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Panzer (second edition)» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Panzer Review from... The Panzer Pusher rss

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Fernando Sola Ramos
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This will be the first review of Fernando "Gustav6" Sola for The Panzer Pusher site (visit it at: https://sites.google.com/site/thepanzerpusher/) and it couldn't be of other game than Panzer 2nd. Ed., taking advantage of its second printing.

I hope you enjoy.

PHYSICAL COMPONENTS



Box:


Panzer comes in a box full of flavour.


The box cover is a Rodger B. MacGowan’s tribute to the classic Redmon Simonsen’s Panzerblitz cover. Rodger’s dedication words to Redmon are a nice and a sensitive touch and the game feels very familiar from the beginning, with an instant Eastern Front smell.

The expansions use a similar box art as the base game. This makes the Panzer series to be tight and coherent, a thing sometimes difficult to find in other game series.


All in all, a strong cover that warns you about what you're going to find inside the box.

The map(s):

The base game comes with just one map. The map is a 22’’x34’’ sheet printed on thick paper and it uses a similar palette as the aforementioned Panzerblitz, which is both a good and a bad thing. The good part is that the map is very clear and readable and it feels like you’ve been there before. The bad one is that it is also a bit flat, especially if compared to other modern tactical games such as Lock’n’Load or Conflict of Heroes.

Base Game map:


Hexes are big, 1’’ from side to side, and the terrain represents generic Eastern Front terrain. If you don’t buy any expansion you may feel bored soon. Luckily, the expansions, which use geomorphic maps, add variety to the game and you may find from very open maps to very dense urban environments. In Expansion #3, which introduces the Western Allies and Western Europe terrain, you may even find two historical maps: a Villers-Bocage map, which uses two geo maps; and a Singling map, which uses just one.

An urban area from Expansion #2:


Historical Villers-Bocage map from Expansion #3:


All in all, the maps are correct and varied if you have the expansions, with clear graphics and a classic touch, but if you only have the base game, you may find bored soon, so go for the expansions.

The counters:

The game comes with three counter sheets. Each vehicle, gun and aircraft is represented by a big 7/8’’ counter; and each squad, half-squad, section and each system marker is represented by a 5/8’’ counter. Vehicles, guns and aircraft are represented by top down drawings and leg units by side drawings.





Counters, both of units and markers, are colourful and easy to read. Markers use typical GMT graphics, which are OK; and units use nice and high quality drawings. The vehicle counters are fantastic, and the leg unit counters are also wonderful. Maybe figures are a bit static, but that’s all.

The books:

There are three books in the base game: the basic+advanced rules book, the optional rules book and the playbook. Focusing only on the physical part of them we find that they are printed in full colour, at two columns, and they use a correct font size. The rules are structured logically, with numerous graphics and examples. There is a table of contents before each part (basic, advanced and optional rules), a glossary of terms and an index. The playbook comes with all the scenarios printed in full colour, using the same graphics as the counters, and it contains also a unit summary chart and the formation summary. They are easily readable and clear, and they offer a good reading experience.

In this reprint, all errata has been amended and the playbook incorporates the new command span rule to the scenarios.

The expansions bring more books to the game: the playbooks, of the same quality as the base game books, and in the case of Expansions #1 and #3, the TO&E books, which offer a detailed view about the composition of the different unit formations of each country, also printed in colour.

They are of very high quality overall.

The Playaids:

With regards to play aids, Panzer comes with lots of them. There are several Data Card Key play aids, which explain all the elements of the different data cards. They are full colour and readable, and although some text parts are a bit cramped, they are very helpful.

The Game Cards contain all the charts and tables needed to play the game. They are also clear and readable and they use colour to make them clearer and to aid distinguishing between related tables and charts. Maybe they could have been more visually attractive, but they contain so much information that doing so would have meant increasing their number from two to maybe five or six, so they offer a good compromise between visual quality and functionality.

But the real stars of the play aids are the 5’’x4’’ data cards. They are full colour and made of very thick cardboard. They are very durable and sturdy: a dream come true. The only problem they offer is that you may don’t know how to store them, as they take up a lot of space, but having seen so many times other low quality components in similar games, I wish this was a problem I could find more often. They’re a perfect ten.

