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.

37 thoughts on “2020 End of Year Update

  • excellent update, I really enjoy reading about what is in the pipeline.

    I was kind of hoping for an off the wall, surprise game of a different era.

      • From Belgium. No problems with the installer and with the upgrade of Kharkov 42 but wel with the Upgrade of Kursk and Korsun…but now it run’s…thank for your works, very impatient with Kiev and Moscow PzB…

        • Great, happy to see you managed to get them. Kiev will definitely be out before PzB Moscow. That is because I am the prime person working on it and I am still needed to help with other projects as well.

  • First of all, without your work, the series would stagnant horribly.

    Not boasting, but I own virtually every HPS/JTS title released, and Panzer Battles hits the sweet spot.

    I bought Panzer Campaigns Scheldt ’44 for $40, and the issue I have after 35 years of wargaming is the historical perspective is spot-on, but totally boring. We need more what-if scenarios, and I mean really what-if. Scheldt, for example, is a slug-fest, like quite a few games in the series. Thank God for the editor.

    Now, the Squad Battles series in another story. With the Database editor, one can really make an “interesting” game. Sticking strictly to historical outcomes is very important to many players, but at this point in my life I need to go ahistorical 😉

    Best wishes!

    • This is why I avoided Panzer Campaigns Scheldt ’44. Slug fests are all the same regardless of the historical narrative or color palette. Having said this, I do admire the hard work which goes into designing games like this. I would much rather prefer “pocket” battles coupled with maneuvers on the Eastern Front.

  • Please, please beg Mr Tiller for the Squad Battles source code!!!!!!!! Then do your magic adding multi level buildings and new way to model ammo usage! Those two changes would make SB unbeatable as a squad scale turn based wargame.

  • I have many Panzer Campaign titles and as a Canuck I was very eager to get Scheldt ’44 considering it covered many operations of !st Canadian Army. However, after reviewing many of the scenarios involving Canadian units I was shocked and angered to discover that the designer considers Canadian troops to be crap infantry. In all the scenarios I reviewed, Canadian units had an average morale rating of ‘D’, whereas their British counter-parts have an average rating of ‘C’. To add insult to injury, veteran Canadian units like the Black Watch and the Royal Regina Rifles are given the absurd rating of ‘F’.
    Apparently some ignorant Canada hater by the name of Mike Prucha is responsible for this insult to Canadian fighting ability. If the 1st Canadian Army was as bad as Prucha would have us believe, it would have been impossible for them to win the victories they did. Unless this abomination isn’t corrected soon in a update, I very much doubt I will invest any more money into this series.

    • Bob,

      From your commentary I assume you have not read the players notes that were included with the game? Please read the section called ‘Morale’ from page 85 in the ‘Notes’ PDF with a view to understanding where the values were determined from. In my quick review, nowhere is the base morale level of the Canadian Black Watch set as F, it is in all order of battles set as D. It may be that the units you are seeing are either heavily fatigued or disrupted?

      The players notes explain why the Canadians (and other Allied units) are the way they are. We as designers do not have national bias as you so strongly contend.

      Thanks,

      David

  • Hi Bob,

    I am very sorry that you have taken personal offense to Scheldt ‘44!

    Our aim was to represent the battles for the Scheldt Estuary and associated actions faithfully and to provide players with an appreciation of the challenges faced by both Allied and German commanders in the field. One of the realities faced by the Canadian Army in the Autumn of ’44 was a shortage of trained infantry reinforcements (replacements) – new infantrymen simply could not be trained fast enough to keep up with the casualties sustained in the Normandy campaign. While losses were replaced in the infantry ranks, this was done be accepting men whose training had been abbreviated and by culling men from various support units who had little or no infantry experience. Canadian historian C.P. Stacy illustrates this shortage using the Canadian Black Watch as an example: on October 19th, the battalion’s four rifle companies had 379 officers and men. 45% of these had no more than one month of training and the remainder had three months or less. This was only enough time to provide the most basic instruction and many of the new arrivals had never fired a Bren gun or PIAT prior to their arrival in the field. Trained infantry officers were also at a premium – at this this time the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry had only one officer per company. During the fighting on the Turnhout Canal, the South Saskatchewan Regiment leadership was almost entirely green – only 6 of its officers had served in the Normandy Campaign! These regiments were far from unique. The Canadian Army had suffered exceptionally high casualties from June to September (due to disproportionate time spent in major combat operations) and numerous battalions had been all but destroyed and rebuilt during this period, some (including the Black Watch) multiple times.

    The “D” morale value chosen in the game is not intended to reflect poorly on the fighting spirit of the Canadian infantryman but instead to reflect the very high proportion of green troops that filled Canadian infantry ranks during the Scheldt Campaign and the challenges of leading barely-trained men into combat. The Canadians are not alone – many German and British infantry units were assigned D morale ratings for similar reasons. There are not many American units in Scheldt ’44, but if we were to evaluate some of the American infantry divisions fighting to the south in the post-Normandy period we would likely conclude that many of these should have D morale as well.

    Two more points there are no Canadian units (nor units belonging to any other nation) that have a base morale of F in Scheldt ’44 and it is entirely possible for the Canadian Army to win the Campaign scenarios – in the Campaign Part II scenario (October 20th-November 8th) it is almost an inevitability that Allied player will clear the Scheldt estuary, it is just a question of how quickly can he accomplish this and whether inflict enough losses on the German 15th Army that he can win a major victory.

