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Simple Panzer Grenadier system (variant)

"how do you know? You've never tried it."

Oh, but I read it.  

I've played over 500 published PG scenarios and hundreds of others in development.  I understand the systems in PG pretty well.  I read new rulebooks for games on the order of 1 per week.  I have read many that, upon finishing, I have no intention of playing as I understand game systems and would not find the play enjoyable. I can see the impact that your rules will have on the play of PG and the net effect is such that I am not interested in playing it. 


I find the initiative to be too powerful, especially when considering a FTF play.  I also dislike the fact that the initiative player can do everything they want to before their opponent can activate anything (reaction fire and opportunity fire excepted).  Something that makes PG a good game is the alternating activations.  Why did you feel that change was necessary?

Tortured LOS rules tend to make a game unplayable for me (for example I find the TCS to be nearly unplayable, especially if two players have a dispute about the LOS).  I don't want to have to negotiate mid-game whether I can see your unit or not. Yes, it is more realistic but what is not realistic is disagreeing in the middle of a fire action as to whether a target can be seen or not.

I don't find the revision of the morale system (disrupted only) or the increased likelihood of losses (which you specifically highlight in the rules) to be a positive adjustment from a playability standpoint.  I don't think that there are many of the current PG scenarios that could be played in this system without massive rebalancing. 

The substantial changes to many of the subsystems make the title "Simple Panzer Grenadier Rules" a misnomer.  I think the game will play faster since you have eliminated all situations where a player will be interrupted by an opponent's activation (except when they voluntarily cede the activation), have made the combat results far more bloody thus ensuring that in later turns there will be far less to move and fight with, and the global morale rules appear to cause a cascading failure, especially in combination with the higher losses.  These are not necessarily bad ideas but they are not "simple".

The resulting game play of your system seems to be likely to lose some of the chaos of the current system.  That chaos provides for an immersive gaming experience.

There are things I like.  I actually like the global morale concept.  I also think the "spent" concept is one that has promise.

The dedication to complete such a task is tremendous and I applaud your effort.  I just don't feel drawn to play it.  If others have played some of the scenarios you provided (and thank you for that) I hope that they would post their experiences.
No "minor" country left behind...
(04-25-2017, 01:00 PM)Matt W Wrote: You don't know, because reading it isn't enough, you need to see what it actually does to effective tactics.  But I will substantiate the claim that it is both much simpler and much more realistic than the original.  First by analyzing infantry formation combat in the original game.  (Note that my changes to the clean and effective AT fire system are much smaller, and only those needed to keep its lethality in line with the other changes; that system was fine and worth saving, with minor tweaks).

Infantry combat, including infantry heavy weapons, in original Panzer Grenadier was a farce as realism and painfully slow as game play.

It takes 2.5 normal HMG shots at normal range without modifiers to inflict morale "damage" at the same rate a normal morale 7 infantry platoon can rally.  And there is only 1/36 chance per shot of any more permanent damage than that.  With a +1 column modifier for a moving target in the open, this falls to 1.93 shots and permanent damage chance rises to 1/18, but the infantry platoon is still a heavy, 2-1 favorite to shrug off the fire.

The consequence is that HMGs simply cannot deny open ground areas to enemy infantry in the original game.  The standing rally power per unit time of every generic infantry unit is roughly equal to 20 to 25 firepower applied to it.  Only exceptionally will infantry subjected to less fire than that decline in average morale state.  

In fact, an HMG platoon at point blank range vs a stationary infantry unit with no cover puts out less morale damage per turn than the target can continually recover from just by rallying as its action, if it needs to.  It has a 5/36 chance of causing permanent step loss.  The expectation, then, is that an infantry platoon could sit at point blank range under fire of an HMG platoon, and last half of a typical scenario, holding at its existing morale state by rallying 3 turns out of 4, and acting itself 1 turn in 4.

A single infantry type unit can "take" 4 morale hits, and recovers without permanent damage if it doesn't go below a net of 2 of them.  The result is that it is perfectly normal for a "rally power vs fire race" to involve 3 shots at a unit a turn, 1-2 resulting in morale checks, plus a rally check, and thus 4-5 2d6 evaluations and 4 units tied up in the interaction, with a net result of no progress in either direction in that unit's morale state.  Instead the effect of fire at it is simply to "use up" some portion of that unit's actions as rally actions.

This indecisiveness of ranged fire at infantry type units has another important effect.  All units readily close to point blank range intact.  Most fire, to achieve any effect, winds up being delivered at range 1 to earn the 2 column right shift for point blank fire.  Moreover, it is normal for the FP effect per firing infantry unit even at point blank range to equal only about 50% of the standing rally power of every unit.  If the shots were evenly distributed over the engaged units, they would all rally, net, from the fire output each could deliver.  As some skipped fire actions to rally themselves, this effect becomes even more pronounced.

