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Subject: PanzerZug: The Perfect End to an Intense Evening of Train Games rss

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Bradley Keen
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In PanzerZug players take on the roles of World War II fighter pilots attempting to destroy German trains and freight yards. On your turn you either refit your plane with a custom mix of rockets, bombs, ammo, or fuel or you go on an attack run. At the end of the game, the player who has destroyed the most valuable trains and/or freight yards wins. But watch out, because your fellow fighter pilots will attempt to thwart your success by sending enemy fighters after you. And if that is not enough, some of the trains shoot back!

PanzerZug is quick, fun, and light. It's mere existence, released by a company known for elaborate and detailed economic train games, adds a layer of humor to the game. But, I guess it makes sense. If you get tired of building up railroads, you can finish up a gaming session by blowing them up. If you approach this game with the correct mindset, add in some trash talk, and throw caution to the wind, then you will have a good time. And always remember, PanzerZug was "playtested by a bunch of guys wearing horned Viking helmets and smoking cigars." So break out the cigars and the Viking helmets, because those trains are not going to bomb themselves.

Whats in that Plastic Clamshell

If you are familiar with Winsome Games, then you know that you pay for the rules and not necessarily the components. The components will work for the game, in some cases they may add to the aesthetics of the game, but ultimately they will probably not elicit praise from the peanut gallery.

The game consists of a deck of Zug cards (that you want to blow up), a deck of Action cards (you use these to refit your plane and to thwart your opponents), and 6 sided die, and 6 different airplanes. Each airplane has slots for ammunition, a machine gun, rockets, bombs, and fuel.

The cards of made of thin cardstock and are slightly taller than the standard playing card. So while they fit width wise into card sleeves they do stick out the top. The plane cards are simply 8.5x11 inch card stock. Nothing fancy here, but just enough to get the job done.

Playing the Game

At the start of the game, each player will fully outfit their plane with a mix of equipment (action) cards. Each plane has a set amount of slots for cards. Some of the slots allow the choice between either fuel or rockets or rockets or bombs, etc. So you can customize your plane prior to taking off. Choosing how much fuel to carry or the choice between a bomb or a rocket is one of the interesting parts of the game.

Once the planes are outfitted, each player will draw 6 cards from the action deck. This deck includes the standard equipment cards, but it also has cards that you can play on your opponents to stop them from destroying planes. These include enemy fighters, fog, and hills. Finally, the deck has wingman cards that you can use to save yourself in the event that you have an enemy fighter played on you.

On your turn, you have the option of either going on an attack run or refitting your plane. In the latter case, you simply redraw your hand to 6 and then try to fill in empty equipment slots on your plane so that you are ready for future runs.

But, if your plane is already fully equipped, then it is time for an attack run! To go on a run, you first have to discard a fuel card. Then, you reveal the top card of the Zug (train) deck. Now, in player order, all other players can play cards from their hands to attempt to stop you. For example, a player could play a Hill card, forcing you to spend an additional fuel card to continue my run. Or, better yet, they could play one of the enemy fighter cards on you. Then, if you cannot play a wingman card, you have to roll the dice and hope for the best!

The revealed train or freight yard card shows a kill condition, a possible reaction (it may shoot back), and a number of victory points. If you make it to the target, you have the option of either strafing it with your machine guns, or if you have them, dropping bombs or rockets on the target. Each option requires you to roll a die, but if you drop multiple bombs or shoot multiple rockets your odds increase, and different targets are easier to destroy with different munitions. The strategy is not deep, but it exists, and the outcomes coincide with the strategic choice often enough that I was never put off with the luck element.

If you succeed, or even if you fail, it is possible that the target will shoot back. If you dodge the flak, and if you still have fuel and ammo, you can even go on another run! Eventually, you will have to go back to base and spend a turn or two refitting your plane for another go. The game ends when one player collects 150 victory points.

Oh yeah, and if you fail to destroy a train…it escapes. And the Germans score those victory points! You do not want the Germans to reach 150 points before one of the players.

What’s to like about the game

As I mentioned above, the game is easy to teach and is an excellent "beer and pretzels" game. But, since I seldom drink beer or eat pretzels, a game needs to have something more to it to get my recommendation. I will admit that one of the primary reasons that I like PanzerZug is because it is so darn funny that it was produced and developed by Winsome Games. But there is more to like about the game than that.

