Panzer Day

Boy meets Panzer…

I finally got to use some of that Microarmor I’ve been working on the past few weeks, as we had our first game of Jim Day’s Panzer this weekend. I will do a full review of the rules once we’ve played a few games, but my first impression is quite favorable. The game has lots of chrome, but moves along at a decent clip, and both players are fully involved at every step of the game (which is SUPER DUPER IMPORTANT, YOU MINIATURES RULES WRITERS. Seriously).

I’ve complained in previous blog posts about slow moving, overly detailed games, but I really don’t mind a detailed game, if I feel like I’m being rewarded for engaging with the detail. Well, I felt rewarded! We didn’t use all of the advanced rules, and didn’t have any infantry, indirect fire, towed guns, or air support (can’t wait to paint a couple of Hurricanes or P40s up in a desert scheme!), so I certainly haven’t gotten the full broadside of Panzer goodness, yet. In the state we were playing the game, I’d say it’s about 80% of the complexity of the basic infantry portion of Squad Leader. Which is a very sweet spot for me, as long as my caveat about detail being rewarded is applied.

As stated above, I’ll do a full review at a later date, but I feel like I should give a little background on the rules. Panzer was originally developed as a miniatures game, but was published in 1978 as a hex and counter board game set on the East Front, because the publishers (Yaquinto) weren’t complete idiots, and wanted to make a little money. 88 followed Panzer, and moved the action to the North African desert. These two games are made of unobtanium, and go for ridiculous money on Ebay. Fortunately The Scarlet J has a copy of Panzer, and has a good assortment of the useful bits and pieces of 88.

Fast forward to 2004, and Jim Day published a new version of Panzer, known as Panzer Miniatures. Which was, obviously, intended as a miniatures game. Panzer Miniatures was set on the East Front, and has a multitude of supplements. Two of the supplements cover various aspects of the campaigns on the Eastern Front, another two cover from Normandy to the end of the war from a UK/Commonwealth, and US perspective, respectively, and I think there’s even a supplement for ’39-’40.

Moving on to 2012, Panzer was published AGAIN, this time by GMT, in the form of a boardgame with their typical high quality components. This version of Panzer, following pattern, was set in the Eastern Front. There are several supplements out for the GMT version, which add additional detail for the Eastern Front, and late war on the Western Front. The base game is currently out of print, but is on GMTs P500 list for reprint. Notice that I didn’t mention the desert after talking about 88? That’s because the desert hasn’t been covered since! There are plans for a North African expansion for the GMT version. I kind of doubt it will ever happen for the miniatures game, but I’d love to be proved wrong. Panzer’s miniatures roots run quite strongly through all three versions, so conversion shouldn’t be all that difficult, but if you’re interested in giving Panzer a try, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to develop your project for the Eastern Front.

You can pick up the miniatures rules in PDF and Print-on-demand form from Wargames Vault.

Boy plays Panzer…

On to the game. I’ve been working on some desert terrain, and have twenty, or so, feet of roads done, but I haven’t made a desert mat, yet. I tried laying out the desert roads on my existing mat, but it just looked totally crazy and wrong. So…instead of being in the serious desert outside of El Alamein, we take you to some lovely not-so-desolate portion of Tunisia, where there are fragrant olive groves, and funny looking evergreens. And, for some reason, the locals have built their homes from stone and stucco, rather than mud brick. And they have pitched roofs. And it looks a lot like France in 1944. Ok. The terrain is completely wrong, but I wanted to give the game a shot, so I rolled with what I had. Note that I’ve hacked up my usual roads for ACW and Chain of Command to work with 1/285 scale. It’s ok, I never really liked those roads, anyway.

This battle is a meeting engagement at a crossroads (how many times have I typed that sentence over the past couple of years? Sheesh!), which is occupied by a sleepy village of olive tree farmers. Coming to disturb this idyllic scene are tons upon tons of fire breathing armor.

I fielded.

10 Sherman IIs
3 Crusader IIIs
3 Daimler Armo(u)red Cars (portrayed by Humber IIs)

The Scarlet J had

5 PzIIIs of some variety. Js, maybe?
5 PzIVf1s
5 PzIVf2s

The observant among you will note that the TSJ cleverly decided to bring 15 real tanks against 13 British tanks and a handful of armored cars, which have tin foil mantlets and paper hulls. No comment from me on this, though!

The terrain setup. I forgot to notate the 'scrub' area, which is indicated by the scattered clump foliage on the front slope of the level 1 hill at the upper left corner.

The terrain setup. I forgot to notate the ‘scrub’ area, which is indicated by the scattered clump foliage on the front slope of the level 1 hill at the upper left corner. The fields don’t cause any trouble for tanks. Obviously.

