informal history of pb

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  • 7/27/2019 Informal History of PB


    article is ahistory of the developmentof the game PanzerBlitz,

    starting back in the late s. Mysource material stems from many

    period gaming magazines from thelate Sixties to the early Seventies.

    A few, like Te GeneralVol. , No. and Strategy & acticsNo. , haveoffered great designers notes andD-ElimVol. , No. even printeda genealogy of the successive gamedesigns that led to PanzerBlitz.Many others only offered little tid-bits of information, usually in theirrespective gaming news sections

    which, when taken individually, sayvery little, but when taken all to-gether, really round out the infor-mation supplied by the other majorarticles.


    I that thefirst design that led to PanzerBlitzwas a test game called Highway. In early , James Dunniganwas riding high on the popular-ity of his Jutland game that hadbeen released the year before by

    Avalon Hill. In that game he suc-cessfully converted naval miniaturesto a semi-boardgame state. Havingdone that, he decided to see if hecould do it again, this time with ar-

    mored fighting vehicles. Indeed, ithad been something he had wantedto do for a few years but, at thattime, collecting hard data on sand their guns was a difficult thing

    to do. Hard data just was not veryavailable and he had to rely on in-formation gleaned f rom the variousarmor miniature rules that were inexistence at the time, such as Schw-erpunkt and the recently released

    Angriff.From these he devised a sim-

    ple little game which he eventu-ally called Highway . Here, eachplayer was provided with a number

    of large by inch counters of dif-ferent types of s. Te time period

    was , using the available tanksof the time. As the setting was theEastern Front, these s were Ger-man and Russian. For the Germans

    he used s, Panthers, igers(both and ), Nashorns, s,and halftracks. For the Russians heused -cs, -/s, -s, -s, -s, -s, and Lend-Lease

    Shermans and halftracks. Eachcounter contained a top view of the

    vehicle in question, its name or des-ignation, the Movement Factor onthe upper area of the counter, andthree numbers along the side, giv-ing the maximum armor thicknessof the front, side ,and rear of the

    vehicle. Tere was no infantry or ar-tillery, just s, at first.

    Play was simple. Tere was no

    board. Highway was played onthe floor or a very large table, justlike Jutland. Te game turn had twophases: movement and fire. Duringthe movement phase the players

    would first write down the plannedmovement of their counters on apiece of paper and then all players

    would move their units simultane-ously, following the directions oftheir orders. Te number on thecounter was the number of inchesit could move in a turn. It cost oneinch of movement to turn up to degrees and two inches of move-ment to turn from to de-grees. Physically, the counters weremoved using a straightedge ruler.Movement was voluntary; a playercould move some, all, or none of his




  • 7/27/2019 Informal History of PB


    I S H PB

    counters as he pleased. In the fir-ing phase, players would determinethe range between their countersand their intended targets using a

    yard stick or a tape measure. Ve-

    hicles with turrets could fire in anydirection, while vehicles with hull-mounted guns could only fire inthe forward arc radiating from thefront side of the counter. Players

    would then consult the firing tablesprovided in the game. Each table

    was for a certain type of gun carriedby the s, thus more than one ve-hicle could use the same table. Tey

    were divided into four columns: the

    first was for the range in inches be-tween the firing unit and the target;the second was the dice roll to seeif the firing unit hit without havingmoved in the previous movementphase; the third was the dice rollto see if the firing unit hit and hadmoved in the previous movementphase; and fourth was the armorpenetration at the given range. Te

    players would first roll to see if theyhit the target vehicles. Tose thatdid would go to penetration col-umn to see if they pierced the target

    vehicles armor or not, depending

    on where it was hit (front, side, orrear). If the tank was penetrated, itwas flipped over to its other side tosignify that it was a wreck. Other-

    wise the tank was still in the game.Line of sight/fire was very simple asthere was no terrain; vehicles and

    wrecks were the only things thatcould block /. Visibility wasunlimited; the guns could all reachthe maximum ranges on their re-

    spective firing charts.Te game proved popular amongthe playtest crowd at Poultron Press;in fact, several of them brought

    woods and buildings from regularminiatures tables in an effort to in-troduce terrain into the system, butall they proved to be were places tohide behind. One early complaintconcerned the halftracks, the ma-

