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Strategic Command: American Civil War From Matrix/Slitherine and Fury Software (Also available on the Steam Platform) Strategic Command: Ame...

Strategic Command: ACW (indepth review special) Strategic Command: ACW (indepth review special)

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Strategic Command: American Civil War

From Matrix/Slitherine and Fury Software
(Also available on the Steam Platform)

Strategic Command: American Civil War (SC:ACW) is a fully-evolved design effort that also celebrates the 20th anniversary of this popular game series.


Fury Software's lead developer Hubert Cater's first game, "Strategic Command: European Theater" (WW2) was published under the label and released on July 16, 2002 - almost 20 years to-the-day from the July 14th, 2022 debut of SC:ACW on Steam.


Whether this is a coincidence or not only Cater himself can say. And he did graciously respond to a Steam discussion post that he had "lost track" of the release date of his first game effort, and the debut date of SC:ACW was entirely coincidental.


This response reveals both the inherent humility of this veteran game designer, as well as his commitment to move forward - and not look back - when it comes to his team's latest wargaming effort.


The latest computer game in the venerable Strategic Command series covers the American Civil War from start to finish.


The Bottom Line, Up-Front

Of course, AWNT's readers are looking for more than just nostalgia in this game review. So, here are our up-front, bottom-line recommendations:


1. Owners of Cater's three most recent Strategic Command offerings available at Matrix/Slitherine (SC: War in Europe, SC: World at War and SC: World War I) have most likely put more hours into SC:ACW than this reviewer.


Germany launches its great Spring offensive in a division-level campaign from Fury Software's previous game,
Strategic Command: WWI available at the Matrix/Slitherine web site.


2. Board wargamers, of which AWNT has more than a few, should both welcome and be imminently comfortable playing with this wargame design.


3. American Civil War (ACW) aficionados, in general, will find that nothing in the digital gaming arena compares with this product when simulating the strategic level of the conflict.


4. ACW historians - both amateur and experienced - who are interested in playing out an unlimited number of "what-if" scenarios, will find a treasure-trove of possibilities when firing up the game's easy-to-use campaign editor.


The detailed properties of a Confederate "Ranger" unit are available from the main map screen.
All of these unit variables can be changed when using the Game Editor.


It's a Tough Job, but Someone Has to Do It

The reviewing of wargames has become infinitely more challenging since the days of two-page, print reviews for the long-defunct Computer Gaming World magazine. The internet is now full of reasonably accurate game reviews and you-tube videos from truly dedicated providers. And the fact that this is an ACW game opens this particular review up to a much wider audience than, say, a niche wargame on the Eastern Front's Korsun-Cherkassy pocket.


For this reason, we have enlisted some extra help in the form of links to some detailed and deep forum comments, as well as field dispatches from a true grognard with more than 1,500 hours in another ACW game currently available on Steam: Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) or "GT" for short.


GT is an incredibly ambitious project developed by Oliver Keppelmuller and released on the Steam platform on Sept. 24, 2021. And it is primarily because Matrix/Slitherine has made its SC:ACW product available on Steam that it would be negligent of us not to give some coverage to this amazing, but still-evolving, tactical/operational/grand strategic game on the American Civil War.



It may be October 31, 1861, but it's unlikely the Union Army is celebrating Halloween: A screen shot from the highly ambitious Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) courtesy of the Old War Dog.


SC:ACW Highlights

First, let's list some of the outstanding characteristics of Fury Software's SC:ACW game engine.


A) This is a proven game system that has evolved over more than 20 years of simulation design. The overt "bugs" that are entirely expected from a breakthrough game like GT are notably absent from SC:ACW.


B) SC:ACW features Matrix/Slitherine's excellent PBEM++ multiplayer game system. At this writing, the monitoring of multiplayer activity on the game's forums shows robust head-to-head activity that appears to be surpassing single-player-oriented posts on social media. Matrix also kicked off a tournament program soon after the game's release on Steam.

C) And yet, the single-player experience appears solid, thanks to an aggressive and relatively intelligent AI that has been massaged over the years. One proof of this statement is the AI's ability to effectively handle transport and amphibious operations - a talent that took Paradox's developers a couple of years to effectively incorporate into their excellent Hearts of Iron IV game offering.


D) The inclusion of a hugely-expansive, 292 x 223-hex game map covering most of North America, the Caribbean, Mexico, and the Native American territories. At 10 miles-per-hex, this works out to 6,578,500 square miles of simulated space. Admittedly, not all of the map is fully used in the vanilla campaigns. But the map does allow modders to recreate some peripheral aspects of the ACW, including a full-on Mexican War circa 1861-1865, as well as various conflicts that include French, British and Spanish force structures.

E) Tremendous flexibility in terms of starting game options, including the ability to change sides mid-game and adjust hundreds of scripts to the player's liking.


Thousands of AI and Event scripts can be edited using the player's default text editor.

F) A fully de-bugged and easy-to-use campaign editor that offers historians unprecedented power in both modifying existing scenarios and creating an unlimited number of "what-if" game situations. Although game play is very much strategic in scope, the editor allows gamers to drill-down into the very depths of the game engine and modify an almost limitless number of simulation and unit variables.


    SC:ACW's game editor, where hundreds of game variables are easily manipulated.


G) Close to 40 individual units types represented in-game - from infantry brigades to submarines - and each one has up to 16 distinct attack and defense values assigned versus every other (logical) combat unit in the roster. Each unit also has a variety of general combat characteristics, including spotting range, action points, attack range, entrenchment, demoralization, attacks per turn, and the chance of loss-evasion when attacking and defending. And, of course, all of these variables can be quickly and easily modified inside the Game Editor.


 Editing the myriad of characteristics of a Union infantry brigade in the SC:ACW game editor.


H) Two years of of researching and testing to develop, with a brand-new and highly detailed, 66,000-hex map, along with new rules governing riverine warfare.

I) More than 450 pages of PDF documentation, including the main game manual, the tutorial manual, and six (6) must-read "strategy" guides for each vanilla campaign.


Welcome to the Team

In addition to Fury Software veterans Bill Macon and Bill Runacre, the company wisely sought the expertise of ACW historian Ryan O'Shea for help with campaign/scenario design and the writing of the hefty manual and strategy guides.


What does come as a surprise is that O'Shea was also responsible for programming the AI for the various campaigns. This seems like quite a bit to ask a "newcomer" like O'Shea, especially as Cater himself led the charge in programming the AI in all the previous SC game releases. (More on the AI later in the article.)

Finally, O'Shea also serves as a frequent contributor on the various game forums and appears always ready to answer questions regarding in-game strategy and the thought processes behind some of the developers' design decisions.


The game ships with six different campaign scenarios that altogether do an admirable job of covering the length and breadth of the ACW:


  • "1861 Blue and Gray" - The marquee campaign, featuring an April 12, 1861 scenario start

  • "1861 Manassas to Appomattox" - A later, summer of 1861 game-start just three months after Fort Sumter and beginning at the time of the First Battle of Bull Run.

  • "1862 (General Winfield) Scott's Great Snake" - A representation of the Union's Anaconda Plan that kicks off in the early Spring of 1862 with the Yankees poised to amphibiously-attack its most ambitious target yet - New Orleans.

  • "1862 Trent War" - A "what-if" campaign that simulates an alternative history of the ACW, in which the "Trent" diplomatic incident in November 1861 triggers Great Britain's entry into the war on the side of the Confederate States.

  • "1863 Lee Rides North - The climactic phase of the ACW, which features an aggressive Confederate General Robert E. Lee conducting an energetic counter offensive against the Union's Army of the Potomac (under the command of General Hooker) in late April 1863.

  • "1864 Make Georgia Howl" - Union General M.T. Sherman's famous quote comes to life at the beginning of 1864, with that general's bold march through Confederate-held Georgia.

It's important to note that each of the above campaigns is fully playable from either side of the conflict in single-player (versus the AI), multiplayer (PBEM++), and hot-seat game modes.


Like the other titles in the SC series, customization is a key feature when it comes to setting the game's difficulty levels and general player options. Besides toggling on-or-off literally hundreds of vanilla game scripts and enabling various mods, one can choose to directly control only the nations that one wishes to play.


There are a wide variety of Player Options available when starting a new SC:ACW game scenario.


For example, when playing as the Confederates, one can delegate British, French and Spanish forces to AI control - when, and if, they become active in the game. One can also give the computer opponent various bonuses to spotting, experience and military production points (MMPs). In general, experienced SC game players would do well to assign the Rebel AI opponent a "veteran" status. When playing as the Confederates versus a Union AI, it's advisable to scale the difficulty level down to the "intermediate" level of play.


What's Not to Like?

We did find a single Matrix forums poster at press time, who was a veteran of the SC series but did not enjoy this latest iteration. These players appear to be in the minority at this writing, however. 

One potentially significant issue with all the SC-series of games is that they do not feature unit stacking. This may or may not be an issue for some AWNT gamers. Matrix/Slitherine forum poster and SC beta tester "JWW" addresses this issue better than this writer ever could, and it's a mouse-click away at:


We also have a link to another Matrix forum thread started by an SC game veteran, who is not quite in love with the latest iteration of this venerable game series. His opinions may hold some weight with owners of the previous games, who are considering a purchase of the ACW offering. The responses to the OP's opening comments by other players should also be of some value: 


In general, combat resolution is reminiscent of the Panzer General/Panzer Corps series of games: It's quite abstracted, with a "wham-bam that's the combat, madam" type of feel, as each single unit in a hex - whether corps, division, regiment or brigade - attacks or defends against another single unit at anywhere from 5-10+ formation strength, losing a few hit points here and there. However, SC:ACW does feature a more fluid retreat model than the Panzer Corp engine, and it's highly recommended that the "retreat" option stays in place when playing the game.


The bottom-line is that battles like Gettysburg, Antietam or Shiloh will only take place inside of the players' imaginations and within one, 10-mile hex between single units of various sizes. Here's what one forum poster said about this issue:


"I do think the game (SC:ACW) does a good job of representing the strategic military and political decision-making of the time, but the operational scale is 'off' when it comes to the map and units. In the Western theater, there are wider spaces between towns, and a player can maneuver units and get a feel for operational Civil War tactics. Naval operations seem to work out well, as do amphibious operations to seize Confederate ports. But the Eastern campaign tends to bog down into a WWI-style defensive line running from the Shenandoah Valley to the Potomac River, with very little maneuver possible, other than swapping out units to try to punch a hole in the enemy's lines."

So, there it is, although the Eastern theater is not quite as congested as the previous quote suggests. The potentially short, but continuous fronts near Washington, D.C. and the Shenandoah are vulnerable to breakthroughs early in the game, and Cavalry units with up to six action points can wreak some havoc behind the lines.


At the start of the 1861 campaign with no fog-of-war, there's plenty of room for units to maneuver.


In general, the game does a good job of recreating the strategic war of movement in the West, and the strategic stalemate in the East.

In the 1863 "Lee Rides North" campaign, one gets a clear view of the strategic stalemate in the East.


The end result is that gamers who can't handle SC:ACW's level of abstraction (or a view from 20,000 feet up) can try another ACW game on Steam: the Ultimate General: Civil War real-time strategy and tactics game, or the ambitious GT in its current, less-than-perfect state.


Another important issue is that the artillery guns represented in SC:ACW are "integrated" within each formation. Field artillery and siege guns can be created as stand-alone units, but only when using the Game Editor.

This does not mean that SC:ACW is devoid of tactics. In fact, the game is overflowing with tactical-level unit data everywhere one looks, and we will expand on the game's generous use of the nitty-gritty, grognard-style level of unit detail a bit later on. Let's just say that by the end of 1862 in most campaigns, the Union is pushing around more than 110 land units alone, so micro-management is certainly a thing here.



 The Production Screen shows future unit deployments.


Another minor quibble is that, like the other games in the SC series, various Military Events are displayed at the start of the players' turns - such as the destruction of enemy units and capture of various objectives - but, clicking on the Event being displayed does not localize the Event on the map. So, one must use one's good memory and imagination when interpreting these start-of-turn updates.


The Reports tab gives a quick overview regarding active formations and unit losses.

The Main 'Events'

Much like Fury Software's most recent WW2 titles (World at War and War in Europe), as well as the latest Strategic Command - World War I game, players will be asked to make strategic decisions, called Decision Events - usually with a simple "yes" or "no."


Stephen Mallory, secretary of the navy for the Confederate States, queries the player regarding one of more than 160 rich, historical and what-if Events programmed into the game.


More information on the events themselves are contained in the Strategy Guides for each campaign scenario, and these excellent documents are conveniently accessed by push a command button at the top right-hand-corner of the game screen. One can also study the game map and return to the decision screen at one's leisure.


There are also specific Notes that come with each decision (available by selecting the "Notes" button). These Notes give players detailed descriptions of the background and the current consequences of every "yes" or "no" choice.


For this game, there are more than 160 specific Decision Events, not including several hundred - perhaps more than 1,000? - general event scripts included with SC:ACW. The latter non-decision events announce themselves at the start of a new turn, but do not require a decision to be made on the part of the active player.


The marriage of George Armstrong Custer is duly celebrated in this in-game "flavor" Event.


The fact that all of these events and AI scripts can be easily edited inside the Game Editor using the player's default text editor, which automatically pops up when a script is opened, offers levels of customization which are quite staggering. And if English isn't one's native tongue, the game actually supports more than 650 different languages for modding purposes.


Each of the scripts are generously "commented" within the files themselves, which offer would-be programmers a chance to get in some practice. The effort required by the developers to make all this available to the player is somewhere North of extraordinary. But that's just how the latest SC game releases are built.

Multiplayer Gaming

The topic that's taken up the most bandwidth on the games' forums thus far is multiplayer balance. In that regard, the developers have already pushed out a couple of patches addressing play balance between two human opponents. Our view is that's what the game editor is for: simply make some adjustments between two consenting adults and have at it! Meanwhile, here's the latest on multiplayer game balance based on two informative forum posts:




We also have a detailed quote on game balance from SC Assistant Programmer Bill Macon:


"There may be some confusion as to 'being able to simulate historical events' with wanting to replicate exact historical results. But this shouldn't be the case at all. Good wargames should demonstrate that if you follow historical strategies, then you should achieve relatively similar results. But that's not the point. If you have some confidence in the wargame being realistic and historically accurate, then you should have some confidence that following ahistorical strategies should produce believable results.

"The Strategic Command series does a pretty good job of doing that, improving and expanding as it has over the years," continues Macon. "If you play ahistorical to win, your victory or loss should be believable. In that sense, we should be on the same spectrum. And there should be an addictive replayability effect to try again with different ahistorical strategies."

The fact is that the Civil War in the East did not consist of a continuous line of units, but the battles played out that way. So, one point for Macon. Also, this was a period in warfare when the defender was favored, and wave attacks against the weapons of the time were suicidal. Even Lee, when he marched North and encountered the Union at Gettysburg, found that attacking on terrain favorable to the enemy was sheer madness.

So, the War in the East eventually did take on a WWI-style of attrition warfare, with the North having to accept high losses in order to destroy the Army of Northern Virginia.

According to another knowledgeable poster, "...the map only offers a limited number of hexes depicting Maryland and Pennsylvania. And as a result, there is no representation of mountain areas, such as South Mountain. So, the Cumberland Valley doesn't exist in the game, and that alone cancels out some crucial operational decisions." (Italics ours)

And so, we remind ourselves once again that this is not an operational-level game to begin with. We only belabor the point here because it may be a deal-breaker for certain gamers.

