Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Dealing with Panzergrenadiers in Chain of Command

There is no doubt that the German panzer grenadier platoon makes for a very tough opponent in Chain of Command and new players are often quick to suggest that they may be overpowered. While there is no denying they are powerful, it's important not to forget that this is how they were historically and the game reflects this. Their opponents were forced to find ways to try to counter them and if we want our games to feel like we are playing the period and not the rules then hopefully this Chain of Command tutorial can help you find a way to take on these tough units.

If we look at the panzer grenadier platoon as it stands in the Kampfgruppe Von Luck pint sized campaign each of the platoon's squads are capable of generating 19 fire dice at full strength (that doesn't include the leaders' SMGs, which only come into play under 12" range). Eight for each MG42 plus three from the accompanying riflemen.

If we make a comparison with a typical squad or section from other nations there is a clear difference in the amount of firepower that can be generated.

Without considering the fire from the section or squad leader's SMG, a typical British section (squad) is made up of a bren team and a six man rifle team and can generate 12 fire dice. An American rifle platoon squad is made up of a BAR team and an eight man rifle team and can also generate 12 fire dice. A Russian rifle platoon squad operates as a single team of an LMG team and seven riflemen, which can generate 13 fire dice.

Whatever your allied option the panzer grenadiers come very well equipped to a fire fight. So, are they over-powered? Well, they are certainly strong and should prove a match for any opponent in a straight shoot out. In short, pick any allied squad to take on a panzer grenadier squad and you should expect to come out worse off. So, what can you do when you are faced with these as opponents?

The main strength of the PG squad is undoubtedly the firepower from two belt fed LMGs. Their weakness is their solitary single senior leader, which makes them less tactically flexible than their British or American counterparts. They can of course add a senior leader as support, but that is to draw on support points that neither the British or Americans need to consider. If the allies can’t compete in a squad-on-squad firefight, where else can they look for an advantage?

One place to start is with the force rating. A panzer grenadier platoon is now rated +3 (this is as per the official FAQ, a change since the original rule book). So this gives us force ratings differentials as follows:
  • British platoon +3
  • American platoon +2
  • Russian platoon +6
Choosing these additional supports wisely will be one step to evening up the odds. It’s important you reduce the panzer grenadiers’ advantages and leverage their weaknesses. Additional firepower is a good start. Consider weapons that can produce good results beyond the 18” close range of the MG42. This could be HE in the form of an artillery piece, a mortar barrage or a tank, alternatively it could be additional support fire from a HMG. Weapons that reduce the level of cover and can operate effectively beyond ranges of 18” will mean you can apply pressure from a distance that diminishes the effect of any return fire.

Given the disparity in senior leaders you want to look for supports that add to your tactical flexibility. For the British and Americans an Adjutant is a low cost support that allows you to have both your senior leaders on the table. This gives a lot of tactical flexibility, as well as the ability to rally off the inevitable shock that can accumulate once your units are under fire. With two senior leaders it is possible to consider an extra squad or section as support. This is not so much for their additional firepower as the advantage of having one more manoeuvre element. This will give you movement options that the PG platoon with its single senior leader may find hard to counter.

PG platoons that are able to deploy all their squads and then concentrate their fire are formidable. One of your aims is to prevent that happening so that you can concentrate and try to overwhelm isolated PG squads. Easier said than done, but if they are defending a position then there are supports like a pre-game barrage that can help disrupt the speed at which the grenadiers are able to deploy. Remember you will be looking for those little chances that might give you an edge, when they occur you have to capitalise. No point having a pregame barrage if you don't take the opportunity it presents when German units deploy unsupported.

Conversely, you will want to respond quickly once you have the opportunity. If you have two senior leaders, then getting both on the table for maximum effect should be something to aim for. This makes an Adjutant at only one support point such an attractive choice. Particularly if you think bringing in an additional squad or section is the best way to overwhelm the grenadiers. Two senior leaders on the table controlling four squads and supports could give you the margin you need.

Your support choices will be partly determined by the layout of the table and the particular scenario, but time spent considering what will equip you best will be time well spent.

This time and effort should also be spent looking at the table and working out exactly what sort of plan you want to formulate. No matter what you decide to do, the one thing you don’t want to do is expose your men to a lot of MG42 fire while you try to manoeuvre to your objectives, or to defend them. This means giving the patrol phase some thought. What are your best avenues for approach? Where do you expect to see the grenadiers and can you deny some of that terrain to them? Ideally you don’t want them able to deploy from several jump off points so that you face the combined fire of a number of squads. Look for ways you can build up the advantage at a key point and try to deny that to the enemy.

