Blitzkrieg Commander

Last week I had a chance to try the miniatures game Blitzkrieg Commander and I really enjoyed it. The game is basically a WWII variant of the GW’s Warmaster rules, though it’s published by an independent company (Wargames Directory). It has a dedicated website, www.blitzkrieg-commander.com, where you can learn more about it, read reviews, and download support material.

The heart of the game, as with its parent, is the command system. This clever set of rules is designed to reflect the fog of war and the difficulty of command and control. A problem that endless miniatures and board games have had is that players have a god-like view of the battlefield and complete control over the units under their command. The reality of battle is, of course, quite different. Blitzkrieg Commander simulates this with the use of command units. Only they can issue orders to other units and this is the primary way that units activate. Each command unit has a command value (typically 7-10). To successfully give an order, that number or less must be rolled on 2d6. A single command unit can issue multiple orders in a turn, and even multiple orders to the same unit, but no more orders can be given once a roll is failed. Command units can give orders to as many or as few units as they want, but there are various modifiers to keep this from getting to wacky (there are penalties to command units that are far away, for example). The upshot of all this is that you cannot be certain that you’ll be able to activate every unit in your army. You may blow your first command roll and have a whole section of the battlefield freeze up. What prevents this from getting out of hand is the initiative system. Basically, if there’s a visible enemy within 20 cm of a unit, it doesn’t need orders to attack or evade. That represents the local leaders on the spot using their own initiative to counteract an obvious threat. The interplay between the command and initiative systems creates a dynamic play experience quite different than that of most miniatures games. You no longer know exactly how many turns it’ll take those enemy tanks to close with you. It could be three or it could be one with lucky command rolls.

Physically, the rulebook is well presented. It’s printed in color and uses photos of painted miniatures on well-rendered terrain to illustrate rules throughout. Since the army lists can be covered in one or two pages, the book includes info on all the major and many of the minor nations from 1936-1945, broken up by theater of war and time period. This means you can do anything from the Spanish Civil War to the surrender of Japan. A new version of the game, Cold War Commander, has just been released that covers 1946-1990. Both games can be used with minis from 6 mm to 20mm, making it quite easy to use what you’ve already invested in for other games.

I’ll be playing again tomorrow, so we’ll see if any of the little things I noticed on the first game turn out to be real problems (mortars, for example, seemed a little too effective against tanks). Overall though I found the game to be easy to play, tactically interesting, and fun. The fact that Rick and I can use Blitzkrieg Commander to do Pacific Theater battles now when Flames of War is going to doing Europe exclusively for the next 4-5 years is also a plus.

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