Panzer Corps: Allied Corps – PC Game Review
Passed Inspection: Intuitive gameplay. AI puts up a good fight. Provides the “one more turn” addiction during gameplay. Potentially high replay value with scenario editor.
Failed Basic: Title is misleading (no Soviets); however this isn’t a major issue. Price is a little high for 5 campaigns (30 scenarios).
In Panzer Corps: Allied Corps players assume the role of Western Allied force commanders to defeat the Axis in Africa and Europe. It gives gamers familiar with Panzer Corps a new view of the war as they command their tanks, infantry, artillery, and air units through five campaigns starting in Africa and ending after the D-Day invasion. Allied Corps is both an expansion for owners of Panzer Corps and a standalone for new players.
The game comes with 30 scenarios in five campaigns: “Desert 1940,” “Crete 1941,” “Torch 1942,” “Sicily 1943,” and “Normandy 1944.” Players can choose to start with any one of the five campaigns, which link as one grand campaign. Choosing an earlier war campaign allows you to begin building up your units, allowing them to gain invaluable experience you will need in later campaigns. Losing units you have had since the beginning of the war can be gut wrenching, since you have learned to rely on them over the course of many scenarios. (It is possible to start with the “Normandy 1944″ campaign, but you will need to be cautious due to your units’ inexperience.)
The great feature with the Panzer Corps series is you are free to purchase any of the 900 unit types throughout the campaigns, although certain units are not available at the beginning of the war. This allows you to build your corps however you wish, i.e., a player may choose to focus primarily on purchasing tanks with light infantry support or vice versa, or perhaps to amass a group of artillery units rolling along behind the advance units.
Campaign and Scenarios
The five campaigns consist of 30 scenarios. Popular battles in these campaigns include Kasserine, the final push in Tunisia, Battle of the Bulge, El Alamein, Cassino, Cobra, and D-Day to name a few. Some battles are more difficult than others, so players can expect to lose many units until their corps has developed into a fierce fighting force. Kasserine was one such battle; rather than being on the offense, I was forced to hold my ground against the onslaught of German armor. Surprisingly, I lost nearly every unit I had and every key location I was to hold. Fortunately, the campaign continued straight to the Tunisia scenario whether I won or lost. I would have preferred a win, but the battle showed me how tough the AI can be against a human opponent. Other scenario losses are not as forgiving; losing the Sicily scenario automatically ends the campaign.
There are 20 unit classes in Allied Corps, but these can be classified into seven combat unit types: infantry, tanks, recon vehicles, anti-tank guns, artillery guns, air units (fighters, tactical bombers, strategic bombers), and naval ships. Air and rail transports also available. Each unit can be purchased in the “Purchase Unit” screen at any time during a scenario. In this screen, a player can see the unit’s purchase cost (prestige points that are gained through the completion of scenarios and the capture of objectives), strength points, fuel points, experience, movement type, attack range, attack and defense strength, and other unit statistics. This can be helpful in determining what type of corps you want to develop. Do you purchase multiple M5 Stuart tanks with a high movement range, or do you purchase the slower M3 Lee tanks with a higher attack strength against infantry? The variations of your force are almost limitless, but whatever you choose it must be effective against the enemy. Units can be upgraded and repaired throughout a scenario and campaign, but this does consume the precious prestige points you have been awarded throughout the campaign.
There are 24 terrain-type hexes in Panzer Corps: Allied Corps, but do not expect to see all of them in one scenario. The maps are designed similarly to hex-based wargame maps. What you will see on a map mostly are open fields, hills, mountains, forests and rivers. Sicily’s northeast region is very mountainous making it difficult for tanks and infantry to traverse, but the western part of the island is mostly open, making attacks easier. The Battle of the Bulge scenario map is mostly comprised of forest, hills and rivers making it difficult for the Germans to advance in bottlenecked paths to objectives. The D-Day map consists of swamps where the US airborne units expect to make their drops north of Carentan, and Caen consists of multiple city hexes where British and Canadian forces can expect to have a difficult time pushing through. Each scenario map provides its own unique interpretation of the battle terrain, giving players a sense of how to formulate their strategies.
The gaming mechanics in Panzer Corps: Allied Corps are likewise very similar to many tabletop hex-based wargames, with zone of control, retreat and surrender rules, weather, ground state, suppression, elements of fog of war, and offensive/defensive fire. Ground and naval units exert a zone of control (ZOC) on the six adjacent hexes. All units must stop upon entering an enemy unit’s ZOC, with the exception of recon units. These little recon units are useful for brushing away some of the fog of war (unexplored terrain and enemy units that are not within visual range), but they run the risk of running into a horde of tanks just waiting to ambush them.
