Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Blitzing those Hexes

MNG'r Chris K put on a game this week. Chris has been running WW2 Operational Games for years and years. He talks about it over on his Not Quite Mechanised blog, when he's not doing hard landscaping. 

Unusually for him he asked for a hex grid (well, offset squares) and brought along a set of rules written by someone else. This is a big deal for Chris. Well, slightly less than you might expect, as the rules were "Hexblitz" by Bob Cordery, which he has written about a lot on his blog (although I'm sure he doesn't need the plug from me).

Chris had a copy as Bob had sent him one as he credits Chris very nicely with inspiring the rules quite a lot. So, being Chris, he'd read them through once or twice and decided we didn't need to play all of them, at least not at first.

We were joined by Phil for this game. He took the Germans, and I took the Russians (on the promise they had some armour).

None of us have played Hexblitz before, although we have played Megablitz, to which it owes a debt, and also a number of card driven systems (such as Op14) which it also draws upon. The actual rules in the book are quite short, - no more than 5 or 6 pages I'd guess, together with a more lengthy battle report explaining how it all works. It retails for the princely sum of £3.99 plus postage, so it won't break the bank.

The Russians are to the right, the Germans to the left. They have occupation of the town. I have to throw them out.

At this point we're almost free-kriegspieling it. We're using the movement rates, but we're going IGO/UGO until we get closer. This might have been because Chris hadn't worked out how important it was to follow the turn sequence, especially when you get close together. Chris isn't big on turn sequences.

The red pins represent strength points. That unit with the white square on its base is one of my recce units that has come off worst in a confrontation with one of Phil's.

Phil is rushing his armour forward to support the town's defenders. Chris' scratch built Soviet Cities look really effective and are handing for putting troops in too.

I'm adopting a broad front approach, trying to envelope the Germans on both flanks. Troops in Hexblitz are in one of three modes, - Moving, Stationary or Dug In. This is a stepped process, - you can only go from one stage to the next. You can't go straight from Dug In to Moving, for example.

The first real clash. This is when I discovered that German units have way more strength points than Soviet ones. Our lack of following the turn sequence is starting to cause a few issues at this point, as it isn't clear who is allowed to attack what and how often.

Currently we're remembering what state units are in. Except when they Dig In, when they get one of my ubiquitous pieces of wooden trench parapet.

There's a bit more confusion over on the right centre. Phil points out it would be easier if we had status markers. So we plunder the Trebian counter box.

A quick application of markers. Move means Move, Form means Stationary and Hold means Dug In. You place your marker for the next turn face down, so when they're turned over you can tell from the previous turn's marker that no one is cheating.

We also dealt out playing card tokens as well, to determine the order of movement. I think we're now playing above 90% of the rules as written. I got a nasty shock in this attack, as the chances of hitting a target go from rolling a 5 or 6 in the open, with one d6 per strength point to needing either double 5 or double 6. That's a big jump for one turn's digging in, and caught me quite by surprise.

Using the playing cards sorted out a number of problems, but also confused me a bit. In some card driven systems if you are attacked and beaten you get driven back and lose your card/activation for the turn. It seems that doesn't happen in Hexblitz.

We've played the equivalent of about 12 game hours by this point. I've had a few successes, but the advance has stalled. I've inflicted a goodly mount of damage, but really need to regroup now I know how things are supposed to work.

Once we got this running properly it was an interesting yet simple system. As we aren't using Bob's sized hexes nor his sized bases we have a stacking issue we need to resolve. Bob's approach is that if it fits in the hex, it's allowed. That's okay if basing and hexes are consistent, but I fear that's not the case for us. There's also something about recce units being allowed to sit on edges/corners to look into more squares that we need to follow up on.

If Chris wants to persist then there's mileage in this yet. The group consensus was that it shows its origins in a solo wargaming tradition which is why the playing cards are central, randomising unit move sequences. I think we were also using a much larger playing area than Hexblitz is normally used for, and if so we need to keep better track of time. We had logistic units on the table, but with the way we were playing their importance was minimised. They'd be more important if we were playing over several days and keeping track of where we were.

If we'd done this before COW, I'd have picked up a copy from Bob in person.


  1. I've also played some Hexblitz, and tbh I think having both unit modes AND cards for each unit just slow it down.

    I'd go for either OP14 style formation activation (card per division/corps) or just use modes and Megablitz/NQM styel simultaneous movement. You could also just use standard Megablitz/NQM combat (or plug in Toms Sandhurst Kriegspiel system).

    Fellow blogger Archduke Piccolo has played a lot of hexblitz and has taken the game a fair way.

