Northeast Atlanta Gaming

October 11, 2010

Merkavas and More

I’ve been  thinking along the lines of a set of Israeli armor that could span most of the period that Israel has been fighting and for now this is it. It includes tanks misrepresented in the AIW stock set and tanks whose combat ratings should be changed, based on a modern understanding of their armor and firepower. The Merkava is the tank in most need of change, as it was seriously underrated by Avalon Hill.

Also included are 90mm M48s and 20 pounder Centurions, as these played a major role in the Six Day War. Very few of the weapons  had been converted by then. It was in 1973 that essentially all M48s had 105mm guns and the Centurions had been converted to the Sho’t. The weapons presented date from prior to 1956, but do not really include the tanks of 1948. So, yes, incomplete, but spanning more tanks and types than any post before, are the tanks of Israel.


August 29, 2010

More 1980 British Battalion Sheets, and an Options sheet

I’ve updated Sheet E on the previous British post (missing CP and S counters), and I’ll add two more sheets of 1980 British AIW factored units in this post. Sheet F are the Royal Marines, as depicted by Dan Fraser. Sheet G is an options sheet. Included are: Wombat 120 mm recoilless rifles, an anti-tank gun still used in some units in 1980. I provide a battery version, a section sized version (2 Wombats, with a AF of 15), and a “reload” counter, to be placed under an infantry unit or a vehicle to indicate that they are mounting Wombats (i.e. take a Land Rover, place the Wombat reload counter under it, and now you have a Land Rover that uses Wombats). Depending on the scenario you may find them useful. I also provide Milan launchers as a reload counter.

In most of my British charts I broke 81mm mortars down to sections of 2 mortars. You may not want that, so batteries of 81mm mortars, both foot and mounted in FV432s, are provided. A variety of AFVs, not used on the charts, are provided. Included is the Centurion AVRE with its 165mm cannon (do not allow this unit to shoot vehicles or units; the HESH shell is just not designed for that. It is terrific against fortifications or bunkers). Also included is the FV180 combat engineering tractor, and the Spartan ARV.

Included on Sheet G are commando infantry units; these can replace the rifle units in the Royal Marine sheet. There are Scorpion and Ferret reconnaissance vehicles, and 9 later model Centurions, 4 tank platoons, of the Cents that had 50mm of additional frontal armor applied. Centurions are not front line units in 1980, but everyone needs some variety now and then.

80UK Sheet F

80UK Sheet G

August 15, 2010

Counter Cards for Panzerblitz and related tactical games.

Although I have been making plenty of counters, I have yet to play with these counters at the local clubs. Some of the complaints about Panzerblitz that I’ve heard is that it is “too choppy”, that it is too much work, too complicated, that it takes too long. Choppiness can be alleviated by changing or modernizing the turn sequence, in ways similar to Axis and Allies Miniatures, or as Panzerblitz: Hill of Death has done. You could make the CP of Panzerblitz similar to the HQ function of Lock and Load’s “World At War” Eisenbach Gap series, and then use chit based mechanics on a unit by unit basis. You can make the game shorter by planning more small unit count 6 and 8 turn scenarios. But one technique, not well used outside of miniatures, can markedly improve the quality of play for any tactical game, especially with an older population of players with diminishing vision.

Make a card that represents a single playing piece on the board. Have the counter on the card, but enlarged, so it is easy to read. Place any special properties of the piece on the card itself. In Panzerblitz terms, calculate out the weapons effects on the card and any information that ordinarily would have been placed on the UFT. Below are three examples (double click on the images to see the card at full size):

On it you have a counter representation in the upper left. In the middle is an experimental representation of facing and armor in facing (this idea I picked up from miniatures unit cards on “A Wargamer’s Blog”). The lower left text is a list of the pertinent elements on the UFT, largely Panzerleader ’70 based, and to the right some important facts, or perhaps even some historic trivia.

