Cavalry of Panzer Grenadier
When the game that eventually became Panzer Grenadier came together
in the 1980s, one of the initial design parameters was that it had to
include cavalry. Many today forget that horse soldiers played a major role in
the Second World War, serving in all the major armies, even that of the United
Avalon Hill's ancient wargame Panzerblitz, forefather of all tactical-level
boardgames, included four Soviet cavalry units. But in that game, they served
mostly as slightly faster infantry. In Panzer Grenadier, we wanted cavalry
to take on a fuller role.
Besides, horses are cool.
Cavalry has a number of special properties in game terms. It can charge, of
course. It's faster than infantry, but more vulnerable to fire. It can't be
transported (at least not in the scope of the game). It can't perform most of
the special functions of infantry-type units: cavalry can't dig in, and gets
no benefit from entrenchments.
In the earliest version of Panzer Grenadier, cavalry units were represented
by two game pieces: one mounted, one unmounted. That led to all sorts of hyper-complicated
rules for dismounting and, worse, re-mounting.
We also included separate cavalry leaders, but later dropped them as redundant.
There are some actual differences, though: Cavalry leaders have higher movement
rates, and are required in order to launch a cavalry charge. Horsemen won't
follow just any leader.
In Panzer Grenadier scenarios, special rules indicate how many leaders
of a given side are cavalry leaders. Players use the same counters as other
leaders, and must keep track of which ones are cavalry leaders. That's usually
pretty easy (they're the ones on top of the cavalry units) but reduces the numbers
of toys. And we know that gamers love their toys.
Therefore, we've provided a sheet of cut-and-paste cavalry leaders of assorted
nationalities, that you can make yourself. You can download
them here. Substitute them as the scenarios indicate. The German "Rittmeister"
and "Wachtmeister" are equivalent to "Captain" and "Sergeant"
ranks in the cavalry, respectively; the Soviet "Comeska" is a cavalry
We'll also go over the cavalry rosters of all the nationalities currently present
in Panzer Grenadier.
German cavalry made a minor appearance in the original Eastern Front.
Germany fielded a cavalry division in the early months of Operation Barbarossa,
and most infantry divisions had squadrons for scouting. In the new Eastern
Front Deluxe we've included a much greater cavalry force, to support
scenarios featuring the 1st Cavalry Division. Road
to Berlin brings SS cavalry. An SS cavalry brigade fought in the 1941
campaign, but we did not include them in Eastern Front.
In 1944, the German army revived its cavalry force, forming two brigades that
they later expanded into weak divisions. These troopers carried more automatic
weapons than the early-war squadrons, and so have different ratings.
Romania provided the third-largest army in the European Axis, and its largest
cavalry force. Only the Soviet Union fielded more mounted troops than Romania.
Initially formed in two oversized divisions, in the summer of 1939 the Romanian
cavalry underwent serious reforms. Six independent brigades were formed, and
the troopers received modern Czech-made rifles and machine guns. Three of the
brigades were partially motorized at this time. In the spring of 1942 the brigades
were expanded to become divisions.
Romanian cavalry units get major attention in Eastern
Front, appearing in over a dozen scenarios including some battles
against Soviet cavalry. As Romania's only formations suited to mobile warfare
other than the Royal Armored Division, they saw extensive combat in 1941 and
Austria's proud, ancient cavalry regiments remained on the roster in 1938,
and would have fought the Germans had the government given the order to resist
the Anschluss. Each Austrian division had a small detachment for scouting, but
most Austrian cavalry formed part of the Fast Division.
We included eight Austrian cavalry pieces on the back of the Tank
Battles book. Armed mostly with automatic weapons, they have good direct
fire ratings but very short range. Well trained and mounted on fine horses,
the Austrian pieces rate a movement of 6.
Like the other European powers, Italy had a cavalry corps in 1939. These troops
fought in the Balkans in early 1941 and deployed to the Eastern Front later
that year as part of the Italian expeditionary corps. But regular army cavalry
did not fight in the North African campaign. They did very well during the Russian
campaign, and will eventually appear in the series.
Nevertheless, there are Italian cavalry pieces in Desert
Rats. These are Italian Colonial troopers, Eritreans or Ethiopians in
Italian service. They fought well in the East African campaign, and appear in
several scenarios fighting against British or Indian troops. The 14th Cavalry
Group (Italian parlance for a mounted battalion) was the last Italian unit in
East Africa to give up the fight, surrendering in August, 1941.
One brigade of Hungarian cavalry participated in the 1941 campaign on the Eastern
Front, but as yet we have not provided these troops in the Panzer Grenadier
series. The Hungarian 1st Hussar Division fought many battles in 1944 and
1945, however, and Hungarian cavalry plays a major role in Road
The Red Army of Workers and Peasants maintained a huge cavalry force during
most of the Great Patriotic War. Only six divisions' worth stood at the front
in June 1941, but many more followed from the reserve and newly-formed units.
The Soviet command took mounted troops very seriously, as they had been a key
element in the Russian Civil War. While many armies believed they could operate
horsed and mechanized units together during their pre-war planning, only the
Red Army really made this work on a large scale.
We provided 10 cavalry pieces in Eastern
Front, and Guards cavalry appeared in the now-departed Heroes of the
Soviet Union. They'll be back in Road
Finland had a brigade of cavalry in 1939, that fought throughout the Winter
War and the Continuation War. One of the Finnish Army's elite formations, it
usually operated together with the crack light infantry brigades.
We included Finnish cavalry in Arctic
Front and they appear in that module's very first scenario, plus several