- Replay Value
Panzer Corps Afrika Korps review
The Lordz Games Stuido have released the latest expansion for their strategy gem, Panzer Corps. Is it a worthy sequel to the series? Without much fuss and beating around the bush, yes, Afrika Korps is a great game.
Afrika Korps campaign
At this spot, I usually utter a word of warning to the less initiated; we are talking hexagonal strategies here, and that is somewhat of an acquired taste, basically a niche genre. And as such, it can’t be measured against triple A titles; hexagonal strategy games are, in essence, games that do not put the emphasis on the graphic, soundtrack, music and animations, but rather on the strategic/tactical depth of the gameplay. And this is the one and only true aspect that makes or breaks the game.
In Afrika Korps you will, very much like general Erwin Rommel aka Wüstenfuchs (Desert Fox), be put in command of German and Italian troops and face Allied forces. As the history goes, Hitler regarded North Africa to be of secondary importance, since he was so very much focused on crushing the Soviet Union, so he committed to this campaign only half-willingly, assigning relatively moderate forces to that theater of war. Rommel, arriving to assume command of his forces, surprised everyone when he not merely held the positions he was supposed to defend from the British troops, but also launched an impressive series of offensive operations which yielded astonishing results. Next few years of the war the Allies will be hard pressed to defeat Rommel, and only by decoding various German Enigma secret codes did they manage to interrupt Rommel’s supply lines sufficiently to eventually defeat Wehrmacht’s desert forces. Morale is highly important in war, but tanks do not run on good will, but gas.
Have in mind that while Afrika Korps is an expansion of Panzer Corps series, it is also a full, standalone game that new players can jump into without having previous Panzer games installed.
Alas, as you start the game and begin your conquest of Libya and Tunisia, you will find yourself faced with significant allied forces. There are 24 available scenarios with 20 new units that will add to 400 already existing ones, and almost all have been redesigned in appearance to resemble the desert variations (you are not going to take the woodland camo to a desert war, are you!?!). The main campaign will split off in two directions, depending on how good/bad your strategic and tactical skills are, towards the victor/loser scenario. The beginning of the game will follow the known siege of Tobruk scenario and Allied counterstrike, but from then on, it all depends on the player how things will develop.
Getting a better AI
The changes that Afrika Korps introduces are not only cosmetic, there is a lot of love that went inside the design and that is apparent. The missions are dynamic and your objectives can change during one (detection of Allied counterattack, flanking, new mission goals) and you will have to adapt your gameplay accordingly. The prestige that you gain in battles will allow you to purchase new units, but you need to scout the battlefield and choose new addition to your DAK forces (Deutsches Afrikakorps) very carefully. Next to German soldiers, you will also command Italian troops, though they will be of lesser quality and not at all as willing to fight to death as Wehrmacht troops. The British too will not give up easily and will prove a formidable challenge even for DAK troops.
AI has been improved in this sequel. Enemy troops will not simply hold their hexagons, they will venture out for counterattacks, flank your units, withdraw before overwhelming formations and join their main force to stand a better chance against you. The winning isn’t as nearly as simple here, even at the middle difficulty setting, and if you make the mistake of spreading your forces too thin (which I’ve repeated quite few times in my overzealous need to conquer as much of the battle map as possible as soon as possible!), you will find your advance grinding to a halt and eventually see your forces reduced to pile of ashes. Proper supplying of your tanks and other frontline units can make the difference between victory and a pathetic loss, and the situation on the battlefield can literally change from a hex to hex. It was a very refreshing experience to see AI going to break out of siege or flank my units once it would notice they were less in number or of lesser quality.
The Final verdict
There is a great strategic and tactical depth to Afrika Korps that we merely indicated at in this somewhat short review, but the simple bottom line is: Afrika Korps is a great game, a fun and challenging turn-based, hexagonal strategy. We recommend it to all fans of the genre, you won’t be disappointed. And to all those that are thinking to give it a go with this genre, Afrika Korps would be a grat place to start.