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  The Grass Crown by Hollandspiele   The Grass Crown was the Roman Republic's highest honor. It was given for actions that saved a legio...

The Grass Crown by Hollandspiele The Grass Crown by Hollandspiele

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

2022

The Grass Crown by Hollandspiele





 The Grass Crown


by


Hollandspiele





  The Grass Crown was the Roman Republic's highest honor. It was given for actions that saved a legion or the entire army. Some of the Romans honored with it are: 

Quintis Sertorius

Scipio Aemillianus

Lucius Cornelius Sulla (Felix)

Publius Decius Mus (received two Grass Crowns)

 The Grass Crown continued through the whole of the Republic to be thought of as the greatest achievement of a Roman. That is, until it was sullied and thrown in the mud when it was given to Octavian for being Caesar's heir or throwing up the most in his tent during a battle (sorry, just a bit bitter). This is why Hollandspiele chose the name The Grass Crown for their second game in the 'Shields and Swords Ancients' series. The Grass Crown is about battles during the Roman Republic.


Contents


 This is what comes with the game:


17" x 22" Mapsheet

(3) Countersheets

28-page Rulebook

12-page Battle Book

A Brief and Digressive (But Mostly Accurate) Military History of the Roman Republic, With Jokes, a 28-page supplement

(2) eight-sided dice


 This is the Hollandspiele write up about the game:

"This second game in the Shields & Swords Ancients series recreates ten battles spanning nearly three hundred years of Roman history. As was the case with the first game, With It or On It (2019), The Grass Crown is a fresh, innovative taken on familiar material. The primary unit of maneuver is a "Wing" which itself consists of ten or so individual counters. Losses can be resolved by flipping the individual unit that was attacked, or by flipping any unit adjacent to it. Unrelenting pressure in the right places can prompt a Rout Check, causing the line to collapse. As the result of a single attack, multiple units can find themselves in your dead pile.

This simple but compelling theme sees many variations thanks to special rules that chart the evolution of Roman warfare, and contrasts them with the rigid Greek Phalanx, the sophisticated army of Hannibal, and the ferocity of the Gauls.

The ten battles are: Heraclea, Asculum, Trebbia, Zama, Pydna, Second Citra, Vercellae, Pharsalus, Thapsus, and Munda."


The three counter sheets

 So, we have two battles with Romans against Pyrrhus. Then two with Romans versus Hannibal. The next two battles are of Romans versus Jugurtha in North Africa, and then against the Cimbrians. The group of ten is rounded out by three battles of Caesar versus the Republicans (Pompey, and Cato etc.). I understand the choice of battles, but I would have preferred to have one where Sulla is in charge and not just an underling to Marius (wow, that puts a bad taste in my mouth). The battles show the Roman Legions against a wide variety of different enemies. They face phalanxes, barbarians, and then other Romans, with various allies. I would also have liked to have Magnesia in the group, but it is essentially another battle against phalanxes. The game is also setup like the almost fifty year old SPI PRESTAGS games. Meaning, that with some reading you can come up with forces to play out any battle you want from these eras. 




 The components are your typical Hollanspiele ones. This means that we are going more for functional, rather than pieces of artwork. The map is a terrain free green one, made up of squares instead of hexes (more on this later). The counters are large at 9/16", and are both color and alphabetically coded. They are not 'busy' at all, and are very easy to read. The Rulebook is twenty-eight pages long and the insets are in color. The Battle Book is twelve pages long, and has the setups for the different battles. The last page of both the Rulebook and the Battle Book has the Sequence of Play, Combat Results Table, and other reference material. The Military History of the Roman Republic is twenty-eight pages long and is worth the price of the game alone. The illustrations in the book were done by John Leech (1817-1864). He was known for his work in the magazine Punch. They were originally used in the book 'The Comic History of Rome' published in 1851. They, and the writing, are hilarious. While the author, Amabel Holland, has her tongue firmly embedded in her cheek, it is nonetheless an accurate history. I read a history book of Rome by Isaac Asimov, and it is just as informative and entertaining as his book was. The components are all up to snuff. So, what about the game itself?




 As was mentioned, this is the second game in the 'Shields & Swords Ancients' series. After a while I fell in love with the first design. The non-use of hexes threw me at first, but it made a ton of sense in the end. You cannot expect phalanxes, or legions, to operate as 21st century skirmishers. 


  The first game, 'With It or On It', was about battles in Greece before Alexander the possibly Great. So, besides two battles that had the Persians in them (Plataea and Marathon) it was phalanx versus phalanx battles. The designer explains that the rules had to be increased for this game because of the difference between battlefield tactics and changes compared to the older battles in the first game. This game does show the growth and change that took place in the legions between the time period shown. Marius's Mules are much more competent and deadly than the Roman Armies faced by Pyrrhus, and possibly Hannibal. Rome was an eclectic society one all levels. Be they Gods, or battlefield tactics. The manipular legion though can be placed at the feet of Roman intellect, and it enabled them to rule most of the known world. 




 This is the Sequence of Play:


1. Command Phase

2. Action Phase

    a, Skirmish Phase

    b. Rally Phase

    c. Move Phase

    d. Combat Phase

3. Victory Phase

4. Initiative Phase




  There is way more to this game than meets the eye. When you first open the box, you might be thinking that this is a beer & pretzels game. In no way, shape, or form, is this one of those. One of the best things about the scenarios and the rules is that you can see the progression of Roman battlefield tactics, and their actual formations. I absolutely love it when a game can teach a player something. This does not mean that the game is just a boring rendition of history. There is just enough friction of war put into the mix to make the battles seem fresh each time. I admit I am a sucker for anything that games the Macedonian phalanx against the Roman legion. This game lets you play out those encounters to see the strength and weakness of each of those formations.

 One of the many innovative rules deals with 'brittle' units. When checking in combat if a unit receives an exhausted result the owning player must turn one of his units, or that one, to its reverse side. If it has two stripes, it is a brittle unit and is immediately eliminated. Just when things seem to be going your way a bit of friction will reduce you to a Nervous Nellie.