Thus even point blank fire only becomes effective by combining more fire from multiple units onto single targets, to hurt them faster than they can rally.  This means any side intending to attack or reach decision in that area must outnumber his opponent, significantly, and leave that excess of numbers in action for an extended period of time, trying to accumulate permanent morale breakage on smaller bits of the enemy and gradually "eat" through them.

Moreover, notice that rally power "multiplies" when fire is spread over multiple targets.  It minimizes enemy rally power to have all available morale "dings" on the same targets until they are dead, then to shift to the next, because this limits the number of rally attempts and therefore the total "rally power headwind" the outgoing fire must overcome.  Because the targets cannot being to assert their rally power defensively against fire effects, until at least one morale "ding" has hit them.

This results in the following stereotypical sequence...  Attackers readily close to point blank range against all defensive fire that can be applied to them in the short period while they are doing so.  Defenders therefore do not experience their own firepower as a significant defensive element protecting them.  But then attackers must sit at very close range applying lots of firepower over multiple turns to overcome the rally power of each successive defending position chosen as the next focus.  

Many die rolls occur in this process, many of which simply cancel one another out (a hit roll cancelled by a successful morale check; a successful morale "ding" cancelled by a successful rally action immediately after it).  Many markers must be interleaved into the stacks of units and leader to record the separate morale state of each, with meaning attached to which side they are on.  Moreover, in assault combats, both sides can stack in the same hex, and the need for multiple units to deliver sufficient fire to hurt single targets encourages many units per hex and in small areas of the board.

The result, then, is what I call "spreadsheet combat".  The positions on the map have become largely irrelevant, static, and known.  I have 6 units and 3 leaders, in these morale states, you have 3 units and 2 leaders, in those morale states; these and those have or haven't acted yet getting "fire" markers or similar, some have "demoralized" like markers, everyone is rallying to shrug off past fire or firing to inflict morale "dings", which must be concentrated to inflict lasting loss but can also be spread to reduce enemy fire by shifting more of his units into "rally" actions.  

I want to open Excel to see what is going on, and make a list of all units, their states, their actions, with their locations almost afterthoughts.  And we must roll, and roll, and roll, and roll some more before *anything* actually happens, net, in this little hairball of units.  Towers of counters reach 7 high, 10 high, 12 high.  They fall over as fat fingers sort through them looking for the morale state of leader #2 to flip it or remove it as he passed or failed this or that kind of morale check.  Every morale check may happen at normal, or leader modified, or fire table modified, or demoralized state modified morale levels, each having tiny 15% impacts on single morale checks but requiring accurate calculation each time.

This is *complicated*.  And it is *pointless*, because all the rolls and actions and rallys and shots just counteract each other, with only an expectation drift and a few outlier tails of runs of luck either way actually determining whether one side gradually loses morale states and units or doesn't.  And sometimes, the attack and rally power are so evenly matched that the game becomes running out the clock before any combat result has time and probability enough to resolve.  This is fundamentally *boring*, and it is awful game design.  

Simple has no leaders, have one one morale state, allows rally to counteract fire much less reliably, inflicts many more actual loss hits that can't be dealt with by rally alone, encourages separate units over stacks.  The result is not only much faster resolution of conflicts but also much less board clutter.  Most hexes have 1-2 counters in them or none.  Most local confrontations resolve one way or the other in a couple of turns at most.  Nobody needs a spreadsheet to track what is happening over 6 turns in one little hairball of units stacked or adajcent to each other rolling endless quantities of dice for no impact for a third of the scenario clock.

Let us compare the fire and rally rules of my Simple version and see what happens when infantry tries to walk across a kilometer wide field to close with a HMG platoon.  With a moving in the open column shift, a single shot is 1/6 to cut the moving platoon in half and break it, and 1/6 to break it without step reduction.  This is a much more serious risk to run for the moving unit, and not one that can be kept up indefinitely just relying on rally power to shrug off the HMG platoon's fire.  

If such a unit moves to range 1, even if shot at only the next turn while stationary, then the HMGs will wipe it out with one shot 11% of the time, reduce it 20% of the time, and break it another 16% of the time - basically 50% to have a serious fire effect.  If the infantry is broken, it can't just spend its next action undoing that result with a rally action, because rally attempts are forbidden within 3 hexes of an enemy unit.  They would have to move off first, spending an entire turn retreating to range 4.  They would then need a couple of turn, average, to rally.  And another turn to come back.  Or they could fight it out from where they are, but halved for disruption and eliminated if disrupted again.  In addition, 25% of the HMG's range 1 fire results hurt more than 1 unit in the target hex, encouraging attackers to stay spread out instead of stacking.

