Informal History of PB

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<ul><li><p>7/27/2019 Informal History of PB</p><p> 1/12</p><p> article is ahistory of the developmentof the game PanzerBlitz,</p><p>starting back in the late s. Mysource material stems from many</p><p>period gaming magazines from thelate Sixties to the early Seventies.</p><p>A few, like Te GeneralVol. , No. and Strategy &amp; 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</p><p>which, when taken individually, sayvery little, but when taken all to-gether, really round out the infor-mation supplied by the other majorarticles.</p><p>HIGHWAY</p><p>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</p><p>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-</p><p>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</p><p>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</p><p>Angriff.From these he devised a sim-</p><p>ple little game which he eventu-ally called Highway . Here, eachplayer was provided with a number</p><p>of large by inch counters of dif-ferent types of s. Te time period</p><p>was , using the available tanksof the time. As the setting was theEastern Front, these s were Ger-man and Russian. For the Germans</p><p>he used s, Panthers, igers(both and ), Nashorns, s,and halftracks. For the Russians heused -cs, -/s, -s, -s, -s, -s, and Lend-Lease</p><p>Shermans and halftracks. Eachcounter contained a top view of the</p><p>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</p><p>vehicle. Tere was no infantry or ar-tillery, just s, at first.</p><p>Play was simple. Tere was no</p><p>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</p><p>would first write down the plannedmovement of their counters on apiece of paper and then all players</p><p>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</p><p>ANINFORMALHISTORYOFTHEDEVELOPMENTOF</p><p>PANZERBLITZBY</p><p>ALANR. ARVOLD</p></li><li><p>7/27/2019 Informal History of PB</p><p> 2/12</p><p>I S H PB</p><p>counters as he pleased. In the fir-ing phase, players would determinethe range between their countersand their intended targets using a</p><p>yard stick or a tape measure. Ve-</p><p>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</p><p>would then consult the firing tablesprovided in the game. Each table</p><p>was for a certain type of gun carriedby the s, thus more than one ve-hicle could use the same table. Tey</p><p>were divided into four columns: the</p><p>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</p><p>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</p><p>vehicles armor or not, depending</p><p>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-</p><p>wise the tank was still in the game.Line of sight/fire was very simple asthere was no terrain; vehicles and</p><p>wrecks were the only things thatcould block /. Visibility wasunlimited; the guns could all reachthe maximum ranges on their re-</p><p>spective firing charts.Te game proved popular amongthe playtest crowd at Poultron Press;in fact, several of them brought</p><p>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-</p><p>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</p><p>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-</p><p>vised. Te anti-tank guns fired inthe same direction as the assaultguns with the mm being able to</p><p>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</p><p>version of it for the North Africantheatre, but no hard copy was ever</p><p>made for play testing.</p><p>STATEFAR M</p><p>I of one</p><p>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</p><p>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,</p></li><li><p>7/27/2019 Informal History of PB</p><p> 3/12</p><p>I S H PB</p><p>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</p><p>with more anti-tank guns, infantryguns, and mortars, then later in the</p><p>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</p><p>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-</p><p>cessively realistic to the point thatit was almost impossible to play. Inmany ways State Farm was the</p><p>Advanced Squad Leader of its day,the difference being that advancesin game design made was play-able in when it came out in ,</p><p>whereas in State Farm wasnot. It was never published beyonda few playtest copies.</p><p>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-</p><p>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</p><p>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-</p><p>ters, the chances were already lessthan per cent. Tis would havean impact on the spotting rules ofPanzerBlitz later on.</p><p>Another interesting feature wasthe devastating firepower of the off-board artillery. Te indirect fire rules</p><p>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</p><p>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-</p><p>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</p><p>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</p><p>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</p><p>kill and thus take it out of the game.Of course artillery of a lesser caliber(mostly the on-board artillery units)had less of a chance of scoring a kill.</p><p>All this would have a profound ef-fect when Dunnigan would figureout the attack factors of the big ar-tillery units in PanzerBlitz that wenow know so well.