 I want to say thank you very much to Hollandspiele games for letting me review this, and other, games. I want to especially congratulate Amabel Holland for her design acumen and her sense of humor. This series of games is a must own for anyone who has the ancients bug. I see on BGG that an expansion is already planned with more battles and different units. Please take a look at all of their games, but especially the 'Horse & Musket' series. You will find many battles that have never been gamed before.


Robert

Hollandspiele:

Hollandspiele

The Grass Crown:

The Grass Crown – Hollandspiele

With it or on it:

With It Or On It – Hollandspiele










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  Tolling of the Bell by Three Crowns Games  This is a game about the 'last' German offensive in World War II. Seriously, this is th...

Tolling of the Bell by Three Crowns Games Tolling of the Bell by Three Crowns Games

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

2022

Tolling of the Bell by Three Crowns Games





 Tolling of the Bell


by


Three Crowns Games






 This is a game about the 'last' German offensive in World War II. Seriously, this is the last one. Last German offensives seem to keep cropping up like the Energizer Bunny. The Battle of the Bulge is sometimes called the last, also Operation Nordwind has been talked about with that sobriquet. On the Eastern Front, Operation Konrad (the relief of Budapest) has also been called the Germans' last offensive. Well, here we have 'Operation Spring Awakening', the absolutely, positively last German offensive. Operation Spring Awakening was carried out by the Heer's 6th Army, and the 6thSS Panzer Army. There were two other operations that the Germans tried to carry out. These were 'Icebreaker' and 'Forest Devil'. Icebreaker was an attack by the 2nd PZ Army, and Forest Devil by Army Group E. In Hitler's mind these operations would be able to break the Soviet Armies in the south and the German forces would be able to not only do this, but recapture Budapest, and then continue to reconquer Romania. It is amazing what tertiary syphilis or Dr. Morell could do to the mind. 

 This is the fifth game the Swedish company Three Crowns Games has produced in their WWII Battle Series. The others were:

Army Group Narwa
Konigsberg '45
Starguard Solstice
Plan West

 They also created the game Pax Baltica. Pax Baltica was released in conjunction with GMT Games. Revolution Games carries Narva and Konigsberg. 

 This is what comes with Tolling of the Bell:

One 23.5" x 33" (A1) full color map
Two dual-side printed countersheets (286 9/16" (15mm) counters)
One 16-page rulebook
Two single-side printed Player Aid Cards



Rulebook


 This is what Three Crowns Games say about the game:

Game Scale:
Game Turn: 2 days
Hex: about 3 to about 4 km
Units: Battalion to Division

Solitaire Playability: High
Complexity Level: Medium
Players: 2+
Playing Time: 3-10 hours
Note: Players will need to provide one 6-sided die for game play.

"Tolling of the Bell is taught in 30 minutes and easy to digest yet a challenge even for the more experienced players.
It utilizes a Command chit-pull system to activate HQ, which in turn allow their controlled combat units to move and attack."


Historical notes on one side of the Player Aid Cards


 If you have any of the other four games, you will know exactly what the components will be like. The map is very well done and is on high gloss paper. The map is mostly of the area south of Lake Balaton in Hungary. The terrain is easy to see, and you will not have to decide what terrain is in each hex. The counters are done with vibrant colors and are easy to read. They are also thicker than most counters. The two Player Aid Cards are of hard stock and in full color. All of the information on them is easy to read. The Rulebook is sixteen pages long. The actual rules are only thirteen pages long. The other three pages are for the game's setup, Designer Notes, and Random Events etc. It does also come with some Optional Rules. The Rulebook is in black and white. The components are very well done for a game of this price. 


 
Test Game


 This is the Sequence of Play:

Air Unit Phase
 Refitted Unit Return Segment
 Grounded Unit Refitting Segment
Random Events Phase
 Random Event Table Roll Segment
Command Phase
 Command Segment
 Movement Segment
 Combat Segment
Supply Phase
Reinforcement Phase
 Reinforcement Segment
 Replacement Segment
End of Turn Phase
 Out of Command Segment
 Turn Advance Segment


 The game would be recognizable to a wargamer from the 1970s. Albeit, with a good number of newfangled bells and whistles. The chit pull system adds to the fog of war enveloping both players, along with the Random Events that are possible. This is a wargame that a Grognard can sink his teeth into. I certainly wouldn't transition someone from Axis & Allies right into this game. That is not a knock, it is a good thing. The more real Grognard games the better. The weather in the game is both historical and a bit odd for a game. The weather for the first five turns is going to invariably be mud, not really something you would expect in a game about Panzer operations. At least both sides suffer the same effects from it. 

 The game's Victory Conditions are based upon city Victory Objectives Hexes. Each city is assigned its own value. The Russians and Germans both start the game with ten Victory Point Objectives. There are also Sudden Death Victory conditions. The player has to have a unit that is in supply in these hexes at the end of a turn. These are:

German Player - They have to occupy one of the bridge hexes across the Donau at either Dunafoldvaar, Baja, or Ercsi. 

Russian Player - They have to occupy either Nagykanizsa or Papa.

 The Tolling of the Bell is a very well-done wargame. Naturally, with it taking place in March of 1945 leads the German player having to do better than their historical counterpart. The German player is not going to be able to blitz his opponent, especially in the mud. As the German player you will need to play well to get more than a draw against a competent Russian player. The Russian player has four different types of victories. They are: Minor, Major, Overwhelming, and Triumphant. The German player can only get two: Propaganda, and Major. 


 For Grognards, the game is easy to learn and with the relatively small number of counters you should be playing in no time. This is the third game of the series I have played, and I have enjoyed all of them (Konigsberg, and Narva being the other two). Thank you very much Three Crowns Games for letting me review this game. They have two games coming up.

Iskra- Spark of Victory 1943

Mud & Blood, Lodz 1914


Robert

Three Crowns games:

Tolling of the Bell:



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This is the opening scenario of the recently published A Most Fearful Sacrifice , the latest development in Herman Luttmann's Blind Swor...

