Ryan Thomas enjoys playing "Wargame: Red Dragon" as his main strategy game, particularly as France and Czechoslovakia.
Wargame: Red Dragon is notorious for having a hefty learning curve to play multiplayer matches. Compared to other RTS games, a far greater usage of combined arms tactics, understanding of stealth, armor, veterancy, and terrain is necessary. Matches last a very long time, with greater, constant deployments, and no economy system per se. This can make it horribly painful for beginners—horribly painful for their allies to see, seeing things like a massive rush of tanks into ATGMs, helicopter tank killers, and ATGM planes, or gun-running strafing expensive air superiority fighters, or worst of all, spending all of one’s point on artillery and ineffectively bombarding targets and wasting all your supplies. With all of the obstacles, how do you get better at the game? And how do you do it without having to get incessantly mocked and critiqued by an elitist player who constantly attacks you for your bad choices?
1. Familiarizing Yourself With Some Tools
The game only makes sense when it is possible to look at where the units are and compare them. This is probably a bit overwhelming since there are thousands of units and dozens of factions. There are hundreds of viable combinations and an almost nigh infinite collection of less than viable ones. But just knowing where units are located in the game (you can look at them in the armory) and where to find them is useful. Feel free to play a single player skirmish and the campaign: this won’t do too much to help with playing against real players, but you will understand the basics of movement, deployment, orders, and some elements of vision. Play around with the commands in the bottom right, such as attack move, weapons on/off, group, degroup, smoke for artillery, fire position, and above all else, fast move.
2. Finding the Community
There are several spots for Wargame’s community: Eugen’s forums, Reddit’s subreddits r/wargame and r/wargamebootcamp, and Steam’s Wargame forums. Of these, my favorite is the Reddit forum, which has a good variety of resources available, such as faction strengths, AP damage tables, map lists, various tutorials, and links to various other resources. It also is a great source of memes, good for asking questions, and hosts a vigorous debate about various units. It also has Discord links if you like that. Steam’s community is not as cohesive, but it does have some valuable resources. The most important is covered in the third point.
3. SandyClausFox’s 200 page guide
This guide is a bit dated now since it is from 2014. But many of the core truths and principles remain the same, and it gives a great look at how the game works and offers advice on how to play it. If there is any guide to look at, it is this one.
4. YouTubers and Streamers
The best way to see how Wargame plays is to see it. There is a vigorous YouTube community, with its most prominent and central figure probably being Razzman. He is also the mod of the Reddit community. Some of the leading players are:
- Razzman - Generally an orthodox player, but one of the best, with a great collection of guides and well commentated videos.
- Blitz War - A very unconventional player, best known for motorized warfare with cheap units. Quite fun to watch since he has so many odd tactics.
- Firestarter - Somewhat akin to Razzman.
- General Boulanger - Strong motorized player.
- Balanced - Known for mechanized battles.
- Putin 187 - No longer active, but one of the best players, particularly with airborne decks and the USSR.
- Stealth17 - Not the best player, but very good for a basic level of getting into the game.
In addition to the 200-page mammoth Steam guide, there is also a proliferation of different guides. Razzman’s Things Wargame Doesn’t Tell You is an excellent one. It shows many of the less obvious but vital parts of Wargame combat. Beyond this, Razzman has a good collection of deck guides and unit ranking lists. There is also a collection of map guides and minor nation guides I made, although these hare hardly on the level of the above. There is also a great intellectual piece on Wargame, How to Get Started with Wargame, which lays out many of the principles of the game.
6. Dipping Your Toes In
Of course, all of this assumes that you've been mostly passive, and haven't played any multiplayer games while you've been doing this vigorous studying. Not that fun! Again, there's nothing stopping you from playing around in multiplayer at any time, it is just really difficult to start out in due to the high skill level that many players have. If you do, avoid ranked (the limited player base makes it really hard to get players of similar skill), and despite the temptation, don't play many 10v10 games, which are extremely unbalanced and not at all like the regular game. Instead, create your own lobbies with titles like "Noob game" or specifying below a certain level. You accumulate experience as you play. 2v2 or 3v3 games can be good to get a sense of how the game works with other people, while being more akin to how it is meant to be played than 10v10s.
7. Self-Review and Learning
Wargame is a game where you will always learn and get better. A great idea is to look back at matches through the replay system, which is accessible by going to your player profile on the bottom left and clicking on the replays button the left, which will take a while to load. But you can watch and speed up replays, see how enemies deployed, see critical moments, and watch why you failed at certain points or what succeeded.
Just as important is the process of thinking, broadly, about what went wrong or right. An important part of any game is developing an instinctive feel for how it works, to recognize danger and opportunity. Consider the question of exploiting victory: how aggressive should you be in a game? If you win the beginning of a battle, should you take this as an opportunity to continue attacking, perhaps winning a decisive lead or even the battle as a whole, or to dig in and to conserve the gains you made? The former can cause you to throw away victory, by losing your units which are too aggressive, the former can lead you to losing your advantages. By watching replays and thinking about it, you can gain a better sense for the game.
The most important thing of course, is to have fun, and to enjoy playing. Over time, the rest will come.