The Panther tank is one of the icons of the German Wermacht from World War II. Its sleek design, devastating firepower, impressive top speed; all undone by over-engineered engines and gearboxes.
The Panther debuted at Kursk, with Operation Zitadelle held back specifically to allow the German armoured divisions on the Eastern Front to be outfitted with these new tanks. Based heavily on the T-34 which was causing the Germans all sorts of problems, the Panther was supposed to be classed as a medium tank, on par with the T-34, but after the armour, engine and turret went on, it ended up weighing almost 50 tonnes.
There are plenty of resources available on the history, technical details and combat history of this ubiquitous tank. I’m here mainly for the gaming aspect. With that in mind, let’s have a look at how the tank has changed between V3 and V4.
The above table shows the older statistics line of the Panther from the Eastern Front Pantherkompanie; rated ‘Confident Trained’. Not a ‘Slow Tank’, like the Tiger, but with superior Front Armour, but severely lacking in side armour. The Range of the main gun was also less than that of the Tiger, but with slightly greater Anti-tank (14, compared to 13 on the Tiger’s 8.8cm). Finally, the Panther retained the Wide Tracks rule, allowing it to cross terrain easier than a normal tank. It was rounded out with a pair of machine-guns, making it a fairly effective AFV.
Not shown in the above line is the ratings for the Panther
And now we compare the older statistics line with a slightly changed Panther (one could argue about model of Panther and fair comparison, however the older statistics line was applied across the board).
Firstly, we see that the Confident Trained rating has been changed slightly, with the Skill dropping to ‘Green’, but the addition of the German National Rule ‘Third Reich” will keep it in the battle longer; which is a good thing as the Panthers do not come cheap, but we’ll talk about that in the next section.
A noticeable difference is the drop in Front Armour, from 10, to 9. This is to take into account the ‘shot trap’ under the gun-mantlet and hull. This is going to upset a few people who readily relied on the Front Armour 10 to make the Panther almost impervious to most weapons at range, even the deadly American M10 Tank Hunter.
The only change for the good is the increase in Range for the main gun (whose stats remain unchanged otherwise). Meaning that the Panther can now outrange most of its contemporary opponents. The machine-guns have been compiled into a single line, as with other tanks.
The points exchange between V3 and V4 have been difficult to nail down, and this is not made any easier by the attempt to reconstruct one of my old lists from back in the day, where I had Seven of these beasts supported by a miniscule Pioneer Platoon:
Disregarding the fact that this is an awful list, and only really performed well when I had everything rolling onto the table (remember when Tank Companies almost always were attacker?). We can see that even with the amount of Panthers, the list was still short of the old standard 1750pts; increasing to this would have allowed the addition of a Panzergrenadier platoon, and some anti-aircraft support, allowing the army to repel most other lists.
And here we have the list updated and as close to 100pts as we can manage without going over. We’re losing two whole Panthers, but getting a bit of a boost in infantry support, with a much larger unit. This list suffers from a great many weaknesses: 2-tank platoons are prone to being broken easily, even with the ‘Third Reich’ rule. The force will suffer tremendously when Reserves come into play, most likely the Command Panther and one of the Platoons starting on the table to make the most of the points allowance.
In essence, I would perhaps go as far as to suggest that Panthers fill a good Support role for those looking for something tank-shaped, instead of SPG-shaped.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Something I thought I might take a closer look at, is how the Panther Company would perform against most other things on a book-by-book level. This will even include coming up against other forces from Ghost Panzers. Let us begin, and we’ll go back to the very start, the launch of V4
- The Panther, with its impressive Front Armour would be able to withstand most anti-tank elements of Afrika Korps. Though lucky hits from an abundance of middling weapons such as the Marder, 7.62, Diana, and up into the 8.8cm AA Gun will put paid to the Panther.
- Though inversely, the number of Panzers streaming forward might leave the Panther open to side-shots, and with a poor Skill rating, cannot rely on Blitzing, or Shooting-and-Scooting for repositioning
Desert Rats/Armoured Fist
The British Army didn’t encounter Panther tanks in combat until June 1944, and deemed them ‘horrifying’. So, how would the Desert Rats have dealt with them in North Africa?
