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Panzer Grenadier: Airborne (Introductory Edition)» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Breaking in a newbie rss

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Gary Cope

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This session report was written from a less than stellar memory. Also please forgive the spelling and grammar.

Last Saturday I played my first game of Panzer Grenadier. This is a great gaming system that emphasizes Leadership in small unit tactics (Platoon level). I have owned for a while two of the PG series games, but have not been able to find anyone who was interested in learning and playing this system.

Keith, my newfound opponent, had already played it several times and was able to lead me thru the rules. He suggested we play a scenario from Airborne. This is a smaller but easier to learn stand-alone game in the series. I was unsure of what to expect but I was not disappointed.

The scenario we played was “Montbourg Station”. It called for the American forces (Me) to move onto the playing map and move across broken, wooded, and swampy terrain and try to seize two of three villages along a road, which split the map in half. The forces I had to work with were mixed elements of a Para battalion with some heavy weapons (75mm Howitzers, Mortar Platoon, and a Heavy Machine gun Platoon). Facing the American forces were elements of two German infantry regiments with Anti-tank and mortar support units. These were setup in and around the objective villages and along the road. Also both sides had on call off board artillery support.

My first thoughts on how to achieve my objectives were to seize the center village and deal with both wings of the German forces in detail. I decided that was not possible with the limited forces on hand. Instead I decided to try to seize the village on the far left and then roll up the German flanking forces with everything I had concentrated against them.

Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men… shake

First off I decided to send a small but powerful force to seize some woods, which were just a few hexes from the center village. Why you say ??? My initial thoughts were for spotting purposes. Well Keith mad sure his Germans got there first. I made three attempts to take the woods and all three attempts were repulsed with losses.

On the right flank I had positioned a small force to keep any attacks from that direction in check until I could deal with it. I would miss these troops all game long.

My next move was to use swampy terrain on the far left flank as cover and bring a large force to bear on the German left flank and the village there. The maneuver went flawlessly but after calling in several artillery barrages on the village and the units dug in around it I tried to take it by force. Well, to any future PG players out there my advice is don’t try it. Two platoons were shot to pieces in heavy fighting and their leader was killed.



All this added up to 12 of the twenty-two turns in the game scenario. I looked at what I had done (or failed to do) and conceded game to my gracious opponent (who by the way insisted on calling it a draw…Thanks Keith but I know better..LOL). laugh

Final thoughts:

I like this game series. I have read some opinions that stated, “the scale of the game is wrong… or “it does not feel right”. All I can say is let’s play again.


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Keith Mageau
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Gary,

Very nice review. I am glad I was able to introduce you, officially, to the PZG system. Considering my state of newness I am sure we botched a few rules but we'll get 'em right the next time we play.

For PZG fans whom have not had the pleasure of play Airborne, the hedge rows are devilish to navigate. They, as in real-life, make it difficult for a quick deployment of forces near the targeted villages, in our scenario.

The only thing in partuclar about this sceanrio that made no sense to me was the Americans were given a jeep to move thier 75mm artillery piece around with. The problem arose with the entrance hexes, there were only 4 possible hexes to enter through and once in any of those hexes the Americans could not use the jeep to cross hedgerows thus, they could not bring the artillary closer to the front. I will admit the American didn't really need to bring it any closer. The inclusion of a jeep just seemed weird to me.

Keith

Ps. Gary it was a draw
 
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Aaron Silverman
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gdcope wrote:
I like this game series. I have read some opinions that stated, “the scale of the game is wrong… or “it does not feel right”. All I can say is let’s play again.


Bear in mind that a lot of the older reviews and comments on PG refer to the 1st and 2nd edition rulesets, which to be honest had serious problems (especially the 1st). The latest (3rd) edition is totally cleaned up and works fine.
 
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Gary Cope

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That is true. I have heard the first edition rules were pretty bad.
Thanks for pointing that out.

Regards

Gary
 
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Ryan Powers
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DJ Kuul A wrote:
The latest (3rd) edition is totally cleaned up and works fine.


The fact that it works fine doesn't mean the scale isn't wonky.

The scale *is* wonky. Nevertheless, the game system still works, and it's lots of fun. If they supported VASSAL, I'd have a pile of the PG games.

