The Shadow of the Panzer

This blog is pretty much about boardgames.  But for this entry I’m going to discuss computer gaming.  We bought our first real computer back in 1987.  Prior to that I had played around with the Timex Sinclair, and a pre-Commodore unit called the PET, if I recall correctly.  I never got much out of those units.  But in 1987 we bought an Apple IIc.

Now this was a computer I could actually do things with!  It had a great manual, and we got “Appleworks” an early office bundle of word processing, spreadsheet and database.  But perhaps best of all, I was able to buy games to play on it!

It wasn’t too long before I discovered strategy games.  And I quickly determined that complex wargames were an ideal use for a computer.  My history with various cardboard wargames had been I would buy them, study them, and then almost never play them.  On the Apple, I would actually play them!  And an added bonus was that I didn’t have to read the entire manual.  Instead the computer enforced the rules.

I don’t recall the sequence of events, and they don’t really matter.  But I discovered two lines of games for the Apple that I dearly loved.  One was a series of games written by David LandryGettysburg, Chickamauga, and Sons of Liberty.  Good games, now lost to me due to changing operating systems.

Eventually people stopped writing for the Apple II, and it was time to either move to a Mac, or go the PC route.  Looking at the amount of software that was available, we opted to get a PC.  And I discovered my sort of games were also available.  One day, I found Panzer General

Panzer General turned out to be a big hit with me.  I loved the game, and was delighted to realize it was part of a series of games.  The “5 Star General” series.  I bought them all.  Panzer General had been ported over to Windows 95 by the time I discovered it.  But all the other titles in the series were older DOS games.  There was Allied General, an obvious companion to Panzer General (but not quite as much fun), then there was Fantasy General, which was great!  Instead of Panzers you recruited trolls and other fantasy creatures.  I loved this one so much I still have the old DOS version around here somewhere.  There were others too.  I remember there was a Space Empire version, which somehow failed to catch my imagination.  Perhaps more, its been a long time now.

But I must not have been alone in liking Panzer General the most.  Because along came Panzer General II, and a damn good game that turned out to be!   And then People’s General brought the conflict up to near modern times, and life was good!  But then the folks at SSI seemed to lose the groove.  They issued a couple more Panzer General Games – a 3D version and one other I cannot clearly recall, other than I didn’t like it.  It’s worth noting that I was playing on Windows 95 and then Windows 98, unless DOS was called for.

SSI had one more gift to give.  They issued David Landry’s Age of Rifles.  This was a great game, and surpassed even Sons of Liberty as my favorite 17th/18th century-based wargame.  It was well enough received they even put out an expansion for it!

But then, sad news,  SSI closed its doors.  My favorite computer wargame company was no more.  Time marched on, Windows XP became the inevitable future, which I ultimately had to migrate to when I got a new computer.  But I was okay, because I could still play my old games on the new computer.  But then – disaster!  I still recall how angry I was when I discovered that a service patch to XP broke my PC’s ability to play the old DOS and Win 95 games.

Worse, the popularity of Warcraft and Starcraft had changed the way people made computer strategy games.  Instead of the classic UGOIGO format I had loved, everything coming out was now an RTS – real-time strategy game – which turned the strategy games into arcade like games.  Eventually I pretty much gave up on playing wargames on my PC.  I would play Warcraft II or Starcraft (they are good games), but part of me would pine for the older style games.

This situation persisted for quite a while.  But one day I heard about a game company that was releasing a game by Gary Grigsby.  Gary Grigsby was a game author I recognized from the old SSI days.  I had played some of his early games.  I never liked them as much as the David Landry games, but still – worth checking out!

This led me to Matrix Games, and I enjoyed Gary’s World War 2 game – the title which I cannot recall right now – but it was a bit too close to Axis and Allies.  Some fun to play, but not entirely satisfying.  I discovered that when I changed computers again, this time to Windows  Vista, that I could no longer play this game either.  So I decided to buy another game from Matrix Games, and I selected Operation Barbarossa, which was reputed to be similar to Panzer General.  Sadly I could not get it run, and after getting frustrated with Matrix Game’s tech support, I gave up.

Then, out of Russia, came a game called Fantasy Wars.  It was apparently inspired by Fantasy General, so I bought it, and liked it enough to buy the sequel Elven Legacy.  These were quite fun to play, and I still keep them nearby, and will play them occasionally.  And because I am a stubborn cuss, I still had the download file for Operation Barbarossa on my desktop.  Over a year (maybe 2) after I bought it, I decided to try again, and voila! Suddenly it loaded properly!  Much to my delight, now I was able to play Operation Barbarossa.  And a darn good game it is, too!  Which leads me to the current moment…

Matrix Games recently sent me a holiday sale flyer, announcing a sale on their library of games.  They called out a new game called Panzer Corps.  The successor to Panzer General?  Color me intrigued.  So I bought.

What a blast!  This is the game I’ve been wanting for years.  I am very glad.  It’s like finding an old lost friend again!



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