    1. We were using single cards for higher level organisations to speed it along. I think we need to play through it properly first before we tinker too much. I saw some of the Archduke's posts on the subject, so that's a good reminder to have a look at what he's done.

      Were you using the old free rules or the new Lulu reprint?

  2. The old ones, although I had a look at the lulu ones and they looked pretty similar.

    SomeSof the confusion is because their are two types of "move" mode, calling them, say, Transit and Mobile, makes it clearer.

    1. We didn't have an issue with the modes, once we'd started to record them properly. Moving, Stationary or Dug In are quite enough for me.

  3. Trebian,

    I've only just managed to read this battle report as I've been rather ill with a nasty stomach bug.

    It sounds as if you've all grasped that basic elements of the rules, which are - like a lot of the stuff I write - intended to be a starting point or toolbox for people to use to develop their own rules.

    I'm very impressed by the sheer size of the battlefield, which is the sort of area I hoped the rules would be used to cover.

    It is interesting to note that HEXBLITZ was only published because I wanted to have an example publication to use in my COW presentation. I understand that since it went on sale, it has actually sold a few copies!

    All the best,


    1. Sorry to hear you haven't been feeling great. Having read the rules in full now I congratulate you on the elegance of how the parts fit together.

      And how else would you do an operational game, other than on a very big table?

  4. Hi Trebian -
    First time i've seen this blog (came here via Chris Kemp's site).

    I admit I have rather taken to the types of war games developed - or being developed - by Bob and Tim and Chris. Formwrly I was a command decision man, with a side order of Panzer Marsch! but felt the need for something more accessible for the space I have available.

    One change to the HEXBLITZ system I have been has to do with stacking. Rather than log the SPs of every stand, I have been inclined to group stands into higher formations - up to Division level in some instances. That does create certain problems, of course, most obviously in the allocation of Strength Points. But iy also has implications in combat: imagine trying to evict from a defensive position a Division of SP6 (this is a weak Division, you understand), when you have to roll 5-5 and 6-6.

    I guess at some point I'll have to collate all my adaptations. But I do like the elegance of the D,S,M system. In our \Operation Uranus' game late last year, Paul and I tried attacks having to score 6s, but dropping the first 6 scored in the game to account for the field works. We eventually switched the priority chits to formation rather than unit. The action went a lot more briskly after that.

    We both enjoyed the game hugely, and reckon on doing it again, with some slight changes to the map and the starting set up.

    We reckoned we were on to something!
    Ion A(Archduke Piccolo) Dowman

    1. Good to have you on board.

      I need to look at stacking and strength points as my units have no facility for placing numbers like Bob or putting in pins, like Chris.

      Placing the order cards by higher formation is the way to go, - if you haven't looked at Op14, take the time to download the rules, top right. That's what Richard Brooks does with them, and
      it quickens the game up.

      I think the 5,5 or 6,6 is tough. I wonder how much difference it would make to have it as just pairs or 5s and 6s.

      The major omission is airpower, and that needs to be dealt with at some point.

      My interest is mainly pre-WW2, so expect to see something SCW linked pop up shortly.

    2. The probability of rolling doubles on a pair of dice is exactly the same as rolling sevens - and the same as rolling a '6', say, on a single die; 1 chance out of 6. So the probability of rolling just 5-5 or 6-6 is 1 chance in 18.

      I should do some maths on this, but a little experiment indicates that if 6 SPs attack 2 SP defending, the latter could expect to knock 1 SP off the attackers, and the attackers have less than a 50-50 chance of inflicting any loss on the defenders.

      The experiment was 100 rolls of 6 dice. The results wer
      0 hits - 61 rolls
      1 hit - 32 rolls
      2 hits - 7 rolla (enough to wipe out a 2SP defender)
      3 hits - 0 (possible, of course, but the probability too low to register on a 100-roll experiment).|

      If it turns out that this little experiment is reasonably close to the theoretical expectations (I'm not going to do a chi-squared to determine this!) I may well be persuaded to stay with Bob's system!

    3. hat I was looking at was the options available on a d6, and the need to make it more difficult when attacking a dug in defender. Clearly you want it to be harder than in the open and rolling a 5 or 6. Requiring two of either a 5 or a 6 will effectively halve the chance of hitting. It is the magnitude of the adjustment that I'm not sure about

  5. Nice operational size
    Seems a suitable set of rules for my WW2 20mm model collection
    Just basing some Romanians at the moment ;)
    Stalingrad beckons

    1. Having read the rules properly I think they'll give a manageable operational game, that's quite slick. The absence of airpower is the big gap.