AAR THE SLAUGHTER PEN AAR THE SLAUGHTER PEN

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

2022

AAR THE SLAUGHTER PEN

This is the opening scenario of the recently published A Most Fearful Sacrifice, the latest development in Herman Luttmann's Blind Sword system for fighting ACW battles.  Though billed as a learning scenario, it gave a dramatic first outing with this superlative game.

 

The Slaughter Pen : Scenario 1

Gettysburg July 2nd late afternoon around 5 p.m.  Confederate forces seem to have made ground in their desperate assault on the Round Tops.  If successful this could unhinge the whole Union defence.


Events were soon to unfold an even more dramatic scene, as both sides witness their strongest units shaken by the loss of a colonel.  The first to recover seem to be the Union troops, as an element of Weed’s brigade suddenly appears on the lower slopes of Little Round Top.  This is rapidly followed by sight of Martin’s small artillery unit struggling to join them, while the strong, but shaken unit of Vincent’s brigade first moves onto the crest of Little Round Top and then recovers good order.  Offsetting this is the failure of Ward’s units to do anything and they’re soon to pay the price for their dilatory lack of action, as one group are fired on and fall back from their position.


A blizzard of bullets looks like a leader must surely fall, but when the smoke clears amazingly no one has been hit!  Hard on the heels of this comes the arrival of a Confederate courier.  Goodness knows what news he has brought, but all of Hood’s valiant troops, as one after the other the men of Law’s brigade surge forward. A new unit attempts the first assault on Little Round Top, but is forced back.  This is followed by a stronger unit crashing into a weaker Union force on the lower slopes and putting it to flight.  Heartened by this success they press on to attack the strongest of the Union units defending one end of Little Round Top.  Surely this is courting disaster!


To all the Union troops’ horror, this powerful unit is shaken and forced to retreat.  With part of the hill taken and Big Round Top already in Confederate hands from the previous hour’s fighting, Union hopes are looking slim.  To add to their woes, Ward’s small detachment of Sharpshooters is roughly handled and sent packing too!


A final renewed Confederate assault adds to the bill of slaughter and leaves the Confederates in what looks like an unassailable position with an hour of battle still left.



Can the Union still  snatch a pyrrhic victory by regaining full control of Little Round Top?  As 6p.m. arrived, Union artillery fire at last came into play and the strongest Confederate unit of Law’s brigade becomes battleworn.  This seems small consolation as in swift succession the remaining Union unit defending the peak of Little Round Top is first depleted and then shaken and forced to retreat.  Little Round Top is totally in Confederate hands.  Meanwhile Law’s battered Confederate force that suffered at the start of the hour sees its colonel hit and down, but against all the odds stands firm. Subjected to more fire it still holds, but a final assault forces it to retreat, but it does so by retreating onto the very peak of Little Round Top adjacent to its fellow unit.


Exhausted men everywhere can do no more and the remaining drama stutters to a close.   The Union force is well nigh destroyed and the Confederates hold the crucial ground.


Apologies for the lack of more pictures, as it was only the enjoyment of the game that led me to write it up as an AAR from the notes that I took during play. In the first photo, the yellow markers peeking out from under two of the counters indicate Shaken status.

 



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Klotzen! Panzer Battles From Maxim Games/Available on the Steam Platform     Wargamers have been playing Panzer General and its spin-offs s...

Klotzen! Panzer Battles Indepth Game Review Klotzen! Panzer Battles Indepth Game Review

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

2022

Klotzen! Panzer Battles Indepth Game Review

Klotzen! Panzer Battles

From Maxim Games/Available on the Steam Platform

 
 

Wargamers have been playing Panzer General and its spin-offs since the first game was released by SSI in 1994. The entire series has been aptly described as "wargaming lite," which may be a dubious distinction for some of AWNT's readers.

If so, a more in-depth treatment of the classic game - with a greater emphasis on supply, leaders, and air operations (among other things) - may very well be a welcome addition to the more hard-core board wargamer's digital library. In fact, this is one of the reasons why developer Zoran Stanic of Maxim Games and his team created Klotzen! Panzer Battles (Klotzen!), which released on the Steam game platform on April 27, 2022.

"The idea for Klotzen! was to provide fans (like me) of the old Panzer General with a design featuring similar game play, but more depth," says Stanic. "In addition to a deeper supply system and an improved simulation (and on-map resolution) of the air war, the 'replayability' of the game has been significantly increased, with the addition of many what-if scenarios and campaign events that can change the course of World War 2."

As far as the meaning of "Klotzen," it is a rather complex, intransitives verb in the German, with several possible connotations depending on the context. So, we'll leave that for readers to discover for themselves.

Panzer General Revisited?

To answer the question above, we need to fast-forward almost three decades to the latest spiritual successor to the venerable Panzer General series entitled "Panzer Corps 2." The game is published by Matrix/Slitherine and developed by veteran studio Flashback Games. It debuted on Steam just two years ago and is a solid success based on Steam player feedback. Order of Battle:World War II is another Matrix title, this one from 2015, which is slightly more complex than the Panzer Corps series and has also enjoyed mostly positive reviews on Steam.

While Klotzen! clearly stands out as a unique gaming experience, it may be instructive to make some comparisons with Panzer Corps 2 in this article for several reasons.

 

The huge Battle of Kursk (northern salient) courtesy of Panzer Corps 2 (with fog-of-war off).

 

An earlier start of the Battle of Kursk in May 1943, again showing the northern pincers, courtesy of Klotzen!.

 

Comparing Klotzen! with Panzer Corps 2 makes sense because experienced AWNT wargamers may have been holding out for a game of somewhat greater complexity than Panzer Corps 2.

Second, because dedicated Panzer Corps 2 players may be intrigued by this newcomer and its ability to offer wargamers a different level of challenge.

And third, although Klotzen! is designed to be an unofficial, yet significant successor to the Panzer General series of games, a comparison with a product released in 1995 would only do our readers a disservice. Panzer Corps 2 is arguably the latest and greatest of the General Series and can be had at a similar price point with Klotzen!

