Saturday, 13 November 2010

The origins of Megablitz

Recently, Tim Gow has been featuring some of his MEGABLITZ units on his website MEGABLITZ AND MORE, and it made me recall to mind how the MEGABLITZ wargame rules evolved (see Note below).


At a Conference of Wargamers (COW) many years ago, Chris Kemp put on a session that involved demonstrating how a Russian Motor Rifle Regiment looked when deployed in a road column that was about to be ambushed by a British armoured reconnaissance platoon. Even though the number of vehicles were represented in a ratio of one 1:300th scale model vehicle per three actual vehicles, the column stretched almost from one end of the room to the other, and the Russian commander – Phil Barker – actually had to sit outside in the garden and command his regiment by shouting orders through the window!

As a result of the subsequent discussion and feedback, Chris developed his ROTORBLITZ wargames rules, which he demonstrated at a subsequent COW. These rules were designed so that it was possible to fight the large-scale battles that would have taken place had the Warsaw Pact and NATO ever had to fight each other. The session was entitled ‘Sci-Fi on the Rhine’ and the rules worked very well indeed.

Spurred on by his success, Chris then developed NOT QUITE MECHANISED (NQM), which was a set of divisional-level rules set in the 1935 – 1945 era. The lowest level unit represented on the tabletop was usually the company, although some types of platoon were also deployed. These rules attracted a lot of attention within Wargame Developments, and several large battles were fought at COW, Chris’s house, and in the warehouse attached to Chris’s shop in Wellingborough.

By this time Chris Willey, Tim Gow and I were very keen on the rules, and felt that they could be developed so that corps-level battles could be fought. After one particular game played in Chris Willey’s basement on a Saturday morning, we began to discuss how we could do this. Over lunch, we decided that the lowest level unit we wanted to represent on the tabletop was a battalion or its equivalent. We also decided that a unit’s or a formation’s ‘state’ should be represented by an order counter, and that this ‘state’ would affect a unit’s movement and its effectiveness in combat. Thus was born the SMART order system. SMART stood for:
  • S = Static
  • M = Mobile
  • A = Attack
  • R = Retreat
  • T = Transit
A combat matrix – which was similar to the sort of Combat Resolution Tables used in board wargames – was also drawn up. That afternoon we tried our ideas out … and found that they worked!

From this small beginning, Tim Gow began to develop MEGABLITZ, and I well remember the first game we played with them – again at Chris Willey’s house. The scenario – the Battle of Dot Sur La Mappe – is featured in the published rules and on the MEGABLITZ website. The rest, as they say, is history (and a bl**dy good set of wargames rules, even if I say it myself!).

Note: Like all recollections, I may well have got some of the events featured above slightly out of order or have forgotten something important. If I have done, it has not been done deliberately – I plead old age and a failing memory in mitigation – and I am sure that Chris Kemp, Chris Willey, and especially Tim Gow, will correct my mistakes.

10 comments:

  1. Good plug Bob, I have set but haven't taken them for a spin

    They have jumped up the list

    Thanks for this post :)

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  2. Geordie an Exiled FoG,

    The important thing to remember about Megablitz is that although the rules can be used 'as is' from the book, they are more of a 'toolkit' that requires the players to have a reasonable knowledge of military history. When they first came out, there were complaints from some people that the rules were not detailed enough, that the rules required honest players to work properly (something that some wargamers had a problem with apparently!) ... and 'rules lawyers' hated them because there were not enough 'technical' points for them to argue about.

    The rules are intended to be used to fight battles where players command division/corps plus sized forces, and the main playing pieces are battalions. Megablitz is more like a board game played with 3D pieces than a 'conventional' tabletop wargame.

    Supply and logistics are very important in Megablitz, and after a day or so a division (particularly armoured divisions) can easily run out of supplies and begin to lose effectiveness.

    Give them a go. You may like them or you may not, but I would certainly recommend them if you are interested in fighting large battles in a reasonable amount of space.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  3. It all sounds rather interesting and may provide some useful thoughts for a potential late 19th/early 20thC game thats been in the back of my mind and may finally emerge next year. Somethung to add to my list for next year.

    Thanks
    Ross

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  4. Bob
    Your post took me right back to having to duck our heads in Chris Willey's cellar! With regard to the facts, I'm with you up to and including paragraph four, but there our recollections differ. The SMART discussion arose after an early Megablitz playtest (a recognisable but very different game) Maybe I should write up the early days myself?
    Tim

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  5. Ross Mac,

    The Megablitz system works. If you have a look at the blogs written by Tim Gow and Martin Rapier you will see some of the pre- and post-World War II games they have run using the basic Megablitz system. Tim even wrote a Napoleonic version entitled 'A Wee Dram' (D, R, A, and M were the letters on the order markers!).

    All the best,

    Bob

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  6. Tim Gow,

    I must admit that I was not quite sure when the SMART order markers were introduced; I was sure that it was at that initial game, but I am probably wrong!

    A history of how Megablitz developed would make quite interesting reading for those of us who have used the rules, as they show the various strands of experience and game design that came together during their development.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. Bob
    I shall add it to my (long) project list!
    Tim

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  8. Tom Gow,

    Do you know of any wargamer worthy of that title who does not have a long list of projects?

    All the best,

    Bob

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  9. Thanks for this commentary Bob. I like the large-scale rules sets I have found, mostly Martin Rapier's demo games etc. I would like to get a set of Megablitz rules but they are hard to locate in North America.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Itmurnau,

    I am glad that you liked the blog entry.

    I am unsure where the Megablitz rules can be bought in the US, but Tim Gow does read my blog, and may be able to help you. You could also contact him yourself via his blog Megablitz and more.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete