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Subject: Cities and Fortifications in Panzerblitz and Panzer Leader rss

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Byron Henderson
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Fortifications and Cities in Panzerblitz and Panzer Leader

“Fortifications: bunkers, redoubts, prepared trenches, etc.”—Panzerblitz rulebook

“Fortifications: bunkers, redoubts, ‘pill-boxes’, etc.—Panzer Leader rulebook

Very few players are actually satisfied with the rules for Fortifications in either Panzerblitz or Panzer Leader. In general, the rules are confusing and unclear. At the heart of this problem is the undefined nature of the fortifications in the game system. Panzerblitz and Panzer Leader describe fortifications as both grandiose defensive systems (“bunkers, redoubts”) as well as smaller, limited defensive emplacements (“prepared trenches…’pill-boxes’”). This overgeneralization, common to several aspects of this game system, results in a lack of defined form and use for these units. The result has, for gamers in general, been a vague frustration in using fortifications in a scenario.

Arab-Israeli Wars, the sister game to both Panzerblitz and Panzer Leader, treats fortifications completely different than Panzerblitz/Panzer Leader. Where Panzerblitz and Panzer Leader use vaguely defined “fortifications” for all defensive emplacements (aside from blocks and mines), Arab-Israeli Wars breaks them down into three clear levels: forts, improved positions, and trenches. This additional detail results in greater definition of the emplacements and greater satisfaction in their use. (While I have heard many people express their confusion and dissatisfaction concerning Fortifications in Panzerblitz/Panzer Leader, very few have ever made the same complaints concerning these units in Arab-Israeli Wars). The Arab-Israeli Wars rules manage to maintain the simplicity of the original system while still adding definition to the counters functional level in the game.

Many players prefer to simply back-fit the Arab-Israeli Wars forts to the Panzerblitz/Panzer Leader game. However, I would argue against doing this for the following reasons.

• While Arab-Israeli Wars shares a common structure with both Panzerblitz and Panzer Leader, it is not the same game. Parts of it (the Morale and Overrun rules come quickly to mind) are easy enough to back-fit to the Panzerblitz/Panzer Leader games, but the game system as a whole is quite different. (If one wishes to play a more realistic version of Panzerblitz or Panzer Leader, based on the more detailed rules of Arab-Israeli Wars, I highly recommend using Peter Rogers’ excellent Axis-Allies Wars variant).

• Counter values for Arab-Israeli Wars have been arrived at by different means and the interaction between infantry, artillery and AFVs is different as well. The artillery units and function, in particular, have undergone a radical change in the newer game.

• A town or city in Arab-Israeli Wars is not the same as a town or city in Panzerblitz or Panzer Leader. The settlements of Israel and the Sinai in no way reflect the same defensive advantages as a European city. (It may be argued that they roughly equate to the villages of the East Front, as represented in Panzerblitz, but cities in Panzerblitz and Panzer Leader are generic in nature—and are meant to be that way by game design). In design, both Panzerblitz and Panzer Leader view towns as European-type cities; Arab-Israeli Wars views them as smaller settlements.

• Lastly, the rules for cities and fortifications in Arab-Israeli Wars do not logically back-fit to Panzerblitz and Panzer Leader. This is to say that they do not follow the logic of the original rules presented in these games.

What is needed, and what I attempt to provide here, is a simple system covering cities as well as fortifications and emplacements that fits the logic presented in the original Panzerblitz/Panzer Leader systems and still allows for a more realistic approach in considering their defensive possibilities within the game system. It is my hope that these rules allow for a better gaming experience when playing these games.

As ever, comments and critique are welcome.

Cities

1. Units in city hexes are considered armored targets whether or not such units actually are armored. Units stacked together in city hexes must be attacked as one combined defense strength when using direct fire.

2. “A” class units, using Direct Fire against units in cities, use their normal attack factor (they are not doubled) unless the defending stack of units is predominantly armored. In this case only, "A" class units are doubled when attacking..

3. Truck and wagon units are ignored for purposes of Indirect Fire against units in city hexes.

a. If truck and/or wagon units are stacked with combat units in a city hex, only count the combat units in the hex when determining (dividing) the Indirect Fire strength.

b. After the attack is conducted, apply the same results suffered by the combat units in the hex to any truck and/or wagon units in the hex.

c. If a city hex includes only truck and/or wagon units, all units in the hex are considered a single unit with a defense strength of “1”.

