Home Forums WWII Panzerblitz at fifty

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    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    To mark, in a small way, the fiftieth anniversary of its release, I have just played (solo) my first ever game of Panzerblitz (Panzerblitz proper — I played the mini-game in the “Renaissance of Infantry” issue of S&T back in the 70s). Situation 1 ended in a Russian tactical victory.

    As an exercise in nostalgia, I played the rules “straight”, so inevitably there was a good deal of silliness with moving through fields of fire unshot and the near-total invisibility of units in cover, but I managed to restrain myself from using the stupid spotting-by-truck trick, largely because neither side’s orbat includes any trucks.

    While the map could do with some more restrained colours — not as optic-nerve-jangling as CGC’s first edition “Bar-Lev”, but still a bit of an orange nightmare — I was otherwise impressed by the graphic design. It has stood up astonishingly well over half a century: but then Redmond Simonsen was a genius. Jim Dunnigan was (and still is) a genius too, but the rules themselves don’t really hold up so well. He hadn’t yet invented opportunity fire, although the optional rule with an interleaved sequence of play shows the lines he was thinking along, which would appear in more mature form in “Combat Command” a couple of years later. But apart from the lack of opportunity fire and the well-known sillinesses of the Panzerbush syndrome and truck spotting, even a grumpy old git like me must give credit where it’s due. “Panzerblitz” is generally acknowledged as the first tactical board wargame, and it introduced silhouette counters, geomorphic map boards, make-your-own scenarios (“Situation 13”), and the idea — AFAIK never discovered by miniatures gamers until then — that players should have to choose each turn whether an element would fire or move, it being unable to do both. Really not at all bad for one game. Still, I don’t understand why artillery and mortar elements were given such abysmally poor defence strengths — both are really rather hard to knock out in real life. And the well-intentioned idea of weapons effect classes was perpetuated for decades in what I shall call the “Panzerblitz family” of games, until finally, in “Hill of Death”, it was recognised as bloody stupid, and replaced with the vastly more sensible idea of giving weapons separate attack strengths against hard and soft targets. Hard to see why that wasn’t obvious from the first.

    I reckon that it is really rather hard to write convincing modern tactical wargames, and “Panzerblitz” has to be counted as a good effort — for which it was rewarded by being the best-selling wargame of all time, although perhaps now overtaken by the almost equally influential “Squad Leader” and its completely over-the-top “Advanced” variant.

    One of the things I realise I had failed to understand about “Panzerblitz” was the way the “DD” result on the CRT worked (disrupted, killed if already disrupted). Since it is impossible to attack a target more than once in a fire phase, killing an element through a DD result depends on getting a D in the fire phase and then a DD by overrun or close assault in the movement phase. Given the difficulty of massing sufficient firepower to score an outright “X” (kill) result, this strikes me as a very convincing representation of tactical reality.

    Panzerblitz has its faults, as is inevitable for such a bold pioneering effort. But, fifty years on, I still had a fun game with it, and it still gives me things to think about. More than that one cannot really ask.

    All the best,


    Avatar photoMartinR

    Managing the DD results is the key to tactical success!

    I still like PB and I don’t care about opp fire, the shoot then move sequence gives the defender all the opp fire they need and is far less clunky than the horrible MP counting in PL (and which still let’s units hop from Bush to Bush unscathed). PB has a delicate, chess like, feel to it.

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    Avatar photoAndrew Rolph

    Aah memories! The one that started me off in the hobby. I learned of it from my cousin on a camping holiday when I was around thirteen. His friend had ordered it and I played it a few months later. I was looking to play figures games but a crippling lack of modelling skills and patience put paid to that for a further twelve or fifteen years, so I took to the instant fix of board wargames instead. And here we are hundreds of boardgames later.

    Unfortunately, to say I was imperfectly taught the rules would be a gross understatement. Imagine the game with practically no spotting rules, weapons effectiveness distinctions, few terrain effects on movement and no restrictions on targeting the same unit multiple times in a turn. Essentially it was a case of add up all the attack factors in range of a target until you achieve four to one. Oh and only ever play Prokorovka – tanks were the point of the game. And the Wespes and Hummels were terrifying – long range tank (and everything else) killers.

