Well I have not been playing face to face games or doing much of anything socially for the last month or so due to some real world ‘interruptions/issues’ which I won’t go into here. I have kept posting though as you have seen, mainly because of a backlog of projects to show off. I also have continued to paint to a level, but not at the pace I usually do.
Now that said, this weekend Jahan and I found time to try out the Blitzkrieg Commander 4 rules for WW2. This is a game we both have been thinking of trying these rules, so this weekend it was perfect to give it a go. That means this is a battle report and a bit of a review all rolled into one.
I set up the table and created two 1500 pts forces – Germans and Soviets in the summer of 1943 using my models and terrain at home. This was a simple meeting engagement – the aim of which was just to destroy the opponent. We used a couple of optional rules – one for commanders (of the Tanks) allowing a combination of a command unit and a vehicle. We also used the optional rule of not removing hits at the end of a turn. So this scale was more at the multiple platoon level game vs. the standard multiple company level for this rule set. Still it would give the rules a test.
Below is the table setup it’s 5 x 4 table with 3 urban area’s in the central area of the table. I took command of the Germans for the game. This was out first time either of us had played BKC4 – but this is based very much on the Warmaster/Black powder model with alternating turns, command rolls and basic to hit/to save mechanics.
The scenario had a command roll for platoons to move onto the table. The forces were from the book and thus the Soviets were more numerous but had a poorer command level than the Germans. So in the first Soviet turn only 1 of their platoons – with 7 infantry squads and a AT gun came on the table. This was along the road – a bold move by the Soviets.
The Germans had had decent command rolls though and 2 of their platoons moved on the board. The Panzer Grenadiers and a platoon of 3 STUG’s. The Germans also had a recon unit and I tried to use that in this scenario but I never really got good use out of it. I’ll comment more about that at the end. The better command of the Germans allowed these two platoons to move towards the table center with several moves.
Soon enough though the Russians forces arrived. The difference between an average command roll of 8 for the Germans and 7 for the Russians would be significant through the game – with the Germans often getting multiple activations while the Russians rarely did. Maybe I just rolled better but this was an aspect which did impact the game throughout. Maybe I need to play games where rolling low helps me.
This was initially telling as these multiple activations and the halftracks allowed one German Platoon of three squads and a MMG to get into the large village area and set up a defensive screen before the Russians got close. The second German squad on foot was now on the table and moving up to support their colleagues to the left of the village area.
The Soviet tanks took the hill between the villages. They also split to target both the German tanks and the troops in the village. But, then they had a blunder on a command roll and had to move towards the nearest visible enemy. This split them up a bit more. That likely was not a great move on their part but the terrain would have been an issue for keeping them all together anyway.
Meanwhile, the Germans started to hit hard at the Soviet infantry on the road. Multiple shots made the closets soviet infantry suppressed and taking hits. This was helped also by the Soviets failing to activate and being out of range for their Initiative move. Meanwhile the flexible doctrine of the Germans really helped them as the extra range of that allowed them to keeping shooting each turn now the Soviets were close.
The other Platoon of the Soviet infantry were on foot though though and did keep moving towards the German lines. They were out of visual range through the wheat field but were getting closer each turn.
The spilt off of 2 Soviet T-34 Tanks enabled a tank duel to develop over the fields of a village. Both sides were protected by the walls of the fields, but the Soviet outnumbered and outgunned. Hits mounted on the Soviets and some suppressions started to be added. It was clear that this was just going to end in a German success unless something changed.
Back around the other village, the Germans kept holding their own. However, they did not really have enough firepower to kill many of the Soviets on the road. Although the Soviet troops were massing they could not get enough commands together to make a decisive impact at this point.
The German second quad had multiple moves to get to the edge of the small woods by the side of the village, so the expectation was they would soon be able to reinforce that side of the German lines
In the next few turns the STUG’s did destroy the two Russian tanks around the second village and even then took out a third in the flank on the side of the hill. So the German armour had done it’s work protecting that flank from attack.
Unfortunately, now bad luck hit the Germans and it was big. A German command blunder had 2 squads charge the Soviets crossing the wheat field vs. having them stop and shoot at the tree line of the woods. One of those squads gots shot up and suppressed, so did not make it close combat. But it was left exposed in the open. The other squad made it into hand to hand combat but was quickly annihilated by the Soviets. We see what attacking unsuppressed troops with lots of support does – it’s not good…
But this also swung the game more into a balanced level, as before this it was looking decidedly one sided. There is a lot more jeopardy for the Germans losing 2 squads as they did not have lots of troops to lose compared to the Soviets. Meanwhile, the German’s in the village had continued to hit and hurt the advancing Soviet infantry.
