Friday, 26 April 2019

Blitzkreig Commander IV - a review

I returned to historical wargaming after a gap of 20 years or more, when I joined Portbury Knights wargames club sometime in the 1990's. Amongst the many games played was Flames of War, which took me back to my formative wargaming years with the Airfix WWII rules as well as their figures and plastic kits. Who can resist the allure of gaming with tanks? Not me, that's for certain.

But somehow I was never really happy with FoW as a ruleset. A fellow club member and friend, Nik Harwood, kept nagging me to give Blitzkreig Commander a go, with me eventually succumbing after seeing some games at the club using Pendraken's range of 10mm figures and tanks etc. Afterall, for around £20, I got a complete set of rules as well as army lists all in one book. This was very refreshing after the FoW route with various army books etc required to go alongside the rules.

To cut a long story short, I was very impressed with the rules and these became my go to set for gaming WWII. It took a while to get my head around the army lists, but once I had it was very easy to create combined arms battlegroups for games. Alongside this I then invested in several Pendraken armies and became a 10mm convert. Having just got used to the rules the author, Pete Jones, announced he was going to release an updated version just months after I had bought them! I was somewhat sceptical about this but after reading about the proposed changes on the BKC Forum, soon decided to invest in the new version.

So come late 2009 the new book landed on my door mat. In short he had produced a brilliant set of rules which really improved upon the first version, with the big change being seperating out AT and AP stats. I was so happy I had bought these rules and they have continued to give me many, many happy and memorable games over the past 10 years.

Then in 2016 Pendraken Miniatures bought the rules and announced they were going to release an updated version. I was quite happy with BKCII, but they did have some areas that needed tweaking and looked a bit dated compared to current rules. I volunteered to help with feedback as did others and looked forward to seeing what the new version would offer. Sadly BKCIII failed on many, many levels due to a variety of factors, which I will not go into here. After much soul searching and to their eternal credit, Dave and Leon of Pendraken Miniatures, decided to scrap BKCIII and produce BKCIV, all at their own expense.

Once again I volunteered my services along with other members of the BKC and Pendraken forums. The overiding feeling was to produce an updated version of BKCII, adding in errata and house rules that had become common place, taking good bits from BKCI, BKCIII and CWC, as well as giving it a modern makeover, as had happened with BKCIII. So after extensive playtesting, feedback etc, BKCIV was finally released at Salute this year.


The BKC family, with the latest edition on top.

My well read and thumbed copy of BKCII.


Just after Salute, my copy of the book landed on my door mat and it was great to see it 'in the flesh', having only viewed draft pdf's etc. So what do I think of it having had the time to have a read and play of the game? In no particular order:

  • The book certainly has an up to date feel about it, with nice images from the Pendraken range as well as WWII 'photos interspered throughout. It is very well layed out and certainly looks good. This was the intention of Leon & Co and they have certainly achieved this.
  • The rules do feel like an updated version of BKCII, with all the good bits from the other rules added as mentioned earlier. Alongside the book, on the Pendraken forum are various QRS sheets, optional rules etc that can be printed off as required. Some may have like them in the book, but it is always a trade off as to what to include or not. So again full marks on this front.
  • Mark Fry and team have fleshed out the Recce rules to a full 4 pages, whereas before they were optional and rather basic. To be honest some parts I like, others not, but that's just my personal preference. It's good to have them integral to the rules though and more playing with them might alter my view. 
  • Hidden Deployment, Reserves and Ambush have been broadly brought over from Cold War Commander and tweaked to suit WWII. I doubt I will use the Ambush rules, but it could work well for Normandy Bocage type games. Again great to have them in the rules.
  • The Special Abilities have been brought over from BKCIII and improved. How much I will use them remains to be seen, but they are a very useful resource to allow you to tweak units should you wish to. An example is Unreliable, which could be used to reflect say French tanks that were often short on petrol, or British and Italian tanks that had poor tank durability. Full marks for having these in the rules.
  • The Army lists have been given a makeover and look and feel similar to those in BKCIII. On the plus side there are more theatre specific lists, such as Italians for the invasion of France, plus units added that were missing from BKCII. The Spanish Civil War is no longer in the book, but this will be available as a pdf later on. There is talk of the Korean War being included at a later point in time. Personally I much prefer the lists from BKCII, but that's because I'm so used to them, but it is nice having etc info in the new ones. Going forward I will consult both.
  • There have been tweaks to both Air Support and Artillery Support, in terms of template sizes and how barrages work. They look to be interesting but more play is needed on these for me to make my mind up.
  • As with any rulebook, there have been some over sights and small errors in the army lists, but nothing major by any means. We are certainly not talking 'Cruel Seas' level here! Mark Fry and Leon have been great at answering questions and taking on board various comments and observations, with the intention that the online pdf will be periodically updated to take these into account, whilst there will be an errata section on the Pendraken Forum.

