reviews\ Nov 3, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Panzer General: Allied Assault - 360 - Review

In the early days of the Xbox Live Marketplace, we were treated to a number of high-quality “video-game board games”. No, not Sorry! and Mousetrap, but the strategic classics like Carcassonne, Catan, and even UNO. In recent years those types of releases have been few and far between, but if Panzer General: Allied Assault is any indication there's still a lot untapped potential left in the genre.

With its combination of board gaming and deck-building card battles, Panzer General is among the very best board games for Xbox Live Arcade to date. That said, it still suffers from some issues that hold it back.

As may be obvious, Panzer General is a World War 2 game which tasks the Allies with breaking through the Nazi occupation of Europe, but in a much different way than most other WW2 games. It's essentially a turn-based-strategy game with each player drawing cards each turn which can allow them to place additional units (tanks, infantry etc) conduct air strikes, or weaken the enemy. Though it's actually adapted from an old PC game, you would be forgiven for mistaking it for some long forgotten Wizards of the Coast board game. And while it might not seem like the ideal genre for a for a WW2 game since we've seen so many successes in the FPS and RTS genres, Panzer General does in fact handle the source material quite well. What it lacks in the intensity generated by real-time battles, it makes up for in strategy, accessibility, and overall polish.

The only noticeable issue is that gameplay can be really slow. When a player attacks, the fight takes place in phases where players take turns playing combat cards to improve their attacks and impede their opponent's defense. After the first few battles, it's often possible that both opponents wont have any combat cards available to play. When that happens, the game still goes through the motions of asking each player to play their card, then telling you that you don't have a card to play, and finally showing an animation of blank cards flipping over.

Especially if you're in a situation where the opponent counterattacks, an individual battle can take up to several minutes, and most of the time nothing is even happening. It just takes a couple minutes of pointlessly going through all the phases when none of that matters and it usually all comes down to the dice roll at the end anyways.

Impatient gamers will have problems with this. Although most of the gamers who are interested in purchasing a strategic board game probably aren't too worried about some slow play. Especially considering that, even at it's slow pace (relative to other games) it's still exponentially faster than playing a game this complex manually (on a physical board.)

Otherwise, the presentation is top-notch and the gameplay is great as well. Nice, small touches can be found all throughout the game. Like the enthusiastic victory celebration that takes place after a scenario is won: fireworks shoot into the sky above the board, and snappy military victory music plays. It's an altogether grand spectacle.

It also makes good use of the WW2 subject matter as a launching point for gamers who may not be familiar enough with board games to get into a title like Carcassonne. Plus, you can easily play this game without ever knowing what any of the WW2 minutiae are all about. Who cares if you don't know what an M1A4 Sherman is? All you need to know is that it blows up people. And that M-10 Wolverine? That blows up non-people. See? Easy. The point is, Panzer General never gets bogged down with the details and never forces the player to have any kind of prior knowledge.

At this point in the life of Xbox Live Arcade, it's quite likely that all the board game fanatics have long since gotten bored of Carcassonne, Catan, and UNO. If you're one of those gamers then we can't recommend Panzer General enough. Whether you're playing against the computer AI, or online with friends, this game has a lot to offer including dozens of maps that mirror (as closely as a tiled board can) real WW2 battlefields like the beach at Normandy or Sainte Mere Eglise as well as tons of unit types and special ability cards.

That said, Panzer General isn't going to be converting any staunch anti-board gamers. There's nothing here that's really going to surprise you, or make you change your mind about this genre, but for those who already enjoy it, there are few better options.

Review Scoring Details for Panzer General

Gameplay: 8.3
Panzer General is deep, strategic and a whole lot of fun. There's some significant slowdown during play due to some unnecessary, unskippable parts of battle, but it's nothing too terrible.

Graphics: 7.0
The graphics are nothing incredibly, but they get the job done for this simple game. There's some nice touches like the fireworks after a victory, but battle animations could have been more elaborate.
Panzer General looks to reignite the popularity of board game style titles on Xbox Live Arcade

Sound: 6.5
Mostly standard military fare. There are some good songs here, but the sound effects are pretty forgettable while never being annoying or distracting.

Difficulty: Medium
The enemy AI can be pretty clever, but only later in the game do they become smart enough to actually take you down. There's a pretty good learning curve so the game never gets to be too much.

Concept: 8.5
The concept of a World War 2 board game on XBLA is certainly a unique one, there's nothing else like it on the system.

Multiplayer: 8.3
Joining up with other players is quick and easy, though there isn't a huge community out there for this yet. Though victory options are limited to the same as those in the campaign so it can end up feeling all too similar.

Overall: 8.0
For the decent price of 800 MSP ($10) Panzer General delivers great gameplay over a lengthy campaign. The slow down will bother some, but most will come away pretty pleased with this unique style of board game.


About The Author
In This Article
From Around The Web
blog comments powered by Disqus