Saturday, January 29, 2022

All Work and No Play ...

Long ago, shortly after the Earth had cooled and life began to emerge from the primordial sea, I had a board game I really liked. 'Twas named PanzerBlitz and it was published by the Avalon Hill Game Company. I had many games from Avalon Hill, still have most of 'em. I spent many a happy day with my friends playing these games.


Now that opening photo is a new acquisition of mine, an offering from GMT Games out in Hanford, California (oddly enough where The WSO lives, it's not a store you can walk into, more like a design shop/warehouse sort of thing I reckon). I saw the game on Amazon and noted the similarity of its cover with my old favorite PanzerBlitz. (Learned that that was intentional, the guys at GMT are gamers of a certain age, they remember, and honor, the old days.)

After a couple of days of hemming and hawing, I decided to purchase the game. While doing so I noted that the game had a number of expansions. (Which is a thing these days, I don't mind, it seems to work.) So guess what ...

These are big games, lots of pieces, lots of rules, charts (of the data kind) and maps. (Didn't want to confuse you Naval types as to a chart and a map, one details the water, t'other details the land - for those going "huh?" about now.) Lots of delicious detail about guns, armor, shot types, shot type effects on armor depending on direction of the shot ...

Dear me, I get excited just typing all that.

For I have ever been a gaming geek, love the details, though I'm rather a terrible general or admiral. Too impetuous dontcha know?

I do play computer war games as well, love the fog of war (which is damned difficult to produce in a war game without duplicate maps and pieces and some brave soul volunteering to be the umpire) but there is something about a board game, perhaps it's the colorful box art, counters, and hex maps. Perhaps it's the smell of those components and the way they feel in your hands.

It's much like the difference between an actual "dead tree" book and the electronic variety of same - Kindle, Nook, what-have-you. I had a Nook once upon a time, it was nice, but the battery died, damned lithium nightmare. Haven't replaced it because one of the books I had on my Nook had maps, which were hard to read on the wee thing. You could expand them, but it just didn't work in that format.

Long story short, I discovered three other expansion sets which, of course, I just had to have. 

(Green means, I have it, Blue means, it's on order, and Brown means, it hasn't been published yet.)

Note that "P500" designation on the game to the far right, this is something I had never heard of before and apparently GMT has done very well with the concept. Rather than produce a game and hope enough people buy it to make it worth their while, GMT will design and develop a game but then put it out there on their website to see if there's any interest. If at least 500 people actually order the thing, then it gets published. You can read the description of that concept here. No one is out any money until it actually gets published, and the company has at least 500 game orders in hand so they know how much they'll make. Another neat thing about P500 is that if you order it, hoping it gets published, you get the game at a discount.

The Sarge likes discounts as the Sarge is frugal, some might even say "cheap."

So if we do get snow bound, I have something to do which requires no electricity - learn a new gaming system. Something I really enjoy if the truth be told.

I'm going to get back to the book in a couple of days or so, I need to work out where the characters are going next. Especially how am I going to get Jan to Warsaw when the country is crawling with Germans (and Russians to the east).

While fighting was going on at sea and in the air, there wasn't much in the way of ground combat in the West from October of 1939 to May of 1940 (when all Hell breaks loose). So it's a good time to do some character development and bring in some supporting cast as well. 

The goal is to cover the backstories of some of the characters from Almost a Lifetime. Also to cover the early parts of the war where we Americans weren't as involved. Some Americans think that we went to Europe and saved their bacon, well, sort of. Much of our contribution to the war effort in Europe was getting supplies to our Allies, particularly the Russians who were tying down the vast bulk of the German military on the Eastern Front.

I read something in Snow & Steel near the end of the book which illustrates how little the Russian people knew of American efforts to keep Russia in the war. When Soviet troops met up with American forces along the Elbe River, they were surprised that the Americans were using what the Russians thought were Soviet tanks.

Sherman tanks, the Russians thought that the Shermans they had received were actually built in the USSR.


We did quite a lot to both motorize and feed the Red Army  from about 1942 on. We shipped them a lot of trucks and a lot of food. Also uniform items from what I understand. Without our help the Russians might have lost the war. Without Russian help, we would have lost the war in Europe. Our big contribution was defeating the Japanese.

