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Blitzkrieg Commander Review

The Wargames Journal, April 2004 by Rich Jones

Anyone who is a visitor to the Wargames Directory knows that Pete does a fine job. As well as producing and looking after a place in cyberspace where I can have many a ‘discussion’ he has just released a set of fast play WWII rules. This is a short look at the rules as I have booked time with the author Pete for a game, which will appear as a more in depth look at the rules via a Battle Report.

I have been charting the progress of this set for some time now as they are based on my favourite ever set of rules – Warmaster. This fact was like a double edged sword in some ways. I didn’t quite see how they would convert over to the WWII period, Naps and Ancients yes, but WWII I wasn’t convinced and thought it may amount to blasphemy. So I let the play test set slip for a while, however not to the surprise of anyone who knows me, as soon as Pete released the commercial set I was in there like a shot.

I was tempted to just do a review in the style of that very funny Friends episode (bear with me all will become apparent) where Rachael cooks the trifle but without realising that she had the recipe for Shepard’s Pie and English trifle mixed together – the end result being a layer of mince and mashed potato combined with jelly and sponge. Anyway the review would echo Joey’s comments on the ‘recipe’

  • Warmaster – Goooood
  • Fast play – Gooood
  • Ideal for 6 and 10mm – Goooood
  • Smallish playing area – Gooood
  • Simple and fun to play – Gooood
  • Good period feel – Goood
  • Excellent production - Gooood
  • What’s not to like?

So if the above appeals then you may as well stop here and go and order a copy while they are still available for the release offer price of £16!

However if you need more information then read on:

Firstly the presentation and production of the 120 page ‘perfect bound’ book and the two reference sheets is fantastic! Nowadays there is very little excuse for a bad looking product; my daughters produce booklets for their homework that 15 years ago a print shop would have trouble producing. But Pete has done an outstanding job on the layout.

The rules look very, very stylish, the full colour pictures in the extensive examples of play are from ‘real’ games and it is good to see 10mm wargaming kit getting a stage for a change. The publishers have done their part well, the feel of the book is superb, in fact I even found the wife flicking through it as it looked, in her words, “cool” – well in her defence she is Australian and is used to picking up grotty looking rules in 2 fingers with that look of distain we all know so well.

The level of the rules is flexible. They were designed to be Brigade or Divisional level with a stand representing a Platoon. However you can play a stand represents a section/squad and then have a Company or Battalion on the table – basically as I have often argued it makes little difference as to how you play the game in your mind. The rules allow you to play on a 4 x 4 or 4 x 6 table when playing in 2-10mm or even 15mm when using the ranges as in the book. For 15 and 20 mm I’d be tempted to take it to a 6 x 8+ and double all the book distances.

If you have played Warmaster you’ll basically have a handle on the rule mechanics of BKC. It’s a Igo Ugo system (although there is an interesting option to alternate formation activation in the rules) with an initiative phase where troops act without direct orders, adapting to the micro environment and action around them (within 20cm rule wise). Here they can assault (the rules use the word ‘charge’), pull back (the rules use the word ‘evade’) or fire at nearest enemy unit. Activating a unit in the initiative phase doesn’t stop you using it again in the command phase, although it is harder to pass the command roll.

In the command phase you can activate formations. This is achieved by nominating a CO or HQ stand and passing the command roll - rolling under the command value of the stand. In this way different armies can have different command values at different stages in the war – so the armies act and have to be treated differently. You can of course have a critical roll (a double one) or a blunder roll (double 6) which can have dire effects!

The thing about BKC, like its fantasy cousin, is that the amount a formation can do in a turn is not set; it all depends on how the command rolls go. If you pass the first order then you can try to give the same formation a second order, or go onto the next formation. If you try and get the same formation to carry on your command value takes a hit, -1 for next successive orders, -1 for every 20cm of distance away etc. But if you risk it and are lucky the formation will carry on activating.

The other side of the coin is that on a bad initial roll that formation doesn’t get to do ANYTHING in the command phase. This really reflects the Fog of War facing at higher levels of command. You can’t be sure your troops will do anything (apart from react at a local initiative level), nor can you be sure that that company of Panzer Grenadiers will not pass 3 command rolls on the trot and be around your rear and firing. This forces you into trying to cover all eventualities and occasionally risking it all for that decisive move that needs 4 command rolls!

Firing and CQC basically uses the same mechanism throughout. Hit resolution is always the same, which certainly speeds the game up. Basically you have an attack value which reflects the number of dice thrown (d6), this can be modified by situational factors, eg, firing under half your weapons range adds a dice, armour firing on soft targets within 20cm add a dice (to reflect the use of MGs as well as HE), firing on the flank or rear adds a dice.

You then roll that number of dice and hit on a 4 – 6 depending on the situation of the target. Then the target may get to save against the hits (normally an armour of cover save) any hits that are not saved causes damage to the target, reducing its hits. Each unit has a number of hit points – once reduced to zero they are deemed combat ineffective (destroyed). If you take any hits a unit may become suppressed which means they get to do nothing in their next turn!

Fall backs occur when a suppressed unit takes hits and may result in them making a run for it! Like Warmaster the hits, but not necessarily the suppression, are removed at the end of that turn. As you can see the hit system means that you can roll all the dice from firers at the same time (better weapons or situations get more dice, not a lower ‘to hit’ roll). This saves time and effort. There are no real charts to wade through – you just need to know the attack, save and hit values for the units you have. People who thrive on completed charts for armoured combat better stay away – but at the level the game is really based at the system is very ‘elegant’ being very quick and simple, yet very subtle in the game play.

The rules cover combined arms with air and artillery support (even naval gun support), engineer actions, fortifications etc, all following the same basic mechanics. Pete didn’t want to be producing supplements for the rules and you get a plethora of resources in the book. There are 43 well presented and thought out army lists, these are for different countries and also the ‘same country’ at different stages of the war or theatre. Then there are 15 generic scenarios, which can be quickly adapted to any theatre and set up. An extensive points system, which actually allows you to create unequal forces while maintaining the possibility for victory for each side, makes forming your forces an interesting exercise.

So what do I think so far – well if you like Warmaster and WWII these are a must own set of rules. If you dislike sometimes hurling loads of dice and believe you should have to work out armour penetration and angles you may be put off. If you fall anywhere between these two the rules are worthy of a purchase and try out, you certainly will not be disappointed. The use you get out of them will depend on the level of combat you want them to recreate on your table.

The level of detail may be off putting if playing them at Company level, but will give you a quick and enjoyable game. If you want a battalion level plus set of rules then BKC are a must. They join the few sets of rules which really stand out from the rest with regard to playability and feel. Unlike my other rave reviews the rules are for once aimed at a higher level of command and I feel BKC have basically upped the ante in playability, feel and presentation and left the competitors bobbing in their wake. I have been put off playing at the Battalion plus level because of the available rules – now I have no excuse!

For me they have filled in the last remaining gap in my rules quest and are another set that the rest of the WJ crew will be shown as soon as I can get us all together for a big bash.

 
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