    chine guns on which could not pen-etrate any tank: they thus becamemere targets. Dunnigan solved thatproblem by giving them anti-tankguns to transport. Te guns were

    on one inch square counters with atop view of the gun in question andthe gun caliber printed in millime-ters. Te Russians got the .mmgun and the Germans received themm and a few mm guns aswell. Simple rules for transportingand loading/unloading were de-

    vised. Te anti-tank guns fired inthe same direction as the assaultguns with the mm being able to

    fire in all directions by virtue of itsanti-aircraft mounting. In this state,the game proved to be so popularthat Dunnigan started to devise a

    version of it for the North Africantheatre, but no hard copy was ever

    made for play testing.


    I of one

    of the playtesters, Edi Birsan, madea boardgame version of Highway .He presented it to James Dunniganwho, as was his wont, polished it upa bit and gave it a new title: StateFarm . Because the game wasplayed on a hexboard, terrain couldnow be fully added, which entailedthe formulation of new sightingrules. Te counters were shrunkdown to one-half inch size with the

    same pictures and values on themas previously. Te firing charts wereeasy to convert by merely changingthe distance in inches to hexes. Temovement factors on the countersdid not change but now becamemovement points with each type ofterrain hex requiring a certain num-ber of them to enter. As playtestingcontinued through the summer,

  • 7/27/2019 Informal History of PB


    I S H PB

    more features were added to thegame. Infantry appeared in squadsand, of course, a whole set of newrules and firing tables to accompanythem. By the fall artillery was intro-duced, first as on-board counters

    with more anti-tank guns, infantryguns, and mortars, then later in the

    form of off-board units for the biggerartillery pieces. Tat same Autumnmore rules came into into play, suchas minefields, fortifications, weather,morale, and command and control,to name a few. Dozens of vehicles

    were added to reflect the differenttime periods on the Eastern Front.By the end of the year the playtestrulebook had become several inchesthick and the game had become ex-

    cessively realistic to the point thatit was almost impossible to play. Inmany ways State Farm was the

    Advanced Squad Leader of its day,the difference being that advancesin game design made was play-able in when it came out in ,

    whereas in State Farm wasnot. It was never published beyonda few playtest copies.

    It is interesting to note that sev-eral aspects of State Farm had alasting effect in the future designsof tactical games in the series. Forexample, units that were in cover-

    ing terrain, or out of the if inopen terrain, were not placed onthe board until they were spotted.In open terrain that was easy: ifthe unit was within the maximumsighting distance it was automati-cally seen and placed on the board.Units in covering terrain (woodsand buildings) had to be spotted.Spotting occurred either if you hada friendly unit in a hex adjacent to

    the hidden unit, or if the hiddenunit fired. Spotting was automaticwhen adjacent, whereas spotting afiring unit was based on the resultsfrom a spotting table: the fartheraway the spotting units were, theless chance they had of seeing thefiring unit by its muzzle flashes. Techances of spotting were based on asliding scale and by the time you gotout to a real life distance of me-

    ters, the chances were already lessthan per cent. Tis would havean impact on the spotting rules ofPanzerBlitz later on.

    Another interesting feature wasthe devastating firepower of the off-board artillery. Te indirect fire rules

    were extensive, but it was the effectsof scoring a hit in the target hexthat was so devastating: artillery ofthe mm variety had a two-thirds

    chance of killing the unit in the hex,artillery of the mm variety hada five-sixths chance, and artilleryof the mm variety had an auto-matic kill on their effects tables. Ofcourse die roll modifiers for terrainand fortifications in the target hexcould alter the results to no effect,even with a mm piece. Te re-sults were based on the bursting ra-

    dius of the round in question (eachartillery unit would fire one roundper attack) and the odds of the saidunit being within that radius. Tearea in the hexes was quite small

    and only one unit be it vehicle,gun, or infantry squad could bein a hex at a time (there was nostacking). Te combat results in thegame were still either no effect or

    destroyed. Even armored vehiclescould be killed, based on the prem-ise that a round that either scored adirect hit (a rarity) or that landednearby (most likely), would damagethe tank enough to get a mobility



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