Monday, March 18, 2013

Blitzkrieg Commander Test Game

I had a chance to play Blitzkrieg Commander with a friend this weekend. So at last my WW2 micro armor got to the game table. Last year I got the bug to play in this scale, and promptly acquired a force of US mechanized infantry from GHQ models.

My attempt to blog this game didn't really pan out as hoped. My camera took absolutely poor photos and the lighting situation wasn't helping. You will see from the pictures that there was a strong directional light that blew out a lot of my pictures. Still it gives a good general view of the action.

We played a 2,000 point game from the Tunisia list, which allowed my opponent to match his German models to mine. We laughed about this, because we didn't have suitable terrain. So we ended up fighting in the rolling green fields and verdant forests of Tunisia!  Oh well. Flex those imagination muscles. We didn't pick a scenario other than a straight up meat grinder. That's always easier for learning the combat rules.

For those unfamiliar with "the Commander" series, these books focus on combined arms forces on a large scale. The rules were written for 12mm, but work in 6mm and can go as high as 20mm with adjustments. The rules are fairly straightforward, and most of the books are made of a myriad of detailed force lists. Blitzkrieg Commander is WW2 specific and covers all theaters in all times.

So we sat down to our test game, and I really didn't know the rules that well. The book is rather dull, and I just wasn't getting the concepts. Once we started playing, things caught on. The key feature of this game is the order structure.  Each unit is assigned to a formation, which is controlled by an HQ unit. The HQ issues orders to move, shoot, etc, to units in its formation by rolling under is leadership value. Every additional order gives a minus, but you can keep pushing until either you are too low to succeed or have failed. A failed order stops that formation's activation for the turn. 

I lined up my force in a neat line. I had 7 Sherman tanks, 8 rifle squads with M3 halftracks, a mortar carrier, and some recce troops with an armored car. Three HQ units followed behind. I didn't have the HQs modeled yet, and so they're empty bases behind the units. The HQs are very abstract in this game anyway. I'll be building real models soon enough.

My opponent had a similar force of Germans, almost a complete mirror of my force.  However, his was unpainted, and so victory was assured! Everyone knows unpainted models die faster.  Also, we didn't have a lot of terrain in this scale either. So you will see some unpainted terrain bits here and there. It was a very open board, which is not a good thing in this game.

US strategy (if I ever had any strategy) was to get my tanks on a hill on the left flank for better LOS (which it did not provide as I later discovered) and have my infantry take and hold the center of the board. I issued a few move orders and the Germans sped up to meet me.  Below are the M3s with their infantry stands behind them, making for the center. We kept the infantry bases behind their rides so we knew which vehicles held which units. I had two bazooka teams mixed in there, so it was important to know.

As a foretaste of things to come, my tank formation failed its first order and just sat there behind the hill.  Crap!
Stalling out in the open was a very bad thing. As the Germans, with their better leadership and flexible command doctrine, were speeding around to catch me sitting on my hands. They got off a few shots, but fortunately the Shermans made armor saves.
By this point, after pushing hard, both sides had lined up to what would become a static firing line. This is just a function of the scenario (or lack thereof) and the distinct lack of terrain of any consequence. All of that is easily solved, but it did make this game a bit of a dice rolling exercise. The Germans seized the hill at the center and disembarked from their half-tracks. Lo and behold, there were two MG teams up on that hill. Ouch.

I got to see a command failure in action, where the Germans ended up firing on their own HQ. They almost killed it too. But the worm would turn soon enough. We traded shots, and the Germans were infinitely more effective, destroying one unit and suppressing three others. Suppression in the open is a disaster to say the least. Then I flubbed a command roll and my third formation of recce teams and mortar carrier ran away.  Ugh!  This picture is so blurry probably because I was crying too hard at the time I took it.

On the left flank things were marginally better. The Shermans finally got in gear and mounted the hill. They took out a German tank and celebrated for a bit.  That party was short-lived.

As my center was crushed, the armor on my left flank crumbled. I got to see a "command critical" in action. This basically awarded the German player a free action, which proved devastating. The Germans passed order after order to fire, and in one turn destroyed everything they could see.

Back in the center the Germans blew up my M3s, suppressed all my units (effectively taking them out of the game) and the recce units and mortar carrier hadn't even had a chance to move back up after their command failure. The German infantry remounted their half-tracks to prepare to sweep behind my stunned infantry. We called the game, since I was flattened.
I haven't been so roundly beaten in such a short time as I was for this game. I will admit, it soured my enthusiasm a bit, since I was like a man on the ground with a rhino stomping on his head. In one turn I had no more army. I'm not sure if that's due to hot rolling or what, but it was overwhelming. I really hope that was a fluke.

Overall, the game mechanics were easy to understand and modeled the units well. Despite getting my ass kicked, I'm planning to invest further in this game. I see a lot of potential for this rules set. The only down side is getting enough terrain in this scale to provide protection and some maneuver opportunities.


Mike G. said...

You did not lose as badly as you think. It really amounted to one really effective German turn. Once we add more terrain and artillery, I think it will feel a bit more balanced as some more strategy will open up

Jerry said...

I'm looking forward to it, Mike!

Kull said...

Tunisia is known as "El-Khedar" (The Green One) due to the amount of verdant landscape it possesses.

The more you know...

Jerry said...

Kull, Thanks for that information. For some reason I thought it was all desert. Well, now I don't have to invest in desert terrain!