edited March 2016 in Board Game Reviews
Panzer is GMT's recent release of an old 1980's tactical wargame by the same name. The first edition was published by Yaquinto games and was fairly well received. It was back in the day considered to be a more detailed and accurate version of the very popular Panzerblitz game. Fast forward 30 years and the original Panzerblitz is long gone and it's replacement published by MMP a few years ago fell flat. So GMT revived designer Jim Day's Panzer with new graphics and updated rules. The game was published in 4 parts. The basic game has everything you need to get started and also to learn the advanced and optional rules. Basic game rules are on the order of 18 pages (mostly illustrations and diagrams for line of sight). The advanced and optional rules add about 65(!) more pages. The nice thing is that one can use as many or as few of the advanced rules as one sees fit. Parts 2 through 4 are separate expansions that are not needed to play the game but they add considerable variety to the game. Expansion 1 and 2 complete the East Front with early and late war vehicles, respectively. I do not have these. The Basic set includes Soviet and German vehicles from the 1943 time frame. Expansion 3 (which I do have) provides the entire 1944-45 order of battle for the Western Front with numerous American and British vehicles and soft forces. Physically, the Panzer package is pretty impressive.

The basic game of Panzer found its way to the every other Tuesday wargame night table. This was the first real foray into the game for both of us, although I had previously given a small design your own scenario a go. I have always enjoyed tactical gaming, especially WW2 armor. This is likely going all the way back to my younger days playing with my Airfix soldiers and minitanks.

The scenario we played was an all tank affair with the Soviets on one side of a river and the Germans opposing them. Our game did not last the 15 turn limit. I conceded to the Soviets after about 5 action filled turns.

I chose a headlong rush approach to the two bridges but the lead tanks of my twin columns were each quickly knocked out. The tanks behind fanned out and for a time, I had some success in knocking out the few T-34/76 tanks that had ventured forward. The PzIVg has a better gun but woefully inadequate armor protection even against the 76 mm guns of the T-34's. After my dead pile was home to 7 of my 11 tanks, I conceded with the Soviets also in control of a 55 point ford. The remaining Soviet tanks were all in some form of cover and the dice were not especially friendly to me that night.

I had some frustrations with Panzer at first. It seemed like a lot of work initially, but really, once you are familiar with the terrain and the forces and more importantly, the modifiers on the charts, it really moves along pretty well.

I've read online here and there that the real game is with the advanced game rules. These were intimidating to me however, coming in at so many pages, one of the longest rule books I have encountered. Someone recommended that one can take the cafeteria style approach to the advanced game and pick and choose the aspects of the AG that suit you. I would think that the advanced armor and penetration charts are a must and really don't add that much overhead. Also, I think that the advanced initiative would be an enhancement to the game. The random die roll for initiative really should be more based on factors like doctrine, training and experience. And of course, I really want to learn how the infantry system works in the game.

Overall, we both liked the game system and I think it (along with expansion 3) are definite keepers. Someone opined that if someone wants to get into WW2 miniature gaming without making a huge investment, this board game would be a good option. I agree and it was a bit like playing out my made up WW2 battles when I was a kid.

One might wonder how it compares to other systems. I definitely liked it better than the Band of Brothers series from Worthington Games (where one has to roll a die for morale and competence checks for almost everything you try to do). I like the interactive impulse system of ATS better but the Panzer system works pretty well as an IGO-YUGO sequence of play. In Panzer, the initiative at the beginning of the turn can make a huge difference in what happens. If you gain the initiative, you may get to shoot prior to your opponent, with the ramification being that you have to move after he does. As for resolution of tank fire and movement and such, these systems are all pretty much the same. There are only so many ways to simulate this sort of thing. So I would say that Panzer does as good a job at simulating the topic as any. Replay value is very high with Panzer as there are almost infinite ways to create new scenarios. I do need to get into the infantry rules for Panzer to see how these compare to ATS since at this point, I can only make a partial comparison.

Overall Panzer gets a thumbs up from me.

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