Panzer Campaigns: Tunisia ’43 – PC Game Review
Panzer Campaigns: Tunisia ’43. PC Game Review. Publisher: John Tiller Software. Developer: John Tiller Software. $39.95
Passed Inspection: Easy to learn. Extremely challenging. Very good A/I. Tons of play options and scenarios.
Failed Basic: Some unit data is difficult to read.
John Tiller Software has released another very immersive and challenging strategy game in the Panzer Campaigns series. This time, the game looks at the final battles of the Afrika Korps in 1943 as the British close in from the East and the Americans close in from the West. After the Americans invaded North Africa during Operation Torch, the Afrika Korps, still reeling from their defeat at El Alamein at the hands of Montgomery, found itself squeezed between an experienced, battle-hardened British Army and the wet-behind-the-ears but eager and well-supplied American forces lead by Patton. Under constant threat of Allied air attacks, the Afrika Korps tries to secure a final defensive position in Tunisia.
Panzer Campaigns: Tunisia ’43 comes with the same extremely complete PDF manual as found in the other games of this series. The 100-plus pages may seem overwhelming to the uninitiated, but after learning the basics of the game series a player need learn just a few specifics to play any new game in the series. For example, in Tunisia ’43, I found myself having to learn how to make my Allied Engineer units clear the many German-laid mine fields.
The game itself covers the battles in a battalion/company size scale where each hex equals one kilometer and each turn is equal to two hours. The game can be played in several different views ranging from the traditional 2D, unit notation counters, or in a 3D view with icons instead of counters. The 3D view is neither terribly dramatic nor interesting so I preferred playing it with traditional counters. Each unit is rated for command, mobility, fire power, and other factors.
A 3D view of a battle between armored cars and light tanks.
There are thousands of individually rated units in the game representing everything from tanks, assault guns, infantry, and artillery, to airplanes. The American units are powerful but untested and, as in real life at this stage in the war, don’t always perform up to expectations. British units are experienced with very high morale but lacking in many powerful armored units. Germany’s vaunted Afrika Korps, at this point in the war, has powerful, experienced units but not nearly as many as the British and Americans. German units also have serious supply and logistic problems and, often, are lacking in fuel and ammunition owing to Allied air and sea interdictions.
Air units represent everything from fighters, dive-bombers, light and medium bombers, and reconnaissance planes to carpet-bombing B-17s and other heavy bombers. As opposed to other games in the Panzer Campaigns series, some planes are not just limited to reconnaissance-only missions. This can add to some confusion as the player normally looks for units marked “RECON” in the air mission menu – now you must figure out the RECON units on your own. Heavy Allied bombers can be devastating if the carpet-bombing hits the target – but be warned: sometimes they miss the area entirely or, if the player’s luck is really bad, can bomb friendly units. Keep your units well back of the hexes targeted for carpet-bombing in order to avoid “friendly fire.”
As with other games in the series, sound effects are very well developed and evocative. When armor moves, you here the clank of the tracks and squeak of the ball bearings. Truck engines roar, bombs explode – very well done!
The game engine tracks day and night turns, supply and command issues, units that have dug in or are exposed to enemy fire, etc. It also factors in “fog of war” issues including line-of-sight. A wise strategy is to have your armored cars scout ahead of the main advancing forces in order to reveal the locations of enemy units or reveal fortifications or mine fields.
Using scouts to probe the enemy.
The artificial intelligence is incredibly competent without being annoyingly infallible, a tribute to the programming skills of John Tiller Software. For those who wish to challenge their friends to a great war game, options are available for play by email. LAN play, two player hot seat, or live internet play. Single-player games may be played from both the Allied or Axis sides. When the computer takes its turn, the player can either watch each move or chose to skip to the battle results. This option to skip ahead greatly speeds up the wait time as the computer moves and is a lifesaver for long scenarios.
There are many scenarios included with the game ranging from training scenarios of only a few turns to massive 124-turn battles. The map can be zoomed in or out depending on the view you wish. Terrain includes hills, forests, rivers, towns, vineyards, and other types that made Tunisia a unique place for battle.
The colors are muted and earth tone and pleasant overall, but statistics for British units are printed in white text on a yellow/brown background, which makes them difficult to read. I had to experiment with the controls on my monitor in order to make the statistics more visible and this had a less than dramatic effect on the visibility of the text. Play testing should have revealed this “legibility” issue.
The few complaints notwithstanding, Panzer Campaigns: Tunisia ’43 is a great strategy game and another feather in the hat of John Tiller Software.
Armchair General Rating: 90 %
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)!