</p><p>Yet another interesting featurewas Dunnigans attempt at Com-</p><p>mand and Control. Each player hadto assign his units to task forces of</p></li><li><p>7/27/2019 Informal History of PB</p><p> 4/12</p><p>I S H PB</p><p>up to six units each (these were es-sentially platoons as players tendedto assign the same type of units toeach group). Each task force was as-signed an order (Move, Direct Fire,Indirect Fire, etc.), which it then hadto perform for a period of six turns.During that time the players couldnot change the orders that they hadgiven to their groups, which had tocarry them out regardless of whathappened elsewhere in the game.</p><p>At the end of the six-turn period,players could assign new orders totheir groups for the next six turns.</p><p>During subsequent revisions ofthe game, the German players weregiven the option of changing theorders for any or all of their taskforces if they passed an initiativecheck on yet another of the innu-merable charts. For the last revisionof the game, this whole Commandand Control procedure was droppedas it had become too cumbersomeand slowed play to a crawl. How-ever, Dunnigan saved and modifiedthe procedure and it would be seenagain in the Simultaneous Move-ment actical Games introduced by in the mid-Seventies.</p><p>State Farm proved to be even</p><p>more popular with the playtestersat Poultron Press than Highway, even if it did eventually becameunplayable. It was modified severaltimes, although all of its versionstended to be rather similar to oneanother. It should be noted that inthe last version, Dunnigan gave thecounters attack, range, and defensefactors in order to do away with the</p><p>need for firing charts. While not al-together successful, this would proveto be a step in the right directionand it can be said that this innova-tion gave birth to the now-famous</p><p>Dunnigan System of counter valuedetermination. While State Farm wasnt really playable, it did showthat tactical level combat couldbe simulated in a board game andfrom this system came the acti-cal Game Series in , in whichDunnigan started a whole new se-ries of experimental land games tocover different periods throughouthistory. Tese were certainly suc-</p><p>cessful: actical Game becameGrenadier; actical Game led toGrunt; actical Game becameCenturion; actical Game be-came Renaissance of Infantry; ac-tical Game became Dark Ages;</p><p>actical Game became Phalanx;actical Game eventually ledto Soldiers; and last, but not least,good old actical Game became</p><p>PanzerBlitz.</p><p>TACT ICALGAME </p><p>A , Dun-nigan started on a redesign of StateFarm . He decided that the tac-tical level of single vehicles, squads,and artillery pieces was too complexto be put into a playable format ina boardgame, so he raised the levelto platoon-size elements, seeing asthe platoon was the basic tacticalunit in Western armies. However,</p><p>for the Russians he had to go to thecompany level as this was the basictactical unit in their army. o ac-commodate units of these sizes, thescale of the board would have to in-</p><p>crease. He chose a scale of me-ters per hex. Te board could nowhave small towns in hexes instead ofindividual buildings, forests insteadof small clumps of trees, and hills</p><p>would occupy a smaller area on theboard, greatly easing line of sightcomplications. Also with hexesof this size, multiple platoons andeven companies could fit into themand thus stacking was introduced</p><p>into the game.It was at this time that the Dun-nigan system of determining coun-ter values developed fully, largelythrough trial and error. For example,Dunnigan first based his anti-armorvalues on the penetration values of rounds at , meters, butquickly found that this did not workfor smaller guns whose penetration</p><p>values were too low at that range.</p><p>Given that the majority of the ar-mor battles occurred at metersor less during the war, he loweredthe determination range to thatdistance. Tis brought the of thesmaller guns up to a more accept-able level while the bigger guns didnot increase that much. Te rangefactors were based on the maximumranges of the penetration tablesthat he was using, which is why</p><p>the tanks and anti-tank guns hada longer range factor than they doin PanzerBlitz. Te defense factor</p><p>was based on the maximum armorthickness of the vehicle in question</p></li><li><p>7/27/2019 Informal History of PB</p><p> 5/12</p><p>I S H PBand the movement factor was sim-ply the maximum speed of the ve-hicle divided by three. Te countersstarted to show the more familiar</p><p>Z pattern of the factors but with</p><p>the factors in different positionsthan what would be customary lateron. Te vehicle picture was a crudedrawing of the top view of the tanksor tank destroyers or a side view ofthe transportation vehicles.</p><p>Te rules, while very simple, wereambiguous in some places andcontradictory in others. Te turnsequence was also simple: the Rus-sians moved their units, then both</p><p>sides fired, removing destroyed ve-hicles at the end of the phase; thenthe Germans moved their units, andboth sides fired again, removing de-stroyed units at the end of the phase.Infantry was represented by rifleand engineer unit-counters. Artil-lery units were also represented, butonly the on-board variety (mortars, guns, infantry guns) from StateFarm ; there was no off-...</p></li></ul>

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