PanzerBitz   Combat    

Contents
bulletCombat results
bulletDirect fire
bulletTown
bulletVillage
bulletImproved position
bulletIndirect fire
bulletRegistration
bulletObservation
bulletParty line
bulletBarrage
bulletShoot from the hip

Revised Rules
bulletDownload
bulletOptional rules
bulletCharts and tables
bulletHarmony of the rulebooks
bulletEditor's notes
bulletCredits and references

Resources
bulletPlaying pieces
bulletMap-boards
bulletScenarios
bulletRules and addenda
bulletGame history
bulletForums

Editor's Notes
bulletIf it ain't broke...
bulletThe PanzerBitz challenge
bulletA short rant on movement
bulletShoot first and ask later
bulletDirect fire
bulletIndirect fire
bulletA note on optional rules
  Combat results
The combat results table is used exactly as provided in the original PanzerBlitz game, with an optional addition to make attackers think twice before making frivolous assaults. However combat results of dispersed ('D') or special dispersed ('DD') are now recorded with appropriate counters and a second 'D' result promotes an existing 'D' unit to 'DD;' a result which now 'disperses' a unit a full turn longer. Since we are accumulating 'D' results we will limit the lethality of the 'DD' result to units already bearing a 'DD' counter.

This tidies up some housekeeping issues ('opportunity fired' counters are now redundant, as we are keeping track of dispersed units) and extends by a full turn the dispersed effect of the 'DD' result while retaining its lethal effect on some already dispersed units.

DISPERSED
Combat results of 'D' and 'DD' are applied as follows:

'D' result: If the unit already bears a 'D' counter, place a 'DD' counter in its place; otherwise place a 'D' counter on and invert the unit if face-up.

'DD' result: If the unit already bears a 'DD' counter, the unit is eliminated and immediately removed from play; otherwise place a 'DD' counter on and invert the unit if face-up; remove 'D' counter if present.

Figure 1: 'D' and 'DD' counters

Recording: All friendly 'D' counters are removed and friendly 'DD' counters are demoted to 'D' counters at the conclusion of each friendly player turn before undispersed friendly inverted units are turned face-up.

Note: Dispersed units revert to face-up at the end of the same player turn the 'D' counter is removed.

Click on the image in Figure 1 for a full-size version of the new dispersed counters suitable for editing or printing.

Assuming that the original game's lenient treatment of repeatedly dispersed units is a feature and not a bug we have extended it even further; removing the risk to 'D' units of elimination on a 'DD' result. This leniency is extended partially to permit the reversion to repeated attacks in a single turn on armoured units as discussed below. The attack is nonetheless made slightly more powerful by increasing the number of turns accumulated dispersed results can silence and immobilise a unit and balances lethality somewhat by allowing weaker units to cumulatively produce a 'DD' result which might subsequently cause an elimination; but only by a unit powerful enough to deliver a 'DD' result in a single attack.

There is no question that allowing repeated attacks on armoured units changes a basic mechanic of the game and the handling of accumulated dispersed results requires careful balance. Assessing this subtle but significant change will be one of the challenges of play-testing.

Direct fire
The original game provided a somewhat confusing range of direct fire options which were abandoned in the later Panzer Leader and Arab-Israeli Wars rules.  All agree that a unit may be attacked only once per combat phase but a few problems remain; primarily reconciliation of aggregated attack factors against armoured vehicles by multiple units with the 'tabletop' origins of the game. And it is attractive to retain aggregation when conducting high explosive fire against non-vehicle units. Also the issue of how to apply direct fire attacks against multiple units in a single target hex remains.

This revision opts for a simple solution, only one opposing unit may be attacked in any single direct fire attack and armoured vehicles can only be attacked by single firing units; our rule, then, can be refreshingly brief...more

So what's the problem?

Figure 2: Example of combat odds ratio calculation with existing PanzerBlitz rules.
Take for example the following simple situation where a platoon of early Tigers has halted short of a town and us under attack by a company of T-34s and two 47mm A/T batteries.