Suddenly, approaching an HMG position in cover is a dangerous proposition.  And with the increased effectiveness of fire, there is another and better way - to fire first with supporting heavy weapons (this is what 81mm mortars are for), and close after the HMG is disrupted by a morale failure or reduced by a step loss result.  Either will halve the HMGs FP, and closing with them will prevent rally.  They cannot engage in a rally power "race" against limited attacker's firepower and expect to win, because it already disrupted and enemies come close, they have to give up the position and retreat, if they want to perform a rally action at all.  They also don't get 4 "morale hits" down to dead - they get 2.

Fire has been made far more effective compared to rally, combat has been made far more decisive, combat can be tried by limited forces, instead of being ineffective unless big portions of one force wail on a small portion of the enemy force for long periods of time.  And crucially, true combined arms relationships have been restored between infantry heavy weapons (HMGs and mortars), terrain, stance, fire and manuever, use of numbers, and time.
Now to your comments on initiative.  I find them not accurate as to either system, before or after my changes.

In existing Pz Gdr, it is relatively straightforward to arrange chained activations, group moves, fire groups, and so forth so that very large portions of one's force can act as a single impulse, if that is wanted.  This isn't always a good tactic, because it can be important to "save" units to act later in the turn, but that is true in either system.  Note that those command system manipulations are particularly easy in the high portion of published original Pz Gdr scenarios that feature very high numbers of leaders per unit, often around 2/3rds.  Very often in the original game, the question is not who has a leader but merely who has which one, with what levels of bonuses.

Nor is it accurate to say that in my system, the winner of initiative can act with all of his units before his enemy does anything.  He may indeed rally and move out of LOS or range of all enemy units to his heart's content, and he may benefit some from having eligible units rally before further fire hits them.  But the units rallying are all more than 3 hexes from an enemy or they can't even attempt it, and half of them are failing their checks meaning they did nothing for the turn (no leaders, no modifers to rally morale checks except occasionally -1 for global morale "shaken").  He certainly isn't seizing ground next to the enemy or firing with either type.

If he moves in range of the enemy, his enemy can opportunity fire, and any good 2-3-11-12 fire roll triggers a reaction.  If he fires, then any 7 fire roll (or 2-4 for AT fire) is going to miss and also trigger reaction.  Everything he does that is interactive, therefore, is 1/6 to trigger reaction.  Assaults even more so, because both happen, defender's and attacker's fire, so those are more like 1/3 to trigger reaction, minimum.

The winner of initiative can therefore shoot first, but he can't expect to shoot his whole side before his opponent gets to react.  He might get 3 such actions, he might get 6 - breaks of luck determine and he cannot rely on the result ahead of time.  Some one goes first in combat, nothing is simultaneous.  Shifts of "fate" occur from missed shots that trigger reaction that fire effective shots, or conversely that see a string of 2-3 unusually effective shots.  4 overlapping interleaved binomials are not needed for this, each event matters.  And the usual reasons to want to save units to act late in the turn still apply - overwatch to opportunity fire if the enemy tries to close, or rushes to get to good spots after the enemy fires all his available units, can and do happen.  Or are avoided by cautious players passing with some overwatcher's unused.  Up to the players, and entirely interactive in face to face play.
Next to explain some of the AT system changes, much less extensive than those to the infantry system.

The original AT system was good, especially the core mechanic of 2d6 plus AT rating minus armor vs the 10 and 13 hit numbers for step loss or total unit elimination.  I like it, I keep it.  But with a few tweaks.

The first concerns very high net armor modifiers.  The issue is that a Panther platoon fires at some trucks or halftracks over a kilometer away, moving. Because its shells would readily go through if they hit, it gets +7 or +8, with the -2 for range and target movement, net +5 or +6 and nearly can't miss.  Instead I "cap" the net armor modifier at +4, reflecting the fact that some of the fire determination roll isn't about penetrating the target but hitting it in the first place, which isn't really any easier with a bigger cannon than a smaller one.  (Range from muzzle velocity still allowed, to be sure).

The second concerns downgrading the effects of cover on armored fights.  Being in a town doesn't make a StuG harder for a T-34 to penetrate, and I didn't like the way in the original tanks suddenly became significantly "heavier" models just because of the terrain they were in.  My solution is to limit the cover effect in AT fire to just -1 max, for anything that would let the target be "hull down", basically.  Similarly, I limit the flanking modifier to just +1.  The net armor modifier is capped, therefore, but it also matters more for whether the target can be damaged than in the original.

Last, I use a +1 to the red die but max 6 mechanic, which I admit is fiddly until you are used to it, to raise the average lethality of AT shots somewhat compared to the original game.  I don't shift the table, and don't make higher numbers available than the original, so the same guns can hurt the same targets.  But the chance of getting a result if the gun and armor rating match is higher, more like 1/4 than 1/6.  This is deliberate and meant to speed the resolution of AT fire duels, and to keep the pace of armor fighting decisiveness in line with the increased lethality of the infantry combat system, more extensively overhauled as described 2 posts above.
"In existing Pz Gdr, it is relatively straightforward to arrange chained activations, group moves, fire groups, and so forth so that very large portions of one's force can act as a single impulse"

Initially this is correct, however it is rare that such chains will survive intact after contact.  Perhaps you have had a different experience.  It is the disruption of that command ability and the requirement it places on the player to adjust their command structure on the fly in order to continue moving towards the goal that is at the center of the activation system.

