Puneet Varma (Editor)

Panzer Campaigns

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Panzer Campaigns is a series of operational level wargames released by HPS Simulations. Currently, there are twenty-two titles in the series. Being "hardcore" wargames, not marketed in normal gaming channels, they were seldom reviewed by mainstream gaming sites or publications. All were reviewed in specialist venues, like The Wargamer.


Smolensk '41 (1999)

Covers the First Battle of Smolensk at battalion level. The full campaign map represents an area of 200x300 km (125x186 mi), divided in hexes measuring 1 km (1.6 mi). A turn represents two hours of daytime, or four hours of night. The hex size and turn length were generally maintained in the subsequent games. On release, Computer Games Magazine declared it "Wargame of the Year". StrategyPage, a publication whose chief editor is Jim Dunnigan, the author of the 1976 board wargame Panzergruppe Guderian, on which the computer game is loosely based, also reviewed the computer game, and gave Smolensk '41 three different ratings, depending on the audience: two stars for the general gaming public due to excessive complexity (but noting that HPS Simulations did not market the game to this public), "four plus" stars for the grognard that enjoys fine-grained control over battalion-level units in a game of this scale, but reducing this score for the user interested in more realistic command structures to four stars for the small scenarios, and just three for the grand campaign. The Wargamer review appreciated the scale of the game, and its interface, which brought HPS games on par with those from its TalonSoft competitor Campaign series.

Kharkov '42 (2000)

Covers the Soviet spring offensive and the German counter-attack, Operation Frederick, during the Second Battle of Kharkov. The Wargamer review (by a former HPS collaborator) dissected the level of historical realism in the simulation, instead of the game mechanics, which were largely unchanged from the previous iterations. The review found that the terrain behind the front lines felt "barren" because non-fire support units were abstracted away, which could affect the results of a breakthrough, but that overall, the game was an "entry-level wargame", "not too challenging, with a solid, but narrowly focused research base", "a kind of interactive historical novel whose fictions are based on fact". (On a side note, the reviewer noticed that the historical order of battle, taken from the publications of David Glantz, had to be adjusted by the game designers, because some duplications were found).

Korsun '44 (2002)

Captures several Soviet offensives in late 1943 and early 1944 along the Dnieper River: the Kanev airborne assault (four scenarios), the offensive near Kirovograd (two scenarios), and the Battle of the Korsun–Cherkassy Pocket proper (20 scenarios, with a 240 turns long campaign). The Wargamer reviewer was impressed by campaign notes that ship with the game, which contain "a detailed description of how unit ratings were computed and a lengthy bibliography." Several scenarios, which have fairly lopsided orders of battle, are balanced by requiring the attacker to inflict difficult to achieve kill-ratios. The review was critical of some aspects of the interface, in particular the inability to quickly skip over less relevant events during the AI turn, while not missing important events.

Kursk '43 (2002)

Attempts to portray the Battle of Kursk. Some of the criticism levied at the user interface of the series has been addressed in this game: a fast AI option, avoiding some dialog boxes, and locating units by coordinates. The Wargamer review also analyzed the historical accuracy of the game. Although there are some discrepancies between various historian's accounts of this battle (in particular with respect to losses, see the article on the battle for details), the book of David Glantz and Jonathan House was taken as reference. The reviewer analyzed several scenarios in-detail, and concluded that "with the exception of overrating Soviet air power early in the battle, this game is extremely accurate." Rating the level of fun in the game, he found that "scenarios with fewer than 40 turns and with relatively small numbers of units are engrossing", and suggested that players only try the larger ones afterwards. This recommendation was echoed by Computer Games Magazine. PC Gamer similarly found that "firmly grounded on prodigious research, this game is surely the definitive Kursk simulation, and one of the finest titles this prolific designer has ever given us."