Our other observation related to multiplayer thus far is that, while Matrix/Slitherine's PBEM++ system is quite functional, gamers should expect only a limited amount of activity on the servers. This means that almost all multiplayer games available are locked-out as "private," and those searching for opponents are best directed to the Matrix/Slitherine forums to get connected. 

The 'Intelligence' of the Artificial Opponent

It's high time to give some credit where it's due. Whether it's O'Shea, Cater, Macon or Runacre, or most likely a team programming effort, the AI in this game is imminently credible. It's likely that only veteran-to-expert SC players (and those familiar with the most detailed levels of ACW grand strategy) will find any glaring faults here.


And here's some proof: When playing a custom 1861 game-start as the Confederates against a "veteran" Union AI opponent - with the French controlled by the AI but immediately active on the Rebel side with a generous portion of MMPs - the artificial opponent conducted itself quite admirably.


Specifically, our French allies under AI control both purchased units and conducted its land and naval operations better than this intermediate player could hope to do. (Of course, this isn't saying much.) On the Union side, the AI was bull-dog efficient in identifying, surrounding, and eliminating vulnerable Rebel forces, while credibly reinforcing its own formations.


Coming off some play-time with the ever-popular, strategic-level Unity of Command II game series on Steam, this writer was struck by the manifold internal AI decisions required of SC:ACW compared with the aforementioned game. Let's just say that the perceived effort required to program an excellent single-player game like Unity of Command II cannot be compared with the challenges presented - and mostly overcome - by the SC:ACW artificial opponent.


And, the AI isn't programmed to cheat, either. It uses the same supply, combat, spotting, income, research and other rules and formulas as the human player. However, by increasing the difficulty level in the Options menu (from Green, to Intermediate, to Veteran and onto Expert), the AI can be assigned spotting, experience, and/or MPP bonuses. The Experience bonus may give the AI an edge in certain combat situations, while the MMP bonus allows the AI to reinforce, upgrade and purchase more units over time than the human player.


Players can further customize the difficulty level versus the AI by disabling a number of AI bonus unit events in the Options/Advanced/Scripts screen during game set-up. These AI unit bonuses are typically found on the last few pages of the Unit Events menu and specifically labeled "for AI use only."


Hundreds of AI and Event scripts can be activated or de-activated at the start of the game.


One example is "AI Union: Division - Boston 3/63 Lv2," which translates into a Union AI-only event at the intermediate difficulty level or higher, whereby the AI will received a Division unit in Boston in March 1863.


The designers admit that the AI plays pretty well tactically, but "has difficulty matching the big-picture awareness of a human player." So, giving the artificial opponent a few more units helps it with grand strategy.


In addition, the AI bonus unit events are said to "smooth out" game play in general and avoid a snowball effect, where the AI begins to lose badly, resulting in an abrupt and unsatisfying finish to the game for the human player.


A number of advanced AI scripts are also present, which actually force the programmed opponent to conduct various research and diplomacy investments, whether it has the income to do so or not. These events were included to optimize the game experience for the player, but like most scripts, they can be turned off if desired.

Finally, when playing against the AI, the turn resolution phase in the SC:ACW game reviewed here is relatively lightning-quick, thanks in large part to a system that has been proven over more than 20 years of designer effort. And that's when testing the game on a sub-par, i7 3.6 ghz machine with a lowly GeForce GTX 745 video card at a screen resolution of 1900x1200.


A Rousing Welcome for the 'Old War Dog'

It may be the right time in this narrative to welcome a special guest: the Old War Dog. With 30 years of professional military experience as a U.S Army/USMC officer - and an astounding 1,500 hours playing GT (you remember that GT is short for Steam's Grand Tactics: The American Civil War, don't you?), the Old War Dog oozes the kind of real-world credibility that this writer sorely lacks.

  Major General William Tecumseh Sherman

Let's quote General William T. Sherman here: "War is cruelty, and there is no point in reforming it..."

And the Old War Dog responds: "Well, war has gotten 'reformed' very dramatically, and it is still being made the more terrible."


Like many military veterans who play wargames, the Old War Dog revels in designs that feature in-depth historical immersion, including a detailed treatment of unit headquarters, their personalities, and their functions. The Old War Dog notes that the shorter command ranges of HQ units in this version of SC makes their strategic placement "pure gold," but he mourns the limited number of historical leaders available to both sides during the game.

Now, we'll go into a bit more detail on the available HQ units and the strategies behind their optimal use in this SC game offering:


Like Fury's previous games, HQs can be set in one of three modes: Auto, Auto-Assist and Manual. The full-on Auto function allows the friendly AI to fill all the command slots, while Auto-Assist lets players intervene and manually assign formations to HQs as an option. Manual mode requires that gamers manually assign each unit to a HQ.


The Old War Dog notes that the AI doesn't always select the optimal HQ for each unit when on full Auto. On the other hand, Manual requires a good deal of micro-management to avoid leaving a command slot wide open. In this regard, Auto-Assist appears to be the best setting for HQs.


When using Auto-Assist mode, formations within command range are color coded on the map: A "blue" tint indicates a unit is not in command, and said formation will likely perform poorly in battle. A "green" tint indicates the unit is commanded by the selected HQ, while "red" shows that the selected formation is part of a different HQ than the one chosen. While all of this sounds complicated when being spelled out, it's relatively straight-forward in practice.


Van Dorn's Confederate HQ is responsible for several brigades (highlighted in 'green') when accessing the game's HQ mode. Also in use here is the "1861: The Blue and the Grey Mod" (alternate turns), which features custom unit graphics and a number of other features (link below).

When accessing the game's HQ mode, one strategy is to focus on the "blue" highlighted units and determine if each one really needs to be commanded by a HQ during that game turn - for example, if that particular formation is going to be involved in a key battle or is likely to be attacked during the next enemy turn. If a critical battle is coming up, it's wise to assign the units in question to the highest-rated and most experienced HQs.

If that is the case, the player can right-click on that important unit and attach it to the selected HQ. If the "attach" function appears faded-out, that means the current HQ is devoid of command slots, and another unit must be detached to make room for the key formation.

The various HQ functions cannot be used if a unit has been moved, has attacked, or has been upgraded. Therefore, it's important to finish all the HQ assignments before one starts shuffling units around. When one deploys a new HQ unit - and there won't be many of them in a vanilla campaign - that HQ cannot move but can be assigned subordinate units within its command range.


The Naval Game

There's quite a bit that's new when it comes to naval warfare in the game, and even the most experienced SC players have come up against a moderate learning curve when exploring the nuances of riverine warfare in SC:ACW. There are no less than 15 individual naval vessels modeled in this game.


Ironclad ships (including river ironclad and monitor-type vessels) are most useful in destroying wooden ships (mainly gunboats). And there is a meaningful distinction between all types of naval units, from battleships to amphibious transports.


Monitors are less effective than ironclads when battling the latter ships, but they are potent weapons when faced with wooden ships and also cost a bit less in MMPs and can be built quicker than ironclads.


The Confederate player is advised to build at least a few river ironclads and monitors to challenge the Union and avoid having the enemy destroy Rebel convoys and drain its economy. On "normal" difficulty level, one can do significant damage with ironclads in order to open up Confederate trade lanes and gimp the Union's ability to amphibious assault. And new players should be warned that the Union player seems to be able to conduct landing operations anywhere and everywhere it so chooses.