Improved Positions

Improved Positions represent extensive use of barbed wire, trenches, sandbags, felled trees, etc…. I recommend using the Improved Position markers found at http://www.imaginative-strategist.layfigures.com/)

1. Units in Improved Positions are considered armored targets whether or not such units actually are armored.

2. Units in the same hex as an Improved Position are considered to be in the Improved Position.

3. “A” class units, using Direct Fire against units in Improved Positions, use their normal attack factor (they are not doubled) unless the defending stack of units is predominantly armored. In this case only, "A" class units are doubled when attacking..

4. Units in Improved Positions receive a +2 Die Roll Modifier (DRM) when attacked. They may be attacked, using direct fire, individually or as a single unit unless they are in a city hex (Units stacked together in city hexes must be attacked as one combined defense strength when using direct fire).

5. Improved Positions may be placed in city and woods hexes. When placed in city or woods hexes, the DRM of the Improved Position is used in place of the city or woods hex DRM (re: DRMs are not cumulative).

6. Units in Improved Positions may be Overrun unless they are placed in terrain in which Overrun attacks are not allowed.

7. Improved Positions are placed during the initial set-up. Once placed, they cannot be moved or destroyed.

8. Improved Positions may not be placed in the same hex with other emplacements (blocks, forts, other IPs…) or in any hex that the units in them may not enter or move through.

9. Rules for Indirect Fire attacks on truck and wagon units in cities also apply to Improved Positions.

10. If using Morale Rules, an infantry unit in an Improved Position rolls for morale as if it were non-infantry.

Forts

Forts represent anything from stronger improved positions to pillboxes, redoubts and large fortifications such as emplaced turrets and concrete pillboxes housing large artillery. They are divided into two basic categories: small and large. Fortification counters for all countries may be found at http://www.imaginative-strategist.layfigures.com/.

Small Fortifications (strength 10-30) are not enclosed structures but represent different levels of reinforced strongpoints. They include some variety of trenches, felled trees, sandbags, pillboxes, makeshift walls of rubble, etc… Large Fortifications (strength 40+) represent a series of concrete emplacements, and/or redoubts in addition to trenches, felled trees, etc….


Placement and Stacking:

1. Forts may not be placed in city, swamp, sea, beach, stream, bridge or gully hexes.

2. They may not be placed in the same hex with other emplacements (blocks, Mines, IPs, or other forts) or in any hex which the units “within” them may not enter or move through.

a. Only "small" fortifications (10-30 DS) may be placed on road hexes.

3. Fortifications receive additional terrain bonuses for the hex in which they are placed (Ex: if placed in a woods hex, they receive a +1 DRM). They must be “spotted” if placed in a hex with covering terrain.

4. Fortifications, and the units in them, count as one unit for stacking purposes. Fortifications do not affect movement.

5. Enemy units may not enter a hex containing a fortification if it also includes friendly units.

(This deserves some explanation. In the original Panzerblitz/Panzer Leader game system, all fortifications are treated as if they were Eban Emael or the Maginot Line—huge structures with roofs on which the enemy can walk while the defenders maneuver within buildings or underground tunnels beneath their feet. These rules ignore the fact that very few of the fortifications encountered in WWII were as expansive as those examples as well as the existing structure of the rules for other defensive terrain in the game—primarily cities—where the opportunity for in-hex coexistence of enemy forces exists but the rules clearly state that it is not allowed. This departure from the basic structure of the rules causes a great deal of confusion and frustration for most players, thus I have eliminated it and bound fortifications to the same rules as other defensive terrain in the game).

Combat:

1. Units in fortifications are considered armored units.

2. “A” class units, using Direct Fire against units in fortifications, use their normal attack factor (they are not doubled).

3. Units in Fortifications may not be Over-run but they may be attacked by armored units using CAAT.

4. Rules for Indirect Fire attacks on truck and wagon units in cities also apply to Fortifications.

5. Units in the same hex as a fortification are considered to be “in” the fortification.

6. Units in fortifications use the defense factor of the fortification in place of their own defense factor. As an example, a German 75mm ATG in a 20 point fortification possesses a defense strength of 20.

