Panzer Corps is a great turn-based strategic wargame that captures Panzer General's deep and involving classic gameplay.
- Dynamic campaigns
- Tense multiplayer tests your wits
- Easy to learn
- Engrossing Panzer General-style gameplay.
- The ceaseless din of battle
- Dated visuals.
Panzer Corps is a rare gem. This turn-based strategic wargame, set in the days when Europe was a two-dimensional hex grid, tries its hardest to replicate the appeal of the classic Panzer General series, and for the most part it succeeds. Unlike the campaigns in most World War II games out there, Panzer Corps' campaigns take a German (but not explicitly Nazi) perspective, opening the door for some fun alternative-history scenarios. The game is easy to learn but difficult to fully master, the campaigns are dynamic, and the turn-based combat is as fulfilling now as Panzer General was in the 1990s.
Panzer Corps' best moments come from its single-player campaigns, which together cover World War II from the German perspective. The campaigns offer a great deal of variety, both in their starting scenarios (that is, the invasion of Poland or the Battle of Kursk) and in the way the campaign unfolds, according to your performance. Each campaign's path diverges based on whether the last mission ended with a decisive victory, a victory, or a loss. For instance, a decisive victory in the Kursk mission leads to an invasion of Moscow, while failure initiates a defensive mission in central Russia. If you achieve a decisive victory in every mission that the 1939 campaign throws at you, then you'll be happily slogging your way across the Rocky Mountains in an attempt to crush the last bastions of American resistance. If your performance is less stellar, then you'll probably be able to take a streetcar from the eastern to the western front as you defend a besieged Berlin.
Regardless of your fortune, you have a persistent group of units, which, provided you keep them alive, will follow you through the campaign with unwavering loyalty. You can reinforce your troops back to full strength or upgrade to newer models by spending prestige, which you earn through battlefield exploits. Unfortunately, purchasing new units also costs prestige, which could force you to make some tough choices if your career hasn't been particularly glorious. Over the course of the campaign, these units can earn all manner of medals, and occasionally you get a message detailing how a single soldier's heroic actions have inspired the entire unit, granting a stat bonus of some kind.
Panzer Corps' combat system is pretty easy to figure out even if you haven't the slightest idea what a T-34 is. The user interface is fairly helpful for getting you into the fight. For instance, right clicking on any unit brings up information on its stats and role, letting you quickly determine if this esoteric vehicle is supposed to shoot men or tanks. Also, a handy tooltip gives a good estimate of how the battle will go if you attack an enemy unit. Furthermore, hexes that your selected unit may move to are highlighted, making it easy to plan how you're going to shoot and scoot your way through Europe.
Naturally, stuff is going to be blowing up in a wargame, and Panzer Corps delivers in that department. However, Panzer Corps turns exploding things into an engrossing intellectual exercise that favors refined combined-arms tactics over pedestrian tank spamming. First, send your reconnaissance vehicles to carefully probe their way through the fog of war and find your target. Then, use artillery to bomb the living daylights out of your enemies, suppressing them. Finally, unleash tanks and infantry to finish the poor blighters off, possibly with the aid of close air support aircraft.
Of course, the enemy also bears ill will toward your forces, so you have to be careful about where your units end their turn. Careless positioning leads to a merciless parade of Soviet tanks wrecking your army. Instead, a strong armored phalanx is useful for protecting especially vulnerable units like artillery. Also, when positioning your units, you need to keep in mind that artillery and antiaircraft guns may provide assistance to any defending unit in an adjacent hex. Likewise, fighters may assist adjacent aircraft, so you want to keep your air force together; otherwise, you'll see a mass of enemy fighters descend on isolated air units like a school of hungry piranhas.