Another very successful week at WBC saw more than 6 games on average being played each day. New players sat down to play the classic for the first time in many years, and for some, their first time. Several younger players appeared this year and enlivened the field with their enthusiasm!
GMs Rick Northey and Alan Arvold had some new offerings this year with surprise new situations and maps for this year’s tournament. For the preliminary games during the week, players chose a few of the classic PanzerBlitz situations out of the box including #1, #3, and #4. Some of the surprise situations provided by the GMs that were played this year included PanzerBlitz situation PO-14 “Kock Poland 1939”, and PanzerLeader situations JJAAGD08 “Operation Kutuzov 1943”, RPN PL3a “Desert Rats-El Alamein”, RPN PL8a “Operation Luttich-Le Mesnil-Adelee”, AAWBCPL1 “Loraine France 1944” and BDPL105 “Ogeldow 1944” from Brian DeWitt. One game from Arab-Israeli Wars, situation #1 was played as well. Custom PanzerLeader 50th anniversary t-shirts and mugs designed by GMs Rick Northey and Alan Arvold were displayed as a preview of next year’s celebration.
Fifty four games were played by 33 different players this year. Some players new to the WBC tournament, including four teenagers, were led by Jed Bodenheimer. Jed ended up playing 12 games, more than any player except GM Rick Northey who played 13 games. Jed made a run for the final four, and just missed it when John Sharp defeated defending 2022 champion Curtiss Fyock in a challenge game on Friday. Jed took 5th place in his first WBC PZB tournament.
The challenge game, where Curtiss challenged John who was one of the top four in the running on Friday, was particularly interesting. Curtiss played the Russian side in situation AAWBC1r2, which is a wide open board 3. Playing the Russians, instead of laying siege to the central town of Opustoschenia, Curtiss ran his tanks and riders up to the opposite side of the board to attack the town of Grabyosh. John had moved his Panthers with infantry into Opustoschenia, leaving mark IVs, Stugs, a Wespe and a few light batteries in reserve. Russian t-34/85s and Su-85s carrying guards and SMG infantry unloaded in front of Grabyosh. John responded by a combination of direct fire, overruns and close assaults. In a back and forth series attacks and counterattacks, John was able to break up the Russian attack. At first, it did not look like the Germans fielded enough defenders, but fortune had it that this was not a day for the Russian hordes to ransack and run off the opposite edge of the board as Curtiss had planned it. It was one of those games where a new strategy was seen to have promise in future matches using this situation.
The final four, with GM Rick Northey not playing in the Semifinal were Art Dohrman, David Pepin, Bruce Cota and John Sharp. David and Bruce were first timers in the Semifinal, with Art and John returning as competitors for the championship. Three dioramas were put on display, later to be awarded to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place.
Art and John decided on Alan’s situation AAWBC2r1 which is a late war eastern front battle where the Germans defend the central hill # 132 on board 2 in a meeting engagement. In preparation for the opening firefight on the hill, John’s German forces setup on the central hill with infantry deployed to the flanks and heavy armor, Jagd Panthers and King Tigers, forward. On his first turn, Art set up his heavy tanks, JS-IIs, and assault guns, JSu-122s and Su-152s, covering t-34s sent forward with tank riders, deploying on the front slope. On turns two and three, Art was able to flank the hill with SMGs atop more t-34s racing at full speed to reach the two roads to the rear of the central hill. The Germans, now surrounded, tried direct engagements of the Russian groups now lining up for a final assault on the slopes. John attempted to break out of the encirclement using his tanks and infantry in attacks to throw the Russians off the slopes. After absorbing several attacks, the Russians lost several units, while destroying about an equal number of German units. The Russians held their positions. John was unable to block critical hilltop hexes from the Russians who had the last turn. The game drew to a close with Art winning by controlling more hilltop hexes and exiting units off the opposite board edge than Russian units he lost to German counterattacks.
David and Bruce rated all 12 situations to add up the highest score for AAWBC3r1 “A Little Fight in the Woods Austria 1945” for their Semifinal game. At the start of this game, Bruce set up his Russian forces with infantry up front, facing the central hill, and his artillery in the rear on hilltops. Several other battle groups were positioned to defend Adski and a mobile force was deployed forward on the road to the left of the hill. David’s German combined arms forces took up defensive positions on the center hilltop with infantry forward on the slopes. David had the first turn and immediately lunged forward with his infantry running down the forward slope to assault Russian units in the woods. The Russians were caught without sufficient infantry protection. In a counter thrust, Bruce maneuvered his tanks with riders down the road in an attempt to capture the town of Uschas and maybe exit some units off the opposite board edge. David responded by blocking the road with his Tigers. Meanwhile, David’s infantry were in close combat with Russian units on the road in front of the hill. With combined direct fire and close assaults, David destroyed several tank and infantry companies. This infantry battle succeeded in shielding the hilltop from Russian assault. The batteries of heavy self-propelled guns were able to get off shot after shot without facing a rush of infantry and cavalry up the slopes. Bruce then maneuvered his Russian armor with riders to simultaneously attack the town where German flak and field guns lay in wait. Several German infantry units were positioned in the woods on the right flank to stop any ingress of Russians there. A company of Su-100s faced the Tigers on the road. Ambushing German infantry destroyed several more Russian units slowing the Soviet initiative to a halt. This was the day when the brave Panzer Grenadiers triumphed. A new twist of tactics was applied with positive results. David won the game by destroying more units.
For the Final, David and Art rated AAWBC1r2 as their chosen battle. On the open steppes of Ukraine, two combined arms forces meet in a test of maneuver, with the town of Opustoschenia in the middle. Art, as the Russian player, opened with a focus on the center. Tank companies rolled up and unloaded guards infantry preparing to assault Opustoschenia. In response, David set-up a slightly different defense, with Panthers on the hilltop and most of his armor back covering for infantry and anti-tank guns occupying the town. With his first assault, Art failed to affect any suppression of the units in the town, allowing David to fire his Panthers, destroying several tank companies. German Wespe SPAs and mark IV tanks moved up in support. David also charged a platoon of infantry riding halftracks into position in a gully to assault Russian Katy rocket launchers in nearby woods. Both sides traded fire, resulting in elimination of Germans in Opustoschenia, and destruction of the Katy batteries. Art sent some Su-85 assault guns to flank the town to the left. Russian guards and SMGs occupied two of the four hexes in Opustoschenia. David decided to rush his Panthers, and some other mixed units to join the battle for the center. Mark IV tanks positioned on a ridgeline, engaged Su-85s and ended up dispersing them in the open. At this point, turn 5, Art lead 23-20, a close game. However, the initiative had shifted to David’s favor. German halftracks moved forward to block hexes in the gully, preventing egress of Russian reinforcements. A platoon of halftracks, running through the Russian lines exited the board for a victory point. Meanwhile, the Russian continued assault in the center failed to gain any ground, leaving the German defense largely intact. On his last turn, David, noticing the pinned down Russian Su-85s in his right flank were vulnerable, moved his tanks to overrun them. Needing a 1,2,3, he rolled a 2, destroying the Su-85s. David then tied the game up, and with the Germans winning ties, he took the championship. It was a nail-biting finish!