By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
Romania began the Second World War looking
to France as its military mentor. French doctrine
informed training, and French equipment (such
as it was) armed the troops. Throughout the
war, the Romanian army lacked sufficient artillery,
communications gear, vehicles of all types,
and especially anti-tank weapons.
Infantry formed the backbone of the Armata
Romana, and several types make an appearance
Grenadier: Eastern Front. The Romanian
army’s line infantry is equal to the
Soviets in fighting power, but not so good
as the German. The machine gun platoons have
the Czech-made ZB.37 machine gun, a well-made
weapon also widely used by the Germans. These
units are better than the Red Army’s
equivalent, but again, less capable than the
Specialist infantry include border guards,
tough long-service professionals who saw considerable
combat in the war’s opening campaign
in Bessarabia. Formed into an elite division,
they suffered terribly in the assault on Odessa
in 1941. There are also mountain troops. Romania’s
mountain establishment fielded four divisions
of elite troops which fought across southern
Ukraine, in the Crimea and in the Caucasus.
These pieces get considerable use in the game.
They’re as good as German line infantry,
but have just a hair less firepower than the
German mountain troops shown in our Edelweiss
But we know why gamers play Panzer Grenadier:
It’s all about the tanks. The backbone
of the Romanian armored forces in 1941 is
the R2, an export version of the Czech S-IIa
used by the Germans as the Pz35t. The Romanian
pieces are actually slightly faster than the
German ones, as the Romanian machines were
returned to the factory just before the war
to receive new engines.
Romanian tankers liked their rebuilt machines,
now that they engine was less prone to break
down, but needed more firepower. Romania coveted
another Czech design, the T-22, which they
would have named the R3. This tank had a 47
mm gun and better performance all around,
but the German occupiers of Czechoslovakia
quashed the deal.
Romania also bought tanks from France, and
fields the Renault R35. Its low speed made
it less useful than the R2 in combat. In 1941
Romania still had a battalion of Renault FT-17
tanks from the First World War in service;
as they’d been refurbished only in 1937,
no one wanted to scrap them just yet but the
generals knew to keep them away from combat.
An army depends on its leadership, though,
and here Romania is quite deficient. Romanian
tanks must have leaders to operate, like the
Soviets but unlike the Germans. Romania’s
officer corps showed stolid bravery, but their
generally low level of education made it hard
to find technically proficient officers. This
is reflected in the counter ratings, as Romanian
leaders rarely have a combat modifier (the
one used to improve the chances to hit enemy
units) but have reasonable morale modifiers
and personal morale.
Cavalry regiments held the army’s prestige
position, and the Romanian cavalry usually
receives better morale ratings than their
German or Soviet counterparts. Their movement
rate is higher than either, thanks to good
horses and superb training, but their firepower
suffers from inadequate weapons.
Romania’s artillery park is pitiful,
by contrast. The Austrian-made 47 mm anti-tank
guns are good for 1941, when they’re
available. Field artillery is usually a few
French-made 75 mm pieces, compared to 105
mm for the Germans. And off-map artillery,
the titan of the Panzer Grenadier
battlefield, is lightweight when it’s
available at all.
Romanian troops are featured in over two dozen
scenarios, including attacks, defenses, cavalry
charges and tank battles. It’s a wide
variety of interesting situations and the
yellow peril should provide hundreds of hours
of gaming fun all by itself.
Izbanda sau moarte! Order Panzer Grenadier: Eastern Front right now!
Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.