The name John Tiller is well known to any wargamer during the last quarter century. His litany of games include the series 'Squad Battles', 'Panzer Campaigns', 'Napoleonic Battles', 'Civil War Battles', ' The Campaign Series', and even more. The game companies he has worked with are 'Talonsoft' and 'HPS Simulations'. For a few years now he has been on his own with 'John Tiller Software'. One of the more amazing things about this litany of games is that is is continually being updated all through the years. I just started playing a WWI mod for the Campaign series that was just released. This shows the longevity his games have. So we should expect the highest quality and gaming from a release of his. Let's see how his newest release 'Panzer Battles Normandy' stacks up. See, we are wargamers and I used the word stacks, I know, I know, sorry.
Panzer, the word invokes a picture now, probably of a Tiger tank. Once it used to invoke fear. The word is short for 'Panzerkampfwagen'. All compound German words have to have an acronym. If they didn't you'd have a stroke trying to pronounce them; just look up the actual German word for FLAK,which stands for fliegerabwehrkanone, gesundheit. Mark Twain in his essay 'The Awful German Language' poked fun at their words with "some German words are so long that they have perspective".
Panzer Battles Normandy is the younger brother of Panzer Battles Kursk. This new series is meant to allow the player to indulge in scenarios as counter heavy as the Panzer Campaign series or much less with it's smaller scale. The scale is 250 meters per hex and thirty minutes time per turn, where the Panzer Campaign scale was 1 Km per hex and two hour turns. Squad battles scale is 40 meters per hex and ten minute turn times. It has mouse wheel zooming for ease of use and eyesight.
The master map has almost 400,000 hexes. The full Normandy map that comes with the game is so large I cannot do it justice with this image. Scrolling the entire map is only recommended for people who are looking forward to carpal tunnel syndrome. The stacking limit for a hex can be found when right clicking on the hex info area of the screen, by default it is on the upper left of the screen. There is a maximum stacking limit along with a road movement stacking limit.
It comes with two campaigns and a total of ninety-three scenarios. The scenarios range from small battalion size to large where you are in charge of an entire corps.
•June 6th; D-Day Landings 14 scenarios
•June 7th; Hitlerjugend's counterattack 2 scenarios
•June 11th; Operation Perch 3 scenarios
•June 13th; Villers Bocage 2 scenarios
•June 13th to June 14th; Carentan 2 scenario
•June 22nd; Cherbourg 3 scenarios
•June 25th; Operation Martlet 2 scenarios
•June 26th to June 29th; Operation Epsom 4 scenarios
•July 4th; Operation Windsor 1 scenario
•July 11th; St Lo 4 scenarios
•July 18th to July 19th; Operation Goodwood 6 scenarios
•July 25th; Operation Spring 2 scenarios
•July 26th to July 29th; Operation Cobra 3 scenarios
•July 30th to August 5th; Operation Bluecoat 7 scenarios
•August 7th to August 8th; Operation Lüttich 3 scenarios
•August 8th to August 9th; Operation Totalize 4 scenarios
•August 11th to August 12th; US 3rd Army breakout 2 scenarios
•August 19th; Falaise gap 1 scenario
•4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards Campaign 5 scenarios
•2nd Armored Division (US) Campaign 18 scenarios
For those of you who like to mod, you can use the unit components, order-of-battle, and scenario editors.
There is even a campaign editor added to the game. I will post from the campaign editor 'Help File'.
"A Campaign consists of a series of Situations. Each Situation offers each side in the Campaign a list of Choices. Each side picks one of these Choices not knowing what the other side has decided. After each side has selected their Choice, then the selections are cross referenced to arrive at an Outcome. An Outcome consists of a Scenario in a Module and 5 other Situations associated with the 5 possible victory conditions that can result from a battle: Major Defeat, Minor Defeat, Draw, Minor Victory, and Major Victory. In addition, an Expected Value is associated with each Outcome for use by the A/I (Artificial Intelligence). The Scenario is fought by the two sides and the Allied victory condition resulting from this battle is used to determine the next Situation according to the 5 Situations associated with the Outcome. This process is repeated and continues until a Terminal Situation is reached which represents the resolution of the Campaign."
It sounds rather over the top, but the help file walks you through it step by step, and the way that the editor has been setup with its drop down menus is much more intuitive in reality.