    Lastly, I have nothing but respect for the Canadians who fought, suffered and died for the Allied cause. In the Scheldt Campaign, Canadian infantrymen endured the most the unimaginable hardships, fought through the most abysmal conditions, and delivered a victory of utmost strategic importance. That most of the Canadians who fought through this campaign were green replacements makes this accomplishment all the more extraordinary and is a testament to the Canadian soldier’s perseverance, dedication, and spirit of sacrifice.

    -Mike Prucha

    • Thank you Mike for your lengthy and reasoned response to my comments.

      I am aware of the difficulties that 1st Canadian Army was having with replacements at that stage of the war, made especially acute due to the conscription crisis in Canada and the decision to send overseas men (“Zombies”) who had reluctantly volunteered to serve, but only in Canada. I’ve also read stories of commanding officers having to show new replacements how to use their weapon while under fire. However, I didn’t know the replacement crisis was as bad as you make out.

      Please accept my apology for my irresponsible comments.

  • Glad to see that we have some good titles to look forward to in 2021. There are not many post-Kursk 1943 and pre-Bagration wargame titles at all. Concerning Scheldt, the main campaign was historically a slow crawling slug fest and cannot be made into a blitzkrieg campaign. The package offers a lot of other scenarios in that theater, including a widened Market-Garden, so that even if you don’t like the Scheldt campaigns, there may be something in it for you.

  • Really looking forward to the upcoming releases. Like many others here, I own almost all games produced by HPS/Tiller over the years (WWII, Napoleonic and Civil War).
    For Panzer Campaigns, I’d love to see a release that dealt with the fighting around Leningrad from 41-44. Lots of interesting battles there. You could even have a couple hypothetical scenarios where the Germans try to take the city by storm in 41.
    For Panzer Battles (currently playing Normandy now and loving it), this series is just SCREAMING for a release (or two, or ten) that take place in the Pacific. So many great battles there would fit very well into the Panzer Battles scale (Philippines 41-44, Central Pacific 43-44, Guadalcanal/Solomons 42-44, New Guinea, Marianas, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, on and on). Hope the devs are considering this! The European theater, while always interesting, has been done to death.
    Thanks for the update and keep the great games coming!

    • Interesting that a few people mentioned Panzer Battles in the Pacific. That was why we put the small Guadalcanal scenario in the Demo. While I think the Guadalcanal/Solomon’s and the Philippines 41 and 44 would work well, I think Saipan, Iwo, Peleliu and Okinawa would be too much of a static frontal assault’s type battle to be popular. Maybe I would be wrong could be just my opinion.

      However I was also thinking that Malaya 41/42 and Burma both 42 and 44/45 would be very interesting games. I’m not sure that my fellow Americans would appreciate the Pacific Brit campaigns? Anyone have any opinions?

  • My wishlist for Panzer Campaigns is Poland ’39, Balkans ’41, Malaya ’41, Okinawa ’45, Berlin ’45 (this could be a race for Berlin monster with both Allies and Russians racing for the German capital). For Panzer Battles a Pacific title would be nice. Also a new Modern Campaign title is overdue. I think an India-Pakistan series like Middle East ’56/’67/’73 is interesting. Another suggestion is to backdate or update the NATO v. WP titles, say to 1975 and 2021 respectively. GMT’s Next War series could also serve as a guide: Vietnam v. China ’78/’21, Invasion of Taiwan.

  • Hello, are there any notable differences between the partner AI of the Gold and HiRez versions? It seems that in the Gold versions, not all units are considered by the Gold AI when programming orders. This is obvious when these orders are addressed to the level above the division (units do not use all their movement points). But also within the division, I want as proof that when all the requested orders have been executed on the map, it is enough to change one of them and to relaunch the AI so that some units move again and not only the one of the division having undergone this change. It’s a bit like if one could/should perform these actions in two times. Moreover, some route choices do not always seem optimal (e.g. tanks trying to pass through a forest when a road is accessible nearby). On the other hand, the placement of artillery units is very good and the engineers’ initiatives seem logical and effective. Thank you.

  • Every new title is allways wellcome maybe i have more interest in the Kiev43 over Moscow41 but PzB is still a new serie and has a lot of battles to explore.

    I expect see someday PzC Berlin45, apart the race between west and east to capture the city see a what if with WWII becoming WWIII. Poland39 is another good option with some what if to made it more atractive, Barbarrossa in the South and touch Finland at war… and maybe a new serie to cover wars between WWI and WWII.

    I like see more Pacific titles in PzC and maybe first in PzB BUT expect we can see something more interesting than the island warfare, some japanese blitzkrieg and war in the continent… and maybe another what if but from the other side, instead invade Japan, invade USA.

    Related with the quality for units… maybe the problem is that in game a single value represent training, morale and combat experience, here an old title (but not a lot older compared with Smolensk41) like Age of Rifles still is for me the best wargame to capture the diferent parameters that hit combat performance in an unit.

    Well, happy new year and expect we can have a lot of new titles to play.

    • I am with you on PC Berlin ’45 and PC Poland ’39. All the other projects you mention would also be my choices, except for a Japanese invasion of the US. I am too much of a historical gamer for that.

  • I agree, stop with the too much “what if” and the aliens invasion please…there are many hitorical theatre untapped and interesting fisrt…

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