DGS Games

Panzer Corps Grand Campaign: 1939-1945

Reviewed by Avery Abernethy, 14 July 2013

Developer: The Lordz Game Studios

Publisher: Slitherine Ltd.

 Panzer Corps Grand Campaign: 1939-1945 is an add-on requiring either Panzer Corps or Panzer Corps Afrika Korps to play.  In this add-on the player takes the role of a German Commander of a combined arms force during World War Two.   Panzer Corps Grand Campaign includes ten add-on campaigns each lasting eleven or twelve scenarios.  The campaigns start with 1939, 1940, 1941, and 1942.  After 1942 the campaigns split into the eastern and western theaters of operation.  Choose the East and 1943, 1944, and 1945 will be fought in the USSR, Poland, and Eastern Germany culminating in the defense of Berlin.  Choose the West and you will go in 1942-1943 to defend against raids in France followed by fighting in Italy with German and Italian units.  1944 West covers Italy and then moves to the battles of Normandy and elsewhere in France.  1945 West covers the Battle of the Bulge.  Win enough decisive victories and the player has the opportunity to invade the United Kingdom.

Each of the ten campaigns can be played individually or can be played in a linked series.  For example, the player could load up 1944 West and fight it out in Italy and France without fighting earlier in the war.  Or the player could start in Poland in 1939 and fight their way through all of World War Two as a German combined arms force commander.

Panzer Corps Grand Campaign 1939-1945 review Scattered deployment for pincer

Furthermore, the player can fight the campaigns of 1939, 1940, 1941, and 1942 then take that core force and play out the Eastern Front.  The same person could then load the same 1942 core force and fight it out on the Western Front.  This is made simple because if a player wins any campaign that victorious core force with its combined experience, leadership bonuses, and heroes is automatically saved.  So if you win all ten campaigns the game will save your victorious core force at the end of each.  If you win a campaign a second time the winning core force is saved in a different save game file with the new date.  This enables the player to try alternative force configurations and strategies over the course of the entire war and compare results at ten different points – assuming the player is able to win all of the campaigns.

Panzer Corps Grand Campaign 1939-1945 review Import 44 West

Unlike either core game, this add-on forces the player to largely follow the general course of the war.  For example, if the player’s forces manage to stomp Poland and France in 1939-1940, they will still head off to attack the USSR.  Even if the player manages to conquer Moscow and take Stalingrad, the German forces will retreat back across Russia and Poland and the player will eventually be fighting in Germany herself.   Only in the 1945 West campaign can player success alter the overall course of the war.

Panzer Corps Grand Campaign 1939-1945 review Need luck Panzer Corps Grand Campaign 1939-1945 review textbook example indeed

 

 

Gameplay

The Panzer Corps series is a beer and pretzels wargame.  Players take the role of a German commander of a combined arms force.  Early in the war infantry, artillery, and tactical bombers are the most viable units.  Armor is relatively weak.  As the war progresses tank designs keep improving to the point where they dominate the battlefield in 1945.  Still, even in 1945 a ground force comprised mostly of Tiger II tanks will still need infantry, artillery, and excellent fighter squadrons to achieve victory.

Game play mirrors other releases in the Panzer Corps line.  There are many reviews of other Panzer Corps products so I will dispense with discussing basic game play and game strategy.   The key to winning the Grand Campaign if the player wishes to fight from 1939 to the end of the war is maintaining the proper balance of core units.  The player must earn enough victories so they can purchase the right core force and also have enough points that they can reinforce depleted troops and strategically upgrade their forces.

Panzer Corps Grand Campaign 1939-1945 review Best of the Best 1945 East

To win the Grand Campaign the player must both think of how to win today’s battle but also the overall force structure they need for long-term victory.  There are several things the player needs to keep in mind to achieve this goal.  First, it is essential to keep core units alive.  It is always tempting to extend your forces to snatch a few more victory points.  But a unit that survives a scenario with one strength point can be reinforced to full strength at no cost at the start of the next scenario.  Reinforcing to keep experience levels intact will cost you prestige points.  But a 90% destroyed unit can get rookie replacements at the beginning of the next scenario for free.  But a core unit destroyed in a scenario is lost forever and the player must pay full price for a replacement unit with no experience, commanders or any other boost to combat effectiveness.  Early in the war losing a core unit is no big deal.  But later in the war a rookie unit contains a fraction of the combat power of an experienced unit.  Bonus units are occasionally provided if the player wins enough decisive victories.  These bonus units do not count towards the total number of units a player can deploy in a scenario.

An example can clarify this.  A scenario has a cap of 35 units and the player’s core force has 38 regular units and 4 bonus units.  The player could deploy a total of 39 units (35 regular core units plus 4 bonus units).  For this reason, survival of bonus units is even more vital to long run success.

By the end of the war the players face literal hordes of strong, experienced allied units seeking their destruction.  If the player does not have a force which is highly experienced, manned by officers (which provide combat bonuses), and of the proper combined arms composition they will lose the war.  Perhaps the single most important units are a core group of highly experienced fighters.  If the Panzer Corps commander ever loses control of the air their severely wounded ground units will be picked off and eliminated when retreating from the front lines.  With control of the air the wounded units could either be reinforced or withdrawn far from the front lines enabling their survival to the next scenario.

