Sometimes, history repeats itself. To historical wargamers, this phrase rings especially true. That’s not just due to the way that ‘those that forget the past are doomed to repeat it’ but that you see the same battles, the same wars appearing again and again on your PC’s monitor.
World War 2 is probably the most widely represented period for wargames and not without reason. WW2 was the most recent “major war” and was fought across nearly entire globe, with massive tank battles, carrier air strikes and vicious close-quarters fighting in jungles. It had literally everything, as well as colorful and compelling characters and iconic weapon systems such as the Tiger Tank and the Spitfire.
Klotzen! Panzer Battles (here on referred to as KPB) is a new WW2 wargame, covering pretty much the entire European Theatre, from the dress rehearsal of the Spanish Civil War all the way up to the bitter end. But the end, in KPB’s branching campaign system, needn’t come at Berlin. Each battle in KPB can trigger, dependant on the results of the battle, a different result in the overall campaign, with historical events delayed, pre-empted or even completely replaced. You can, if you’re sufficiently good at the game, lead the Wermacht in an invasion of the UK or, even more fancifully, the USA.
KPB’s single-player campaign is a big time investment but for fans of the genre and the game, it’ll be a blast to take your custom design general (later generals, plural) through battle after battle with the classic “Panzer General” gameplay loop of selecting units, deploying them and fighting the enemy to win objectives. Surviving core units get progressively better and new units, vehicles and weapons become available as the game progresses.
KPB is probably slightly more granular and slightly more complex than the recent Panzer Corps 2 and features a more complex and trickier supply system. But if you understand the time period and the concept of combined arms warfare, then you should figure it all out fairly quickly.
KPB’s AI offers a fairly tough opponent and it’ll look to cut off your units from supply and to encircle where it can. Over the course of the campaign the challenge can ramp up, especially after a defeat (or even after a near won victory). However, the campaign doesn’t stall out after a loss or two and you can turn it around if you play well.
KPB runs very well on nearly any modern computer and my new PC ran it with no problems. The game is also stable and I didn’t experience any crashes, which was nice, though doing some research, other players did experience crashes and lockups, so I guess buyer beware on that front. Graphically, KPB is nothing to write home about, though the unit graphics are instantly recognizable for any fan of the era, with little Sherman’s, Stug Assault guns and ME109’s represented on screen.
The map graphics are serviceable without being impressive, and the game’s sound is fine, though after a short while, I switched off the game sound and replaced it with my own music. The game’s UI is counterintuitive in a lot of ways, and it’ll take an hour or two to really understand what is where and why. The UI is a bit of a bar to entry, especially for the casual player and it can never be overstated that designing a strong UI can be the difference between giving up on a game in the first hour and it becoming an all-time classic.
The old days of having to read the game’s manual before playing or having it open as you play should be left in the past, and sadly KPB does not manage this, in a large part thanks to the at times baffling UI.
KPB offers a robust set of scenarios and a long, deep campaign, and the game can be played hot seat, though it has no other multiplayer support currently. The developers seem to be fairly active, and there is ongoing support at the moment, with QOL improvements and bug fixes being rolled out regularly, which is always positive to see.
KPB doesn’t really get into naval warfare and it’s a purely ETO game, so you’ll not see the pacific theatre represented here at all. But there are plenty of good games to see if you want to play in that sandbox.
Having played the game for a decent amount of time, it’s hard to get overly enthused about KPB. For this writer, if you’ve played one modern iteration of Panzer-General, you’ve played them all and KPB, despite being a touch more granular, is no different and has some significant bars to entry with its poor UI and weak tutorial.
KPB also comes with a powerful editor to allow you to create new scenarios, fine-tune unit stats and tinker to your heart’s content, greatly extending the longevity of the game. To be sure, for a player who gets past the game’s rocky start, could well find this game filling up a lot of evenings and weekends, and it could be a game that sticks around in your “recently played” list on Steam for quite some time!
There’s a huge amount of variety in the game, with the branching campaign system, with the variety of weapons and units, and for those who have an itch to play a deep, granular game that plays out very much like Panzer General, this game could well be a very welcome addition. Its UK price point of £30.99 feels a bit steep, but it is a niche game so it has a niche price attached to it.
In conclusion, KPB is very much a niche game, aimed at a niche market, and for its fans, they’ll look past the so-so graphics, murky maps, and weak UI and see the satisfying crunch of the details, the supply system, and the game’s excellent branching campaign system. It’ll be exactly what they were looking for. However, for new players, or those with limited patience to get past an unintuitive UI, then KPB will be a game played once or twice and hastily uninstalled.
KPB is likely to be a bit of a marmite game, and for now, I’d suggest that you’ll likely be able to tell whether you’d love it or hate it.
Klotzen! Panzer Battles is very much a niche appeal game, with a deep, complex campaign system and granular battles that play out across the European theatre of WW2. However, a poor UI and uninspiring graphics could prove a bar to entry for some players. There are also reports of bugs and poor performance, so at the moment, it’s probable buyers beware before your purchase.