Golden Journal No. 27:
For the third issue of our new-model Golden Journal we decided to dip a little bit in the past and follow a theme from an old-model Journal. Way too many members who wanted their upgraded Sherman tanks didn’t get them, because our then-supplier gave us huge numbers of misprinted pieces. So we returned to the theme, this time with lovely silky-smooth, die-cut pieces just like the “real” games.
That turned out to be less popular than I thought it would be, so it’s unlikely that we’ll try this again – the old Journals of the past will have to remain dusty and forgotten. Fortunately, we printed enough to keep these in stock for a while, so Gold Club members can still pick up Golden Journal No. 27 with new Sherman tanks for a little while. The Golden Journal is only available to the Gold Club (that’s why we call it the Golden Journal).
When we initially offer the Golden Journal to members, it’s free. Shipping and handling costs still apply, but the Journal itself is free. After that, it’s still pretty cheap at $9.99, but it’s not free. So it’s good to be a Gold Club member.
In our previous Golden Journals (the new model, that is), we covered the Soviet T-35 heavy tank in Journal Number 25 Land Battleships (with Fire in the Steppe as the theme game), and armored cruisers (German, British and Russian) in Journal Number 26 Armored Cruisers (Cruiser Warfare is the theme game). In upcoming issues we’ll dive into ancient American armor (World War One-era M1917 light tanks and Liberty heavy tanks sent to battle the Germans in 1940) and the Caspian Sea in the Second Great War (a complete, small and strange Second World War at Sea game). Beyond that we’ll add the Mexican Army to Panzer Grenadier (probably fighting the Japanese on Saipan, but maybe somewhere else) and German coast-defense ships to Great War at Sea: Jutland.
While we usually like to build our books and games (and Journals, too) around the scenario set, and then come up with the pieces needed to play those scenarios, the Sherman Tanks issue of the Golden Journal works backwards from that practice. At the heart of the Journal is a small collection of Sherman tank pieces, in U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps colors. There are 24 of them, die-cut and silky smooth.
They cover all of the Shermans that see action in American colors in a whole passel of Panzer Grenadier games: An Army at Dawn, Korean War: Pusan Perimeter, Korean War: Counter Attack, Invasion 1944, Elsenborn Ridge and Saipan 1944. There’s only one difference, an armor rating of “4” rather than “3.” You can pretend your Shermans have a 4, or you can have it right there on the piece.
In Panzer Grenadier’s unit ratings, the humble Sherman sits on the line between 3 and 4 for its armor. “Armor” in Panzer Grenadier is more than simply a measurement of hardened-steel thickness: it’s a subjective measurement of, “How hard is it to destroy this tank?” Panzer Grenadier superfan Fred Schwarz made a cogent argument for increasing the Sherman’s protection, and series developer Matt Ward suggested providing upgraded pieces in a Golden Journal. Having the new pieces makes the game more fun.
Does the Sherman deserve a better rating? It’s a pretty esoteric issue; not just the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin, but the number of toes making contact. The earliest appearances of the Sherman in North Africa and its first use in Sicily and Europe probably don’t rate the higher number. Once Shermans start appearing with so-called “wet stowage” for the main gun’s rounds (a sort of wrap around the ammunition bin filled with a fire retardant; if a shell or fragment penetrated it then the fluid inside would leak out over the shells and hopefully prevent fire or explosion), then the higher rating is much more deserved.
Building the Journal around the improved Sherman pieces gives us an excuse to pack the little Journal itself with lots of Sherman-related content. Sherman variants, Marine Shermans, Sherman analysis – we’ve got it all. Plus a fine piece from Jim Werbaneth about the Sherman’s predecessor, the M3 Lee/Grant.
For all of their (usually overstated) technical sophistication and fighting power, the German Tiger and Panther tanks served the losing side in World War II. The humble Sherman, an ugly little tank with insufficient armor and weak armament, proved far easier to manufacture, transport and maintain.
Like always, the Golden Journal is a fun little addition to your games. You’ll be glad you picked it up.
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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University (without bribing anyone!). 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.