Beer With Your Pretzels

Titles like Panzer Corps 2 can easily be seen as the American "Budweiser" of the beer-and-pretzels game genre, whereas Klotzen! is definitely a micro-brew.

Taking this analogy one step further, there's also a small price to pay when going with home-grown. For example, the user interface and various game menus are not immediately intuitive in Klotzen!, but the learning process can be part of the fun.

In fact, Klotzen!'s design is original enough that discovering the inner workings of the game is another element of the challenge. Even without referencing the 90-page manual, most players will be able to get on quite well, with few frustrations in the process.

Most important, we need to address the bottom-line right up front: If one is satisfied with the Panzer General/Panzer Corps series of games and doesn't want to go any deeper, then keep playing those games. For the rest of us, who both enjoy and yearn for a somewhat different approach to Panzer Corps game play, Klotzen! should be seriously considered.

 


Klotzen! showing Kursk from the south. The prized city is in the northeast corner. Also, notice the airfield further west.
 
 
 
Axis forces point toward Prokhorovka in Panzer Corps 2's version of the Battle of Kursk.


The Scenarios and Campaigns

There are an impressive 65 scenarios and two full-length campaigns included with the game. This represents at least three full DLCs of content and a $70 investment if this were a Panzer Corps release. This surely makes the $40 U.S. asking price for Klotzen! quite reasonable, and the $35 release-week sale a bargain.

And yes, we're going to list all of Klotzen!'s campaigns and scenarios right here, in order to give readers an idea of the length, breadth, height and depth of the historical and what-if content available. The campaigns and scenarios can be played from either side. On release, Campaigns 3-8 were playable directly, but currently this option is undergoing some revisions. The scenarios are listed in alphabetical order:

Campaigns
1. Prelude (The Spanish Civil War, circa 1936, followed by Poland, and beyond)
2. Eagle Rising (The Axis effort through the fall of France)
3. Africa (or should we say "Afrika Corps"?)
4. Early East (beginning in the Balkans)
5. Barbarossa (a late start in 1942)
6. Defense of the Reich East (Kursk in 1943 until the bitter end)
7. Defense of the Reich West (Italy through Berlin)
8. Operation Tannenbaum (the German plan to invade Switzerland)

Scenarios
1. Alexander (October 1942 - A hypothetical battle featuring the Allies attempt to topple Franco.)
2. Algeria (Tunisia)
3. Aragon Offensive (Spain 1938 -  The Nationalists Attack)
4. Ardennes
5. Bagration
6. Balkans
7. Barbarossa '42
8. Barbarossa Center
9. Berlin
10. Bruderkampf ("Brother Fight" - The German invasion of an intransigent Austria; a unique offering that forces players to use some finesse and limit Austrian losses.)
11. Buran (Eastern Front 1943)
12. Case Blue
13. Catalonia (Spain, of course)
14. Condor (German invasion of Britain, May 1942)
15. Crete
16. Crusader
17. East Ukraine (March 1944 - a large map and painful reminder of the current crisis.)
18. Fall Weiss
19. Felix (An Axis-led Spain attacks Gibraltar in March 1941; the British land in Portugal, and France holds out in Morocco!)
20. Fortress Germany (November 1943 - An early Allied attempt to capture the Ruhr.)
21. France (the historical battle in 1940)
22. Gazala
23. Germany 1945 (the attack on Berlin by the Allies in the West and Russians in the East.)
24. Italy (September 1943)
25. Javelin (June 1944 - The Allies land in southern France)
26. Kiev (1941)
27. Kursk
28. Libya (March 1941 German Offensive)
29. Low Countries (May 1940)
30. Middle East '41 (Afrika Korps attacks)
31. Middle East '42 (El-Alamein)
32. Moscow '42 (September, with a Soviet counterattack)
33. Moscow Summer (August 1941, Army Group Center attacks)
34. Moscow Winter (October 1941)
35. Norway (April 1940)
36. Operation Rurik (August 1943 - a what-if "final" German assault on Moscow)
37. Operation Solstice (February 1945 - Germans attempt to cut off a Soviet bulge outside Berlin)
38. Operation Tannenbaum (August 1940 - German and Italian forces attack Switzerland)
39. Ostwall (May 1943 - Luring the Russians out of their Kursk defenses)
40. Overlord
41. R4 (April 1940 - Britain and France intervene in Norway)
42. Romania (August 1944)
43. Romanian Bridgehead (The Wehrmacht purses the defeated Polish army in 1939)
44. Roundup (April 1943 - Overlord kicks off early)
45. Sealion
46. Sicily
47. Siegfried Line (September 1939 - The British and French attack Germany's vulnerable Western Front at the start of the Polish campaign.)
48. Spring Awakening (March 1945 - German counterattacks in Hungary)
49. Stalin Line South (May 1942)
50. Stalin Line (May 1942 - larger version)
51. Stalin's Gambit (March 1942 - No Barbarossa, Soviets attack through Poland, hypothetical)
52. Steppenwind (May 1943 - Axis offensive into the Crimea)
53. Teutoburger (July 1943 - German counteroffensive to retake Paris)
54. The Fall of France (June 1940)
55. Toledo (July 1936 - The Spanish Civil War)
56. Ukraine '42
57. Ukraine (June 1941 - Barbarossa South)
58. USA (May 1945 - Germany and Italy win Europe and invade the U.S. East Coast!)
59. Wacht am Rhein
60. Wall on Dniepr (August 1943 - Soviet offensive across the Dniepr)
61. Waltz on Volga (August 1943 - Axis offensive into the Urals, hypothetical)
62. Western Defense (August 1944 - Falaise)
63. Winter Offensive (December 1941 - Moscow has fallen; the Guards counterattack)
64. Winter Storm (December 1942 - Attempted relief of Stalingrad pocket and Soviet offensives)
65. Desert Dash ( This scenario is out of alpha order, and features a strong Axis attack toward Egypt in May 1941)

The game is played in campaign mode, following one nation from scenario to scenario, or standalone mode where the player can choose either side.

