Panzer Grenadier Battles on February 20th:
An Army at Dawn #32 - Kasserine Pass: Gore Force Nihon Silk #2 - Koepang, Day One
An Army at Dawn #33 - Kasserine Pass: Egged On
Quædam iura non scripta
by Matt W, 2011-02-19

Writer Bio: Matt W

headshot of MattW

Matt Ward is, he tells us, 54, married with two children, living in Virginia and works in US healthcare finance, an arcane field at best. He swears that he went to college and graduate school but this being the Internet he might actually be 15 and living in a basement somewhere.

He protests that he is not technologically savvy so photographic proof must wait for another day (Shad's Note: likely photo has been included), and with photoshop we have to be concerned about such "proof" anyway.

His first game was the AH chestnut Afrika Korps, and now over 300 games later he has joined us as Matt W (cleverly hiding his real identity).

OK, time for an admission. When you look at my profile you will see that I primarily play solo. That really is because, well a whole lot of reasons including kids, job, large dog (a Great Dane who believes that barking is the best way to help a ftf game), but they boil down to the fact that at my age I just didn't have the "electronics" confidence to try anything else. This has led me to a rather parochial understanding of war game rules. I don't debate rules with myself and the interpretation that I use is the "right" one because both sides agree with it. A very non-confrontational approach to say the least.

I recently began playing by email and that experience has been unabashedly wonderful. I am seeing new tactics that I couldn't develop on my own. I am experiencing different player strategies than I have used in the past. I am seeing different players' passions for different countries and units that I would never have considered myself. And I am finding out that other people have different interpretations of the rules.

Actually I am finding out that many people have actually entered into long-standing debates over the rules and that I have stumbled into some that have been settled for years and some that remain raging even today. More to the point I have found out that at times my reading of the rules was WRONG. Drat! -- years of playing wasted because I permitted my leaders to use both their morale and combat modifiers in the same turn! Scenario results invalidated because I misread some of the modifiers to assault combat!

Well, actually, my misreads and mistakes are on the margin but I have found that the actual rules lend some additional "feeling" to the game and make more sense to me in retrospect. I hold on to my positions on a few rules as they feel right to me and square with conversations I have had with men who have been in combat (and sadly I am old enough to have had conversations with men who have experienced a similar type of combat as that which we simulate with Panzer Grenadier – one of the few perks advanced age provides).

The key here is that the entire experience of playing is actually enhanced by the debates that we have about rules. Heck, if that wasn't the case why would we have a third edition of the rules. Indeed rules editing is a constant process. A game without a healthy set of debates concerning rules and a multitude of house rules is a game that simply isn't played. If you are wrong, your enjoyment will pick up immediately as you see the design come alive. Even when you are right, it improves your understanding of what is happening to those poor schlubs in that INF platoon and makes the game more vivid in the imagination because you had to think through and defend why you are right.

As an aside, a marvelous example of this concept is World in Flames, a strategic level WWII game published by the Australian Design Group. Originally published in 1985, it is currently in its sixth edition (hilariously dubbed the "final edition") and it has grown from a monster requiring a three table setup to a game requiring its own postal code, now requiring a 13' by 10' room with no less than six large tables to use all of the political, economic and military subroutines and yet the rulebook remains something that can be picked up in one hand (and does not require special binding instructions). It also introduced me to the acronym "RAW" which previously to me indicated undercooked but now means "rules as written" as opposed to my "RAI" which isn't anywhere near as funny an acronym but means "rules as interpreted". It is this interest in the continued development of the rules and the game that has kept it going for 25+ years.

The simplicity of Panzer Grenadier is that its rule set can be read in an hour, understood in a day or so (despite niggling mistakes like I've made) and played year after year with new situations, weapons and even nationalities without substantially rewriting the rules. We can receive the flavor of WWII tactical combat without needing a combat subroutine that is specific down to the weapon and type of ammunition fired combined with the target class and type of cover, weather, use of star shells, humidity, phases of the moon and how recently the officer's underwear has been changed. Super realism has its place but it is not on my gaming table. I want to play a game that doesn't take four times as long to play as the situation it is depicting.

So where does this take us? Back to the rules and the endless debates surrounding them. Yes, those who don't agree with your take on the rules are pinheads and clearly have had a severe childhood trauma which has caused them to be relentlessly argumentative. So what? It is that passion and that discussion which, if you will listen, may improve your gaming experience. More important, it is that passion which guarantees that additional boxed games, booklets and scenario sets will continue to be developed and sold. A lively community is one that will continue to get its product produced. Despite my digs at "super-realists" I see that their product continues to be developed and marketed and it has an incredible history behind it as well.

I am currently in my 50s and I would like to continue playing this stuff for at least another 20 years. That means we need to continue to have lively debates, house rules, RAW, RAI and spin-offs (e.g. Infantry Attacks and other threatened expensive expansions). That lawyer wannabe who is holding you to a literal read of the LOS rules or whether or not the existence of a Finnish HMG in an assault hex negates the "+1" for Finnish "infantry" is one of the reasons that Mike Perryman can continue to write scenarios for publication and there is yet another reason to pile up your dimes to buy Winter Soldiers (having just reached back to the past to pick up copies of Heroes of the Soviet Union and Tank Battles I will be waiting until the tax refund for my next order). Passion sells.

The first Panzer Grenadier game was published in 2000, there are currently 51 products available with several on the drawing boards including Citadel (both flanks), Winter Soldiers and Go For Broke. There are player-developed scenarios as well to augment these, but suffice to say that if anyone has a full set of products and a completion percentage over 10% they have either been playing since the first PG came out or have an awful lot of time on their hands. PG-HQ permits us to be voyeurs (the legal kind) and experience scenarios we haven't played by permitting others to post their results and their AARs thus expanding our virtual WWII. Continued passion for the game might get us the Philippines, China, Manchuria, 1944 on the East Front, Norway/Denmark, the Low Countries, Anzio, Sicily, Case Green (you get my drift – there are plenty of unmined situations).

So, next time your opponent suggests that he certainly can see your AT gun on that hilltop due to his position in a town and that the OB roll indicates that not only your guns but your commanding officer and his accompanying INF platoon are all now subjects for graves registration, resist the desire to strangle him or her with the third edition rules. Instead, smile and have a little inward grin knowing that the ensuing debate will go a long way to ensuring that another book will be produced shortly for a campaign that you know little about. And remember that your revenge, even if it takes a while, can be sweet – there can always be a fourth edition of the rules.

Happy gaming all!

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