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Panzer General: Allied Assault» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A disappointed wargamer rss

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Tim Earl
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Most of the reviews of this game so far have been positive, and that was one of the reasons I bought it. After playing it and feeling let down, I thought I’d post a dissenting opinion. (Oops, I just gave away the ending ).

First, some background on my gaming experience and preferences:

• Back in the late 80s and early 90s I played some Avalon Hill and Victory Games wargames (mainly the Fleet series).
• Memoir 44 is one of my all time favorite games (I rate it a 10), and it’s the perfect wargame for the amount of time and energy I have to devote to the hobby at this point in my life.
• I’ve never played a Panzer General video game, but I do have a similar game for my Nintendo DS. (Panzer Tactics DS, which some people have called “Panzer General Lite”).

I’ve been expanding my collection of 2-player conflict games and thought PG might scratch the same itch as Memoir, but provide a different experience. The unit cards intrigued me, so I read the rules and decided to buy it.

The game arrived several days before my usual opponent was available to play, so after re-reading the rules, I decided to give the first solo scenario a try. I’ll admit that I’m not into solo gaming, so my heart wasn’t entirely in it. (I loved Ambush and B-17 back in the day, but can’t do it anymore). It did give me an opportunity to walk through the combat system though, and that was the important part, as I was going to have to teach it to my opponent. So I won’t pass judgment on PG as a solo game.

So, the big day arrived and I explained the rules to my somewhat perplexed opponent. He taught me how to play Twilight Struggle, and we learned Washington’s War together, so he’s no slouch, but his brow seemed almost stuck in a permanent furrow as I explained the combat system. Once it seemed to stick, we setup the first scenario: Training Grounds.

I won’t go into a full explanation of the rules, as that’s been done before. Rather, I’ll sum up the experience and opinions of two enthusiastic fans of light wargames and card driven strategy games.

In no particular order, this is what we found:
• The setup takes a while. Ok, that’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating. Not just setting up the tiles, but sorting out the proper cards for a given scenario. This is by no means a deal breaker (especially if you’re already used to searching for Memoir tiles), but it’s just an observation.
• The scenarios have little connection to the battles they claim to represent. The use of rectangular terrain tiles limits the game’s ability to accurately depict a given battlefield, but that’s an abstraction I’m willing to live with. The victory conditions also seen a bit arbitrary.
• Movement (and combat) in only four directions is just too restrictive. It’s very clear in the description of the game, so I can’t claim to be surprised, but I thought it might work. It didn’t. There’s a reason wargames use hexes.
• The combat system was best summed up in one word by my opponent: tedious. I’m guessing they tried to recreate the algorithm used by the video game, as you step through various modifiers before you get to the end result. I’m sure it works well when a microprocessor does it in less than a second, but it’s really aggravating to do it in a board game. I think we actually initiated fewer attacks because we just didn’t want to go through the process any more that we had to.
• Support can be a bit too powerful. A clever attacker will make sure he’s got plenty of units to support (especially with ranged support), making defense all but impossible. The bluff card was used so often by the defender I was thinking of renaming it the “I don’t give a s**t since there’s no way I’m going to survive this battle anyway” card, but that wouldn’t fit on the card.

So in the end my opponent, usually not one to give up on a new game after one play, told me not to bother bringing PG off the shelf again. Maybe I’ll try it again with someone else, but I think the result will be the same. It just wasn’t fun. I really wanted to like it, and I still think there are some decent parts to it, but as a whole it was a major disappointment. I don’t buy too many games I haven’t already played, but I thought it was time I contributed something new to my game group. I’m sorry to report that I chose poorly. I would strongly advise trying to find someone with a copy and trying it first. I doubt most wargamers will embrace this game. They’ll either be turned off by the abstractions or the overly complicated combat system. (Complex is not always bad, but complex and inelegant is).

Some video games may make the transition to board game and come out OK, but sadly this is not one of them.
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Scott Chelette
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I share your assessment of PG - definitely missing the fun factor.

If you are still looking for a WWII tactical game to supplement M44, I recommend Frontline: D-Day and Axis & Allies Miniatures.

Frontline: D-Day

Axis & Allies Miniatures


Frontline is a card based, squad level tactical game similar to the long out-of-print AH classic Up Front, but with streamlined mechanics and a rulebook that does not take a PhD to decipher.

Up Front


Axis & Allies miniatures is a WWII miniatures game that rewards skill and sound tactics in spite of having straightforward, accessible rules.

Both are in the ballpark of M44 in terms of time and complexity.

If you are interested in A&A Minis, here are some tips about getting into the game:

AAM was re-launched a few years ago with larger, 15mm standard size vehicles. The starter set for the larger minis features a blister pack with tanks on the outside. Counterintuitively, the new-revision booster packs are smaller than the ones with smaller minis. The key is to look for boosters with a year range - for example, 1939-45 or 1941-43, as all of the new packs have a year range.

Do not be put of by the collectible distribution model. There are numerous 3rd parties who sell singles over the net at reasonable prices. Pick up a starter set to see if you like the game, then buy singles on the net. By all means do not start out buying random booster packs. Best way is to buy singles or by the case.

The new, larger minis are in the same scale as Flames of War, so you can mix and match player-painted metal tanks in with the pre-painted plastic ones from AAM.
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Martin Gallo
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Good 'review' by the way. I would need to play it again, but I think part of the key t breaking up the support problem is to counter-attack. Not always possible or the right way to play/design a game. It is really just a game, though.

