The first "hit" wargame
The four finalists with a new face
among the usual suspects.
It's not every day a new Grognard
champ is crowned.
Tactical Warfare on the Eastern Front
For the 19th straight year, participants gathered to compete
in the annual PanzerBlitz tournament at WBC. As
has been the recent custom, preliminary play for this event started
in the Grognard precon on Saturday before the official start
of WBC. The format was 'free form', which permitted
players to play matches according to their own schedule. The
play continued into WBC proper as the players competed for one
of the coveted spots in the final four.
Some of the early action included a tied score in scenario 23
between Alan Arvold and Rich Northey, two players that would
eventually make it into the final four. Alan and Rich
were involved in the outcome of ten of the first 11 games played
in this event. In the other match, not involving those
two, former champ Johnny Hasay knocked off John Clarke in scenario
54. Jeff Schulte was winless in five matches but this
was mainly because he ran into a bit of a buzz saw as all five
of his games were played against either Rich, who has made the
semi-finals of this event the past couple of years; or against
the two finalists from the 2008 event.
During this year's tournament, matches included play of 14 different
scenarios, including three PanzerLeader matches.
Scenario 1A was the choice in four matches with the Russians
winning three. Interestingly, the Germans won 79%
of the games not involving scenario 1A. There was
one other tied match. Since there were a variety of
scenarios played, it likely does not reflect a play balance issue
but rather just a statistical anomaly.
When the preliminaries ended, the top four positions for the
semi-finals were Rich Northey (4-3-1) with 38 points, Alan Arvold
(3-2-1) with 34 points, Marty Musella (2-1-0) with 31 points,
and two-time defending champion Bert Schoose (3-0-0) with 30
points. Bert could not play in the semi-finals, so
Chuck Leonard (2-3-0) secured the fourth spot with 27 points
in preliminary play.
The first semi-final match pitted Chuck against Rich. They
agreed to play scenario 1A. Northey opened his Russian
attack with an aggressive partisan and cavalry movement on the
German's right flank along with an armored infantry attack on
the left and in the center. The armor and infantry
attacked the 120mm mortar position on hill 129 while keeping
relentless pressure using the cavalry and partisans on the German
Somewhat demoralized by the rapid collapse of hill 129, Leonard
ordered an expeditionary force deep into Russian occupied territory
and surrounded one of the 82mm mortar units and its transport
on Turn 3. In the meantime, the German's 120mm mortar
was eliminated after surviving one turn dispersed. The Germans
most powerful direct fire weapon was gone without firing a single
The German's spirits were soon lifted by the successful destruction
of the 82mm mortar and the disruption of virtually all of the
attainable firing positions for the Russian's mortars. Rich
dispatched a tank platoon to protect the remaining mortars and
their transport. A struggle over positions along hill
135 ensued however, the needed firing positions were denied the
Russians by the German expeditionary force and this struggle
yielded more kills for the Germans: another mortar and a wagon
in turn and eventually one of the T-34s and finally a second
wagon paid the ultimate price.
In the meantime the Germans successfully halted the encroachment
of the partisans and cavalry on the right and it became clear
that they could not reach the road without exposing themselves
to elimination. This seeming success came at the cost
of two German rifle companies versus no losses for the Russians. An
outcome that once seemed decisively in favor of the German side
but later was revealed to be a major success for the Russians.
The valley between hill 129 and 132 became a Russian playground.
A variety of units took up residence on the road for a projected
victory point result of 13 to 13. Since ties were
adjudicated to be Russian wins in this scenario at its start,
Chuck's Germans were forced into a variety of risky attacks in
an effort to disperse one of the units on the road. Rich
assaulted in an attempt to disrupt those Germans before they
could attack. In the end, some of Chuck's units were
able to avoid dispersal and they got off some shots on the last
German turn but none of the three low odds attacks were successful
so the game ended in a 13-13 tie (Russian win) and a well-played
victory for Rich Northey over Chuck Leonard.
The second semi-final match had Marty Musella play Alan Arvold. Their
match saw them play scenario 14 with Marty as the Germans against
Alan's Russians. The match began with a screening
force deployed to the east to block a Russian armored relief
force while the German assault group attacked the CP in the town. The
Russians were caught by surprise and their defensive fire had
no effect. German fire quickly destroyed part of the
Russian anti-tank guns and the veteran infantry with supporting
engineers destroyed the Russian CP.
On the next turn, Marty's German fire against the remaining anti-tank
forces again missed (rookie tank crews?!!). Fortunately,
the veteran infantry close assaulted to successfully clear the
town. The German recon forces withdrew to cover the
assault force withdrawal. Russian relief armor had
pushed into the carnage of the town so the German armor retreated
using the infantry to cover their movement. Next,
German assault guns overran two Russian security companies in
revenge for their attack that had destroyed a tank platoon. Alan's
tank fire destroyed three infantry platoons to leave only one
German platoon remaining in the town. The northern
Russian infantry force moved to cut the German escape with an
infantry assault on Opustoschenia.
