Battle Brothers is one of those engaging tactical puzzles that revels in the brutality and sheer difficulty it offers. Games like Battle Brothers appeal to the hardcore audience that wishes to exercise the most important muscle of all – the brain.
Now I don’t want to sound pretentious when I say something like Doom doesn’t require the same intellect or finesse; it’s a challenging game in its way. But, I’d say Battle Brothers is up there with Kenshi regarding hand-holding (or lack thereof), and newcomers might find progress frustrating at even the lowest difficulty level.
The game takes place in a medieval setting giving the player control of a mercenary gang. Players must then decide how to invest their gold in hiring recruits or buying better gear and weapons for their “army”.
Enemies range from common thugs to the undead, and the mercenaries must face them sometimes to the death making the player lose valuable gold and equipment. This makes the combat all the more exciting and engaging because losing has substantial repercussions. Like I said before, this game is not for casuals; it’s a process of making mistakes and learning from them.
Combat works in a turn-based fashion with old-school hex-based battlefields. Each mercenary has their own stats and must be placed accordingly on the battlefield and equipped with their weapon of choice. Players can then move their pieces around the field and decide the best method to attack; the easiest way is to target the most potent enemies and taking them off the field.
Some fights last long with massive casualties on both sides, or some are snowballed with an easy victory by making the right decisions on and suitable investments off the battlefield.
The game is enjoyable, but some players might be averted by the graphics and aesthetics of the game. Here’s a list of games I feel are similar to Battle Brothers and might have something for everyone to enjoy.
1. Xcom 2
XCom has a legendary status in the turn-based combat genre. What’s more surprising is that the franchise has been around since 1994 and even has some tabletop derivation of it.
Xcom 2 was developed by Firaxis Games and was released in 2016. The gameplay featured is similar to Battle Brothers because there are decisions that are to be made both on and off the field that determine whether a fight will be victorious.
The game features an isometric camera, but the world is very detailed and visually appealing; there are also certain gameplay moments when the camera comes up close to show the player an attack. It doesn’t fail to look fantastic. The camera might be isometric, but the developers have put great care into the graphics, and the game looks fantastic at every turn.
At the start of each mission, the player squad is undetected by the enemy; this allows the players to decide where they want to commence the attack and also gives them the element of surprise.
However, like Battle Brothers, it is entirely possible to have your squadmates die on the field, so players must take caution as permanently dead squadmates do not gain any experience and don’t level up. In addition, losing squadmates might result in an underpowered team for late-game content.
Off the field, players can submit various enemy alien corpses and their technology for research, which allows them to unlock new gadgets and weaponry and learn more about their enemies’ weaknesses, and abilities. Players also have access to levelling up their squad with any XP they might have earned and also hire recruits and choose equipment for the missions.
Overall it’s very much like a polished Battle Brothers, but instead of medieval thugs and undead players battle against a sophisticated alien species. Plus, it features more polished gameplay and better graphics all around. You can’t go wrong with the Xcom franchise.
2. Expeditions: Conquistador
Expeditions is one of the relatively less known titles in the turn-based genre. It’s a game that is set around the Spanish voyage to Hispaniola and Mexico in the 1500s.
Like Battle Brothers and Xcom, Expedition emphasises decisions to be made both on and off the field. The playable character never even sets foot on the battlefield; instead, players assume the role of a leader/general responsible for the expedition. Player stats don’t include strength or weapon mastery but instead focus on tactics and diplomacy.
Players can assign these stats at the start of the game, and it’s interesting to know that the players never get to level these stats up by grinding. Instead, they must look for specific synergies that temporarily boost the stats and allow them to get past certain speech skill checks.
The battlefield is hex-based, very much like Battle Brothers, and though it’s not nearly as complex as either Battle Brothers or Xcom, it still has its charm and is not a walk in the park.
I’d recommend Expeditions: Conquistador to anyone who is unseasoned or looking to get into the turn-based combat genre.
