PANZER TACTICS: A Detailed Description

As Dennis Wang mentions in his Design Notes to Panzer Tactics, this design began out of frustration. When he started playing armor miniatures in 1975, the first commercial rules he tried were "...simple, quick and not very satisfying to anyone interested in an accurate game." Yet when he tried more sophisticated rules systems, "...I realized that I could never play company- or battalion-sized games because they took so long to play."

Therefore, Panzer Tactics was designed to use combat procedures which are accurate, but streamlined. It is also complete, including all information needed to stage scenarios from any theatre of WWII.

The Sequence of Play

Each turn is composed of these phases:

Initiative Determination Phase Determines for this turn which player is Player A (has the initiative) and Player B (does not have initiative). During each phase, one player will complete all of his actions, then the other player may take his actions.
Smoke and Artillery Phase Player A fires, then Player B.
First Movement Phase Player A, then Player B. Infantry make a full move; vehicles take only a half-move. Opportunity fire may occur.
Direct Fire Phase This step is broken into sub-phases. In each phase, Player A declares attacks first, then Player B, and then all attacks are resolved.
Small Arms Fire
Infantry vs. Vehicles
Other Fire
Hidden Units Fire
Second Movement Phase Player B goes first, then Player A. Vehicles may take a half-move. Infantry can embark or debark from vehicles, but cannot move. Opportunity fire may occur.

Artillery Fire

Given the scale of the game, most artillery (with the possible exception of mortars) is located off-map. Fire is conducted on the basis of batteries and half-batteries. Indirect fire may be either Map Fire or Observed Fire.

Map Fire is planned prior to the start of the game, specifying for each fire mission the coordinates, type of round, and turn of fire. Such fire missions cannot be changed (or even cancelled) during the game. Map Fire is always subject to drift, making it less accurate than Observed Fire.

Observed Fire requires an observer -- any platoon officer or company HQ unit can perform this function. Each battery is assigned to an observer at the start of play (and one observer can be assigned multiple batteries). Once play begins, batteries may be transferred to new observers only if that observer does not already have a battery assigned (due to the difficulties of bringing the batteries into registration).

Once an observer requests a fire mission, there is a delay of at least one turn before the battery can respond. (The exact delay is determined by the scenario designer.) Observed Fire can always be cancelled.

Before an Observed Fire mission begins, a spotting round is fired. Dice are rolled to determine how close the round is to the intended target. If the observer can see the actual target point, on future turns he will be able to adjust the firing point and call for the fire mission ("fire for effect").

The rules allow each side to have a limited number of preregistered coordinates. Artillery fire at or near these points always lands accurately, so no spotting round is required.

Resolving the Fire Mission. The area affected by a fire mission depends upon the size of the artillery and the number of batteries firing. If all of the batteries are being coordinated by the same observer, their fire may be concentrated into a smaller impact area.

An attack roll is made for each figure which falls even partially within the impact area. The Kill Number depends upon the size of the artillery and type of target (armored or not). Kill Modifiers may also apply, depending upon the situation (i.e. opportunity fire, terrain, etc.).

When the Attack Roll is made, two decimal dice are thrown -- if the score on the "one"s die is less than or equal to the total Modifiers, the attack automatically misses. Otherwise, if the result is less than or equal to the Kill Number, the attack succeeds.

Units which enter an impact area are subject to a free attack, though at slightly reduced odds. However, the dust and smoke in the impact area after a barrage provide a defensive bonus for those units against direct fire.

Smoke rounds can also be fired. Each smoke mission results in a number of Smoke Puffs being placed on the tabletop. During subsequent turns, a die is rolled for each Puff to see whether it dissipates or remains. Smoke blocks line of sight and slows vehicle movement.

EXAMPLE: A German forward observer calls for a spotting round against an advancing body of Soviet infantry and armor. In this scenario, there is a 1-turn delay time (the minimum possible) for German artillery requests, so nothing happens this turn.

On the following turn, a spotting round is fired at the location previously requested. The target is not near a preregistered point, so Artillery Drift rolls must be made. Rolling "9" on two six-sided dice for range, the spotting round falls 3" long (beyond the intended target); rolling an "11" for deflection, the round also turns out to be 4" to the right.