I found the Frontline game to be about the same sort of experience as PG. Not sure I could put my finger on why though.

Up Front is still my favorite game of all time, and that might be my biggest obstacle as I keep comparing every other game to it and none measure up.

A&A minis is fun, but it is a light tactical system. I kept wanting more detail but did enjoy the game.

If you want to spend a lot of time setting up and have a bit more fun, try Tide of Iron. The use of cards seems to add quite a bit of fun and makes the game better than A&A minis in my opinion. I think it winds up being cheaper if you really get in to it as there are fewer things to buy. The figures are not painted, but there are solutions to every problem. Especially if you buy in to both games....
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Tanks Alot
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Havent played Frontline but I heard its a great solo game.
Frontline general: Operation Spearpoint is much better. Slightly similar in gameplay feel with no board, and uses cards

Amazingly Simple and fun!
Spearpoint 1943
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Malcolm Green
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cheng wrote:

• The combat system was best summed up in one word by my opponent: tedious. I’m guessing they tried to recreate the algorithm used by the video game, as you step through various modifiers before you get to the end result. I’m sure it works well when a microprocessor does it in less than a second, but it’s really aggravating to do it in a board game. I think we actually initiated fewer attacks because we just didn’t want to go through the process any more that we had to.



This was one of my biggest concerns about the board game version. As I played on Xbox 360 I couldn't help but think, 'man! I'd hate to have to calculate this everytime!'. While I don't mind it as a video game (better than nothing...why aren't there more!?) I really didn't think it would work for me as a board game.

Excellent review Tim, thanks!
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Tim Earl
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Thanks for the suggestions. Frontline: D-Day was something I considered as well. A buddy has TOI and A&A: War at Sea, so I think I'll try those first.

As for PG, I think it gets one more play before it goes on the trade/sell list.
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Michael Denman
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Dr.Cornelius wrote:
If you are still looking for a WWII tactical game to supplement M44, I recommend Frontline: D-Day and Axis & Allies Miniatures.

Frontline is a card based, squad level tactical game similar to the long out-of-print AH classic Up Front, but with streamlined mechanics and a rulebook that does not take a PhD to decipher.


I've played the naval A&A and didn't think much of it. I don't know if land-based rules are any better.

Thanks for the tip on Frontline. I really liked Up Front back in the day, but it's a bit hard to acquire now. Anything similar and accessible catches my eye. If anyone would be interested in another recommendation, I felt that the Combat Commander series has much in common with Up Front.
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Steve Malczak
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Quote:
I've played the naval A&A and didn't think much of it. I don't know if land-based rules are any better.


Yeah, they are quite a bit different. I like both games, but the land game is a bit more dynamic due to the well-thoughtout turn sequence and the presence of actual terrain. IMO, the naval game allows for more interesting force-building dynamics, but the ground game is better once you hit the table.

As far as PG:AA - for me the jury is still out. We sort of enjoyed the first few games (the math calculating didnt really bother us all that much), but the extreme power of arty and support makes us wary that each game is not going to be a landslide. No one wants to play a loosing hand for an hour knowing they can't realistically come back.

We're hoping that with the knowledge beforehand that arty is quite disgusting that we'll be able to come up with a countermeasure before it gets out of hand
 
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Mathew Schemenaur
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I have 8 games of PG. Half of them solo and half face to face. My first 3 games where solo and found it to be excellent and challenging. My enjoyment of the face to face games depend largely on who I was playing against. If the opponent was slow, the game could drag. When I played against a quick players, and the game was fun. I had no problem with the math involved with the combat.

It is a very simple procedure after a few attacks. It is far simpler that most CRT lookup with modifiers.
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Steve Malczak
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Yeah, I agree that the combat really isnt all that cumbersome once you've done it a few times. We didnt even need to reference the chart after the first few attacks and yes, it's feels easier than many CRT style games.

My experience is about the same as yours at this point. Between players who dont suffer from AP, the game goes very quickly. We can typically play a game in under an hour now (at least the Tournament Scenario - not sure on some of the bigger ones).
 
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Tim Earl
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Update - after another game, with another experienced wargamer, I've given up on this game. I think artillery might be fixed with the Russian Assault rules, and the combat becomes less cumbersome after a while, but there are way too many better games out there to justify wasting any more time on this one. My copy is for sale.
 
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leonardo balbi
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I have Frontline Spearpoint . And I sold Memoir 44. M44 takes a lot o time to set up . But I am playing online.

Frontline Spearpoint and Conflict of Heroes are both great games .

What a do like in Spearpoint 1943 is unlike any other game that I know it doesnt try to represent an entire battle . In fact , is more like you got a zoom at the battlefield to see whats happening with a small group .
3 rifle squad againts against one light mortar and a machine gun ...sounds cool and in fact it is ...the combat system is simple and easy to grasp and there is a upcoming expansion that will make things even better ...

Cant praise CoH enough too. Its a great system. If you dont care about minis it can substitute your M44 with great of ease . I had M44 and lots of expansions . It´s still a good game but there are a couple of things that they are changing only now with Winter Wars expansion. Hope they will have it online as well .

Thanks
 
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alex w
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Hi Tim,

Sad that you felt that way for this game.

I play ASL and felt that all tactical wargames eventually get compared to it. Not surprised, that none came close to ASL in my opinion.

I played M44 with my son 6 years old. Felt that its great for both him and me. though complexity to me is way down.

What I'm trying to say here is that every game has a niche somewhere for someone. Game it as it is and nothing more, you might eventually enjoy the 'broken rules' and such.
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