Although we have only scratched the surface of actual game play thus far, we should point out one significant difference between Klotzen! and Panzer Corp 2 before a potential purchase: The older game features standard Multiplayer and Coop modes, while this new game is single-player only at this writing but does include a hot-seat mode. It's important to remember, however, that most wargamers prefer to play against an AI, and the artificial opponent in Koltzen! is a decent one.

The Possibilities are (Nearly) Endless

As one can see from the alternative-history engagements included with the game, players can delay Barbarossa by one year to deal with the UK; fight in Normandy in 1943; attack Norway with the UK already landed there; win in Africa and attack the USSR from the Caucasus; and, quite a bit more.

The maps vary from 200 to more than 1,000 km in size, with hexes divided into 20 km chunks. Armies consist of a historical mix of more than 600 unit types, further divided into 22 different unit classes. Included here are all types of infantry (militia, paratroops, SMG, etc.), tanks, armored cars, artillery, fighters, bombers, submarines, battleships, and more.

As far as map size, Crete appears to be the largest at 6,000 hexes total; albeit, most are ocean terrain. The Eastern Front Wall on Dneipr offering is about the largest land battle at almost 5,000 hexes. With Overlord, one gets 3,600 squares and up to 130 different German units to deploy based on the purchase points available.

  The full Battle of Kursk deployment screen in Klotzen! with no fog-of-war.

There are some rather lovely surprises included with this game, such as Operation Felix in January 1941, whereby Spain has joined the Axis and helps launch an attack on Gibraltar. Most of us have a few hundred wargames in stock, but would be challenged to find such a scenario ready for play. No less one with a huge, 83x43-hex map and the Spanish AB '41 armored car ready for deployment.

And while we won't get ahead of ourselves regarding the editors, all it takes is an adjustment of the "influence" points and unit caps inside an original (or saved-game) scenario text file, and the player is allowed to deploy a virtually limitless number of units on an existing map. Rest assured, attempting this process with Panzer Corps 2 is difficult at best, even when using the "cheat" codes available with that game.

 Graphics, Sound and User Interface

As the screen shots may illustrate, this game resembles Panzer Corp 1 more than Panzer Corps 2. And this is a good thing in this writer's questionable opinion.

A zoomed-in view of Klotzen! shows that the game resembles Panzer Corp 1 much more than Panzer Corps 2.

While we are always hesitant to inject the reviewer's personal views into a game article, the fact remains that this wargamer has struggled to come to terms with Panzer Corps 2's graphic icons, as they relate to the game's approximate map scale.

For example, Panzer Corps 2's armored vehicles feature a unit detail level almost akin to the Combat Mission series when zoomed all the way in. And yet, when viewing an objective town/city occupied by an infantry unit close up, one sees tiny buildings and fields with three huge infantry figures sitting on them. It can affect the immersion for some people. In contrast, Klotzen! has more of a Steel Panthers graphic vibe and may be closest to the excellent Panzer Corps 1 Modern Conflicts mod. However, this newest game allows one to zoom in much closer to the action than Panzer Corps 1.

The excellent Panzer Corps 1 Gold Edition Modern Conflicts mod resembles Klotzen! in some respects.

There is no doubt, however, that some of Panzer Corps 2's maps are quite beautiful. How they would look using NATO counters and proper company/battalion/regiment designations we will probably never know, as that's not what the game is all about.

As far as music and sound, Klotzen! could hardly be better. While it's easy enough to replace the vanilla .mp3 files with custom choices, it may not be worth the effort. In fact, the background tunes straight out-of-the-box are unobtrusive and perfectly set the mood. It's rare that "AAA" titles get this right, no less an indie effort like this one.

As far as the UI, once the player realizes that he/she needs to select textual prompts that highlight when moused-over to access the various game menus, it's smooth sailing for most wargamers.

The primary interface is the main map screen, which is fairly straightforward and neatly arranged. The large command panel on the right features scenario data, such as date, weather, turn number, and influence points. We should point out, however, that the end-turn "button" is actually a lever, with the main menu "M" button (load, save, etc.) directly above it.

This image shows the Klotzen! main map screen, with the user interface panel on the right.

Below the top-most panel are nine "control" buttons that conveniently feature informational tool-tips. However, only the commands possible at the moment light up. The selections include unit information, replacements and upgrades, sleep mode, an undo button - and, in the upper right - a bent blue-arrow signifying the embarkation command for airborne or naval transport modes.

The next panel down shows abbreviated unit information for the hex/unit highlighted on the map. It includes the formation name, a 3D graphic, unit level, leader name and other data. Four icons with tool-tips show attack, defense, scatter (distance from HQ) and supply source (usually Town-based). This allows one to access important unit information without consulting the dedicated unit information screen.

Another nice feature is the split-screen capability within this small panel. The left side shows information on the unit selected on the map, as previously discussed. The right side shows mouse-over information on another friendly or enemy unit or terrain data for an empty hex. This allows the player to quickly compare key data between any two units on the map by selecting one and mousing-over another one. Clearly, serious thought was involved in the design of the interface, although it will take the player a bit of experimentation to adjust.

Below the unit mini-panel is the HQ menu, which allows players to review/purchase/deploy units; switch between ground and air map modes; display the supply overlay; and, cycle between units.

Two other important functions are included here - specifically, the Personnel and HQ Help menus. The first item allows one to hire and fire unit commanders and top generals, while the second button controls special HQ functions relating to overall supply, production speed increases, scouting of the enemy, and the purchasing of transport vehicles, all of which require influence points to use.

The HQ screen in Klotzen! contains important functions that are generally not available in Panzer Corps 2.

The final/lowest panel in the command menu is the mini-map.

In addition, all of the aforementioned panels can be expanded or collapsed to reveal a larger portion of the game map. However, experience has shown that condensing the various panels is usually not necessary to get a good view of the battle areas.