The cards are postcard sized, 4 inch high by 5 inches long. This size is useful because I can, if necessary, put 4 cards onto a single 1 page representation on my computer and print 4 cards at a time on heavy card stock.

The cards save a lot of math, and save older eyes. They can be applied to an existing game without having to change the rules or the counters. They can add functionality to simple counters without reworking the counter itself. They can be modified on a scenario by scenario basis.

To use them, set them out along the edges of the game board, so people can consult them while playing. You might want to laminate examples.

For people like me, it’s a way to make Panzerblitz smoother and faster, more competitive and relevant in the modern age.

For those commercial game makers out there: these kinds of cards can represent a new revenue stream for the real fans of your game.

1980 US Battalions and Brigades

Taken largely from Dan Fraser’s TO&E, with assistance by the Yahoo TO&E group (esp. for Mechanized Infantry). Sheets for a tank battalion, a mechanized infantry battalion, an artillery battalion and a generic brigade HQ are presented. The ‘B’ options sheet from my 1980 Cavalry post can be used with these sheets to customize for 1981, or replace M60A1 with M60A3 counters.For sheets of an enemy persuasion, please check out my Soviet counters.

80USA Sheet E

80USA Sheet F

80USA Sheet G

80USA Sheet H

Utility Counters – Panzerleader ’70 and AIW.

Filed under: Counters,Games,Tactical — foodnearsnellville @ 11:56 am
Tags: , , ,

A lot of the mechanics of AIW require that the piece be inverted, something you cannot do with reduced counters (as then you’ll be reducing the counter). Instead, a utility counter that says something like fired is needed, a counter that might look something like this:

So below, two PDFs of utility counters. They are obviously influenced by Ward McBurney’s superb utility counters on the Imaginative Strategist site.

Updated Notes: Smoke 1 and Smoke 2 are supposed to be 2 sides of a single counter. Just flip them each turn to count down smoke times. It turns out “Fired” and “Spent” are the same sized blocks and make a good double sided counter as well. “Spent” indicates a counter cannot be used. “Fired” should be used for counters that have fired during their firing phase.

UC Sheet A

UC Sheet B

August 11, 2010

Machine guns, helicopters and more

There is an ongoing discussion about the power of machine guns in the PB/PL/AIW context. I see J Smith of Consimworld, Byron Henderson, Daniel Escobar and Gary Exelby all weighing in. PL tends to minimize machine guns and infantry. AIW has to pay more attention to it because the “blitz” in tanks disappears if tanks aren’t part of a combined arms team in the post 1967 period. The portable shaped charge weapons like the RPG-7 and the LAW pretty much ensure that. The vehicle causing me the biggest issue is the M113:

This unit has 3 vehicles, and 6 machine guns, according to The General. It doesn’t specify which kinds, but the only photo I have of a 2 MG M113 Zelda shows 1 .50 caliber and 1 .30 caliber. My call would be to rate the .50s as 3 I and the .30s as 2 I. So, since US platoons use 4 M113s each, what is the firepower of that unit?

Maybe something like this.

And a 4 vehicle M113 ACAV unit might look something like this.

But given how loose the definitions of ‘I’ type weapons are, all of these three could still be the same 5 I 6 5 8 unit. Not easy to say.

To summarize what I know, we have that normal .30 MGs are 2 I, in a bunch, unspecified, and .50 MGs are 3 I, in a bunch, unspecified. My gut feeling about .30 miniguns is that they are 4 I with plenty of ammo and 2 I with limited ammo. No one cares how fast you can fire if you only have 50 bullets.

20mm cannon (see for example, the Mark II German tank) have been a 2 A for a long time, unless you’re a Corsair, in which case they are a 4 A. I suspect the M61 Vulcan is about 4 A. I suspect the three barreled 20mm cannon on the AH-1 F is a 2 or 3 A. Probably 2. Someone might be able to argue 3 or 4 for me, if he can point to better armor penetration in later rounds.

The GAU-8 30mm Gatling gun on the A-10 is a 30 A 5, according to Toshach miniatures.

