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Three Moves Ahead Episode 127 – Baby’s First Panzer

July 28th, 2011 by Rob Zacny · 8 Comments · Podcast, Three Moves Ahead


GWJ’s Cory Banks finally dips his toes in the waters of turn-based wargaming with Matrix / Slitherine’s new Panzer General remake, Panzer Corps. He joins Julian and Rob to talk about wargaming-lite, whether this really improves on Panzer General, and Panzer Corps’ puzzle-based approach to scenario design. Rob realizes a newfound appreciation for daunting complexity.

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8 Comments so far ↓

  • Edward Damon

    A suggestion for one of the “other exciting pazer-related episodes” would be an analysis of why pazer is *the* word to put into the title of your WWII wargame, from “Achtung! Pazer” to “Panzer War” to “Panzer Leader” and “Panzer Corps,” it’s a linguistic virus!

  • Oak

    I don’t expect the reason is anything more complicated than “It sounds cool.”

  • Rob Zacny

    I don’t think it’s as innocent as that. The fact is that the Wehrmacht is one of the most romanticized fighting forces in military history, and the wargame genre and the people who enjoy it are often guilty of fetishizing it. Panzer does, indeed, sound cool, but it is also emblematic of the blitzkrieg, of daring thrusts through the Ardennes and across the Russian steppe, and ultimately of a superior military ultimately defeated by its inferior foes and betrayed by its disastrous leadership. It’s a word with a nice ring to it, and it’s one that tells a lot of wargamers, “This is a game about the things you love.”

  • Oak

    That makes sense. Can I change my answer?

  • Kingdaddy

    Rob, I definitely understand your reaction to Panzer Corps. You may have reached the turning point in playing wargames when the “light” or “gateway” games (Memoir ’44, Panzer General/Corps, etc.) no longer satisfy, once you’ve seen what a more advanced wargame is capable of doing. It’s a wholly different experience, as you said, when you move from “I attack you at 3:1 odds, roll, move, attack again” to “My armored and motorized infantry divisions are still pretty intact, but they’re exhausted, demoralized, and low on supplies.” Not every game will simulate everything — see, for example, the radically different narratives that, in the boardgame world, For The People and The Civil War tell about the same conflict — but it can provide a very different experience.

    The simpler the game, the more it can devolve into a puzzle. And yeah, Panzer General always felt like a puzzle to me, from the very first scenario. The key always seemed to be the speed of advance. Too slow, and the enemy winds up building those ultra-annoying strongpoints, with three artillery units in the rear area blowing up any attacker that dares to stick his neck out. Too fast, and the point of the spear, the fastest-advancing units, lack the punch necessary to take out even the puniest defenses.

    While that sounds a little like history, it isn’t, for exactly the reason you cited in the podcast: it’s the same problem, over and over and over. There’s not enough in the system to provide a more varied experience. It’s not like, say, playing the Advanced Squad Leader version of the classic scenario, The Guards Counterattack, which is all about seizing strongpoints, and then playing one of the Paratrooper scenarios, in which elite American airborne units had to figure out the right way to knock out plentiful but weak German defenders. Same system, two very different problems.

    Now that I got that off my chest, I’ll be getting back to designing “Panzer, Panzer, Panzer!” (I have the title, now I just need the game.)

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  • Rob Zacny

    Very good points, Kingdaddy. I do hope Panzer Corps does well enough to justify a sequel, perhaps one that adds a little more variety to the mix. Too much complexity can undo a wargame like this, but it needs something to enliven the pacing and tactics. And some things just don’t work at all because the combat resolution system can’t handle them.

    AT guns, for instance, are absolute garbage in this game because while they have a high anti-armor attack, they are soft targets with poor initiative. This might make sense from one standpoint: AT guns are vulnerable, largely immobile weapons. The problem is the system calculates everything as sequential attacks, determined by initiative. Armor helps only insofar as it is allows a unit to resist damage.

    So Panzer Corps basically disallows a key defensive tactic, because AT guns are decimated by every kind of attack, and they will never get the first shot. So you end up in this weird position where AT guns are actually a very slow, vulnerable offensive unit.

    So then you realize the game really is just pushing you to use nothing but tanks, infantry, and artillery, the heaviest you can get. Every other intermediate unit is just wasted space, because Panzer Corps is entirely about who shoots first with the biggest gun. And that tends toward repetition.

  • Mike

    I’d love to hear you guys do a show about racing games/sims. I share a common enjoyment of racing and strategy games, and I’m sure many others do as well. I really enjoyed the open format of the last podcast, the rambling was as good as staying on topic.
    Thanks and keep up the good work,