The latest build of the game gives gunboats the "special" ability to kill land units on an all-to-frequent basis. "They make field and railroad guns look like peashooters in comparison," says the Old War Dog, although certain land features appear to mitigate their effectiveness. The use of several gunboats can be used by human players like a surgical tool to inflict "1" or "2" strength points of damage to land units per attack. While Union General U.S. Grant used these weapons to great effect when sailing down the Ole Mississippi, at press time gunboats appear to be overpowered when attacking land formations. As such, the building and deploying of large groups of gunboats are currently a known "exploit" for Union players.


In any event, researching naval weapons is a good idea in order to improve the offensive capability of one's ships when playing as the Confederates. The Union player is graced with a preponderance of ships active in coastal areas of the game map. However, players will still need to prioritize three key techs - infantry equipment, corps organization and infantry tactics - over and above naval considerations.

SC:ACW's research screen allows player to follow their own strategies when allocating precious Military Production Points to the various technologies that may be unlocked during the game. This particular screen belongs to a "modified" campaign featuring extra research points.


The Old War Dog strongly suggests that players consult the individual Strategy Guides written for each scenario for further hints on research and general game tactics. However, the research paths chosen are typically dependent on the player's overall strategy, so there is no perfect formula for devoting MMPs to various technologies within the game. Besides the infantry techs, bonuses to field telegraph, leadership, spying-and-intelligence, and fort modernization should all be considered right up-front.

Directly below is an informative thread on Union naval strategy regarding the blocking of Confederate ports, which is what the AI will certainly use against the player:


And here's another helpful thread on the use of amphibious landings in the game:


Finally, we offer one more tip on SC:ACW naval strategy:


More On Strategy

With more than 1,500 hours playing GT, the Old War Dog rates the complexity level of SC:ACW as a "3," with GT's challenge rated at an "8 and rising," with the latest updates. That steep of a learning curve, as well as a fleshed-out "civilian" component, makes the strategic, operational and tactical aspects of GT time consuming and demanding compared with the high-level and relatively streamlined personality of our latest SC game.


A quick study of this game screen pulled from Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) shows the depth of detail inherent in this breakthrough game design.


"SC may be a great game for 19th and 20th Century large-scale wargaming," says the Old War Dog. "I have noticed with Fury's latest iteration a unique AI compared to the previous games that teaches history while guiding the player through the scenarios. At the tactical level, the AI component is competent but relies more on the player making the decisions than in GT's tactical game module.



Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) features strategic, operational, and tactical game play that can challenge the most experienced AWNT wargamers.


"The GT AI is continually evaluating and becoming stronger at holding the lines and less resistant to flanking attacks," the Old War Dog continues. "Of course, the competency of the AI has varied quite a bit from patch to patch with GT. The SC AI seems to adjust well to the player's decisions: going back to the War in Europe game, it you decide not to execute Operation Sealion, the SC's AI does a good job of re-adjusting Britain's home defense priorities."


Also, please find a link below on the strategic uses of regiments, brigades, cavalry divisions and other units from some expert SC game players:


The International Scene

The inclusion of Britain, France, Spain and Mexico in the stock campaigns is intriguing indeed. But, as was historically the case, wargamers should generally not expect the major nations to play a key role in the vanilla scenarios.


  In this campaign, the British Empire enters the fray in the American Civil War on the Confederate side of the conflict, attacking from the Canadian territories.


O'Shea admits that France's intervention in Mexico is not included in the game as a separate scenario. Instead, the designer has built this interaction into the main campaigns. When the French seize control of the Veracruz Customs House in Dec. 1861 (you remember that from North American History 101, right?), a new faction will appear in that city - the Mexican Empire (not Mexico proper) - and every so often after that an event will pop up telling the player about recent events in Mexico.

Of course, all of this changes if and when France enters the war...


In this modified campaign scenario, The French Republic has gone over to the Confederate side. Several French units can be seen in the Southwest corner of the game's strategic map.


When Napoleon III jumps into the fray, both Mexico (on the Union side) and the Mexican Empire (on the Confederate side) will both activate, with their forces positioned in accordance with their historical deployments at that time.


For example, if France joins the ACW in the Summer of 1862, one will find General Lorencez licking his wounds after the Cinco de Mayo. And if France appears a year later, Marshal Forey will be victorious in Mexico City.



 The French send 163 Military Production Points to the Rebels via the Convoy system.


At this point, both the Union and Confederacy will also be able to send forces to Mexico; and, in the Union's case, MMPs via a convoy, provided that the Yankees control both El Paso and New Mexico. As such, it's important that players balance out their military commitments between the battles in Mexico and the U.S. if they are to have a chance of winning the much wider war.


Editing Power in the Player's Hands

We are happy to report that the developers did not "wimp out" and promise the editor in a future patch: The standard SC game editor, which is extremely powerful and very easy to operate, is included and entirely functional in the release-version of the game.


Previous owners of one of the SC series of games know exactly what they are getting here. For newcomers, expect to be pleasantly surprised by the scope of editing possibilities offered by this utility - without ever reading the editor's documentation. The editor both reveals all the detailed data behind the game's design and hands it all to the player on a silver platter. In fact, we recommend that players boot up the game's editor just to see the wealth of statistics that back up the vanilla campaigns' designs.

And this is where all the "unused" space on the generous game map of the Northern Hemisphere in the vanilla scenarios can be leveraged to create entirely new global wars. Even for first-time users, one of the beauties of this editor is the ability to profoundly change the character of any of the stock campaigns with just a few keystrokes - and no error messages!


The entire Northern Hemisphere is one's playground when using the SC:ACW game editor.


Unfortunately, there are few players who will make use of the editor's power in campaigns for public consumption. Two months after the game's initial release on Matrix/Slitherine, and we don't have even one customized battle scenario (data-wise, not just graphics-wise) available for download. The dearth of custom campaigns on public forums has generally held true for the previous SC releases, but that does not stop would-be designers from creating their own diversions.


However, this sad state of affairs is in no way a reflection on SC:ACW or its editor. Matrix/Slitherine's War in the East 2 sports a phenomenal, if somewhat more complex, editor than the SC series, and one can count the number of custom scenarios available on the game's forums on less than half of one's hand. It appears that, in general, most digital wargamers are looking for a very historical version of history to be served up with their campaigns. There are exceptions to this rule in the Matrix product catalog, with the Operational Art of War IV and Advanced Tactics Gold being primary contenders.


SC:ACW is still ripe for mods, of course. Certainly, the enduring attraction of replaying the American Civil War on the computer should also captivate the imaginations of creative game players looking to explore what-if scenarios. The conflict inspired a whole series of novels and "Lee Rides Again" fantasy excursions in book format, so there's little stopping players from diving in.


Even in its purely historical guise, SC:ACW is a game that should not be missed by those looking for a relatively rare, strategic-level simulation of this far-reaching and monumental conflict.





Klotzen! Panzer Battles From Maxim Games/Available on the Steam Platform     Wargamers have been playing Panzer General and its spin-offs s...

Klotzen! Panzer Battles Indepth Game Review Klotzen! Panzer Battles Indepth Game Review

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Klotzen! Panzer Battles

From Maxim Games/Available on the Steam Platform


Wargamers have been playing Panzer General and its spin-offs since the first game was released by SSI in 1994. The entire series has been aptly described as "wargaming lite," which may be a dubious distinction for some of AWNT's readers.

If so, a more in-depth treatment of the classic game - with a greater emphasis on supply, leaders, and air operations (among other things) - may very well be a welcome addition to the more hard-core board wargamer's digital library. In fact, this is one of the reasons why developer Zoran Stanic of Maxim Games and his team created Klotzen! Panzer Battles (Klotzen!), which released on the Steam game platform on April 27, 2022.

"The idea for Klotzen! was to provide fans (like me) of the old Panzer General with a design featuring similar game play, but more depth," says Stanic. "In addition to a deeper supply system and an improved simulation (and on-map resolution) of the air war, the 'replayability' of the game has been significantly increased, with the addition of many what-if scenarios and campaign events that can change the course of World War 2."