As can be seen the combination of these three units in a single attack yields a ratio of 3:1; which on the PanzerBlitz combat results table gives the attacker a 50% chance of an outright kill and an 83% chance of an immobilising shot or kill. That seems a pretty lethal outcome for the weapons involved considering the target.

This raises the point of how 'stretched' the defence factor is in this game in the first instance; it must handle the likelihood of a hit and penetration in a single value, not to mention resistance to infantry in the assault and indirect fire. While simplicity is partly the charm of the game by obliging the attacker to total up attack factors in one collective attack the weakness of the attack/defence relationship is exaggerated and the 'tabletop'  origins of the play mechanics are further obscured, perhaps to the detriment of play and plausibility.

It is interesting to note that this rule first appears in the August 1970 Strategy&Tactics No 22 when the PanzerBlitz 'mini-game' was published while the Tac 3 Analysis in the same issue still states:

"Remember that all attacks are stated before rolling the die. If a player wishes to fire more than once a turn at a particular unit in order to insure a kill, none of those extra attacks may be switched to other targets if they turn out to be unneeded." - Steve List, Tac 3 Analysis
Figure 3: Example of combat odds ratio calculation with previous Tac 3 rules.
Let's have a look at the same situation with multiple, individual attacks. The T-34 still gets a respectable 2:1 attack, but with only an unadjusted chance of 18% of an outright kill, which seems more credible while the chance of immobilisation remains the same. The two lesser attacks each have no chance of a kill and a 33% of immobilisation each.

We would be adding extra die rolls to the game to implement this revision, which seems acceptable. We have increased the chance of mobility damage, which is probably all the 45mm guns could hope to achieve. And with our new methodology for accumulating dispersed results a number of lucky throws could still provide a kill well above the 18% chance from the T-34 alone. This seems a more attractive trade-off and yields additional plausible outcomes within the relative capabilities of the weapons simulated.

Unlike the Tac 3 designers, however, we are going to let our player opportunistically defy their rule cited above. During the direct fire phase the player may determine the sequence of individually declared and resolved attacks. In the example above if the result of the first and only declared attack by the T-34 eliminated the Tiger platoon the owning player could declare subsequent attacks on other targets by the idled 45mm batteries.

When it comes to attacks against non-armoured vehicle units, using high explosive and shrapnel, however, it seems perfectly sensible to sometimes aggregate attack factors, which may explain the designer's or Avalon Hill's original decision. We are going to follow suit but set a significantly high bar to arguably overpowered indirect fire units; when they aggregate it is immensely powerful. It might be argued, however, that the original game overstated the flexibility and operational capability of early artillery fire control networks. So we are going to divide this rule in two; prohibiting aggregation against armoured vehicles but permitting otherwise, but very conditionally in the case of indirect fire. Using the distinction of armoured vehicle and non-armoured vehicle already made in the original game by the Weapon Effectiveness Chart limits the impact of this significant revision on game complexity.

The problem of how to apply direct attacks against multiple units in a single target hex is also avoided. This revision opts for a simple solution, any single opposing unit may be attacked in any single direct fire attack and the unit may be attacked more than once in a direct fire segment. Our rule, then, can be further simplified in an area that was evolving in both PanzerBlitz and Panzer Leader.

We are also excluding the attack of multiple units in a single combat. It could be argued that this has a minimal impact on play, if a player has enough offensive power there should be no difficulty in attacking individual units in a hex multiple times to achieve the same result. If, however, one powerful unit is dominating the attack we are content to give other units in the attacked hex the chance to avoid destruction on the grounds that it is unlikely a platoon of armour, for example, is going to cause that much destruction in a single game turn.

Let's see if we can dispense with any confusion with a simply stated rule:

GENERAL RULE
During the direct fire segment of the friendly combat phase:

Any eligible, undispersed, face-up unit may conduct a single declared direct fire attack against any spotted enemy armoured vehicle unit in line-of-sight and within range, using its adjusted attack factor.

