Panzer Campaigns France '40 Interview (PC)
Si: Hello, what can you tell us about yourself?
HPS Simulations: Well, I'm not quite 50 years old - I've got a wife and two kids - got my first Wargame when I was 12 years old -a boardgame by Avalon Hill called "Africa Korps". I got into PC Wargames later than many people my age simply because I didn't have a computer. My first PC was a 486 33Mhz so that puts me into PC Games at around the time that Atomic was making the "V for Victory" and Steel Panthers was first released so I missed a lot of the real old classics.
Si: Why did you choose the events in France for your game? The Second World War is full of battles.
HPS Simulations: Well, France '40 is part of a long Series - Panzer Campaigns by HPS Simulations and developed by John Tiller and first released in 1999. The Series has continued to be expanded and enhanced. The France 40 title is actually the 12th of the Series. In reverse release order here are our other titles France '40 Alamein '42 Market Garden '44 Rzhev '42 Sicily '43 Kursk '43 Korsun '44 Bulge '44 Tobruk '41 Kharkov '42 Normandy '44 Smolensk '41 And we have more games on the go at various stages of development. France '40 was just another of the good ideas along the way and of this game John Tiller had been contacted by a French wargamer - David Guégan - who had a great deal of detailed information of the French and Belgian Order-of-Battles and this was the missing link required to make this game a reality.
Si: Why such a short period of time?
HPS Simulations: Well - the time scale is 2 hour day turns and 4 hour nights - so the period we've covered in France '40 lasts 140 game turn and ends when Hitler ordered the Panzer Halted so that the Luftwaffe could finish off the British and French at Dunkirk. We also included a 188 turn version of the Campaign so that players can see what would happen if such a HALT order was not given, but a lot can happen in a game with over 100 game turns and there is no telling there will be a Dunkirk encirclement.
Si: How close is the game to historical events?
HPS Simulations: Well, I guess we have to wait and see what the public says but so far we are really pleased with comments from people who have purchased the game. However we carried out extensive testing prior to release and we figure it is pretty good. That said what you have to consider here is that the Germans historically won a Major Victory - the question for which there is no answer is was this fluke or was it a forgone conclusion that the Germans would win. What we have done is set up a situation - or rather a number of variants where by the actually German Victory is one possible conclusion but not a certainty. So for one variant we've FIX the Allied units or forced the Allies to act historically and move the vast bulk of their Army into central Belgium. There is only limited and historically available troops allowed to move freely to stem the axis tide through the Ardennes until the Allies discovered the extent of their error. Another options gives free movement to Allied troops as people will want to try this. But here with hindsight, the Allied player will not be fooled by the Panzer moving through the Ardennes.
Si: How does the battlefield look like?
HPS Simulations: I think we have a very accurate map of the Battlefield. We create our game maps by scanning in a period Topographic map of an appropriate scale and then load this huge image file into a proprietary mapping tool and then we superimpose a hexagon grid with one hex to 1 km scale. Then we paint in the details one hex at a time making four passes over the entire map. Once for Water, then topography (contoured ground elevation), then culture, including roads, towns woods swamps, and finally Labels. For France '40 the map has close to 80,000 hexagons that have been examined in detail more than once. This aspect of our games is done by Dave "Blackie" Blackburn - …I just don't want anyone to think making the game is a one man show - it is a total team effort. Lots of people involved and many are not as active as I am on the various forum.
Si: Could you tell us about the tactical aspect of the game? What does the player actually do?
HPS Simulations: Well, we call this series Operational in scope but others have called it grand tactical if you like. Our Game scale is 2 hour turns and 1 km hexes - tactical would be more like 250m Hexes and turns lasting minutes not hours. In any case the game puts you in command of a ground force that might have some Air Support assets that it can be called upon. The number of units and turns depends upon the scenario your playing. I mentioned the 140 and 188 turns in the Campaign and in these scenarios you command thousand of unit counters. Typically there are 25 to 35 scenarios per game with a few of these large Campaigns and more battles which last 10 or 20 turns - one or two days over a limited area. For example we have Sedan and Dinant as smaller scenarios in France '40. The game is turn Based or "U-go I-go" in style. One side moves all their units and fights and the other side has a go. After both sides have played the game advances to the next turn.
Si: Do the units gain experience?
HPS Simulations: No - they don't gain experience at this scale - we rate each unit on a A to F bases in the Order-of-battle which represents their Quality but as they fight the lose not only strength, but build up FATIGUE or Battle Fatigue and with that Quality suffers - the unit does not perform as well until it is pulled out of the line, rested and recovers to the initial rating. But a Unit rated as C Quality will never gain experience beyond the C levels.
Si: Is there any multiplayer?
HPS Simulations: There is Multiplay in ON-LINE play, but to be honest it isn't used much simply. Multiplayer is best suited for large Campaigns and they take too long to play in Live on-line play. However a lot of players do TEAM Play in Play-by-email games where one side passes the file around and everyone does their part and then sends it out to the other side.
Si: Are there any plans for another games of same type, but different times of war?
HPS Simulations: Well sure - we have the 12 I mentioned and we'll have a new game coming out in June - and several new ones in the works as well. Also - we have the Modern Campaigns Series - this is a sister Series to Panzer Games with slightly larger hexes and longer turns (3 hours in each day turn.) We have in this series: Middle East '67 (which covers '56,and '73 too) Fulda Gap '85 - a hypothetical War between NATO and the Warsaw Pact Korea '85 - another War set at the same time but obviously in Asia and North German Plain '85 - the northern extension of the Fulda Gap Game where more of the NATO Allied units such as British, Dutch and Belgians are featured.
Si: Would you like to add anything?
HPS Simulations: Sure – I like to add a couple points if I may. 1) I first like to acknowledge that putting together a Panzer Campaign title is a team event where there are some guys involved come in for a title here and there to add expertise and others work quietly in the background on all of the games. There is also a good size group of experienced playtesters who take a very active role in making any game and getting the right feel before the public sees it. Everyone contributes where they can and take pride in the final product. 2) Look for John Tiller and HPS to produce a new game – the first of a new series covering WWII at a different scale than has been done before. This title is the first of a several part series that will cover the entire war. 3) On the Weekend of June 17-19 in Richmond Virginia – there will be the first ever “Tillercon” – a face to meeting of fans of John Tiller games. We have a hall with a bunch of PCs setup where we can play Head-to-Head on all John Tiller games. A number of the principles will be there – John Tiller of course, Rich Hamilton, my partner Blackie Blackburn and I are coming from Canada. We’ve even got Adam Parker a tester and person who helps us with Art and Started.HLP tutorials coming all the way from Australia. So if you enjoy John Tiller games and can be in the area around that time, we would love to have you join us. It is sure to be a lot of fun. Details on the event are at: http://www.hist-sdc.com/con/
Si: Thank you for your time at Strategyinformer.com
HPS Simulations: It was my pleasure.