On Turn 5, Musella's Germans are in full flight trying to avoid
the pursuing Russians who mopped up the last German platoons
in Bednost along with the two assault gun platoons. The
long range mortars also destroyed a recon car platoon.
Turn 6 saw the German forces split into two elements by the fast
advancing Russians with one element retreating towards Golad
and the other in Graybosh. The Russians allowed the
Germans at Golad to escape and concentrated on eliminating the
elements cornered in Graybosh. Alan had trapped the
German forces in Graybosh as his Russian forces closed in to
finish them off. The other German element of light
recon units returned to the fray threatening Russian security
forces holding Zabvenia.
It turned out that the German attack at Zabvenia was just a feint
by Marty as those forces withdrew to the safety of Golad. At
Graybosh, Alan launched a combined infantry and tank assault
hoping to kill an armored platoon to score the final points for
victory. However, the German defense was based on
mobility and they were able to overrun three Russian truck platoons
and one infantry company for four crucial victory points. More
importantly, the remaining defenders became invisible to Russian
direct fire. The final CAT attack was too weak and
was easily repulsed. The game ended with 34 victory
points for the Germans to 30 for the Russians as Marty returned
to the PanzerBlitz Final after an absence of
two years. Alan had a great run for the second consecutive
year and vowed to make another attempt to win this event in 2010.
The Final was contested over scenario 52. Rich's
German battle group occupied the town of Bednost as
they had been alerted to Marty's Russian raiding force in the
vicinity. Out of the early morning mist, a Russian tank
brigade launched an immediate massed infantry/tank assault on
the town. The alerted Germans responded with very
accurate tank fire that decimated the supporting Russian tanks
and followed that fire with engineer supported infantry counter-attacks
that slowed the main Russian attack by disrupting several of
Marty's tank companies.
The Russian direct fire attack finally got underway when massed
anti-tank batteries and supported tank fire cleared one town
hex of Bednost by fire which Russian infantry quickly occupied. A
Russian battalion managed to disrupt the prized command post
(CP) objective hex with a close assault. The German
responded with fire that eliminated two additional tank companies
and disrupted the infantry company in the town to prevent it
from spotting for the other Russian guns.
On Turn 3, Marty's Russian attack slowed as he repositioned guns
for future attacks and continued infantry close assaults that
were not very effective even though they managed to keep the
objective CP hex disrupted. German close assaults
were also ineffective for Rich this turn. One German
tank platoon successfully overran a Russian company. It
was destroyed by Russian fire at the beginning of the next turn.
Turn 4 was another session of maneuver for the Russians as the
infantry company spotted for supporting anti-tank fire which
destroyed the defending German howitzer battery. A
Russian company then occupied a second town hex while the single
remaining tank company moved to occupy the town hex next to the
German CP objective hex. The Russians also deployed
two 45mm anti-tank batteries and advanced covering truck platoons
into assault positions next to the third and fourth town hexes
in the rear of the German CP. Rich's German response
was quick and deadly with direct artillery fire destroying one
anti-tank battery and two truck platoons. Another
truck platoon was lost in an overrun.
With a sense of desperation growing on both sides, the Russians
fifth turn opened with very accurate tank fire at low odds that
successfully disrupted the objective CP hex. This
lucky shot greatly increased the chances for the following massed
infantry result to destroy the CP and basically gave the game
to the Russians on a roll of 1 through 4. The die
spun and bounced but ended up with 6 pips displayed!
The lone functioning German tank platoon tried to break up the
infantry assault by overrunning two big Russian companies but
the valiant maneuver by four tanks was totally ineffective. In
the rear of the CP, Rich's German units kept the adjacent Russian
units pinned down by fire and left them unable to spot.
Russian anti-tank guns opened the next turn by destroying the
German tanks out in the open after their unsuccessful overrun
the previous turn. Victory was again within Marty's
grasp after the last Russian tank unit hit another lucky shot
that disrupted the CP hex opening the way for its destruction
by the Russian infantry. Once again, the Germans were
able to stop the Russian assault cold in their tracks.
On the final turn, victory depended on the ability of Marty's
Russian tank to repeat for a third time its incredible shooting. When
his unit ran out of ammo, the CP could not be destroyed so Marty
conceded the match. Rich won with 21 victory points
to Marty's 5 although the match appeared to be much closer than
the final score indicated.
Six of the ten previous champions of this event played in the
2009 event but despite this tough field, a new winner emerged. Rich
won the event to capture his first ever WBC title, well done! As
a matter of fact, all 11 players that have ever won the PanzerBlitz event
during its history, experienced the same thing in that each case
it was that player's first WBC championship. The moral
of the story seems to be that if you are interested in capturing
'wood' at the WBC; you will need to join in on the fun of thePanzerBlitz tournament
as this event is where champions are made!