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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 States.

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 captain.

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 1942.


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 to Berlin.

Soviet Union

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 to Berlin.


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 more.