The 25mm and 30mm chain guns are 6 A/H 8, according to Toshach miniatures. Since these later weapons have DU penetrators and high explosive shells, that all seems reasonable. They can switch very rapidly from one load to the another as well; this is clear from combat reports, such as the book “Warrior’s Rage: The Great Tank Battle of 73 Easting”, by Doug MacGregor.

Now, the take home is that the 12 A/* 6 of the AIW Huey Cobra is not derived from on board guns, but rather the 2.75 inch rockets the early AH-1Gs used. And it must have this kind of firepower, else you can’t explain the results of the fighting in An Loc in 1972. An AF of ’12 A’ gives it the ability to take on and defeat a T-55. And it’s justified as the rockets can have a HEAT explosive head.

It’s important to know where the combat values of the generic AIW Cobra are derived, since the AH-1E variant of the Cobra does not mount 2.75 inch rockets and cannot be represented by the generic Cobra counter. The AH-1E can mount TOW missiles, though, so it’s hardly defenseless.

I think ungenericized AH-1s would look more like this:  4 I/* 6 for the AH-1G, S, and P. 2 A/* 6 for the AH-1E and AH-1F. Typical * loads could be 12 A 6 for rockets and 50 G 12 for TOW missiles in this era. Please note that TOWs improve markedly over time, and that the rockets can be used as HE delivery systems. By 1972 the rockets have switched to the Hydra 70, or Mark 66 rockets, which have a wide variety of warheads. Range is enhanced too for the Hydra system, maximum effective range being reported as 10,000 meters (40 hexes).

August 10, 2010

Early August Notes

On Saturday played two new games. The first was Conflict of Heroes, the second was Wings of War. The first seemed kind of neat, with game flow and control working in ways I hadn’t seen before. Its very luck driven, though, with good rolls and cards counting for a lot. The second was just plain fun.

I’m working on a 1980 era American unit, a Armored Cavalry Squadron. I’m in the late stages of development. Issues to resolve are: 1. M113 firepower. The stock M113 Zelda in AIW is 3 vehicles, 3 .50 cals, 3 .30 cals, and a rating of 5-I-6-5-8. So what would a standard set of 4 M113s be? It’s 4 instead of 3 as the American platoon of the time used 1 M113 per squad and 1 M113 as platoon HQ. And to add juice to the equation, what would 4 M113 ACAVs be ( 4 .50 cals, 8 .30 cals)?

One I have nailed down is the M106 mortar carrier.

This unit differs between Toshach miniatures depiction and Marco Valerio Bonelli’s depiction. Marco’s relies on the mortar in the M106 being the same as the WW II M2 4.2 inch mortar. Thing is, that mortar was replaced in the early fifties by the M30 4.2 inch mortar, which has 3 times the rate of fire as the M2. The M2 is a 10 M 15 2 0 unit in PL terms. The M30, as 4 mortars, would probably be 30 M 27 2 0 in PL terms. Conversion of big mortars from PL to AIW involves dividing by 2 and 2/3. So in AIW terms, a 4 mortar team would be rated 11 M 27 2 0. In the M106 units I’ll be fielding, there are only 3 vehicles and 3 mortars per unit, so you get 8 M 27 as the firepower.

Wow. Exactly what Toshach said. These kinds of results leaves me with a lot of respect for their expansion.

Other items up in the air are firepowers for various Cobra helicopters, the firepower of the OH-58A when armed with a 7.62 inch minigun. A lot of these issues revolve around the power of miniguns and machine guns. Carl Schwamberger says he wrote something about this a couple decades ago; items living from the beginning of the Internet period are easily lost in this day and age.

Oh yes, Byron Henderson has just published an enormous set of DYO documents for every unit on the IMSTRAT and Greg PB boards. It’s an impressive read, in sheer scope and extent. You can get some of it on Yahoo PB/PL, a sister group to Yahoo PB. It’s also complete up on the Consimworld thread.

August 2, 2010

The evolution of the M60A1/3 tank

This isn’t a horribly tank specific article as much as it is a game specific article, focusing on the things that would change the M60 tank as a counter, and those issues that would make the tank available to Western European forces. It tends to more modern history, as I’m not worried currently about scenarios between 1960 and 1962, for example.

To explain the gaming context, for those unfamiliar with the history of the Panzerblitz series of games, the first two, Panzerblitz and Panzer Leader, focused on World War II combat. The third, Arab Israeli Wars, focused on the wars of the Middle East. They published a counter for the M60A1, which has to be regarded as canonical for any stock AIW situation, with stats similar to this unit:

Now, some 3 decades later, we have Alan Arvold’s articles on how the four numbers were derived. The attack factor (upper left hand number) should be the penetration of the standard shell (APCBC in the case of World War II tanks) at 500 meters in mm, divided by a factor we’ll call X. The number in upper right is the range, in 250 meter hexes. Therefore, the range corresponds to 3500 meters. The range should correspond to the maximum effective range of the weapon. The number in the lower left is the defense factor, the heaviest frontal armor in mm, divided by X. The number in lower right is the movement factor, which comes from maximum road speed divided by 3 in Panzer Blitz and Panzer Leader, and 5 in the case of AIW.

Ok, how do we get X? It depends on the country of origin of the weapon and the size of the unit:

  1. For German and Western 5 tank platoons, we divide by 10.
  2. For Russian companies (10 tanks), we divide by 10.
  3. For Russian platoons (5 tanks), we divide by 20.

Now to me, it only makes sense to play Russian companies against Western platoons. Then it becomes straightforward to compare actual numbers and the game has an inherent imbalance between the sides that makes it interesting to play.  AIW, however, decided to use Russian platoons. This, to me, is an actual weakness of the AIW gaming system, but it’s nothing I can fix in the canonical version. The advantage of knowing these rules is it gives us all a way to create our own units from actual numbers.

How realistic are the numbers? Offhand, the range of 14, 3500 meters, seems excessive. To quote Scales in the book “Certain Victory” (1):

A World War II tank required an average of 17 rounds to kill another tank at a maximum range of approximately 700 meters. By 1973 tanks required only two rounds to kill at 1,800 meters.

I don’t see a lot of shooting at 3000 meters until Desert Storm, and the indications are (2) that even with a 120mm M1, engagements were supposed to start at 3000 meters. Second, the Chieftain, a 120mm tank with a much more powerful weapon and a better shell in 1972, is quoted by George Forty as having a range of 3200 meters (3). Third, actual accounts of the biggest tank battle of Desert Storm, 73 Easting (4), suggest that 3000+ yard engagements are still pretty good shooting, enough to brag about it, and what little I can gather from Doug MacGregor’s book on 73 Easting (5), most of the longest range killing was being done by TOW rockets on Bradleys.

That said, if the 105mm Centurion is going to be quoted as having a range of 12, or 3000 meters, then people who have followed AIW with their own custom counters, such as Marco Valerio Bonelli’s Panzerleader ’70, have tended to fix any tank with a 105mm L7 gun with a range of 3000 yards, or 12. Corrections beyond that are in the realm of weapons “range” charts (WECs in the PB vernacular).

By convention, therefore, my units will give the M60 a range of 12.

The armor ranking seems a little light to me. For one, the M60A1 had 250mm of turret armor at its thickest; certainly not reflected in its armor rating of 16. If you believe the Wikipedia’s quoted armor thickness is the glacis (can’t be the turret), the glacis plate was on the order of 150mm, but it was sloped. Data from Jake Collin’s website places the glacis plate of the M60 at an equivalent of 170-250 mm, and a digital representation of the M60 Phoenix project shows the same 230-240mm RHA equivalent front armor (6,7).

I’ve tended to the value of 23 for the defense of the M60A1 and A3.