When the game starts don’t rush to deploy until you think it gives you an advantage. Try to create a situation where the Germans deploy first, then, once you have an idea of where they are, you can respond and avoid gifting them targets. You can use your support choices to create advantageous circumstances for deployment. For example, place a gun on Overwatch or have MGs lay down covering fire on potential German deployment terrain.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to delay deploying units until it suits your plan. If you offer the panzer grenadiers targets you can be sure they will exploit the opportunity and you will start losing casualties and building up shock for no discernible gain. New players have a tendency to rush their deployment, anxious that somehow they will be caught out if they don’t. Ask yourself the question, why am I deploying? It should only be because you can see it gives you an advantage. As the defender you will often find that staying hidden works much to your advantage - without targets to shoot at the commander of the panzer grenadiers might be lured into weakening his position seeking out your units.

At some point it’s inevitable that you will engage in a firefight, so make sure you have tactics in mind to reduce the odds in the German favour.

You want to return fire, but you also want to reduce the effect of their fire. You can do this by having some of your units lay down covering fire on the panzer grenadiers, this reduces their chances of hitting by 33% at close range and by 50% at effective range. Your other units can then fire normally. Expect to take shock, however this is where your additional senior leader will come in useful. In addition to providing you more tactical options, together with the junior leaders they can help keep shock at manageable levels.

The British in particular have an advantage when it comes to dealing the panzer grenadiers. Their national characteristic of Concentrated Fire allows you to direct the fire of a bren team at a single MG42 team, which greatly increases the chance of wiping one of those teams out. It is surprising how brittle a PG squad becomes once it has lost one of its teams. 

The British also have an excellent platoon asset in the 2” mortar. Forget about the HE rounds, it’s the smoke rounds you will find most useful.

Consider this possible tactic for the British. You have a senior leader attached to a section and within command range of a 2” mortar. You activate the section corporal (JL) and have him use his two CI to activate the rifle team for the characteristic of Five Rounds Rapid and target a PG squad. This will give them two additional fire dice and they can roll eight dice. You then activate the SL and have him use 2CI to have the Bren team use Concentrated Fire and target the smaller of the two MG42 teams. That way you will have put a total of six fire dice on one MG42 team plus whatever hits are shared between both teams from the eight fire dice from the rifle team, that's a potential maximum of ten hits on a four man team. Finally, the SL uses his last CI to have the 2” mortar fire a round of smoke to blind the larger of the MG42 teams, the one that wasn’t hit with Concentrated Fire.

Based on average dice you would expect the smaller MG42 team to take five hits and assuming they are in light cover this would result in something like one dead and two shock. The casualty will eliminate the rifleman and reduce the team to just the MG42. When you factor in the two points of shock and the casualty you have reduced the firepower from this team from nine to seven. More effectively the smoke from the mortar has blocked off the fire from the other MG42 team. That way you have reduced the return fire from the PG squad from nineteen fire dice down to seven.

If you are able to put covering fire down on the MG42 team that still has a line of sight, you would then reduce the chance of that 7 firepower hitting any targets by 33%. In other words, assuming average dice we would expect 2-3 hits on the British in return.

This combination is peculiar to the British, but there are other ways to tackle the situation. The biggest danger from the grenadiers is the concentration of fire across several squads. This is where a mortar barrage is very useful. 

A mortar barrage can prevent the squads concentrating their fire

The PG cannot afford to be bunched or concentrated too close together for fear of having too many units trapped under the barrage. All well and good for you if they do. If they don’t, it probably means they may not be mutually supporting, which will allow you to try to gang up on individual squads and outnumber them.

The ability of heavy weapons like HMGs or tank guns to reduce the level of cover and/or hit on a 4, 5 or 6 from any range, should mean you have called on support choices that can blast PG squads out of their positions. They take hits and shock just like any other troops and not many squads will stay in a building for long once they are on the receiving end of a few HE rounds. Keep in mind that you are probably facing these Germans in 1944 or ’45, in which case you do need to be very wary of infantry anti-tank weapons. This is one reason you want to make full use of the long range of tank guns to sit back and fire from a distance. There is no advantage to closing the range for tanks, you only offer yourself up for a panzerfaust round if you do.

The key thing to keep in mind is that you are very unlikely to beat the PG platoon by seeking a firefight. While you can’t avoid engaging them entirely, your aim should be to find a way to beat them in detail, preferably taking on single squads where you can build up an advantage. This requires you to capitalise on any passing window of opportunity. If there is a fleeting chance to dominate a single squad you need to react quickly and aggressively. Exploit your numerical superiority in leaders and any support advantage and then pile it on.

Ultimately though, I believe your aim should be to manoeuvre them out of position. If they are moving, they are not shooting. Again, this is where your leaders and tactical flexibility should be exploited to work around flanks, approach blind spots and outnumber individual squads. This also applies if you are defending. Simply opposing them in a firefight will most likely have your units shot from their positions. You need to consider ways to draw the grenadiers into killing grounds or areas you can work around flanks.

A CoC die is your friend here. If the fire is getting too hot, then use a CoC die to interrupt and move out of harm's way. You could interrupt to fire first, but only choose that option if you have a clear advantage, for example, the PG squad has already lost a few men and has acquired some shock. If they are in hard cover you run the risk of doing little damage before receiving their fire, better to slip away.