A second reason to like the game, is that is plays well with my family. My dad doesn't really "get" games but he loves World War II planes and he was able to grasp the tactics and light strategy of this game. This fact alone was enough to justify picking the game up.

Finally, it really can appeal to the gamer crowd. It is not Age of Steam, but it never wanted to be. It was meant to give players limited strategic options and to provide an excellent filler experience. If you want a shorter game, just follow the home rule I mention at the end of the review and/or simply lower the number of victory points necessary to win. I won't pull this out at every session, but it will certainly provide a good time when I do. I have played similar games in the past, and they just don't do it for me. Perhaps the "thwart" cards are too powerful or maybe the theme just isn’t right. In this case, when an opponent tries to stop you, you have a good chance of getting away, and the train theme really works.

As an aside, I often play by the house rule that, when a player chooses to refit their plane, they can discard 1-6 cards from their hand and then redraw back up to 6 prior to refitting their plane. Personally, I see no reason why a player should have to use more than 2 turns trying to get their plane back up into the air!

PanzerZug is long out of print, but if you can scrounge up a copy for a decent price, I highly recommend it. If you want a light and silly train game that will strike fear in the hearts of strategic train gamers everywhere than this is for you. On the other hand, if you are not at all interested in what could easily be mistakenly perceived as a luck driven dice fest with random cards thrown in, then walk away.
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Mik Svellov
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punkzter wrote:
I will admit that one of the primary reasons that I like PanzerZug is because it is so darn funny that it was produced and developed by Winsome Games.

Why is that funny?
The only other likely publisher would have been the designer's own label,
and the game fit right into the line of games published by Winsome during the 90's.
 
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Costas
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Great review. Sounds like a lot of fun!
 
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Bradley Keen
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Mik,

Until recently, I was not familiar with their games from the 90's. So this was unlike any game I had ever seen from Winsome...and I found it funny and interesting.

But, you make a good point. It is thematically similar to other games from that time period that were also playtested by vikings in horned helmets.

~Brad
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John Bohrer
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Pennsylvania Vikings, including Nord the Red. That Mead is strong stuff, guys!
 
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Pierce Ostrander
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punkzter wrote:
As I mentioned above, the game is... an excellent "beer and pretzels" game. But, since I seldom drink beer or eat pretzels...


Yes, but do you wear horned Viking helmets and smoke cigars?

punkzter wrote:
If you want a light and silly train game that will strike fear in the hearts of strategic train games everywhere than this is for you.


correction: "fear and loathing" : )
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Bradley Keen
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fubar awol wrote:
Yes, but do you wear horned Viking helmets and smoke cigars?


Yes, yes I do.
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John Bohrer
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Awesome, as PanzerZug was specifically designed to play best while wearing horned Viking helmets and smoking cigars.
 
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John Bohrer wrote:
Awesome, as PanzerZug was specifically designed to play best while wearing horned Viking helmets and smoking cigars.

Makes sense. Now, once I locate a copy of PanzerZug, I'll have to find that viking helmet I ask my wife to wear occasionally...

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Jevon Heath
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My problem is finding a good tobacconist.
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Max Michael
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Be sure to take the attached long blonde braids out of it. It would be a shame if while yelling "Dud! Dud! Dud!" during an opponent's bombing run the braids knocked the cards off of your plane.
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Bradley Keen
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Haha. That event is not covered in the rules, though I suspect that it would fall under pilot error and you would have to return to base.
 
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DON'T FORGET THE BEER!
Making sure your fighter is fully fueled is important to staying in the air and dodging those 109's.
Making sure you have enough beer is important so that you can keep on yelling at your fellow pilots for missing the train depot.
I have this game rated #1 :O)
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Mik Svellov
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John Bohrer wrote:

Awesome, as PanzerZug was specifically designed to play best while wearing horned Viking helmets and smoking cigars.

What! No whisky? laugh
 
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Max Michael
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I'm only allowed whiskey at Essen when the wife and children are an ocean away.whistle
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John Bohrer
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Great Dane wrote:
John Bohrer wrote:

Awesome, as PanzerZug was specifically designed to play best while wearing horned Viking helmets and smoking cigars.

What! No whisky? laugh


Mead. arrrh
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Martin Smith
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Thanks for the review.

This game sounds like it might be readily convertible into a solo card game. But I may be mistaken. Any thoughts on that?
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