Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Panzer Battles Kursk, The Southern Flank - Preview

The release of the first game using John Tiller's brand new Panzer Battles war game engine is imminent. Take a quick look at the most salient features of this new war game, some of the game content included and off course a selection of screenshots.

Panzer Battles is a turn based tactical war game. The hexagons scale is 250 meters and each turn lasts 30 minutes. For the veteran players of previous games from John Tiller, the quickest way to describe Panzer Battles is as a war game sitting in the middle between the scales of Panzer Campaigns and Squad Battles.

Kursk, one of the most studied and known WWII offensives, provides the backdrop for the this new release by John Tiller Software. For this first release, the southern flank comes to life with a wide selection of historical scenarios. Led by John Tiller and David Freer, the debut release will be quite a treat for the tactical-hungry war gamers out there.
The typical unit size is a company, but also present are platoons and sections of infantry, armor and artillery. The variety of support weapon systems (both direct and indirect fire) is exquisitely detailed. Players are encouraged to pay particular attention to their fire plans because support weapons are crucial for the engagements featured in each scenario. 
The new map artwork is very similar to the one seen before in the mobile apps by John Tiller. A more modern and functional look makes it way easier to perceive the folds of the terrain. As this is a tactical war game, lines of sight play a central role for direct fire.  And speaking of direct fire, with tanks being involved in the fight, the artwork also provides the player with a good perception of the scale of the terrain.

The iconic "tank riders" are also featured in Panzer Battles. Here I am commanding the Russians and we have been caught in the middle of a valley. This is the ultimate short end stick of a tactical engagement! We are being fired upon by a German strong position on top of a hill. The selected hex (red outline) is hosting a platoon of Russian infantry, which I promptly dismounted ("uncarry" command in the menu) from the tanks (9 tanks plus 1 command tank) after contact. Troops carried by tanks are very prone to die if the carriers are struck by anti armor fire or even mines.

A composite image of the three zoom levels of one of my favorite scenarios. All levels work great for the purposes they are intended for. In larger scenarios, I have commanded battles from the middle zoom level with no problem. There is off course a jump map view available as in other games by John Tiller.

For the hard core crew: no-frills NATO icons are available. 

These are alternative counters art graphics for the units. They offer a top-down view. The counters do not rotate, as units are modeled to have no specific facing.

The included documentation is very detailed and adds an incredible value to the game. In this case, a composite image of the situation/scenario maps pdf document (cover and map example). The amount of research involved in the development of this game is astounding.

An additional extensive document offers a visual guide to the OOBs for both the German and Russian forces.

This is from an scenario not designed to be played, but just to see and review the OOB through the game's interface. Pictured above, the III Panzer Corps.

A Russian regiment, with the counters highlighted yellow. 

The scenario selection offers a wide variety of situations. There are scenarios designed for being played solo as the Germans or the Russians and for head to head play.

This is a solid first release for the new Panzer Battles series and a comprehensive tactical study of the southern flank of Kursk viewed through scenarios at the scale of divisions, regiments and brigades. The game play's pace is very fluid and the scenarios are very engaging. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that even the biggest scenarios can be played in just one session. It is kind of strange, more things happen with less amount of clicking ...

The careful thought given to the game rules will be evident to every veteran/fan of this publisher. Panzer Battles can be imagined as a game at a mid-scale between the Panzer Campaigns and Squad Battles, but the new engine is far from a mere mix and match of rules from both previous series. For example, the opportunity fire feature (which have been seen in the Squad Battles series) has been enhanced now to allow the player more control. The "assign opportunity fire" dialog now allows the player to control the range at which enemy units of different types will be engaged by fire. Off course, new rules and features have been added to account for the particular scale of Panzer Battles. LOS blockages by units or wrecks, unlimited artillery fire onto an hex, infantry carried in tanks and markers for suspected enemy positions just to mention a few.

Stay tuned for an AAR of Panzer Battles Kursk, The Southern Flank.



Jozef Kundlak said...

Great! This would be something akin to Panzer Leader-size I guess :) I am eager to see an AAR, or even a video!

Jason Rimmer said...

I believe the main unit scale is Platoon not Company. Like his old Campaign Series.

Tinki Yuki said...

Wonderful punning with "salient" in the original post there. Excellent shot, sir.

Erich said...

I'm not a huge fan of Tiller's work because it seems to really de-emphasize things like command and control. The OOB research is amazing - its just a shame that it's in the service of such a generic engine that seems to care mostly about hardware. Where are the leaders and order delays? This is like a wargame from 1995. Oh wait...

Chris said...

Just noticed iconic eastern front hmg bearer in the pioneer counter shot. Cool.

Anonymous said...

I love the PZC series and will jump into the new level of command.
Alas why they are not improving the graphics? The counters look terrible. C'mon its 2014 and this looks like early 90s...
Honestly I've played PzC with gfx mods and it looked way better so it is doable and for the money they charge for the game it should be done.