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Tactics in
Fading Legions




Panzer Grenadier: To Stop a Tank
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
February 2013

Soon after the first tanks rumbled onto the battlefield in 1916, armies began issuing their troops weapons to fight them. By 1939 a high-velocity, small-caliber cannon became the standard weapon for opposing tanks, and all armies deployed them.

Anti-tank guns are common in Panzer Grenadier games; all volumes include them, even both sides in Guadalcanal despite the presence of very few tanks. But there are a few other, more unusual anti-tank weapons that make their appearance in some games. Here’s a look at some of them.

Anti-Tank Rifles

The original anti-tank gun was not a cannon, but an oversized rifle. During the First World War this served adequately, but by 1939 very few anti-tank rifles could still defeat the thicker armor of more modern tanks. Nevertheless, they remained in the inventory of many nations. These typically aren’t worth including in Panzer Grenadier in any special way; the odd chance of one of these weapons succeeding is adequately covered by the assault rules.

The Finnish Army presented a different situation. Where other armies abandoned the weapon, the Finnish Lahti-Saloranta firm produced an exceedingly fine 20mm anti-tank rifle. This was a very large weapon, really more of a small cannon than a rifle, but unlike a cannon it was issued to rifle platoons as part of their integral equipment. Therefore, in Arctic Front we gave some Finnish INF units and SISU commando platoons an anti-tank rating to reflect this capability. The Lahti is not much of a threat to real tanks, but will give a Soviet player pause before moving armored cars near such a platoon. If I had it to do over again, I don't think I'd put the factors right on the playing piece - but then, I'm the publisher, so I do have it to do over again, and will likely handle it differently in the next iteration.

The Red Army of Workers and Peasants had discarded its anti-tank rifles well before the Great Patriotic War, following the notion that they would be useless against the well-armored German tanks. On finding that many German tanks had thin armor, and that many other armored but thin-skinned targets existed as well (half-tracks and armored cars), a crash program began to introduce these weapons.

By late 1941, two models of 14.5mm anti-tank rifle had begun to pour out of factories, the Degtyarev and Simonov. They had similar performance, but the Degtyarev (also known as the PTRD) was easier to produce. Over 400,000 anti-tank rifles had been manufactured by the end of the war.

The Red Army organized its anti-tank rifles in companies. Each company had three platoons, each in turn with nine anti-tank rifles. The December 1941 re-organization directed that each rifle regiment include one anti-tank rifle company. In March 1942, in addition to the regimental company each battalion was assigned one much smaller company, reduced to a platoon later that year. Anti-tank battalions also gained an anti-tank rifle company.

Anti-tank rifle platoons appear in Eastern Front and are also present in Road to Berlin.

Anti-Tank Aircraft

Dedicated close-support aircraft had been built by most nations during the First World War, but during the years before World War II few such planes flew. That changed as tanks came to dominate the battlefield and commanders demanded aircraft equipped to challenge them. Britain, Germany and the Soviet Union fielded dedicated anti-tank aircraft; most other air forces studied the concept but did not make extensive use of them.

In the Panzer Grenadier series, aircraft with anti-tank ratings did not appear until Beyond Normandy. The Royal Air Force’s Hawker Typhoon was a failure as a fighter plane when introduced, but the big plane could carry a huge load of bombs and rockets, and had four 20 mm cannon of its own. It’s the rockets that give the game piece its anti-tank ability. These planes constantly hovered over the Allied armies in 1944, devastating the German panzer divisions if they tried to move by day.

The Typhoon is unusual in this regard; most other anti-tank planes achieved results with cannon. The Soviet Il-2 Sturmovik appeared in the original Eastern Front in its ground-support role. In the summer of 1942, the Il2m3 appeared with its 20 mm cannon replaced by 23 mm VYa anti-tank weapons. Though only a slight increase in caliber from the aircraft cannon, the VYa fired a powerful cartridge and was deadly against lightly armored vehicles. Late in the war, Il2m3t3 Sturmoviks appeared carrying the NS37 37 mm gun, an anti-tank gun developed specifically for aircraft use and firing a much more powerful charge than the ground weapon of the same caliber.

A postwar Sturmovik of the Polish Air Force

The Sturmovik shocked the Luftwaffe in the same manner that the T-34 stunned the German army. The Luftwaffe had begun work on a dedicated ground-attack plane of its own, the Henschel Hs129, in 1938, and of course used the Ju87 Stuka dive bomber very effectively to support ground troops. But it’s very difficult to hit a tank (or any other small moving object) with a bomb. To battle Soviet armor, the Luftwaffe needed cannon-armed planes.

The 30 mm MK101 had good performance with tungsten-cored ammunition, but lacked the hitting power to destroy heavy tanks. The 37 mm BK3.7 had better luck, but was very heavy and carried only a dozen rounds. Both the HS129B and Ju87 carried these weapons, and the Ju87G with two of them under the wings proved very effective in the hands of a good pilot.

The Hs129B-3Wa carried a modified PaK40 75 mm anti-tank gun and 26 rounds, with devastating effect against enemy tanks. But only 25 were made due to bombing of the factory, and with the huge weight of gun and ammunition the plane became easy prey for enemy fighters.

In game terms, the owning player rolls a number of dice equal to the anti-tank aircraft’s circled value and inflicts one step loss on any vehicular unit (including AFV’s) in the hex for each result of 6. The attacking player rolls one die after obtaining each hit. On a result of 4-6 the attacking player selects the unit reduced. On a result of 1-3 the defending player selects the unit reduced.

Typhoons are also devastating against other vehicles. When attacking German open-topped vehicles and armored cars, they eliminate a step with each “X” result on the direct fire table. Against all other AFV’s a 2X or 3X result eliminates one step.

Infantry Anti-Tank Weapons

Foot soldiers could attack tanks from the earliest days of the war with improvised weapons: The “Molotov Cocktail” of Spanish Civil War fame was widely used by both Japanese and Finns against Soviet armor in 1939, for example.


By the middle of the war, hand-held anti-tank weapons began to appear: the American bazooka and German Panzerschrek were rockets launched out of tubes for short-range tank-killing. The German Panzerfaust used a shaped-charge and is the ancestor of the now well-known rocket-propelled grenade. The British had their PIAT (projector, infantry, anti-tank), a spring-loaded device that looked (and performed) more like a child’s backyard toy than a weapon of war.

None of these weapons have the range of an anti-tank rifle, and in game terms they can’t fire from one hex to another. Instead, during assault combat in Beyond Normandy full-strength British and German infantry can attempt to fire anti-tank weapons at enemy tanks in the same hex. The value is high (6) and already includes the flank shot bonus. There’s an additional die roll modifier if the enemy tank has no accompanying infantry to protect it. German infantry also has this capability in Road to Berlin, but it is more unusual for the Soviets.

Try them out! Pick up a Panzer Grenadier game today!