Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
Fantasy General [link to GOG page] is a 1996 game best described as Panzer General with Dragonknights and centaurs. Hexes, turn-based warfare and an enormous variety of weird and wonderful units.
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I first played Fantasy General around the time of its release. Around fifteen years old, I must still have been stuck in my rebellious ‘wargaming and transport management sim’ phase. I don’t remember the specific qualities of the game in detail but I do remember the thrill of playing a serious strategy game that had been packed with creatures from the RPGs and fantasy novels that formed the other half of my groovy teen years.
The appeal is similar to that of the recent Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon, which is a bolters and all take on Panzer General’s basic setup. Fantasy General’s armies are extensive but well-balanced and the scenarios are tightly designed. Most of them, at any rate. Some of them. Admittedly, I never finished the game back in 1997, or whenever it might have been, because I dropped out of that particular phase when I realised that there was music outside Top of the Pops.
At the time of release, Fantasy General was often dismissed as a reskin of Panzer General but there were alterations to the rules that supported the new setting. Tanks can’t rest for a couple of turns to heal their wounds, for instance, and even Heinz Guderian couldn’t buff his forces with spellcraft. The lack of supply line rules simplifies matters and the game sticks fairly rigidly to a rock-paper-scissors format, which tends to reduce those exotic units to variations on a theme.
It’s a strong theme though and Fantasy General wears it well.