has a wide sweeping sort of scenario, expressed in its
sub-title -- 'The game from the rise of Hitler to the
fall of Dunkirk', with Dunkirk crossed out and England
written above it in crayon. It is immediately apparent
that Blitzkrieg is going to be one of those 'change
the course of European history on a grand scale' games,
and the basic task facing the player is to conquer Western
Europe in time for tea. The game runs from May 1st to
September 30th, year unspecified, at which date, apparently,
the weather deteriorated; and it is in real time, with
each turn taking about 15 seconds.
are some strategy games which work with a real time
setting, but they are not very many and they really
have to be a concept designed around the need for the
player to think and move fast. Having seen several real-time
wargames which expect the player to rush division counters
around as quickly as possible, I have come to the conclusion
that no game of this type can be very successful --
and in fact they're very often confusing and unplayable.
I wonder if designers interpolate real time gratuitously
because they feel that computer gamers expect 'game
space' action. Arcade games exist in then own self-created
fantasy world and in their own time as well. 'Real time'
is a fallacious term; real time for a wargame would
be weeks or months. Real time means game time, and by
asking a wargame to exist in game time the designer
squeezes it unavoidably into being just that -- a game.
Wargames are games, of course, but unlike arcade games
they are supposed to stand for and evoke a reality.
And real generals had weeks to make major strategic
decisions, and at least a day to choreograph a battle.
They certainly did not have to conquer Western Europe
in 40 minutes, which is how long the instructions say
that a game of Blitzkrieg lasts. They didn't
do it in an afternoon either, but games which allow
the player as long as he wants create an illusion of
space . . . however much time they really spend on it.
are what I would call the psychological and artistic
objections to a real time wargame. Blitzkrieg
does nothing to overcome them, having a very 'toytown'
and unrealistic atmosphere. And it demonstrates a more
obvious disadvantage; it's impossible, or very difficult,
to keep control of everything that's going on. Wargamers
usually only have two hands and one brain, and real
time wargames of this type seem to require them to have
several of each.
is beautifully programmed and presented, which makes
its rapidly apparent unplayability all the more disappointing.
The game loads with an optional fast-loader, after a
warning that it will only work with 'perfectly aligned'
disk drives. I was surprised to find that my disk drive
was perfectly aligned, but the loader is certainly fast.
opening options screen allows the player to spend resource
points on altering the initial balance of forces, or
to view plan diagrams about the weaponry used in the
game. Selecting the latter option brings up a series
of attractive line drawings and a smattering of information
about the tanks, which, although very pretty, does little
to compensate for the complete lack of back-up material
in the rules.
can take the easy way in and go for the default set-up,
but it is perhaps more interesting to play about with
the industrial resource units and build yourself an
army. You can choose your own level of IRIs between
100 and 400 and then spend them on division strength,
medium, and reconnaissance. The allocation of resources
is controlled in the form of a letter sent to you as
the general, which is the first of many imaginative
and individualistic touches in the design. There are
four types of division -- Air and Ground Panzers and
Air and Ground Amphibious -- and they can be bought
with or without medium tanks, which increase the combat
value. The amphibious divisions are important if you
have an acquisitive eye on Britain, the conquest of
which is of course unhistorical and will earn you 80,000
points. When you've finished the next part of the program
loads, without the fast loader this time.
map is split into two screens, representing the Northwest
of Europe and the Southeast of England. There are no
features marked on the onscreen map and the cities look
like rabbit's footprints for some reason. Fortunately
there is a more informative map on the reverse of the
instruction sheet. It indicates the names of cities,
shows terrain, and superimposes a grid over Europe for
easy reference. When the data card of each unit is examined,
the player can pinpoint its position on the more detailed
map. In principle this is a good idea, but in practice
time seems too precious when you're into the game.
the top of the screen a counter ticks away the days
at the rate of one every 15 seconds, and at the bottom
there is an arrangement which represents a set of index
cards. These are pulled up -- literally -- by the function
keys, and are the menus which drive the game. One gives
access to utility options, one to the main command menu,
one to the status of the selected unit and one is a
file which keeps track of all messages sent to you by
the division commanders. This is a lovely piece of design
but despite its originality, one of the game's main
weaknesses is caused by this superficially attractive
give a division any sort of orders you have to pull
up the appropriate card, and then adjust the commands
on it by scrolling through a menu for each part of the
order. This is surprisingly and frustratingly fiddly,
and quite time-consuming too; first you have to find
the number of the unit you want, then the kind of movement
order, and then the number of squares you want it to
move. Sending the order drops the card back down, and
the process has to be repeated for the next unit. And
there can easily be 16 divisions on the board, all lumbering
forward according to their last command and coming across
various obstacles. In practice it is not easy to cope
with more than a handful at a time, which leaves the
rest idle. The game doesn't pause while you're grappling
with the order card menus, so every trip of the joystick
is another major setback to the German Masterplan.
their progress across Europe the units can run into
difficult terrain, which will slow them down or stop
them altogether. When this happens, the division commanders
send memos -- neatly signed with their own names --
to explain themselves. It is reasonably difficult to
invade the Netherlands because of all the bog about,
which brings armies to a standstill. The way of gaining
more detailed information about the terrain in each
square is to go into the tactical view, which reminds
me strongly of those arcade sequences which sit in the
middle of many PSS games in glorious irrelevance. The
tactical view puts the player inside a tank, and he
can rotate the rights to have a look at the landscape
outside and plan his route, or so the instructions say.
I found it difficult to make sense of this feature.
are captured by the unit which gets there first, and
turned into red, rather than black rabbit's footprints.
No enemy units appear on the map at all, though their
activities are reported by the division commanders,
so the game seems to be little more than a mad dash
across the best terrain to take out the cities. Lack
of success is abruptly rewarded by Hitler, usually with
a bullet in the brain.
is not a satisfying game. It creates no reality and
allows no scope for the exercise of skill; and because
of the real time setting it is not particularly playable.
The lack of a workable game is all the more regrettable,
and noticeable, because of the carefully polished presentation.
It's nice to see a wargame so well designed and programmed,
but the best front-end in the world can't hide an unsound