Game Spotlights

Published: January 12, 2022


River Battleships from Avalanche Press

Much of the information below was provided by Mike Bennighof, Ph.D. of Avalanche Press who designed and edited River Battleships.

River Battleships in WWII

During the Second World War, several Eastern European nations fielded flotillas of river monitors—armored, shallow-draft warships that operated on the great rivers. These gunboats (anything on a river is a “boat,” no matter its size) were designed to provide artillery support, engage enemy troops and if necessary, to fight other river monitors.

river battleships romanian bratianu class monitor
Romanian Bratianu-class River Monitor

River Battleships introduces these armored warships to the Panzer Grenadier game system. These are the actual river warships that served Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Germany, Yugoslavia, Croatia, Austria and the Soviet Union.

Basic Stats

river battleships wargame avalanche press
River Battleships, from Avalanche Press
  • Play Time: 30 minutes – many hours
  • Players: 1-2
  • Scale: 200 meters/hex; units are platoons
  • Complexity: 4/10
  • Solitaire-friendly: Excellent

Game Components

  • 2 11″x17″ maps of the Danube (or Dnepr, or Pripyet)
  • Game rules, charts, special rules, and sixteen scenarios (plus an introductory scenario)
  • 45 River monitor pieces
  • 32 Smaller river gunboat pieces
  • 50 Special markers for the river crafts
  • 64 Panzer Grenadier-sized pieces with troops, weapons, and leaders

A look at some of the boats

River Battleships has 191 die-cut and silky-smooth playing pieces.

  • 45 “long” monitor pieces
  • 50 standard-sized markers for the river craft (for when they anchor, run aground, drift downstream, etc)
  • 32 sort-of long gunboat pieces
  • 64 regular old Panzer Grenadier pieces with Soviet and Romanian Marines and some other ground forces


river battleships map
River Battleships map, from Avalanche Games

River Battleships is a complete, stand-alone game in Playbook format, which means that it includes everything you need to play in the package—except dice! The special rules are based heavily on the Second Great War: River Fleets special Gold Club set done by Matt War and Daniel Rouleau, with some modifications. Chief among them is the switch from gigantic double-sized pieces for river monitors to the standard naval game size; that allows the river monitors to occupy just one hex on the map which in turn enormously simplifies game play.

Panzer Grenadier provides a framework that carries over very well to the riverine environment; there’s not a huge amount of special rules for the monitors. River craft were already included in the standard game rules, and movement and combat are still movement and combat. The river environment has some differences from the land environment such as river current—and tanks generally don’t sink after acquiring a few holes.


river battleships map
River Battleships map, by Avalanche Press

The scenario set is based on intentions, but there’s just the one “historical” scenario—though there are doubts that it actually happened. Fighting between the monitors takes place on a very restricted battlefield, and the monitors usually have fairly long-ranged weaponry. They have incentive to close, as an enemy boat can be boarded. Capturing an opposing vessel is a significant propaganda victory and would have marked career advancement for a winning captain. Many crews blew up their own boats to prevent the enemy from capturing them.

River Battleships is a unique game. Designer Bennighof and his team have worked hard to make it a fun experience. It’s been lavished with original artwork, just like our naval games enjoy, and it’s built on a well-known game engine which already has extensive online and organized play opportunities through Panzer Grenadier Headquarters.

Pick up a copy of River Battleships today!

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