Not close at all, but the round does land where the observer can see it...which means that the German player can adjust fire. He orders the battery to adjust fire to bring most of his target into the impact area. (Fire can only be adjusted by "increments" on the firing grid, in this case making it impossible to fire exactly where the player wants -- he can fine tune on subsequent turns.) No die roll is necessary. He also calls for "fire for effect."

On the following turn, the "fire for effect" takes place at the adjusted coordinates. The impact area is 2.125" deep (81mm-110mm mortars), and 8 1/2" wide (two batteries). (The German player qualifies to converge fire into a smaller zone, since both batteries are being coordinated by the same observer, but opts for the larger impact area.)

Within the impact area are three T-34's and two infantry squads. Against the "hard targets" (the T-34 tanks), the Kill Number is 15%. There is also a Modifier of 5 (due to high explosives being used against a target with overhead armor protection). An Attack Roll is made for each target, resulting in rolls of 38, 08, and 13. The "38" is a miss (higher than the Kill Number). The "08" is a hit, being lower than the Kill Number. However, the "13" is a miss (the score is lower than the Kill Number, but the "3" is lower or equal to the Modifier).

Against the infantry squads ("soft targets"), the Kill Number is 40%, and the Modifier is 3 (the infantry are prone). The Attack Rolls are 25 and 79. One hit is scored, since the "25" is less than the Kill Number, and the "5" is greater than the Modifier.

Movement and Overruns

Infantry only move during the First Movement Phase, but may get on or off stationary vehicles during either Movement Phase. Vehicles (and cavalry) may use half of their movement rate in either or both Movement Phases.

Each vehicle has Cross Country and Road Movement ratings. Vehicles which make turns while moving pay a movement penalty, unless following curves in a road.

All infantry have the same movement rate. Squads may ride tanks. To represent units with compressed frontage, squads are allowed to "stack" on top of one another.

Certain vehicles have the ability to conduct Overruns. If such a vehicle is able to move through a "soft" (non-armored) target during any Movement Phase, the target is destroyed. (Exception: A dug-in infantry squad takes damage but is not destroyed.) A vehicle which conducts an Overrun is not eligible to fire in the same turn (it is considered to have fired during the Overrun).

Opportunity Fire occurs during the Movement Phases. Units can only conduct opportunity fire if they have not moved or fired this turn, and may not be able to fire if they have not seen the target for a sufficient portion of its movement. A unit which takes opportunity fire can't move for the rest of the turn. All opportunity fire is less accurate than ordinary fire.

Direct Fire

The Direct Fire procedure is similar to the system explained for Artillery Fire. Each weapon has an assigned Kill Number; some weapons (tanks, for instance) have varying Kill Numbers depending upon the range of the target. Kill Modifiers apply, depending upon the situation. If the Attack Roll is less than the Kill Number, the attack succeeds unless the one's-digit dieroll is less than the Total Modifiers.

Each infantry squad is considered to be composed of several (typically, 3) Fire Teams. There are many kinds of Fire Teams (rifle, various machineguns, light mortars, antitank weapons, and flamethrowers, for instance). During combat, Fire Teams each attack separately; however, infantry are targeted as squads, not individual Fire Teams.

As units are fired upon, they pick up Suppression Points. Suppression Points cause a unit to gain unfavorable Modifiers when firing, and reduce the ability of infantry to move. Machineguns have the ability to make a special Suppression Attack, which causes no damage but inflicts Suppression Points upon all units within a target area.

An infantry unit in contact with an armor unit may optionally make a Close Assault during the Fire Phase.

EXAMPLE: Let's say that a Panzer IVH tank opens fire on a Sherman M4A3E8 tank at a range of 18". The German tank has a 75L48 gun, which at this range has a Kill Number of 70%. However, since the Panzer IV moved earlier this turn, it suffers a total Kill Modifier of 4.

The dieroll is "45" -- a hit. (The "45" is less than the Kill Number, and the "5" is greater than the Kill Modifier.)

Hits and Casualties

Each hit on an infantry squad randomly eliminates one of the Fire Teams which compose that unit. If the one's-digit of the Attack Roll was a "0," a bonus hit is inflicted.

When a squad is reduced to a single Fire Team, it routs toward friendly lines and refuses to fight. The routed Fire Team can be restored to normal morale if it is absorbed by another infantry squad.

