Following our previous article criticizing some of the more intimate matches in AirLand battle, we’ve been looking at the newly released 10v10 matches in the game. Quite simply, 10v10 AirLand Battle is the most fun you can have in an RTS with your clothes on or off.

I was promised a chaotic experience in 10v10 AirLand Battle, but what I got was a slow, controlled, almost simulation like experience where forward planning was the key, and the right deck was essential. Pick your spots, plan your movies, and wait to establish what you’re up against.

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The wide open spaces with plenty of room to flank and advance mean some seriously careful planning.

Let’s remind ourselves of Eugen’s word from the initial preview back in February:

“The idea is to have an RTS – it’s not a simulation – an RTS that is… we wanted something very different where it is about thinking, it’s about taking a decision. It’s not an “action RTS,” Le Dressay explained. “A lot of our players say there is a problem with the game: I should not be fast. There is a risk that someone beats me because he plays faster than me? It’s not about this, it’s about thinking, knowing the units, and having an RTS that is extremely rich in terms of mechanics.” The co-founder said that Wargame AirLand Battle is made for people “who’d like to have something of a different flavor” [than the usual rock-paper-scissors mechanics based micromanagement experiences].

10v10 reveals this ethos with crystal clarity. The slow, methodical approach to battle disallows tree-hugging, artillery exploitation, or otherwise less sporting tactical persuasions. Careful memory of the most exploitable areas of the map is hugely beneficial, and the vastness the battleground is favorable to planes – especially Mig’s.

With 10 peoples units following the main highways to the front-lines, protecting that lifeline is vital.

With 10 peoples units following the main highways to the front-lines, protecting that lifeline is vital.

We criticized the smaller games for poorly showcasing the tactical uses for planes. In 1v1 to 2v2 matches, the size of the map and relative use of pockets of infantry meant that there was always something ready to take down that expensive jet. On the 10v10 map, the wide open spaces make for some breathtaking dog-fights, using upwards of 5 planes at once from only one commander (out of a possible 10).

Calling on a Mig to instantly counter-attack some oncoming enemy jets is a real thrill – made even more enthralling by the fact that you know the enemy hasn’t got a crap ton of AA infantry all over the map (because of how cheap and effective they are), due to the sheer expansiveness and area to cover. This makes AA placement strategically important. If an attack from the air got you, it’s because you were too busy with the front-lines, and forgot about some of the weaker areas of the map.

Dropping napalm on a road is an effective way to buy yourself some time, and burn unsuspecting insurgencies.

Dropping napalm on a road is an effective way to buy yourself some time, and burn unsuspecting insurgencies.

10v10 is all about establishing the strongest front-line defense, and coordinating with your teammates to hold it – all’s the while sewing up any loose ends regarding the enemies ability to flank round you. You’d think that one breach at any part of the map meant that it was over for your team. Not so: most 10v10 games have been played with a points cap, and given that losing a unit grants the opponent however many points that unit cost, a strong-if-small defensive line can be a very good points sieve.

The primary micromanagement is about moving your front-lines away from enemy artillery.

The primary micromanagement is about moving your front-lines away from enemy artillery.

A slow, methodic but no less exhilarating experience, 10v10 tempts you to throw your best planes into the fray at every turn, but doing so both costly and deadly. You can only bring on so many planes during one match, and the loss of one means that it’s much more difficult to counter an enemy insurgence of jets. The long off-screen cooldown, too, means that calling them on just at the right moment is ever-so vital.

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Capturing an enemy base and FOV is a huge blow to the opposing force, with many people surrendering at this point.

Pushing up one of the two flanks is the most common path to victory, with the right flank often the most contended. On this map, you can bring on more units incredibly close to the top left and right control points, which is excellent for front-line defense  There’s a catch, however, since often the units you want to send into the middle later in the game will, if captured, come from the top left or right control areas. This means that a concentrated barrage on those locations by the enemy is a very effective means to suppress reinforcements, and weaken the central point on the map, even if you have more control points than they do.

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Surprising enemy infantry with some of the cheapest tanks in the game is a fun little way to get side-tracked, but be sure to catch them off guard. If the enemy has recon, they’ll blow you away before you can surprise them.

You’d be surprised just how different 10v10 is to the smaller games in Wargame: AirLand Battle. You wouldn’t think it, but I found them much less stressful, and it was much easier to out-maneuver my enemy. As previously stated, it’s no use relying on the same tactics set by the community for the smaller maps: this is a new feature, and by in large there’s no stencil for exactly how to orchestrate it.

It’s not so important that you talk to your team. Each of you controlling a quality front line is a good key to success, regardless of how well you get on. It’s not a speedy, messy, or particularly confusing experience – it’s clean, methodical, and much more strategic than the smaller games.

If you were thinking about skipping AirLand Battle, the 10v10 game-mode should come dangerously close to making you change your mind. It’s the closest thing the game’s gotten to a simulator, and its slower pace means it’s a slightly more relaxing experience – but only if you’ve applied the appropriate forward thinking.

Let’s hope for more 10v10 maps soon, because the beta currently only offers one. The question now is: is 10v10 a novel little side-game? Or is this more open, tactical experience the perfect battlezone to introduce players to jets. It’s certainly more suited to aerial battle.

To check out what we thought about the new deck system – complete with a tutorial commentary on how to make your first deck, watch the video below: