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Panzerblitz: Hill of Death» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Voyeur at the new Panzerblitz - mini-review rss

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Dick Mitchell
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I had the chance, today, to watch a couple friends play the new MMP re-issue of Panzerblitz. Both had played the original, as had I, and had a basic familiarity with playing the game. People have already written in detail of the rules differences so I need not do so.

The game components are very nice. The color counters are fairly easily read - even without my glasses. The map is serviceable and, for the scale, also nicely done. The similarity between town/village hexes and orchard hexes is a minor negative but not a play issue after a turn or so.

The turn sequence is driven by a chit-pull system that is customized for each scenario or situation. This is the core mechanic of the game. It is not an attractive feature at first sight. The chit pool of the battle I watched consisted of 5 British + air support vs 3 German. This 2-to-1 ratio was further exacerbated when the last chit was German (the last undrawn chit is not used in it's turn). It stands to reason that the makeup of the chit pool would be a major component in game balance. It just did not feel balanced in the game I watched. Perhaps it will grow on me with further playing.

The second feature that stood out today was that the game was fairly light-weight. Both the players are experienced Advanced Squad Leader players (I'm a fairly new ASL player) - the scale and detail were a disappointment to them. Granted, this game is not intended to be ASL nor are there a great many games that can rival ASL in depth and detail. It's not my intent to criticize PB-HoD for not being ASL. I am just relating this experience as a caution to ASL players.

What was agreed is that the chit-pull driver and shallower level of detail made for a very promising solitaire game. Easier than solitaire ASL and a bit more entertaining.

I have ordered the game after seeing it today. As mentioned above, it's not ASL; but my son doesn't have the time or the opportunity to learn ASL. PB-HoD will provide a chance to get a game in with him during one of his visits without a lot of commitment of time for learning or playing. Plus, for me, the solitaire suitability is a solid extra dimension.

The game deserves a look-see. It may meet a need or fill a gap. Or it may be just what one is looking for.

D. Mitchell 4.11.09
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David Bohnenberger
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Thanks for this review from a somewhat unusual viewpoint.

I understand most of your comments except the one about being "disappointed" by the scale. The game is at the same platoon scale as the original, and there was never any suggestion that this would be changed.

Also, It seems to me that the rules are more similar to those of Panzer Leader than of those of the original Panzerblitz. The main addition in this remake is the command system.

The chit-pull system seems like it will model differences in command and control capability fairly easily, but in my experience chit-pull systems always make games take a lot longer than the classic IGO-UGO system. I will wait until I try it to pass judgment.
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Daniel
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Thanks for the mini-review. Let us know how it is when you are able to sit down with it yourself!
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Ethan McKinney
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Dweeb wrote:
in my experience chit-pull systems always make games take a lot longer than the classic IGO-UGO system. I will wait until I try it to pass judgment.


I'm wondering why that is? I mean, what cause the games to be longer?
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David Bohnenberger
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elbmc1969 wrote:
Dweeb wrote:
in my experience chit-pull systems always make games take a lot longer than the classic IGO-UGO system. I will wait until I try it to pass judgment.


I'm wondering why that is? I mean, what cause the games to be longer?


Because the back-and-forth segments cause each turn to take longer. Each player has to take several "impulses" each turn. Of course, the upside is that each of these impulses takes less time than a full turn in an IGO-UGO game, so players feel like they have less downtime.

I might be wrong about this factor in PB2. As I said, I will wait until I play it to pass judgment.
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Rick Mathews
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uriel343 wrote:
The chit pool of the battle I watched consisted of 5 British + air support vs 3 German. This 2-to-1 ratio was further exacerbated when the last chit was German (the last undrawn chit is not used in it's turn). It stands to reason that the makeup of the chit pool would be a major component in game balance. It just did not feel balanced in the game I watched. Perhaps it will grow on me with further playing.

D. Mitchell 4.11.09


When you described the chit pull system, I was reminded of Panzer Command, a Victory Games title from the 80s. The rulebook made it clear that it was an attempt to offer an improvement upon Panzerblitz for a game simulating the same scale. It was actually quite a good game. It would be interesting to know whether the designers of this new Panzerblitz were influenced by Panzer Command.
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Ryan Powers
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Rick Mathews wrote:
uriel343 wrote:
The chit pool of the battle I watched consisted of 5 British + air support vs 3 German. This 2-to-1 ratio was further exacerbated when the last chit was German (the last undrawn chit is not used in it's turn). It stands to reason that the makeup of the chit pool would be a major component in game balance. It just did not feel balanced in the game I watched. Perhaps it will grow on me with further playing.

D. Mitchell 4.11.09


When you described the chit pull system, I was reminded of Panzer Command, a Victory Games title from the 80s. The rulebook made it clear that it was an attempt to offer an improvement upon Panzerblitz for a game simulating the same scale. It was actually quite a good game. It would be interesting to know whether the designers of this new Panzerblitz were influenced by Panzer Command.


