Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Thoughts about Blitzkrieg Commander version 3

I have not played Blitzkrieg Commander (BKC) for many years; I’m not sure why because I generally liked the mechanisms and the games that resulted. Interestingly I have played more games using the modern ‘sister’ set of rules, Cold War Commander (CWC), using my large 6mm late 1970’s Soviet/NATO armies. My old copy of BKC version 2 was a bit tatty, so when the latest BKC version 3 (Pendraken Miniatures, 2017) was published, I immediately decided to purchase.

The rules are nicely produced and illustrated, with key mechanics clarified by worked examples. The layout used for both the scenario and army list sections have been significantly improved in my opinion; much clearer and attractive to look at. Regarding the rules themselves I did not think any major changes had been made compared to version 2. Now I have to say that I have resisted going back to my version 2 rules for the purposes of comparison because I was concerned such a move would result in confusion on the tabletop. Bearing in mind that I have not played BKC for a few years, the only significant changes that stood out for me lay in the off-table support and recce sections, where the rules appear more streamlined.

Next I tried the new version BKC on the table using my 6mm early war French and German forces in a small, solo 1,000 point a side encounter game on a 5’x3’ table. The game flowed well, very smoothly, with little need to refer to the main rulebook. The main thing that needs to be in the mind of a player is opportunity fire: Whether I’m playing solo or opposed games, I tend to find myself switching off during my opponents turn, missing opportunities to interrupt his movement with opportunity fire. The nice thing about opportunity fire is that it does not require a command roll, an important factor for poorly commanded armies (like early war French). In my game the French went down to a major defeat, largely because of the poor command of their HQ units and their poor co-ordination of armour and infantry. One thing really stood out in the game which was the devastating effectiveness of the PzKfw-I units on the unfortunate French infantry. The army listing states the PzKfw-I has a AP rating of 4/60! Surely this must be wrong? OK, the PzKfw-I does cost 85 points but, even so, it is now an infantry killer!

I next played a 1941 North Africa encounter game (1650 points aside). I took the British Crusaders and hoped for the best! On turn 1 I only managed to get my infantry and ATG formation on table, whereas the Germans all appeared and advanced. On turn 2 I again failed to get my armoured forces on table, and the German tanks rapidly advanced threatening both objectives and starting to turn in on my worried infantry. I thought the game was lost but Lady Luck came to my rescue. On turn 3 all my armour arrived and they were now at short range (due to the German advance), so they opened up. The central German PzKfw-III force went up in flames, and the other German tanks suffered a couple of suppressions. On the next turn I was able to largely destroy the remaining Panzers, and my FO accurately brought down fire from my 2 off-table 25pdr batteries on the German infantry in a concentrated strike, wiping them out and suppressing 1 German HQ unit. At this point the game was effectively over, the German threat had been eliminated and I had only taken minor losses. The initial delay I had faced had turned to my advantage, bringing on armoured formations at close range is devastating, and with hindsight the Germans would have been better served not making a dash for the objectives early on. All in all an enjoyable game (for me!), the rules worked well and play was fast.

To conclude, I like BKCv3 very much. The command system introduces a nice degree of uncertainty (the French CV7 HQ’s are a liability) and interestingly I never rolled either a blunder or stunning success (box-cars or snake-eyes). Both players are actively engaged and a key is deciding when and where to engage in reactive fire. Off-table fire, when concentrated, can be lethal (possibly overly so), and I definitely think the PzKfw-! AP value is too high. I can see BKC being a go-to set of rules for larger WW2 games, and perhaps the best compliment is the fact I have decided to invest in some new 1940 France armies. I definitely think 6mm is too small; I had considerable trouble distinguishing PzKfw-I from PzKfw-II, and PzKfw-III from PzKfw-IV tanks. I plan to ditch (sell off) my 6mm forces and buy a larger scale. Initially I thought 10mm would be best (and cheapest) because they both look good and work well scale-wise on table. The disadvantage with 10mm is they are out of kilter with the more common 15mm used by most other WW2 gamers (I’m thinking of FoW gamers in particular), and also I don’t have an extensive array of 10mm terrain pieces. This is not a problem when fighting in North Africa but a European setting would necessitate the purchase a lot of new buildings. I have therefore opted to go with a mainstream 15mm scale, which will allow me to integrate with other gamers and enable me to employ my stock of 15mm terrain.

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