We Just Played Panzer General: Allied Assault

Part historical board game, part collectible card game, and surprisingly fun: We check out this XBLA strategy game.

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If you've got a thing for World War II, board games, and collectible cards and have a little patience to go along with it, then you might enjoy the upcoming Panzer General: Allied Assault for Xbox Live Arcade. It's a slow game--as turn-based wargames have a tendency to be--but it can also be a pretty engrossing challenge if you've got the patience and proclivity. I recently tried a two-level demo of the game, which will be out tomorrow on Xbox Live Arcade.

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The first mission in the demo serves as the game's tutorial and is designed to teach you the basics of gameplay. Once the mission loads, you're presented with a six-cell-by-five-cell grid that serves as your environment; one side of the board is initially controlled by the Allied forces, and the other is controlled by the Axis. Each grid on the board has its own features (such as mountains, trees, or rivers) that might affect how units placed on that cell behave. For example, units in a forest cell will receive a bonus to their overall defense rating, while units on a mountain will have a slightly higher attack rating.

While each mission in Allied Assault has its own individual goals, your most basic agenda is to control as much territory as you can on the map. Invading enemy-controlled territory or moving into unclaimed cells will earn you prestige points at the end of a round. These prestige points are valuable because they will allow you to buy more cards for your deck. Prestige points are the currency, and the cards in your deck are your tools to victory. There are a ton of cards in the game, including units you can set in the field during a turn in order to bolster your attack (or your defense), specialized action cards (such as bombing runs that can damage enemy units), and boost cards that can strengthen your forces and weaken your opponents.

A typical round of combat begins with you laying down new units (assuming you have them in your deck) and then moving your troops to new positions on the board. You can also play action cards or set your units to attack enemies at any point. Once you've attacked an opponent, the combat phase begins. First, any support units--such as nearby infantry, armor, or long-range artillery--will be taken into account and will affect your attack rating. Next, the enemy's defensive rating is calculated.

After that it's a matter of playing whatever combat cards you have in your deck--these cards can do things like remove enemy support capability or, in the case of the smoke-screen card, end combat then and there. Once combat cards have been played, you can choose to sacrifice any card in your deck to add to your offensive (or defensive, when being attacked) rating. Each card has a different prestige cost, and by sacrificing a card, you add its value to your offensive or defensive rating. Once all of this is done, it's time to roll the dice, the result of which will add a final result to your respective rating. Combat is then resolved using each player's offensive and defensive rating. The other side then gets a chance to counterattack, and the whole process starts over again.

Depending on the number of combat cards played and the number of other cards sacrificed, a single combat round can go on for a while. Considering that you will often have multiple clashes per round, Panzer General is not a game for the impatient. That said, the game's strategic elements are fun, the scenarios are based on actual events from World War II (the second mission, for example, is a turn-based re-creation of D-Day, as you storm Utah Beach), and unlocking new card types after completing rounds is right up the alley for the collectible card nerd inside you. The game will have a full campaign with 14 levels to play through (on two difficulty levels), a skirmish mode, and multiplayer support, as well as a deck manager that will let you build decks of cards you can use in specific game situations.

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Panzer General: Allied Assault is due for release on Xbox Live on Wednesday, October 21 and will cost 800 MS points.

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