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Subject: Musing on PanzerBlitz after 37 years rss

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Seth Owen
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Few games have had an impact as big as PanzerBlitz. It's probably the third most important commercial wargame aside from the very first Roberts game of Tactics (which invented the idea of the commercial wargame) and Gettysburg (which was the first wargame based on a historical battle). PanzerBlitz opened up entirely new ground for wargamers and it had an immediate impact.

I remember seeing it for the first time on the Battleship Massachusetts during one of the Spartan International conventions held there (I believe it was 1971 and PanzerBlitz had been out for just a few months). Everything was new back then, but even then PanzerBlitz stood out.

PanzerBlitz either introduced or first popularized many features that became standard fare in wargames, such as multiple scenarios, ranged combat, different classes of units and weapons, "geo-morphic" boards, extensive historical notes, terrain elevation and line of sight rules.

It did this within the familiar framework of hexagons, cardboard counters and and odd-based Combat Results Table, providing just enough continuity to the Afrika Korps-style game for acceptance.

It did usher in an explosion of new design approaches, prompted in large measure by PanzerBlitz's designer, the prolific Jim Dunnigan.

Dunnigan had already started to shake things up with his more analytical approach to wargame design with his earlier Avalon Hill games Jutland and 1914, but those were hindered by being set in the less dynamic First World War and uninspired graphics. In PanzerBlitz Dunnigan's design skills were teamed with Redmond Simonsen's graphic design talents and the synergy was electric.

PanzerBlitz still boasts one of the most striking wargame box art images ever published.

Since PanzerBlitz was published there have been probably a hundred games on the same or similar topics, nearly all inspired by designer's attempts to fix the "flaws" of PanzerBlitz. Some were even done by Avalon Hill itself. Panzer Leader, which moved the action to the Western front changed the artillery rules in order to discourage the unhistorical game tactic of crowding units together in the same hex to dilute incoming fire and got rid of the ability of trucks and wagons to spot for other units which had resulted in some pretty bizarre game tactics as well. The biggest PanzerBlitz problem fixed in Panzer Leader was the infamous "PanzerBush" syndrome, where units scooted from one covered spot to another across open spaces that were literally "under the guns" of the enemy. The "Opportunity Fire" rule in Panzer Leader has been in the standard toolkit of tactical wargame designers since.

Avalon Hill's later Arab-Israeli Wars further refined the game system by gunning down the range and speed of units, which the original game formula has miscalculated. This was noted early on, but a desire to make Panzer Leader fully compatible with PanzerBlitz meant the older game's incorrect values were retained. Dunnigan himself felt no qualms about starting over based on new research and his Combat Commander and later SPI games used different factors and different game mechanics as well.

For face-to-face play most players retrofitted the opportunity fire rule (and ban on truck/wagon spotting) to the earlier game but many play-by-mail games skipped using opportunity fire because of the complications it introduced to the turn sequence. Unlike most of its successors and imitators PanzerBlitz was well-suited to PBM because of its IGO-UGO turn sequence, in contrast to the multiphase and interactive turn sequences that followed in other tactical wargames.

The advent of Internet-based play has reduced that consideration, and more recent designs are more sophisticated with improved historical research, leaving PanzerBlitz behind. Although once wildly popular, and still played a bit, it's a game design that does seem dated now and is most likely to be played between two old-timers than by someone new.

Although Squad Leader, for example, is only seven years younger than PanzerBlitz, a lot happened during that seven years in game design and Squad Leader still seems much more modern. ASL, which came along just a few years after basic Squad Leader is still very much alive and winning over new players.

There are plans for Multi-Man Publishing to offer a new edition of PanzerBlitz, but this is not a straight reprint of the old game. Panzerblitz: Hill of Death Instead it appears it will be a completely new game, which may include some updated elements from the old one, but probably many new concepts as well. As such, it's really just using PanzerBlitz as a "brand name" similar to what Hasbro has done with "Avalon Hill" and "Axis & Allies."

For other commentary on games and etc. see my blog at http://pawnderings.blogspot.com
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Lee Massey
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Panzerblitz is a cool game! I have all of it's offspring, PL and AIW. I especially like AIW even though I don't usually win. shake
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Gregory Wong
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wargamer55 wrote:

Since PanzerBlitz was published there have been probably a hundred games on the same or similar topics, nearly all inspired by designer's attempts to fix the "flaws" of PanzerBlitz. Some were even done by Avalon Hill itself. Panzer Leader, which moved the action to the Western front changed the artillery rules in order to discourage the unhistorical game tactic of crowding units together in the same hex to dilute incoming fire


Actually, the unhistorical game tactic of crowing units together in the same hex to dilute incoming fire was introduced in Panzer Leader. Under PL's indirect fire rules, you took the attack factor of the artillery and divided it evenly among the units in the stack. So, if you had one infantry alone in the hex, it would bear the brunt of the entire attack. But if you added 3 wagons, now that valuable infantry unit only suffered 1/4th the attack.

