Panzer Campaigns: Moscow ’42 – PC Game Review
Passed Inspection: Two different huge campaigns made up of many scenarios. Easy to learn, but a complex strategic war game. Tons of options. Good A/I.
Failed Basic: Three-quarter perspective layout needs some updating. Static defense scenarios are a little repetitive.
To the dedicated computer wargamer whose interests lean toward strategic-level games, John Tiller Software needs no introductions. They have consistently delivered high-quality strategic war games to the PC market. Moscow ’42 continues the great tradition of high playability mixed with amazing detail.
By the end of 1941, it was obvious to the German High Command as well as to the frontline soldiers fighting the Soviets that the much-lauded Operation Barbarossa had begun to lose steam. Operation Typhoon, the attempt to capture Moscow, was beginning to falter as German casualties began to wear down the panzer and infantry formations. On December 5, 1941, the Soviets counterattacked with the intent of driving the German army back from the attempt to take Moscow. This is the situation Moscow ’42 covers.
The game runs on Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 boxes with at least a 1 GHz processor and at least 1 GB of memory and hard disk space. Documentation is provided as PDF files and help screens.
Moscow ’42 covers three major Soviet offensives from December 1941 to February 1942. Additionally, campaigns are provided for four hypothetical campaigns to capture Moscow in June and July 1942. There are 57 total scenarios, which range in size from 77 turns to over 500 turns! Enough to keep even the most diehard wargamers busy for months.
Each hex on the maps is one kilometer and each turn is equal to two hours of time. The units are battalion and company sized and each unit is rated for a variety of factors including type of weapons, movement ability, defensive strength, fitness, in or out of command, etc. Each unit is also provided a pleasant graphic representation of the people or vehicles. There are over 7,000 different units included in the game. The player will find everything from bicycle and ski troops to panzers, Russian T34s, a multitude of artillery and airplanes. Soviet armored trains even make an appearance.
The map can be viewed in a variety of zoom levels and also includes an uninspiring pseudo-three quarter perspective mode.
Weather plays a major factor in this game, as in other games of the series. During the freezing Russian winters, the weather can affect not only your troops’ mobility, but also how quickly they get fatigued and suffer casualties. In one scenario, I made the mistake of having a unit of around 70 German recon troops scout near a road junction that was flanked by three river junctions. When the weather warmed slightly, the ice on the rivers became too thin to cross and my men became trapped in a three-kilometer stretch of land with very little cover. They waited breathlessly for the weather to get colder so the rivers would freeze up enough so they could cross back and travel the six kilometers to their parent unit. By the time the conditions were right to move back out, the unit had been reduced to 13 healthy soldiers and a large number of walking wounded owing to frostbite and starvation. They never even fired a shot against their Russian foes.
The game is turn based. Each unit is given a command, which may be to move, assault, attack with ranged weapons, clear land mines, destroy and/or create bridges, simply sit there and wait, etc. The units carry out their commands after each is given orders then, after you have moved all your units, you hit a button to end the turn and then the other side moves and attacks with its units.
With so many units involved in each battle, it could take as long as an hour to view each turn as it plays out, so Tiller has thoughtfully provided an option allowing the player to quickly view the combat results and then see a summary of the turn.
Also, each unit that moves is now marked with a red arrow showing direction of movement. This is a great improvement over previous games in the series and helps to identify the actions being taken by the computer.
The game can be played against the very competent A/I or against friends via email, LAN or hot seat play.
If the game has any flaws, it’s that the three quarter perspective mode is rather bland. In addition, if playing the Germans, there is a lot of sitting around waiting for the Russians to attack, but that is realistic, based upon the scope of the December to February campaign.
Moscow ’42 is a great addition to the strategic wargamer’s library and a great value for the money. Well done!
Armchair General Rating: 92 %
About the Author
A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!