“In war, you can only be killed once, but in card games, many times.”Dubbed as “The War to End All Wars”, World War II has more than seen its share of games, mostly in first person shooter form. Normandy Beach has been stormed through and through, Berlin invaded more times than can be counted and even Hitler has gotten the axe in a variety of ways – even while wearing a mechanized armor. Want to win the war in Panzer General: Allied Assault? You better have a steady hand — At cards.
Developed by Ptetroglyph, a remnant of Westwood Studios and responsible for the Empire at War series and Universe at War, Panzer General is a board card game that pits the Allies against the Axis in fourteen levels. At first, you might imagine that fourteen is such a low number of levels, but the game’s pace is so slow and methodical, every mission is a drawn-out battle that can take hours to complete, depending on your approach.
At the beginning of a match, each side rolls their respective dice, and draws five cards from the deck. Cards range in value and function, and can be units that are placed directly on the board, or action cards to be used on confrontations. Units are what you expect to see from a war game, like an assortment of tanks, artillery and foot soldiers, each with their own strengths, weaknesses and value. Drawing cards also depends on the amount of prestige each side has, which is earned by controlling titles on the board or by destroying enemy units. Most cards can only move in one of four directions, with the occasional diagonally enabled unit like paratroopers. On the other hand, movement is also dependant on the terrain of the map, which not only acts as an obstacle to the movement of units in some cases, but also as an advantage. Placing artillery carts in hilly zones boosts their attack power, for instance, or leaving a platoon of soldiers by lakeside lowers it. Protection can also come from passive abilities and cards, like the dig in power-up that adds protection to a unit and gives the initiative to strike first in a battle started by the opposite side. Using power up cards is the one of crux of Panzer General, and proves to be one of the aspects that makes it such a fun and intelligent game.Battle outcome is decided by a variety of factors, not only firepower. A tank can easily be destroyed by a battalion of well-protected and supported foot soldiers, thanks to how the game treats support and ranged attacks dependant on unit placement on the map. Not all cards work well in direct battles, but once put as support units in battle, i.e, in neighboring titles next to the enemy card, they can turn the tide of a fight. Combat cards are used during these fights and work as secondary support, by buffing your units’ stats or detracting the enemy’s in a variety of ways. Other support cards not literally combat ones, are used as gambits that can cripple your opponent’s hand by taking cards away from them. Battles are never sure events, in a way, due to how flexible the combat system is, even to the dire end, as the game allows you to burn or sacrifice any valued card for a boost to your defense or attack power – depending on what side you are in the fight – which can usually turn the tide to your favor in dire straits if used wisely.
The main campaign mode in Allied Assault takes you through the War from the Allies’ perspective, starting at the point in which the U.S entered the fray, Operation Overlord and ending at the turning point for the struggle, in the Battle of the Bulge. Missions are varied and become increasingly challenging, setting different objectives for victory conditions, like taking over a said number of supply points, for instance, or just occupying the enemy’s front row with a certain number of cards. Levels always have alternative routes for success, and this mission structure provides a certain measure of replayability. The story mode works as a great tutorial for the game, slowly unlocking cards to customize your own deck for online play.The multiplayer provides the standard ranked and player match modes, pitting two players on a host of different maps, that can be customized down to victory conditions, which adds to the already vast array of possibilities when it comes down to fighting online. As you gather victories on Xbox Live, more cards become available, and as in campaign mode, the more you play, the more possibilities become available. Sadly, due to how complex and dedication-heavy Panzer General is, the online community is somewhat smaller in comparison to more popular genre games, but if you can manage to find people to play with, it’s a blast.Panzer General: Allied Assault is a worthwhile, quality alternative to the slew of other games based on the same conflict, for the low price of ten dollars (800 Microsoft Points). It’s an unique twist on the Great War, that is sure to scratch that itch to become a field commander you know you have, somewhere.