Monday 4 March 2024

Panzerblitz with Grid Based WW2 - Buchach 1944

 After some glowing reviews from fellow blogger, I was minded to give these Grid Based WW2 rules a go: They are intended to give something of a Panzerblitz type experience, albeit with much bigger squares/hexes and company sized elements.

I wanted to try the rules as written ('RAW') before fiddling around with them, and regular readers may recall I had an unhappy encounter with trying to modernise the old Panzerblitz 'Buchach' scenario. Although I enjoyed doing the research, in the end the PB countermix was so broken I couldn't be bothered to play the game.

Anyway, I thought the rules above might give my a chance of replicate that joyous PB 'chess with tanks' feel, so I dug out Buchach again to give it a go.

An approximation of the PL setup, with boards 2,1 and 3, boards 1 and 3 being inverted. To convert the PL boards (250m hexes and roughly 8.5km x 7.5km), I went with 1km hexes, so each represented 4x4 original PB hexes. Given the constraints of my Hexon boards, I ended with a 9x8 battlefield, each PB board being 9x3 (or 9x2 in places) and a lot of the terrain 'in hex', including the numerous gulleys, such an important feature of the original PB boards.

The scenario covers the relief of Hubes 1st Panzer Army in April 1944, so I used my snow boards. I was able to replicate fairly well the original PB layout, although I had to compromise seriously on the location of woods and ended up amalgamating various features together. As PB hills cost a lot of MP to ascend/descend, I was going to treat them as terrain features. The RAW have very, very serious restrictions on what units can enter close terrain, woods and towns being offlimits to almost anything on wheels or tracks (I guess based on Neil Thomas?) , which made the road network crucial, and there was no mention of gullies at all, so I made something up for those (terrain feature, units can only see in/out one hex at ground level, units may move along them as terrain, and enter impassable terrain, max one unit in gully).

I decided to use the original scenario OB, which is a ludicrous tankfest for the Germans. Four companies each of Panthers and Pz IV, a company of Stugs, three Mech Infantry companies and a company each of heavy mortars and artillery. Irl they had nothing like this, just two companies each of Pz IV and Stugs, and two motorised infantry battalions.

The Russians have a Guards Mechanised Brigade. Three motorised battalions, a T34/85 Regiment plus a company each of AT guns, 120mm mortars and 76.2mm guns. I gave the Guards only two 'companies' per battalion as in PB a Guards Rifle Company has two thirds the attack and defence strength of a (combined) German rifle company, but I did give them the Regimental SMG company, so they had seven infantry companies.

The Russians can only set up on 'Board 1' ie the central three hex column. They have to prevent he Germans clearing a corridor across the table in without any adjacent Russian units. Setting up the Russians forced me to read the terrain rules properly, and I realised that the wooded and marshy 'Board 1' was basically a no go area for the entire brigade as only leg infantry could end their move in a town or wood... Some rapid adjustments were required.

I adopted the Spearhead convention that motorised infantry could dump their trucks, so suddenly all the infantry were on foot. I also ruled that a motorised unit on a road could could be in a forbidden hex, but only one, and they wouldn't get any cover benefit. That let me deploy the AT guns and 120mm mortars in the towns, with dismounted infantry in support, and the armoured recce company in the wood at the far north (on the road). That looks a bit more like PB.  

Further south I ended up doing much the same thing. Infantry in the woods, one T34 company on the southern road junction, and another in reserve near the 76mm guns (on the road).

I also realised that the extensive woods in this sector essentially presented a huge anti-tank barrier to vehicular movement. In the original PB, many woods are impassable to vehicles, but there are often devious routes to filter through. Hmm, lets see how that pans out, but looks like the Germans only have one viable route here, down the road through the woods. Perhaps I should have put the village of Adski back on in that gulley to the south, and take the wood off the the hill hex (in the original game it is only a passable two hex wood).

Having made a decent terrain appreciation for the Russians, I brought the Germans on in the centre. Mechanised units can move a max of two, including on roads. This is far slower than in PB, where a Pz IV on roads would cover 16 hexes, ie a move of 4, although it would only do 2 hexes cross country.

I led with the Panthers (classed as 'Heavy Tanks') and brought on the Mech Infantry in support. The stacking limit of two units in open hexes, otherwise seems a bit light to me. On future turns I went with a stacking limit of three in the open, two in terrain features, and one using roads or gullies (I like the restricted stacking in terrain, it represents well all the difficult terrain on the PB boards).  

The Russians checked their LOS to meet the threat in the centre. The Germans only really have two viable routes across the table given the wooded terrain, one via the road in the centre and one via the road in the north. I had very cleverly positioned the road exit so it was impossible for mech units to exit the woods, so I moved the road across one hex.

