Panzer General II - Turn Based WWII Strategy Brought Into 3D
Panzer General II re-did the original Panzer General title with updated watercolor style maps and 3D units to battle across them. It also narrowed the scope of the game significantly with respect to the size of the battlefield but increased focus by allowing gamers to play as the Germans or Allies.
Panzer General II: Update to Panzer General for PC
The original Panzer General for PC achieved classic status in the decade and a half after its original release. Panzer General II takes essentially the same turn based WWII strategy formula and amps it up to the next level.
Arguably the greatest weaknesses of the original Panzer General are a somewhat arbitrarily large focus - entire campaigns are (implausibly) the responsibility of the player - and the limitation to playing the German perspective in campaign mode. The original title allows individual scenarios to be played out from the Allied perspective, but the campaign is waged solely under the auspices of the Wehrmacht.
The real problem with the second issue is that it limits replayability, and the game balance by later missions is skewed heavily in favor of the player, reducing difficulty. The first issue leads to an element of cognitive dissonance - if you are acting in the role of a Wehrmacht general responsible for the defense of the entire Reich (a campaign scenario) then why are prestige points still used when there is clearly no other commander fighting but yourself? Panzer General II reduces the scope of individual scenarios to an operation within a campaign.
Structural Updates in Panzer General II
Panzer General II eliminates the flat, colored hexes containing essentially an icon denoting their terrain type - rough, desert, road, city, fortification, and so on. In their places are hexes held together visually by striking watercolor maps where cities look like actual cities and forests are cohesive entities. In addition, the units battling across the map are no longer mere icon portraits; units in Panzer General II have been brought into three dimensions and even face towards targeted hexes.
Other updates to this incarnation of Panzer General tweak gameplay to be a little more fluid. The original Panzer General supply system is largely successful, except when it comes to aircraft. When aircraft run out of fuel in the original title, they simply crash. No warning, no reminder: if the player forgets to check fuel status regularly an aircraft will suddenly be only able to move across as many hexes as it has units of fuel remaining. If it can't end that turn adjacent to an airfield, it is gone forever. Simply not moving the air unit is no help either, because static air units still use one unit of fuel per turn.
Panzer General II fixes this by giving aircraft unlimited fuel but keeping ammo limits, and this ends up making more sense due to the more limited scenario scope. It is clearly impossible for Stuka dive bombers to fly from Germany to the English Channel multiple times with a bombload and without refueling over the course of a week. Panzer General II removes fuel from being an overt consideration, and instead makes it an implicit part of the movement allowance each turn.
Panzer General II Gameplay Modifications
The actual combat in Panzer General II differs from the original title as well. Some unit types have been consolidated - Tactical Bombers and Level Bombers are now one unit type, as are Air Defense and Anti-Aircraft units. Other unit types like Infantry have had significantly more available units added. And some units roles have changed as well: Bridge Engineers are no longer as strong a Pioniere assault troops and the Messerschmitt 110 twin engine aircraft is now appropriately a fighter, not a tactical bomber.
Ranges have been tweaked as well. Artillery units now have a 2 hex minimum range and a 5 hex maximum. Large Anti-Tank units and some of the later Tanks can actually fire two hexes rather than just one - an appropriate simulation of the power of the cannon on tanks like the Tiger and Tiger II.
Probably the biggest change in Panzer General II is the addition of unit specific capabilities and the random promotion of "leaders" within a unit which gives that unit extra abilities like bonus movement or extra attacks per turn. Tanks can now overrun weakened units in adjacent hexes, and even overrun multiple units in a turn. Effectively, a fully over-strength Tiger unit surrounded by several weakened Sherman tanks can overrun and destroy them all in a single turn.
Panzer General II Campaigns
The biggest selling point of Panzer General II: Campaigns for both the Axis and the Allies!
While it is probable that the majority of players of a game named 'Panzer General' are in it for the German perspective, the addition of Soviet and British/American campaigns makes for a welcome change of pace. The British/American campaigns are probably the most difficult in Panzer General II because of the absolutely horrendous quality of the tanks available to the allies. True to history, the only way for these nations to take on a full strength Tiger unit is to bring in artillery and air power. The Soviet campaign's difficulty derives in no small part due to the fact that major Soviet offensives often take place in winter.
German Panzer General II Campaigns
The German campaigns are the heart of the Panzer General II campaigns, as befitting the title of the game. Players fight as the German commander of a small group of units to participating in the Spanish Civil War.
From here, the Panzer General will move through a series of linked scenarios that are set during the major German campaigns of the Second World War. Poland, Scandinavia, France, and the Soviet Union are the primary battlegrounds for the German player, although hypothetical invasions of Britain and the United States are available for sufficiently skilled campaigners. Also, for those seeking the ultimate challenge and a taste of what the professional German officer corps had to face from 1943 onward, players can choose to begin their campaign in Russia in 1943, and defend the Reich from final collapse.
In truth the format of the Panzer General II campaigns is much as those found in the original Panzer General for PC albeit with more limited scope, no naval combat, and a revamped prestige system where points are not carried over between missions in the campaign.
The Soviet Campaign
The Soviet campaign begins during the operation to cut off the German 6th army in Stalingrad by assaulting non-German units guarding the northern flank of the German advance towards the Caucasus. Historically, the Allied Romanian, Italian, Bulgarian, and other units fighting alongside the Germans on the Eastern front were not as well equipped and trained as the Wehrmacht. The Soviets made use of this fact during the battle of Stalingrad to collapse the German front and encircle Von Paulus' beleaguered army in what most historians believe was the signal turning point of World War II.
The Soviet Panzer General II campaign continues from there as the Red army proceeds to push the Germans back, and treats the player to scenarios including one of the largest tank battles in history fought at Prokhorovka during the Battle of Kursk. Finally, a successful player will be responsible for breaking the last line of German defense on the Seelow Heights overlooking Berlin in order to seize the German capitol itself.
The American and British Panzer General II Campaign
The American and British campaign can be treated as one because they begin at the same point and follow the same path - only the available units differ. The Allied commander begins in Italy, participating in the Allied assault on the "soft underbelly" (to borrow from Churchill) of the Axis Powers in Europe. From there the player fights through Normandy, Northern France, and finally Germany.
A special note must be made regarding the immense difficulty of the American/British campaign if fought without due caution. Unlike the Soviet and German armies, the Western Allies focus on airpower and artillery over infantry and tanks. As a result, even small numbers of tank units can wreak havoc on allied ground formations especially when the weather is poor and aircraft cannot fight.
This campaign is probably the second most difficult after the German Defense of the Reich campaign, which is far and away the most challenging of the Panzer General II campaigns. Attempt at your own risk, and remember to reinforce your units often!
Downloadable Panzer General II Campaigns
A final note regarding Panzer General II Campaigns: because the game shipped with a campaign editor, many third party campaigns are available online. If you want to truly challenge yourself, check some of them out - many even work to mimic historic conditions as closely as they can.