Decisive Campaigns: The Blitzkrieg From Warsaw to Paris
Decisive Campaigns: The Blitzkrieg From Warsaw to Paris is the first in the series of "Decisive Campaigns" by Victor Reijkersz of VR Designs (he is also known for his earlier games Advanced Tactics and Shadow Empire).
Third time is almost the charm
I've played the Polish campaign (Case White) three times now. Each time I'm getting closer to capturing Warsaw in the time constraint given. So very close! Literally the last two times, I've been in the hex outside of the Warsaw VP hex. Each time, I get bolder and send my panzers into the unknown hoping they don't get cut off, which has worked each time, except for one exception. That's what The Blitzkrieg brings to the table -- the feeling of pushing forward into the unknown and being daring. Exactly what pulled off the dramatic collapse of Poland and France. I need to be even more daring next time and that's what keeps me going back to playing one more time and perfecting the art of Blitzkrieg. The Blitzkrieg is definitely an art to study as this game is so perfect at teaching.
The Decisive Campaigns series is the classic hex and counter, turned-based strategy game that most wargamers are accustomed to. It was released to Steam back in August of 2010 (and the Matrix Games site earlier), but I finally dove into into it since it was on sale for under $10. The other three games in the series: "The Blitzkreig", "Case Blue" and "Barbarossa" are all on sale right now in anticipation of the newly released "Decisive Campaigns: Ardennes Offensive" earlier this month.
"The Blitzkrieg" contains three scenarios: Case White (the German invasion of Poland), Case Yellow (the invasion of France and the Low Countries) and Operation Sea Lion (the invasion of England). There is also a campaign that encompasses all three scenarios.
Case White - The German player wins if they capture 48 or more of the 58 total victory points on the map within 12 turns (unless the game is played in Campaign mode -- which gives the player an additional 4 turns). Warsaw is worth 10 VPs alone so all the Polish player needs to do is hold onto Warsaw and one other VP to win.
Case Yellow - The German player wins if they capture 70 of the 106 VPs by the end of June 8th. The German player is of course facing France, the BEF, Belgium and the Netherlands. The hexes on this map represent a smaller area and each round equals one day. Stacking limit have been decreased.
Operation Seal Lion - The German player must capture 24 VPs before the end of September 20th. This scenario is much more difficult since the Germans are faced with a much harder task with limited resources.
Variants - Each scenario comes with it's own variants such as Stalin breaking his promise, Western troops helping in Poland, British sending more troops to France, weather variations, etc.
Quick overview of the gameplay
The map of Poland in the "Case White" scenario is large enough to easily lose your bearings. The map has three zoom levels and a mini map that is accessible in the upper right of the screen (see image below) which makes navigation somewhat easier. The most important thing to remember is to keep your "individual regiments together as a divion", your "divisions together as corps", and your "corps together as armies". Luckily the interface keeps it somewhat easy to keep units together, although it could be made easier since it's difficult sometimes to tell which units belong to which without having to dig into them zoomed in. (War in the East 1/2 does this much better) Once you start moving and attacking, it's easy for everything to become a jumbled mess -- which is exactly what happens during battle so that's completely understandable and expected.
When the map is zoomed out at the maximum level, it is mostly used for quick orientation. You could technically play at this zoom level, but it's not realistic or recommended. Also, keep in mind that you can collapse the bottom pane (by hitting the orange down arrow) to give you a larger view of the map.
Map zoomed out at maximum level. Click on the image above to bring up the full screen.
"Fog of War" is turned on by default so you have to send your reconnaissance planes out on sorties to see what is in front of you and beyond. As you can see below, initially you're unable to see whatever's not immediately in front of you. And even what is visible, isn't accurate until you make direct contact or fly reconnaissance into the unknown areas. Since you want to make maximum use of your armor and mechanized units to bypass infantry formations, you need to know which paths of free movement are available ahead of time. I think this is the best way to play the game, although Fog of War can be turned off.
Medium zoom level (most used). German starting postions September 1, 1939.
You don't know which enemy troop concentrations are just across the border until you send your recon planes out to scout or until you blindly run into enemy units. Above is what you see before sending out your recon planes and below is after sending 3 recon sorties out. Poland has left a huge gap ready for exploitation. Time to push the Panzers through it.
Polish positions revealed after recon sorties sent out.