7. Fortifications may suffer “dispersal” in which case the units occupying them are dispersed also.

8. A fortification has no effect on Line-of-Sight.

9. If using Morale Rules, an infantry unit in a Fortification rolls for morale as if it were non-infantry.

Additional Rules:

1. If a fortification is destroyed, any units in it are also destroyed.

a. A destroyed Small Fortification counter is replaced with a single wreck counter, regardless of the number or types of units inside it.

b. A destroyed Large Fortification counter is replaced with a single Block counter, regardless of the number or types of units inside it.

2. A fortification counter itself has no attack strength and may only defend.

3. Unwanted fortifications may only be destroyed by attacking them with one’s own fire weapons.

4. If abandoned or unoccupied, fortifications may be “captured” and used by the opposing player. To capture a fortification, simply move a unit into the unoccupied fortification counter.

5. Un-occupied fortification counters (or those containing only truck or wagons) may never spot for other units.
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Lawrence Hung
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Nice write-ups! Regarding the effect of artillery fire onto city hexes,
Quote:

1. Units in city hexes are considered armored targets whether or not such units actually are armored.


The increased armored effect in city hexes seems to suggest the terrain is protective against artillery fire. However, are the buildings two-edged sword to the defenders? The blasting pieces of rocks and fragments as a result of the artillery fire are devastating to many infantrymen.

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Byron Henderson
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Lawrence Hung wrote:
Nice write-ups! Regarding the effect of artillery fire onto city hexes,
Quote:

1. Units in city hexes are considered armored targets whether or not such units actually are armored.


Thanks!

The increased armored effect in city hexes seems to suggest the terrain is protective against artillery fire. However, are the buildings two-edged sword to the defenders? The blasting pieces of rocks and fragments as a result of the artillery fire are devastating to many infantrymen.


Yes, the same could be said for woods as well. But the game treats covering terrain as purely defensive in nature. If the designer took into account any sort of wood or masonry "splatter" effect, it doesn't show and I think that level of detail is beyond PB/PL.

Concerning towns, my main concern was bringing down the effectiveness of AFV against defending units without changing the overall game dynamic. Doubling A class units is a reflection of the "armored dominance" of the original game design but makes little sense for most people. Keeping units in towns (and forts) as armored does not change the entire game dynamic but not allowing "A" class units to be doubled against them allows for a more realistic use of tactics against defending units in towns (I recommend using the CAAT rule posted on this forum as well to incorporate armor into the assault).

Historically, armor was effective against towns it just wasn't the monster the game makes it out to be. Allowing Improved Postitions to be placed in towns further strengthens their defensive nature by increasing the DRM.

Indirect Fire is another animal. Without completely rewriting the IF rules (something I have actually done and may post here later), it is difficult to make a change that doesn't change the entire game. With the game treating covering terrain as purely defensive in nature, the defender automatically receives a sizeable bonus. Keeping towns as armored targets gives the defense another bonus. However, removing the ability to stack trucks and wagons to dilute it is a sizeable advantage for the attacker. So there is balance there within the existing game mechanic using the existing unit values.

Part of the issue affecting IF is the spotting rule in PL, which is too generous to the attacker. I would recommend limiting the ability to spot units in covering terrain to 5 hexes and, if there is not a unit in a hex adjacent to the spotted marker, add an additional +1 DRM to any direct fire attack against the defender. Whatever one decides to do, keep it simple! IMHO the game thrives on its simplicity and fun and I don't want to take that away.
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Byron Henderson
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There has been some discussion on CSW about how difficult forts are to destroy if the AFV are not doubled. In a recent scenario play, a friend also stated that forts are very troubling to manuever around/destroy using these rules (I do not believe Smoke rules were used during the scenario play).

Given this feedback/information, I would recommend players consider not allowing forts over size 30 ("small forts") to be placed on road hexes during any scenario. This avoids a "Maginot" line being built over access points across the board and would reflect a defensive force's desire to reinforce these points but not completely destroy them (in the name of defense).

I am of the opinion that Smoke Shell Concentration coupled with CAAT (see rules variants in the Panzerblitz and Panzer Leader forums) can easily remedy this issue but it takes a solid assault force to take on a fortification in this manner (a couple of tank units won't do).

If using theses rules with existing scenarios, some adjustments will need to be made. The forts should probably be scaled back in strength (or the attacking force should be supplemented somewhat) and it may take some playtesting to "rebalance" the scenario.
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Scott Clinton
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No, I think this is being WAY, WAY over-thought. shake

Having purchased this game when it was quite new and played it on and off ever since that is not how I perceived the terrain types nor how they were ever explained to me (aka articals in "The General", etc).