Runs On a Potato

The game's demands on the average computer are very much on the light side. The game was reviewed using an Intel i7-4790 CPU @ 3.60GHz with 16 GB of RAM and a 64-bit operating system, coupled with an under-powered GeForce GTX 745 graphics card with 4 MB DDR3 of memory using a 1920x1200 native resolution.

Even using these laughable specs, the largest of scenarios only took a few milliseconds to load. In contrast, Panzer Corps 2 loaded scenarios quickly but lagged heavily when it came to inputting "cheat" codes using the game's chat menu or multi-tasking.This was due to the fact that Panzer Corps 2 fully maxed out the GPU function on this reviewer's lower-end test machine.

It's likely that most players with modern hardware won't have a problem with either game, but Klotzen! is a much safer bet for those with weaker graphics cards.

Panzer Corps 2's UI does an excellent job of exploring terrain effects using a simple mouse-over mechanic.

Got Stats?

Panzer Corps 2 has unit stats - 23 of them. Klotzen! also has unit stats - around 21, unless we counted wrong. Panzer Corps 1 has far fewer (12), and the screen display for them is much less attractive than the two newer game systems. In fact, Panzer Corps 1's stat page isn't even worthy of a screen shot. Okay, we're kidding here - almost.

 Klotzen! shows off its stats. (Quick reference screen courtesy of our friend Diarrhea Cactus on Steam.)

One significant difference between Panzer Corps 2 and Klotzen! is that the latter game relies on graphics icons and a tool-tip display, whereas Panzer Corps 2 spells everything out for the player. It's also important to note that in the screen shots, we are comparing the Panzer Corps 2 stat page (displayed using the "i" keyboard shortcut) versus Klotzen!'s unit purchase screen in order to make a direct comparison a bit easier. Panzer Corps 2's dedicated purchase screen is a bit less detailed.

Comparing the two newest games' unit stats also shows that several of the parameters are different. This is where the games' manuals come in handy, but we'll look at a couple of differences here. Panzer Corps 2's "close defense" stat seems important, but what it actually means depends on who you ask. Both games feature a "ground defense" stat, which simply means a unit's defense capability versus ground units.

Klotzen! has a rather odd unit stat called "aim." This is probably equivalent to Panzer Corps 2's "accuracy" stat, which is displayed as a percentage - 50% for infantry in the screen shot below - while Klotzen!'s aim stat is displayed as a numeral - or a "2" for German Regulars in 1940. In this case, Panzer Corps 2's accuracy stat is easier to understand at-a-glance.

Panzer Corps 2's unit display also features two full columns of stats for units which are embarked on a transport plane or landing craft. In the latter case, the attributes for "ferried" infantry can be seen in the screen shot below.

The Panzer Corps 2 unit stats page is accessed using the "i" keyboard shortcut.

Klotzen! also has a few attributes that actually change color (the text is highlighted in green) to show a potential stat increase if the player decides to upgrade the unit.

Comparing the two games will also illustrate several other differences when it comes to unit stats, but both products appear to have the most important attributes well covered.

The Air War

This is one of a few aspects of the Klotzen! game engine that may offer players a breath of fresh air when it comes to Panzer Corps 2-type air combat resolution. In fact, on-map fighter and tactical bomber units move the game from a turn-based to a WEGO-style approach during combat resolution.

Rather than spoil the fun for first-time Klotzen! players, let's just say the AI has an uncanny - and excellently programmed - ability to stop your units dead in their tracks when moving them during a turn. Enemy air units will automatically intercept your forces as they move, with the Western Allies being particularly adept at disrupting friendly panzer formations.

A free JU-188A courtesy of an in-game event that should help prosecute the air war in Klotzen!.

The odds of air/ground intercepts appear to be realistically simulated in Klotzen! based on weather conditions, and yet it can be quite disconcerting (in a good way) for the player who is used to the Panzer General/Panzer Corp version of the air war.

When it's the AI's turn to play, turn resolution moves very quickly - even on slower computers - and most players will find it necessary to dial-back the speed of AI movement and combat using the Settings menu.

Klotzen!'s combat resolution is modest - at best - but quite sufficient. A smallish window is available to track every engagement in textual format. Let's assume a friendly Tiger I unit is ordered to attack an adjacent Soviet T-34/43 formation (in the Bagration 6/24/1944 scenario).

First, any enemy artillery - in this case a supporting enemy Katyusha artillery battery - fires first; it gains some experience but causes no measurable losses to the Tigers. The Tigers than attack their intended target, causing some losses to the T-34s and gaining experience. In addition, any commander/general skills are used in this phase to good effect and documented in the text box. The Tigers use the "Once more into the Breach" skill and attack the T-34s a second time. The T-34s are then wiped off the map and their commander killed, with the Tiger unit gaining additional experience. (The Tigers were defending in a minefield, hence they did not move forward and occupy the hex previously held by the T-34s.)

And then we have Panzer Corps 2's turn resolution phase. No WEGO air combat here, but a nice surprise: With only 30 hours playing the game, this inexperienced writer was unaware of the power of the "L" (log) key (lower-case) during and after the combat phase. Each battle is documented in a scrolling window in excruciating, grognard-level detail. Suffice it to say that Panzer Corps 2 will never be the same now that this hot-key function has been discovered.

Leadership Matters

This writer has always felt that on-release, Panzer Corps 2 was rather stingy when doling out leaders (Heroes) during the game, and this tended to minimize their affects on overall strategy. The latest Panzer Corps 2 DLC (Axis Operations 1943 East) ups the ante when it comes to the number and affects of commanders in the game, which can also be adjusted in the Settings menu.

In contrast, Klotzen! has a dedicated leader (and portrait) attached to every unit in the game. And there are hundreds of them. Coupled with the myriad of attributes available to each commander, this indie effort has greatly enhanced the leadership portion of the product.

An elite unit commander, who has managed to achieve Level 8, along with his associates, in Klotzen!.

