The first "hit" wargame
Steve Andriakos and John Sharp push
Now he's a first-time successful defending
The sun came peaking over the mountainside, the air was calm
and there was a slight mist in the air as the day broke. It was
Saturday morning and folks from all over the countryside were
beginning or in some cases concluding their trek towards the
Lancaster Host where cordial hostilities were expected to commence
in just a couple of hours and then rage for much of the next
week. The battles would be intense but fair as the combatants
wanted to add to their spoils but only if they could do so through
As they gathered into the initial battle location, the PanzerBlitz
players began to unfurl the map boards that in many cases had
not seen daylight for the past twelve months. Next, those sleek
silhouetted clipped counters were released from their garage
trays or baggies. The other playing aids soon followed and the
initial combatants selected a scenario and shortly thereafter
the first game was commenced. It did not take long before there
was first blood as the die tumbled around and produced a 'X'
result. The time had come to remove an armored unit from the
board and replace it with one of those flaming wreck counters!
Despite its age, there are few components in our hobby more exciting
to see taking its place on a board than one of your opponents
wreck counters in PanzerBlitz. They remind both players and all
the passerby's of the coup that has recently been counted.
Such was the beginning of the Grognard Precon event that is
so popular with the two player games due to the schedule flexibility
that its free form format offers. As the WBC week rolled onward,
the scene was often repeated as 25 players completed in 29 preliminary
matches of this favorite from yesteryear. The highlights of the
early action included two matches so closely contested that they
ended up in a draw, including one between eventual finalists,
Rick Northey and Chuck Leonard. Alan Arvold, the PanzerBlitz
guru that has contributed the most published information
about the game was in the field once again. After an opening
victory, he ran into a rough stretch of four consecutive defeats.
This year, in addition to the well balanced tournament scenarios
that have been used for the past few years, a couple of scenarios
that had been contested back at Gen Con #4 and were published
in The General (issue 8-4) were reintroduced. These scenarios
had mostly positive reviews as many players were happy to have
new (to them) battles to reinact.
13 players logged just a single match but many spoke of the
desire for more time so they could have gotten additional matches
completed. Such is the ongoing dilemma of this week of gaming
nirvana that is the WBC each and every year, "which game
do I play...?" One of the matches featured two younger players
new to PanzerBlitz, Alex Gregorio and Vinny Sinigaglio
who were introduced to the game mechanics by the GM. Their match,
which was closely contested, had both players intrigued enough
by the action that they commented that they might want to get
a copy of the game. Not bad for a 40+ year old classic game that
has aged quite nicely.
After all of the preliminary fun was concluded by Thursday
evening, the final four was set for a Friday kick-off of the
semi-final action. In the first match, # 2 seed and defending
champion Rick Northey took on two-time champion Bert Schoose.
They decided to play scenario 51R2 with Rick as the Germans against
Bert's Russians. In this scenario, the fast mobile German needs
to menace and then hold off the superior Russian numbers. This
match was decided early as Bert sent two of his cavalry to the
board edge in order to get them marching towards the German city
through the available cover. On Turn 4, Rick dispersed one of
the cavalry units exposed on a slope with direct fire and killed
it with a follow-up CAT attack. This kneecapped the Russian player,
who compounded his initial error of leaving the two units unstacked
(thus making the CAT attack a viable option) by sending more
units to extract the other cavalry unit. While this action ended
up being successful as the second cav unit was salvaged, the
turns were quickly marked off as Bert never mounted another serious
threat against Rick's forces.
The other semi-final match pitted a pair of two-time champs,
the #1 seed from the Preliminaries, Marty Musella against the
#4 seed, Chuck Leonard. Their match used scenario 1A and was
a much tighter contest befitting the elimination rounds. Marty's
Germans had to receive the attack of Chuck's Russians. The Russian
opened as tanks loaded with infantry quickly spread to threaten
all four channels of advance into the initial German positions.
The Cavalry entered on the West edge to threaten the lone CP
in the woods in the northwest corner of the board but lots of
blocking terrain intervened. Partisans were deployed in the center
and west to assist in the Russian advance. Marty's Germans responded
by blocking all the channels of advance so that they could see
where Chuck would have to commit his mobile forces. Turn 2 saw
the Russians mass three tank companies to the east while sending
the other tank company to support the cavalry on the west flank.
The wagons and mortars were left in a gathering area waiting
to move to their firing positions on the flank to support the
cavalry. The Germans responded with a continued block of the
Russian's ability to advance.
On Turn 3, the Russian attack commenced with two companies
off loading on the south slope of hill 129 preparing for close
combat on Turn 4. The other company below hill 129 and the single
company on the west flank close assaulted separate German platoon
targets, dispersing both of them. The German responded with artillery
fire from hill 132 that dispersed two Russian cavalry companies
but the important 2-1 attack against the Russian infantry companies
on the 129 slope completely missed.
In addition, the German's launched a counteroffensive sending
two half track platoons in search of the Russian mortars in the
rear and they sent a force to try and pin three of four Russian
tank companies in the woods south of hill 129. The objective
of this pinning action was to try and force a trade of a truck
platoon for a Russian tank company. Shots had been fired but
neither side lost anything yet.
Turn 4 saw the Russians successfully eliminate the German
120mm heavy mortar unit that anchored the German defense of hill
129. The pinning attempt had failed as all three Russian tank
companies evacuated their positions to head to the western front
of the battlefield. This left the three large infantry companies
on foot, far from the victory point road without combined arms
to support their advance. On his turn, the German responded with
a shift of their armor to the west to reinforce their right flank.
