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  PANZERKAMPF FROM TRAFALGAR EDITIONS The latest   game from Trafalgar Editions continues their   concentration on miniatures   related sys...


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miniatures system. small scale tank actions




The latest game from Trafalgar Editions continues their concentration on miniatures related systems.  Their two Napoleonic games were a very happy marriage of board wargame and miniature techniques.  Panzerkampf is much nearer to Ships of the Line: Trafalgar 1805 in that it is purely a miniatures game to be played out on a convenient table top.  However, the focus is much different and the contents of this core game very small in number.  First of all, I would describe Panzerkampf as a light skirmish game of small scale tank encounters, unlike Trafalgar's fleet sized action.  The actual physical size of both games' components is 10mm, but a change from plastic to resin means that the tanks in Panzerkampf  have a much greater solidity and for their size the level of detail is clear and well executed.  Below you can see on the left the basic unpainted Russian T34 41and on the right the basic PzIV F1 with a simple undercoating of field grey and a light dry-brushing to pick up a few highlights.  

The basic core game provides for the German player three Panzer IV F1s, a Tiger VI and a Stug IIIA, while for the Russian there are three T34 41s, one SU 76M and a KV 1 and Trafalgar Editions very generously included all the supplementary models that will become available, but for the moment I want to focus on the rest of the core contents.
Being a miniatures game, the box feels rather light without the familiar paper maps or even heavier mounted maps that are becoming a familiar feature in many games.  Besides the vehicle models are two sheets of cardboard [one mainly of essential markers, the other mainly of terrain] and the rules book.  Having seen the proto-type counters, I was a little disappointed by the sombre hue to most of the markers, which caused some difficulties identifying details at times. 

I discussed this with the designer, Jose Luengo, who I must thank for his willingness to respond so swiftly to any of my queries.  He explained that the intention was to maintain a steely artistic palate in keeping with the armoured focus of the game.
The cardboard terrain elements were particularly important for me, as the 10mm scale doesn't match the very limited miniatures that I've dabbled in over the years.  That is something that I shall definitely have to rectify, as functional though the cardboard is, the photos I have seen of the game with even a modicum of buildings etc to scale greatly enhances the game.
Preparing for play
Here you see in cardboard the game's three buildings, a small section of walls just off centre and the woods markers which serve to delineate an area of woodland, just as some 3D trees would.  Just playing on my handy rough countryside playing mat was at least a help to the visual aspect of the game.  Also in view are a number of the other essential, helpful items. Near the bottom right is the card strip displaying the basic to hit numbers depending on terrain, which can be seen more clearly below, along with the very familiar basic movement marker [MU], as well as one of the building terrain pieces on its reverse side showing that the building has been destroyed.

Also to be seen in the photo above, labelled Preparing for Play, are more terrain pieces, the D6 dice and three useful devices [two shown below].

template for assisting in identifying angle of shot
template for assisting in turret rotation
Finally, there is a card for each type of vehicle that contains all the stats need to play the game.  Once again these have changed somewhat from the prototypes that I had seen, but this time I would say the final version is a definite improvement, with the use of coloured bars and labelled images adding to ease of use, a factor which I'll discuss in more detail when exploring the rules system. 

Rounding out the package is a 16 page Rule Book of which just over 11 pages are rules.  They are very well laid out in double columns with plentiful illustrations and double-spaced text which makes them so very easy to read.   Thumbs up all round, because they're not just visually clear, but totally clear to understand.  Though I would describe this as very much an introductory level miniatures skirmish game that would ease a beginner in with no difficulty, there is a pleasing degree of nuance delivered too.
Sequence of Play
{a} Initiative Phase
{b} Repairs Phase
{c} Movement Phase
{d} Turret Movement Phase
{e} Fire Phase

Initiative is determined by a simple D6 die roll by each player; highest gaining the Initiative and consequently moving second.  A neat marker not only shows which player has won the initiative, but also records an increasing negative modifier, so that, however poor your dice-rolling skills are, at some point you'll definitely get the initiative. 
Repairs can only be made to a damaged gun or turret.  Considering the brief  "real" time being covered, repairs more realistically might be thought of as malfunctions being rectified, but whatever the label this is just one of the little touches I like about the game.  Suffer damage to your vehicles tracks and that's you immobilised for the game and never mind the likelihood of gun fire doing the damage, just entering a wooded area or rubble has its risks! 
Movement too is swift to execute with Trafalgar Editions' typical MU markers and couldn't be clearer.

