Panzer Grenadier (Modern):
By John Stafford
Panzer Grenadier inaugurated a new era in tactical World War II wargaming. The rules successfully encompass war-making tactics and technologies from the 1930’s through the 1950’s. But after that, the changes in combat equipment and their means of employment really deviated sufficiently far to warrant a new set of rules that captured the improvement in combined arms operations and the increased use of aircraft and other battlefield enablers. We think Panzer Grenadier (Modern) fills that niche. By the 1980’s the evolution of tactics and tools of war will have evolved still further, hence another set of rules. A 1980’s/90’s version is also planned, and possibly even one for the 21st Century.
So what changed about warfare in 20 years? First, things got faster. Most of the infantry of the world no longer walked into battle, but rather rode into the hail of enemy bullets inside their armored personnel carrier, and didn’t dismount until they needed to get out to perform their job. Many vehicles became amphibious as well, in order to maintain a rapid advance to surround and dislocate the enemy rather than wait for engineers to build a bridge. Most armored vehicles were designed to operate in a nuclear and chemical environment because the next war after WWII was anticipated to be an “all out” war. Firepower blossomed as gun bores grew larger, as did the armor on the vehicles trying to stay ahead of the increased firepower. Of particular note, anti-tank guided missiles made their debut, making infantry deadly to tanks at long range. Airpower became more diverse, adding a variety of helicopters for transport, reconnaissance, and strike.
The other factor to consider is the political environment that shaped warfare in this period. This is the heart of the Cold War. Both the East and West thought that the next fight would be a knockdown, drag-out nuclear, chemical, biological death match where the “winner” might end up with as little as 10 to 20 percent of its forces still intact. Few Americans are aware that we had thousands of nuclear weapons deployed around the periphery of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact: short, medium, and long range missiles on both land and sea, artillery shells, and air-delivered bombs. Both sides built chemical filters into their armored vehicles and issued chemical protective suits to their troops who trained in them frequently. Most missions were going to be one-way. And both sides stood guard tensely, waiting for that one reason to unleash hell. Yet thankfully it never came. Instead, both sides realized the threat to their very existence and decided to try to advance their political agendas through proxy wars. Third World countries received generous “loans”, mostly to purchase military hardware that they would use to bring sensitive areas of the world under the political sway of their “sponsor.” Thus, armies that had trained to slug it out on the European plains began to fight or train others in the hinterlands, learning new ways to fight that employed their weapons in creative and effective new ways. Now, you get to relive that period at the platoon level.
But what have we changed from our highly regarded progenitor, Panzer Grenadier? Leaders have continued to be the core of the rule system. To simulate the proliferation of radios to both personnel and vehicle units, as well as the increased integration of infantry and armor, we have made it easier to activate troops, and we eliminated the tank leader. Now what were formerly called “regular leaders” can activate all types of troops except ships and fast-movers who have inherent leaders like former tank leaders. We also added a formation activation to allow for larger groups to be activated by radio for launching big simultaneous attacks. Of course, there are risks with trying to launch everyone at once, and so the rules reflect this.
Aircraft have evolved as well. Both transport and attack helicopters have joined the force mix, as well as new attack aircraft (now called fast-movers to set them apart from helicopters that move more slowly). The helicopters fly close to the ground and therefore are subject to direct fire weapons and assault, and the helicopters can initiate assault from four hexes away. Fast-movers, which now include the new forward air controllers along with traditional strike aircraft, generally fly much higher, and can only be attacked by antiaircraft fire. This new antiaircraft fire operates like direct fire using the same chart and can destroy the strike or spotter aircraft, reduce their effect, or have no effect. Antiaircraft weapons can fire at helicopters as well.
Panzer Grenadier players are familiar with “armor efficiency” that allows full-strength armor to fire twice. This concept has been extended to the other combat arms as well: artillery, personnel, and aircraft. Efficient artillery and aircraft gain bombardment accuracy rather than increased fires; efficient artillery gains the ability to use counterbattery spotting; and efficient personnel load and unload faster than those who are not, and are able to initiate assault with an APC from up to two hexes away like cavalry can in Panzer Grenadier because they train to do so and the vehicles are designed to facilitate it; and perform helicopter assault from up to four hexes out. Both methods of assault allow the rider to dismount and fight alongside the transport in the initial assault, but they are subject to opportunity fire on the way in, and the defenders get first fire so there is plenty of risk to go with your reward. Additionally, efficient armor and personnel can perform a partial-move-then-fire or fire-then-partial-move, albeit with a negative modifier for firing and a limitation that no assaults may be performed.
