In the spirit and tradition of Panzer General, Panzer Corps and Order of Battle, Starni Games has developed the excellent Panzer Strategy. The obvious, incredible difference is that this turn-based wargame is three-dimensional! While many of the concepts are the same, there are enough differences to make this stand on its own boots.
You earn Prestige Points in Panzer Strategy by taking enemy-held positions — and use Prestige Points plus Command Points to reinforce your units. However, unlike the aforementioned games, you can’t simply bring your units up to strength anywhere you choose. Land units have to be within the supply radius of a railroad station (and/or its connections, if you have them). Air units must be resupplied at an airfield, while naval units must use a port.
Capturing strategic supply positions is of utmost importance. Your Blitzkrieg will grind to a halt if your land units run out of supplies. Also, if you’re not paying attention to your aircraft, they will crash and burn. I learned the hard way as I was sneaking a tank and an armored car around the ‘back way’ — and they ran out of gas. They were stuck until I captured a supply point close enough for them to refuel. Luckily, there were no enemy units close, as they both would have been sitting ducks — armed, but unable to maneuver.
Command Points are generally in short supply and it usually takes five to reinforce a unit. Unlike other games in this genre, this becomes a tightrope balancing act. Sure, you want your Pionieres sitting at six strength to be up to full (ten). Same with your rearward Pz IIA, which is down to four. However, if you start the turn with fifteen Command Points and seven units needing reinforcement, you can’t magically pull that extra twenty points you need out of your Aufklärungspanzers. So, both when and where you add replacements in Panzer Strategy makes for some crucial decision-making problems.
Supply is extremely easy to comprehend, even without an overlay. Once you click on a unit, it gives you all the supply information you could possibly need: how far it can travel; for non-motorized, whether it will use a truck/halftrack after its allotted normal movement range; where it’s in and out of supply; whether it can be repaired in each hex; if it will end its turn next to a known fort or an unidentified, but known enemy position; etc. If you stop where you are not in supply, you will burn fuel.
In a way, you are out there on the battlefield. There is always a Command vehicle, which you are in. If you die, it’s game over. You start with a recon-type scout, but can level up between battles if you choose to spend your points in that manner. Sure, you could sit in the rear echelon and just watch the battle unfold. However, that would be a monumental mistake. All units within two hexes of your HQ vehicle receive one extra level! I’m generally on the front, most important line, surrounded by as many units as possible — just to give them that extra level boost. Then, I can still earn extra experience by using the HQ vehicle directly in ‘cleanup’ type roles — like an infantry or armored vehicle down to its last breath/health.
Armored cars/recon/scouts have their own interesting mechanics anyway. They automatically come with the Scouting ability — which means they can use all of their movement points, even incrementally, as long as they don’t fall into an ambush. They’ll stop once an enemy is spotted, then it’s up to you whether to move them more or not. The great part is you can always come back to them later. In Panzer Strategy, you can always go back and finish a unit’s turn. Say an infantry moved next to an unknown enemy. He has the ability to fire on it. However, you have more troops close, so you can wait, move them, then use them all to fire if you choose that option.
Intelligence, in an equipment slot, also relies on not being ambushed. If not, the unit receives a +1 Spotting Range and a +2 Initiative. More importantly, each attack the unit makes has a ten-percent chance of revealing beneficial enemy information. There is a large selection of gear to buy for the individual equipment slots for each unit — ranging from extra ammunition or fuel to Intelligence and anti-mine (Sapper) capabilities, to name a few. As your units level up, the choices become even more widespread. You can even buy extra equipment slots if you’re so inclined. Knowing this lets you ultimately specialize what may seem to be two identical troops, simply by the gear you choose to equip them with.
Between scenarios is where hardcore decision-making comes into play. You’ve earned a certain amount of points during the last mission — including Headquarter Points, which now come into play. How you spend them is where the real brain-wracking begins. Some units are eligible for promotion, which gives them additional benefits. You might want to upgrade some units to larger, more developed ones (e.g. a Pz IA to a Pz IIA… or even higher/better). Maybe you want your anti-tank to be mobile, so turn your 3.7cm PaK 36 into a ‘real tank’ hunter, a PzJgd I? The possibilities are almost endless, but your finances are definitely not. You even have the opportunity to buy new Core units. Sure, you skimp on the promotion and upgrading of your established ones, but maybe you need an extra artillery piece or tank or plane? It’s lonely at the top and all of the responsibility for the next engagement rests squarely on your shoulders. But, hey, no pressure.
During the next battle, you might receive a few auxiliary units that can’t be moved, but you do have to deploy your own. There’s always a briefing to tell you exactly what you need to do and, sometimes as a secondary objective, in how many turns. Plus, the victory hexes are always highlighted, so you at least know the strategic positions you need to take.
Victories come in Gold, Silver and, I’m assuming, Bronze as well. I got one Gold, the rest all Silver. My OCD makes me have to go back sometime and make them all Gold. I have to; no choice. Everything was going along pretty well. I certainly wasn’t losing or getting myself killed. Losses weren’t too bad. I was racking up Silver victories…
Then I hit the Norway scenario. Saying like a Valley Girl, ‘Oh. My. Gawd.’. I went from pushing around a lot of land units, along with a few planes. Then: Norway. When I was on the upgrade/deployment screen, I looked at the extra, auxiliary units I mentioned before. Not only were there a lot, but they were highly diverse — and some I had zero experience with handling. All of a sudden I had paratroopers, already loaded in-plane, mind you; ground forces in the ocean… already in boats; plus a pretty good-sized navy. I’ve tried to keep the spoilers out, but my naval experience was one ship, in the Poland fight, which really wasn’t useful at all after the first few turns.
Now, I’ve got all of these new-fangled (for me) units that I’m almost clueless on how to use. Once I piddled around a little and figured out how to manipulate them, I realized Norway is a fairly large map with a lot of victory locations to take. Plus a couple of spoilery things. So, I could use the new guys, had modified my core troops and was ready to go. Now, what the hell do I do?
This is where I had to stop. Just barely into Norway, but so far, so good — I think. I might even have to write a follow-up when I get the time to finish it. I’m reviewing about 187 games at the moment. You know me; I never exaggerate. My only squabble with the game is that the saves are in a database file instead of individually, so you have to manually delete them one at a time.
Obviously, I’m completely in love with Panzer Strategy. The differences and variations on what this genre of games normally does make for an entirely new experience. Yes, it’s tougher, but that makes it all the more fun. The AI’s good and will exploit your weaknesses/mistakes. Even the decisions made between battles will either come back to help or haunt you down the road. Finally, it’s beautiful, extremely enjoyable and addictive.
Panzer Strategy was released on Steam on August 31, 2018.