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Subject: Ghost Panzer #1 - Designing a Division rss

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Jim Krohn
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This is part of a series of posts that will hi-light parts of the design process for Ghost Panzer as well as look at some of the system tweaks, cool toys, and optional rules in the game.

Many have asked me what research went into the design of Band of Brothers, so I thought I would start this series by giving you a glimpse into the process that led to Ghost Panzer. It all started with:



These are first person accounts that helped me form my opinion of squad warfare and how it should be modeled. Bits and pieces of these books really made me back up and challenge the accepted model which is dominant in tactical wargames.

Some of the combat reports especially opened my eyes. I was shocked to see how few casualties there were in combat if troops were dug in and heavy weapons were not involved. A company could fire back and forth with the enemy for 10-20 minutes and have a few killed and a dozen wounded as long as there were no heavy weapons and neither side closed the distance.

Slightly shaken, this led me to another class of books:



These do not have first person accounts, but deal directly with tactics and how combat was conducted in WW2. These confirmed what I had learned from the first person accounts. Interesting quote from Infantry Tactics:

The objective of the firefight was not simple destruction of the enemy, but Neiderkampfen - to beat down, silence, or neutralize them, thus ensuring the success of the close assault.



Wanting to make sure, I went right to the actual field manuals of the time - translated into English. These are simple, but I really like them. This is what was used to train the soldiers and again confirmed my model of WW2 tactical combat. They also were nice because they gave the exact make up of the different types of squads. Here is a quote from the Soviet one:

On defense the rifle squad holds a defense position about 40 to 50 meters wide as part of the rifle platoon.

When it came time to design scenarios, I wanted to read first person books related to the specific unit in question.



These were used for BoB:Screaming Eagles and deal with the 101st.



These were used for BoB:Ghost Panzer and deal with the 11th Panzer.



This was my Holy Grail. Out of print, expensive, and hard to find, I managed to get this one on an inter-library loan from a library in another state. The title translates to: "Their Faith was the Fatherland".

Unfortunately for me it is in German. My mom came over from Germany in the 50's and I grew up with a lot of German influences. I took German in school but, through lack of use, I lost a lot of it. I know enough to be able to read the notes on a map and get small snippets, but not enough to read a book. My solution was to:

1. Scan the German pages in
2. Convert the image to text
3. Run the text through a translation program
4. Read the lousy resulting translation and then dive back into the original German text when I reached an important part that needed help.

That part was more work than fun. Why did I go to the trouble? Unlike the 101st, where I was absolutely swimming in first person accounts (it is possible that every single soldier of Easy Company has written a book ), sources on the 11th are slim. This is somewhat odd because it was such an amazing division with a rich history.





Secondary sources helped a lot. While not specifically about the 11th Panzer, the unit would be talked about in them. These two books, in particular, were useful to me. The first dealt with the 11th in the relief of attempt at Stalingrad. The second describes the little known tank battle in the south at the start of Barbarossa. It was the biggest tank battle of all time until Kursk. The book was very interesting and I recommend it. Truly it was enjoyable history to read with a lot of stories and details thrown in.

Still, I was not satisfied. I needed more info on the division. That led me to an entire new world. I hung out on Feldgrau and Axis History Forums and found a group of serious historians. They introduced me to NARA and BAMA. NARA is the National Archives and Records Administration of the United States. BAMA is a similar source in Germany. For $125 you can purchase pictures of a microfilm roll. They have them on everything. They were all cataloged after the war. There are 20 or so rolls on the 11th Panzer alone. Fortunately, there is quite a trading market of these rolls. I got on there and managed to get rolls for the key periods of the 11th Panzer.



This is a page from the War Diary of the 11th Panzer from July 5, 1943. It is the day that they hit the first defensive belt on the southern side of the Kursk pincer. I was in awe to have it. To know that I had hundreds of pages that were actually typed on the day by a member of the unit - that is a primary source. There are other cool things on the rolls too - strength reports on different days, surveillance photographs, etc.

You may have noticed that it is in German too - I used the same process above.

One disappointment was that War Diaries for the individual regiments were not available. While I got the ones for the division, the regimental diaries were archived in one spot in Germany and destroyed in an allied bombing raid.

Of course, I also needed to know more about the Russians.



Ivan's War is another good book that I recommend. The author traveled the former Soviet Union doing interviews with WW2 veterans. It offered a good perspective that we don't often get in the States.



I'll throw these on here as a sampling of the books that were just general knowledge sources that helped flesh out the history and my thoughts. The opinion of the author of Barbarossa was that the 11th Panzer Division was:

"...probably the finest armoured formation on the Eastern Front."

To all of this list, I need to add about 30 or so other books and innumerable internet sources. A few of them were useless, but many shed more light on force compositions, specific battles, etc. They provided very useful data to add to the hopper that ultimately was distilled down into Ghost Panzer.

I really hope you love the game!

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olivier R
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Impressive amount of research.
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Sean McCormick
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Funny- I've got Infantry Tactics of the Second World War and Panzer Tactics next to each other on my bookshelf, too.
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Mike Hoyt

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Wow Jim, can't wait. I really think you've nailed it with this system, looking forward to seeing the East Front
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Iain K
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You should write a book about the 11th. I can name a few wargame designers that became notable historic authors ... Joe Balkoski comes first to mind.