As far as the meaning of "Klotzen," it is a rather complex, intransitives verb in the German, with several possible connotations depending on the context. So, we'll leave that for readers to discover for themselves.

Panzer General Revisited?

To answer the question above, we need to fast-forward almost three decades to the latest spiritual successor to the venerable Panzer General series entitled "Panzer Corps 2." The game is published by Matrix/Slitherine and developed by veteran studio Flashback Games. It debuted on Steam just two years ago and is a solid success based on Steam player feedback. Order of Battle:World War II is another Matrix title, this one from 2015, which is slightly more complex than the Panzer Corps series and has also enjoyed mostly positive reviews on Steam.

While Klotzen! clearly stands out as a unique gaming experience, it may be instructive to make some comparisons with Panzer Corps 2 in this article for several reasons.


The huge Battle of Kursk (northern salient) courtesy of Panzer Corps 2 (with fog-of-war off).


An earlier start of the Battle of Kursk in May 1943, again showing the northern pincers, courtesy of Klotzen!.


Comparing Klotzen! with Panzer Corps 2 makes sense because experienced AWNT wargamers may have been holding out for a game of somewhat greater complexity than Panzer Corps 2.

Second, because dedicated Panzer Corps 2 players may be intrigued by this newcomer and its ability to offer wargamers a different level of challenge.

And third, although Klotzen! is designed to be an unofficial, yet significant successor to the Panzer General series of games, a comparison with a product released in 1995 would only do our readers a disservice. Panzer Corps 2 is arguably the latest and greatest of the General Series and can be had at a similar price point with Klotzen!

Beer With Your Pretzels

Titles like Panzer Corps 2 can easily be seen as the American "Budweiser" of the beer-and-pretzels game genre, whereas Klotzen! is definitely a micro-brew.

Taking this analogy one step further, there's also a small price to pay when going with home-grown. For example, the user interface and various game menus are not immediately intuitive in Klotzen!, but the learning process can be part of the fun.

In fact, Klotzen!'s design is original enough that discovering the inner workings of the game is another element of the challenge. Even without referencing the 90-page manual, most players will be able to get on quite well, with few frustrations in the process.

Most important, we need to address the bottom-line right up front: If one is satisfied with the Panzer General/Panzer Corps series of games and doesn't want to go any deeper, then keep playing those games. For the rest of us, who both enjoy and yearn for a somewhat different approach to Panzer Corps game play, Klotzen! should be seriously considered.


Klotzen! showing Kursk from the south. The prized city is in the northeast corner. Also, notice the airfield further west.
Axis forces point toward Prokhorovka in Panzer Corps 2's version of the Battle of Kursk.

The Scenarios and Campaigns

There are an impressive 65 scenarios and two full-length campaigns included with the game. This represents at least three full DLCs of content and a $70 investment if this were a Panzer Corps release. This surely makes the $40 U.S. asking price for Klotzen! quite reasonable, and the $35 release-week sale a bargain.

And yes, we're going to list all of Klotzen!'s campaigns and scenarios right here, in order to give readers an idea of the length, breadth, height and depth of the historical and what-if content available. The campaigns and scenarios can be played from either side. On release, Campaigns 3-8 were playable directly, but currently this option is undergoing some revisions. The scenarios are listed in alphabetical order:

1. Prelude (The Spanish Civil War, circa 1936, followed by Poland, and beyond)
2. Eagle Rising (The Axis effort through the fall of France)
3. Africa (or should we say "Afrika Corps"?)
4. Early East (beginning in the Balkans)
5. Barbarossa (a late start in 1942)
6. Defense of the Reich East (Kursk in 1943 until the bitter end)
7. Defense of the Reich West (Italy through Berlin)
8. Operation Tannenbaum (the German plan to invade Switzerland)

1. Alexander (October 1942 - A hypothetical battle featuring the Allies attempt to topple Franco.)
2. Algeria (Tunisia)
3. Aragon Offensive (Spain 1938 -  The Nationalists Attack)
4. Ardennes
5. Bagration
6. Balkans
7. Barbarossa '42
8. Barbarossa Center
9. Berlin
10. Bruderkampf ("Brother Fight" - The German invasion of an intransigent Austria; a unique offering that forces players to use some finesse and limit Austrian losses.)
11. Buran (Eastern Front 1943)
12. Case Blue
13. Catalonia (Spain, of course)
14. Condor (German invasion of Britain, May 1942)
15. Crete
16. Crusader
17. East Ukraine (March 1944 - a large map and painful reminder of the current crisis.)
18. Fall Weiss
19. Felix (An Axis-led Spain attacks Gibraltar in March 1941; the British land in Portugal, and France holds out in Morocco!)
20. Fortress Germany (November 1943 - An early Allied attempt to capture the Ruhr.)
21. France (the historical battle in 1940)
22. Gazala
23. Germany 1945 (the attack on Berlin by the Allies in the West and Russians in the East.)
24. Italy (September 1943)
25. Javelin (June 1944 - The Allies land in southern France)
26. Kiev (1941)
27. Kursk
28. Libya (March 1941 German Offensive)
29. Low Countries (May 1940)
30. Middle East '41 (Afrika Korps attacks)
31. Middle East '42 (El-Alamein)
32. Moscow '42 (September, with a Soviet counterattack)
33. Moscow Summer (August 1941, Army Group Center attacks)
34. Moscow Winter (October 1941)
35. Norway (April 1940)
36. Operation Rurik (August 1943 - a what-if "final" German assault on Moscow)
37. Operation Solstice (February 1945 - Germans attempt to cut off a Soviet bulge outside Berlin)
38. Operation Tannenbaum (August 1940 - German and Italian forces attack Switzerland)
39. Ostwall (May 1943 - Luring the Russians out of their Kursk defenses)
40. Overlord
41. R4 (April 1940 - Britain and France intervene in Norway)
42. Romania (August 1944)
43. Romanian Bridgehead (The Wehrmacht purses the defeated Polish army in 1939)
44. Roundup (April 1943 - Overlord kicks off early)
45. Sealion
46. Sicily
47. Siegfried Line (September 1939 - The British and French attack Germany's vulnerable Western Front at the start of the Polish campaign.)
48. Spring Awakening (March 1945 - German counterattacks in Hungary)
49. Stalin Line South (May 1942)
50. Stalin Line (May 1942 - larger version)
51. Stalin's Gambit (March 1942 - No Barbarossa, Soviets attack through Poland, hypothetical)
52. Steppenwind (May 1943 - Axis offensive into the Crimea)
53. Teutoburger (July 1943 - German counteroffensive to retake Paris)
54. The Fall of France (June 1940)
55. Toledo (July 1936 - The Spanish Civil War)
56. Ukraine '42
57. Ukraine (June 1941 - Barbarossa South)
58. USA (May 1945 - Germany and Italy win Europe and invade the U.S. East Coast!)
59. Wacht am Rhein
60. Wall on Dniepr (August 1943 - Soviet offensive across the Dniepr)
61. Waltz on Volga (August 1943 - Axis offensive into the Urals, hypothetical)
62. Western Defense (August 1944 - Falaise)
63. Winter Offensive (December 1941 - Moscow has fallen; the Guards counterattack)
64. Winter Storm (December 1942 - Attempted relief of Stalingrad pocket and Soviet offensives)
65. Desert Dash ( This scenario is out of alpha order, and features a strong Axis attack toward Egypt in May 1941)

The game is played in campaign mode, following one nation from scenario to scenario, or standalone mode where the player can choose either side.