So what's the overall verdict? IMHO a job well done by all involved and they have pretty much ticked all the boxes, so a set of rules worth buying. Will I be using the rules going forward? Most definitely, but as with BKCII, I will take the bits I like and tweak the bits that I feel need tweaking to reflect my view of WWII warfare etc. That's just my personal preference but the rules work perfectly fine as they are. For me it's really a case of 'old dog, new tricks'!

15 comments:

  1. Excellent review

    https://www.10mm-wargaming.com/

    Take care

    Andy

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  2. Steve, this is a helpful recap of the changes between BKCIV and the earlier versions. I have not played the game but it looks interesting.

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    1. Hi Jonathan,
      glad it was of use to you. As you can tell, I'm a big fan of these rules and they've served me well for over 10 years. Well worth a look IMHO, especially if you like the Warmaster/Black Powder style of command and control.

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  3. Thanks Steve, good to get your thoughts on these. Your numerous AAR's running from BCKII have always shown the system in a good light and it looks like you are expecting more of the same from BCKIV.

    I had already resolved to getting a set, not because I immediately need them but firstly to support Pendraken for their outstanding customer support in getting this set right, despite the financial hurt that this must have caused them and also I REALLY like that rather old fashioned idea of having everything in the one volume and not going down what we might call the 'Codex' style of rule production.

    Based on the above and your two recent posts, I will be putting my order in later today. Cheers Norm.

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    1. Really glad my thoughts have been of use to you Norm. I think Pendraken honestly have pretty much the best customer support going, so I always try and support them as much as possible. Having everything in one book is also a big, big bonus for me.

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    2. Thanks Steve, Done!, looking forward to reading another! :-) set of tactical rules, though I think I will be making use of these.

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    3. Norm, your point about supporting a company that commits to making that extra effort is a good one. While I don't play much WWII, being somewhat of a rules' collector, BKCIV ought to be added to my shopping list. Thanks to you both!

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    4. Let's hope you both enjoy reading the rules and maybe even playing them. The beauty is that you can still have a fun game on a smallish board with relatively few units. If you enjoy it, you can always upscale. These days a Battalion or so a side plus support gives me a good game in an evening.

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  4. OK help me out. I have a large collection of 1/72 vehicles that I have used for years with FOW. After nearly 20 years of playing FOW, I about had enough of it. I'm looking for a fresh new alternative. Would this fit the bill? What makes BK a great game? Id really like to hear that it isn't an I-go U-go system AND that it has some type of player aid cards for all units. Thanks in advance.

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  5. HI, looking for a set of rules to replace FOW (which I've had about enough of). I have a large collection of 1/72 vehicles, guns, infantry all based for FOW. Is BK an I-go, U-go system (I hope not). Looking for something that plays like WW2, not FOW. Thankms

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    1. Hi James,
      first off I'd read through my AARs to see if they help give you a feel of what BKC is like in games terms. Trying to answer your questions, I'd say:
      - BKC works because of the Command & control aspect of the game and the requirement to use Combined Arms to achieve your objectives.
      - It is an IGOUGO system, but the other playing can interrupt your action by using Opportunity fire. Also the Command & Control system means you may not be able to do much of what you want at any point in the game. the die Gods dictate this as it were.
      - There are no unit cards, but the way the army lists are laid out makes it easy to create your own stat sheet with all the important info on it. So you really only need to refer to this to play the game as well as the QRS once you are familiar with the rules.

      I'd recommend joining the Pendraken forum which is now home to questions etc about BKCIV. I hope the above has helped in some small way.

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  6. Thanks Steve really appreciate your comments. Yes you have helped me out. I'd like to try these rules out and will look where to purchase.

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  7. Hi James,
    they are available here:

    https://pendraken.co.uk/rules/blitzkrieg-commander/

    I think you can get the pdf from Wargames Vault. Glad to have been of help.

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