A vehicle data card full of information:


The thick data cards:


As a positive note, Expansion #3 is designed to be played without the need of the other two expansions, so it brings the needed German data cards and counters not found in the base game. A good touch (and an added problem to your storage problems).

Other components:

Panzer, as other GMT games, comes with a handful of ziplock bags to store your counters. You may use them or not, but they’re a quality detail. And the last quality highlight: Panzer also comes with a signed paper that proofs the game has been personally revised by one GMT worker assuring the game comes with all its components. Awesome.

GAME ENGINE

Game Mechanics:

Panzer is, basically, an IGO-UGO system, but with some reservations, as we'll see. The ruleset is divided into basic, advanced and optional rules and difficulty can be adjusted to fit players' tastes.

When played using all rules, Panzer offers a three layered game: the command and control layer, the combat layer, and the morale layer.

1-Command and control

Command and control is made up with the spotting phase, the command phase and the initiative phase.

During the spotting phase players determine which units can be seen depending on their status and the terrain they occupy. This phase is important, because only spotted units can be fired upon using Fire of Short-Halt (fire and move) commands.

After determining which units are spotted, players put commands on their units. There are five basic commands in Panzer:

-Fire command: allows units to fire at spotted enemies.
-Short-halt command: allows units to fire at spotted enemies (with penalties) and then move at half speed.
-Move command: allows units to move at full speed.
-Overwatch (OW) command: allows units to fire at newly spotted units during the turn, but at the cost of a penalty.
-No Command command: it is used either for fooling your enemy and for enhancing your chances of performing certain actions (recovering from suppression/break/hesitating status, repairing malfunctioning guns, etc.)

Depending on how good or how bad your companies are, you will be able to put more or less commands on your units. The better the grade, the higher the number of commands available and thus the greater your flexibility.

After all commands are given players roll for initiative. The side rolling higher becomes the first player, and the other one the second player. This is very important, as effects in Panzer are immediate, so the first player has an advantage when firing or moving.

Initiative depends on a die roll, but modified by the force grade. The better the force grade, the better your modifiers. This allows players to have an idea of who will likely be the first player, but, as in real life, it won't be always true, which makes this part of the game a very exciting one and makes you think very carefully which commands to put on your units, as commands are given before initiative.

Some players complain about this rule, because of the impact on some game turns, but I like it as it is. It obligues you to make some hard decisions and to take risks. Nevertheless, there is an optional Staggered Initiative rule that breaks initiative into a formation by formation basis, lowering its impact at the cost of slowering the game.

2-Combat


Combat is made up with AP combat, GP combat and movement. This part of the game is really fun and addictive and it is really well done, with a lot of detail but very streamlined.

AP combat is the one used against tanks with AP shells. You have to take into account range, facing, type of shell used, armour thickness, firing unit status, objective unit status, etc. It is really detailed and a lot of research is under it.

First you determine if a shot hits its target. Then where it lands. Then the armour of the target and the penetration of the shot and finally the damage done. The process needs some die rolls, but it becomes second nature once you have done it a few times. It is fun and addictive.

GP combat is the general term used for small arms and HE shells combat. In this type of combat you measure range, determine the defence factor of the objective and the attack factor of the shell. You compare them in a table and roll dice. Three results may occur: no effect, suppression or effective. Depending on the target unit and the firing option, effective will mean from destruction to squad reduction or suppression.

This type of combat is also very straighforward and easy to resolve.

Finally, movement takes place after all combat is done. During this phase units also overrun (vehicles against infantry) and make hand-to-hand (infantry against infantry) and close assault (infantry against vehicles) combats, which use the GP combat routine.

It is worth noting that during the Combat Phase and the Movement Phase units may opportunity fire using Overwatch orders. During the combat phase, OW fire is done after all direct combat is resolved. During the movement phase OW fire is done as movement takes place (that's why the first player shoots first and moves second).

The combat phase is very, very fun and is both detailed and easy to resolve. It is table-driven, this is, you have to navigate along the different tables to reach your final result, but the process is not difficult.