My current mat is roughly 6’x4′, and we ran this game long-ways, so that we’d have room to maneuver a little. When I make the desert mat, I will make it 6’x8′, because 4′ was too narrow for the amount of equipment we had on the table (about a company of armor each).

Shermans roll out...The red pennant is supposed to be the squadron commander. The yellow pendants indicate troop command tanks. I need to do some more research, but I don't believe that Panzer really deals with chain of command in detail.

Sherman IIs roll out…The red pennant is supposed to be the squadron commander. The yellow pendants indicate troop command tanks. I need to do some more research, but I don’t believe that Panzer really deals with chain of command in detail.

Panzer uses order markers to get units to move, fire, fire and move, go on overwatch, and so on. Limited command and control is modeled by the fact that you don’t have enough order markers for every unit in your force. For instance, I had 16 vehicles, but only 10 order markers. Tanks within 3″ of each other can share command markers, so this encourages the player to use formations. Recon units have tremendous initiative, and their orders do not count against the total number of orders. Which is pretty cool, I think!

The Scarlet J's assortment of panzers take advantage of road movement...

The Scarlet J’s assortment of panzers take advantage of road movement…My next game mat will NOT have all of these undulations and wrinkles. They’re infuriating, at this scale.

Moving to contact...

Moving to contact…

blahblahblah

The squadron command tank, plus one of the three Sherman troops takes up position on a hill on my right flank, while the rest of the squadron moves into position at the olive grove.

Perhaps I’ve been playing too many infantry games, because the very first thing I did was send 3/4 of my Shermans straight for the olive tree grove, and the cover contained therein. One troop actually moved into this grove, which slowed them way down. Moving through a grove/orchard/light woods costs double movement points. I also moved some Shermans up onto a hilltop, which wasn’t really all that great of a move…everything on the board, practically, can see you, and the MkIV tanks that are armed with the long 75mm gun can easily punch through a Sherman’s armor at long range.

Crusaders move to the crest of the level 2 hill, where they'll attempt to control the left flank with shots from their 6lbers.

Crusaders move to the crest of the level 2 hill, where they’ll attempt to control the left flank with shots from their 6lbers.

My Crusaders, however, had the advantage, at least in terms of guns, of the PzIIIs they were facing. So the hill strategy wasn’t such a bad idea, in that case.

Crusaders do some damage and get the first kill of the game. That's The Scarlet J placing a cotton ball to indicate a KOd tank. There are also brew-ups which cause a column of smoke, which can affect line-of-sight.

Crusaders do some damage and get the first kill of the game. That’s The Scarlet J placing a cotton ball to indicate a KOd tank. There are also brew-ups which cause a column of smoke, which can affect line-of-sight.

Which is proved by me getting the first kill! <does a little happy dance>

I advance my Daimlers (played by my Humber MkIIs) in the face of a bunch of PZIIIs and start to pay the price. Even moving at top speed, armored cars are quite vulnerable.

I advance my Daimlers (played by my Humber MkIIs) in the face of a bunch of PZIIIs and start to pay the price. Even moving at top speed, armored cars are quite vulnerable. I’ve had one armored car knocked out, and the other has take a track (wheel) hit, which immobilizes it.

Using armored cars in a responsible manner (responsible meaning in a manner which encourages their survival) is going to take some work on my part. I’m not really sure what to DO with them. They move fast, and have tremendous initiative advantages, which makes them really good for spotting enemy units, but tanks have a tough time killing anything at 24″, or more, in this game. ACs that are way out front aren’t going to survive contact with the enemy’s tanks. Maybe they’re more useful when you have off-board artillery, some serious AT guns, or other long range assets. Or maybe I’m just an idiot. The latter is the most likely answer.

P1080376

My last Daimler makes a suicide run to try and get a flanking shot on one of the German tanks. I don’t quite have the movement to get a REAL flanking shot, though. The Armored Car is immobilized by the PZIII, but seconds later manages to return the favor. If we had been using the morale rules, there’s no way this little guy would have thrown himself to the wolves. I admit, it was very unrealistic play. But, hey, first time out with a ‘new’ set of rules!

asdfsdf

The engagement is heating up. One troop of Shermans has advanced to the edge of the olive grove, only to be met by a platoon of PZIVfs. I’ve come off of the hill with my Shermans on the right flank, as those panzers way up there in the upper right corner of PZIVF2s, and they can really reach out and touch someone with their high velocity 75mm guns. Fortunately TSJ rolled really poorly for them the entire game. Poor Scarlet J.

idunno

Knocked out tanks everywhere! The point blank fight in the olive grove is going badly for me, but in the meantime, my flock of Shermans there at the bottom of the orchard have killed three German tanks.

