Panzer Corps - a Panzer General remake

Malor wrote:

Free unit replacements was probably THE major tactic in PG1. I'm not too sure I like them changing that. I don't mind the other changes you mention (well, detuning the PzIVD bugs me a little, I love that thing), but no freebies at the end of the battle is a HUGE change. edit to add: especially in air power. Wow, what a massive shift that is.

I've now played three 39-45 campaigns on Field Marshal - one to a loss in U.S. East (decisive SeaLion 40/decisive Rush to Moscow), one to a decisive on Rush to Moscow/marginal on SeaLion 42, and one to a decisive victory on Overlord (no SeaLion, decisive victory on Moscow 43). I like the Panzer Corps replacement system far better than Panzer General.

It forces you to prioritize rather than just buff everyone up, and you don't ever have enough prestige to have all your units upgraded to the latest and greatest. Even further than that, though, it drives you to have a more balanced force. You buy recon units not because they are powerful, but because you absolutely cannot afford to be jumped and lose half your Tigers. You keep regular infantry around not because they are stronger, but because they are good enough, and cheap to replace. In my last campaign that ended in Overlord, I kept a mountain infantry unit from the first scenario to the end, because I didn't want to spend the prestige to switch them to grenadiers or engineers.

Even with the AI problems I mention below, the game is fantastic - well balanced and with no glaring mechanical flaws. The AI is ruthless in exploiting vulnerabilities or careless movement, and I've had several marginal victories and even some losses. I really like that it's extremely difficult to take the shortest route through the campaign to get to U.S. East - not because you can't do it, but because U.S. East is a really tough scenario, and the shortest route leaves your units without the experience and bonuses necessary to easily gain a decisive victory.

Some tips in regard to prestige:

- Replace and overstrength your units before upgrading. Upgrades are the same cost regardless, but replacements will be likely be more expensive and that's prestige you don't have to spend.

- There's a bug currently where canceling a unit purchase does not refund you the prestige, so don't ever cancel a unit purchase.

- Hold off buying a lot of tanks early. The game apparently tries to balance your force, and if you're short tanks it'll give you SE tanks. In my last campaign, all three bonus units were tanks (the third one being a Panzer IIIF on Moscow 43 - jerk!). The SE units are permanently A1D-1; however, your tanks spend a lot more time attacking than defending, so overall they are better and hero bonuses can easily make up the difference.

- Focus your elite replacements, overstrength buffs, unit upgrades, and experience gain on units with good defense, especially once hero bonuses start to kick in. Why? Because you need those powerful units, but you don't want to be replacing expensive steps over and over, it's a huge drain on prestige. As an example, my most powerful unit in Overlord was the 33rd Panzer - a three-star SE Tiger I with D1D2A2. He only lost 1 step during the entire battle, which is a good thing, because his elite overstrength replacement steps cost 144 prestige each. During the battle he destroyed 72 steps and killed eight enemy units, including five tanks. That one unit pretty much single-handedly stopped the Allied advance cold at Caen and eventually led the counter-attack.

- Don't rush to attack. You can take a city by running an engineer unit and a couple of tanks up to it and then mass attacking. The problem is that in doing so, you'll take significant damage - damage which has to be replaced with both prestige and time. There's little overall difference in speed if you wait a turn for the artillery to catch up and suppress them, but there is a very real difference in prestige costs.

- Don't attack enemy heavy units head on, especially later in the game versus Soviet super-heavies like the SU-152. Instead, hit them with strategic bombers and artillery to run them out of ammunition and suppress them, then mass attack when they can't fight back and try to push them into close terrain where the infantry can finish them off (SU-152's, for example, have zero close defense).

- In the first few turns of a battle, use your fighters to cover your ground troops instead of attacking enemy air units (though see traps, below). This prevents significant prestige loss and allows you to build prestige early, which permits you to pursue more pre-battle upgrades and buffs. Once you've gotten control of the air, you can turn the fighters loose to help with ground attacks and move your bombers more freely.

- As part of that, set traps for enemy air units and armor by placing defensive support units and defensive air units just out of sight, while leaving apparently vulnerable units in view. The AI especially likes to attack armored units and artillery with air attacks whenever possible, so tanks without integral air defense make the best bait. This is especially effective against the Soviets, because so many of their units have a sight range of only 1. In Moscow 43, I destroyed 12 steps of Pe-2's on the Allied turn with no losses due to a two layer trap with a tank, artillery, and two fighter units.

Some complaints:

- The AI is not good at attacking, even at the tactical level. It sometimes doesn't use artillery or air to suppress before attacking, it's careless with movement when sight ranges are restricted (especially recon), it doesn't leverage mass attack well, it uses tanks to attack dug-in infantry in close terrain, it moves trucks up next to visible defensive units, and it doesn't cover its troops with air units or back them up with artillery.

- The AI is decent at tactical defense around objectives and exploiting vulnerable units, but it's not as good at strategic defense. For example, it often leaves forward armored units in exposed positions instead of withdrawing to better defensive positions. It also will not move armor in the rear forward until your units come into range, so it's never able to focus armored counter-attacks. You can expose a strategic objective if you approach it from a different direction - the AI will buy artillery and AA on the opposite side that your first unit approaches from, so if your first unit approaches from the flank, the defensive setup will be much weaker.

- The AI has a serious problem because it only deals with visible units. If a unit is not in sight, the AI "forgets" it, even if the unit's position is entirely predictable. For example, a damaged, low-fuel tank really doesn't have many options as to where to go. It's also important to keep track of enemy units that exist, even if you can't see them - not doing that makes the AI careless about movement, covering its ground troops, and escorting bombers. This is the opposite extreme from the AI knowing everything, and while it's not as bad, it's pretty exploitable (see traps, above).

- The AI does not seem to take visibility into account at all. Watch the initial attack in SeaLion 40 to get an idea of just how careless the AI is - he moves his air and naval transports into view on the first turn where they can be immediately damaged or destroyed.

- The AI is careless with air units, using fighters on naval and ground attacks that are really low value while enemy fighters are still a strong presence. This is likely at least partially due to the issues with visibility, but I've seen a Bf109 go after a battleship and lose 4 steps for no hits, which just doesn't make sense.

- There's an exploitable bug right now where AI air units do not respond properly to the presence of AA guns near their airfields. For example, during a Rush to Moscow scenario, a Pe-2 chose the Bryansk airfield to refit, even though I had already taken Bryansk and simply hadn't had a chance to capture the airfield yet. An 88 happened to be there, and I started shooting at them. Despite that, the unit would not move - every turn, the AI would buff the plane up to 8 or 10, and I would knock it back down to 6 or 7. This continued even after I moved the 88 onto the airfield, where the plane could not possible miss it. This cost the AI hundreds of prestige.

Bringing out the dead here a bit, but Panzer Corps and all the DLC are coming to Steam tomorrow (March 12, 2014):

Press Release

No word on price (I assume it'll be the same as on the Matrix site), but it'd be nice if this led to some sort of a sale.