When an armored vehicle is hit, there is a chance that the armor will prevent any damage. In order to find out the armor value, it is necessary to know whether the hit struck the turret or hull, and whether it hit the front, side or rear.

To discover if the hit was against the hull or turret, the digits of the original Attack Dieroll are added together. If the result is odd, the turret is hit; otherwise, the hit strikes the hull. (A hull hit against a hulldown tank results in a miss.)

If the attack was made with Armor Piercing ammunition, the hit's Penetration Value (determined by type of gun and range) is checked against the target's Armor Value. If the Penetration is greater than the Armor Value, the vehicle (and its passengers and crew) is eliminated.

High explosive shells have a low Penetration Value, and are unlikely to exceed most target's Armor Value. If they fail, then a new Attack Roll is made, to see if the high explosive burst might have destroyed the vehicle.

EXAMPLE: In the previous example, the Panzer IVH hit the Sherman. An armor-piercing (AP) shell was fired. The 75L48 gun at a range of 18" has a Penetration Value of 109.

But where was the Sherman hit? The original dieroll was "45," and the digits added together are (4 + 5 =) 9 -- odd, so a turret hit. Checking the battlefield, we see that the hit struck the front of the turret. According to the M4A3E8 Sherman's data, its turret front armor is 95.

Since the Penetration of 109 exceeds the Armor of 95, the Sherman is destroyed. (If the hit had struck the hull, the Armor of 120 would have stopped the shot.)

What if the Panzer IV had fired a high-explosive shell instead? The Armor Penetration of a HE shell from a 75L48 is a mere 7.5 -- not enough to penetrate any part of a Sherman. (There's no need to resolve the AP attack roll.)

However, the explosive blast itself might knock out the tank. The Kill Number for a shell of this size is 15%, with a Modifier of 5 (attacking a vehicle with overhead armor). On a dieroll of "51," the attack fails. (Obviously, AP shells work better than HE against armored targets.)

The Advanced Rules

The Advanced Rules add five new rules to enhance realism:

Rate of Fire Smaller calibre guns can now optionally make two attacks per turn, but with a greater Modifier.
Command Control Most units should remain within a certain range of other units in their platoon. The range depends upon the type of stands and the size of the platoon. A unit that is out of range must rejoin its platoon as soon as possible.
Orders Orders are given to every company before play begins, such as, "Advance on the road in column to St. Lo and attack and hold it." One change in orders may be made per turn, but the change will not take place for several turns.
Platoon Morale Morale is assigned to each platoon prior to play. Whenever the platoon loses a unit, a Morale Roll is made. Units which fail morale must either seek cover, retreat off the table, or surrender.
Variable Armor Penetration Depending upon the one's digit of the Attack Dieroll, Penetration Values are adjusted up or down by 10%.
Other portions of the Advanced Rules add new capabilities to the game:

Engineer Tasks Digging foxholes, camouflaging vehicles, laying barbed wire (or clearing it), demolitions, and operations regarding minefields are introduced as Engineering Tasks. Some of the tasks can also be performed by infantry, but less well.
Tactical Airpower Prior to the start of play, each plane must be given a specific mission. When aircraft come on the tabletop, they may linger for only 10 turns. Planes may attack specific targets, conduct sweeps, or perform ground support under the direction of a forward air controller. Rules include bombing, dive bombing, rockets, and strafing.
Airborne Operations Rules are provided for paratroops and glider troops.
Amphibious Operations Amphibious vehicles are introduced, to be used in beach landings or river crossings.
Lastly, several Optional Rules are provided. These cover such topics as Critical Hits, proximity fuses on certain U.S. shells, HEAT and other special ammunition types, and hidden movement.

Scenario Design

The rulebook discusses how to design a scenario, though no examples are given. Neither is there much discussion of how squads, platoons, or companies are organized in the various armies. (Hopefully, most players will already be familiar with basic WWII unit organizations.)

To help in balancing scenarios, point costs are provided. Individual costs are provided for each vehicle type (and the formula is provided, so that players can calculate their own costs for new vehicles). Costs for artillery are based upon gun calibre, and anti-tank guns are charged based on their Penetration Value. Infantry squads cost a flat rate, plus a bonus if they include special Fire Teams (machineguns or AT weapons).

The rulebook also includes a discussion of what a campaign game is, then provides rules from a sample campaign.

Last Updates
19 April 1996reorganized
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