July brings us the chance to sit down with a man whose name alone sells Panzer Grenadier scenario packs - Mike Perryman everybody!
PG-HQ: Thank you on behalf of all the PG-HQ members for giving us the chance to get to know PG's ace scenario designer! Could you start us off with a little background information about yourself?
Mike: I was born in 1958 and grew up in Gary, Indiana. I now live about 5 miles from where I grew up in Griffith. I'm happily married with three kids and I have an 8 month old grandson.
PG-HQ: How did you first get involved in PG scenario design?
Mike: I was in isolation in a hospital for a month and read Zhukov's Greatest Defeat by David M. Glantz while I was there or just after I got out, can't remember exactly. Anyway, I had plenty of time on my hands and decided to try and do some scenarios based on what I had read. In hindsight, they weren't that good - but they were published in the now out of print Tank Battles book. Later on, Mike improved some of them for Red Warriors which was nice. After that I started sketching out what would later turn into the Operation: Citadel game, but my work on that was interrupted when Brian asked me to do something with the Americans in Normandy. Since then I've done some things I wanted to, and some I was asked to do.
PG-HQ: Do you have any idea of approximately how many PG scenarios you've created thus far?
Mike: I'm going to leave this one to PG-HQ to figure out. Somewhere there is a game on Normandy floating around!
PG-HQ: Do you have 2 or 3 favorite scenarios you'd be willing to share with us, and why they appeal to you?
Mike: Two. Scenario 15 in Heroes of the Soviet Union (also OOP) is pretty special. It features a small Russian force supported by 7 tanks attempting to dislodge an even smaller German force whose tanks are immobile due to mice eating their wiring! The fact it takes place on my birthday only adds to the charm. The other is scenario 13 from Edelweiss Expanded (slightly different in the original edition), which has a regiment of Guards trying to filter through the terrain and slip between a greater number of German mountain troops. I've played this scenario more than any other over the years and although it's always been close, I've never seen the Russians win.
PG-HQ: Alright, are there any scenarios out there you wish you could take back? If yes, what's wrong with them?
Mike: I wish I could redo the Operation Mars scenarios from the Tank Battles book. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with them, but I like to think that I've gotten better at designing scenarios... and even if I haven't, the new maps and units available alone would make for better scenarios.
PG-HQ: What's the general process you use when creating scenarios?
Mike: First, I try to do as much research as possible on the battle. For Operation: Citadel this included reading 6 or 7 books plus digging through reports to try and verify what armored vehicles were actually with what units. Finding a copy of the unit's official strength report makes this easy, and the Germans and Western Allies were methodical record keepers. The Russians, on the other hand, had neither the time nor inclination for such details. The addition of lend-lease to the mix further complicates matters. Charles C. Sharp's series on the Russian order of battle is a tremendous help, but is now 15 years old. The after action accounts of survivors can also help to clarify things. Lastly, getting ahold of situational maps produced by the combatants at the time of the battle often settles disagreements between the participating units' "official" histories.
PG-HQ: Are there any hard and fast rules you've learned to stick to when designing?
Mike: There are no hard and fast rules, but you could say there are some relatively strict guidelines: Depending on terrain, the attack needs a 2:1 advantage in strength to stand a chance. A good formation should have roughly a 2:1 unit to leader ratio depending on the amount of support weapons. I up that ratio a little for an elite formation. An average formation should have around a 3:1 unit to leader ratio, and I'd lower that a little more for a pathetic formation. As for morale, I don't like to go above 8/7 (8/8 at the most) or below 7/6 unless their really is a compelling reason for doing so. It just distorts the combat system too much for my tastes. I did have one battalion lately that was given a 9/8 morale, but with their record I felt it was warranted.
PG-HQ: As a scenario designer, how do you feel about the following statement: "Steploss-based victory conditions are a total copout!"
Mike: That it's full of crap! Destroying enemy strength is one of the main goals of any army at any point in history.
