Game Title : Panzer Korps : Kharkov
Publisher : Epoch ( 1986 ), Kokusai-tsushinsha ( 2002 )
Game Designer : Yukihiro Kuroda
Game Theme : Originally published as entry level game in World Wargame series from Epoch. This is reprinted by Kokusai-tsushinsha as valiant classic game.
Period : 1943 1/19-2/15
Map : Kharkov-Zaporoze-Stalino-vorosilovgrad
Units : Regiment and Division
Half sized map
History of the game
“Panzer Corps” was published as 7th game of “Epoch World Wargame”.
“World Wargame” series was a first successful wargame series designed by Japanese designers. From #1 “ Minsk ’41 ” to #6 “ D-day ”, their game was evolved gradually and its complexity is also raised one by one.
After “ D-day ”, the designer team went back to the introductory level and published “ Panzer Corps ”. Though the trend of Japanese wargamer would like to try more difficult game, this game was well received and became a classic.
After 16 years from first publish, Kokusai-tsushinsha reprinted this game on Command Magazine Japan #47. Because now old Japanese wargamer is grown and don’t have enough time for big game, this game is again well-received as a short time entertainment.
As described below, though this game is simple for beginners, the strategic problem is challenging enough for returning old gamers. That is the reason why this game is again successful in the market.
Command Magazine Japan has exploited this game into “ Panzer Korps 2 ” and then “ Panzer Korps 3” and “ Panzer Korps 4 ”.
Characteristic game system
Actually there is no characteristic game system.
This game is very simple, because it is designed for beginners. Basic sequence is just repeating 1st player’s movement, then his attack, then 2nd player’s movement, then his attack. It looks too simple.
Other rules are also very basic. Must stop upon entering enemy’s ZOC. May attack during its attack phase to adjacent enemy units. Combat is resolved by dice on CRT. CRT is based on # of retreating hexes. No supply rule, no bombardment, no air support.
The only unusual rule is that retreated units are flipped back and can do nothing during his next movement / attack.
The only special rule is how each player can get the victory.
Sorry for late introducing, there are actually 3 games in “ Panzer Korps ”, El Alamein, Dunkirk, and Kharkov.
In this review, I’d like to introduce the most complex one in this package, Kharkov. Though this is the most complex, it is still very simple game.
But, as I described above, simple rule doesn’t mean a simple game.
Challenge for players
As above, this game has very very simple rule. If you have experience of operation-level wargame, there is no serious rule learning for this game.
But, you are challenged by the situation and strategic problem in it.
This game covers the 3rd Kharkov battle in 1943 winter which is known as “ Manstein’s backhand blow ”. The game starts with only 6 German units on the map. The big Russian offensive army comes from Eastern edge during turn ● to ●. Because there is only few German units on the map, the Russian force can advance until middle of the game. But, good time never continues forever. German player receives fairly good sized reinforcement from South and West during turn ● to ●. If both players would like to capture and recapture Kharkov, it will show the similar situation as history, the backhand blow of German player.
But, the real challenge in this game is that there are several different strategic options for both players.
For example, in case of Russian player there are several important targets on the map. According to Victory condition, if he captures either of ● or ●, he can get immediate victory. Both of these cities are really far and somewhat difficult goal without German big mistake. Then the next important target is Kharkov, the biggest city around this area. Another important target is cutting the railroad in southern area which provides supply for German around Rostov area.
On the other hand, Soviet player can get VP by eliminating German units and lose VP by his eliminated units.
So that advancing deep into the map gives him VP for cities, but his potential danger of getting counterattacked and eliminated his units become bigger.
The help comes from the designer, the Russian player can get 1 VP for capturing city on the map for each city once he captures it even though it is only one-time occupation. In addition to this, he gets 2 more VP if he occupies it at the game end.
This VP system allow Russian player to advance deeply and then withdraw. But, it is a difficult tactics to commit practically on the map. Because his movement allowance is smaller than German’s and some German Panzer Korps can strike some part of his line very strongly.
Also, since Russian force have entered the game earlier and their movement allowance are smaller, you must decide which force will cover which area during earlier turn and commit it consistently through the game. It is not impossible to shift your force from one area to the other, it is waste of time and opportunity for attacking your potential target. There is only 8 game turn. So you must do your operation as effective as you can. But, this is very difficult especially for first few plays.
The same thing happens to German player. He can get reinforcement early in Southern area first. Since there would be several Russian attacks on Southern area which risk the railroad to Rostov, there is a strong temptation to resist this threat. But, if you do this option then you will find that there will be not enough size of counter attacking force around Kharkov at the most important moment during game-end. It is very difficult to understand this potential strength shortage in the first game. This fact should be studied by costly close lose before the Kharkov.
Beyond these studies, each player would have his more sophisticated plan. In real game, because Russian player must show his plan by his advancing route during earlier turns. Then after analyzing Russian player’s movement, German player must make his own long-term plan and then commit it on the map by moving and attacking his earlier reinforcement. This is the difficulty of this game and spice of the life.
Honestly speaking, I think this game is strategically very difficult. This difficulty comes from the fact that you must make a long term decision in earlier turns. And in this case, the result cannot be evaluated at the game end when the final occupancy of Kharkov would be decided. In other words, this game is a good example of “ where P-D-C-A ” cycle could not be applied easily. Because the cycle works very slowly only one time per game and the result reflects not only your decision directly. The result also is influenced many die-rolls during the game and of course your opponent’s decision.
This game is an excellent example that simple rule can develop a difficult strategic problem. This was a challenge of its designer and I believe it was very successful.