Grenadier: To Stop a Tank
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
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.
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
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
Anti-tank rifle platoons appear
in Eastern Front and are also present
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
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
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
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
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!