My family got our first PC back in the early 90s; I remember it had a 25Mhz processor and 16MB of RAM. Very early on I was playing a lot of strategy wargames on the PC, but the two that have always stuck in my mind were Steel Panthers and Panzer General. I recently got a newsletter from Matrix Games and saw a game called “Panzer Corps” advertised, which I thought was kind of a dumb title. Out of curiosity I clicked on it and discovered that Panzer Corps is in fact a modern, rather beautiful remake of the original Panzer General game. I downloaded the demo later that night and found myself once again lost in the simple, fun gameplay that I remembered as a kid.
Panzer Corps is a very accessible and easy to play wargame; the player controls a force of roughly 25-30 units on a hexagon map opposed by a scripted AI. Typically the player is attacking and trying to capture certain objectives in a set amount of time. While the UI is very simple and easy to use, the game has a huge variety of unit types and much of the game centers around deploying and maneuvering your units on the map so as to decisively defeat the enemy units without taking too heavy of casualties. The game plays out over a branching campaign covering the European theater of WWII through various operations, from Poland on, with a certain subset of “core” units following the player from battle to battle gaining experience and allowing the player to purchase equipment upgrades. A green unit that started the game driving wimpy Panzer Is may end the campaign as an elite unit driving King Tigers… or it might be wiped out along the way. The continuity is a big part of the appeal of the game.
The core gameplay is a sort of tactical puzzle; the primary challenge is adapting your limited forces to the terrain and enemy units so as to achieve the highest success. My infantry may be able to grind down that enemy city but they’ll take heavy casualties from enemy artillery unless… ok now I’ve used my tanks to destroy the enemy artillery but I’m getting bombed by enemy aircraft… ok now I’ve brought up some AA units… in essence the game relies on a sort of Rock-Paper-Scissors interaction between units. The combat system is actually much more complex that it would originally seem but it all happens under the hood so the player never has to worry about it if they don’t want to. There are 5 levels of difficulty and several other options that effect the challenge level so its pretty easy to challenge yourself at the level you want.
The base game is $30 and comes with the game engine and the original 26 scenario campaign covering the entire war. However, what’s cool is the publisher Slitherine has also been putting out $5 expansion packs, each one containing an approx. 15 scenario campaign covering a particular year of the war. So far packs for 1939, ’40, ’41, and ’42 have all been released with tons more planned. This really seems like a genius idea, as it lets Slitherine capitalize on their original game engine as much as possible while giving the players who want more game depth a ton more scenarios to play.
I have to admit this is extremely tempting for me, even as I attempt to play two subscription MMOs at once (yes I’m playing both EVE and Star Wars TOR right now, more about that in another post hopefully). I’ll have to think on it a bit, I haven’t quite played all the way through the demo yet.
If you are interested check out the demo at the Slitherine Website (I recommend the “Patches Scrolls” mirror)
For tons of screenshots and info you can also check out this website: http://panzer-corps.com/ (I’m not sure of the affiliation, seems like a fan site).