Cheers.
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Jim Krohn
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You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
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Quote:
You should write a book about the 11th. I can name a few wargame designers that became notable historic authors ... Joe Balkoski comes first to mind.
I don't think I am qualified. Besides, I would prefer to read history and design games. thumbsup

Not that I could include every book in the post, but I should have included Bando's book on the 101st as it was also really useful.
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Iain K
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Fair enough, but be warned, I'm told that the money's much better in historical writing than in game design
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Jim Krohn wrote:


This was my Holy Grail. Out of print, expensive, and hard to find, I managed to get this one on an inter-library loan from a library in another state. The title translates to: "Their Glory was the Fatherland".

Unfortunately for me it is in German. My mom came over from Germany in the 50's and I grew up with a lot of German influences. I took German in school but, through lack of use, I lost a lot of it. I know enough to be able to read the notes on a map and get small snippets, but not enough to read a book. My solution was to:

1. Scan the German pages in
2. Convert the image to text
3. Run the text through a translation program
4. Read the lousy resulting translation and then dive back into the original German text when I reached an important part that needed help.

That part was more work than fun. Why did I go to the trouble? Unlike the 101st, where I was absolutely swimming in first person accounts (it is possible that every single soldier of Easy Company has written a book ), sources on the 11th are slim. This is somewhat odd because it was such an amazing division with a rich history.
I would like to read this. I absolutely love these low print run holy grails. Just looking at the cover screams "this is the real deal".
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Gabriele Stecchi
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Wow, such an astounding study, Jim!

I can't wait for GP, I need some red counters on my maps!
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Jim Krohn wrote:

...
The title translates to: "Their Glory was the Fatherland".
...
I beg to differ. My interpretation would be: They believed in their Fatherland.
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Jim Krohn
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You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
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Yep, I miss spoke. I have always translated it as "Their Faith was the Fatherland," which is pretty much what you said. In my hurrying when writing it yesterday, I had a brain cramp. I'll fix it above - thanks.
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Jim Krohn
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You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
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Quote:
I would like to read this. I absolutely love these low print run holy grails. Just looking at the cover screams "this is the real deal"
It was a little bit of a disappointment for me. He covered the early part of Barbarossa very well with interesting stories, but became increasingly brief in the future years. If I remember right, he writes as much about 1941 as he does 1942-1944 combined.

Still, I was very glad to have it.
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Jim Krohn
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Side note - I also wrote to the veterans society for the 11th Panzer in an attempt to get some interviews, but didn't get a response.
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David Bartholomew

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Impressive amount of research. Makes me want to design a wargame just so I can read all the history up front
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Rick Barber
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Very impressive research, Jim! Not that I expected anything less....

It's funny that I'm currently doing a massive set of maps on Kursk for Chris at Grognard maps, and so have immersed myself in a slew of great books on that southern part of Kursk. These maps are at 330 meters/hex, and all told will be 24 full 22x34 sheets. My research is of course on a slightly larger unit level, but there would be plenty of great scenarios for your game coming out of the individual accounts in these books. Unfortunately (for your purposes, anyway) the best book I'm using is a very recent one called 'Blood, Steel and Myth' which focuses pretty tightly on the actions of the II SS Panzerkorps, in the part of the campaign just to the east of where the 11th Panzer fought.
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Jim Krohn
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You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
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Rick,

My plan has always been to release extra scenarios after the game hits the shelves. There are two extra scenarios (not the bonus ones already released) for Screaming Eagles that are finishing up playtest and should be released soon. If you have a suggestion for a good scenario for the 11th - even if it means a unique map - by all means let me know.

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An impressive amount of research!!!
You should make a movie about the 11th Pz Div. (some movies have a very poor research work).
Nice work.

Best regards!!!
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That was a great read! I appreciate the amount of effort you put into designing the game. Well done! I also never realized that it was you who also designed Space Empires lol.

Jim Krohn wrote:


This was my Holy Grail. Out of print, expensive, and hard to find, I managed to get this one on an inter-library loan from a library in another state. The title translates to: "Their Faith was the Fatherland".

Unfortunately for me it is in German. My mom came over from Germany in the 50's and I grew up with a lot of German influences. I took German in school but, through lack of use, I lost a lot of it. I know enough to be able to read the notes on a map and get small snippets, but not enough to read a book. My solution was to:

1. Scan the German pages in
2. Convert the image to text
3. Run the text through a translation program
4. Read the lousy resulting translation and then dive back into the original German text when I reached an important part that needed help.

That part was more work than fun. Why did I go to the trouble? Unlike the 101st, where I was absolutely swimming in first person accounts (it is possible that every single soldier of Easy Company has written a book ), sources on the 11th are slim. This is somewhat odd because it was such an amazing division with a rich history.
I can tell you that both NARA and the Library of Congress are friggen goldmines for rare books and other materials you may not find cheaply on the net or in stores. Do some digging and you'll come across some great stuff.


Speaking of which, I also came across a book about the history of German unit myself, on friday, while doing some shelf reading at an archive I work at. I believe it's a copy of the original but it was an astonishing find nonetheless.

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Greg
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Love the series by George Koskimaki on the 101st. I'm on my second read through of the series, and just started the 3rd book( Bastards of Bastogne). Great research for sure!

Edit: Ordered Ghost Panzer today, can't wait to get it.
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I just picked up Panzer Battles by Von Mellenthin at a used book store on a lark. Great reading so far!
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nick P
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There can't be many of them left now.
 
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