Being a kid during the Cold War meant dealing with the fact that you could find yourself turning into a handful of radioactive ash at any moment. But for the dads, it meant playing out the what-if scenarios of war breaking out in hex-and-chit games. I guess the kids all grew up and are nostalgic for that because Regiments just released, adding to the list of Cold War Gone Hot games we have coming out right now.
Unlike Wargame, which used to have several campaigns covering different scenarios of the hypothetical popping off, Regiments is focused on a single possible conflict. With unrest sparking in Poland and Germany (where you actually get to participate in the action), and then spilling out into a larger war, you alternate between NATO and Warsaw Pact forces from operation to operation.
Tactical operational art of war
“Operation” is what Regiments calls its campaigns, though they’re closer to scenario bundles. Operations can be of variable size and length, with some only lasting a couple of battles and others taking much longer. You might also fight on the same map several times as you inch towards victory. Sometimes, if you’re that good of a commander, you can finish operations faster by completing objectives and advancing onto the next stage. However, you do have the option of staying and completing more objectives (read: capturing more zones) if that is what you wish.
Capturing zones is how you earn operational authority, the currency of the Regiments campaign. You use that to replace casualties, expand your forces with additional task forces, upgrade the task forces, and increase your deployment limit, call-in use, supply limits, and engineering points.
Operations feature unit persistency, so any XP your units earn without getting wiped out on the field carries over. And so do the casualties — you have to play of the replacements. Your core unit pool will always remain the same (minus the attrition), but as you play and replay the campaign, you can tweak it with addition of task forces, which give you two-three new units (and maybe even call ins) to work with. As you upgrade the task forces (which have three tiers), you’ll most likely improve the unit type (like infantry in BMP-1Ps switching to BMP-2s) and gaining support assets, like mortars and SAM launchers.
Unlike in skirmish play, the task force units are already available at the start of your next battle. This leads us into one of the major features of Regiments: the limited amount units in the field.
The field of military art has advanced
In WARNO, if you take a unit card that has 6 T-80UDs in it, you can, points permitting, get 6 T-80UDs in the field. In Regiments, you get a single platoon of T-80UDs (all units come in platoon sized packs rather than being controlled individually) and the knowledge that if tanks explode, you have six replacements. You’ll never be able to spam cheap units or hide infantry in every bush, as four cards of BTR-70-mounted infantry means four platoons.
This means you can’t continuously get win after win by just using your edge in points to add even more hardware onto the field. In skirmish, it works a bit more like WARNO as additional points keep trickling in, so if a battle starts with you calling in four units, it can end up with you controlling a lot more. But in the campaign, your deployment limit never increases during the battle. If you have 1000 points, you’ll only have 1000 points. The only way to recoup them is to have your units either retreat and free up points or explode and free up points.
Retreating is a very important feature of Regiments, though. A unit that retreats instead of getting blown up will keep its veterancy level and can redeploy on the table that much faster. Plus, it’s not instant or without risk. Sure, retreating first turns the unit tag grey, and then it entirely disappears, but your tanks don’t just vanish off the table. You’ll still see your units shoot at the retreating troops, sometimes actually destroying the platoon before it gets away. Just try not to get to that point, and scoot sooner rather than later.
Calling in CAS
Of course, retreating isn’t always viable or desirable. Sometimes, you just need to hold the line a little longer for the reinforcements to reach you and the call-ins to arrive in. Oh, and what wonderful call-ins we get, with their own separate points pool and recharge times. You’ll only ever have a handful (and never more than in the campaign), but they cover things like artillery-delivered smoke, barrages, and illumination (not everyone has the sweet NATO thermals), fixed-wing air-strikes, area reveals, and just chucking a conventional theater-level ballistic missile at someone.
However, jut because Regiments makes fixed wing planes a call-in, doesn’t mean that it’s a lesser system. Those call-in planes can still panic, be suppressed, and get shot down. When compared to other games, the difference is that you can still call them in again. And air defenses are particularly helpful against marauding helicopters, even if your infantry is likely to have some MANPADS to keep them honest.
