Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ghost Panzer: Quick Out of the Box Review

I picked up Ghost Panzer over Christmas break. It is the sequel to Screaming Eagles, part of the Band of Brothers series by Worthington Games. I played the learning scenarios a couple of times, and while I did a few things wrong, I definitely thought that the game had potential. There are two features that make the game unique: fire combat and "proficiency". They definitely give the game a different feel. I'll need to play it a bit more to fully appreciate how all of the components work.

The combat system is designed to generate suppression over casualties. Here's how it works... A unit has a firepower value and casualty value. A typical German line squad has a firepower of 6 and a casualty value of 4/7. When a unit shoots, you adjust the shooting unit's firepower by any modifiers that are applicable, such as terrain, open ground, etc. You then roll a 10 sided die. If the roll is less than the modified firepower, the target unit is suppressed. If the difference between the modified firepower and the die roll is less than the first casualty number, the unit is fully suppressed and suffers a step reduction. If the difference is less than the second number, the unit is eliminated. There are two levels of suppression, and once a unit is fully suppressed, additional suppression results have no effect.

Here's a shooting example. Lets assume that the German squad (firepower 6, casualty value 4/7) is shooting at a Russian squad (firepower 5, casualty value 3/7) across the street in a wooden building. The modifier for the wooden building is -1, so the German's final firepower is 5. If he rolls a 5 or less, the Russian squad is suppressed. If he rolls a 1 or a 2, the Russian squad is fully suppressed and suffers a step reduction. If he rolls 6 or higher, there is no effect. Coming back the other way, the Russian starts with a firepower of 5, which is reduced to 4 if we assume that the German squad is in a wooden building, too. He will suppress the German on a die roll of 4 or less, but cannot step reduce it.

The effects of suppression are simple.They reduce the morale of a unit. This is significant because a unit must pass a morale check to do anything... move, shoot, etc. Normal units have a morale of 10, so they can do anything that they want. A suppressed unit has a morale of 5 or 6, meaning that they have about a 50/50 chance of doing anything. You also don't roll the morale check until you try to perform the action, so you don't know how your units are going to react. A fully suppressed unit has a morale of 1, so its very unlikely to be able to do anything. You recover one level of suppression at the end of the turn.

Proficiency is the other interesting concept in the rules. For infantry, there is simply a "proficient firepower" which is a bit less than the normal firepower. German squads have a proficient firepower of 5, while Russian line squads are 2 and SMG squads are 4. You use the proficient firepower whenever you fire after moving or use defensive fire. Its an abstraction that measures your ability to adapt to different situations.

Vehicles have a separate proficiency value. Whenever a vehicle wants to do something that is a bit more complex than just moving or shooting, it has to make a proficiency check. Most German vehicles have a proficiency of 8 while most Soviet vehicles are 5 or 6. Vehicles are required to make a check when they defensive fire, fire after moving, and fire at long range. This makes the Germans a bit more flexible than the Russians. It also encourages a more fluid battle, as there is a significant defensive benefit to moving to offset the offensive penalty.

I managed to play a face to face game a couple of weeks ago. We played the initial infantry scenario vaguely reminiscent of the venerable Guards Counterattack from Squad Leader. I don't remember many details, but the Russians managed to win in the end, pushing the Germans out of the target building. We both thought that the game mechanics worked well and are excited to try the armor rules.