Rzhev '42 (2003)

Portrays the less known failure of Operation Mars. A storm condition was added to this game, which is intended to simulate the severe weather in which part of the operation was fought. It halves unit attack and move values, and reduces visibility to one hex. Unlike previous games, which contained historical overviews written by non-professionals, Rzhev '42 comes with a write-up from David Glantz. The usual designer notes, which discuss order of battle balancing, as well achieving historical results, and an extensive bibliography round up the documentation.

Stalingrad '42 (2006)

Reviewed by Armchair General.

Kharkov '43 (2010)

Covers both Operation Star and Operation Gallop with the objective of completely destroying German forces in southern Russia and the Ukraine taking place 1,000 km west of Stalingrad. Containing 30 smaller scenarios with an average of 25 turns and 8 campaigns ranging from 57 turns to as high as 179 turns. Other features included are order of battle and scenario editors for custom games, a sub-map feature which allows players to cut a piece of the main map to create a custom scenario with and designer notes with an accompanying designer write-up. Armchair General praised the graphics, sound effects, and challenging AI, but found the 3D view uninspiring and the turns too lengthy. Armchair General ultimately gave it a score a 94%.

Mius '43 (2011)

Covers fighting in the Mius-Front in July 1943. This is a smaller-scale title that is available for free as an introduction to the Panzer Campaigns series.

Normandy '44 (2000)

Covers the initial landings and subsequent breakthrough of Operation Overlord, and consequently employs a smaller scale (down to company level). The Wargamer gave it a positive review, but remarked that the Germans' ability to significantly delay the Allies in the bocage could only be reproduced by using the alternate engagement rules, which prohibit advance and assault on the same phase/turn.

Bulge '44 (2001)

Covers the Battle of the Bulge, which took place in the Ardennes. A Computer Games Magazine review declared it "the best Panzer Campaigns game yet", praising the combination of unit size, map size, and turn length that feel "just right". Four grand campaigns (150 turns) are included: one historical, and three alternate. The main map measures only 170x100 km. The game won "Wargame of the Year" from the magazine again, together with Combat Command 2: Desert Rats by Shrapnel Games, and Squad Battles: Vietnam, another John Tiller/HPS Simulations production. The game received a more reserved reception from The Wargamer. Its reviewer observed that even the optional surrender rules failed to produce the expected numbers of prisoners unless the unit was surrounded, broken (a status meaning it had lost combat cohesiveness), and assaulted. The interface was also criticized for lack of keyboard shortcuts, for modal windows that cover a large portion of the map, and for lack of a pinnable mini-map (jump map). The AI was praised however for managing an occasional surprise.

Market-Garden '44 (2003)

Attempts to simulate the combined airborne and ground assaults from Operation Market Garden, as well as the German counter-attacks. The Wargamer review focused mostly on the mechanics of gameplay.

Tobruk '41 (2001)

Covers the sequence of battles in North Africa starting with Rommel's initial breakthrough, ending with Operation Crusader. Unlike the previous games in the series, no grand campaign is included in this game, but a series of 7 longer scenarios, in addition to 50 smaller ones. A few scenarios feature explicit supply depots with limited stocks (which can be captured, as well) to more closely simulate the limited nature of resources available in desert warfare. Units can also be broken down to company-level in this game.

Sicily '43 (2003)

Covers Operation Husky on a map 350 by 190 km. A new quick play feature was added for the AI, which resolves roughly ten times faster than in previous games.

El Alamein '42 (2004)

Starts with the May 1942 Axis envelopment of the line at Gazala, continues with the capture of Tobruk, the battles on the road to El Alamein, and concludes with the Second Battle of El Alamein. In order to provide some historical accuracy, when the fog of war is enabled in this game, the player's units can be damaged by their own minefields. ("There's no such thing as a friendly minefield".) The superior mobility and initiative of Afrika Korps, like the ability to form ad hoc kampfgruppen, is emulated by giving German units a superior command radius, which positively affects morale and supply.


Panzer Campaigns Wikipedia

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