This was later fixed in Arab-Israeli Wars. In AIW, indirect fire attack values were reduced, but they were applied to each unit in the target hex. So each unit bore the full brunt of the artillery attack regardless if it was alone in the hex, or stacked with other units.
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Warren Davis
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The box is undoubtely one of the most striking you'll ever see, and will imprint my mind forever. That was the first game where just looking at the box convinced me to buy the game (hey, I am a sucker for appearances. But Panzerblitz is a wonderful game, and I miss it as it's locked away in storage. cry
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Matthew Rauh
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I personally love Panzerblitz, and for more than just sentimental reasons. The abstractions can produce some "ahistorical" situations (Panzerbush), but the result can still come out historically. I believe the simplicity and abstractions are what keeps the game played today. The fun factor is there without mind boggling details (but enough detail to keep you interested).

I am not sure if the indirect fire rule from Panzer Leader was "fixed" by Arab-Israeli Wars. Yes, in AIW the full attack strength is applied to each unit, but the attack strength on the counter is already quartered.

I personally like the Panzerblitz indirect fire rule over PanzerLeaders.
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Drake Coker
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Well, long dead thread: but I want to note my appreciation for the original post. Panzerblitz was my first game, bought way back in the early 70's. I still have it in my closet of ancient surprises. Great game.

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John Bobek
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I loved PanzerBlitz when it first appeared and played it a lot. I still have it, but my gaming has evolved into miniatures battles. PanzerBlitz really was a cardboard miniatures game all along! Now that I have the "toys," I don't need it. Still, I have fond memories of games played!
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Robert Wilson
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I just played a game, including teaching my brother it took 30 minutes tops, and I got wasted by his JS-IIs on a hillside supported by a SU-100 and an ISU-122


great fun!
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Mike NZ
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It IS still fun regardless of all the new games out it's still fun to play, amazing really after all these years...yes Rooskies on a damn hill hard to take out I found too...but u said it great fun and that has to be the victory conditions for me! cool
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Pete C
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As an old timer who owns PanzerBlitz, I plan to start playing the game this coming week with another old timer. I never really sat down and played the game seriously. I'd only play a scenario, then move on to different games.

This go around, I plan to play as many scenarios as possible with my friend and *finally* get my money's worth out of the game. We're going to use the rules as written, warts and all.
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Byron Henderson
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Yep, it's an awesome game. That's why it has lasted so long. People like to pick at its flaws but the game is fun and successful in spite of them.

Recently, on another forum, someone insisted that PB was not only not a groundbreaking design but also was "broken out of the box". They turned out to be delusional in other ways as well. LoL!

This is simply one of the funnest games ever made, in spite of whatever flaws people want to find in it. My personal opinion: looking for problems in PB is like trying to find flaws in a pretty woman with a great personality; if you're obsessed with finding a rocket-scientist-super-model then you're missing the wonderful things that are right in front of you!
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Robert Riddell
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I am sitting with my panzerblitz box open on my desk. My son-in-law expressed interest in playing a wargame. He did 4 years in infantry. I am puzzling about how to play PanzerBlitz with miniatures on Tide of Iron boards. Could be fun. I have enough TOI boards.

PanzerBlitz was my second wargame. Tobruk was the first, but I only played that solitaire. Buddy and I play PanzerBlitz in forestry camps one summer. Passed the time most excellently.
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johnny von blitz
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i found a copy of panzerblitz in my city for 25 dollars (in good condition). i thought it was a great price!! should i buy it?
im new to table wargames,but love pc wargames. i bought red winter recently and really enjoyed myself. anyways let me know

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John Kovacs
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t0ast wrote:
i found a copy of panzerblitz in my city for 25 dollars (in good condition). i thought it was a great price!! should i buy it?
im new to table wargames,but love pc wargames. i bought red winter recently and really enjoyed myself. anyways let me know :)


Yes, for one in good to great condition $25 is a fair price. I paid $12.56 for my copy from eBay in 2000 - shipping costs have skyrocketed since then, and good to mint copies on eBay go for $25 and up before shipping is added.
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