3-Morale

Morale in Panzer is related to the will of units to keep fighting. The higher the morale of a formation, the more punishment it will take before breaking.

The combined effects of Command and Control, Combat and Morale offers a unique game experience. You can feel the difficulties of commanding units by not having enough commands for them all, the ebb and flow of combat due to initiative changes, a very detailed combat system where all is taken into account, and the need of keeping losses low in order to keep your units combat capable.

With these three layers Panzer is able to simulate very well how different units performed during a battle. By using Force grade (initiative), Formation and Unit grade (command and control and combat), and Morale you can adapt your Panzer game to any given situation. Let’s make some examples:

-A 1942 veteran German unit, well led, and with a high combat spirit would have high rate initiative (Force Grade), high rate training (Formation Grade) and high morale.
-A 1941 rookie Soviet unit, bad led, but able to withstand a heavy punishment would have a low force grade, low formation grade and high morale.
-A medium class 1944 American unit would have medium ratings in all aspects.
-A 1945 veteran German unit, bad led and sure the war is over would have a low force grade, high formation grade, and low morale.

So, you can feel how differently units performed without the need of strange special rules, experiencing an excellent combat layer, and all this with a detailed yet streamlined game engine.

Complexity:

Panzer is a detailed game, demanding, and sometimes difficult. But here is another of its strengths: you can adapt complexity to your taste or level.

Panzer is presented in three complexity levels: basic, advanced and optional. The basic game only deals with vehicles and introduces the very basics of spotting, command and control, and AP combat. The advanced rules expand command and control and AP combat and introduces new rules: indirect fire, aircraft, limited ammo, GP combat… Finally, the optional rules introduce new rules and concepts (morale between them) and add more realism to some existing rules, but at the cost of adding complexity and an increased play time.

If you use all the rules, Panzer can be an overwhelming game. But the milestone of this game design is that you can adapt the game to your taste: from the basic game you can add or subtract as many or as few advanced and optional rules as you wish, so you can experience the game realism you are willing to pay in complexity terms. We could say that there is a Panzer for everybody.

Strategy:

Panzer rewards good strategies. Developing good plans and knowing how the three layers interlock are good ways of winning in Panzer.

Placing commands knowing how initiative works and your chances of winning it, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your equipment and your opponent’s, seeking the distance where you can improve your chances of hitting and damaging your enemy while keeping his odds low, and restraining own casualties to keep your combat ability, are factors you have to keep in mind all the time.

Luck Factor:

The luck factor has to do with the probability of losing (or winning) games due mostly to luck issues. In Panzer, luck is present, as in almost every game, but you can keep it under control most of the time. You always know the probabilities of succeeding on what you want to do, so luck will intervene if you keep on playing against the odds.

The major issue comes when we talk about Initiative. Although Force Grade has its impact on winning (or not) the Initiative, luck has also a lot to do with it. As said, this is a major complain by some players, who claim they lost games by losing the initiative in critical moments. From my point of view, this is something positive: this is war. You can’t never be sure how the enemy will react, so you have to plan carefully which orders to give to your units. Nevertheless, the aforementioned staggered initiative rule minimises this effect.

Player Interaction:


As Panzer is sequential, there are times when both players have a lot to do, while there are others when one player have to wait until the other finishes with all his units.

There are other modern games that use impulses to maintain both players busy during turns. Others use variable unit activations. In Panzer, in order to attain its deep simulation value, player interaction has been somewhat sacrified, although there always are actions to be performed by the non-phasing player (OW fire, close combats, etc.) But this is not Panzer's major point.

Replay Value:

The base game comes with 10 scenarios. Only by using the different complexity levels you would have a long time experimenting the possibilities they offer, but if we bear in mind that there are three expansions, a lot of user created scenarios at The Panzer Pusher site (https://sites.google.com/site/thepanzerpusher/scenarios) and that the Playbook offers detailed rules about how to create DYO scenarios, the replay value of Panzer is quite high.

Fun Factor:

Only to experiment the combat system of Panzer is worth the time spent on learning it. But when all things Panzer offers are put together, the game experience is really outstanding. It offers both an accurate combat simulation and a fun experience.