Matrix/Slitherine's recent Decisive Campaigns: Ardennes Offensive digital wargame https://www.awargamersneedfulthings.co.uk/2022/01/blog-post.html put a larger emphasis on both command and leadership, with historical commanders possessing a variety of skills.

Klotzen! doesn't directly address battlefield command-and-control per se (supply serves admirably in that role), but there isn't a digital wargame in recent memory that includes both the variety and flavor of each unit commander's skill set. There are also more than 1,300 sepia-toned portraits of the 23 nations represented in the game, from Australia to Yugoslavia, included to represent each leader. Their names, however, are fictitious.

The game's designers' have included a plethora of skills, traits and flaws for each unit commander that are, at the same time, both creative and impactful.

Here's a sample of traits discovered in one play-through, each with it's own little on-screen tool-tip:    

Audacious - "Overcoming fears is the first step in becoming the better commander. This commander has learned that taking the bold action will land a quick victory in most cases. And only rarely kill most of the men under his command."

Mentor - "You're good at defending, but I'm good at attacking, so I can help you achieve perfection."

Press Friends - "Who cares who took the town, if you are in the first picture? 30% more influence per level when taking the objective."

Studious Preparations - "Plan everything up to the smallest details, and it can't fail. Too bad no plan survives first contact with the enemy. 7%/level less losses when attacking."

Closed Terrain Specialist - "If 300 Spartans held Persians for three days in a mountain pass, imagine what you can do with modern weapons. Never mind the end result of that battle. 5%/level to initiative, attack and defense (rounded up) in closed terrain."

And then there's the naval attribute "Pattern Evasion," described as "(A) better chance of not ending like Titanic. 10% level increase in evade chance." The whit exhibited in documenting these skills in this game is the cardinal rule, rather than the exception.

A unit commander "levels up" in Klotzen!.

Much like a recent Matrix/Slitherine favorite, Campaign Series: Vietnam (https://www.awargamersneedfulthings.co.uk/2022/02/campaign-series-vietnam-indepth-review.html), this game exudes a loving attention to detail that will not be lost on wargamers.

Would-be strategists also need to pay attention to the skills and traits they choose for each formation. One must assume that certain attributes favor certain unit types, and the game program filters in or out these skills/traits accordingly.

For example, while all units (ground, air or naval) can benefit from the "Audacious" trait, the "Acrobatics" skill (avoiding a successful enemy intercept) seems tailor-made for friendly bombers. OTOH, my Ju-87b boasts the "Marksmanship Level 3" skill, which features a bonus-to-attack during air intercepts - a role one would not anticipate a tactical bomber playing.

Rather than belaboring this point, let's just say the game contains a huge variety of tactical nuances and unit customization values - far beyond the scope of Panzer Corps 1 or 2. And let's also remember that this is the first effort from an indie wargame developer. For those of us who appreciate this level of detail, our hat's are off in salute.


Panzer Corps 2's leader screen is arguably more attractive, but the number of traits, skills and attributes available to each unit commander pales in comparison with Klotzen!.

 

The Generals

Separate from unit commanders, Generals are included in the game to lead various army groups. Obviously, there are only a few in action at any one time, and the variety of their attributes are more focused on personality-type skills than the tactical or operational combat-oriented talents earned by field commanders.

"Generals with unique personalities and traits (are available) that can reduce the cost of reinforcements, speed up unit introduction, or give you that extra turn needed to win." This quote comes directly from the Steam-page game description.

Generals can be created, replaced, renamed and leveled-up based mostly on the victory level achieved during each scenario within a campaign.

 

Each General in Klotzen! commands an Army Group and can be leveled up just like unit commanders.

The game designers have also included a variety of interesting personality "flaws," and all of these details are well-documented in the manual. One favorite is the "Cautious" flaw: "There is a fine line between caution and cowardice, and you are crossing it." -1 to Initiative.

Besides the unit Commander and Army Group (General) promotions, the units themselves increase in experience levels over time,

It's also worth noting that units are penalized if they are manually fed "green" reinforcements by the player and become over-strength (above 10). According to the developers, a unit strength of 14 requires a fourth-level commander. There are also special commander skills that can mitigate over-strength penalties. It's the details like these that elevate the complexity of this game beyond what's found in the Panzer General/Panzer Corps series of products.

The use of minefields is another example of a fleshed-out game feature, and we'll take the liberty of quoting a player who put up a Steam review of the game on their use: "Minefields are done really well, and I love the directional impact, and the way they deprive the enemy of an 'approach' as they were (historically) intended to do. They take a significant toll when employed liberally along with bunkers. But mostly, they just slow you down and make the game more of a race against time."

And for players who don't like playing "beat the clock" when it comes to victory, one's saved game file can easily be edited to add or subtract to the scenario's length. Few wargames offer players this level of flexibility when customizing their in-game experience.

There's quite a bit more detail about how minefields work and how they can be removed, but that's what the game's manual is for.

The Supply System

While the developers' verbiage on the Steam product page describes the Klotzen! supply system as one that can "lead to epic triumphs…or catastrophic losses," this reviewer did not experience anything as dramatic when playing against the AI in his relatively short (45 hours) with the game.

This may well be due to the specific scenario and difficulty levels chosen when testing the product. However, the game does force players to pay some attention to supply ramifications. 

The player always starts with at least one supply source, which is usually a rail hex from one's home country. However, the supply hex(es) can also be represented as a port or a supply fleet; the latter of which can be destroyed by the enemy. If you are defending your home country, than the supply source(s) are usually major cities.

The supply modeled in the game can spread over railroads indefinitely - or at least until an aggressive enemy unit blocks the route. So, for a supplied town, the goods can extend for up to 24 hexes, but less in rough terrain or over rivers. Keeping rail and road hexes open is then vitally important to unimpeded supply.

It's also important to note that there are no "permanently" blocked hexes. Supply can be reestablished by having a unit regain control of the supply hexes in question. The supply situation can be immediately and clearly accessed (graphically on the map) by using the Supply toggle on the main UI menu.

