to play though, especially on defense, where their lack of gumption isn’t as large of a handicap.
One interesting by-product of the emphasis on quantity over quality in the Pact’s force composition comes through in two different ways in the campaign generator. The first way is through the supply system; the campaign generator provides a pool of supply points for the player to replace and resupply their units following a battle. Depending on your force make-up, this can present some difficult choices. For example in an early 80’s USSR force, it is typical to see state of the art T-80’s fighting alongside hordes of humble BMP’s and ho-hum infantry. Finishing a slobberknocker of a battle with all your forces weathered will sometimes result in you having to choose between keeping the expensive AFV’s up and running, but without an adequate infantry screen, or replenishing the infantry, but without your hard counter to whatever heavy armor NATO might have prowling around the next battle.
This dilemma isn’t as prevalent for majority of the NATO countries, where quality among unit types is more equally distributed. The second way in which the numbers heavy style of the Pact is affected by the generator is in the experience system. Especially in campaigns featuring the GDR, prolonged campaigns can elevate the dregs of your army into something a little more formidable provided you can nurture them long enough for promotion. Just surviving battles is enough to net some experience, and I’ve had campaigns where I’ll keep scores of cheaply gotten East German militia units parked in a thicket while I eek out a draw with the remainder of my forces. Depending on the size of the campaign, doing this a few times will bring a great return on investment, and you can now bring your cheaply gotten, “upgraded” troops in fresh for the last leg of the campaign. Granted doing this with poor quality units doesn’t change their antiquated equipment, but at least gives them a fighting chance on offense.
It’s easy to overlook the humble infantryman, when playing Armored Brigade, a game replete with some of the most ferocious killing machines known to humankind. However, beneath the infantryman’s squishy and unassuming exterior lies the bane of every other unit on the battlefield.
Stealth, versatility, and return on investment are three foundational strengths shared by every infantry unit, and in this section we’ll be looking over these traits and how to best leverage them to your advantage while playing.
As we mentioned in our review, Armored Brigade‘s levels are sprawling pieces of real estate, where urban areas, patches of wilderness, and hill formations can all be found on the same battlefield. The vicissitudes of the terrain play right into the first of the three infantry strengths: stealth. Being a fragile and unprotected lot, infantry units by necessity need to constantly be either in, or on the way to cover. Once there, the cover is where the infantry goes into hiding, and a well-placed unit may as well be invisible. A furtive squad coupled with a hold fire order can act like something of a ten-man minefield, holding up a much larger force.
There is more to a unit’s ability to successfully hide than just the terrain, although shrewd usage of the map’s features is a prerequisite for keeping your pixeltruppen from being spotted. A unit’s “training” stat is also crucial in quickly and effectively securing a hidden spot units possessing a high training stat are more likely to remain undetected by close-up enemy units. The other “soft” factor essential in successfully hiding your units is their fatigue leveltired units take more time to get hidden, so if possible, try to gingerly set-up in the woodline for best results. Armored Brigade at the moment does not allow for area fire with anything besides ordinance, so use this to your advantage. One surreptitiously placed unit in the right spot can lead your opponent to thinking there’s more of your units in that woodline than there really is, causing him to waste precious munitions on the whole area thinking there’s more there than your single stalwart squad.
For all the complexity of the combined arms warfare in the game, at its core, it is something akin to a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Air generally trounces ground units, unless there’s anti-air, which hard-counter’s air, which in turn is vulnerable to anything on the ground, and so on and so forth. Working within this network of relationshipswhere one weapon system is tailored to neutralize anotheris the key to being a good Armored Brigade player. In keeping with the Rock, Paper, Scissors analogy, the infantry unit doesn’t fit snugly into any one category (e.g. anti-armor, anti-air) but rather acts as a prickly wildcard that has the potential to counter everything, provided a good player is at the helm of things.
As stated, infantry units are at their best in feature-dense areas where they can take advantage of their small size, hiding from AFVs and lying in wait. But there is so much more an infantry unit can perform given the right circumstances. If you have an abundance of foot soldiers in a scenario and aren’t particularly squeamish about losses (because there will be losses), infantry make an effective screening force for your more precious units. While Armored Brigade does an admirable job with its inclusion of recon units and their spotting capabilities, a wall of foot soldiers making haste towards OpFor’s side of the map is a surefire way to find out where his guns are hiding. Often times, your infantry will come with armored personnel carriers, which provide a serious buff to both survivability and firepower. The ability to roll-up somewhere, dismount, fight, remount and drive away is of extreme value on the largest mapsboth for retreating if you’ve bit off more than you can chew, or as a means of baiting the A.I. into committing its reserves right where you want them
Part of what enables the Swiss-Army-knife-like nature of the infantry unit is its load-out. Granted, given the game’s span of time, the kit used may vary from scenario to scenario, but generally an infantry squad is equipped to deal with just about any threat on the ground. A paragon example of this robustness is a 1980s era American infantry unit. Packing assault rifles, a light machine gun for suppressing other infantry and/or light vehicles, a 40mm grenade launcher, and both a LAW and ATGM for heavy vehicles, this single squad used correctly can remain self-sufficient for quite some time given the right position. This is especially evident on the defense, as Armored Brigade allows for the scenario defender to set-up “dug in” in a trench, providing a serious boon to the survivability of an infantry unit out in the open.
Return on Investment
Armored Brigades main course, the scenario generator, tasks you with building your force with a set amount of points a la tabletop miniatures games. This preamble to battle forces you to make tough decisions about where to spend your precious points, but also lays the ground for the infantry unit’s final strength over other unit types. Next to weapons teams, infantry formations are the cheapest units in the game making them a favorite for frugal commanders. Sure, three M1 Abrams sounds nice, until you realize you can muster an entire battalion of infantry for the same price (of course, depending on what your objective is, an entirely infantry force might not be the most viable, say if your attacking over a large swath of open ground).
The return on investment comes once you and your A.I. nemesis have your forces assembled and the scenario is underway. There are few things in the world of wargaming more satisfying than having your humble 45-point infantry squad decimate a 270-point T-80 up close with the LAW. Should the situation be reversed, with your infantry ambush failing and its participants being sent to digital Valhalla, well you’ve only lost a fraction of your army while your opponent still has to maneuver around the map on eggshells. Infantry can be made elite, and consequently more expensive, in the purchasing phase via sliders for morale and training, but this should be done with care. A 90-point infantry unit dies just as easily as a 45-point one, and beefed-up infantry units should be in charge of clearing and defending the map’s hardpoints that are suitable for infantry.
With proper use of infantry units, you’ll outnumber your opponent, dictate where the fighting on the map happens, and have a force that can reasonably respond to anything your adversary throws at you. Of course, like all the units in Armored Brigade, your foot soldiers work best as a cog in your combined arms machine, clearing city blocks, acting as a screen for your tanks, and deferring to the big guns when the need arises.
Do you have any favourite tips or tricks for using infantry in Armored Brigade? Let us know in the comments!