2020 End of Year Update

Hi All,

Do you ever have Déjà vu feelings? Hard to do that in 2020, but I did when I went back and read our 2019 End of Year Updates.

It is a little scary, but I feel like I am going to repeat everything we posted about twelve months ago in our two 2019 Updates. You can read those blog posts here:

2019 End of Year Update - Part One

2019 End of Year Update - Part Two

Let me start with our current patching cycle. With the release of Panzer Campaigns Scheldt ’44 we have started the process of updating the Panzer Campaigns and Modern Campaigns titles with various new features including high-resolution graphics. We are including the original Gold graphics so that players can choose which they would prefer. We are also planning to include a couple of new campaign scenarios in a few titles from Cesar ‘Indragnir’ Moreno. Cesar has been continually active in creating several large-scale scenarios and has provided new work or revised his previous releases with new features such as limited time objectives. Limited time objectives for example work particularly well in a game like Kharkov ’43 where there needs to be an ebb and flow in attacking and defending.

Limited Time Objectives (All images can be clicked for full size)

Other new features such as improvements to recon spotting as well as tweaking the irregular troops, deception units, and patrolling will be included. The latter will allow a better simulation of resistance and partisan activities as well as the applicable counter operations.  Some of the new features will not be applicable to previously released titles but will be available to budding modders like Cesar to include in any of their work. A few other minor graphics improvements will be included as well. We have individualised the graphical unit icons so there will be more ‘appropriate’ images for each title. There are also new victory screens, in the same style as the type included in Scheldt ’44. The original victory screens will still be in the build but they are no longer the default used.

Graphical Icons

Example Victory Screen

As you can imagine, updating nearly thirty titles is a big job and we are plodding through it. There should hopefully be six updates available when this blog post goes to press.

Here are a few shots from upcoming patches:

Panzer Battles is another series that we may look at for a ‘mid-cycle’ update. Usually, we delay updates until after a new title is released, but there are several enhancements or fixes that may justify us providing new versions.

Probably the biggest change is to artillery. We had found an ‘issue’ where artillery scaled up or down based upon the target density in a hex. This resulted in units becoming impervious to indirect fire, the smaller they were, the larger the reduction in artillery firepower. The impact has been significant. In the Panzer Battles series, the maximum stacking was normally set at either 200 men (Normandy) or 250 (all other released titles). ‘Stack-Fire’ was the applicable modifier and instead of only applying when a unit’s strength was 50% or higher than the stacking limit, for indirect fire (only) it scaled down when a unit’s strength was below 50% of the stacking limit. This issue benefited smaller units such as platoons. This ‘bug’ was one of the reasons that mortars were so ineffective in game.

We are now struggling with the opposite problem where artillery units are proving to be extremely effective and causing large casualties if players are not careful. This is not an issue, but we are considering other measures to limit the flexibility of artillery generally.

Artillery fire screenshot:

We do not want to release upgraded artillery where it may impact balance in previous released scenarios generally. We are now testing a range of options. One of the most promising is the inclusion of spotters for artillery units. We are trialling these at corps and army level guns so that the heaviest artillery is not available to every lowly NCO on the battlefield. Initial indications are positive, and we have some interesting solutions on how to make artillery to feel more like World War Two era rather than the on-call Modern era equivalents.

Spotter examples:

There are also some changes being made for the current work-in progress Panzer Battles title and they will logically fit into some of the existing scenarios in the Panzer Battles Demo. We will try and update all at the same time and give everyone a sneak peek at some of the upcoming changes.

For the Civil War Battles series, we expect that there will be a further round of updates after the final title in that series is released. More on that a little later in the blog post. A lot of work has been done this past year on the Napoleonic series. Like the Panzer Campaigns series, it now has high resolution graphics as well as a range of system fixes. Four titles have had the new ‘hand-painted’ terrain courtesy of Frank Mullins. Future sales will determine whether the remaining titles have the same treatment.

All in all, we are starting to realise that updates are a constant and a key factor in keeping all titles current and played. With it being twenty-one years since Panzer Campaigns Smolensk ’41 was released, we are hopeful that we can give all titles an equivalent level of longevity.

Looking back at 2020, though WDS only released one title (Panzer Campaigns Scheldt ’44) there was a lot of important work completed. For example, the Panzer Campaigns manuals were reviewed, rewritten, and released. There were actually three rounds of updates, with the initial release in April 2020, a revision based upon community feedback and a reissue with game imagery based on the Scheldt ’44 graphics. These are a living document and we have received further feedback that will be included in future updates.

The John Tiller Software team were just as busy creating updates for existing titles. As mentioned, the Napoleonic series was refreshed as were all the Musket and Pike series and the documentation and manuals for the Civil War Battles series. The First World War Campaign series were also patched, receiving the new rules implemented in the other release for the 2020, Serbia ’14. Ed William’s latest effort has been extremely popular and 2020 has seen releases for lesser-known conflicts.

Moving onto what we are currently working on.

Twelve months ago, we mentioned a final Civil War Battles title being worked on by John Ferry. This game has made material progress and despite being the last title in the series it will probably come with more new rules than any that proceeded it. At last count there was already over one-hundred scenarios completed or in testing, with a few more to go. Many of the new rules will allow a range of new situations to be gamed including naval actions, shore bombardments, amphibious operations, and the more normal ground-based combat.

Here are several shots showing a few scenarios in action.

