In contrast to most strategy-based war games, which are played in real-time, Panzer Command: Operation Winterstorm is more like a chess match. Opposing players issue orders simultaneously during a pause in the action and then watch the outcome of their decisions as the action picks up. The game mechanics are simple enough that beginners can sit down and simulate combat right away either against the computer or with a friend through a play-by-email system.
Panzer Command is based on the Germans’ failed attempt to smash through the heavily fortified Soviet pocket around Stalingrad, rescue the isolated Sixth Army and reestablish a supply chain to the city. Gamers face off as commanders of the German 6th Panzer Division or the Soviet VII Tank Corps and can set in motion more than 40 historically modeled units, including armored and nonarmored vehicles, field guns, towed artillery and infantry platoons. One of the best-designed units is the German Panzerkampfwagen Mark III Ausführung J, a late 1942 tank that was nearly impervious to most antitank weaponry, except at close range, due to an additional 20mm of heavy armor being added to the front hull. Taking out the Model J in the game requires an attack from the sides or the back, just as it did in the real battle.
Other elements of the game are less realistic than the armaments. Infantry units, for example, are effective enough to play a major supporting role, though historically they were not. The largest disappointment is that weather doesn’t factor in at all. The Battle of Stalingrad was fought under harsh conditions. Adding weather to Panzer Command’s design and allowing it to affect targeting, visibility or troop morale would have greatly improved the game.
Originally published in the April 2007 issue of World War II Magazine. To subscribe, click here.