PanzerCorps – PC Game Review
PanzerCorps. PC Game Review. Publisher: Slitherine Studios. Developer: The Lordz Game Studios. $49.99
Passed Inspection: A successful remake of the classic Panzer General. Great beer & pretzels game that is likely to introduce new gamers to the hobby.
Failed Basic: Proprietary PBEM system may limit longevity.
PanzerCorps is a turn based, WW2 strategic level PC wargame using an IGO-UGO format. The player takes the role of a German general. This is a “beer and pretzels” wargame. The maps are very large scale, the player controls very few units (20-35) and the scenarios are very short (15-30 turns). Aside from an air unit over a ground unit, there is no stacking. You will not need a week of intensive study or a Ph.D. to play this game.
Keeping with the beer and pretzels theme, a novice can learn how to play the game via a set of well designed tutorials or can read a very short manual. To fully understand the game the manual should be read. The learning curve is very easy. Maps with a limited number of hexes, very few units, few rules, and a good tutorial all make this an excellent introduction to computer, turn-based wargames. There are five levels of difficulty. Major game options are fog of war, supply effects, and weather effects. There are four campaign games and twenty-three scenarios. The campaigns start at different points in the war and eventually split into the Eastern and Western fronts.
If victory is achieved in campaign games, surviving core units transfer to subsequent scenarios. Bonus units may be awarded to commanders who win substantial victories. As technology progresses over time, units can be upgraded with better equipment. Crews manning a lowly Panzer I in Poland may eventually man Panthers in Russia. Experienced units can gain leaders and other special abilities. With success over time your core units will compile a detailed battle history with records of kills, heroes and awards. Players will become attached to their favorite units and will deeply morn their loss.
The maps are very large scale. One map included parts of Southern Germany, Northern France, the Low Countries, and the English Channel. Aside from an air unit above a ground unit, there is no stacking. There are different terrain types including plains, mountains, rivers, and seas. Roads, railroads, bridges, airfields, and ports all come into play. Units are of a single type such as infantry, tank, artillery, fighters, tactical bombers, and so forth. There is no combined arms within units. 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.
PanzerCorps is a somewhat complicated “rock, paper, scissors” game. Artillery mangles infantry, infantry crushes anti-tank, anti-tank slaps armor, and armor crushes artillery and so forth. Although naval forces are used in a few scenarios, they are a sidelight and never become part of a player’s core force. A few scenarios are amphibious landings, but most battles have no naval element. Combined arms tactics must be used to win every scenario. To win a campaign the player must also take considerable care to put together a properly balanced core force. Overreliance on any unit type is a losing strategy. Scouting is essential. Blundering ahead without recon is a recipe for a disastrous ambush and a destroyed core unit.
There is good play balance and an effective AI. With five levels of difficulty almost any player can find a challenge. Playing the easiest setting with no supply, weather, or fog of war is very different game from the hardest setting with all options in use. Once again, these options can make PanzerCorps a very forgiving introduction for wargame newbies.
Multiplayer via PBEM is available. However, it seems that multiplayer games must employ the Slitherine servers. Although a player could limit the game to a specific opponent, forcing the game through one set of servers might limit multiplayer as the years pass by. Many wargame companies have gone out of business and Panzer Corps multiplayer may be impossible in future years without specific servers.
The game was amazingly stable. The manual is clearly written. This is clearly a “finished game” that should run well right out of the box. I purchased a personal copy of the game. It installed smoothly both from a digital download and from disk. I used a six year old Alienware employing Windows XP, which makes the game stability even more noteworthy. I wish all game releases met this standard.
This game is heavily influenced and intentionally similar to the multi-game Panzer General series released by SSI in the 1990s. Panzer General is one of the best beer & pretzels PC wargames of all time and is still played by many. PanzerCorps follows the same formula established by Panzer General.
PanzerCorps makes one substantial improvement over the original Panzer General, it shipped with a highly adaptable map and scenario creation kit. Mods and scenarios are already appearing on the internet. This is important because a 23 scenario beer and pretzels game has limited replay ability. With the editing kit Panzer Corps has the potential to have a greater long-run impact than Panzer General.
The game is not perfect. It will be mastered pretty quickly by experienced gamers. The voice-overs in the scenario briefings are weak. There is no voice-over when you win a decisive victory! Forcing multiplayer through one set of servers may limit future playability.
Overall, PanzerCorps is one of the best “beer and pretzels” turn based wargame releases in years. The game is very polished and stable. It is fun to play. You can pick up and play it in an evening although it might take weeks to fully master. The editor suggests future replay ability. It is an excellent game for people just starting out with wargames. But there is a big fun factor even for experienced gamers.
Nothing could help the wargaming hobby more than having PanzerCorps achieve wide release in Wal-Marts and other mass merchandisers throughout the world.
Armchair General Score: 90%
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.