The ending positions of the Germans forces after turn one are shown in the screenshot below. Again, it's important to keep your order of battle together -- and even after the first move, it becomes a challenge. One of the most important things to remember when playing the game, is to never attack an opposing force before softening the attacking hex. Bypass troop concentrations with your armored and mechanized units and cut them off from supply and leave those units for the infantry. Before, assaulting a position with infantry, use artillery and air ground attack on the defender's position to bring down their strength, morale, readiness and entrenchment level.
Punching through with your armored and mechanized units towards Lodz. Lodz is about halfway to Warsaw and you'll want to veer to the right to encircle Lodz and isolate Warsaw.
Maximum zoom showing division, regiment and troop strengths. Click on the image above to bring up the full screen.
Graphics and UI
"Blitzkrieg" is a typical hex and counter wargame that any computer wargamer is familiar with. The UI is a little clunky and jarring at times but it gets the job done. The three zoom levels especially are jarring because the zoom doesn't keep the map centered. And since I don't know my small Polish towns very well, it's hard to tell exactly what happened when I zoomed in or out. Did I shift to the right or the left, up or down? I still don't know where it zooms into when I zoom in. It's definitely not the center of the map or where the mouse cursor is. Also, I really wish there was a zoom level between the zoom level 1 (the biggest counters) and level 2 (the medium zoom).
The different corps are color-coded to assist you with keeping them together as a cohesive unit. But, it's very difficult to tell the different shades of the different corps involved. I realize this is very challenging as a designer to do because you have to shade an army a specific color and then the corps different hues of that color. But, perhaps not have purple, fuscia, dark red, and lavender as colors for the same corps. While zoomed in at the maximum zoom level, the colors make much more sense, but I rarely played at the maximum zoom because you can't see much of the board. (See image below).
Corps are color-coded for easily distinguishing between them. Click on the image above to bring up the full screen.
Combat is conducted by resolving artillery attacks, air attack and then ground attack. Again, you want to soften up the defenders before your infantry attacks in order to decrease the defender's overall strength, readiness, morale and entrenchment. Once you are ready to attack, make sure you attack from as many different different directions as possible with as many of the same division/corps as possible. This will create additional bonuses. You don't necessarily have to destroy the enemy -- all you need to do is cause a retreat and dislodge them and then you can follow up with an additional attack. The game handles this mechanic very well. In the below graphic, the highlighted units are involved in the attack. The remaining units (that have action points remaining) can follow up with additional attacks on the retreating units.
All your stacked units can't attack at the same time, but if you surround the enemy, you can stack attacks from the different hex sides. In the example above, we are attacking from 3 hexsides using only the units that are highlighted.
The After Action Report. The Germans lost 700 men, but the Polish lost 1200 men and forced a retreat. You'll notice their readiness dropped from 45 to a 10 and they lost all of their entrenchment.
"Blitzkrieg" is a very approachable wargame for the novice and can be immediately enjoyable, but, there's a few things to keep in mind to get the most out the game:
Keep your divisions together. Keep your corps together.
Use reconaissance to see where the enemy is and where to make your next move.
Exploit the gaps between the infantry with your armor to encircle enemy defenses. Keep moving deeper with your armor, but shore up your flanks with your infantry. You can definitely overextend yourself with going "too far".
Don't attack enemy defenses without softening them up with artillery and aerial bombardment.
Focus on capturing ALL the VP points except Warsaw first (unless you have a realistic chance of taking Warsaw). You are given a very short timeline to take Warsaw and there's a good chance you won't take it in the time given. If the Polish player keeps Warsaw and one other VP by the end of the game, the German player loses.
It's a game that lets the player try different tactics and perfect those tactics true to real-world history. The inclusion of the 3 different scenarios make the game well worth the price - especially at $10. I really enjoyed playing this game and would recommend to anyone interested in wargaming -- especially WWII.
Historically accurate OOB and gameplay.
High replay value because of the different scenarios and variants.
Overall, if you learn 15 minutes of tactics, the game is incredibly fun. You can delve down into the intracies as needed.
Flimsy Tutorial. Definitely better than nothing. Not a fan of the card system (still haven't used one yet).
Clunky interface and movement. Zoom transition is especially jarring.
No autosave and no "undo" when moving a unit in the wrong direction (which is easy to do by accident).
Rating: 8 out of 10
I definitely recommend this game. With three scenarios at the current price, it's a an incredible deal.