The remaining Soviet tanks moved off the hill and target the German halftracks – who in return moved to retire. Luckily for the Germans the T-34’s were not great shots but it’s another scare for the Germans. To counter this the STUG’s decide to use the wheat field as a screen and drive to the flank of the Russians vs going through the fields in front of them which are now blocked by the Soviet tank wrecks.
A command failure though meant the first of those STUG’s was exposed as they move around the village. This allows the T-34 to focus on the lead STUG and that first German Tank got destroyed. The STUG’s hit hard but are not as good defensively as the T-34’s. In the next turn the T-34’s also mange to destroy the Scout half track which was lurking on the road. I never really worked out what to do with that other than to auto give an additional +1 on a command roll., so had exposed it more than I should have.
Things looked a little dicy for the Germans here and another critical command blunder on the German Squad injured the platoon commander. So he went from an 8 commander to a 5… Not great. This was instead of continuing the reign of fire which had been thrown against the Soviets infantry. This also meant that the Germans failed to fire their Panzerfaust vs. the T-34. I wanted to see how that worked out.
The rest of Germans had now reached the trees and this allowing them to continue the a hail of German lead being thrown at the Soviet infantry though. The Soviet squads were starting to disappear quite fast at this point. They could not move up fast enough/often enough to really impact the Germans in the building before the hits piled up on them. The Germans in the buildings were in a good position and able to do enough damage on the ttackers.
So it was clear at this point that the Soviet advance had stalled, as they had taken nearly 40% casualties at this point and so the Germans had won the engagement.
So, overall it was a fun game of throwing some die around and we had a fun few hours gaming. Below are a summary of my thoughts on the game. I’ll play again for sure but this still is far from the perfect game IMO. Here are a few thoughts summarized for those interested:
- Overall it is fun/simple game – there are not many tables to cross reference etc which can be a bane of many games of this period I find. So I like that. It’s fairly quick as well. The only down side is it’s easy to loose track of the number of activations a unit has made previously when you end up with multiple action rolls between them. So that needs a little tracking.
- I do like the number and scope of the army lists in the game and it is a very professionally finished game. Although we did not use them in this game, the rules include air and art etc.
- The game allowed for a good amount of tactics and decisions which are impactful in play. That is very important to me in a game like this.
- It’s nice to see real recce rules in a WW2 game, although this battle was not the one to use them in/show them off. They do seem a little complex/redundant without the use of hidden troops etc. but it is nice to see they have a use vs. just being normal troops with a different name.
- Command rolls provide ‘friction’, with troops not always doing what you want. The blunders add great story items as well. But the impact of even just a 1 difference in command levels along with the tactical doctrine of the Germans to Soviets made a big difference in this game. So thats something to be aware of.
- The opportunity fire rule allows units to fire even with poor command, So you don’t feel total out of it even if units fail to activate.
- The suppression mechanism works well for emulating troops not doing crazy things when taking a lot of fire but not destroyed. Both those help round out the system nicely.
- I like the fact that units (especially infantry) either die/are surpassed or are still effective. The figure counter style games at this scale seem odd to me. As a commander at this scale troops would be effective, or not, or dead. I do not need to know the exact number of guys in the unit for that.
- I am happy we used the optional rule of keeping on hits over turns. This game would likely never had ended otherwise (other than running out of time/turns) as it was rare we did more than 3 or 4 hits a turn on units in a turn. See the next comment for that as well.
- The multiple hits for squads means that a sensible tactic is to focus all fire on a single enemy unit till it is dead. A single squad/tank has issues killing another in a single turn in this game from looking at the math. They need luck and multiple activation to kill a single target. This feels a little odd/wrong to me. As you can see in the report above multiple the German squads were focusing on a single Soviet one to do this. When they succeeded they moved to the next etc. They did not spend time firing at the nearest unit in their command turns other than when they had too (the initiative activation). The results of this are ok at a high level, but it feels odd at a lower action level. A squad of tanks focus on one target at a time till it is dead then move on. This is definitely not the battlefield of if you can see it you can kill it (well instantly at least) as described in many of the history books.
That last bullet is my major issue with the rules. I would have much preferred an ‘it’s dead or not’ type roll/check vs the slow build up of hits from multiple shots/opponents.Well anyway, I hope you enjoyed this read. I will play this game again but the search for the best WW2 rules will continue for me.