Panzer Corps Grand Campaign 1939-1945 review No Parade in Berlin

Panzer Corps Grand Campaign 1939-1945 review No Fog of War Berlin Odds

Game Functionality

I purchased a boxed version of the game which also includes a digital download.  I had previously purchased and downloaded seven of the ten campaigns.  The Grand Campaign download took about ten minutes.  My download time was longer than some because I had to update to version 1.14.  (Note: the game received an additional update in June to version 1.2).  The boxed version of the game was promptly shipped and arrived within a week.  The CD in the boxed version has my name and the serial number stamped on the front.  Although no printed manual ships with the boxed version of Grand Campaign, there is a pdf manual and game update read-me files provided with purchase.

One pleasant addition to the game is an individual campaign tree for all ten campaigns which can be found by clicking the library tab on the main game menu.  The initial briefing for each scenario is also now always available at the click of a mouse.  This is very helpful because some battles within a campaign can only be one by achieving some very specific victory conditions such as capturing specific hexes or recovering and escorting specific units to designated game hexes before the end of the scenario.  A player can easily get absorbed by crushing the enemy and forget that they only can win if a specific unit reaches a specific hex within the time limit.  Getting a reminder of the victory conditions at any time was very helpful and something that other game designers should incorporate in their products.

Panzer Corps Grand Campaign 1939-1945 review 45 East Campaign tree

Panzer Corps Grand Campaign 1939-1945 review Choosing Defense Campaign Tree Option

I have played Grand Campaign for more than twenty hours on a two year old Falcon Northwest Talon desktop.  My play testing included starting the game afresh in 1939 in Poland and loading each of the remaining nine scenarios to see if my previous campaign saves were available.   All scenarios launched successfully and my previous core forces were available at the start of the nine campaigns following 1939.

The only problem I encountered was slow save game load times.  I reviewed my files and I had more than fifty saved games over a two year span.  I had also purchased seven of the campaigns individually over the last two years.  I installed Grand Campaign over all of the previous installations.  For this reason, I went back and uninstalled Panzer Corps, Panzer Corps Afrika Corps, the seven previously purchased campaign downloads, the Grand Campaign 1939-1945 download, and also deleted my 50 or so individual saved games.  I then reinstalled only Panzer Corps and Panzer Corps Grand Campaign.  Doing this solved the problem of slow save game loads.

I had no game freezes, crashes to desktop, or any other noticeable software issues during my testing. Lordz Game Studio deserves applause for designing a user friendly game interface and a very stable game platform.  With over two years of play on their releases I have had no software problems other than the minor problem discussed above.  I wish all PC wargames  were as stable and user friendly as the Lordz Studio products.  They deserve a lusty “huzzah” for elegant game design and consistent quality control.

Panzer Corps Grand Campaign 1939-1945 review Yikes - more commies

 

Overall Evaluation

Panzer Corps Grand Campaign is a lot of fun to play.  If you played either Panzer Corps or Panzer Corps Afrika Korps and wanted a lot of professionally designed and play balanced scenarios, this may be for you.  Grand Campaign enables the player to get a lot more combat time with specific core force structures at different times during World War Two in Europe.

The original Panzer Corps came with 26 scenarios and the Afrika Korps follow-up added an additional 24 or so scenarios.  Each campaign in Grand Campaign has either eleven or twelve scenarios totaling up to 113 additional scenarios by my count.  That is a lot of additional game time.

But the price for that additional game time is pretty steep at $40 for the download and $50 (plus shipping) for the boxed version.  Slitherine initially offered a discount of up to 70% for people who had purchased individual campaigns at a $5 per campaign price which was nice to those who were early adopters.  But that early adopter discount has now expired.  The core game itself (either Panzer Corps or Afrika Korps) costs $30 or $40 depending on the version.  Grand Campaign is not a stand-alone game and despite some useful tweaks contains no significant new game features.

The core Panzer Corps game comes with a game editor allowing users to create mods and scenarios.  But over the time since release it has become clear that Panzer Corps is mostly played single player versus the AI.  Probably as a result there are not a lot of free downloadable game content provided by the mod community for the Panzer Corps series.  After searching the internet using multiple search terms for an hour the most extensive scenario collection I’ve been able to locate is from the Slitherine forum.  But even here the selection is limited.

I enjoyed Grand Campaign and did not mind the cost.  The price compares to what it would cost to take my wife to Applebee’s for a three course (appetizer, main course, dessert) meal.  Grand Campaign easily has 40+ hours of content.  Still, the price for the add-on campaigns exceeds that of the original game by a good margin.

Slitherine seems to have backed themselves into this pricing strategy based on how they priced the earlier add-on campaigns bound into Grand Campaign 1939-1945.  Each individual campaign costs $5 which would make 11 campaign package $55 if downloaded individually.  But the $40 Grand Campaign download price is as much or more than either core game needed to play Grand Campaign.  As a marketing guy I could make this pricing structure into a really good bar conversation with colleagues after work or use it as an interesting case study for a college class.

All of this places me in a dilemma.  Ignoring the price, Grand Campaign is a ton of fun for those who want a bunch of professionally constructed scenarios which will give the buyer roughly five times the game play of the original release.  At a $20 or $25 price I could easily give this a rating of 92 on a 100 point scale.  But Grand Campaigns’ price will be a real detraction for many.  As a result my final rating on this game is an 83 due mostly to the high price.

About the Author

Avery Abernethy is a Professor of Marketing at Auburn University who has been playing war games since elementary school.

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