Heroes of the Blitzkreig – Board Game Review
Mark H. Walker’s Lock ‘n Load: Heroes of the Blitzkrieg. Lock ‘N load Publishing. $59.99
Passed Inspection: Fantastic quality maps and counters. Well-written rule book with plenty of examples and a humorous tone. Task cards and event paragraphs provide added value to scenarios.
Failed Inspection: The rules need an index and outlines for how to conduct combat. Rules are not horribly complex but there is a steep learning curve. No rules on creating your own scenarios and how to balance units.
While there are some negatives to Heroes of the Blitzkrieg, the game is also tons of fun to play once you get past its steep learning curve.
On the morning of May 12, 1940, in one of the first tank battles of World War 2, the Germans moved towards French positions in Thisnes, Belgium. The French had machine guns, dug-in infantry, anti-tank guns and two H39 tanks. The German forces were comprised of infantry, MG-34 machine gun teams, two Panzer IIs, two Panzer III Es and two Panzer IV Ds.
As the German forces approached the French positions, the French lines began to crumble on the center/right. The two H39 Hotchkiss tanks pounded the Panzer IIIs and IVs, but their 37mm shells bounced off the panzers’ front armor. A German MG team attacked from the cover of some woods, suppressing the French anti-tank guns and two squads led by Lt. Jalenques.
As the center/right began to collapse, one of the two Panzer IIs on the left flank of the attack moved towards the breach, but Sgt. Olivier and a squad armed with a Boys .55 anti-tank rifle took a side shot on the tank, destroying it.
The two Panzer IIIs took medium-range shots with their 37mm main guns, but these proved just as ineffective against the H39s as the Hotchkiss’ guns had been against the medium panzers. A Panzer IV moved closer and fired its 75mm cannon at a dug-in French machine-gun nest, easily destroying it.
The Germans watched in dismay as two ineffective airstrikes by Stuka Ju-87s did no more than frazzle French nerves, but then German reinforcements arrived: more infantry and a Panzerjager I. Could the French hold their position, let alone force the Germans back?
So went my first run-through of the scenario “Kampfgruppe Eberback” from Lock ‘n Load Publishing’s newest game, Heroes of the Blitzkrieg. This stand-alone module for Mark H. Walker’s Lock ‘N Load system focuses on the German invasion of France in May and June of 1940. Allied units are French or Belgian; those of the Germans are Wehrmacht or SS. Aside from infantry and attached weapons, game counters for the German side include early Panzer IIs, IIIs and IVs plus halftracks, motorcycle teams and assault guns. French and Belgian foot soldiers are supported by Char B1-bis, T13 B3s, FT17s, S35s, H39s and cavalry units.
The maps and counters are first-rate and beautiful to look at. The double-sided, glossy counters are easy to separate and do not require any extra cutting as some board war game counters do. They are also easy to read, once the player figures out what all the data on them means.
The game includes nicely laid out cheat sheets for the turns, skill cards which help augment the units in the game, version three of the Lock ‘n Load rules of play, Heroes of the Blitzkrieg Module Rules, modular map boards, map overlays, 14 scenarios and dice.
The rules are not as complex as those for some tactical games like Squad Leader and are well organized and written with a unique sense of humor. Unfortunately, they do not include an index, which would be very helpful when franticly searching for a rule during a game. The rules are loaded with examples of play but would benefit from a flow chart or easy-to-read outline of such important facets as the combat system. Some rules, such as tank-to-tank critical misses or hits are only covered in densely packed paragraphs and are easy to overlook.
When infantry units take damage they become half-squads, but while playing French cavalry in one game, I was unable to find out how to create a cavalry half-squad, so I was forced to ad-lib. Again, an index would have helped pinpoint these rules.
The back of vehicle counters display armor-piercing attack charts, which I found an interesting and innovative use of counters, but it also proved somewhat annoying as the counter has to be picked up and then put back down when a vehicle shoots. This sometimes leads to confusion as to where it had been on the map; players should use some sort of marker when picking up vehicle counters. I prefer the vehicle data card style as used by Yaquinto Publishing’s long-out-of-print classics Panzer, Armor and 88 games.
While many commanders and heroes are present as counters, I was surprised to find no counter representing Rommel, whose Ghost Division played such an important role in the race to the channel during the French Campaign. I was also shocked to find no rules or counters for the British Expeditionary Forces, so you won’t be waltzing any Matildas in this game. Maybe for an expansion (hint-hint, Lock ‘n Load)?
There don’t seem to be any rules for the balancing of forces to create your own scenarios. This would seem to limit replay to the 14 scenarios provided; fortunately, skill cards which add to the combat units and scenario events help add surprises when replaying scenarios.
While there are some negatives to Heroes of the Blitzkrieg, the game is also tons of fun to play once you get past its steep learning curve. Mark H. Walker has taken the French Campaign – an often-ignored subject in tactical war games – and created a fascinating gaming situation. The quality of the game cannot be ignored, even with a few warts tarnishing its fair complexion. Heroes of the Blitzkrieg is highly recommended for board game enthusiasts.
Richard A. Martin is a college film instructor and Executive Director of Nouveau Cinema Group, Inc., an organization which rescues old movie theaters, Martin has also worked in the legal profession, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War 1 and 2 gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!