Blitzkrieg Commander Review

TotalModel.com, August 2004 by Colin D. Speirs

Aimed at providing fast rules for wargaming the land conflicts of Spanish Civil War and the Second World War these rules are based on GW's "Warmaster", which no doubt explains the thanks to GW's Rick Priestley in the acknowledgements. The dice used are d6, in small bucketfulls, and a scatter die. Markers are needed for smoke, hits caused and suppression and the book suggests tiny red and white dice for these last two roles.

Unlike those rules there is no set figure scale, though there is a ground scale, but there is still an emphasis on command/control and reaction as the key elements in troop behaviour with a simple mechanism governing both.

Despite the pagecount of 120 the main rules are only the first 35 pages of the book. The rest are guidelines for running battles and campaigns as well as army lists for the various armies at different stages in the conflicts covered as well as the different theatres of operation. The last 10 or so pages are reference sheets, designer's notes, discussions of scale and adverts for terrain and figure manufacturers.

Without recapitulating the rules themselves the game works as follows. It is an IGOUGO style of game, so that, unless using optional initiative rules, one player moves and fires with all his units before the other player can and the alternating order is fixed for the rest of the game.

Unless driven into action (movement, firing or support) by the close proximity of enemy units, units or bodies of units can only move or fire if directly ordered to do so. Multiple orders may be given to a unit in a single turn with progressive less chance of the order being successfully communicated and any failed command means that that commander can issue no further commands that turn.

Since there are different levels of command and a failed command by the CO stops any command unit issuing orders it is better to start issuing those orders at the lowest level first.

Once reaction has taken place and commands have been issued then it is time for close combat and finally book-keeping to end the turn.

Artillery may be on-table but it is often off-table as is all aircraft support. In the published rules there is no provision for fighter cover save as a consequence of bungled communications, damaging air assets and making follow-up sorties more difficult. The usual use for these assets is to schedule them pre-deployment and to assign them terrain targets on particular turns, but Artillery and Air liaison officers can delay scheduled attacks and request additional fire missions and sorties. The disadvantage to requested support is that the targeting is more random and more likely to wander from the target point.

Units have an attack value which tells you how many dice to roll. Each die that gets over a set amount is a hit, which may, or may not be, saved against by the target. If the number of hits taken in a single turn exceeds a "Hits" value then the unit is knocked out, and even if it survives this it may be suppressed and consequently forced to retreat or rout.

How does a modified, simple fantasy mass battle system work for WWII? Well, despite the simplicity of the system not only does it work, but it manages to fit in a degree of subtlety, e.g. the mechanics for morale are contained within the command and combat mechanics, rather than having a separate morale value and check. Another example of simple subtlety is in the chance to resist hits not only indicates armour but also reliability so that the early Sherman is downgraded because of it's weakness in "cooking off" if hit.

Command and Control is simple but effective and the author has kept modifiers to a manageable minimum.

I have only two "anti" points against these rules. The first flaw, if you can call it that, is that, like its daddy "Warmaster", the troops in the basic lists are probably too generic to suit the tastes of those who like to dwell on their elites, such as the Waffen-SS fetishists, though there are rules for customising units and command elements for quality, the example given being the lesser quality Late War "Volksturm" units.

The other niggle, and it isn't much more than that, is that although there is a set of suggested base sizes I know that people using these rules with 2mm and 6mm figs may well base smaller and suggested base sizes would make it more likely that the end result would be standardised rather than one person using 20 x 40 bases for units and 2p coins for command and air and another using only 30x15 for units and 30x30 for command, but since most play is between people who might talk to each other in advance this is a minor point.

I can't comment on the quality of the supplied Army Lists, numerous as they are, and to be fair the suggestion is that you research the theatre of operations in question, but generally a point system is used, with certain lower and upper limits imposed for certain troop types. The suggestions I like about this is that scenario types will often give unbalanced points ratios and, even if playing "balanced" points matches there are guidelines for making the actual points totals random adjusted by supply conditions, e.g. The Germans in Italy 1944 are more likely to have supply problems and therefore fewer points. If you do want to spend more points than the "limit" then that is OK, up to 5% extra, except you grant your opponent that many more Victory Points. Each Army list has notes of any particular conditions that apply to that army for that theatre of operations.

The perfect-bound book is very well produced. The text is clear and well set out with colour photographs using good quality figures and terrain to illustrate the examples that end each section of the main rules.

Any wargame is a compromise between simulation and game, in this case the game is dominant but it is a fun and easy game to play with a forum and active website providing support, such as errata and further rules, for example those for more detailed fighter cover under consideration as I write. "Pete" has taken a good system and enhanced it to create an enjoyable and flexible rule-set.

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