Anti-tank guided missiles debuted on the battlefield, raising the lethality of infantry against armor. They can be fired by personnel units or as part of a vehicle or helicopter armament. For game purposes, their accuracy attenuates with distance because the operator had to “drive” the missile to the target and often came under suppressive fire which caused a miss. We also raised the commensurate ability of personnel in assault to kill tanks by using AT weaponry.
Amphibious capabilities have been added to the game. The Soviets, in their quest to keep the pace of the attack high by reducing the need for engineer bridging operations, developed amphibious capabilities into many of their armored vehicles. The West followed suit.
Some of the Panzer Grenadier scenario books allowed personnel units to ride into combat on tanks. Tank riding is a fairly common practice in armored armies who have not invested heavily in armored personnel carriers or in areas where combat is not expected, though it comes with risks for the riders. It tends to be a tactical decision by local commanders who are trying to meet a specific need rather than a doctrinal concept. Therefore this ability and the associated risks have been built into the Panzer Grenadier (Modern) rules.
Opportunity fire was expanded to include personnel -carried mortar units (using bombardment fire) because that is their doctrinal function. One of their prime jobs is to suppress the enemy who is advancing on your position, while other forces move to counterattack.
We decided to reduce the stacking limit to two combat units plus two transports to stay in line with the doctrinal increase in frontage assigned to combat units as they moved into the modern period. However, hand-in-hand with that reduction, we allowed for the pass-through of units that would exceed stacking. The original Panzer Grenadier rules did not allow overstacking at any time, because if you were fired upon while moving in an overstacked hex, then you could end up overstacked when a morale check froze the moving unit in place. So to simplify things, the stacking rules were made rigid. We’ve decided to try to simulate the fluidity of combat within the rules, and open up the stacking rules a little. Therefore, now you can move through a stack that would be in excess of the limits (greater than two combat units) and if combat forces you to stop overstacked, that’s okay. However, with the increase in weapon lethality, any time three or more units are in a hex (combat or otherwise, not including leaders) the firer gets a bonus of +1 per unit overstacked! The intent is that if you keep trying to force troops into a very tight area they are likely going to be slaughtered when they bunch up: the modern battlefield is very unforgiving.
Related to stacking, we added some rules about troops riding into combat. Previously, riders suffered the effects of their transport vehicle. We’ve kept that, but added the option for most riders to dismount whenever their transport is fired upon, since doctrinally infantry usually dismounts immediately to return fire/assault ambushers or other threats.
Logistics effects have been added to the game. Some of you probably read the Daily Content article that proposed them for Panzer Grenadier. We’ve streamlined those rules a bit and included them here as modern combat, with its ever increasing need for ammunition and fuel, is impacted quite significantly by supply considerations. We hope you enjoy the more realistic feel it gives you.
Other tweaks include the standardization and clarification of naval units. We also won’t let you look through the opponent’s stack of units unless you are adjacent or they are spotted — it adds a little to the fog of war, and was reflected in some Panzer Grenadier scenarios but now it’s across the board. We also tried to include every type of terrain in the Terrain Effects Chart, so you do not have to reference several books during play. Kommissars became Zampolits, with some minor tweaks, like being able to “re-educate” leaders as well as units! The decapitation rules were also tweaked a little to better reflect the paralytic impact the loss of overall leadership has on an operation. We also reordered the Assault Chart to use two dice in line with all other combat charts, rather than one. Night spotting got a little easier, especially if artillery starts using illumination rounds. The use of smoke rounds for artillery became common place, as well as smoke generation on tanks. Helicopter and APC assault is similar to cavalry assault in the previous rules, though the helicopter attacks from somewhat longer distances (outside most infantry fire ranges). Minefields underwent some minor tweaks, again to better reflect the effects they have on moving combat units.
That’s our changes in a nutshell, and the thoughts behind them. We hope you enjoy this evolution of Panzer Grenadier into a modern battlefield environment. The core rules remain nearly unchanged, so veterans should be able to quickly assimilate the twists that modern techniques and weapons have brought to warfare in the 1960’s and 70’s. May you never hear Incoming! for real.
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