Blitzkrieg - Commodore 64 - 1984

The unusual case of the unofficial, 'official' video game of the book

These days we're used to all-action war simulations like Call of Duty and Gears of War. Back in 1984, videogames were much simpler and definitely single player. One such example was Blitzkrieg, a simulation of the German invasion of France in 1940.

It is still not clear how this came to be referred to as Len Deighton's Blitzkrieg, clearly making reference to the book Blitzkrieg published five years earlier. While it makes only passing reference to the book in the instructions and on the pack, it was - the evidence seems to suggest - officially endorsed by Deighton and his publishers.

Yet, strangely, there is no author photograph on the game packaging or references in the game itself. The gameplay, while broadly covering the same themes and period as the book, has no direct link to Len's core thesis. As the book was first published five years earlier, there's also no obvious launch tie-in aspect either. It's a very odd contra-marketing strategy.

It seems the game makers wanted to associate the game with the writer of one of the most popular histories of this era, to provide a degree of authenticity; from Deighton's publisher's perspective, it was maybe an opportunity to cross-market the book to the growing market for gamers in the eighties.

The game is ostensibly a real-time war game running the period May to September 1940; the average game time was forty minutes, so this was no intense strategy game. The player controls divisions and industrial units in NW France, each of which had its own data card. The gameplay, however, was poor and required little skill, though it was well programmed.

The graphics were, for the early 1980s, relatively good, more so on the Commodore 128K version of the game. Each copy of the game came with a map of north-east France, the Benelux countries and western Germany. Interestingly, the player is asked to command the German High Command only, making clearer perhaps the link to Deighton's book which focuses on the strategy of the German army. The player is given 80,000 additional points if they defeat Britain; players also have the option of winning without capturing Paris, which is clearly unhistorical.

By all accounts, looking at reviews of the game from the period, Blitzkrieg lacked the sort of thrills which early gamers were looking for and - even allowing for the limited technology of the time - was not a massive seller. It also had little actual link with the narrative of Deighton's book.

The game's designers were John Lambshead, Gordon Paterson and Nicholas Palmer, who also designed the novel tie-in novel for Frederick Forsythe's The Fourth Protocol.

A .pdf of the review of the game in the popular games review magazine of the time, Zzap 64, can be found here.


The box cover of the game


The contents of the game, ready to play