    And once imperfectly learned, when I had my own copy and gave it dozens of solo outings, those mistakes proved spectacularly resilient, regardless of multiple rereadings of the rules (which rapidly fell apart). I can safely say I never played a single game properly, it thereby losing all subtlety. However, perhaps such subtlety would have been lost on my teenage self anyway – the game was still a lot of (spectacularly unrealistic) fun. But I still can’t play it against anyone else.

    Nevertheless it was the key that unlocked the door I’d been banging my head against for years.




    Avatar photoEtranger

    50 years? It can’t be! I’ve got the much younger (“only” 46 years old) Panzer Leader & even today it can give a good game, even with the flaws documented above..

    Avatar photoJim Jackaman

    Played Panzer Leader to destruction back in the day, as it was my very first Avalon Hill bookcase game. Brilliant!


    The biggest problem for me was the way artillery was handled.  It is hard to call in artillery and hard to make it accurate and it takes too long in game terms.  On top of that, the way the game calculates artillery, the more units in a hex, the better the defense.  That, of course, makes no sense. There are 4 “spaces” in each hex.  Artillery should be quartered and each unit in a hex attacked individually.  Just dispense with the whole whigum “call in artillery” roll.  Here was my post on BGG.  https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1778800/artillery-again

    Quite a wonderful game series despite the warts.


    "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."

    --Abraham Lincoln

    Avatar photoMartinR

    I used to calculate artillery effect as against an average of two units stacked (so if there were three, firepower was increased 50%, and doubled if there were four, whereas it was halved if there was only one).

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    Avatar photoTactical Painter

    I started playing TAHC games when I was 11 years old and my father and I played  Stalingrad. A few years later we progressed to Panzerblitz and thought it was the greatest thing ever devised, flaws and all.

    I eventually graduated to Squad Leader before becoming engrossed with ASL for far longer than was healthy or wise. ASL left the elegant simplicity of Panzerblitz behind for endless detail, making the commitment to master ASL a lifestyle option. Sadly it required such a commitment I lost sight of all other developments in WWII tactical gaming for twenty years (surely I was playing the pinnacle of WWII tactical gaming, why should I need to look elsewhere?).

    I was asked to design some new scenarios for an official ASL publication and while researching eventually saw the light. I’ve written a longer piece on exactly why ASL lost me that you can read here http://thetacticalpainter.blogspot.com/2020/07/farewell-advanced-squad-leader.html


    The Tactical Painter - painting miniature armies for battles on the table top.

    Avatar photoThaddeus Blanchette

    The best and simplest way to do artillery, to my mind, would be to make it light, field, heavy, and superheavy. Roll a 1D6 against each unit in the target hex on a simple artillery effects chart.

    We get slapped around, but we have a good time!

    Avatar photoDave Whitehouse

    I have Panzer Blitz, Panzer Leader, Arab Israeli Wars, and Hill of Death all in my collection. Panzer Leader is still a good game. I haven’t ever tried Hill of Death, don’t know how it plays. Funnily enough Arab Israeli was my first one, still quite enjoy it for a change after first playing it around 1978!

    Avatar photodeephorse

    Whilst I have heard of Panzer Blitz, I have never played it, much less owned a copy.  1970 would be about two years before I fell victim to the hex-based board wargame.  But for me it was SPI all the way, with the odd Victory Games (I think it was) towards the end of my collecting.  No AH game, branded as such, has ever crossed my threshold!

    Play is what makes life bearable - Michael Rosen

    Avatar photomadman

    Tactical Painter

    As I stated in a couple other threads in this part of the forum I have been looking for rules for WWII similar to ASL in scope but with many of the aspects inherent in Chain of Command. You mentioned changes to ASL in your blog but the only ideas put forward were from someone else. I find Conflict of Heroes solves many of the sequence issues but still without the command aspects of CoC. I would like to start another thread to take this further. Would you be willing to input your ideas? Thank you and sorry for hijacking this thread but it seemed to best way to get contact with TP.

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