Panzer Corps 2 is an intense and hard tactical strategy game to master and your first play through may result in a few restarts here and there, but you will want to keep going
Panzer Corps 2 is an incredible tactical strategy game that plays out like a board game, but with a lot depth, risk taking opportunities and for who like to future plan. This game, like Unity of Command 1 and 2, is for serious gamers who love this period in history and want to do better than the historical counterparts, e.g. the likes of Manstein, Guderian, Halder, Bock, etc. You can overshadow them with your own commander and show them how it should be done.
You play as an imaginary German commander. You choose his name and his portrait. (Sorry, there are no female commanders.) You start by picking your commander’s strengths and weaknesses. You can choose to earn extra Prestige Points for capturing a point or giving your anti-air units the ability to kill targets in the sky, but in return you have to choose some weaknesses, such as not being able to upgrade more than 3 times between missions or not being able to build aircraft for your entire play through.
At this stage there is no option to play as other countries other than Germany, but it may be a feature in the future to play as other country’s commanders. Also, I have only purchased the base game and have not tested the downloadable content expansions. If you purchase the base game, you will have access to the the campaign, which stretches from 1939 to 1945 and some select scenarios. I purchased the base game for AUD$42.71 during the Steam Sale around Xmas 2020.
Before you start the campaign, you choose which year you want to start. For me, it was a no brainer that I wanted to start from 1 September 1939 and experience the war from the start with the invasion of Poland. Of course, you can choose to start with the invasion of France and the Low Countries or even the start of Operation Barbarossa.
You also have to choose your difficulty as well. I went with the ‘Normal’ difficulty option, which was called ‘Colonel’, buy you can up the ante by going for the ‘Field Marshal’ difficulty or even ‘Generalissimo’ where you earn less Prestige Points and the enemy AI units have better accuracy against your units.
The start of the game can be daunting as you learn the ins and outs, but simply as a commander, you are tasked with moving your Wehrmacht units across various European theatres and winning battles, in the form of missions, for the fatherland. The difficulty of this game meant that I had to restart a mission or redo an earlier mission every now and then, because the units in your army carry over from mission to mission and losing a good unit means it is lost forever.
Slow and steady may win some races, but time is not on your side in this game. You need to make either decisive incisions or steady gains each turn.
The gameplay for Panzer Corps 2 sets you up on a board game map with hexagrams tiles that your units can move. You take turns with your opponent to move your units and attack opposing units on the field. All your units have visibility around them and you will be able to see how far you can move them in a given turn, but you will often have to face the prospect of moving your units into the unknown fog of war. If you move your unit and it happens to come across another enemy unit, you can expect the enemy unit to ambush you and take the first strike against your unit. So it is best to use recon or other scouting units to see what lies behind the fog.
Infantry have less movement spaces, but can be moved further on the game board with upgrades to give them Opel Cargo or light armored vehicles. With these vehicle upgrades, you can move infantry units into either attack range (i.e. attack on the same turn), potential attack range with the veteran icon (i.e. they can attack on the next turn against your opponent) or move really far but be put in a potentially dangerous situation (where your infantry units will be vulnerable to attack).
Tanks have a special ability which allows them to destroy units and trigger an ability called ‘Overrun’. This is a massively useful ability, which can enable your tanks to take out a whole bunch of units in one turn if they are close to dying, though this will be limited to how much ammunition your tank has in the turn.
Unit placement is very important in this game. Infantry excel in close range, e.g. forests and urban titles, whereas tanks reign supreme in the open fields. Tanks in forests and urban titles will get decimated by infantry.
There are various other support including recon, artillery, anti-tank and planes. They all play an integral role in your army makeup. I find that a good mix of infantry, particularly pioneers for entrenched units, tanks such as the Panzer III, and artillery, such as the 15cm artillery, and some anti-air vehicles or turrets are great against most enemies. Just be sure to switch to more infantry when you are fighting in urban areas, e.g. Paris and nearby areas and also Stalingrad.
One of the other important things is that you should continue to upgrade your units. More and more better equipped units, such as tanks, become available as you progress through the game. But some things like artillery and some planes are better left un-upgraded.
The campaign has branching options, potential alternate history options and is hard
As you play through Panzer Corps 2, you will have the option to choose which mission you want to undertake from a choice of usually one to three. These choices will impact the follow on missions that you play until you reach a point that converges. For example, during the battles in France and the Low Countries, you can either be the distraction force that attacks into the Netherlands and Belgium or be the main force that strikes through the Ardennes. Having played both missions, I preferred to be the distraction force as it offered more open areas to toy around with my AI opponent, plus I was able to partake in the Dunkirk evacuation mission. After these battles, no matter which choices you make, you will have a choice to eventually take on the Soviet Union or continue the fight against the Allies in North Africa.