Meanwhile, Chuck's cavalry brushed off the German attacks with
On Turn 5, the Russians killed an infantry platoon and dispersed
another as he concentrated his tanks on the west side of the
terrain. The Germans dispersed two Russian cavalry units and
the rest of their forces closed in to reinforce the defensive
line. This turn concluded with Marty in the lead with nine points
to Chuck's five.
The momentum shifted on the sixth turn as Chuck exploited
a mistake by Marty that left a hole in his line and allowed a
Russian tank company to move through the line and end up adjacent
to the CP in the woods on the West side of the board. The Germans
responded with their first kill of a Russian cavalry unit and
they plugged the damaging hole in their line while also trapping
the suicidal tank unit that had advanced next to the CP.
On subsequent turns, the CP was killed and so was the tank
unit but the German advantage had slipped away. The two sides
traded kills over the remaining turns but the hole in the German
line resulted in the Russian victory.
The Final was now set with Chuck Leonard advancing to take
on Rick Northey, again using scenario 1A, which is what the players
agreed upon. This was a rematch of their 2009 semi-final match,
which used that same scenario and had ended in a 13-13 tie (a
win for the Russians). Unlike that previous match, this time
Rick took the Germans and Chuck the Russian side.
Rick began the game with the 120 German mortar on hill 129
supported by several units with decent firepower creating a formidable
position. A smaller force protected the swamp approach on Board
1 as well as the valley on Board 2 at the swamp's exit. During
his opening, Chuck deployed two of the Russian Recon units in
the swamp and three in the center woods on Board 1.
In Russian Turn 1 Chuck sent two loaded tank companies to
the east to threaten the Hill 129 position, one up the middle
to reinforce the three recon units and one to the west behind
the western-most slope on Board 1 in an effort to dominate that
position early on. The Russian cavalry entered on the western
edge. After seeing the Russian opening, the Germans consolidated
their scattered forces.
The second Russian turn began as the eastern T-34s opened
fire on a mortar located on the slope of hill 129 without effect.
Because they fired, the T-34s lost a turn of mobility. The Russian
Cavalry committed to the swamp and began their long slog through
the most difficult terrain on Board 1. In the middle, the Recons
advanced and were joined by a Rifle unit as the Russian attempted
to clear a path to permit better access to hill 132.
The German's used Turn 2 to tighten up their swamp defenses
on Board 2 as they moved halftracks and infantry into key blocking
positions. These maneuvers were bolstered by the JagdPanther
IV moving onto the southern slope of hill 132, while one Whirblewind
was positioned to cover the western approach to the swamp.
Turn 3 saw Chuck's Russians swing a T-34 back to the center
of the board while mostly pulling back from the eastern flank.
One T-34, with a loaded Rifle company remained deployed close
enough to hill 129 to continue to threaten that position and
prevent its evacuation.
Meanwhile, Rick continued to adjust the defense facing the
Russian attack through the swamp as some of the Russian infantry
and tanks begin to close with the first line of German defenders.
In the center, a Russian mistake had exposed a loaded T-34 to
a 1-3 close assault. The attack, that offered a 50% chance of
dispersal, was successful as a collective moan was heard throughout
Mother Russia. The Russians were just too spread out to react
in force to retaliate to this blow.
On the fourth turn, the Russians focused on the Western part
of the battlefield. With two of his strongest units dispersed,
Chuck began to retract from the center and the east to reinforce
the swamp attack. On their half of the turn, the Germans combined
the firepower of numerous armored units to bear on that trapped
T-34 and they successfully eliminated the first major unit of
the battle. The unloaded Rifle unit was flipped back to good
order status but it was now left without the sorely needed transport
to get back into the fight.
The next two turns saw the Russians make progress through
the swamp area on board 2. The Germans continued to adjust their
defense as he continued to adjust his units to meet all of the
contingencies that might arise. The two sides exchanged direct
fire and CAT attacks but neither side drew any more blood as
only dispersals resulted for both players. The net effect of
this created a significant delay for the Russian forces which
was the intention of the defenders.
On the next turn, the Germans failed on a CAT attack and this
left an infantry company exposed in the open. The Russian counterattack
killed the exposed infantry which tied the score in units killed,
but time was quickly running out for the Russian.
On Turn 7, the Germans executed a significant withdrawal action
that contracted his lines into the valley, the seven- hex slope
and woods area. The Russian's attempt to force an engagement
at this stage fell short and was ineffective mainly due to a
lack of loaded rifle units. The score is now Germans 10 (three
CPs still alive are worth three pts each and one dead T-34) and
Russians 4 (each mortar can see the road = 3 pts plus the one
Desperate tactics are required at this point if the Russian
is to have any chance. Two of the CPs were situated in the town
on hill 132 so Chuck ordered all of his armored units and infantry
support that can make it onto the hill to charge those CPs looking
for the most favorable combat results to give him a chance of
making it close. Rick's Germans responded deftly to the attack
and systematically decimated the attackers via direct fire and
then follow-up overrun attacks. A number of the Russian units
survived the onslaught and left them with a chance to kill one
CP and its stacked companion units with a direct fire attack
and a subsequent CAT attack.
Unfortunately for the Russian's, Turn 9 began with a direct
fire miss on the low odds attack that was critical to allow any
chance of the suicide assault being successful. This ended the
game with a decisive win for the Germans at a final score of
13-4. Rick Northey had successfully defended his title.
As the echoes of battle faded, the maps were folded and pieces
were once again carefully stored away for another year. Don't
worry, the friendly combatants will return to the scene as they
do every year looking to extract revenge for past memories and
more importantly to create new ones. Don't you want to join them?