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Posted on Mar 19, 2008 in Boardgames, Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Road to Berlin – Boardgame Review

By Mark G. Brownell

The eight maps represent, I believe, the most in any Panzer Grenadier series game to date. On the heavy cardstock maps you find clear terrain, woods, towns, fields, swamps, roads, several large hills, a couple of ponds, and a river. These eight geomorphic maps may be used to create a great variety of battle sites. As I mentioned before, placed end to end, they will stretch over eleven feet and side to side, over seven feet! Lots of terrain. I do, however, have one major problem with the maps. All the maps have a yellowish color reminding me of flowing fields of grain. Over fifty of the game’s scenarios take place in January, February, or March of 1945. Another twenty take place in April and only a few in May of 1945. I want to know where is the snow? This is supposed to be Russia and eastern Europe in winter! You don’t have to have a completely white map, but I don’t get the feeling of the Russian Front when the maps look like you should be going on a picnic! This is not restricted just to the Road to Berlin. In Avalanche Press’ Battle of the Bulge the maps also look like the middle of summer. Now I know that one reason is so that maps may be interchanged with other games. In a recent statement on their website, Avalanche Press announced that their new South African counter scenarios of the Panzer Grenadier series plan to use maps from the North African games AND Road to Berlin! So the Russian steppes in winter may also serve as the Sahara? Now why couldn’t the Battle of the Bulge maps and Road to Berlin be done in winter colors? Maybe I just want too much realism, but somehow, seeing the Finnish ski troops in Edelweiss skiing on green terrain doesn’t do much for me! Anyway, getting back to Road to Berlin, the maps are completely functional for the game, if you can get by the summer color scheme.

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Road to Berlin is part of the Panzer Grenadier series and not, in my opinion, suitable as an introduction to this fine series. However, for those of you unfamiliar with the game mechanics of this series, I shall try to provide a brief summary.

A typical game turn is made up of three phases: initiative determination, action, and marker removal. The initiative determination phase decides which player goes first and how many moves, or "action segments", in Panzer Grenadier terminology, he/she completes before the opposing players gets to move.

Any number of action segments may make up the Action Phase. The number of action segments a player has in a turn depends on the number of units and leaders that a player has, their morale status, and whether or not he is able to "activate" them. There are three levels of morale in the Panzer Grenadier series: good order, disrupted, and demoralized. A unit that is demoralized is very limited in what actions it may perform, while a disrupted unit can’t attack, and a unit in good order may operate, for the most part, normally. Here is where leadership comes in. Every game in the Panzer Grenadier series is about leadership. Very simply stated, the better a leader’s morale, combat modifier, and morale modifier, the more units that leader is able to influence. The more leaders you have, and the closer they are to each other, is also a key tactic. For example: a captain, in good order, in one hex may not only help the units in his hex but in the adjacent six hexes also. If there happens to be a lieutenant or sergeant in any of those adjacent hexes with their own stack of units, they would be helped by the captain. In turn, the lieutenant’s influence would effect the hexes adjacent to him, rippling outward into a large group of units that could all move or fire in one particular action segment all because of the influence of one, good ordered leader. Leaders are also necessary in helping units recover from the effects of combat by helping them improve their morale status.

Once activated, units may move or conduct fire combat. There are four types of combat: bombardment, or indirect fire which also includes off board artillery factors that are available in certain scenarios, direct fire, anti-tank fire, and assault, or hand to hand combat between units in the same hex.

Any number of action segments may make up a turn. Each of the seventy-five scenarios in Road to Berlin have a specific number of turns ranging from as little as sixteen turns in three scenarios, to as many as forty-eight turns, also in three scenarios. The average seems to be from twenty-four to thirty-six turns.

So, should you purchase Road to Berlin? If you’re a Panzer Grenadier fanatic then of course you want every game in the series. If you’re a tactical East Front armor fan than this is also a game for you. You have a large area of terrain and more platoons of infantry, tanks, and artillery than you can handle. The larger scenarios are excellent for team play, especially if your club has an area big enough to leave the game set up for a long period of time. You could easily spend months playing through the seventy-five scenarios. I would not recommend Road to Berlin for someone new to the Panzer Grenadier series, or to anyone with limited time and space. To get the full enjoyment from the game, I think you need to take the time to play most of the scenarios. If you do this, you will really have a feel for the combat on the Eastern Front in the last months of World War II. With the nice, bright, summer colors on the maps, you won’t even feel the cold!

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