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Running the Game on 64 Bit Operating Systems
One of the most frustrating aspects of the continual advances in computing technology is the inevitable end of backwards compatibility for programs developed in the early days of the personal computing revolution. Especially for retro gamers such as myself, who adore the graphical simplicity and under-the-hood complexity of the games of yore, whose development was less constricted by profit motive, the demise of DOS support in Windows is a development to be lamented.
Fortunately, enter the open source community and the promulgation of useful emulation programs like DOSBox. Old Windows games from the 3.1 and Windows 95 era, which technically ran in DOS, can only run in modern 64 bit Windows operating systems thanks to the efforts of the developers of DOSBox. So if you're not satisfied with Panzer General II, take a look at this means of playing the original title.
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Obtaining a copy of Panzer General is generally fairly simple - a number of websites offer free copies of the game that can be downloaded to your hard drive. The company that made Panzer General, SSI, no longer appears to retain rights to the original title, and it is distributed as abandonware.
Make sure you're comfortable with a site offering a download, and keep the antivirus scanner active to be sure you aren't getting a bad file. But by all means get it - or if you're so fortunate as to have a working CD loaded with a copy of the game, toss it in your disc drive and directly copy the files to a convenient directory on your hard drive.
Editor's Note: The original 1994 version of the game, if you are fortunate enough to run across an old copy, referenced both Win and DOS. At the time, there wasn't a distinction. There is also a harder-to-find version of the game made for Windows 95. The 1994 version of the game is the one you want.
Next, get DOSBox. Older version or newest release - it shouldn't matter much as Panzer General is not a particularly complex strategy game as far as operating system and hardware requirements go. Downloading DOSBox and installing it on your computer should take just a few minutes. The emulator works on any Windows OS, and Mac or Linux users can download working versions as well.
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Getting Panzer General Working in DOSBox
DOSBox is a fairly simple program to work with, but it can be intimidating to users who don't work with Linux or aren't old enough to remember the fun of typing commands into DOS. The primary thing to remember is this: In DOSBox, you tell it to temporarily establish a directory from your normal Windows system as the operating directory for DOSBox. You do this by typing, for example "mount x c:\" and striking the enter key (note that you never type the quotes, just the text inside).
This will basically tell DOSBox that it needs to look at your computer's C drive directory for sub directories and executable commands and to map those to a directory in DOSBox that you access by typing in x:
Now DOSBox doesn't like mounting the entire C drive (your whole hard drive!) at once.
It is also unnecessary - you'll have to do this each time you open DOSBox and run the game, so my solution is to make sure the Panzer General files are copied to a high level directory on my hard drive and under a path that is easy to remember.
If you create a file folder under your main C drive directory named 'PG' and copy the Panzer General files to it, the path to access that directory will be simply C:\PG.
Do so, and in DOSBox, type the command "mount x c:\pg". Hit enter and type "x:" and strike enter again. Finally, type the name of the executable file that launches Panzer General, usually simply "pg" and hit enter again. Panzer General should now load normally, though you'll probably want to strike alt-enter to maximize the game window.
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Hypothetical Scenarios in the Game
Now that you've got Panzer General loaded and running, its time to dive into World War 2 and fight its campaigns the way you choose.
The standard Panzer General campaign options allow the player to play a series of linked scenarios with an ever growing set of core units that gain experience with each battle and can be upgraded to ever more powerful equipment. Panzer General XP accumulation occurs during successful engagements where units do damage to an opponent, and is only lost if you send regular replacements to compensate for battle losses - rather than elite replacements which do not damage your unit's overall experience.
The campaigns start in either 1939, 1941, or 1943 and in the latter two start years you'll have the option of fighting on the Eastern or Western fronts. Hypothetical scenarios are unlocked during campaign mode if you perform very well in particular missions - conquering France especially quickly or defeating both Britain and the Soviet Union on their home turf. In addition, you can play these hypothetical scenarios as stand alone battles from either the Allied or Axis perspective.
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Attack Moscow Early? Launch Operation Sea Lion? Invade Washington DC?
The hypothetical scenarios in Panzer General range from simple tweaks on existing historic campaign scenarios, to full on 'what if' options that might have possibly occurred if certain historic events had happened differently.
As an example of the first, the player has the option during Operation Barbarossa - the assault on the Soviet Union in 1941 - of expending prestige points (the game's resource or currency used to purchase and upgrade units and awarded by achieving objectives) to convince the General Staff to ignore concentrations of Soviet forces defending the Ukrainian city of Kiev and press on towards Moscow before the onset of winter can affect the German onslaught.
Historically, this was a major debate that took place within the German military structure that saw Panzer generals such as Heinz Guderian argue stridently for leaving military formations alone in order to seize the all important capital city of Moscow. In reality Kiev was made the target of the late summer attacks and huge defeats were dealt to the Soviet Army there - but the Panzers later bogged down within sight of Moscow.
Fighting Operation Sea Lion in 1941, in contrast, was a plausible next step after the Fall of France but not undertaken because of the difficulties of transporting massive numbers of German troops across the English Channel in the face of British air and sea power. If your troops speedily complete the conquest of France after successfully smashing the French army and British Expeditionary Forces in Belgium during a previous scenario, you may be assigned the key role in Sea Lion during 1941. Likewise, if the Soviet Union is defeated before 1943 the option will become available to invade Britain in 1943.
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The Ultimate Panzer General Scenario - the Invasion of the United States
If during the campaign mode you've successfully defeated both Britain and the Soviet Union and placed Moscow and London in German hands, a unique scenario will become available to you: the invasion of the United States.
An extremely hypothetical scenario to be sure (Germany had no known plans to invade the United States nor truly wished to fight a war with America) it is still a fun final mission to play after a long campaign of Panzer General. XP (experience points) by this point should have resulted in your possessing a vast army of elite core units, and your prestige points will be so high by this 1946 campaign that you'll be able to outfit your forces with jet fighters, Tiger II tanks, and elite infantry. Which you will need, because the attack on Washington will be opposed by the full might of the United States aided by remnants of the British, French, and Polish militaries in exile.
The scenario as a stand alone game can be played from the perspective of either side, and can be one of the most enjoyable of the scenarios due to the presence of the full arsenals of both sides. And unlike the Panzer General II equivalent, this scenario involves the conquest of the American seat of government, which always provides a particularly unique thrill.