PG-HQ: Which nations/campaigns have been the easiest to design for, and which the hardest?
Mike: As mentioned before, the meticulous record keeping of the combatants makes designing for the Western Front easy. Italy also has pretty good records to work from. On the Eastern Front the combatants used different times, different names of towns, and often told outright lies in their reports. As mentioned before, situational maps help clean up most of this nonsense, but not all of it. When Germany's minor allies are involved things are even worse, as German officers toss blame on them like water. Even so, I still like doing the Eastern Front because I think it has the best mixture of forces. In the future I would eventually like to do some scenarios on the Communist Chinese, and I have a feeling they will open a new can of problems.
PG-HQ: How do you feel about the recent shift towards campaign packs? Do you have to approach their design differently?
Mike: I actually advocated the campaign approach. I find it interesting to follow the course of a campaign and if you pick the right campaign to do you should have varied terrain and (or) units. The reason I did the Romanian series was it featured variety. There are German, Romanian, and two types of Russian units. There are heavy tanks on both sides, and both sides employ cavalry - my favorite units.
PG-HQ: Do you have any particular units that you favor?
Mike: Cavalry, definitely. Can't really explain why though? I also like Tiger I tanks. The mythology surrounding them and their ability to influence battles all out of portion to their numbers fascinates me. What else...? You can probably add Rolls Royce armor cars to that list - if you are going to war you might as well go first class! Lastly, you guys haven't seen them yet... but when Operation: Citadel comes out the Elephant will be my new favorite unit. It's basically a slow-rolling massive pillbox armed with the best gun on the battlefield. It used far more fuel then the Germans could afford, but when used in static positions it was devastating. Unfortunately, in Operation: Citadel they spearheaded too many assaults and let their fatal flaws rear their ugly heads.
PG-HQ: Will PG ever go to China?
Mike: If I can ever find enough useful information!
PG-HQ: The PG series has 4 products officially on the way - Kursk, Workers & Peasants, Grossdeutschland, and the new Texas Division pack. Can you share any secrets with our readers about any of those?
Mike: Sure - they're all excellent! Seriously though, I'd have to check with Mike - what he says goes!
PG-HQ: PG Philippines was mentioned last year and nothing has been heard since. Do you know anything about that project? Are you involved at all?
Mike: Not involved and don't know anything about it that you don't also know. But I would not be against helping on it if needed.
With the Panzer Grenadier series turning 10 years old, and the beginning of the new WW1 series and growing whispers about a Vietnam/modern era series, is PG reaching the end of the road? In your eyes, what remains to be covered before we can look at PG as "complete" in WW2 gaming?
Mike: I would still like to see the Chinese included along with the Philippines. Also coming to mind would be Sicily and the bitter fighting between Romania and Hungary in late '44 or early '45. In the end, so long as Doug remains involved the series will be in good hands. I have tremendous respect for the guy. We don't always agree, but then again we shouldn't!
PG-HQ: You're currently the leader in recorded plays on PG-HQ by a wide margin. How do you find time to play so much PG?
Mike: I believe you will find most of those battles were played a few years ago, as I could only talk my way out of the hospital by promising the doctors I'd stay confined to the house except for traveling back and forth to the hospital! Actually, it had been a year or so since I last played a game until I met John Legan up in Chicago recently to play France 1940. Since then we've played a few other games.
PG-HQ: What other wargames (if any) do you enjoy?
Mike: I still enjoy Armageddon and Barbarossa from the early years of SPI. If I can find the time Land Without End seems interesting as does (S&T) Flying Tigers.
PG-HQ: For how many more years can we expect to enjoy Mike Perryman scenarios? Do you have an exit strategy or are you in it until they fire you?
Mike: Till it's not intriguing anymore!
PG-HQ: Final question - the best beverage to be imbibed whilst playing Panzer Grenadier is...?
Mike: Pepsi. (that's in case my wife ever reads this as I can't have blackberry brandy or Seagram 7 anymore!)