Axis supply is clearly shown in Klotzen!'s Siegfried Line (9-12-39) what-if scenario against French and British "invaders."

How's the AI?

An in-depth assessment of the capabilities of the AI opponent in Klotzen! would almost certainly require more than 100 hours of game play.

And honestly, this isn't a cop-out; the large number of scenarios, each with widely varying objectives (and playable by both sides), would require a dedicated beta-tester to fully sort out. The good news is there are 10 levels of difficulty (Panzer Corps 2 "only" features five), which should be more than enough for players to tailor the challenge to their skill levels.

The Klotzen! difficulty-level 5 is generally equivalent to Panzer Corps 1 Gold Edition Modern Conflicts Mod (http://www.slitherine.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=72062) median level three (Colonel level) or the Panzer Corps 2 vanilla game level-four Field Marshal setting.

In fact, all of the campaigns/scenarios used for this review were played at difficulty-level 5, and all showcased a rather formidable AI opponent. It is hard to imagine most players blowing through the campaigns at a significantly-higher level of challenge. (Axis players tackling Norway (1940) should hang onto their helmets).

 

It's March 26, 1945, and Germany is ready to deploy its forces in defense of the Reich via Klotzen!.

With that said, the AI occasionally vacated an objective hex or two to get at its enemy's throat and wasn't always capable of making grand/sweeping maneuvers to cut off the human player's supply. But it's likely that scenario hasn't been played yet.

And that's where the single-player, bang-for-the-buck aspect of this product comes in. If one is comfortable with the UI and general game play of this release, the content available with the base game - assuming there will be no immediate need for a DLC - is satisfyingly deep.

Although we're not yet on the subject of the game's editor, another way to quickly fine-tune the difficulty level in Klotzen! is to slightly ramp-up - or down - the amount of "influence" or purchase points and/or core slots available to the player and the AI.

The most expedient way to accomplish this is through simple text editing of an existing scenario or save-game file. This process is much quicker than delving into the powerful and arguably more complex Panzer Corps 1 and 2 game editors and offers the flexibility of customizing saved games on-the-fly. Of course, the ever-handy Panzer Corps "cheat" codes serve pretty much the same functions.

Another commendable feature of Klotzen! is the ability for newbie modders to simply open up the game's "unitTypes.json" file (located in the SteamLibrary/steamapps/common/Klotzen! Panzer Battles/resources/worldData folder), and after backing up the original, begin to modify unit data to one's heart's content. Amazingly, these modifications can be safely made in the midst of a campaign scenario.

 Editing the stats of the illustrious JagdPanther V using the ubiquitous Notepad++ text editor.

The Official Klotzen! Game Editor

We've opened the Operation Overlord Allied invasion of Normandy scenario using the Klotzen! game editor in the screen shot below. All of the editing functions can be found in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, but we've found only limited need for them thus far.

  The Klotzen! game editor is quite powerful but for most purposes text-editing of scenarios/save games works equally well.

For more than 90% of game players, the text-editing functions described above should suffice when tweaking a scenario to their specifications. Otherwise, the editor buttons in the official Klotzen! scenario editor are generally self-explanatory.

There are two things to keep in mind, however. First, immediately back-up the Scenarios folder (C:/SteamLibrary/steamapps/common/Klotzen! Panzer Battles/resources/Scenarios), which is only about 117 megs of data. This is because when using the game editor, any saves will immediately overwrite the original scenarios. There is no "save as" function here, and the game will warn you of that fact. Beyond that, knock yourself out. The intricacies of this game's editor are far beyond the scope of this humble review.

The Killing of Bugs

The extermination of these little buggers is moving along quickly, thanks to the determination of the developers and several devoted players, who are logging onto the Steam Discussions page with their findings. A couple of the more serious roadblocks, which prevented the continuation of campaigns, were dealt with swiftly by the developers, in as little as a few days.

There were also a few hiccups with wide-screen support, but those issues apparently have been addressed. We say "apparently," as this reviewer was not able to test the game using higher resolutions. Of course, any serious hardware problems players may have had with the game are covered under Steam's generous refund policy: If it's broke, you get your money back until it's fixed.

It's Only Money

And now we come to the often delicate topic of value for one's gaming dollars. Board wargamers already have a high tolerance to the often-hefty "price of admittance" for a favorite physical game. After all, there are all those detailed cardboard (not to mention, plastic) unit counters to fondle, and a lovingly crafted historical map on which to place them.

 

The Eastern Ukraine in March 1944, with Kiev in the upper-right corner, using the Klotzen! game engine. The image is a sad reminder of the conflict raging in that country at press time.

Unlike board wargames, which are rarely on-sale, digital media are often heavily discounted. Unfortunately, the tactile feel is completely lost, and the PDF rule book adds insult to injury.

All of this may mean that for the average AWNT reader, computer wargames are the ultimate example of discretionary purchases. If that holds true, than the choice of picking up Panzer Corps 2 and its DLC as part of a discounted bundle, or opting for the 65-scenario Klotzen! base game, becomes a question of serious financial import.

There's no arguing that some of the custom maps available with Panzer Corps 2 are simply lovely to behold.

Assuming that both games weigh equally heavy on readers' wallets, we would be negligent not to mention the availability of a wide range of professional-grade modifications available free-of-charge for the Panzer Corps 1 and 2 game engines. We must also credit Matrix/Slitherine and developer Flashback Games for allowing players to download, for example, a comprehensive Spanish Civil War (SCW) modded campaign without actually buying the official SCW DLC.

The truth is that the choice between purchasing Klotzen! or Panzer Corps 2 shouldn't really be a choice at all. Both games stand out in their own right: Klotzen! shining in its myriad of what-if battles and easy modification, while Panzer Corps 2 offers some unique historical mods and more modern graphics. AWNT board wargamers should derive some pleasure from both of these games.

 

Victory in Poland, September 1939, in our first Klotzen! campaign.

 

 
A victory on the Eastern Front using the recently released Panzer Corps 2: Axis Operations - 1943 DLC.





 

 

 


 




 

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