But I digress.

Suffice to say, we will get to the Eastern Front in this book, North Africa as well. Stay tuned.


  1. Not sure that WW2 would have been lost without the Soviets, after all Stalin was planning on attacking Germany in 1942, Barbarossa just jumped the gun, too much traditional hatred there added to the rivalry between the 2 ways of doing Marxism.
    The war would have been longer and more difficult, but Germany's logistical problems were the same as they were in 1914-18. They took the Russians out in 1917 and still had the issues with food and raw materials.
    Invading Britain would have been near impossible, there was a reason Napoleon didn't do it either. Unless The US didn't enter the war, I don't see the British collapsing. German technology would still be hobbled by the military dilettante at the top and eventually nuclear weapons would have been game changers.
    Everything would have had to go right for Germany to win and we all know how often that happens.

    1. Not WWII in toto, but the European theater. WWI and WWII, apples and oranges.

      No Eastern Front would probably have seen the Germans and Italians dominant in North Africa, the Middle East providing oil for the Wehrmacht. Perhaps after we had defeated Japan, we probably would have turned on the Germans and helped the British out. But American morale might not have stood for it after the bloodletting in the Pacific.

      There was no need to invade Britain, whether or not nuclear weapons would have been developed by us, or the Germans, first is one of those mysteries of history.

      We in the West love to think that we didn't need the Russians to beat the Germans, but we did.

    2. As mentioned above, the Soviets already had plans to attack Germany in 1942, June 1941 caught them by surprise, they hadn't recovered from the purges and were still ramping up military production.
      Maybe the British would lose the Middle East, but they weren't doing badly before Hitler turned to Russia. I still think Logistics are all important and the Germans were always going to be hampered by their deficiencies. But that is why we love these arguments as in the long run there is no way to know.

    3. Yes indeed, the what-ifs of history, enjoyable to discuss and ponder!

  2. Have enjoyed what you've done so far with the European War and looking forward to what comes next during the Sitzkrieg phase. Nice to see you discovered GMT, have done business with them plenty over the last couple of decades. There's another board game outfit, Lock and Load Publishing that has a tactical system covering WWII up through TGWOT.Plenty of ways to spend your $s Sarge.

    1. I'm very familiar with Lock and Load Publishing, I have a number of their digital games. As to "discovering" GMT, that happened Christmas of 2020 when I got a copy of A Time for Trumpets. A huge game, very well done.

  3. Sarge, I am somewhat behind you but also have happy memories of Panzerblitz and its companion, Panzerleader, as well as Squad Leader (So. Many. Pieces.) I never did board wargaming quite to the extent you did but we also did miniature wargaming with World War II as well. I am comforted to see that people are still making and enjoying these games.

    (I was more of a Role Playing Games Guy, as I came of age right when that was becoming a thing. I now snort at the amount of paraphernalia that exists for such things now. "Back in my day" I wheeze into the wind, "we did everything with three - count them, three - books, for what you have twenty now. Also, we walked uphill to school both ways...)

    I have to admit that post-September 1939 to June 1941 is something I either do not know or do not remember quite as I should, so this will all be instructive.

    Good luck on the storm and see you on the other side.

    1. We had a core group playing D&D on Okinawa, most of that group also played Avalon Hill games. I remember the three booklets, I still have them somewhere. The newer stuff, nope, never got into it. It seemed to me that folks were letting someone else do the work of creating a world then they would just play in it. I liked creating my own, based on those three booklets. It's all we ever needed.

      As I write we still have power though the wind is strong and the snow is abundant. Can't really tell how mush snow we've received so far as the wind is blowing it all to the east.

    2. That is exactly the gist, Sarge. Everything was effectively outsourced to someone else. Once upon a time it was when confronted with a situation, someone innovated and we rolled. Now, from the occasional glance I have taken, everything is proscribed as to what can and should happen. Oddly enough, life is much more like the first situation.

    3. I agree, real life isn't proscribed.

  4. Yup, trucks, food, tanks; all at some cost (c.f. Atlantic, North). Aircraft as well, P-39/63 and B-25's among them.
    I finally broke open a pea-green spam can of .45 ammo, labeled in Russian. Nice brass-cased Winchester ammo in the typical Russian boxes. Would love to know the story behind that.
    Boat Guy

    1. As would I.

      Too many discount the Russian contribution to victory in WWII because of the actions of their Communist government and the evils of Stalin. But Ivan Ivanovich fought hard, he and his comrades suffered greatly. But they did indeed kill a lot of Nazis.