We ended up with some quite close range engagements, especially in the now-infamous Olive Grove. Ranges in the Grove were down around 150′. The Sherman vs. MKIVf2 fight was taking place at ranges of around 1500′, which is also quite close. Predictably, the casualties began to mount. I’m pretty sure gung-ho charging Shermans is NOT the best tactic for WWII armored combat, though it worked out ok, in this instance. I’ll work on it.

hmmmmm

Meanwhile over on the left, a PZIV takes advantage of road movement to try and come up on the flank of my hill-topping Crusaders. He puts a round through the compartment of one Crusader, damaging it, but then pays the ultimate price when two of the three Crusaders turn their attention his way. Not sure why The Scarlet J didn’t take advantage of the little village, and use it to screen his advancing tank and get into a 1 on 1 situation with a Crusader. I CERTAINLY wouldn’t be so sloppy with my tactics. No. Never.

this is it?

Looking back into the olive grove from the German side. Those IVf2s are sitting on top of a hill, and taking falling shots at my Shermans. This increases the chance of getting a top of hull hit. Which is very bad for the shottee. Almost as bad as TSJs luck when firing with his IVf2s!

P1080382

State of the game at end of play looked something like this, minus my left flank. We had killed an equal number of each other’s vehicles. I lost 4 Shermans and 3 Daimler armored cars, and TSJ lost 7 panzers of various flavors. We called it a draw. We certainly could have finished this game, had it not been our first time playing the rules.

Boy likes Panzer…

So….yes to more Panzer. I had a great time playing the game, and am looking forward to more of it. I’ve got a lot of work to do on terrain. Goodness me.

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Comments

  • Frank Arey  On 01/18/2015 at 10:09 pm

    Great post, Tim. I’ve been wondering how the game went. Very interesting history of the rules. And, sorry about the armored cars!

    • arkiegamer  On 01/18/2015 at 10:44 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it, Frank. I never can tell if these reports make sense to anyone, other than me! Those darned armored cars-I may need to post over on Boardgamegeek and see if i can get some tactical tips. We will get you up here to try out Panzer as soon as we get those Marder IIs in the appropriate paint job. :)

      • Frank Arey  On 01/19/2015 at 8:10 pm

        I’m in!

  • General Whiskers  On 01/19/2015 at 12:52 am

    Always difficult to use armoured cars appropriately in tabletop games, unless you have hidden enemy to find, or possibly against a mainly infantry-based foe.

    • arkiegamer  On 01/19/2015 at 8:01 am

      Well, there is the opportunity to use hidden movement (and hidden static forces) in Panzer, which is something I’m very interested in, so maybe they’ll come into their own if those rules are in effect. Alternatively, the scenarios could be set up so that the early turns involve reconnaissance actions, before the main armored forces make it onto the table. And then there’s fun stuff like “seize the bridge, and hold it until relieved.” Not that there will be many bridges in the desert.

  • 40kterminatus  On 01/19/2015 at 1:02 am

    Nice report and pictures. Armoured cars are only good for spotting and taking on small armour. You needed some arty to take advantage of the spotting and drop death from above on the Panzers.

    • arkiegamer  On 01/19/2015 at 8:05 am

      I’m definitely in favor of large artillery shells landing on German tanks! I wonder if there aren’t ways to use them a little more subtly, though subtlety is NOT one of my strong points. Like, leave them hanging around in a protected area on a flank, without really intending to use them offensively. Even if they never make it into direct contact with the enemy, that enemy still has to take them into account. They could have an indirect, but not meaningless, effect on the game.

      • 40kterminatus  On 01/19/2015 at 9:33 am

        If you played late war you could field a Staghound and kill something, but early to mid recon is not tank busting kit. Fit some PIATS to them lol

      • arkiegamer  On 01/19/2015 at 9:49 am

        Hah! The desert war always did have a Mad Max vibe to it, at least in terms of the LRDG, so I think its feasible!

  • Jack  On 01/20/2015 at 11:04 pm

    Reblogged this on Tome and Tomb.

  • daggerandbrush  On 01/23/2015 at 2:52 pm

    Exellent battle report. I found the publication history most interesting and as usual the pictures give you a good idea of the action. The detail on these little tanks is outstanding, I really like how you made it stand out with your paintjob, giving the eye some texture and contrast.

    • arkiegamer  On 01/23/2015 at 5:03 pm

      Glad you enjoyed the report, and thanks for the compliment on the painting! Really, those little tanks practically paint themselves. So quick and easy.

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