INTRODUCTIONWhen it first made its appearance in 1970, PANZERBLITZ — Jim Dunnigan’s game of World War II tactical armored warfare on the Russian Front — rocked the war gaming community as no war game had ever done before, and few have since. Its ground-breaking design blended elements of board war games with those of miniatures, and by so doing, created an entirely new, and extremely playable tactical design architecture. Moreover, it had something for everyone. For the history buff, the game was chock-full of historical and technical detail; for the pure gamer, the satisfying sight of burning wreck counters from one end of the game board to the other made it a blast to play. In the eyes of many of us, Dunnigan’s creation of PANZERBLITZ was his overdo atonement for his truly execrable two earlier monstrosities, JUTLAND (1967) and 1914 (1968).
Interestingly, PANZERBLITZ had originally been designed as part of SPI’s “Test Game Series,” under the unimpressive working title: “Tactical Game 3.” In a somewhat surprising move, rather than market the game itself, SPI sold the design to Avalon Hill, but continued to manufacture PANZERBLITZ under a royalty agreement with the boys from Baltimore. The first printing used the old sleeved-box packaging system that Avalon Hill had used in several of its own games from this period. However, this design, because of cost, was soon abandoned in favor of the less expensive and lighter-weight, bookcase style game box that soon after became a standard for other Avalon Hill games.
Besides the original game, the PANZERBLITZ Game System also showed up in my personal favorite, PANZER LEADER, and in THE ARAB-ISRAELI WARS. In both cases, the game system handled the transitions nicely. And as a testament to the ongoing resiliency of these titles, there are still few long-time gamers who do not own or know how to play at least one or two of these games.
PANZERBLITZ is a tactical (platoon/company) level game of armored warfare on the Russian Front, 1941-45. One player commands the German forces and the other controls the Red Army units. The game is played in turns, and each turn is divided into two player turns: a German and a Russian turn. During each player turn, the phasing (acting) player will perform the following game operations in exactly this order: Combat Phase (friendly Minefield attacks are also conducted); Movement Phase (during this phase, Overrun attacks may be conducted); and the Close Assault Phase. Once this series of player operations is completed, the defending player becomes the phasing player, and the sequence is repeated. At the conclusion of the second player’s turn, the current game turn ends and the turn marker is advanced one space on the Turn Record Track. Because of the operational scale of the game, units do not possess zones of control, and there are no supply rules. Stacking varies between the two armies: German units may stack three and Russian units may stack two units in a hex. All combat units display four numerical values on their counters: fire strength; fire range; defense strength; and movement range. Because PANZERBLITZ is a “fire” oriented game system, blocking terrain, concealing terrain, elevation, and line of sight are critical factors in determining which units may fire and be fired on in any given combat phase. During a typical player turn, four different attacks against an enemy unit may occur: minefield attack; fire attack; overrun attack; and close assault. Destroyed armored units are replaced by a wreck counter, and, upon placement, stacking in the “wreck hex” is reduced by one unit for both players.
PANZERBLITZ is played using a scenario or “mini-game” format. Six back-printed Scenario Cards are included with the game; these cards provide the specific orders of battle, set-ups, and victory conditions for twelve different East Front battlefield situations. Each scenario typically attempts to reproduce a different, but common type of engagement between German and Russian forces during the years 1941-44.
PANZERBLITZ also offers “optional” rules covering Indirect Fire, Real Space Line of Sight, Ammunition Supply, and Panzerblitz Assaults. In addition, the designer has included several “experimental” rules for those players who want to increase historical realism at the cost of diminished playability.
A PERSONAL OBSERVATION
Even after thirty-nine years, PANZERBLITZ is still a perennial favorite among experienced gamers and a fixture at most of the major war gaming conventions. It has, to put it mildly, aged extremely well. Until the arrival of SQUAD LEADER and then its perpetually-growing, mutant offspring, ADVANCED SQUAD LEADER, no other title had ever had as many articles, rules variations, or scenarios printed in the various hobby magazines as had PANZERBLITZ. Today, PANZERBLITZ players probably cannot come close to matching the ardor of their fanatical ASL brethren, but Dunnigan’s creation is still a great game for regular players. And, unlike ASL, it has two other virtues: it is cheap to own and play, and — unlike the typical ASL game system with its numerous special modules — I can actually carry my copy of PANZERBLITZ under my arm when I go off to meet an opponent.
- Time Scale: 6 minutes per game turn
- Map Scale: 250 meters per hex
- Unit Size: platoon/company
- Unit Types: various German and Soviet Armored Fighting Vehicles (AFVs), (German) self-propelled artillery, machine gun, anti-tank, (German) light flak, howitzer, mortar, engineer, (Soviet) reconnaissance, rifle, (Soviet) Guards, submachinegun, (German) security, command post, (Soviet) cavalry, wagon, truck, halftrack, fortification, mine, block, and information markers
- Number of Players: two
- Complexity: average
- Solitaire Suitability: above average
- Average Playing Time: 1½-2 + hours (depending on scenario)
- Three 8” x 22” geomorphic hexagonal grid Map Boards
- 352 ⅝” cardboard Counters
- One 5½” x 8½” map-fold Rules Booklet (with Unit Identification Tables incorporated)
- One 5½” x 8½” Campaign Analysis Booklet
- One 8” x 11¼” combined Game Chart (with Combat Results Table, Terrain Effects Chart, LOS Table, and Weapons Effectiveness Table incorporated)
- Two 5¾” x 7½” back-printed Player Aid Cards
- Six 5¾” x 7½” back-printed Situation Description and Scenario Instruction Cards (revised as of 9/15/71)
- One six-sided Die
- Four plastic Game Clips (a useless game component, if ever there was one!)
- One 5½” x 8½” Avalon Hill Game & Parts Catalogue
- One 5½” x 6½” Customer Response Card
- One 8½” x 11½” x 2” bookcase style cardboard Game Box
See my blog post Book Review of this title which I recommend for those visitors interested in additional historical background material.