From main battle tanks to modern battleships, Wargame Red Dragon has them all.
Have you ever imagined what could’ve happened if the Cold War went “way too cold”? How about the pleasure of using napalm jets to bomb the hell out of the enemy camping in some densely-forested sector? If you’re into RTS modern warfare that features tanks, planes, infantry, and even ships, then this game might be worth trying for you and your friends.
Despite being an old game already, the fanbase, the pubbies, and even the game itself are still strong as per usual. If we managed to pique your interest, it would still be advisable to read first this video game article to know the pros and cons of playing the game during this time. So, without further ado, let’s delve into the review.
About The Game
Wargame Red Dragon contains over 1,900 units from different Cold War nations. It shows an alternative history in an East Asian theatre of war if the Soviet Union didn’t collapse. The game features five additional nations: North Korea, South Korea, ANZAC, Japan, and China. The battlefield is viewed in a top-down perspective, giving the player a bird’s eye view of what’s happening on the whole map.
Gameplay & Mechanics
Before starting, the player can choose the units they wanna deploy in the first minutes of the battle. Your unit loadout is based on your deck which can be created before the start of the battle. There’s the freedom to choose which unit and role you want. You can pick infantry with anti-armor or anti-aircraft capabilities, or planes that are more into close-air support rather than being air-superiority. Furthermore, you can build “specialized” decks (motorized, mechanized, armored, airborne, etc.) which will grant you more unit bonuses and unlock prototype units. The opposing sides typically start at the opposing sides of the map, with players being awarded an initial amount of deployment points which you can adjust in the lobby.
The game also features certain unit attributes to which you must always pay attention. For example, land vehicles require fuel to move and ammunition to shoot. That’s why supply units and establishing a supply line are vital to keeping your army moving. A card of FOB plus a couple of cards of supply trucks can do the trick. Aside from that, there’s also the unit morale which degrades as the unit comes under heavy attack, reducing the unit’s effectiveness and even routing them, ignoring the player’s commands.
The game is basically a domination RTS, in which sectors must be captured to gain points and win the game. A sector can only be captured by a command unit that’s why it’s important to always protect them to hold the zone for as long as possible. If both side’s command unit is in the same sector the zone becomes neutral, denying points and deployment to both sides. The game is lost if: players don’t have any more command units to capture a deployment zone, run out of units, or have fewer points than the enemy in the late game.
Wargame Red Dragon Campaigns
There are five different campaigns that you can try, each has its own scenarios and timeline had the Soviet Union didn’t collapse during the Cold War.
1st Campaign: Busan Pocket
Busan is one of the cities of Korea that is a major tourist destination. South Korea has had pockets of civil unrest during the current government. And as it worsens, the attention catches the North’s watchful eye. North Korea begins supporting the protesters to further destabilize the state.
While this is happening, North Korea took the opportunity to launch an invasion southward. South Korea failed to respond quickly and loses all territory except for the Busan pocket. They buy some time while waiting for a US-led coalition to counter the offensive, but needs time to deploy.
2nd Campaign: Bear Vs. Dragon
Russia invades Vietnam after having a political disagreement with the Vietnamese government. China, having a long-term agreement with both countries stays put. But Chinese spies revealed that Russia is making some plans to invade China (as well) if its opinion were to sway. China then denounces the Russian aggression and begins mobilizing its own forces.
Your goal is to defeat the Russian Pacific threat pre-emptively before they can gather and mobilize an attack. China, with North Korea team up before launching the offensive. This attack is more challenging than the first game campaign. It may be a linear attack at first, but in reality, three flanks need advancing.
3rd Campaign: Pearl Of The Orient
Margaret Thatcher has gained so much political influence after winning the Falklands War. For decades UK has held Hong Kong and wishes to extend its lease. China, however, wishes to unite its country into one and disagrees with this. The Chinese and British began accumulating more forces surrounding Hong Kong until finally, the first shot occurred. As UK, you have to defend Hong Kong at all costs!
4th Campaign: Climb Mount Narodnaia
After WWII, Japan and Russia still maintained some tensions because of some border disputes. Although no formal war is occurring, no peace agreements between the two were signed. Tensions grow as the Americans deploy weapons to the Japanese mainland to defend the country from potential Soviet invasion. As Japanese planes get closer to Vladivostok, the code word ‘Climb Mount Narodnaia’ was intercepted across Soviet airspace. This is the signal for an invasion of Japan. With Soviet paratroopers landing in Osaka and around the flanks, Japan is in deep trouble.
5th Campaign: The Second Korean War
A coup to succeed the government happened in 1991. The putsch leaders overthrow Mikhail Gorbachev and restore Soviet glory, bringing them closer to the communist leaders of Asia. After a year of friction with the West, the world is at war once again as the UN coalition and Soviets battle it out onto the Korean Peninsula.
About The Campaigns…
For me, Wargame Red Dragon’s campaign scenarios are kinda lackluster. The campaigns take place on massive, strategic map where you can conquer sectors and fight against AI. It’s similar to RISK games where you either battle it out “manually” or let the game auto-resolve them. It’s also far from being a Total War campaign where the timeline revolves around several scenarios in the “Cold War went too cold” setting of the 1980s.
Wargame Red Dragon: Combat System
Wargame Red Dragon’s combat system is incredibly complex. By getting rid of the traditional base-building and other economic aspects, you can instead, focus on doing war well. This is critical since other real-time strategy games like StarCraft or Age of Empires are more on ‘whoever wins the technological and economic race will end up winning the game.’
