After I played and reviewed Battle Academy
, Slitherine finally released Panzer Corps for iPad, my favorite platform to play turn-based strategy. It is also available for PC. Panzer Corps is basically a revamped Panzer General, my favorite game of the 1990's. Even better, for a few dollars more, you can download the add-on pack to play the campaigns for the Allied side, making it Panzer and Allied General all in one.
Apart from the tutorial campaign, which is played from the German side, I only played the Allied campaign. One major difference to the old SSI titles is that there are several add-on packs to the original German campaigns, which gives you almost endless campaigns and scenarios. Another difference is that the allied add-on does not include a Soviet Campaign. Other than that, the game is pretty much the same, combining the gameplay of the original and adding the best features of the later releases, such as Panzer General II.
Itís easy to get into this game, especially if you've played the old titles before. For those who havenít, there is a tutorial campaign, which puts you in the boots of a young German Colonel going through strategic training against a German opponent in the late 1930's.
After that, you get new troops and start with the Polish Campaign. You are assigned a number of inexperienced core troops (each unit corresponding to anything from a regiment to a Division, depending on the scenario) and lead them through the war. Each battle is called a scenario, after which your troops get a chance to rest and refit. With each scenario your troops gain experience, medals and war heroes. During most scenarios you also get additional non-core units, in some cases even naval units.
You may also join the war at a later stage if you donít want to go through the whole war. If you have the allied add-on pack, you can play the war from the Allied perspective, starting as the British in North Africa, the Americans with Operation Torch, or the combined forces in Normandy.
Each of the scenarios can also be played separately from either side or via hotseat, i.e. playing with a friend on the same device. It can also be played in multi player through the net, independent of the device (i.e. PC and iPad).
The graphics are more than adequate for this sort of game. They are reminiscent of the old Panzer General Series, no 3D here, no fancy combat simulations, but none are needed.
This is a turn-based strategy game, so like Chess, you will be moving all your troops and then end the turn and your opponent plays. The map is divided in hex fields, which define movement and type of terrain (e.g. hills, rivers, roads, towns, etc.)
There are different classes of units with different traits. Besides the more obvious infantry, tank and artillery, there are recon, anti-tank, anti-aircraft, fighter, tactical bomber and strategic bomber units. Each type of unit has itís special trait, such as Infantry being especially effective in close quarters, such as cities, hills and forests, while tanks are most effective in open fields. Artillery will provide supporting fire if placed next to a defending unit, while AA will do the same in case of air attack. Also, fighters will defend bombers, which are positioned next to them. It is important to remember these things, as it considerably strengthens your position during your opponentís turn, but also your opponentís during your turn.
Each unit has defense and attack values, each for soft (i.e. unarmored targets), hard (armored), air and naval combat. Other important values are initiative, range (how far a unit can fire; this is always 1, i.e. one hex, except for Artillery and AA), movement and spotting (usually higher for recon units).
Each unit also has values for fuel and ammo. Of course this means that you also need to supply units, which will take them out of the battle for one turn.
All these values need to be kept in mind when purchasing new units or updating old ones. While a new tank may have a better hard attack value, its movement and defense may be lower and overall your unit will be less effective.
Each unit also has a strength value; with 10 meaning a unit is at 100% strength. Losses will have to be replaced, or you may use a very experienced unit, which has sustained high losses to a rookie unit. There are two kinds of reinforcements: rookies that will reduce your unitís experience, and veterans that will keep up the experience. Of course, the latter are more expensive then the former.
Experience is shown with stars. The more stars, the more experienced your unit is. The maximum is 5 stars, however, experience can go above that (5 stars = 500 points, it can go above 500). With more experience it is possible to have over strength units up to 150% (i.e. 10% per star).
During the campaign, you may get new units, update your equipment and reinforce existing units. This is paid with so called prestige, which you receive at the beginning of each scenario and during a campaign for reaching certain objectives or taking cities. Be careful not to use all prestige to update your units or you may not be able to reinforce units during a campaign.
Each scenario ends with defeat (the campaign will usually be over), victory or triumph (for reaching all goals). The conditions for victory or triumph are always announced at the start of each turn. While usually you have to get certain points or cities on the map, it can also include goals such as retreating all your units, destroying all enemy units of a certain type or getting a particular unit from point A to point B.