3. Darkest Dungeon
Darkest Dungeon has to be my favorite of the bunch. Released in 2016, and I can honestly say that there is still a lot to be discovered after years of playing this game. Darkest Dungeon has a visual aesthetic and appeal that puts it on the top of any list, and the game conveys much of its story through its doom and gloom art style.
Darkest Dungeon begins with the player being informed of a relative who has left a rather substantial estate to the player’s character. Of course, not everything is as simple, and the player soon realises that all sorts of vile ghouls infest the mansion, so of course, the logical thing to do is to form your own party and venture into the dungeons to clear them out once and for all.
Darkest Dungeon has insanely detailed and complex gameplay that allows players to manage their roster of mercenaries with different abilities ranging from special attacks to healing effects that can turn the tide of any battle.
Players have a variety of heroes they could recruit with over fifteen different classes to choose from. The heroes can then have their stats upgraded using experience gained from every run of the dungeon. However, like Battle Brothers, it is possible to lose the mercenaries and any progress, so players must exercise caution when choosing their roster for every run.
Darkest Dungeon is a lot of fun and has some unique mechanics that enhance the gameplay furthermore. I have no trouble recommending this game, but I’d warn that, like Battle Brothers, Darkest Dungeon is not a cakewalk.
Expect to lose a lot before you can grasp the game’s core mechanics and make any meaningful progress.
4. Templar Battleforce
Templar Battleforce is another title that is lesser-known but provides a good dose of strategic combat and management.
Templar Battleforce was released in 2015 and features gameplay similar to Battle Brothers, enabling players to manage their roster of warriors and create unique synergies to suit their playstyle.
The gameplay revolves around recruiting warriors to command Leviathan mech suits and wage war on enemies in around 50 different scenarios. The fun part is understanding and inventing synergies in your army to give you the upper hand in any battle.
The game might not be much to look at. Still, it’s modestly priced and offers a lot of replayability as players replay various missions to get the best possible outcome. It might not be as complex as Battle Brothers off the battlefield. Still, it more than makes up for it in its gameplay.
Xenonauts is a title inspired by the older Xcom title released in 1994 – X-Com: UFO Defense. The game features gameplay similar to X-Com but improves on its shortcomings and offers more content.
Xenonauts makes many improvements to the tried and tested turn-based combat genre, including saving soldier equipment between missions and allowing players to change weapon loadout on the field. Players may also reconfigure the starting positions of their troops in the dropship and introduced a directional cover system similar to new Xcom games.
These changes might seem insignificant and small, but they allow replayability and allow different playstyles and are a much welcome improvement on the older classics.
6. Urtuk: The Desolation
Urtuk is perhaps a little different from other titles on the list. For starters, it is an open-world game with RPG mechanics, but it also features a hex-based world and turn-based combat.
While it does most of the things Battle Brothers and other games like it, Uturk also emphasises survival mechanics.
The campaign is procedurally generated, allowing repeat playthroughs, and the game features many different ways to beat the enemy, including environmental hazards that players can push into the enemy. The game is a nice spin on the turn-based combat genre, and like Battle Brothers, I’d recommend it to the more seasoned players.
7. The Battle for Wesnoth
The Battle for Wesnoth is an open-source turn-based strategy game that is loved by many fans of the genre. Due to its open-source nature, players are free to play it in any way they wish. You can get it on Steam, you can enjoy the single-player version of the game, or you could host your own server and play with your friends with modified values and content for maximum fun. It’s entirely up to you how to play the game.
The gameplay is similar to other hex-based turn-based combat games, and there is nothing more to be added; there are over 200 units in the game and seven factions, each featuring their own sets of abilities and weapons.
There are over 15 campaigns that can be enjoyed in the single-player mode, and it has over 50 maps that can be played in a multi-player setting. Being open-source, TBFW also features a lot of community-made content and improvements that players can choose to add to their game or keep it Vanilla.
The choice is entirely up to you.
There is a different feeling of accomplishment that comes when beating a management-sim, these games are obviously more complex than the standard RPGs and require players to invest more time and use more than just the bare minimum from the player.
While Battle Brothers has a steep learning curve, beating it is far more rewarding than beating a more linear game that doesn’t allow players to make the more difficult decisions.