We’ve finally made it to the final chapter of Order of Battle’s “Krieg” series of campaigns, which showcase the German army’s battles across various frontiers between 1940 and 1944. Endsieg is the capstone to this mini-series in Order of Battle’s bolt-on DLC offerings, and while it offers a big new double-campaign, the whole affair gets a bit silly by the end thanks to some hardware nerd fan service and the need to give the player a way to win a campaign that was ultimately destined to fail.
As is usually the case with Order of Battle’s expansion packs, the opening scenario gets things rolling with a scene-setting bang. The campaign kicks off with the start of the July-August 1943 Donbass Offensive, shortly after the battle of Kursk, and the Artistocrats’ selection of scenarios showcases on the strategic level what Order of Battle has been trying to highlight from the outset on the tactical: the danger of extending forces beyond your defensible lines. Endsieg allows you to ahistorically fight off what was in reality an incredibly costly but inadvertently effective operation for the Soviets. This is well-trod territory for wargamers who have spent time with Graviteam Tactics: Mius-Front, but for the western public at large, this phase of the Eastern Front isn’t well known at all.
The first half of the campaign culminates with a second Battle of Moscow in 1944, and as a German commander you get to storm the gates of the city and take the Soviet Union out of the war. It’s a massive offensive that allows you to roll Panzers back across ground previously lost yard by yard to capture the heavily-fortified Russian capital, and I imagine this will be fun for anyone who isn’t completely bummed out by the prospect of this outcome actually coming to pass.
From Moscow, we’re whisked away by an emergency on the Western front: while we’ve been busy slogging our way to the Soviet capital, the U.S. and England have rudely invaded Normandy, and by August are rapidly moving toward occupied Paris. While in Russia you were facing down a horde of under-equipped men with outdated equipment, in France you’re commanding a weary force in a defense against a fresh, better-equipped army that’s ready to cut through your lines like a hot knife through butter. This nine-mission campaign covers the German side of Market Garden and takes us through engagements at Aachen, Huertgenwald, and Antwerp, giving players the chance to ultimately defeat the Allies at Pas-de-Calais. The final mission, oddly, is a reimagining of the Battle of Anzio, where U-boats take out Allied naval assets and bring the war to an end.
So what to say about Endsieg? It is, undeniably, more Order of Battle, which for me brings with it the same joys and annoyances all these modules have. With the exception of Sandstorm, the Krieg series has been among the least interesting expansions the game has offered, but that’s a point of personal preference: I don’t happen to be fascinated with Panzers or any other German army hardware. The scenarios on offer in Endsieg are definitely among the best I’ve seen in Order of Battle to date, although I did run into some strange inconsistencies when it came to tracking objectives in certain battles. As an example, “Never lose [X city]” would correctly show up as being failed if my enemy captured it, but then show as being completed if I took it back – until the end of the mission, when the game would inform me that I had failed. But these missions generally took me two tries or so to complete, and knowing what to look out for on a second run would usually render that point moot.
As I said, I’m not a tread-head about German tanks, but I’m aware there are many people who are. You all will be pleased to know that Endsieg goes fairly nuts with its Panzer variants, even going so far as to include the absurd Panzerkampfwagen VIII – the 188-ton super-heavy “Maus,” which was supposed to sport a 128mm main gun and drive through rivers with a snorkel, blasting Allied armor to bits at ranges of up to two miles or more. Only two prototypes of this monstrosity were ever produced, and only one of those had a working turret, but no matter – for players obsessed with German armor, it’s sure to be a treat to see it on the field.
Another interesting aspect to Endsieg is that it gives you to option of importing your core forces from either the Blitzkrieg and Panzerkrieg campaigns or the newer Sandstorm campaign – both of those “storylines” meeting to culminate in this capstone campaign. Doing that lets you bring over your unit veterancy and specializations. On that note, the tech tree has once again been expanded, this time with six new specialties that include Germany’s atomic bomb research. Uh, hooray?
As far as Order of Battle expansions go, this is one of the strongest on paper. It’s got more missions, a new blend of the historical and ahistorical, and some of the more interesting new units and ideas. It’s also firmly-rooted in land warfare, which is what the game does best, and doesn’t push you into a bunch of silly naval engagements (air combat, which I think the game does very poorly, is still unfortunately an unavoidable part of this entry).
But since I first played Order of Battle a couple years ago, I’ve soured on the game’s basic premises quite a bit. As a wargame, it has a bunch of anachronistic rules that don’t need to be there and don’t make sense. There’s no sense of scale, and the fact that you can only put one tank or one infantry unit in a hex at once makes battles feel more like the abstracted conflicts in recent Civilization games than a proper wargame. That makes for fights and tactics that are abstracted to the point that the historical setting is irrelevant, and I find that constantly frustrating – why do I care which model Panzer I’m using when only six can be positioned around an enemy unit at a time? Order of Battle has all these trappings of historical wargaming pounded into the square hole of its abstract ruleset, and the result is that history has very little bearing on how things play out on the board.
There’s more going on in Order of Battle than a tabletop wargame could allow, but it still limits itself to weird, arbitrary tabletop rules. To top that all off, I don’t even see the appeal for Panzer freaks here – there are better ways to experience the King Tiger and even the stupid Maus than the sterile, Civ-style unit occupancy rules you get with Order of Battle.
Maybe I’m just burned out on Order of Battle after spending a lot of time with the series, and with wargames that are just better at actually simulating what they have on the box. I’m willing to admit that’s the case, and I want to make it clear that Endsieg seems to be the meatiest expansion module I’ve looked at for the game. If you’re hungry for more of its idiosyncratic chess-like spin on WW2, and if you enjoy its user-friendly presentation, and especially if you’ve spent time in the Krieg campaign or Sandstorm, you may very well want to check this out. It’s more Order of Battle, for better and for worse.