So, the infantry. Most Cold War games that feature a dismounting infantry absolutely fail at making infantry and their transport coordination into a thing. Dismount in WARNO or Armored Brigade, and the IFVs will use their speed to overtake their infantry and ride into the teeth of the enemy to get promptly turned into scrap. Want to remount them? Start crying.
Regiments solved those issues by making dismounted infantry essentially another mode of transport platoon. The infantry still exist on the field, and they retain their individual weapons, but they’ll never move away from their vehicles. What’s more, when deployed, they act as meat shields for their transports, with each hit that would strike a Bradley having the potential to take out an infantryman instead. But if you didn’t place the dismounts in a position where they’re likely to get shredded, they’ll fight back with RPGs and MANPADS.
Incidentally, Regiments doesn’t track infantry replacements. You may have lost all the dudes, but if you retreat your Marders without any of them exploding, they can return to the field with a fresh complement of troopers.
In any case, I love this system! It’s so easy to use and fun. Dismount and remounting are just a hotkey press away. There’s no need to micro every squad. And you can even do realistic tactics, like smoking and suppressing an enemy position, and then rushing infantry to within 300 meters to dismount and give them what-for. However, if left idle, units in the game will eventually dig in and become really hard to shift from the forward arc.
Something something god of war
The only real bit of micro in Regiments is that your on-field artillery pieces require you to give them a target before firing. However, since they cost a lot and don’t die that often, it’s easy to just give them a control group and call them in when the situation demands it. Mortars on the other hand have no such limitations and will happily blast the closest enemy they see.
Now, to circle back a little to task forces: they work entirely differently in skirmish game modes. In skirmish, you start with your core force, and you’re allowed to select your first task force to bulk it out with after a few minutes. The unlocks repeat in intervals. You can’t upgrade the task forces as you would in the campaign, so what you see is what you get. But if you play well enough, you’ll be able to increase the versatility and size of your force.
At this time, Regiments’ skirmish — compstomp with no MP — offers three game modes. Meeting Engagement is your standard fight over zones, but with a twist. They shift after some time, so you can just lock them down in an early rush, and then sit back and relax. Each side also comes with some AI controlled sentries on the field already. Attack features your bread-and-butter campaign missions where you crawl up a chain of capturable zones. But the enemy has really dug in now, and you’ll be facing counter-attacks. The last is Mobile Defense, where you help your AI buddies hold zones while trucks load up on evacuees and shift them to your deployment zone.
In addition the the lack of MP, the lack of multiplayer really hurts here, as you can’t really coordinate with the AI. Plus, there’s an issue where sometimes it just stops advancing from its starting zone. It’s quite the problem when you consider that the game’s modes really want you to get out there and do things.
A little too pretty
From the visual side of things, Regiments looks neat. You’re getting NATO symbology for unit types in the interface, and the UI itself is a minimalistic brown-yellow affair. The units look ok, though the effort feels wasted, as you don’t construct your own task forces, you don’t have to look at the units outside of battle (though you can via the Regipedia), and during the fight, you’re too busy directing it all from a birds eye view.
The view is great, though! Platoons crawl through the map, mortars rain from the sky, planes pop flares and drop ordinance, and MANPADs leave malicious contrails behind as they streak towards helicopters. I have zoomed into the combat a few times, but mostly to take screenshots for the review. There’s really no reason to do it otherwise. Plus, it becomes noticeable that the units are a bit too big for the surrounding buildings (though that could just be me – I don’t think I know how big or small a BMP is) or that they phase through them, as platoons never switch away from their formation.
The audio is equally ok — the music is unintrusive, and the unit barks are acted competently.
Off to war you go
All in all, Regiments is a fine game with its only real downside being questionable longevity. Some of it is surely due to the lack of an armory feature, but I’d say the lion’s share of blame goes to the lack of multiplayer. It would interesting to see how other humans play it, as well as how they’d coordinate with your actions. As for the rest of the stuff, I’ll gladly play more campaigns and with more factions if they ever come out as DLCs.