In last years update we showcased the new Panzer Battles map covering the area around Moscow. Like the Civil War Battles title, we are making progress on what will become Panzer Battles Moscow.

This is a big title and we currently have scenarios planned or being tested covering from October 1941 into February 1942. About twenty of the forty to sixty scenarios are done and now being actively play tested. Mike Avanzini’s order of battle and map work has made creating scenarios a lot easier, but there is still a lot of work to do to cover the extended period.

There are a quite a few rule changes being considered to help model these operations. The previously mentioned changes to artillery will be new. We are also looking to change around the frozen penalty code to provide a wider range of issues and outcomes. We have found the current implementation is a little too simplistic, and we have some nice ideas that will hopefully make the code.  The other change is that we are looking to have dedicated winter features. Here is an image that was shown in last years update and compare that to the new graphical inclusions. Trees are now snowy, and roads and buildings are more appropriate for a frozen landscape.

Original Image from the 2019 End of Year Update

An equivalent shot, winterised

From a play perspective, this title is again quite different to the ones that preceded it. Its quite daunting to face Soviet human wave attacks for example! There is going to be a great mix of scenario included that range from meeting engagements, armour thrusts, attacks on prepared positions and crossing frozen rivers into the teeth of the enemy. There may even be some parachute drops as the Russians used their parachutists on several occasions.

The Soviets also have some very distinct troops with Russian, Siberian, Marines and NKVD troops all represented. There is a nice range of capabilities between them and none are pushovers, particularly when it is cold.

Here are a few shots from play test games.

While I work on the Panzer Battles Moscow scenarios, Mike Avanzini has been busy on the map and order of battle for the follow-up title. This is another Winter series of battles that I expect will be extremely popular. A lot of the new rules being created for Panzer Battles Moscow will be very applicable here. Mike has already completed the map (another big one at 360,000 hexes) and is well advanced on the order of battle. A further title, that covers yet another extremely popular battle is in early planning stages.

One final comment on the Panzer Battles series. These are probably some of the most resource and research intense games we create. Whereas in Panzer Campaigns we normally create standardised companies and battalions, in Panzer Battles we must understand all the weapons systems that make up those formations and how they were used. We also need to find battle histories that can talk as low as platoon level so we can emulate the battles we have chosen. None of this is easy and it is a large factor in why it takes us so long to get one of these titles out. Apologies to all that are waiting for the next instalment.

Panzer Campaigns has been a hive of activity and we are extremely fortunate to have three teams that are actively working on games. There are six (!) games currently in various stages of development. A new team member, Daniel Asensio is working in partnership with Cesar on a large Eastern Front title. Dani had done a huge amount of work before approaching the WDS team and is filling a nice gap in the Panzer Campaigns timeline. Mike Prucha and Dave Michas already had their next title mapped out before Scheldt ’44 was completed. Both are real dynamos, with Mike already having much of the order of battle done and David having completed the largest ever standalone Panzer Campaigns map. The map is over 851,000 hexes in size and for comparison, the previous biggest was Moscow ’42 at just under 244,000 hexes. To blow everyone’s mind on the scale, the following image covers 929,000 hexes, so the new map is equivalent to a big hunk of Russia!

Contiguous Eastern Front Maps:

It’s early days for Mike and Dave’s next title, but they are not resting on their laurels post Scheldt’44 and the first scenarios are already being created. Expect this to have a range of interesting scenarios and matchups. The team also has an additional title with map work complete and like Scheldt ‘44, it will cover a number of battles that you will rarely see in wargaming.

In last years update, we announced that Panzer Campaigns Scheldt ’44 would be the next release in the series. This year is no different and we would like to announce Panzer Campaigns Kiev ’43.

This title is a Bill Peters/David Freer production building on a lot of work Mike Avanzini started ten years ago. Mike & David have built the order of battle while Bill has led the scenario creation using the master campaign scenarios created by David. The map was originally created by Dave ‘Blackie’ Blackburn but has been extensively updated by Bill.

The post Kursk battles have not been covered to date in the Panzer Campaigns series and the battles along the Dnepr had only previously been represented in Korsun ’44. The Kiev ’43 title will cover battles in November and December 1943 and possibly actions in October as well.

Actions include the Soviet capture of Kiev, the Bukrin bridgehead, and the initial German retreat to Fastov and Zhitomir. Additionally, the German counterattacks at Korosten and Zhitomir are included, culminating in the Brusilov pocket. Finally, the German December offensive to trap the Soviet forces between Brusilov and Korosten will also be playable. The Soviet Zhitomir-Berdichev Front offensive that commenced in the same area on December 24th, 1943 will not be covered in this title.

With a wide range of interesting forces available, we have been able to build a significant number of variant scenarios off the base historical ones. This battle was essentially a series of meeting engagements with few if any built-up defensive positions beyond what was in front of Kiev. With the ground conditions either clear or soft, there is a chance for significant maneuver combat.

We have planned that Panzer Campaigns Kiev ’43 will be a 2021 release. Bill has two other projects that are progressing well that will follow Kiev ’43.

Here are some screen shots from this upcoming title. Most of these images are from the campaign scenarios, but rest assured there is a very good range of small and medium scenarios included as well. We will look forward to sharing more on Kiev '43 as we get closer to release.

Thanks all for reading this far. We never manage to get out as much as we want to in any particular year, but I am hopeful that we will have two and possibly even three titles out in the coming period. We must make the most of everyone’s enforced home time!

Happy New Year to all.

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