Here in Red Dragon, it’s all about tactics and skill at your flanking maneuvers. It’s less about hard countering and more about careful positioning and effective spotting for arty or ATGMs. This adds a great level of depth to deck-building, making each unit feel more significant.
It also adds experimentation with new armies and decks, forcing players to explore as they try to adapt to their opponent’s setup and terrain. Also, in this game, the USSR has more effective helicopter units while the US has powerful naval and air capabilities. This adds more to the depth of deck composition and how you can specialize your units. But it’s good to know that there are no “godly” units and any units can be destroyed if it’s caught out of position.
Multiplayer is where W:RD really shines. And although 1 vs 1 is good for new players, mastery in specialization is crucial especially during 10 vs 10 matches, as these require teamwork & cohesion to achieve victory. These matches can be insane as you’re trying to sync with the other nine to coordinate your assaults and maneuvers.
The Problem With Naval Combat
It turned out that Wargame Red Dragon’s naval combat didn’t receive that much praise. That’s because most games don’t handle naval combat well, especially those that include land combat at the same time. Also, there’s the problem of scale. While land combat takes place miles apart, naval combat takes place hundreds of miles apart. Translating between these two is always devastating.
How Red Dragon dealt with this by making naval combat comically close. Instead of anti-ship missiles (ASMs) cruising hundreds of miles to the target, they’ll just be traveling by a few hundred feet. It often feels that ships should be showing their broadsides to the enemy instead. This makes open see battles terrible and ‘meh’, as you’ll need to get very close to the enemy that all naval tactics are obsolete.
Another thing is that naval units seem to shred planes and helis with ease, meaning it’s hard to deal with them besides bringing your own naval units to balance them out. However, they fit better when paired with land combat. Using ships to support a coastal assault or sending gunboats up a river delta to flank your enemy all feel like naval battles should. Nevertheless, none of this means naval battles in this game can’t be fun, as the naval units still look very amazing.
Tutorial, Or The Lack Thereof…
For the veterans of the series, Wargame Red Dragon is more of an expansion to the previous installment than a completely new game. All mechanics, unit controls, and functions are mostly the same. However, the problem arises for the new ones. Anyone trying to learn the ropes the hard way is in for a rude surprise.
Like some Paradox Games, W:RD is one of the games with the worst tutorials ever. Just to reiterate, the game has 1900+ units; and that’s by definition, quite a lot. Not having some system to teach new players before throwing them onto the battlefield is always a bad idea. This can be more serious since the game has some competitive multiplayer component. This is annoying since its previous installment had one. It may not be a very good one but it surely did its job.
Are There Subs In Wargame Red Dragon?
Players here and elsewhere felt that naval units have become too easy to sit back, chill, and accumulate a force powerful enough to nullify any real hard counters. So, thinking about adding submarines is feasible enough, right? Many players would love to see them added to the game someday, and I don’t think it would be a stretch if Eugen would include this unit type in the game. However, other balance issues and programming is what’s keeping the subs from reaching the game’s files.
Wargame Red Dragon Mod Support
In terms of map editors, the technical demand of map creation on this engine involves stripping assets from 3D scene files from other maps to combine them into new maps, or something similar of a process. The way that the engine’s code was written years ago doesn’t allow for new content to just ‘download’ just like the typical custom maps of other games. In short, custom maps would need to replace vanilla maps, which wouldn’t allow you to play with vanilla players.
Game files need to match, and Wargame Red Dragon’s server doesn’t care what mod you’re using while talking to everyone. Unfortunately, there’s no function to stop you from trying to join vanilla users’ games. The best idea would be the implementation of server tags with some prefixes that can be easily identified as mods and not user groups and clans so the community could easily identify, “yeah, these guys are playing Faustman’s Balance Mod!”
In terms of “modability”, Wargame Red Dragon’s engine isn’t user-friendly enough: It doesn’t use a ‘map folder’ or ‘mod folder’, it couldn’t handle a Steam Workshop, it uses assets and files and pulls everything with it together as the game loads. And if two people don’t match: Boom! Disconnection and errors! The community has been pleading Eugen Systems to better develop their game programming so this won’t be an issue in the future. A lot of people feel that this game could’ve been more successful with full user-supported mod tools.
So yeah, there’s a fan-made modding tool and a couple of mods, but nothing fancy – mostly textures and rebalancing only. It would be so awesome if Eugen had made it more open so the community could add in more nations, units, campaigns, and even maps. For me, there’s so much potential wasted here.
Any More Future Updates?
There used to be a Reddit post that suggested that Focus Home Interactive (the publisher) and Eugen Systems (the devs) ended their partnership and that Eugen offered to purchase the “Wargame” franchises’ copyrights so they could continue its legacy under a different publisher.
However, Focus refused the offer, making Eugen unable to work on future Wargame updates. It would also imply that Eugen couldn’t develop another game with ‘Wargame’ on it.
Wargame Red Dragon: Our Say…
For us at TechsnGames, Wargame Red Dragon is a great game, although not a godsent because of its naval aspect. We wouldn’t recommend this game to new players of the genre without a proper tutorial, although there’s Youtube and other Steam Guides for that. If you’re looking for a great modern wargame, this one’s for you. Just keep in mind that it has some pros and cons being comparable to its predecessor.
Nevertheless, the game’s world and every scenario look stunning, especially when zoomed in. Seeing your units being shredded by explosions is an eyegasm. Also, the detailed and expansive list of units invites variety – which is a plus for most people.
The difference between two units of the same type is never a big deal, but the learning curve from trying each one of them might toss players off. Still, the tactical possibilities offered by these units are endless, so if you’re into deep strategic combat games, try this one out.