Although we have only scratched the surface of actual game play thus far, we should point out one significant difference between Klotzen! and Panzer Corp 2 before a potential purchase: The older game features standard Multiplayer and Coop modes, while this new game is single-player only at this writing but does include a hot-seat mode. It's important to remember, however, that most wargamers prefer to play against an AI, and the artificial opponent in Koltzen! is a decent one.

The Possibilities are (Nearly) Endless

As one can see from the alternative-history engagements included with the game, players can delay Barbarossa by one year to deal with the UK; fight in Normandy in 1943; attack Norway with the UK already landed there; win in Africa and attack the USSR from the Caucasus; and, quite a bit more.

The maps vary from 200 to more than 1,000 km in size, with hexes divided into 20 km chunks. Armies consist of a historical mix of more than 600 unit types, further divided into 22 different unit classes. Included here are all types of infantry (militia, paratroops, SMG, etc.), tanks, armored cars, artillery, fighters, bombers, submarines, battleships, and more.

As far as map size, Crete appears to be the largest at 6,000 hexes total; albeit, most are ocean terrain. The Eastern Front Wall on Dneipr offering is about the largest land battle at almost 5,000 hexes. With Overlord, one gets 3,600 squares and up to 130 different German units to deploy based on the purchase points available.

  The full Battle of Kursk deployment screen in Klotzen! with no fog-of-war.

There are some rather lovely surprises included with this game, such as Operation Felix in January 1941, whereby Spain has joined the Axis and helps launch an attack on Gibraltar. Most of us have a few hundred wargames in stock, but would be challenged to find such a scenario ready for play. No less one with a huge, 83x43-hex map and the Spanish AB '41 armored car ready for deployment.

And while we won't get ahead of ourselves regarding the editors, all it takes is an adjustment of the "influence" points and unit caps inside an original (or saved-game) scenario text file, and the player is allowed to deploy a virtually limitless number of units on an existing map. Rest assured, attempting this process with Panzer Corps 2 is difficult at best, even when using the "cheat" codes available with that game.

 Graphics, Sound and User Interface

As the screen shots may illustrate, this game resembles Panzer Corp 1 more than Panzer Corps 2. And this is a good thing in this writer's questionable opinion.

A zoomed-in view of Klotzen! shows that the game resembles Panzer Corp 1 much more than Panzer Corps 2.

While we are always hesitant to inject the reviewer's personal views into a game article, the fact remains that this wargamer has struggled to come to terms with Panzer Corps 2's graphic icons, as they relate to the game's approximate map scale.

For example, Panzer Corps 2's armored vehicles feature a unit detail level almost akin to the Combat Mission series when zoomed all the way in. And yet, when viewing an objective town/city occupied by an infantry unit close up, one sees tiny buildings and fields with three huge infantry figures sitting on them. It can affect the immersion for some people. In contrast, Klotzen! has more of a Steel Panthers graphic vibe and may be closest to the excellent Panzer Corps 1 Modern Conflicts mod. However, this newest game allows one to zoom in much closer to the action than Panzer Corps 1.

The excellent Panzer Corps 1 Gold Edition Modern Conflicts mod resembles Klotzen! in some respects.

There is no doubt, however, that some of Panzer Corps 2's maps are quite beautiful. How they would look using NATO counters and proper company/battalion/regiment designations we will probably never know, as that's not what the game is all about.

As far as music and sound, Klotzen! could hardly be better. While it's easy enough to replace the vanilla .mp3 files with custom choices, it may not be worth the effort. In fact, the background tunes straight out-of-the-box are unobtrusive and perfectly set the mood. It's rare that "AAA" titles get this right, no less an indie effort like this one.

As far as the UI, once the player realizes that he/she needs to select textual prompts that highlight when moused-over to access the various game menus, it's smooth sailing for most wargamers.

The primary interface is the main map screen, which is fairly straightforward and neatly arranged. The large command panel on the right features scenario data, such as date, weather, turn number, and influence points. We should point out, however, that the end-turn "button" is actually a lever, with the main menu "M" button (load, save, etc.) directly above it.

This image shows the Klotzen! main map screen, with the user interface panel on the right.

Below the top-most panel are nine "control" buttons that conveniently feature informational tool-tips. However, only the commands possible at the moment light up. The selections include unit information, replacements and upgrades, sleep mode, an undo button - and, in the upper right - a bent blue-arrow signifying the embarkation command for airborne or naval transport modes.

The next panel down shows abbreviated unit information for the hex/unit highlighted on the map. It includes the formation name, a 3D graphic, unit level, leader name and other data. Four icons with tool-tips show attack, defense, scatter (distance from HQ) and supply source (usually Town-based). This allows one to access important unit information without consulting the dedicated unit information screen.

Another nice feature is the split-screen capability within this small panel. The left side shows information on the unit selected on the map, as previously discussed. The right side shows mouse-over information on another friendly or enemy unit or terrain data for an empty hex. This allows the player to quickly compare key data between any two units on the map by selecting one and mousing-over another one. Clearly, serious thought was involved in the design of the interface, although it will take the player a bit of experimentation to adjust.

Below the unit mini-panel is the HQ menu, which allows players to review/purchase/deploy units; switch between ground and air map modes; display the supply overlay; and, cycle between units.

Two other important functions are included here - specifically, the Personnel and HQ Help menus. The first item allows one to hire and fire unit commanders and top generals, while the second button controls special HQ functions relating to overall supply, production speed increases, scouting of the enemy, and the purchasing of transport vehicles, all of which require influence points to use.

The HQ screen in Klotzen! contains important functions that are generally not available in Panzer Corps 2.

The final/lowest panel in the command menu is the mini-map.

In addition, all of the aforementioned panels can be expanded or collapsed to reveal a larger portion of the game map. However, experience has shown that condensing the various panels is usually not necessary to get a good view of the battle areas.

Runs On a Potato

The game's demands on the average computer are very much on the light side. The game was reviewed using an Intel i7-4790 CPU @ 3.60GHz with 16 GB of RAM and a 64-bit operating system, coupled with an under-powered GeForce GTX 745 graphics card with 4 MB DDR3 of memory using a 1920x1200 native resolution.

Even using these laughable specs, the largest of scenarios only took a few milliseconds to load. In contrast, Panzer Corps 2 loaded scenarios quickly but lagged heavily when it came to inputting "cheat" codes using the game's chat menu or multi-tasking.This was due to the fact that Panzer Corps 2 fully maxed out the GPU function on this reviewer's lower-end test machine.

It's likely that most players with modern hardware won't have a problem with either game, but Klotzen! is a much safer bet for those with weaker graphics cards.

Panzer Corps 2's UI does an excellent job of exploring terrain effects using a simple mouse-over mechanic.

Got Stats?

Panzer Corps 2 has unit stats - 23 of them. Klotzen! also has unit stats - around 21, unless we counted wrong. Panzer Corps 1 has far fewer (12), and the screen display for them is much less attractive than the two newer game systems. In fact, Panzer Corps 1's stat page isn't even worthy of a screen shot. Okay, we're kidding here - almost.

 Klotzen! shows off its stats. (Quick reference screen courtesy of our friend Diarrhea Cactus on Steam.)

One significant difference between Panzer Corps 2 and Klotzen! is that the latter game relies on graphics icons and a tool-tip display, whereas Panzer Corps 2 spells everything out for the player. It's also important to note that in the screen shots, we are comparing the Panzer Corps 2 stat page (displayed using the "i" keyboard shortcut) versus Klotzen!'s unit purchase screen in order to make a direct comparison a bit easier. Panzer Corps 2's dedicated purchase screen is a bit less detailed.

Comparing the two newest games' unit stats also shows that several of the parameters are different. This is where the games' manuals come in handy, but we'll look at a couple of differences here. Panzer Corps 2's "close defense" stat seems important, but what it actually means depends on who you ask. Both games feature a "ground defense" stat, which simply means a unit's defense capability versus ground units.