Panzer Command is the basis for the system The Devil's Cauldron: The Battles for Arnhem and Nijmegen uses. I really like it in that game. If the new PB feels kinda like Panzer Command I may have to check it out. Even though I'm sure the old PB is in my basement somewhere...
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Kevin
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How long did the game last?
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Ethan McKinney
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Dweeb wrote:
Because the back-and-forth segments cause each turn to take longer. Each player has to take several "impulses" each turn.


I'm not trying to be dense, but I don't see why that would be. Each formation has a chit, if I understand. You pull a chit, you do stuff with that formation. Let's say that you have four formations and each formation takes you five minutes to finish with. Why wouldn't it take you 20 minutes to finish will all four formations in an IGO-UGO sequence?

I don't have experience with impulse games, but I would have thought that a chit-draw system could speed things up because you don't look at all of the units on the board to figure out which to move first, which to move second, and so forth. The chits force you to look at a sub-set of your units, which should make you decisions faster, or, at worst, take the same amount of time.

Dweeb wrote:
Of course, the upside is that each of these impulses takes less time than a full turn in an IGO-UGO game, so players feel like they have less downtime.


Yes, that makes perfect sense.
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Dave Story
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I was one of the guys whom Dick Mitchell watched play the scenario. Both me and my opponent (Charlie Stevens) have played the original PB, though admittedly, some time ago.

Much of the game is similar to the original, however the chit-pull mechanic is new and a major influence to gameplay. As opposed to the IGO-UGO system, gameplay is much more reactive and there is less chance for coordinated attacks/maneuvers. That being said, the system does provide for much easier solitaire play and does create an abstract modeling of the limits of command and control.

Also, the chit system is used to represent timing and coordination. A force can start the game with a small number of chits which limits their actions/reactions; the force may later receive more chits as the game progresses.

To answer Ethan: the number of chits you get is not equal to the number of units. You may only be able to activate a portion of your force each turn due to this limit. And, because chits activate a 'radius' of units, this tends to promote bunching up - pretty dangerous when facing an attack.

So, for all the interesting effects of the chit system, it was a game killer for me. (Note: Although I haven't tried it yet, I believe that simply removing the chits from the game might leave a perfectly playable system with more tactical possibility).

Finally, even though it's not to my taste, I believe many people would enjoy the game. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a system that provides a moderate amount of detail and decision-making, and something that is fairly quick to jump into.
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Daniel
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I'll be interested to see how I like this chit system. I preordered this and set up ASLSK#1 to be shipped to me (which is UGO-IGO). I will see which I like better.
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Steven Bucey
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Quote:
You may only be able to activate a portion of your force each turn due to this limit. And, because chits activate a 'radius' of units, this tends to promote bunching up - pretty dangerous when facing an attack.


If you are on defense, normally you are not expected to move about much. Reaction Fire covers most of your need to make attacks. But beyond that, in WWII the major problem for small unit commanders was command control -- they had to spread out, but in doing so they tended to lose effective control of their units.

The chit pull for command system here is an abstraction, but it is more realistic than no command control at all.

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David Longstreet
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elbmc1969 wrote:
Dweeb wrote:
in my experience chit-pull systems always make games take a lot longer than the classic IGO-UGO system. I will wait until I try it to pass judgment.


I'm wondering why that is? I mean, what cause the games to be longer?


Because players raised on IGO-HUGO systems have the annoying habit of thinking they have to perform a thorough situational analysis every time it's their turn. Even if that turn is just an impulse.

I know because I'm one of them, though I like to think I have renounced that peccadillo by now. But it wasn't easy. I see it time after time with old gaming partners. Even if it's a quick 60 to 90 second reaffirming situational sweep each time it's your impulse it adds up over the course of a game.

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Dick Mitchell
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David wrote..."I understand most of your comments except the one about being "disappointed" by the scale. The game is at the same platoon scale as the original, and there was never any suggestion that this would be changed."

David,

Thanks for your comments. Re. the disappointment...it was disappointing only in relation to ASL. They are different scales, different depths of detail, different games. Mine was a subjective comment not an attempt at an 'apples and oranges' comparison.

I've since played a game of PB:HoD and enjoyed it, though there does seem to be a tendency to limit the defender's options to dig in and shoot 'em when they move. I was a defender and my dice were warmer than usual so that may have been a contributor to my enjoyment. I think that I would have to play a few more scenarios to draw any hard and fast conclusions about the game.

I wonder if there'll be 3rd-party situation packs in the future for this game as there are for ASL.

Take care,

D. Mitchell
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uriel343 wrote:
The game components are very nice. The color counters are fairly easily read - even without my glasses.