The finlly also read the rules on indirect fire, and noticed that only infantry and recce can call IF, and only from units infantry within two hexes of the spotter. Ooops. Well, I'm certainly finding a lot out. I actually rather like that rule, and again, it is very  in keeping with PB Observation Posts.

The Russians hastily re-deploy their mortars into the gully and swap the recce and AT gun companies, so the recce can call fire on the northern flank.

The Germans swarm the defences in the centre with waves of Panthers. The Panzergrenadiers hang back a bit, and two companies of Pz IV occupy the hill in the north. I completely forgot that movement uphill should be restricted to one hex. There is another PG company down in the gully below.

The Pz IVs on the hill can now see the Russians in the town and blaze away with impunity. Hmm, not sure what I think about that.

Back in the centre ferocious fighting breaks out. One Panther company is knocked out (leaving a burning wreck marker, I like that - it blocks LOS and counts towards stacking). The Russians suffer brutally in return, two Guards Rifle companies disrupted and the T34s knocked out. Sheer weight of fire, even though the German tanks can only hit the Guards on a 6.

Apologies for the appalling light in this photo. I didn't read the rallying rules properly, units can't rally adjacent to the enemy. The Guards stand and shoot, and are obliterated by German artillery and mortar fire, and the German ground units follow up. I have unilaterally decided that three units can stack in open ground, and two in difficult terrain. That just seems to work better (in PB, you can fit no less than 16 companies in an open 1km hex, so only allowing two seems a bit mean).

I have also just realised that the knocked out T34s block the only road through the woods.... hmm, need to have a think about that too. I think Panzer Leader had some mechanism for removing wrecks. At the moment the Russians could win the scenario by just parking both their tanks on the only two road routes and blowing them up.

The German lead elements are disrupted, but not enough Russian fire to destroy anything. The Russians can't afford many more losses so start to look for their end line - they need to form a line across the table. The difficult terrain will really handicap the German advance.

The remaining Russians fan out into various bits of cover, largely shielded from the Panzers by all the impassable woods. I'm letting units use gullies to deploy in (max one per hex) in otherwise impassable terrain, as the original game does.

There is only one viable route for the German now, along the winding road through the marshes, so a panzer column sets off northeast. The rest of the Germans manouvre to keep the Russians busy.

A bit of a logjam at the entrance to the marshes. I'm letting three units stack in the road/gully hex, otherwise it is just one unit per road hex. I'm completely ignoring the restriction on tanks etc not being able to end their moves in dense terrain, it just doesn't make any sense.

The Russians have formed a viable line of units and ZOCs extending across the entire table now.

The lead Germans have just emerged from the woods in the far north. I think I need to bump up the movement rates, in PB it was those rapid tactical moves which really opened the game up. That is particularly the case given the brutal stacking limits and terrain restrictions.

To give the Germans a chance, I'm letting units on a road move into a wreck (on a road) as if it was difficult terrain. It slows them up but isn't completely impassable.

The Germans run out of time to force a gap, and the nearest panzer is completely blocked by the 'impassable' woods. I need to/ have a serious think about the terrain model, in PB there ARE impassable woods sections, but equally there are usually routes to filter around them, slowly.

At game end the Russians have taken a bit of a beating, losing four rifle companies, and a company each of T34s and AT guns, while the Germans just lost one Panther company. tbh, that is actually very similar to playing it with PB - the Germans often lost very little but struggled to open and maintain a corridor, as the only viable routes were  in the extreme north and south (classic 'hug that table edge' stuff).

OK, that was a very useful play through, nothing like playing the game to realise you've missed lots of nuances in the rules. It actually worked very well indeed, and certainly had a Panzerblitz 'feel' to it. The things I need to think about are:

Terrain model: how to map the very granular PB terrain onto coarse 1km hexes.
Stacking limits: again, related to the terrain model. I'm thinking three in open, two in restricted terrain and allow one unit to enter 'impassable' terrain.
Spotting: I'm minded to go back to the original PB spotting
Movement rates: I'm thinking tracked vehicles on roads should get a 1 hex bonus and wheeled a 2 hex bonus, more like Spearhead. Possibly even +2 and +3. With units only allowed one per road hex that will still limit road movement. 

Anyway, a successful playtest which I really enjoyed, and plenty of room for thought.  For some reason this has really caught my imagination, so it looks like One Hour WW2 will be taken a back seat for while. I often go off on little fads like this, until I get bored. It is rather like programming, once I've cracked the problem, I immediately lose interest. Good job my armies are largely rules agnostic. They have to cope with Mr Magpie here. 