Klotzen! has a rather odd unit stat called "aim." This is probably equivalent to Panzer Corps 2's "accuracy" stat, which is displayed as a percentage - 50% for infantry in the screen shot below - while Klotzen!'s aim stat is displayed as a numeral - or a "2" for German Regulars in 1940. In this case, Panzer Corps 2's accuracy stat is easier to understand at-a-glance.

Panzer Corps 2's unit display also features two full columns of stats for units which are embarked on a transport plane or landing craft. In the latter case, the attributes for "ferried" infantry can be seen in the screen shot below.

The Panzer Corps 2 unit stats page is accessed using the "i" keyboard shortcut.

Klotzen! also has a few attributes that actually change color (the text is highlighted in green) to show a potential stat increase if the player decides to upgrade the unit.

Comparing the two games will also illustrate several other differences when it comes to unit stats, but both products appear to have the most important attributes well covered.

The Air War

This is one of a few aspects of the Klotzen! game engine that may offer players a breath of fresh air when it comes to Panzer Corps 2-type air combat resolution. In fact, on-map fighter and tactical bomber units move the game from a turn-based to a WEGO-style approach during combat resolution.

Rather than spoil the fun for first-time Klotzen! players, let's just say the AI has an uncanny - and excellently programmed - ability to stop your units dead in their tracks when moving them during a turn. Enemy air units will automatically intercept your forces as they move, with the Western Allies being particularly adept at disrupting friendly panzer formations.

A free JU-188A courtesy of an in-game event that should help prosecute the air war in Klotzen!.

The odds of air/ground intercepts appear to be realistically simulated in Klotzen! based on weather conditions, and yet it can be quite disconcerting (in a good way) for the player who is used to the Panzer General/Panzer Corp version of the air war.

When it's the AI's turn to play, turn resolution moves very quickly - even on slower computers - and most players will find it necessary to dial-back the speed of AI movement and combat using the Settings menu.

Klotzen!'s combat resolution is modest - at best - but quite sufficient. A smallish window is available to track every engagement in textual format. Let's assume a friendly Tiger I unit is ordered to attack an adjacent Soviet T-34/43 formation (in the Bagration 6/24/1944 scenario).

First, any enemy artillery - in this case a supporting enemy Katyusha artillery battery - fires first; it gains some experience but causes no measurable losses to the Tigers. The Tigers than attack their intended target, causing some losses to the T-34s and gaining experience. In addition, any commander/general skills are used in this phase to good effect and documented in the text box. The Tigers use the "Once more into the Breach" skill and attack the T-34s a second time. The T-34s are then wiped off the map and their commander killed, with the Tiger unit gaining additional experience. (The Tigers were defending in a minefield, hence they did not move forward and occupy the hex previously held by the T-34s.)

And then we have Panzer Corps 2's turn resolution phase. No WEGO air combat here, but a nice surprise: With only 30 hours playing the game, this inexperienced writer was unaware of the power of the "L" (log) key (lower-case) during and after the combat phase. Each battle is documented in a scrolling window in excruciating, grognard-level detail. Suffice it to say that Panzer Corps 2 will never be the same now that this hot-key function has been discovered.

Leadership Matters

This writer has always felt that on-release, Panzer Corps 2 was rather stingy when doling out leaders (Heroes) during the game, and this tended to minimize their affects on overall strategy. The latest Panzer Corps 2 DLC (Axis Operations 1943 East) ups the ante when it comes to the number and affects of commanders in the game, which can also be adjusted in the Settings menu.

In contrast, Klotzen! has a dedicated leader (and portrait) attached to every unit in the game. And there are hundreds of them. Coupled with the myriad of attributes available to each commander, this indie effort has greatly enhanced the leadership portion of the product.

An elite unit commander, who has managed to achieve Level 8, along with his associates, in Klotzen!.

Matrix/Slitherine's recent Decisive Campaigns: Ardennes Offensive digital wargame put a larger emphasis on both command and leadership, with historical commanders possessing a variety of skills.

Klotzen! doesn't directly address battlefield command-and-control per se (supply serves admirably in that role), but there isn't a digital wargame in recent memory that includes both the variety and flavor of each unit commander's skill set. There are also more than 1,300 sepia-toned portraits of the 23 nations represented in the game, from Australia to Yugoslavia, included to represent each leader. Their names, however, are fictitious.

The game's designers' have included a plethora of skills, traits and flaws for each unit commander that are, at the same time, both creative and impactful.

Here's a sample of traits discovered in one play-through, each with it's own little on-screen tool-tip:    

Audacious - "Overcoming fears is the first step in becoming the better commander. This commander has learned that taking the bold action will land a quick victory in most cases. And only rarely kill most of the men under his command."

Mentor - "You're good at defending, but I'm good at attacking, so I can help you achieve perfection."

Press Friends - "Who cares who took the town, if you are in the first picture? 30% more influence per level when taking the objective."

Studious Preparations - "Plan everything up to the smallest details, and it can't fail. Too bad no plan survives first contact with the enemy. 7%/level less losses when attacking."

Closed Terrain Specialist - "If 300 Spartans held Persians for three days in a mountain pass, imagine what you can do with modern weapons. Never mind the end result of that battle. 5%/level to initiative, attack and defense (rounded up) in closed terrain."

And then there's the naval attribute "Pattern Evasion," described as "(A) better chance of not ending like Titanic. 10% level increase in evade chance." The whit exhibited in documenting these skills in this game is the cardinal rule, rather than the exception.

A unit commander "levels up" in Klotzen!.

Much like a recent Matrix/Slitherine favorite, Campaign Series: Vietnam (, this game exudes a loving attention to detail that will not be lost on wargamers.

Would-be strategists also need to pay attention to the skills and traits they choose for each formation. One must assume that certain attributes favor certain unit types, and the game program filters in or out these skills/traits accordingly.

For example, while all units (ground, air or naval) can benefit from the "Audacious" trait, the "Acrobatics" skill (avoiding a successful enemy intercept) seems tailor-made for friendly bombers. OTOH, my Ju-87b boasts the "Marksmanship Level 3" skill, which features a bonus-to-attack during air intercepts - a role one would not anticipate a tactical bomber playing.

Rather than belaboring this point, let's just say the game contains a huge variety of tactical nuances and unit customization values - far beyond the scope of Panzer Corps 1 or 2. And let's also remember that this is the first effort from an indie wargame developer. For those of us who appreciate this level of detail, our hat's are off in salute.

Panzer Corps 2's leader screen is arguably more attractive, but the number of traits, skills and attributes available to each unit commander pales in comparison with Klotzen!.


The Generals

Separate from unit commanders, Generals are included in the game to lead various army groups. Obviously, there are only a few in action at any one time, and the variety of their attributes are more focused on personality-type skills than the tactical or operational combat-oriented talents earned by field commanders.

"Generals with unique personalities and traits (are available) that can reduce the cost of reinforcements, speed up unit introduction, or give you that extra turn needed to win." This quote comes directly from the Steam-page game description.

Generals can be created, replaced, renamed and leveled-up based mostly on the victory level achieved during each scenario within a campaign.


Each General in Klotzen! commands an Army Group and can be leveled up just like unit commanders.

The game designers have also included a variety of interesting personality "flaws," and all of these details are well-documented in the manual. One favorite is the "Cautious" flaw: "There is a fine line between caution and cowardice, and you are crossing it." -1 to Initiative.

Besides the unit Commander and Army Group (General) promotions, the units themselves increase in experience levels over time,

It's also worth noting that units are penalized if they are manually fed "green" reinforcements by the player and become over-strength (above 10). According to the developers, a unit strength of 14 requires a fourth-level commander. There are also special commander skills that can mitigate over-strength penalties. It's the details like these that elevate the complexity of this game beyond what's found in the Panzer General/Panzer Corps series of products.