An example of what hits me the wrong way about "Simple" is, I find the unrestricted ability to establish large fire groups to be consistent with your desire to have combat be both predictable and decisive, but to be counter to what I want to play.  It should be hard to put together a coordinated fire action covering 600 meters of troops given the technology and training of a late 30's through late 40's army, especially some of those modeled in the system (Ecuador, anyone?).  Another example is that the ability to string together actions (with only a 1/6 or so chance that any particular fire or opportunity fire may stop the planned sequence of actions) provides the player with the ability to ensure that a greater percentage of his force becomes engaged than in standard PG.  In standard PG there is often a constellation of disrupted and demoralized units which, if you are playing with the fog of war optional rule (which you should), may never enter the battle again. You are forced to prioritize each activation and consider whether recovery of a leader is more important than an 8 factor mortar shot at a unit in town.

What comes out clearly in "Simple" is your desire to have; control over the process, predictability of results and fast, decisive outcomes.  "Simple" seems to be designed with the focus on being able to quickly resolve combat situations, usually with losses.  Step losses in "Simple" will be greatly increased over the same number of turns in standard PG.  While there have been complaints over PG's lack of immediately decisive combat in the past I have found that most of those I have spoken to who continue to play the system and buy the new products, do so in part because the unpredictability of the combat system (and indeed the force management process) is attractive.  For solitaire players it is virtually essential. 

When the 4th edition rules came out there was a significant change to the assault CRT, moving from 1d6 to 2d6.  There were also key changes to the results.  Whereas previously if one attacked on the 30 column there would only be a 1/6 chance of having anything other than a step loss.  Now there is a 10/36 chance.  Reflexively at lower strength levels the results were improved so that now an attack on the three column (usually in defense) has a chance to cause a step loss.  These changes made assault combat, the one decisive type of combat in PG far less predictable and significantly less bloody. 

I thought I would hate it.

After play, however, I found that it forced me to be more deliberate in preparation of target hexes and careful to establish local reserves.  I enjoyed the thought process it enforced.  The net result of the change ended up reinforcing what I like about standard PG.  This change, instead of turning the system 180 degrees from its focus, reinforced the focus.  "Simple" takes the system in a totally different direction.

In summary, "Simple" reads to be a much more deterministic system, with too much control and too high a loss level to be something that I want to try.  The game resulting from "Simple" is quick and decisive, but seems to be far more predictable than I like.  I expect that there are people who would like it, but those are the types of people who were not attracted to PG in the first place.  "Simple" appears to be a system that has little in it for the solitaire player (look at the statistics about solitaire vs. ftf plays on the main site and you will see that the vast majority of plays that have been logged are solitaire) and will require careful scenario construction for each player to feel that they have a good chance in a ftf play.

In the end each player has their own taste.  I'm sure you have picked up rule books, perused the system and decided that it wasn't your cup of tea.  I have reviewed your system and have found it isn't my cup of tea.  That doesn't make the system bad and that doesn't make me wrong.  It just means that, with a limited amount of time to spend on my hobby, I don't choose to do more than read the rules and make an assessment.  I do, however, know that over the past several weeks I have spent more time on "Simple" than I want to.  

Again, kudos to you for a substantial effort.  I hope you find an audience for your work.   
No "minor" country left behind...
May be I can add a few comments and of a much lesser quality than the above ones (... also due to far from perfect mastership of English). I think that there some of the points made by JasonC are not far from the truth.

To make just an examples, I also feel that HMGs have not enough "stopping" powers. This could be fixed by giving them three opportunity shots rather than two (in infantry attacks they get two and normal infantry only one) and or increasing their oportunity fire shift from +1 to +2. However I also think that they should be more vulnerable than normal infantry units (and I would give them a +1 when fired at by direct fire).
I could continue with additional small twists that in my opinion would add a bit more realism. But there you go they would be just my own ideas and there is the whole comunity playing the official rules!

More in general I think that the description on how the game evolves is 99% per cent is correct but I would not agree that the gaming as it is under the current rules is tedious. As a scenario designer, I can also add that the outcome is very realistic. Reading quite a lot of sources I found out that given: 1) the amount of forces actually involved, 2) the task that was given to the troopos (e.g. gain control of hill xxx and village YYY) and the time span covered by the battles the amount of losses (casualties) is remarkably close to the one described by the sources. This means that a faster and more bloody game would not depict accurately the battles.


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