EDIT added:
Terrain helps mitigate the scale wonkiness as well. The wonkiness is magnified on wide open maps.
 
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Deacon
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gdcope wrote:
All I can say is let’s play again.


I agree!

Great report. Welcome to the wonderful world of PzG.
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Gary Cope

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Ryan:

I am curious about what you feel is wrong with the scale. I am not starting a flame war just interested in your point of view about the system.

Regards

Gary
 
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Ryan Powers
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gdcope wrote:
Ryan:

I am curious about what you feel is wrong with the scale. I am not starting a flame war just interested in your point of view about the system.

Regards

Gary


It's largely a function of vehicles and infantry having trouble coexisting at this small a scale. This problem exits in more games than just this one, but PG seems to multiply some of the wonkiness in an attempt to remain relatively streamlined in play. A goal which I find admirable in actually playign the game.

Let's start with time. 15 minutes is an awful long time to be forced to move/or shoot.

But you can't really fix it by just adjusting scale without breaking everything else.

You could say "fine, let's have 5 minute turns" (or some other value). Let's say that value is the "right" one. But now our movement rates are all broken. Cutting them to a third doesn't work as now infantry moves one. Not terribly exciting.

So then you say "fine lets change the hex scale..."

Suddenly you're zoomed in enough that maybe platoons aren't the answer anymore...

etc. etc. etc.

PG chose good values for a fun to play game and so I'm not knocking it as a game, but the scale choices do lead to some pretty odd feeling situations.

I don't want it to sound like I'm picking on PG here. This difficulty of vehicles + infantry exists in pretty much every game I've ever seen at this scale and smaller. For some reason PG gets compared to ASL on occasion. I'm not sure why, the scale is different enough and the target audience different enough that the comparison is largely pointless, but it seems to come up fairly often anyhow. But since it happens, I'll use it. ASL suffers form a similar issue, check out how far an armored car can scoot down a road in ASL if you don't do something about it. It's not that the numbers are wrong, it's just that "reality" (for what that's worth in a game in the first place) doesn't bend itself into strict turns terribly well at small scale. ASL partially makes up for this by having more options for interrupting the movement of said vehicle (like other vehicles that moved being able to fire), but this is at the (obvious) expense of a lot more rules. And further ASL is a IGO-UGO type system which itself lends itself to other wonkiness (though the ASL turns are interactive enough to counteract much of the issues created by moving a whole side at once, again at a price in complexity.)


Possibly a removal of the move/fire system would do it, but even that complicates things, possibly to a point beyond that which the designer(s) considered their target level of complexity. You end up with stuff like "how does movement affect firing?, what if I fire first, can I move?" etc. etc.

In terrain dense maps the slower movement rates (for the most part) and more limited lines of sight help mitigate the wonkiness.

In wide open maps like the desert the wonkiness is magnified instead.

As I'm currently playing through Afrika Korps scenarios in chronological order, this magnification of wonkiness is much on my mind right now.
 
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Gary Cope

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Thanks Ryan. I understand what you mean now.

Gary
 
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David Murray
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Don't forget there is a Vassal module for this gmae at: http://www.uninvited.de/pzg/
 
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Xander Fulton
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keethrax wrote:
Let's start with time. 15 minutes is an awful long time to be forced to move/or shoot.


As noted in other threads, though, this IS actually an okay abstraction.

Remember that hexes 200m across are pretty darn big. Only 5 hexes covers a full kilometer! And that 15 minutes IS an awful long time - as a result, rolling one die for an attack by a unit does not represent a single firing of the weapon. Rather, it represents 15 minutes of firing on the enemy.

So, from that, we can deduce that while it looks like a "unit frozen in place, firing once", there is actually more happening:

In turns where you 'fire instead of move'...your units are still moving. Maneuvering for best firing position, advancing or falling back, etc - just more-or-less within a 200m square area.

In turns where you 'move instead of fire'...the unit may still be taking suppression shots at the enemy. Attempting to get the range down, etc. Just that, against a platoon-sized (or multiple platoon-sized) target(s), over 15 minutes, this fire effectively does nothing material.

As far as the game scale goes, though, you are more looking at the primary action of the turn. Over this 15 minutes, this unit is mostly only moving to a better position, or that unit is mostly just holding ground concentrating on firing at the enemy.
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Ryan Powers
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I've seen all these before, and they don't hold water.