The game offers 5 different difficulty settings. The main difference will be the amount of prestige you and your enemy have (and therefore how often you can update and reinforce your units and how may reinforcements your enemy gets) as well as the experience of enemy units. For more experienced players I recommend starting at least at level 4.
A Few Tactical Tips
It is always a good idea to surround an enemy unit with more than one of your own before attacking. As in real life, such a unit will be threatened from different sides and will have to divide its strength, making it more vulnerable and less effective. The same applies to your defending units of course.
Always try to soften up your enemy with Artillery or bombers. This reduces their entrenchment value and makes them more vulnerable (it may also suppress them and reduce their strength somewhat).
A unit that can not retreat (because all the hexes surrounding it are inaccessible, e.g. due to them being occupied by friendly and enemy units) is likely to surrender. Keep this in mind when attacking, but also when placing your units before the end of a scenario.
Try to destroy enemy units whenever possible. The game is smart enough that it will always reinforce such units back to 100% and you will be back at square one.
It is never a good idea to use up all your unitís ammo or fuel, as this will leave it extremely vulnerable during the opponentís turn.
Recon is key. Even the most experienced unit can get destroyed when it is ambushed by an AT unit that was invisible due to the fog of war (units in territories that are not reconnoitered are invisible). Ask me how I knowÖ
Donít forget to save the game each turn before you start moving your troops. If not, you may regret it, when a rampaging Tiger in Normandy destroys your highly experienced unit that you've nursed along from North AfricaÖ
Historical Background and Accuracy
Overall the game is reasonably accurate. Of course it is not possible to have a detailed reproduction of each scenario at this scale. Most scenarios are based on an actual battle of the war, however, depending on the outcome of certain campaigns (e.g. Operation Market-Garden) there are alternative campaigns, e.g. the destruction of V1 and V2 missile launchers in western Holland (and more, but I donít want to spoil the funÖ).
Equipment is mostly reasonably accurate as well, there are several versions of the same types of vehicles, but in some cases I donít agree with the values attributed to each version, where some seem rather low and others rather high. Some examples:
The 75mm guns on all (except the very early, which never saw service) M4 Shermans, late M3 Lees and Grants, late Churchills and the M24 Chaffee all had about the same AT and HE performance. However, the differences are striking when it comes to the AT value: 9, 10, 11 for the M4, M4A1, M4A3 respectively; 6 for the Lee/Grant, 9 and 10 for the Churchill VI and VII respectively and 8 for the M24. Compare this to guns of similar capability, like the T34/76, which has a value of 11 and 12 (41/43) or the Italian P26 with 12. I also wonder why a 6pdr on a Crusader III or a Churchill IV has a value of 12, while the towed gun is at 14. Also, it is well known that the 77mm gun of the Comet tank was basically a downsized 17 pdr; yet, the Firefly has a value of 22, while the Comet is at 25. Now compare this to the German Panther (20), Tiger (18) and Tiger II (25).
Fighter planes are sometimes also a mystery. A Hurricane IIc has an air attack value of 18, like the Spitfire IX. Now compare this to the P-51B (13), P-51D (17), FW 190A (20) and you can see that some values have little to do with reality.
This is very unfortunate, as the values of the old Panzer General were much more accurate and close to reality. Why the guys at Slitherine invented new values instead of using the available numbers from Panzer General is a mystery to me. Slitherine, in case you need the values, I still have the handbook of the old Panzer General which include the complete list of unit stats.
I also missed half of British armored cars, which were included in Panzer General. In particular I missed the AEC with the 6pdr and 75mm guns and instead had to settle with the Humber IV as the peak of British armored car design
Apart from some of the issue with the unit stats, which seem to have little resemblance to reality, this game is very addictive. Taking your units along the whole war and watching as they gain experience is really the core of this game and keeps you at it until the war is over. If you like turn based strategy and are interested in WWII there is no way around Panzer Corps.
I played through the British Campaign from North Africa in 1940 to the end of the war in Europe twice and will likely add another go through as the American player. Letís hope there will be some new material soon, too. How about Pacific campaigns or wars beyond WWII?