Panzer General is turn-based, set on operational level hex maps. A player can play any lone scenario from either Axis or Allied side and choose a computer or human opponent. In campaign mode, the player plays a German general against the Allied computer.
The basic design of the game shares some commonality with the popular Squad Leader board game series, with a wide variety of units available and displayed as profiles.
Panzer General is an operational-level game (mid-sized between strategic and tactical) and units approximate battalions (the largest Tiger tank organization), although unit size and map scale are elastic between scenarios. While the names and information for the units are reasonably accurate, the scenarios are only approximations of historical situations.
Its novel feature was to link individual scenarios into a campaign that spans World War II from 1939 to 1945. Units are able to gain experience and become stronger and where success in one battle would award the player prestige to upgrade units, acquire additional units, and select a better scenario for the next battle. In 1996, Panzer General won the Origins Award for Best Military or Strategy Computer Game of 1995. It and its sequels spawned a loyal following of players who have revived head-to-head play and have added many new units, features, and over 2,500 scenarios to play. New ideas still in development over a decade after its initial release.