Ridge: German Pieces
By Mike Bennighof,
Given the German-language title, it's probably fitting that so many Panzer
Grenadier games feature
German troops in at least a few scenarios,
and many have focused on them. They are the
bad guys fought by the Soviets, Finns, Poles,
British, Australians, New Zealanders, Romanians, French, Canadians, Italians,
Slovaks, Indians, South Africans, Lithuanians, Austrians and of course
Elsenborn Ridge continues
this tradition; as once again American troops
are called on to smite three flavors of Nazis:
German regular army, German Air Force paratroopers,
and German Waffen SS. This diverse group
of Germans brings a broad array of tanks,
troops and weapons to the battlefield, many
of which have appeared in previous Panzer
We looked at the game's American
order of battle in an earlier installment;
today we have a look at what the three
German armies have to offer.
The backbone of any army is its infantry,
and each of the three German armies has its
own. The regular army's Grenadier platoon
replaced the former organization in 1943.
This was a smaller unit than the previous
infantry platoon, and on paper at least a
greater issue of automatic weapons made up
for the lack of manpower. More soldiers now
carried semi-automatic Gewehr 43 rifles in
place of the tried-and-true Mauser 98K bolt
action rifle, which increased the platoon's
firepower — but the bolt-action weapon
would remain in service until the very end
of the war.
As in all Panzer
Grenadier games, the GREN
piece represents a platoon at "more
or less full strength" and the reverse
side at something less than that. At this
scale, units rarely if ever went into battle
with the exact numbers of soldiers and weapons
depicted on the Table of Organization and
Equipment. The GREN platoon loses more strength
when reduced than most similar units in the
game series, thanks to its relative lack
The German Air Force controlled airborne
units, and thanks to its political influence
secured the best weapons for them. The parachute
rifle company and its constituent platoons
were larger than their regular army equivalents,
and its rifle squads had two light machine
guns rather than one in Army units — at
least on paper. The paratroopers also had
a higher priority for the new Stg44 assault
rifles. Their firepower may be underrated
in the game.
Like the Air Force, the Waffen SS maintained
a slightly larger platoon organization than
the Army, with a higher proportion of new,
modern small arms like the StG 44 assault
rifle. The divisions employed in the Ardennes
were favored formations, well-supplied with
the latest weapons.
The machine gun platoons of the infantry
battalion's heavy company had the same weapon
as the rifle squads — MG34 or the very effective
MG42 — but usually with a tripod, extra
barrels and more available ammunition. Those
extra barrels were the key to its firepower:
they could be exchanged quickly once they
overheated. The enormous rate of fire also
consumed huge quantities of ammunition which
had to be carried into battle, so while the
gun could be operated by one man in the light
machine gun role, each gun in the machine
gun platoon was served by six.
Unlike the divisions attacking in the southern "shoulder" of
the offensive, shown in our Battle
of the Bulge game, those
of Elsenborn Ridge include Royal Tiger tanks.
We've examined these in more detail elsewhere.
They appear in SS colors in Elsenborn Ridge,
representing the 501st SS Heavy Tank Battalion
attached to the 1st SS Panzer Division.
Both the Army and the SS field the best
all-round German tank design, the PanzerKampfwagen
V Panther. Each service gets a good number
of them, and the tank has already appeared
in several games (though we've altered the
name from Pz V to Panther just because we
like it better). The Panther was a very effective
war machine, with a long-barreled 75mm gun,
good protection and reasonable speed.
It was, however, expensive to build and
all the panzer divisions relied on the tried-and-true
Panzer IV. We've covered this machine elsewhere and despite lacking an animal moniker it
was easily Germany's most important tank.
While other nations built similar vehicles,
none of them relied on the assault gun (a
turretless tank) to the same extent as Germany.
These came in two basic types: the tank destroyer,
caryring a high-velocity anti-tank gun and
intended to combat enemy armor, and the assault
gun, often carrying a larger but lower-velocity
weapon and intended to support infantry with
front-line artillery support. To emphasize
this role, assault guns were not part of
the panzer arm, but administered by the artillery
Jason Rahman has looked at German
tank destroyers in an earlier installment.
The Jagdpanther, Jagdpanzer IV and Hetzer
all appear in Elsenborn
Ridge, all in Army
There are also two flavors of assault gun:
the Sturmgeschutz III and IV. The StuG III
served throughout the war, a simple but very
effective matching of a Panzer III hull and
75mm gun, with the gun mounted in the hull.
The StuG IV was a very similar vehicle built
on a Panzer IV hull, produced as an expedient
when Allied bombing interrupted production
of the Panzer III chassis and kept in production
thanks to its excellent fighting qualities.
In response to many requests, we also have
several armed half-tracks, unique vehicles
that supported German recon units. the SPW
251/21 sports a triple-barreled 20mm anti-aircraft
gun, while the SPW 251/22 has a 75mm anti-tank
gun. They appear in both Army and SS colors.
All three services carry the effective 81mm
mortar, a weapon based on the French Brandt
design and used by almost every combatant
in World War II outside the British Commonwealth.
By 1944 many battalions also had — at
least on paper — a heavy 120mm mortar
section, though in Elsenborn Ridge only the
SS has this weapon. The Army also has the
a type of weapon issued by many armies but
much more common among the German forces.
With the Allies enjoying a massive advantage
in numbers of tanks, the Germans responded
by building huge numbers of anti-tank guns — and
still never had enough. The 50mm gun is still
present in some Army units in 1944, but most
of the guns in the game are the very effective
75mm guns in several models. There's also
the awesome 88mm gun, though as the Germans
are usually on the attack in Elsenborn's
scenarios this weapon does not make many
The Ardennes offensive was heralded by salvoes
from the fearsome rocket launcher known as
the Nebelwerfer. At first these were all
going to be represented by off-board artillery,
but purely at the instigation of super fan
Jay Townsend, the model 1941 Nebelwerfer
is here as well.
here to order Elsenborn Ridge right
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.