One of the great and unanticipated benefits of the internet age — speaking as a wargamer — has been the rapid proliferation of home computers and the now almost universal ability of modern players to substitute Play by Electronic Mail (PBeM) for its tiresome precursor, traditional Play by Mail (PBM). This has meant that most games between geographically separated opponents can now — if both players are conscientious in their move-making — be completed in a matter of months or even weeks, instead of the year or more that postal play used to require.

Happily, the internet revolution has also led to the appearance of useful gaming software applications such as Vassal which has made electronic wargaming even easier and more convenient. In fact, in the case of Vassal, players who are familiar with a game system no longer even have to have physical access to a copy of a title in order to play it. Of course, reliance on software applications like Vassal or Cyberboard is not always either practical or even preferable. In many cases, players will find that platforms for their favorite older games are not yet available online. Occasionally, players will also find that existing online gaming software — programmers being programmers — will have map or order of battle mistakes that seriously detract from the actual playability of the game. Finally, there are the modern ‘Luddites’ like me who just don’t much care for the ‘point and drag’ mode of moving counters on a screen; gamers who prefer, instead, to actually have the real map and counters in front of them when they play. For this type of player, using a spreadsheet format for internet gaming is a convenient alternative. And it is also, not surprisingly, the online gaming format that I personally prefer.

The Excel spreadsheet file offered with this post is for the Avalon Hill game, PANZER LEADER. This particular file is for one of my own two or three favorite PANZER LEADER scenarios, Scenario #15: Elsenborn Ridge; however, it can also serve as a basic model for constructing a scenario template for any of the other games in the Avalon Hill PANZERBLITZ Series.

Panzer Leader Situation #15 Template

Scenario #15, for those players who are familiar with the historical accounts of the actual battle for Krinkelt-Rocherath and the Elsenborn Ridge, is a little bit odd. Randy Reed mistakenly identifies the 277th Volksgrenadier Division as the 276th, and also leaves out the entire American 99th Infantry Division, which was in the fight from beginning to end. Also missing from the game is a lot of both German and American artillery, and the reconnaissance battalion for the 12th SS Panzer seems, like the US 99th Division, to have disappeared down the ‘history hole’. Finally, of course, the scenario begins on 18 December 1944, with the Germans preparing to assault the American line in and around Krinkelt-Rocherath and to the east of the Elsenborn Ridge. In Scenario #15, however, the US forces are permitted, particularly in the south, to occupy positions well to the east of their actual starting line during this phase of the battle. Nonetheless, while the scenario is not a particularly accurate representation of the specifics of the action, it does capture one aspect of the battle very well: how bloody it was. By the time the Germans finally abandoned their efforts to capture Elsenborn Ridge on the 27th of December, American casualties numbered more than 5,000 killed and missing; German casualties are unknown, but the wrecks of well over 100 German armored vehicles were left scattered across the battlefield when the action was over.

One final note regarding the Elsenborn Ridge Scenario: in a contest between two equally-matched and experienced players, play-balance will heavily favor the US player. The action will be nonstop and bloody, particularly for the US infantry, but the GI’s should have the final edge. Thus, the American player can expect to see his forces badly mauled in the course of the action; but, somehow, the Germans will usually finish the scenario just one tantalizing game turn short of victory. And that is probably why I return to Scenario #15, again and again; I am always trying to figure out a way to accelerate the German advance by that one single game turn.


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