Any number of eligible, undispersed, face-up unit(s) may conduct a single direct fire attack against any spotted enemy non-armoured vehicle unit in line-of-sight and within range, totalling their individually adjusted attack factors.

PROCEDURE:
When the current player conducts a direct fire attack the following steps are undertaken:

1.        The attacker adjusts the attack factor or each of the attack factors of the declared attacking unit or units by weapon and target type using the weapon effectiveness table. If conducting a multi-unit attack, the adjusted amounts are totalled into a consolidated attack factor.

2.        The consolidated attack factor of the attacking unit or units and the defence factor of the defending unit are used to determine a combat ratio (rounding down) as the entry column to the combat results table. Example: adjusted attack factor of 12 and defence factor of 5 yields combat ratio of 2:1.

3.        Any additional die roll modifiers and terrain effects applicable to the attack are noted.

4.        The attacker rolls a six (6) sided die and cross-references the result on the combat results table taking into account modifiers and terrain.

5.        The appropriate combat result is immediately applied to the defending unit. Dispersed results are applied by placing the appropriate counter on the target unit; eliminated units are removed from play.

6.        The attacking units are all inverted. 

Note: Direct fire attacks are individually declared and resolved in order of the current player's choice.

This should codify play more coherently during typically the most decisive segment in the player turn.

Town
The town hex combat effect rule is a curious one though seemingly reasonable at first glance; all units in a town are treated as armoured targets irrespective of actual type and must be attacked collectively using their aggregate defence value. But this basic rule seems problematic under certain circumstances.

Figure 4: Armoured target 'benefit' of town hex a distinct liability.
Take for example the following simple situation. A German infantry platoon occupies a town hex and is attacked by a SU-85 battery conducting direct fire. At a range of four (4) hexes the SU-85 is doubled against an armoured target and has an adjusted attack factor of thirty-two (32) against the infantry platoon's unadjusted, but armoured target, defence value of eight (8) for a 4:1 combat ratio; a virtually guaranteed elimination for the unfortunate infantry.

Even at longer ranges the SU-85 battery would enjoy a 2:1 combat ratio advantage against the infantry platoon; a situation hard to reconcile with reality especially when one considers that the same platoon in a clear hex would be attacked at all ranges by the same battery at 1:1 as a consequence of the sensible halving of the 'A' class unit's attack factor against a non-armoured target.

This apparent anomaly doesn't seem to have ever been raised in errata or addenda from Avalon Hill. As it turns out, Tac 3, S&T 22's PanzerBlitz mini-game and PanzerBlitz itself all took a different approach, as we will as well; abandoning the 'armoured' status classification of defending units in towns. We will provide both vehicle and non-vehicle classes with separate but potentially mutual modifiers which attempt to more realistically model the benefits inherent in occupying urban terrain.

Let's first clarify that we are referring to a town of largely stone, concrete or rammed earth buildings of up to three stories (the original 'twenty metres' of the town hex side line-of-sight elevation) in several blocks, at least, with access roads or tracks leading to adjacent hexes:

TOWN
A non-vehicle unit occupying a town hex has its defence factor doubled against direct fire attacks. Furthermore, direct fire attacks conducted against any non-vehicle unit in the town hex must include all non-vehicle units in a single attack against their total doubled defence factors. Indirect fire attacks are conducted normally.

Any unit in a town occupied by any 'A' class vehicle enjoys a defensive combat die roll modifier of plus one (+1) when attacked by direct fire.

The die roll modifier is inherited by non-vehicle units when present. While this rule leaves vehicle units vulnerable to being 'picked off' one-by-one as an attrition strategy, which is tolerably plausible, infantry are more difficult to dislodge though we've retained the multiplier effect of indirect fire which remains a threat to static artillery and other weaker units in the stack.

Village
For a terrain feature of wooden, one-storey buildings offers only concealment and a defensive modifier identical to woods; simulating light cover and obscured sighting:

VILLAGE
A unit occupying a village hex
enjoys a defensive combat die roll modifier of plus one (+1) against all attacks.

