Panzer Corps – PC Game Preview
Panzer Corps. PC Game Preview. Publisher: Slitherine/Matrix Games. Developer: The Lordz Game Studios.
Panzer Corps is a turn-based, strategic level PC wargame set during World War II. Panzer Corp’s goal is to update the iconic Panzer General – a classic series released in the 1990s by SSI. Panzer General is one of the best beer & pretzels PC wargames of all time and is still played by many according to wargame forums on the web. Many PC wargamers got their start with one of the Panzer General games.
Panzer Corps is played on very large map overlaid with a hex grid. For example, one battle map includes all of Norway, parts of Denmark, and the surrounding seas. All terrain is visible to both sides. There are different terrain types including plains, mountains, rivers, and seas. Roads, railroads, bridges, airfields, and ports all come into play. Fog of war, weather effects, and supply are options available to the gamer.
Panzer Corps may succeed in its goal of bringing Panzer General style wargaming back to modern PCs.
The player takes the role of a German commander who has a set of core units containing a mixture of weaponry. Unit types include infantry, tank, recon, anti-tank, artillery, anti-aircraft, fighter, tactical bomber, and strategic bomber. Units gain experience by attacking and destroying enemy units. Experienced core units can be “over-reinforced” to make them more powerful.
The player attempts to take key cities within a time limit. Experience points usable in repairing units, purchasing new units, and upgrading units are gained by capturing key cities, other victory point cities, and destroying enemy units. In a campaign game when a player quickly takes all key cities in a scenario, a decisive victory is won which grants a substantial point bonus. Winning a scenario less quickly earns a regular victory and fewer points. Winning a scenario with little time to spare earns a marginal victory and substantially fewer victory points.
Just like Panzer General, Panzer Corps is a somewhat complicated “rock, paper, scissors” game. Armor crushes artillery, artillery stomps infantry, infantry kills anti-tank guns and so on. To win the player must use combined arms tactics and take considerable care to put the right core force together over time.
Excepting a single air and ground unit sharing the same hex, units cannot be stacked. For this reason protecting vulnerable units such as artillery while having a hard attacking “shell” made up of armor and infantry units is a key element of success. As the player racks up wins they can purchase additional units up to a firm limit. Units can be upgraded between battles in the campaign games as new technology becomes available.
Naval forces are available in a few scenarios. A couple of scenarios are amphibious landings. But most of the game consists of land and air forces slugging it out.
The game has four campaigns: 1939, 1941, 1943 (East) and 1943 (West). There are also 26 scenarios making up the campaigns which can be played individually. There are four levels of difficulty. Multiplayer PBEM is promised, but was not tested in this preview.
There are six well-designed tutorials. A player who works through all six tutorials will be pretty well prepared for playing the campaign games or individual battles.
Play balance was pretty good. At the “normal” setting I could easily win the first two battles of the campaign (Poland and Norway), but had a very tough time with the Low Countries battle which simulates the start of the 1940 German Western Offensive.
The pre-release version was amazingly stable. This preview is based on more than thirty hours of gameplay. There were no crashes of any sort. There were no obvious coding mistakes. Everything worked as it should. I’ve seen very few unpatched releases that were as stable as the pre-release of Panzer Corps. The reviewer used a six year old Alienware employing Windows XP, which makes the game stability even more noteworthy.
There were only two things that I missed in Panzer Corps that was part of the Panzer General game experience. First, there were no heavily accented “German” voice-overs in the mission briefing. Hopefully Lordz Game Studios can find a German-accented ham actor to give us a good, cheesy verbal briefing to match the written briefing. Second, proto-type units were not awarded if you gained a decisive victory in a battle, though with this being a preview it’s possible they may be added before release.
Overall, Panzer Corps may succeed in its goal of bringing Panzer General style wargaming back to modern PCs. People who love beer & pretzels wargames should be looking forward to the release of Panzer Corps. If the final product is polished and has a good play balance, I hope it gets shelf space in every Wal-Mart and Target in the world. Panzer Corps could be the beer & pretzels gateway drug that entices a new generation of people to become interested in PC wargames.
About the Author
Avery Abernethy is a Professor of Marketing at Auburn University. He has played many PC wargames, strategy games, and RPGs since the punch card era of computing.