  1. Hello there Martin,

    Always good to see a nod to PanzerBlitz in use - I spent way too many hours playing that ‘back in the day’! I liked the snow terrain - very effective looking - and the whole action seemed to zip along, issues notwithstanding. Looking forward to see how you progress with this or at least until the Magpie settles elsewhere - in my neck of the hobby it is known as a Butterfly….:-)

    All the best,


    1. Thanks David. I always preferred Panzerblitz to Panzer Leader, it just appealed more to my analytical mind.

  2. Martin,
    You knew I'd be commenting sooner or later on this post.

    An outstanding battle report and good food for thought. I went easy on my first outing with the rules but you went right for the kill with the Buchach scenario!
    Interesting points that I did not initially think of re movement. I allow all "mechanized" items 3 hex movement, and 1 additional hex on roads. This scales with their ranges, as well and has not given me much trouble.

    In terms of the terrain bit, the various types of infantry are probably the most complex of the rules and difficult to wrap your head around sometimes. My buddy was trying to separate his infantry from his halftracks like in most tactical games, and I had to explain to him that it's not possible in every case here (similar to Spearhead I think?).

    One thing I'll note that you hit spot-on was "conserving" your forces. I'm starting to realize the value of covering forces and recce as more than just spotting, as infantry tend to get gobbled up very quickly by artillery, which is devastating in Peter's 1D6 and in my 3D6 settings.

    Watching this project with interest :) I might also be reaching out to you about playtesting your napoleonic rules, BTW.


    1. Thanks Steve, it was a lot of fun to play and actually playing it as opposed to just reading it made it come alive. I can see I'll end up stripping out many of the 'One Hour' elements and turning into a sort 'Panzerblitz Lite'. I just have a hankering to replay some of my favourite PB scenarios with figures, but without the pain of wrestling with the intricacies of the the old boardgame. It certainly made me think about the terrain model, a lot, as that is key to how many of the scenarios work.

    2. I embarked on the same tinkering with GDW's old "Team Yankee" game from the first battle series and I've been tinkering with it for the better part of 2 years!!! All that to say think we've been bit by similar bugs and this year I've been encouraged by alot of tabletop to wargame activity that I'm seeing on blogs. I really wanted to play the panzerblitz/leader/AIW games again and Peter's rules were an excellent "jumping off point" for me.

    3. And by tabletop to wargame activity I mean to say boardgame to tabletop game crossover

    4. Well, boardgaming was such a big part of my life for 15 years, it is not surprising I like odd nostalgia trip. I just need to figure out how to make Third Reich into a playable figure game!

  3. I had a read through of these. So it looks like all fire except indirect fire has a range of 2 squares. As some of those units are infantry that would make 2 squares range equivalent to 500m maximum and that is pushing it for infantry fire. So 250m for a square. On a 3x4 table that is 1.5x2km which seems a very small area for a game with 10 company stands in play. I seem to be missing something here. I would have thought at this scale of game infantry have no range. Infantry combat is determined when an attacking unit move into their square and if attackers are unsuccessful are thrown back into the square they attacked from and if successful defenders are thrown out of the square they occupy.
    Then squares are 500m across and the 3x4 table is 3x4km, 10 company stands is roughly a regimental sized force, 2 battalions plus a couple of support companies, which seems right for that size battlefield.

    1. The original grid rules bear a much stronger relationship to One Hour Wargames than Panzerblitz. In my version infantry has a range of one (many of the original PB infantry could fire 1km, integral SFMGs and mortars I guess). It is a game, I wouldn't over think it, the proof with many of these things is in the playing. For solo play, simpler is better, for me anyway.

  4. I don't have a problem with the simplicity it is the model of infantry combat that concerns me. Not convinced that WW2 infantry companies engaged at that range effectively. A couple of SFMG's and a pair of light or medium mortars are not going to have much effect and would, from what I have seen, be sighted to fire at shorter ranges both in attack and defence. Sure you could model attached heavy weapons from battalion, but in that case I would give a negative modifier for ranged infantry combat to represent the small number of tubes firing. When I get round to trying them will go with "in contact" infantry combat and ranged fire of 1 square with a negative and see how it plays out.

    1. I'm sure that would work. I've found restricting the infantry range to one seems OK too. The only issue is that tanks can stand off two hexes away and blast them with impunity, although on the relatively cluttered PB boards, there are plenty of places to hide to mitigate that. In more open settings, more restricted spotting might be in order. The original PB spotting would work quite well, but would be one more thing to remember.

  5. True you don't want to make tanks a game winner by allowing them to blast everything from outside an effective reply. There is probably an arguement for restricitng the range infantry are spotted to 1 square or limiting the efectiveness of fire against infantry at greater than one square to account for the difficulty in spotting/bringing effective fire to bear, but as you say adds more complexity and more things to remember. It all comes down to personal choice of how much complexity/detail you want in a set of rules. What I try to avoid is complexity for complexity's sake. A good example is Frank Cadwick's Command Decision where every tank has a speed rating. Never convinced that level of detail was necessary in game where each model is 4-5 tanks and therefore has considerations of keeping formation etc. nor for that matter a tank with a max spped of 30mph moved any faster on the battlefield than one with 25mph max.