The use of minefields is another example of a fleshed-out game feature, and we'll take the liberty of quoting a player who put up a Steam review of the game on their use: "Minefields are done really well, and I love the directional impact, and the way they deprive the enemy of an 'approach' as they were (historically) intended to do. They take a significant toll when employed liberally along with bunkers. But mostly, they just slow you down and make the game more of a race against time."

And for players who don't like playing "beat the clock" when it comes to victory, one's saved game file can easily be edited to add or subtract to the scenario's length. Few wargames offer players this level of flexibility when customizing their in-game experience.

There's quite a bit more detail about how minefields work and how they can be removed, but that's what the game's manual is for.

The Supply System

While the developers' verbiage on the Steam product page describes the Klotzen! supply system as one that can "lead to epic triumphs…or catastrophic losses," this reviewer did not experience anything as dramatic when playing against the AI in his relatively short (45 hours) with the game.

This may well be due to the specific scenario and difficulty levels chosen when testing the product. However, the game does force players to pay some attention to supply ramifications. 

The player always starts with at least one supply source, which is usually a rail hex from one's home country. However, the supply hex(es) can also be represented as a port or a supply fleet; the latter of which can be destroyed by the enemy. If you are defending your home country, than the supply source(s) are usually major cities.

The supply modeled in the game can spread over railroads indefinitely - or at least until an aggressive enemy unit blocks the route. So, for a supplied town, the goods can extend for up to 24 hexes, but less in rough terrain or over rivers. Keeping rail and road hexes open is then vitally important to unimpeded supply.

It's also important to note that there are no "permanently" blocked hexes. Supply can be reestablished by having a unit regain control of the supply hexes in question. The supply situation can be immediately and clearly accessed (graphically on the map) by using the Supply toggle on the main UI menu.

Axis supply is clearly shown in Klotzen!'s Siegfried Line (9-12-39) what-if scenario against French and British "invaders."

How's the AI?

An in-depth assessment of the capabilities of the AI opponent in Klotzen! would almost certainly require more than 100 hours of game play.

And honestly, this isn't a cop-out; the large number of scenarios, each with widely varying objectives (and playable by both sides), would require a dedicated beta-tester to fully sort out. The good news is there are 10 levels of difficulty (Panzer Corps 2 "only" features five), which should be more than enough for players to tailor the challenge to their skill levels.

The Klotzen! difficulty-level 5 is generally equivalent to Panzer Corps 1 Gold Edition Modern Conflicts Mod ( median level three (Colonel level) or the Panzer Corps 2 vanilla game level-four Field Marshal setting.

In fact, all of the campaigns/scenarios used for this review were played at difficulty-level 5, and all showcased a rather formidable AI opponent. It is hard to imagine most players blowing through the campaigns at a significantly-higher level of challenge. (Axis players tackling Norway (1940) should hang onto their helmets).


It's March 26, 1945, and Germany is ready to deploy its forces in defense of the Reich via Klotzen!.

With that said, the AI occasionally vacated an objective hex or two to get at its enemy's throat and wasn't always capable of making grand/sweeping maneuvers to cut off the human player's supply. But it's likely that scenario hasn't been played yet.

And that's where the single-player, bang-for-the-buck aspect of this product comes in. If one is comfortable with the UI and general game play of this release, the content available with the base game - assuming there will be no immediate need for a DLC - is satisfyingly deep.

Although we're not yet on the subject of the game's editor, another way to quickly fine-tune the difficulty level in Klotzen! is to slightly ramp-up - or down - the amount of "influence" or purchase points and/or core slots available to the player and the AI.

The most expedient way to accomplish this is through simple text editing of an existing scenario or save-game file. This process is much quicker than delving into the powerful and arguably more complex Panzer Corps 1 and 2 game editors and offers the flexibility of customizing saved games on-the-fly. Of course, the ever-handy Panzer Corps "cheat" codes serve pretty much the same functions.

Another commendable feature of Klotzen! is the ability for newbie modders to simply open up the game's "unitTypes.json" file (located in the SteamLibrary/steamapps/common/Klotzen! Panzer Battles/resources/worldData folder), and after backing up the original, begin to modify unit data to one's heart's content. Amazingly, these modifications can be safely made in the midst of a campaign scenario.

 Editing the stats of the illustrious JagdPanther V using the ubiquitous Notepad++ text editor.

The Official Klotzen! Game Editor

We've opened the Operation Overlord Allied invasion of Normandy scenario using the Klotzen! game editor in the screen shot below. All of the editing functions can be found in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, but we've found only limited need for them thus far.

  The Klotzen! game editor is quite powerful but for most purposes text-editing of scenarios/save games works equally well.

For more than 90% of game players, the text-editing functions described above should suffice when tweaking a scenario to their specifications. Otherwise, the editor buttons in the official Klotzen! scenario editor are generally self-explanatory.

There are two things to keep in mind, however. First, immediately back-up the Scenarios folder (C:/SteamLibrary/steamapps/common/Klotzen! Panzer Battles/resources/Scenarios), which is only about 117 megs of data. This is because when using the game editor, any saves will immediately overwrite the original scenarios. There is no "save as" function here, and the game will warn you of that fact. Beyond that, knock yourself out. The intricacies of this game's editor are far beyond the scope of this humble review.

The Killing of Bugs

The extermination of these little buggers is moving along quickly, thanks to the determination of the developers and several devoted players, who are logging onto the Steam Discussions page with their findings. A couple of the more serious roadblocks, which prevented the continuation of campaigns, were dealt with swiftly by the developers, in as little as a few days.

There were also a few hiccups with wide-screen support, but those issues apparently have been addressed. We say "apparently," as this reviewer was not able to test the game using higher resolutions. Of course, any serious hardware problems players may have had with the game are covered under Steam's generous refund policy: If it's broke, you get your money back until it's fixed.

It's Only Money

And now we come to the often delicate topic of value for one's gaming dollars. Board wargamers already have a high tolerance to the often-hefty "price of admittance" for a favorite physical game. After all, there are all those detailed cardboard (not to mention, plastic) unit counters to fondle, and a lovingly crafted historical map on which to place them.


The Eastern Ukraine in March 1944, with Kiev in the upper-right corner, using the Klotzen! game engine. The image is a sad reminder of the conflict raging in that country at press time.

Unlike board wargames, which are rarely on-sale, digital media are often heavily discounted. Unfortunately, the tactile feel is completely lost, and the PDF rule book adds insult to injury.

All of this may mean that for the average AWNT reader, computer wargames are the ultimate example of discretionary purchases. If that holds true, than the choice of picking up Panzer Corps 2 and its DLC as part of a discounted bundle, or opting for the 65-scenario Klotzen! base game, becomes a question of serious financial import.

There's no arguing that some of the custom maps available with Panzer Corps 2 are simply lovely to behold.

Assuming that both games weigh equally heavy on readers' wallets, we would be negligent not to mention the availability of a wide range of professional-grade modifications available free-of-charge for the Panzer Corps 1 and 2 game engines. We must also credit Matrix/Slitherine and developer Flashback Games for allowing players to download, for example, a comprehensive Spanish Civil War (SCW) modded campaign without actually buying the official SCW DLC.

The truth is that the choice between purchasing Klotzen! or Panzer Corps 2 shouldn't really be a choice at all. Both games stand out in their own right: Klotzen! shining in its myriad of what-if battles and easy modification, while Panzer Corps 2 offers some unique historical mods and more modern graphics. AWNT board wargamers should derive some pleasure from both of these games.


Victory in Poland, September 1939, in our first Klotzen! campaign.


A victory on the Eastern Front using the recently released Panzer Corps 2: Axis Operations - 1943 DLC.