Sometimes we like to play serious wargames, sometimes we just like to put our toys on the table and have a smash up.

Panzermash is a little tank game I’ve tried out at my club. The game in the pictures was played with about 3-4 tanks a side controlled by 2-3 players on 6’x8′, but you can go bigger if required. You could go smaller, but you lose a bit of the banter that you get with a fast play game and lots of people.

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Card activation. When a card for your side (red or black) comes up the commander for that side can activate a tank.
  • Spot cards activate one crew position in the tank (eg: driver, gunner)
  • Face cards activate the tank commander, who has two actions to activate crew, or do things like rally or put them on overwatch.
  • Sides score 2 points for a vehicle reaching the enemy’s base line (3 for light vehicles, 1 for heavily armoured ones), or 1 point per enemy vehicle knocked out.
  • Loaders work automatically unless the tank just fired. You can activate a tank as many times in a row as the cards allow, but you’ll need to draw face cards each time to activate the loader and gunner simultaneously. This makes repeated shots by one vehicle a bit harder, but doable if lady luck smiles on you.
  • Commanders can “bank” cards instead of activating a tank. These are used to buy “nasty surprises” (interrupts, ambushes, random events, etc).
  • Drawing a joker resets the deck. Acts like a turn end in Chain of Command, clearing smoke, etc.
  • If one side draws and plays three cards in succession without the other side getting a go then the opposition get to roll a random event, which is usually positive (airstrikes, extra tanks, etc). This tends to stop a run of cards of one colour.
  • At the umpire’s discretion a card for a random event can also be dealt into the deck.

You can download my copy of the rules here. It’s a bit of a work in progress, if you try it out I’d love to hear your feedback.

Game mechanics wise it’s essentially a stripped down version of Chain of Command, as I reckon the movement and shooting in that is a nice blend of dead simple mechanics that give a bit of fun damage detail. To be honest it’s a bit of a mash up of elements of CoC and Bolt Action (especially the random activation bit). Hence “Panzermash”.

It’s tempting in games like this to just put loads of medium tanks on the table and play solely for kills, but I think a bit of asymmetry and rewarding manoeuvre makes it more interesting. I gave both sides a light vehicle (Bren gun carrier with PIAT or halftrack with 20mm). Limited firepower and crap armour means these won’t be killing many tanks, but if you can get one across the table you can score more points than most tanks will. Skewing things the other way I threw in a Panther, but nerfed it slightly by giving it 3 rounds of antitank ammo, because the Allied side only had Shermans and I didn’t want it rampaging through them. On top of this the Allies had a 4:3 advantage. Next time I run a big cat I might restrict the ammo even further by making it a 50:50 chance of being out of ammo after each shot. Having to toss a coin after each one should make them think twice about pulling the trigger!

The other things games like this want is plenty of terrain. Again, this stops the bigger guns sitting back and dominating, and makes the lighter, faster vehicles more survivable. You want a mix of close terrain for cat-and-mouse with some longer vistas. Tall walls like these or things like railway embankments that can hide the small vehicles and offer hull down positions to the big ones should either go in the middle of the table or run from one baseline to the other. I also allowed players pretty liberal access to smoke to keep them manoeuvring, but people tend to forget to use this, they’re too busy trying to shoot each other!