With the amount of editing that can be done, and the fact that you can chop up the huge master map into any size bits you want, we should be inundated with used made scenarios. I wouldn't be surprised to see a William the Conqueror or Viking raid scenario (just kidding). In reality you can edit pretty much anything you want. In this day and age of computer wargaming, it's like a breath of fresh air. To be more precise it's like a breath of older air. The modding capabilities remind me of games from twenty years ago.
You can play against the AI, PBEM, and LAN and internet live play, along with two player hot seat. PBEM is not my cup of tea, but I have read all about the process and the comments from users and it seems pretty seamless.
Besides the user manual download, there are five other excellent downloads for your use. This is the list.
•Designer Notes (149 page 15MB PDF file)
•Planning Maps (88 page 203MB PDF file)
•Getting Started Guide (42 page 9MB PDF file)
•User Manual (102 page 2MB PDF file)
•Summer Map (190MB PNG file)
•Visual Order of Battle (136 page 68MB PDF file)
The game itself is pretty much what you would expect from a John Tiller wargame. You can see that their pedigree stretches back to board wargames. The Tiller system for most of his games revolves around a unit quality system that grades a unit from 'A' to 'E', with 'A' being the best. Movement, casualties, and combat lower the unit on the scale. Just as in real warfare, resting your units at times is essential for your cyber troops.
Engineering units can do the following: Bridge operations, clear mines or rubble, lay mines, and damage bridges or anti-tank ditches.
Air units are either combat or recon. You can call in airstrikes against a particular enemy unit, and you can also use heavy bombers to carpet bomb an entire hex, as was used by the Allies at several times during the campaign.
Playing as the Germans, be prepared to keep your head down and learn to deal with the overwhelming power of the Allied air forces, land, and naval gunfire. When playing as the Allies use the same, and use your preponderance of material compared to wasting your troops.
The smaller scenarios are perfect for the John Tiller neophyte to sink his teeth into. All of the John Tiller wargames are higher on the complexity scale. The Panzer Battles games with their smaller scenarios and counter count are tailor made for the tyro who wants to get further into our hobby than 'Axis and Allies', etc. To help newbies and to also speed up your turns, you can turn on the 'firing AI' for your forces and leave the shooting to them.
Do not expect to have your way against the AI as the Allies or Germans. I have tried numerous times to replicate Michael Wittmannn's achievement in the battle of Villars-Bocage. For those who have forgotten, it was Wittmann and six other Tiger tanks and a handful of other forces against an entire British Armored division. The British had found the German left flank hanging in the wind and might nave been able to end the Normandy campaign much sooner. The British had stopped on the road for a 'spot of tea'. Wittman's gunner Bobby Woll made the comment,"they are acting as if they've won the war already." Followed by Wittmann's retort "we're going to prove them wrong." The Germans attacked and stopped the 7th armored (the desert rats) cold.
Whilst I admit I am not a lady of the evening concerning graphics, I am getting on in years and the prescription for my glasses is not getting any better. The newer map graphics that have been touted by JTS, and the graphics overall are much improved from the earlier games. It is much easier to distinguish elevation just as advertised.There have been some great visual mods done for the older Tiller games, and no doubt some more will be made for this one. It would depend on your personal likes and dislikes. For me, the graphics are their best yet, and I really don't see any need for improvement, but this is of course just my personal take on the matter.
The only addition I would like to see is a campaign for some of the German forces. A campaign based on the book 'Grenadiers' would be a great way to understand the amount of material and forces that the Allies needed to use to pry the Germans out of Caen would be excellent. Thankfully, with all the editing ability that JTS put into the game, I think we will see that sooner rather than later.
If this game is to your liking, and it will be if you are a wargamer, then head back online and buy Normandy's older brother 'Panzer Battles Kursk'. While there, take a gander at the rest of the excellent wargames for sale.
For anyone who has not looked at the John Tiller games for a while, the original DRM is long gone and it is a much simpler system of just adding your serial.
Now for my pet peeve. Who else gets annoyed at an announcer when they read off 'Panzer tank'. Congratulations, you just made yourself sound like a three year old by saying 'tank tank'.
Game: Panzer Battles Normandy
Developer: John TillerSoftware
Software Publisher: John Tiller Software
Review Date: 7/24/16