While no original or third-party maps currently have this feature it may prove useful for future Eastern front and Far Eastern scenarios. Village hexes should be used sparingly; singly or, at most, in pairs. Village hexes, like woods hexes, do not block line-of-sight and should not have town hex sides applied to them.

Improved Position
Improved positions are fieldworks and emplacements constructed from earth, timber and wire that enhance protection, including from indirect fire. As with fortification markers, units occupying the same hex are either 'within' (below) or 'outside' (above) of the improved position marker:

IMPROVED POSITION
A unit within an improved position enjoys a plus one (+1) modifier against all attacks, including assaults. Furthermore, direct fire attacks conducted against any non-vehicle unit within must include all non-vehicle units within the improved position in a single attack against their total defence factors. Indirect fire attacks are conducted normally but the die roll modifier applies.

Defensive die roll modifiers for other terrain and conditions in the hex are cumulative.

Only static artillery or vehicle units originally stipulated by the scenario or set-up by the owning player may ever be placed in an improved position; such units may leave but not re-enter the improved position. Infantry, engineer and cavalry units may leave and enter freely.

In the case of an improved position in a woods hex, for example, units within would enjoy a plus one (+1) modifier for the woods as well as a plus one (+1) modifier for the improved position. In the case of an improved position in a town with an infantry platoon and a tank destroyer platoon within, the infantry would be doubled and additionally have a plus two (+2) modifier against direct fire and a plus one (+1) modifier against indirect fire. The tank destroyer unit would only benefit from the respective die roll modifiers.

Also, for improved positions specified in a scenario the scenario designer might stipulate which static artillery and/or vehicles are placed in specific positions at particular locations on the map-board. Otherwise the owning player might place static artillery and vehicles at set-up time. In either case no static artillery or vehicle units but those originally stipulated or placed may ever be within an improved position. To simulate trenches a scenario designer might stipulate improved positions occupied only with infantry units or empty ones which only infantry may enter.

Indirect fire
An optional rule in the original game the more comprehensive Panzer Leader indirect fire rules changed again in Arab-Israeli Wars and for good reason.  One obvious problem is how to apply indirect attacks against multiple units in a single target hex. This revision is intended to reconcile longstanding inconsistencies among all three versions of the game when conducting indirect fire.

In the original rules the application of indirect fire relies on the direct fire rules and a few inconsistencies like the halving of indirect fire attack factors against units on slopes and hilltops seem problematic, not to mention the exclusion of Soviet howitzers and 160mm mortars...more

Surely this is a simple way out of this that preserves the investment in existing counter sets? Is artillery overpowered? In a word, yes, but it really depends how and where it is applied to the target:

GENERAL RULE
Indirect fire is conducted by an '(H)' or 'M' class unit1 or units against each enemy unit in the declared target hex, in successive attacks, one per enemy unit, at the adjusted attack factor2 (rounding down) of each separate attack against respective target types. Attacks occur during the indirect fire segment of the friendly combat phase.
Exception: An '(H)' class unit in direct line-of-sight of its target must conduct a direct fire attack in the direct fire segment of the friendly combat phase.

Each enemy unit may only be attacked once per friendly indirect fire segment, by indirect fire attacks of all types, in practice limiting attacks to one per hex. Friendly indirect fire attacks may only be aggregated where registration markers for identical types of indirect fire units are already present in a single target hex or when using 'barrage.' Aggregate attack factors are always adjusted for target type and resolved as separate attacks against each respective enemy unit in the target hex.

An '(H)' class unit in direct line-of-sight of an attacked enemy unit may only conduct a direct fire attack against one (1) unit in the target hex and must halve its unadjusted attack factor against any target; 'M' class unit attacks in direct line-of-sight of the target hex are conducted normally3 as indirect fire.

Recording: After firing the attacking unit is inverted. Registration markers are placed within range of eligible, undispersed indirect fire units during the registration segment.

This rule is intended to reconcile longstanding inconsistencies among all three versions of the game when conducting indirect fire. First, lets clarify the steps taken in the indirect fire segment and when it occurs:

INDIRECT FIRE SEGMENT
The indirect fire segment occurs at the beginning of the combat phase of the player turn.