Max road speed was 30 mph, so the movement of 6 is appropriate.

Firepower depends on the ammo being used. In a PB style game in WW II, the type of armor piercing shell specified is the APCBC shell. After about 1965, I think that using a APCBC shell badly misstates the firepower of the underlying weapon; in any event, the 125mm guns of the Soviets only had APFSDS and HEAT shells. In the absence of a single good paper source, I’ve tended to use Jake Collin’s data (6). That gives us:

Shell Year Type Penetration equivalent RHA approx. AF
M-392 1961 tungsten cap APDS 260 mm at 1 km 26
M-392A2 early 1970s APDS 260 mm at 1 km, 250mm at 1.5km, 225mm at 2km 26
M-728 mid 1970s tungsten APFSDS 320mm at muzzle, 280mm at 1km, 240mm at 2km 30
M-735 1978 tungsten APFSDS 330mm at 1km, 300mm at 2km 33-35
M-735A1 never deployed DU APFSDS 370mm at 1km, 350mm at 2km 37-38
M-774 1981 DU APFSDS 375mm at 2km 37-40
M-833 1984 DU APFSDS 440mm at 2km 44-47
M-900 1991 DU APFSDS 520mm at 2km 52-55

In terms of when versions were introduced, I’m much more interested in the period around 1980 because of my interest in developing opponents to my counter sets of 1980 Soviet regiments. Two tanks were introduced in this period. The M60A3 was introduced in 1978, and was beginning to be supplied to Europe by the middle of 1979.The M1 was introduced in 1980, but only 15 were produced in 1980 and 156 in 1981, not enough to equip major units(8,9). Now, the 1984 US Army Historical Summary makes it clear that only 748 of the original M60A3s were ever produced. Then the comments in the 1980 summary make sense. Production stopped from May to August 1980 to retool for the M60A30(TTS) version (10).By 1981, 1561 new M60A3 tanks had been produced of which 1,260 were delivered to Europe(11). That means a minimum of 512 M60A3(TTS) tanks were in the hands of NATO forces by the end of FY 1981. So 1980 scenarios could have M60A3s without the thermal sight, but by 1981, scenarios with M60A3(TTS) tanks are certainly viable.

So what would Panzerblitz M60A1 or A3 units, set up as representative of the best front line versions of their time, look like? Perhaps something like this:

Evolution of the M60


1. Scales, Robert H. “Certain Victory”, Brassey’s Books, 1994, pp 9-10.
2. “Vehicle Recognition Friendly Armor (Part 2) Lesson 1: Tank Identification”, US Army Correspondence Course, Infantry School IN0535, url:, accessed August 1, 2010.
3. Forty, George “Chieftain”, 1979, Charles Scribner’s Sons, p. 58
4. Bohannen, Richard M. “Dragon’s Roar: 1-37 Armor in the Battle of ’73 Easting”, Armor, May-June 1992, p. 14
5. MacGregor, Douglas, “Warrior’s Rage”, Naval Institute Press, 2007.
6. Collins, Jake, “Tank Protection Levels”, url:, accessed August 1, 2010
7.  “Modern armor internal arrays & what defeated them or might”, Battle Front forum, p 9. url:, accessed August 1, 2010
8. “Tank production during the Cold War in non-WP countries”, Tanknet forum. url:, accessed August 1, 2010
9. US Army Historical Summary, Fiscal Year 1984, pp 144-147. url:, accessed August 1, 2010
10. US Army Historical Summary, Fiscal Year 1980, p 190. url:, accessed August 1, 2010
11. US Army Historical Summary, Fiscal Year 1981, pp 30-31. url:, accessed August 1, 2010
12. “Development and History of the M-60 Tank”, Patton Mania, url:, accessed August 1, 2010
13. “The US M60 Patton Series”, Tank Nut Dave, url:, accessed August 1, 2010
14. “M60 Series Tank (Patton Series) Federation of American Scientists website. url:, accessed August 1, 2010

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