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Blitzkrieg Commander Review

Bart Vetters, Tiny Tin Men, December 2004

After posting on WWII ruleset Blitzkrieg Commander before and after reading it, we have now played a game with these rules and have turned into instant fans.

Alan, Graham K and myself played a Low Countries 1940 game the other day, pitting a German infantry battallion reinforced with some panzer companies and the usual regimental assets against a Dutch infantry battalion with some support in a fierce battle for the village of Nergenshoven. We used the “Advance” scenario from the Errata document on the BKC web page, which involves the attacking side (the Germans in our game) trying to methodically capture most of the table, with the defender’s aim being to prevent this of course.

I am happy to say (and the author will be pleased to hear, no doubt) that the game went swimmingly and smooth - after the first couple of turns, I no longer had to give directions to the player as to the rules, since they were running the game by themselves (I was umpiring, Graham played the Germans and Alan took his Dutch out for their first outing). Many rulesets claim this feat, but this is the very first one, especially for WWII games, where I have seen this actually happening. It helped of course that both Alan and Graham are experienced WWII gamers that know their mortars from their machine guns, but it is still quite impressive to see them playing the game — correctly — without reference to the rules whatsoever after only a few turns of play.

The command system turned out to be a hit as well. Both players were repeatedly asking themselves whether they should try one more order with a formation, at the risk of not only failure, but also catastrophic failure. In one quite amusing incident, a company of Dutch infantry spent most of a turn shooting at shapes vaguely seen through a high corn field, which of course turned out to be other Dutch (in rules parlance, a command blunder resulted in Dutch troops getting caught in the crossfire from other Dutch troops). It did seem a bit counterintuitive at first that a CO (the highest commander on the field) cannot issue orders to troops subordinate commanders have failed to order, but it does fit in the concept of the command system that way.

And I’m pleased to say that, despite my earlier misgivings, the combat system is a true pearl. It flows very smoothly, mostly due to the fact that there is no looking up of to hit numbers, and the distinction between suppression and falling back comes naturally when playing. The combat system succeeds perfectly in its intention (as stated by the author) of not getting in the way of the players and the game. Very well done!

There’s one slight niggle though: the quick reference sheets were confusing to use, at least for us. Possibly because of layout restrictions, the various sections of the QRS belonging to a certain game phase seem to be spread across both sides of the sheet, resulting in quite a bit of confused flipping. However, this is a minor niggle, as experience showed that the players knew the rules after only a few turns of play.

To sum it up, both players bought or have arranged to buy the rules after the game. Enough said, I should think. BKC is an extremely good WWII ruleset for our style of play, possibly even the best out there.

Oh yes, the outcome? History repeated itself: the Germans captured the village of Nergenshoven and fulfilled their victory conditions. Alan’s Dutch, befittingly for figures on their first outing, were soundly defeated.

 
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