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Panzer General, the first of SSI's General games, was a truly fantastic game when it came out in 1994. It combined hard-core strategy games with lighter, but unrealistic ones, creating a mix of them which was perfect for both veterans and beginners. The game became light, but realistic with a graphical interface which was good enough for the casual gamer.
The irony is that it brought almost nothing really new to the world of round played strategies, but it was so well made and became so famous, that if someone mentions the genre, most people will answer Panzer General.
As the name says, it is set in WWII, and lets you command huge battles as a general. When you start, you will have the option to either play campaigns or individual missions. I would strongly recommend you to play though the campaign mode of the game, which is better than playing solo scenarios. This way you will have to fight your way through different maps, where the goal will be to conquer strategic locations (cities, airfields or other important objects) in a fixed amount of rounds. There are 3 types of outcome for each mission: 2 types of victories, major (if finished in fewer rounds) and minor, (these are also present in the individual missions, but have little importance there) and the defeat. If you win a mission with major victory, you will jump over some hard missions, get an easier mission or get one you would not otherwise, since the mission tree is quite complex. Even if you are defeated, you can play on, but it will be harder and harder to turn the war. The other nice aspect of the campaign is, that you can carry some of your units with you to the next mission, which enables you to create the optimal battle group.
The sounds and music are quite good and the graphics are a bit functional compared to the other games of the genre. The backgrounds are hand drawn and the units are animated. The user interface is similar to the ones in later parts of the series, and is efficient and easy to use.
So, if you like strategy games, but are a bit afraid of those hard-core looking ones, try it and you will be overwhelmed by this easy to play but very complex and very realistic game. But be warned, the game will take a long time to beat.