XanderF wrote:

Remember that hexes 200m across are pretty darn big. Only 5 hexes covers a full kilometer! And that 15 minutes IS an awful long time - as a result, rolling one die for an attack by a unit does not represent a single firing of the weapon. Rather, it represents 15 minutes of firing on the enemy.



If you think people who have issues with the scale don't grasp this, you're not giving them near enough credit. And basing your argument off of expanding on this theme (as if only the people who don't see issues with the scale are the ones somehow smart enough to get that one roll != one shot) just compounds that attitude.

Quote:

In turns where you 'fire instead of move'...your units are still moving. Maneuvering for best firing position, advancing or falling back, etc - just more-or-less within a 200m square area.


Again, that's why the abstraction makes more sense in what would be denser terrain. I already covered that. On flatter/more open terrain that abstraction gets more and more strained.

Quote:

In turns where you 'move instead of fire'...the unit may still be taking suppression shots at the enemy. Attempting to get the range down, etc. Just that, against a platoon-sized (or multiple platoon-sized) target(s), over 15 minutes, this fire effectively does nothing material.


BS. The "it involves some firing but that firing is *never* effective" is a smokescreen to cover an admission of the scale being off in places.
Again, this makes a certain level of sense in some terrain. But makes less and less sense the more open the terrain gets. That suppressive fire vs troops or vehicles in, say, the desert's gonna have some effect.

Quote:

As far as the game scale goes, though, you are more looking at the primary action of the turn. Over this 15 minutes, this unit is mostly only moving to a better position, or that unit is mostly just holding ground concentrating on firing at the enemy.


That abstraction works better with larger units that involve more and more coordination to exert full effect. Platoons simply aren't (generally) large/complicated enough for that abstraction to be teribly justified.

As you say, it's all been said before, if you can't come up with something a lot better than that you might as well not bother.

You're "reasons" work out relatively well in denser terrain, as I've already admitted. But they become harder and harder to swallow the flatter and more open the terrain gets.

I have no desire to continue derailing this thread with this discussion though. I'm not trying to convince anyone, he asked and I answered. You're response clearly indicates you plain don't even see what those who disagree with you are getting at, and this isn't the time or place for an attempt to change that.

I would however like to reiterate that I do like PG. Nobody else does a *better* job at this scale. Vehicles and infantry are just plain tough to get working well together in smaller scales, especially if you want relatively streamlined rules. Concessions have to be made. And they did. By and large, I agree with the concessions. But what I don't do, is pretend they're not there.
 
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Peter Mc
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I confess I don't follow what the argument is. All game scales are abstractions. You could move and shoot 10 times a turn or once a turn in any game...it is up to the designer. At some point all the units will be dead so you stretch it out to model historical results over an appropriate time frame.

Scale (200m/hex or 100m/hex or whatever) isn't the real issue. The real question in any game is how much can you do, how much and you fire, and how far can you move, before the other guy gets a chance to react. The move/fire limitation sets things very closely in the game then...most units can fire once or move 3 hexes before the other guy can react with his own movement or non-reactive firing. (of course you can opportunity fire if you have guys in position). Vehicles move usually from 4 to 18 hexes max.

With the Fog of War random turn ending possibility, coupled with consecutive activations due to initiative, there is always a chance that one stack or group will get to move twice in a row.

But generally the units are moving and firing in concert with each other, by design. This "move or shoot" issue comes up over and over again, not just for this game but I've seen in for many others, even Mechwarrior.

The lesson is players often don't like limits that force them into tough choices, I think.
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Ryan Powers
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petermc wrote:


The lesson is players often don't like limits that force them into tough choices, I think.


I doubt this is it at all. I don't think you'll did a whole lot of wargamers who don't like tough choices. That' a pretty key component of any good wargame.
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Peter Mc
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That just confirms that I don't know what is going on here, other than a desire, for reasons having nothing to do with wanting greater control (apparently), to be able to move and shoot all at once, rather than just moving and shooting consecutively, while the other guy interrupts with his action.

Edit: Maybe in this case it isn't true, but I've been wargaming for two decades and I can tell you with absolute certainty that there are some players who hate any attempt to limit their total control over their units.
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