Indirect Fire Attacks: All indirect fire attacks are declared by type and target before any are resolved; registered, 'party line,' barrage, 'rolling thunder' and 'shoot from the hip' attacks are then conducted and resolved successively, inverting firing units and applying combat results as each attack is completed.

Registration: Each registration marker for eligible indirect fire units is replaced on the map-board at the owning player's discretion, but only on hexes spotted and in current line-of-sight of undispersed, eligible, friendly observing units.

Recording: After firing the attacking unit is inverted. Registration markers are placed within range of eligible, undispersed indirect fire units during the registration phase of the indirect fire segment.

The direct fire segment of the combat phase begins immediately after the end of the indirect fire segment.

One of our innovations is registration; the placing and removing of plotted impact points with markers on the map-board:

REGISTRATION
One (1) friendly registration marker may be placed per turn for each friendly, undispersed indirect fire unit during the registration segment unless otherwise stipulated in the scenario. Markers are placed at the owning player's discretion, but only on empty or spotted hexes and in current line-of-sight of undispersed, eligible, friendly observing units and within range of the registering indirect fire unit.


Figure 5: Registration marker examples for German and Soviet 120mm mortar units
There is one (1) uniquely identified registration marker provided for each indirect fire unit, and each turn during the registration segment it may be placed in any eligible hex. Friendly registration markers for more than one friendly indirect fire unit may not be placed in a single hex and indirect fire units may not aggregate attacks. Exception: 'Party line' attacks stipulated in the scenario.

Registration markers may never be placed in concealing terrain hexes containing unspotted enemy units unless a spotted enemy unit is also present, however unspotted enemy units may enter hexes containing friendly registration markers (see 'interdiction.').

Recording: Each registration marker may be placed, removed (or declined to be placed or removed) during the owning player's registration segment. If all friendly, eligible, observing units for the marker are 'dispersed,' eliminated or moved out of line-of-sight at any time the marker is immediately removed; it may not be placed again in any eligible hex until the registration segment of the owning player's ensuing turn.

Note: See 'observation' for eligibility requirements of observing units.

Click on the image in Figure 5 for a full-size version of these example counters suitable for editing or printing. In many cases observation requires dedicated units:

OBSERVATION
Observation for indirect fire is performed by eligible, face-up observer units whose visibility of target hexes is governed by spotting. Additional requirements of observer unit type for specific classes or groups of indirect fire units are stipulated in specific scenarios but default as follows:

Rifle companies and platoons may observe for 'M' class units of less than 120mm. 120mm and greater 'M' class units and all '(H)' class units require specialist FO (forward observer) units4.

This is merely a baseline revisions which restores the early PanzerBlitz optional rule requirement for dedicated observer units, discarding the Panzer Leader rule permitting 'sighting' by 'any combat unit.'  See additionally specific scenario addenda for early, mid and late war implementation of certain indirect fire methods for specific units or barrage groups by faction and period.

We have restricted indirect fire attacks to individual units, now we let some aggregate their bombardment but only with ample warning and as stipulated in the respective scenario. This is intended to model the capability of German units and US units by 1942:

PARTY LINE
Indirect fire conducted by certain groups of eligible indirect fire units may be aggregated on to a single target hex when all eligible firing units are of the same specific type and each have a registration marker in the target hex. The aggregate attack factor is adjusted and resolved separately against each respective enemy unit.

A 'party line' attack may be conducted against any currently spotted target hex in line-of-sight of an eligible, friendly face-up observing unit and containing registration markers placed on behalf of all firing units. The party line attack may include the aggregate unadjusted attack factors of any or all eligible, undispersed, face-up, friendly '(H)' or 'M' class group member within range.

Recording: Friendly registration markers for more than one friendly indirect fire unit of identical type may be placed in a single hex during the registration segment; such units may aggregate attacks during the next ensuing indirect fire segment. After firing the attacking units are inverted.