Lucky you. I'm wearing contacts which makes me slightly farsighted, and the red numbers on grey background are almost intelligible. No matter what distance I try I can't tell if the Germans have a AP factor of 8 and 6 without a magnifying glass. The British are slightly more readable due to the black outline, but not much. The counters from SPI or TAHGC may not have been as colorful, but they were a lot more functional.
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Mike Riley
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My take on the game so far. I’m having trouble reading the counters,
I wish they were easier to read at arms length. This readability problem in the industry is getting worse, not better, despite the overall graying of the hobby. Frankly, I just don’t understand why readability complaints seem to fall on deaf ears. The merits of counter art should be evaluated from 3 feet away. The primary font on the charts is too small for me to read comfortably.

I’m also having trouble with the map art work. It would have been very, very helpful if the terrain art extended all the way to the hex side. As it is, the counters completely obscure some of the terrain types. After a few turns, time is wasted picking up stacks of counters to see where the orchard is. I’m surprised at the long sight lines on the map, but really I don’t know what they are in actuality. I’ve never even seen pictures of the actual ground fought over.

I like the OPS system for activation. However, the rules strongly encourage clustering and stacking. And individual units often need to be marked with spent or disrupted markers, rather than the entire stack. So you often have stacks of counters 6 or 7 high, and right next to other tall stacks. If you put most of your power together, you can activate most of your army with just one OPS marker and use the rest of the markers to rally with or move rallied units back into the clump. There is almost no arty, so little or no disincentive for stacking. And the stacks tip easily as some of the counters in the stack are half-inch. The almost complete lack of arty is a big surprise.

I was also really surprised that Bren carriers were such powerful Panther killers. Tanks can sit out at max range while the Brens get in close to get the dr modifier (if two units combine to attack, the closer of the ranges is used. The opportunity fire rule seems tailor-made to encourage this.). I would gladly trade the reduced side of counters to get rid of the spent markers, they really clutter up the map.

I like the movement rates, like the air rules, like the Opportunity fire rules, like the assault fire rules. The LOS rules seem to work fine. Spotting rules seem to work well. Direct fire combat is much, much less bloody than the old PB. CAT attacks are deadly. I prefer the historical terrain over the generic type.
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Steven Bucey
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Quote:
I was also really surprised that Bren carriers were such powerful Panther killers. Tanks can sit out at max range while the Brens get in close to get the dr modifier (if two units combine to attack, the closer of the ranges is used.


Huh?

I don't have the game anymore, so somebody will have to help here, but 1) I thought units attacking armored targets had to do so individually, and 2) the bren carraier's anti-tank strength was pathetic compared to the defense strength of a panther.

Quote:
I’m surprised at the long sight lines on the map, but really I don’t know what they are in actuality. I’ve never even seen pictures of the actually ground fought over.


In this particular area it's fairly open farmland. The middle pictures at this url will give you some idea: http://www.hill112.com/index2.htm


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Ethan McKinney
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cratex wrote:
I don't have the game anymore, so somebody will have to help here, but 1) I thought units attacking armored targets had to do so individually, and 2) the bren carraier's anti-tank strength was pathetic compared to the defense strength of a panther.


You bought Hill of Death and you already got rid of it?

Are you talking about the original PB/PL system?

cratex wrote:
In this particular area it's fairly open farmland. The middle pictures at this url will give you some idea: http://www.hill112.com/index2.htm


Direct link to the pictures page: http://www.hill112.com/gallery.htm
(Otherwise you go to a framed page that's annoying.)
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Ian Ruffer
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What is the ground scale of Hill of Death? how many meters per hex ?
 
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Steven Bucey
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Quote:
You bought Hill of Death and you already got rid of it?


Yes.

Quote:
Are you talking about the original PB/PL system?


No.

Quote:
(Otherwise you go to a framed page that's annoying.)


Sorry, thanks for fixing it.
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Steven Bucey
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Quote:
What is the ground scale of Hill of Death? how many meters per hex ?


I think it is 250 meters/hex.
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Robin Reeve
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cratex wrote:
1) I thought units attacking armored targets had to do so individually
No. Armored targets must be attacked individually, but the attackers can join in a combined attack (using one unit's AT attack factor and adding +1 per additional attacker)...
I believe one would have to need quite a lot of Bren carrier units to seriously harm a Panther platoon...surprise
See the answers that Darren gave to the 2 bunches of questions I asked in the Rules section of this forum.
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Darren Emge
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Quote:
I was also really surprised that Bren carriers were such powerful Panther killers. Tanks can sit out at max range while the Brens get in close to get the dr modifier (if two units combine to attack, the closer of the ranges is used. The opportunity fire rule seems tailor-made to encourage this.)


Can you explain this in a little more detail. I understand the concept you are worried about but don't quite see how this can actually happen during play? Okay maybe in a rare instance.
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Steven Bucey
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Quote:
No. Armored targets must be attacked individually, but the attackers can join in a combined attack (using one unit's AT attack factor and adding +1 per additional attacker)...


Oh, yes, thanks. That's the way I played it, I just forgot (I'm already on to another game where it is do differently).


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