The panzer grenadiers are tough opponents and there is no magic formula. Any success is likely to be the result of carefully coordinating all the factors at play in the game. Sometimes it will just need a bit of luck.
  1. Think through all the elements of the scenario, from the map to the victory objective, and formulate a clear plan.
  2. Ensure you call on the right supports that will best enable you to execute that plan.
  3. Determine where you want your jump off points to be and where you want to prevent your opponent's to be placed.
  4. Consider your deployment very carefully and only bring on units where you can see an obvious advantage. Don’t gift your opponent targets without a clear gain.
  5. Use tactics that limit the grenadiers firepower advantage - suppress with covering fire, blind them with smoke, target single units, use HE from beyond close range, call in a barrage.
  6. Exploit your advantage with senior leaders to keep on top of shock and use manoeuvre to keep the PG off balance and threatened.
I had some experience fighting Panzergrenadiers playing the Kampfgruppe Von Luck pint sized campaign. In one scenario I tried to put several of my thoughts on how to deal with them into practice and you can follow my thinking and what unfolded in the scenario The Church on the Flank.

While I won the campaign, I lost this particular scenario, but not without inflicting considerable damage on one of the PG platoons, so I hope this will give you an opportunity to see how I tried to apply some of the ideas set out in this article. 


  1. What a splendid post, nice to see a lets deal with it rather than a whinge about it attitude.

    1. Thanks Phil, that was what partly inspired me to write it, too many people implying the game was broken, when often it was the tactics that were at fault.

  2. Really enjoyed that, good read thanks

  3. Pretty good overview on the tactics available in a CoC game. Good to see thoughts written down.

  4. Ah, so that's where I've been going wrong. Sound advice there. I'll need to make a note of them for my next game. thanks

    1. I hope you find it useful - no guarantees it will work, those PG are tough and don't go down easily.

  5. Well thought out post and well written. In my CoC games (man it’s been awhile) we found PG too tough and just started using regular grenadiers. Especially when PG on defense. Bit of a cop out I know...😀

  6. Thank you Mark for this article, very helpful.
    cheers John

  7. Hi Mark/ everyone - a very important point to note. A PnzGren. Platoon actually puts out 21D6 in total, not 19D6, as the ammo bearer for the MG teams (the third crew) can also use his rifle. This has been confirmed by the great man, Richard Clarke, of TooFatLardies, who actually wrote the rules. See his blog comment at the bottom of the conversation thread here:
    So the first MG team generates 11D6 and the second MG team generates 10D6 = 21D6, excluding the Junior Leader's SMG.

    1. I think you may have misunderstood what Rich is saying. In the PZGrenadnier squads you have two LMG teams. The men listed as crew, are just that, they have a full time role crewing the LMG and may not fire their rifles. The others listed as riflemen are also 'crew' however they are also free to use their rifles, hence the distinction in the force list in the LMG teams between 'crew' and 'rifleman'. So in the Von Luck campaign one LMG team has four men and the other has five. Each LMG requires a dedicated three man crew, the additional riflemen are ammo carriers but may also fire their weapon.

  8. I'm absolutely OK with this because: (a) it's historically accurate and (b) I play a standard British Platoon so use BOTH National Characteristics to defeat the PnzGrens. :)
    I also use cover, going 'tactical', smoke (from 2" mortars & smoke grenades), covering fire, Overwatch, firing first, etc., to negate their firepower advantage.
    In addition, do NOT under-estimate the use of a Pre-Game Barrage and off-mortar barrages to make life even more difficult for the PnzGrens - they ARE beatable if you have a plan and you use all of the game's varied options to defeat them !! :)
    P.S.: I also use an Adjutant (for only ONE Support Point !) so that I can have TWO Senior Leaders on the battlefield using their 3 Command Initiative Points to activate National Characteristics (in attack) and to rally off Shock quickly (in defence).
    Hope this helps ?
    Best Wishes, John (who also wrote the post just above !).

  9. Any advice for players using Russian forces? We have less commanders, no smoke and no foo!

  10. I am currently having a hard time playing a German PG Platon in the Martlet Campaign. Your thoughts are most welcome!

  11. Hi! I'm looking through the FAQ and I can't find where they changed the force rating from a +1 to a +3, is there another FAQ put there I don't have or was this a mistake? Thanks!

    1. Make sure you have the v2 FAQ, which is available from the Lardy Blog website. You will find it on the fourth page in the section 'Appendix B' where it lists chance in some ratings.

    2. I'll take a look, thanks!

    3. Yep the FAQ I had was 9 pages, this one is almost 30 haha

  12. Great article. When you talk about one shortcoming of the German squads being their having just one junior leader I'm guessing you are referring to the extra leader available at the platoon HQ level for the US and GB as I can't see any squads that have an integral second leader. New to COC though so I might be reading it wrong. While the second leader is a bonus for sure it's an extra one split between 2-3 sections, not one per section. So yes it's a disadvantage but not perhaps THAT much?