I have yet to play the North Africa missions, but if the Soviet Union missions are anything to be concerned about, I am guessing that the North African missions get steadily harder and harder (to reflect what actually happened in real life).
Unfortunately, if you want to play all the choices, you won’t be able to play them unless you restart your campaign. It means that your experience in the campaign will likely be different to your friends depending on the missions you choose to take on.
During certain missions, you will be given optional bonus objectives that you can try to accomplish. If you accomplish them, it will have an impact on the following missions (e.g. certain units don’t appear in the next map) or it may help you eventually unlock the option to choose alternative history missions (e.g. missions that change the course of history). For example, if you complete the bonus objectives in Moscow and Stalingrad, you will have the option to pay Prestige Points (1,000 on the Normal Difficulty) to unlock the alternate history Attack East option. This will ultimately lead to the defeat of the Soviet Union and eventually the Allies.
One of my biggest issues, and this is because I was a horrible newbie, was not amply protecting my units, with artillery and anti-air units, and overstretching my units too far into enemy areas of control. Instead of being cautious, breaking up my units to encircle and racing off to far off objectives, I often at the start of the campaign left my units exposed and easily exploitable by the enemy AI. By the way, the enemy AI is designed to exploit your weaknesses. Plus as the campaign heats up, you gain less and less Prestige Points and start to rely on heavily weary units, whom may have high experience but lack the strength to meaningfully fight back as effectively against full strength enemies, and also your enemy will begin to have more and more veteran, experienced units take to the field.
The aim of campaigns is to take up as much as time as needed without rushing and keeping resource usage to a minimum.
Tips for newbies to the game
If you have played Unity of Command 1 or 2, you will have an idea as to how to play this type of game. Unlike Unity of Command 1 or 2, Panzer Corps 2 is less concerned about logistics and more focused on unit placement on the tiles.
Here are some tips:
- Use the undo option if you don’t get the desired result during a unit clash, however you are limited to just 3 undos per round.
- Always have artillery close to your units and pick the artillery that allows you to counter both soft and hard targets.
- You should avoid using replacements, especially elite replacements, in a battle unless it is absolutely necessary and the unit is out of combat. It is much cheaper to use replacements between missions.
- Make sure you assign Heroes that complement your unit and Heroes can make and break a good army composition.
- I think aircraft can be worth it, but in most cases are not worth the investment since there will be turns where they are wholly unusable due to weather or rain. You can forego being able to build aircraft and just go for being able to kill aircraft with your anti-air units when you select your commander’s strengths and weaknesses.
- There are bonuses to Prestige Points for completing a mission earlier than the turn count, but it isn’t always worth it. You are better off preserving as many units as possible, than winning with heaps of losses.
Things that could have made the game even better
Panzercorp 2 does a lot of things well and it seems, based on reading some reviews, that the developers took a lot of good aspects of Panzercorp 1 and pushed a lot of good aspects further and added some quality of life improvements, but as with all games, there are a few things it could do better:
- Make earning Prestige Points easier on harder difficulties, but upping the enemies stats, and making the alternative history options easier to access and not more harder on higher difficulties, e.g. at the moment the higher the difficulty, the more Prestige Points you need to pay to access those alternative history missions.
- Making it possible for a unit within a corner title or important hex title suffer from Encirclement.
- Providing better descriptions for what bunkers and other strongholds do, because I still don’t know what they do, other than be hinderances that sometimes damage my units.
- Allowing players to choose what Heroes they earn per mission. The randomness is just silly.
- Allowing anti-air units to destroy aircraft during rain and snow weather.
The things that surprised me in the game
Having played so many games based on World War 2, this game had so many positives that made it worth the purchase:
- The ability to customize your Commander traits at the start of the game.
- The chance to play a string of alternative history missions. It is not just one or two missions. Being able to change history is amazing, albeit stuck within this game. (Though, I probably would prefer the Allies to have won.)
- The amount of variant tanks, aircraft, anti-tank, anti-artillery and anti-aircraft there are available in the game.
- The ability to recruit enemy units into your army, e.g. adding Soviet T-34s or SU-85s.
Panzer Corps 2 is an addictive game. There is some luck with some of the battles and clashes, but the game is more about skill. I think aggressive players will do well in the early missions where resources are more plentiful, but as the war draws on and into its climax, these aggressive players will wish they spent more time protecting their experienced units.
The gameplay is excellent and well refined. There is plenty to love about this tactical strategy game. Compared to Unity of Command 1 and 2, hands down I prefer Panzer Corps 2.
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