    2. Apparently when we sent the Rooskies all that stuff, it was as a complete outfit. If they sent a tank, they sent along everything needed to outfit it to U.S. specs. That included Thompson SMGs, the .45 ammo of which you speak, web gear for the crews, etc. Much of that ended up in Russian warehouses for decades and finally about 20 years or so ago it finally hit the surplus markets. There were suddenly a ton of Thompson parts kits and parts, web gear and .45 ACP ammo available, all 1941-43 vintage and flat mint unissued. Very reasonably priced at the time- supply higher than demand. Remember, however, that the ammo is all corrosive primed, as was all U.S. GI ammo of the era except .30 carbine.
      John Blackshoe

    3. Did not know that. Very interesting.

  5. I still have a copies of Afrika Korps and Wooden Ships and Iron Men in a attic here. We had massive battles playing Blitzkrieg that almost always ended up in a stalemate after a while.

  6. So how is the game compared to Panzer Blitz or Squad Leader? Is it reminiscent of a good Avalon Hill game? Need more info, need more info NOW! Geez, toss up a picture of 'want' and scratch the old itch and then don't give any info. Ever been a telemarketer in a former life?

    As to the Russians, no, they mostly didn't and still don't understand that we literally saved them. There might have been a Soviet Union to the east of the Ural mountains, clinging desperately on as the Nazis finally figured out how vast Mother Russia was, but...

    Though it would have been nice letting the two juggernauts slug it out and beat each other down, and saved all that food and lend-lease for deserving folk like the Poles and, yes, even the Free French. The Pacific might have advanced much quicker if our air and ground troops had the supplies that were going to the Russkies, so the eventual downfall of Japan might have happened by mid 44 and not a year later. And bonus points, no move on the Kuril Islands, and their influence on the ChiComs would have been vastly lessened, even stopped. Which means maybe a free 'All Mongolia' and China broken into separate countries. Sure wouldn't have been the sheer copularity of post-war Cold War with us having to deal with Soviets and their puppets everywhere. Might have gotten a Free Poland (and other eastern European nations) a lot quicker.

    Gee, Cuba without the Soviets influence, or sub-Saharan Africa, or the Middle East, or Central and South America, or... well, a world where the Soviets weren't a world player.

    Interesting idea. I think we could have managed taking out Hitler and Mussolini from the west while both were tied up in Russia. Nice point is we wouldn't have stopped and let the Soviets take Berlin. Hell, could have kept going until we wanted to stop.

    1. Ah, real life is never so simple. The complexities of WWII and its aftermath would take far more than a paragraph or two to delve into. As to the behavior of the Soviets in the post-war, I trace that directly to FDR being sick and weak during the conferences where we basically gave them eastern Europe. No doubt the various traitors in Britain (Burgess, McLean, Philby, et al) and the idiocy and treason in our own State Department and elsewhere (Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs spring to mind) contributed to many miscalculations and out and out mistakes.

      As to keep going into Russia, as Patton suggested? Insanity, the American public was already war weary (having fought for less time than the other Allies, one of our weaknesses), to have gone after the Russians would have led to chaos back home. But yes, the Pacific probably would have ended sooner without the drain of a European campaign.

      Soviets would have been a big player no matter what, it's what happens when you have a large army and a dictator at the top.

      Interesting stuff to ponder on a cold, snowy day.

  7. We sent them an enormous number of Studebaker trucks, which they liked very much, indeed, they called them, " Stooders ", apparently.

  8. Having lived the "halcyon days of my youf" in Baltimore, yes it was actually, in the 50s and 60s, I am familiar with Avalon Hill. I lived a mile or two from their place on Harford Road. Bought my first AH game, "Afrika Corps," from a hobby shop when I was about 10 or so. Took we a while to figure it out since it was quite different from the Milton Bradly war games that I was familiar with. Still have my MB games and Africa Corps and others like Luftwaffe, Panzer Blitz and Third Reich.


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