- With the lack of reliable Anti-tank aside from the single platoon of 17pdr ‘Pheasants’, the British would struggle to get through the armour, unless they dedicated every turn of shooting to take them on.
- In return, the Panther would make easy work of even the heavily armoured Churchill.
- Crusaders, Valentines and Stuarts could potentially mob-up on the small, elite force of Panthers, hoping for favourable rolls through the thin Side Armour.
- Even artillery might cause a few problems for the Panthers, and an unlucky turn could see them out of the game, as the lack of ‘Protected Ammo’ makes even a Bailed Out result worrying.
The American Forces are the first on the field to have dedicated Anti-tank Formations in the form of the Tank-Destroyer Formation. Not only that, but the arrival of the Bazooka gives the Panther a worry when it comes to assaulting infantry
- Though the Tank Destroyers are fearsome, keeping them at range reduces their effectiveness, making their shots more survivable.
- Aside from the M10, the US forces do not have a dedicated Anti-tank asset heavy enough to deal with the Front Armour of a Panther, the best a Sherman’s gun can hope for is a Bailed Out result.
- The Armored Rifle units, and their ability to bring as many bazookas as they can carry is an issue if the Panther allows them to close in, as the likelihood of surviving the consequent assault is minimal.
The Italians have a few weapons to choose from when it comes to dealing with large tanks; mainly if they wish their big gun on the back of a truck, or just on legs.
- If the Panther can avoid 8.8cm guns, and Lancias, there is very little in the Italian Army to threaten it, even the fear of tanks on the side is minimal, with a rather feeble Anti-tank 6 for most weapons.
- With the ability to take multiple units of anti-tank guns either Lancia or 8.8cm, covering the board is easier for the Italians, and stand a very good chance at dealing with Panthers.
Enemy at the Gates
Now the Russians enter the fray, and even before the arrival of the Panther, they found German tanks rather formidable.
- The only weapon to fear from the earlier Soviet list is the 57mm anti-tank gun, and even then, keeping it at arm’s length will reduce the worst outcome to a Bailed Out; Only the IL-2 has the ability to deal with Panthers on the other side of the table (by flying over them), and even then it’s a challenge to range in the attack in the first place.
- In return, the Panther’s long 7.5cm gun will make mincemeat of most Soviet armour, with even the KV-1 fearing the bite of AT14 against Front Armour 9.
- Large hordes of Soviet Infantry might be a different prospect, though lacking any punch, with enough hits landing on Top Armour 1, something might eventually get through, and then it’s off to the scrap yard for the poor Panther
The predecessor to Ghost Panzers, and the first appearance of the iconic PaK40.
- Ignoring any Support options from Afrika Korps, Iron Cross has the Marders, Tiger, and Pak40 to deal with heavy armour. Again range counts from a lot, but getting up close and personal might deal the damage.
- Iron Cross brings another threat; Stukas with Anti-tank 9 cannons. With the flimsy Side Armour of 5, these could be a major threat.
We finally reach the book directly opposed to Ghost Panzers, and it only gets worse for the poor Panther from here;
- Much like Enemy at the Gates, the majority of Core units are of little concern to the Panther.
- However, with the appearance of the SU-152, with the AT13 gun (though a short range of 20″), and the SU-85, the Soviets now have a few more things to deal with the Panther.
You’ll notice that I didn’t go into Command Cards, not touched on Ghost Panzers itself. If I did… I’d be here all day.
Now, that final run down of everything a Panther could face in a game makes for scary, and rather depressing reading; However, you never know what’s going to be on the other side of the table, and none of these effective counters might make an appearance (I’m looking at you, Armoured Car meta).
The Panther is still one of the nicest tanks in the game looks wise, and for a player wanting to field a characterful Kursk force, they would look perfect on the rolling steppes of Russia.
I am still going to attempt to field them, just to see how they roll. If they fail completely, it’ll be an experience, if not, then it’ll be a crowning achievement and a glowing endorsement for the sports car of the tank world.