Note: Only units specifically designated in the respective scenario may conduct observation for 'party line.' Example: "Any three US medium howitzer batteries with a regimental forward observer" or "any three 'rolling thunder' units of the same type with specific observing FO unit," a scenario might read, "may combine their indirect fire with 'party line.'"

This gives an approximation of the fire control capabilities of multiple batteries on a capable wired or radio communications network with a formal observer.  But it falls short of the option to place a barrage of heterogeneous indirect fire units on the map among any one of a number of pre-registered points, at the bombarding player's discretion in the firing segment.  This permits powerful and selective aggregation but only where infrastructure and doctrine permit:

BARRAGE
Indirect fire conducted by certain groups of eligible indirect fire units can be aggregated into a single barrage attack against a target hex, though the aggregate attack factor is adjusted and resolved separately against each respective enemy unit.

A barrage attack may be conducted against any currently spotted target hex in line-of-sight of an eligible, friendly face-up observing unit and containing a registration marker placed on behalf of any member of the barrage group. The barrage attack may include the aggregate unadjusted attack factors of any or all eligible, undispersed, face-up, friendly '(H)' or 'M' class group member within range.

Recording: After firing the attacking units are inverted.

Note: Observation for barrage may be conducted only by units specifically designated in the respective scenario. Example: "Any three Soviet medium mortar companies and one (1) Soviet heavy mortar company with any guard's rifle company observing" or "any three US medium howitzer batteries with any observing rifle platoon" or "any three 'rolling thunder' units of the same type with specific observing FO unit," a scenario might read, "may combine their indirect fire in barrage5."

This allows Soviets to practice barrage on the battalion level but only with mortar units, when enabled for heavy artillery or used with 'rolling thunder' these units can be decisive. Now that we have hammered indirect fire into a sensible structure, lets look at the grey areas.  Sometimes any fire support is better than none:

SHOOT FROM THE HIP
Each eligible, face-up indirect fire unit may declare and conduct one ad hoc indirect fire attack against a spotted target hex within range and in line-of-sight of an eligible, friendly face-up observing unit at any time during the friendly indirect fire segment.

Each 'shoot from the hip' attack suffers an additional die roll modifier of plus two (+2) for '(H)' class and plus one (+1) for 'M' class units and is otherwise conducted normally as indirect fire but does not require the unit to have a registration marker in the target hex. See also, 'horseshoes.'

'Shoot from the hip' attacks may never use 'barrage' or be combined with attacks of other units of any kind.

Recording: After firing the attacking unit is inverted and its registration marker(s) removed from play.

Note: 'Shoot from the hip' observation may be conducted by any eligible stipulated observing unit per the faction and period of the scenario. Example: "Any Soviet rifle company" or "any US infantry unit" or "any FO (CP) unit," a scenario might read, "may observe for faction on-board artillery6."

It was sorely tempting to use a scatter process here but the modifier works almost as well with less overhead during play.  250m seems a modest error for long range weapons; perhaps we should put an optional scatter rule in someday for 'rolling thunder' and 170mm guns just for fun.

Shaun Appleby
v1.1 Revised: March 21, 2014

1 Hereafter the shorthand "indirect fire unit" will be used in lieu of "'(H)' or 'M' class unit."
2 For the purposes of this rule 'adjusted attack factor' means the appropriate value of attack factor after the weapon type modifier has been applied for attack type, weapon type, target type and range.
3 'Conducted normally as indirect fire' includes being conducted separately with separately adjusted attack factors against each opposing unit in the target hex.
4 Existing CP (command post) units may be used as dedicated forward observers.
5 We will retrofit observer stipulation rules to the original scenarios elsewhere; for PanzerBlitz "any German infantry platoon, Soviet infantry company or CP unit" is a fair start.
6 These are examples of stipulations suitable for PanzerBlitz or Panzer Leader..
 
Opportunity Fire
The original PanzerBlitz was marred by a rules shortfall which excluded firing at moving units. But can this oversight be remedied without making things worse?

 

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