I particularly like two rules related to movement. The first is that you place a numbered chit that records how many MU you've used that becomes a modifier to the To Hit die roll in the Fire Phase making it harder to hit or be hit.  The second is that if you've used your maximum  MU in a turn - except when your maximum is 1 MU - then you must move at least 1MU at the beginning of the next turn.  I also like the fact that the marker is coloured differently on one side so that you always know whether the number is your maximum move or not.  No having to keep checking vehicle cards or trying to memorise all the different vehicles' movement stats! Again very simple, but very helpful.  
I was fascinated to see a Turret Movement Phase, where this handy little gadget [see below] comes in!

Hold it over your tank, with the barrel lined up and roll a D6.  A pivot up to 80 degrees is always a success, but to pivot more you need to roll the appropriate number.
Moving on to the Fire Phase is to come to the heart of the game, where once more a series of simple rules provide a subtle blend for very little effort.  First of all, a straight line from the gun barrel must touch some part of the target.  So for vehicles such as the Stug IIIA that can't rotate its barrel make sure your move gets you lined up.  Your first roll of 2D6 [modified for range and movement modifiers] is for Impact which is compared with the target's terrain number.  Roll too high and it's a total miss.
If you've scored a hit, then roll 2D6 for Damage - penetration is achieved by rolling less than the target's profile number [Front/Side/Rear] on the vehicle card, taking into account any defensive modifiers to the dice roll, as seen below.
The next step is to check whether the firer's shell penetration value at the given range is greater than the target's armour value.  If it is, then the target is destroyed.  Referring to the vehicle cards above, imagine that the German Panzer is firing at the Russian T34's front armour. The Pz IV fires an APCB shell at range D1, so its penetration value is 45mm, but the T34 has armour value of 52mm [as seen on the silhouette]. So, no direct kill.   
But there's still the chance of a Critical Hit.  This is dealt with easily, if the penetration value is greater than half of the target's armour value, you've achieved a Critical Hit.  In this example, the Russian 's 52mm armour is halved to 26mm, the German's penetration of 45mm is greater - so a Critical Hit.  Roll on the Critical Hit Table to see what has been damaged - gun/turret/hull/engine/track/crew stunned and place the appropriate damage marker against the tank.  The effect of each type of damage takes just a brief, succinct paragraph to explain. Through this simple three step process, the game achieves a surprising level of detail with all the typical effects you'd expect in a game of tank warfare.

The remaining details on the vehicle card are its maximum movement number, crew survival number and points value.  As in most miniatures' systems, the latter is used for creating battles by each side being allocated a total points to spend on buying units.   
All this is accomplished in a mere 8 pages of simple, brief and precise rules followed by 3 pages of optional rules. Most of these I'd have no hesitation in advising that you include from the very start, especially the Random Events rule based on drawing an Event chit whenever you roll a double for hit determination.  This adds a colourful extra layer of detail for all your games, while the optional rules for crew survival and crew types will appeal to those of you who want to play a mini-campaign or tournament.
So, how can you resist a system that potentially contains an 88mm mounted on a half-track - apologies that this model hasn't yet been touched up. 

So, I couldn't resist showing off what even a quickly done paint job can do to a Tiger VI.

To sum up, the core box gives you a hugely accessible, light system for creating swift, skirmish scenarios between tanks, but - be warned - you will want to buy in to the whole range of additional vehicles and I hope that some at least will come in multiple packs!