By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
A very long time ago, I designed a game that eventually came to be called Panzer Grenadier. I had hopes that it would spawn many expansions, covering every theater of the Second World War. And unlike most childish dreams, that one actually came true. Over the past 15 years, we’ve published dozens of games and supplements in the Panzer Grenadier series, covering battles and armies from Peru to Hyderabad.
But after 15 years, we’re rebooting the franchise. This has been under way for a while now, with the introduction of the Fourth Edition rules and the new games that include them. And now it’s time to withdraw the oldest games in the lineup, all of them at least eight years old (an eternity in the game business), as well as a dozen supplements that depend on them. They’ll be on sale at a steep fire-sale discount until later this year, and then we’ll dispose of whatever parts remain.
When we launched Panzer Grenadier, the production methods available to us were pretty rigid. To make a boxed game at a cost-effective price, we had to print thousands of them at a time, including thousands of rigid boxes that took up huge amounts of storage space. Over the past few years, we’ve developed new methods to break this pattern and allow us to make the games on a nearly print-on-demand basis: laser-cut counters, standard generic boxes with sleeves for individual games, print-on-demand processes for maps. When the laser-cut counters proved too expensive for higher-volume games, we found new sources who could provide them one sheet at a time (not in a press sheet of four or eight) at the price and quality we wanted.
We used those innovative methods – what the buzzworders would call disruptive processes – to bring the company back from the brink of annihilation to a stable state. And now we can use them to do cool stuff. We have the ability to publish a whole slew of Panzer Grenadier games over the next few years; things we couldn’t hope to release as boxed games under the old production methods, like Conquest of Ethiopia, are now possible. We can do unusual numbers of pieces, and make very small numbers of games. That doesn’t mean we’re on the verge of publishing a bunch of weird stuff – I have bills to pay, and that means I have to work on what I think y’all will buy – but if someone submits a really good design on an off-beat topic, we don’t have to dismiss it out of hand.
We’ll keep making book supplements, but limit them to supporting one or at most two games if the two games are related in some way. They’re popular with the players and we enjoy making them, but it’s too difficult to keep track of what games are needed to support a book that calls on many of them for parts. Keeping them tied to just one boxed game is much easier from a production/inventory standpoint, and players seem to like that much better, too.
So what will we do with this new-found production freedom?
There are four Panzer Grenadier games in production now: An Army at Dawn, Conquest of Ethiopia, Broken Axis and Korean War: Counter Attack.
There are three Panzer Grenadier boxed games released under the Third Edition that are now out of stock, and will return with Fourth Edition rules and new covers: Liberation 1944, Elsenborn Ridge, and Kursk: South Flank.
And a lot more stuff in the pipeline:
We’ll return to the 1940 campaign with not one, but two sequels to 1940: The Fall of France, in which Philippe Leonard covers the fighting in Belgium and the adventures of the British Expeditionary Force.
We’ll return to the Pacific Theater, with a game on the 1941-42 campaign in the Philippines by Jay Townsend.
We’ll return to the Eastern Front, with Road to Stalingrad and Roads to Moscow, and to the Far Eastern Front with The Last Campaign.
We’ll return to the Korean War, with two more items by Jay Townsend: a boxed game called Intervention on the Chinese involvement, and a book adding the other United Nations contingents to the fray.
Part of bringing all that new stuff into print means letting go of the old. Our Viking Funeral Sale includes five boxed games: Eastern Front, Road to Berlin, Battle of the Bulge, Desert Rats and Afrika Korps. A sixth, Guadalcanal, has already sold out.
A number of books depend on those games for maps and pieces in order to play their scenarios, so we’re letting those go as well: Arctic Front, Sinister Forces, Jungle Fighting, Edelweiss, Kokoda Trail, Fronte Russo, First Axis, Workers and Peasants, Secret Weapons and Airborne.
It’s exciting to start over, with so much old baggage left behind. I don’t know how many old game parts we’ll end up setting on fire; I’m pretty sure there will be at least some, because we have huge stocks of some parts. Desert Rats has a chance to sell out, and maybe Battle of the Bulge, and most of the books. Whatever we end up setting on fire, I won’t regret it. They’re part of the past, both the company’s and my own, and I’ve finally learned how to let old sorrows and old games go.
Join the Viking Funeral Sale right here!
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. Leopold is afraid of fire.