Narrative:

Using part of other post (https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1604938/narrative-game), we could say that the narrative of a game is like the "soft" part of it. For example, the occurence of random events, special unit behaviours, sudden appearances, special events like unit cowardice, a breaking cascade of units due to the failure of one leader, tank guns that break, tanks that "go home" when hit, leaders that become heroes, etc.

These events usually don't happen very often, but when they do they can change the game. If well designed, they add a lot to the game experience, because there is a sense of uncertainty, of not having total control of the events, and that boosts narrative. But if bad designed, they can ruin a game.

In Panzer, narrative comes in a different way. Initiative is one of the major contributors, that's why I like the standard initiative rule over the staggered one. You can carefully plan a turn, placing the right commands on your units, and then initiative betrays you in the worst moment. Other things that contribute to the Panzer narrative are the variable penetration rule, especially when one fights against superior armour; hidden counters; weapon malfunctions...

Those things, the ones that cannot be planned, are the things that boost the narrative part of a game. But don't get me wrong. Narrative isn't all. It is only a contributor to the fun aspect of the game, among many other factors.

Panzer is more a "hard" game than a "soft" game. The detailed AP combat, all the real data embedded on the data cards, the realistic spotting rules, or the command and control aspect (the most realistic I've ever seen in a wargame at this scale) are the stars of this game. No other game captures these elements like Panzer does. And that's something I find fun and intense.

Solitaire Suitability:


Although there are many elements in Panzer that are better suited for two players (the secret nature of command placement, the hidden unit rules, etc.), it is undeniable that Panzer is actually very well suited for solitaire play.

You have to sacrifice some aspects of the game, but the sequential nature of it makes it very solitaire friendly. This is always a plus when one purchases a game.

OTHER GAME ELEMENTS

Similar to...

As a tactical game, Panzer shares some game mechanics with other tactical games.

-It is a direct descendant of the Yaquinto's original Panzer.
-The graphic aspect is similar to Panzerblitz.
-Its scale is comparable to Fighting Formations (GMT) and the Tactical Combat Series (The Gamers/MMP)
-The AP combat is similar to the original Tobruk (AH) and to Advanced Tobruk (CH).
-The sequential SOP can be somewhat comparable to Squad Leader.
-It shares almost everything with the new MBT.

Uniqueness:

Panzer is designed by Jim Day, the designer of the original Panzer and AH classics MBT and IDF. But in case you don't know, Mr. Day was also responsible of computer games of the early 90s like Gunship 2000, F-15 Strike Eagle III or Across the Rhine, all from Microprose.

These features are well reflected in this game, in the sense that it has the classic touch of its parent wargames, but also the feel of a computer game translated into a boardgame format, which gives Panzer a unique feel.

It is really enjoyable, because it plays like a classic, it uses streamlined and modern game mechanics, and it has a lot of embedded research beneath all the cards and play aids.

Designer/Publisher support: Living rules, play aids, articles…

Luckily, Panzer receives a lot of support from GMT: you can have access to the rulebooks, playbooks, map samples, play examples, etc.

There are also designer articles in InsideGMT and it has received support in the C3i magazine.

Add-ons: scenarios, maps, campaigns, units, magazines…

Panzer has three official expansions and has appeared inside C3i magazine. There are more planned expansions for it: France 40, desert warfare, etc. So, the add-on value of it is high, maybe not as high as ASL, but I think the path chosen is the correct one.

Fan/BGG/CSW support:

There are active forums in BGG and CSW (http://talk.consimworld.com/WebX/.ee6dc88/3718), but the real fan created site is The Panzer Pusher site, where you can find almost anything for Panzer: https://sites.google.com/site/thepanzerpusher/

Online play: VASSAL/Cyberboard/ZunTzu…

Panzer has a very well done VASSAL module made by Rob Doane (http://www.vassalengine.org/wiki/Moduleanzer). It is graphically astonishing and it enables players to play Panzer via online. It offers a lot of possibilities, including the use of actual tank drawings instead of counters, which is a nice touch to the module.