A "Town" is defined quite simply as: Any terrain type that would result in the perceived terrain effect from the table. The same for "woods" etc...

You don't count trees or determine the ratio of brick to wood frame in a game of this type and scale. What would be the point?

GG
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Byron Henderson
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Well, that's why these are "variant" rules. One of the wonderful things about Panzerblitz/Panzer Leader is the strength of its design. This model, in spite of its faults (perceived or otherwise), has stood the test of time very very well.

The above is simply an attempt to address a few of the perceived shortcomings of the game system. For example, most players I know think that "A" class units should not be doubled against towns--but we/they may not have the same definition of "town" that you have listed. Likewise for the ability to use trucks and wagons to dilute Indirect Fire.

The rules above aren't actually complex; they are patterned directly after the original game rules with an eye towards a number of new counters that have been added to the game since 1970. The adjustments and additions, overall, are few (of course, Improved Positions is a new rule originally from AIW). But they are variants--options to use if you wish and ignore if you don't. Enjoy (that's the most important thing)!

***EDIT - I have edited the above rule with two recommendations from feedback (both here and playtesting).

1. Added that "A" class units may be doubled against units in cities/IPs if the defending stack is predominantly armored. (This keeps players from "hiding" AFV in cities) and...

2. Added that only "small" forts (DS 10-30) may be set up on road hexes. (This keeps players from building The Maginot Line across every road hex on the board).
 
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Robert McConnell
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pugbuddy wrote:
Well, that's why these are "variant" rules. One of the wonderful things about Panzerblitz/Panzer Leader is the strength of its design. This model, in spite of its faults (perceived or otherwise), has stood the test of time very very well.

The above is simply an attempt to address a few of the perceived shortcomings of the game system. For example, most players I know think that "A" class units should not be doubled against towns--but we/they may not have the same definition of "town" that you have listed. Likewise for the ability to use trucks and wagons to dilute Indirect Fire.

The rules above aren't actually complex; they are patterned directly after the original game rules with an eye towards a number of new counters that have been added to the game since 1970. The adjustments and additions, overall, are few (of course, Improved Positions is a new rule originally from AIW). But they are variants--options to use if you wish and ignore if you don't. Enjoy (that's the most important thing)!

***EDIT - I have edited the above rule with two recommendations from feedback (both here and playtesting).

1. Added that "A" class units may be doubled against units in cities/IPs if the defending stack is predominantly armored. (This keeps players from "hiding" AFV in cities) and...

2. Added that only "small" forts (DS 10-30) may be set up on road hexes. (This keeps players from building The Maginot Line across every road hex on the board).


I have a recommendation on non-armored units in cities and towns for terrain effects: they DO NOT defend as armored. Give them a +4 to their Defense Factor, but retain their target as infantry/other. Retain the Die Roll Modifier (DRM) of +1 for towns/cities (if I remember correctly). For fortifications: eliminate the 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 fortifications and make it a +10 to Defense Factor. I know, it's Arab-Israeli Wars. Tom Bierschenk used these rules in his Stalingrad scenario. It works.

Bob
 
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Byron Henderson
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The only issue with retaining non-armored units as infantry type units is that A class units are halved against them, which produces an even bigger swing in the CRT and causes major issues with taking cities (the addition of CAAT reduces this issue but does not eliminate it).
 
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Robert McConnell
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Byron, change the WEC to give "A" weapons a 3/4 reduction in Attack Factor against infantry and guns in towns. Buildings don't make infantry armored and guns can't set up (most of the time) inside of buildings unless they already have a wall knocked out/down. It also illustrates just how much trouble tanks have getting infantry out of towns and cities. That's why you have friendly infantry, engineers, and artillery/mortars. Even more realistic: tanks shoot first at armored vehicles in towns/cities. When all armor is destroyed or out of LOS, then friendly "A" type weapons start shooting at infantry. In a "combined" attack, "A" weapons can only shoot at armored targets and H and/or I can only shoot at infantry/guns/non-armored targets until their "preferred" target is destroyed or out of LOS.
 
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Certainly options but I want to keep this as simple as possible. One of my goals was to not change the WEC or CRT (or other major combat charts). Saying that A class weapons are no longer doubled against units in towns, unless the defending stack is predominately armored, keeps things very simple.
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