One of the most difficult encounters I came across while playing the Sicily scenario was removing German infantry, artillery, and a heavy anti-air gun holding tight in the rugged terrain east of Mount Etna, which was blocking my Allied advance to Messina. It was a nearly an impossible task for my infantry to resolve on their own, but Allied Corps allow players to use combined arms to crack nuts like this one. Thankfully, at the start of the scenario I had purchased enough artillery and strategic bombers to apply suppression fire attacks on the German infantry and artillery positions.
Artillery and strategic bombing attacks usually inflict little actual damage to an enemy unit; however, the unit will suffer from suppression, which is noted by the unit’s strength color changing to either yellow (moderate suppression) or red (heavy suppression). This suppression allowed my infantry to give the final devastating blow to the enemy units, whereas an attack without suppression fire would have resulted in devastating losses for my infantry. This feature in the game gives value to the use of units providing suppression fire and gives players the sense of how to apply combined arms attacks.
Throughout the course of the campaigns, individual units called upon to break through lines or hold against Axis attacks may be rewarded with medals and heroes. Each unit can be awarded a maximum of three heroes and three awards that improve the unit’s fighting performance. My B-25B bomber, which I constantly put in harm’s way by flying over enemy anti-air units and fighters, was awarded with the hero “John Allen.” This gave my bomber the much-needed +3 defense as the campaigns progressed in difficulty.
The multiplayer system relies on the PBEM++ multiplayer system, which lets players issue and accept scenario matches within Panzer Corps. A Slitherine forum username is required but is easy to set up within the game. Once the multiplayer menu is open, players can view three tabs: “Current Games,” “Issue a Challenge,” and “Accept a Challenge.” This system is useful in that players don’t have to worry about sending actual email files back and forth with their opponents, and it works well in bringing the Panzer Corps community together in one place to find new opponents. Another multiplayer option is the use of “hotseat” where players can play a scenario on the same computer. The only drawback with multiplayer is not having the satisfaction of bringing your battle-hardened units from a single-player campaign into a multiplayer fight. This is unavoidable, but facing a human player can be more satisfying than playing an AI that is scripted to hold or attack an objective.
The replay value is high with Panzer Corps: Allied Corps due to its scenario and campaign editor. Here, players can create maps and corps forces for either side to recreate historic or hypothetical battles. Since there is no unit scale, scenario designers can create scenarios from squadron-sized battles up to clashes between armies. This gives any of the games in the Panzer Corps series the flexibility to create almost any battle. One extremely helpful tool in the editor is the map overlay where a map image can be imported into the editor to create a scenario map. The editor also allows designers to define the scenario parameters such as number of turns, weather dynamics, prestige points for either side, victory conditions, and AI scripted responses.
I—and I expect many others—remember the nostalgic days of turned-based wargames back in the late ’90s and early ’00′s. Panzer Corps: Allied Corps, like the rest of the Panzer Corps series, essentially picks up where those games left off, emphasizing gameplay over graphics and sounds. Those who enjoy tabletop wargames will understand the convenience of a fluid wargame to play against the AI or a human opponent, but those not familiar with this style of wargaming may find it drawn out and frustrating. This is not a heavy turn-based wargame, but players will need patience to formulate their strategies against enemy units, terrain, weather, battle elements, and time.
When I started the “Torch 1942″ campaign, I found that my units were underpowered against some of the German units, such as the 88mm Flak gun, but as scenarios progressed I found that my surviving units had gained the experience and upgrades needed to defeat Axis forces. The game offers a rewarding payoff over long periods of play. You may not get the immediate satisfaction you will find in faster-paced games, but Panzer Corps: Allied Corps offers a much more enriching experience. The game’s title is a little misleading, since there are no battles involving Soviet troops; a more appropriate name would have been Panzer Corps: Western Allies. It would have been a great addition to include some campaigns for the Soviets, but expect to see that in Panzer Corps: Soviet Corps in the future.
Armchair General Rating: 92%
About the Author
Ed William has his Masters in Library and Information Science and works in public libraries. This allows him access to databases of historical content while reviewing wargames. He took an interest in military history and wargaming as a teenager after discovering that one of his hometown heroes is General George S. Patton. Ed is the author of an article that explains how to convert interactive games in Armchair General magazine to PC scenarios using the Combat Mission series.