SUMMARY

Panzer offers a high quality product in an awesome package. The graphical aspect of the game is outstanding. The game engine is detailed but streamlined at the same time, offering a very deep and fun simulation. Complexity, although high, can be adapted to fit player's tastes. It is replayable on its own, but infinite more if you add the expansions and the user created scenarios. It is solitaire friendly and it offers some pluses: dedicated fan site, a very good vassal module, a very good support from the designer/publisher, etc.

All in all, Panzer is a superb game you should not miss.

PS: For a slightly expanded version of this review, visit The Panzer Pusher site:
https://sites.google.com/site/thepanzerpusher/interesting-st...

It is more image heavy for you to enjoy.
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Warren Smith
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Thanks for the review. I'm interested in this game. Are you familiar with the initial release of the game? Aside from an updated rulebook, is there any compelling reason to prefer this release over the initial release?

Thanks.
 
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Brian McCue
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Gustav6 wrote:
In Expansion #3, which introduces the Western Allies and Western Europe terrain, you may even find two historical maps: a Villers-Bocage map, which uses two geo maps; and a Singling map, which uses just one.


Darn, now you've made me buy Expansion #3, for the sake of Villiers-Bocage.
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Roger Hobden
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Nice review of a very good game.

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Bob Slaughter
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wsmithjr wrote:
Thanks for the review. I'm interested in this game. Are you familiar with the initial release of the game? Aside from an updated rulebook, is there any compelling reason to prefer this release over the initial release?

Thanks.


That's the only significant change, in the second printing of the GMT edition (2nd edition).

The differences between Panzer 1st edition (Yaquinto) and 2nd edition (GMT) are huge - the biggest being 1st used plotted simultaneous movement and combat, and 2nd uses commands in phased game turn.
 
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Warren Smith
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BobSlaughter wrote:
That's the only significant change, in the second printing of the GMT edition (2nd edition).

Great. I meant to specify the initial GMT release (2nd ed). Thanks for the clarification.
 
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Fernando Sola Ramos
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wsmithjr wrote:
Thanks for the review. I'm interested in this game. Are you familiar with the initial release of the game? Aside from an updated rulebook, is there any compelling reason to prefer this release over the initial release?

Thanks.


The rulebook is updated and incorporates all known errata corrected and it adds the new command span optional rule.

Scenarios are updated to incorporate command span information.

And data cards with errata are corrected.

If you have the first printing, there is no need to upgrade to the new version, as they are almost the same. Besides, you can download the updated rulebooks and playbook either from GMT or from The Panzer Pusher site. If you don't have this game yet, then go for it, you won't regret it.
 
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Keith Lewis
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Was lucky enough to get all four in a FB auction. Still need to get it to the table (TOO MANY GAMES!! TOO MANY KICKSTARTERS!!)and now Proud Monster Deluxe just showed up and I'm thinking really hard about OST. What's a treadhead to do....rofl. I'm impressed in the overall design and what I've read of the rules so far, being an old school PB player from the 70s. Ifyou're an East Front junkie like me you need this game.. Great review and you will see me over at the Pusher.
 
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Allen Dickerson
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Superb review: all the details you need to make an informed decision.

This is an "on my radar" game, but having read this, the "blips" on that radar are a lot bigger and brighter....
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gonzalo fernandez
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Thanks for the wonderful review, I have alteady purchased the expansions waiting for the core game and MBT. Now I dont remember why did I choose to pass on this one back in 2014!!!
 
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Summerville
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Superb game, but opponents are hard to find.
 
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Ellis Simpson
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Great post. Nice job.
 
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Brian Hershey
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I open the package, reviewed the contents, and the only thought that filled my mind was 'Wow!' The materials, rules, and organization is outstanding. Mr. Day has provided gamers with a superior quality product.
 
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Derek H
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Paul Q wrote:
Superb game, but opponents are hard to find.

How "solitaire friendly" is this game?
 
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Kris Miller
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gamesbook wrote:

How "solitaire friendly" is this game?


Given that you have hidden orders in the game, I would say it is not very solitaire friendly.

Kris
 
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