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Posted on Sep 26, 2005 in Stuff We Like

Strategy: Blitzkrieg II

By Jim Cobb

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Every army during World War II kept making the same mistakes over and over. Analysis was done, directives were sent out, and orders were cut. But in the heat of battle, they tended to be forgotten. The side that emerged victorious was often the one that managed to avoid making fewer of those same mistakes.

Wargamers are just as bad. As well read as we may be, we forget the basics just as our historical counterparts did. Be warned! Blitzkrieg II will punish those who don’t remember their tactics lessons. Lucky for us, this game provides everyone with the tools to do things right. We’ll explore some basic battle-winning concepts that even the real soldiers sometimes forgot.

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Recon! Recon!! Recon!!!

What you don’t know can, and probably will, kill you. Even the vaunted Wehrmacht failed this basic test as can be seen from General Staff critiques beginning with Poland and continuing throughout the war. In Blitzkrieg II, small units such as machine gun nests and little towed anti-tank guns will hold up mighty columns and inflict damage well out of proportion to their size. Reconnaissance in an offensive need not only find the enemy; it should be used to find routes absent of foes. The key to blitzkrieg tactics is to bypass or flank strong points. Players must look before they leap. They have four reconnaissance methods at their disposal.

The best method is aerial recon. Those little planes pack a lunch and stay the day. Left alone, they will eventually cover the whole map. Judicious use in guiding them will help decide which march axis to use or pinpoint profitable targets for their big brothers, the bombers, or artillery. The smallest spot of red won’t escape their notice, although the player should pay attention. Giving them patrol orders will allow enemy movements to be spotted. Even if they are shot down, the snapshots they provide before their demise are invaluable.

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A German recon plane scopes out a strong French position.

The next favorable method is to use the camouflaged scout/sniper. These little guys may not have the wide view of a plane but can see far using the observe action. They can go through any terrain almost unseen by the enemy. While waiting for the rest of the force to come up, they may also choose to pick off the odd gun crew or guard. They should then be relocated to avoid return fire.

Recon vehicles such as light tanks, jeeps, motorcycles and special cars are another way to spot the enemy. Unfortunately, they are best used on relatively open terrain as rumbling through woods or jungle quickly alerts the enemy. They are then more likely to draw fire and are very vulnerable. Players should push them forward, take a quick look at the first contact and then scurry back. The life expectancy of these units tends to be short.

The problem with all of the above units is that they are often quite rare. Some missions don’t have any of them while others have them as precious reinforcements. Players will probably use what commanders always use for dirty work, the "poor bloody infantry". Infantry is always there and are cheap to replace. They can go almost anywhere and their defensive stance is almost as good as camouflage. Many of these units also have the observe action so they can get a good view of things. Well-hidden, they’re better able to defend themselves than a scout if spotted and can fight holding actions until relieved.

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An American squad checks out a Japanese position in the jungle.

On a negative note, medium and light armor should never be used as recon. These units have poor visibility and the computer opponent likes to set up ambushes for tanks strolling along in rugged or urban situations.

Combined Arms

From chariots to heavy infantry to armored knights to pike to rifles to artillery to tanks to aircraft, armies have gone to war thinking that one weapon type alone was a war-winner. These bubbles have always been burst in very unpleasant ways and commanders have finally remembered that they need to use all resources at their disposal to win. Commanders in Blitzkrieg II must learn the same lesson.

Tanks appear to predominate in many Blitzkrieg II scenarios so players might get the impression that armor alone wins games. Wrong, oh so very wrong! Even infantry in the open, apparently tank bait, will ruin armor. They take tremendous losses but the little guys with can openers can wreck an armor column by swarming over it. In towns, infantry eat up tanks and small anti-tank guns hunt tanks in woods like Rambo hunting the bad guy de jour. The antidote to this misery is to always have infantry with the tanks, either ahead, as flankers or close behind. These troopers will engage their counterparts, giving the armor time and space to take more of the infantry out. Infantry can also serve to make hostile tanks turn and expose side and rear sectors for killer shots.

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The only safe way for these Russian tanks and infantry to cross a bridge
is to move together.

Tanks can return the favor. The role of tanks as mobile artillery is often demeaned (remember the French armor in 1940?). Players should ignore this bias. Infantry can approach fixed positions much better if a few tanks or assault guns have stopped in range and pour in supporting fire. Although they may be plentiful, throwing infantry away when they can be saved by a couple of tracks is stupid.

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1 Comment

  1. I like Blitzkrieg 1 more than 2.

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