NOTE: All photos and art are play test versions.
GMT Weekend at the Warehouse, October 2016. Across the table from me is Mike Bertucelli. Mike has become a close friend, tested through the wars developing Liberty or Death. We have been gaming together since we met 4 years ago and he is a great guy to play with. That’s true with one exception: when we play Tank Duel. As a tank commander, Mike’s football coaching lineage comes to the surface. He seems to beat me every time we play and does a victory dance over my smoking hulk. My intent is revenge and I have been practicing my victory dance.
Mike and I gave birth to Tank Duel just over 2 years ago but I abandoned our child. Mike has raised her and the game is much better for it. We both have a passion for WW2 war machines and tactical games in general. We both believe we need more games that play in 60 to 120 minutes or less, produce punch counter punch action, and are scalable from 2 to 8 players. Tank Duel does just that for an era that we both love. Each player starts with a “Tank Board” that acts as the control panel. It has ranges and penetrations, crew dispositions, movement and fire ratings, and spaces for markers when these things change in combat. Each player has a hand of cards (more cards if you control more tanks) that give you the ability to move, find cover, fire, command, and do other things. You can even play combinations of cards to do all sorts of cool things.
In summary the game has a highly abstracted movement and maneuver system but a highly detailed attack resolution system. What more would a WW2 tank lover want?
In this session, Mike plays the Germans and I play the Russians. He says the front armor of the T-34/76 may provide me with enough defensive benefit to even our skills deficit. While it seems a little like a premature victory dance I let the comment slide. Plus, I’m always happy to crush German tanks in defense of the Motherland. Mike will be playing with a PzKpfw IV Ausf G which has a 75mm Kwk 40 L/43. This gun will have to be within 1,000 meters to have a good chance at penetrating (perforating) my T34. While my gun is weaker, so is his frontal armor. He will be exposed earlier as he moves to critical range. I may be able to get in a few more shots if I can stay at range.
Deck 3 Turn 1
It is late in the game and Mike is up by 5 Victory Points. We just shuffled the battle deck for the second time – this will be our last deck with the End card randomly placed. We are both at 600 meters from the center point (totaling 1,200 meters apart). Initial hands are dealt and I have 6 cards to play. We determine initiative first by playing a card face down. I chose to play a Flank 8 card with a high initiative number (81) as I want to go second and my tank is not fast enough to use the Flank 8 card (my Movement Rating is 7). Mike, with clearly a much better hand, burns a much better card for initiative, a dual use Flank 4 / Fire 4 with an initiative number of 33. Mike goes first.
The Panzer IV lurches forward with a three card combo of 2 Move cards and a Woods terrain card on top. The second Move card he plays is not low enough for his tank’s move level Rating so to cure that Mike plays a couple of cards with 2 Command icons each to increase his move level by 1 so he can play the second move card. The three card combo moves the tank 400 meters closer ending in wooded terrain – harder to see and harder to hit. So much for my “get a few shots off before he can” strategy. The good news for me is his movement has allowed me to automatically spot him. Mike does get to pull a battle card and compare its number against the Woods card Concealment number to see if he effectively hides but it doesn’t work. I can see him but he can’t see me, yet.
My turn and I contemplate a new strategy. I don’t have the cards to effectively maneuver against the Panzerkommandant, but I do have the ability to get off a pretty good shot. The downside is Mike will automatically spot me once I fire and I am sitting in the open. I need to make it a good one. Fire! I play a Fire 6 card and a rare Leadership card. Despite reductions in hit probability form him hiding in the woods and a smaller silhouette, the Leadership card gives me a total hit probability of 84%. I pull a card from the battle deck and it is less than 84% indicating a hit. We determine the hit location by pulling from the battle deck and looking at the target number. The Panzer IV is hit in the Front Hull providing the highest armor value in the tank. Unfortunately the penetration modifier on the next battle card pulled is -3 reducing my penetration at 1,200 meters enough that the shell bounces. In Initiative Number Concealment Number summary nothing accomplished but now the Panzer IV can see me in the open within penetration range. I close my turn by taking a Field Action to discard another useless card. This enables me to draw 4 cards for the new turn, as does Mike.
Deck 3 Turn 2
My hand is better for maneuver this turn but no terrain to move into. My Smoke card could allow me to conceal from the Panzerkommandant but my Russian tank does not have a smoke dispenser. My best bet will be to drive like the wind, perhaps to increase the range and stay in the open. My tank will be much harder to hit on the move and I can use the low initiative number on the Smoke card to go first (hopefully). My Smoke card wins the initiative as Mike burns a much higher number, relinquishing initiative to me. One Move card increases our Target Number Fire Level Number Pen Modifier relative range by 200 meters and makes me much harder to hit. A Field Action allows me to burn another card with the hope of a better draw.
From the woods, the Panzer IV watches me run and tracks me as I go. Waiting for a shot I am surprised to see another brutal three card combo: Move, Flank, Woods! Closing another 200 meters, Mike slips back into the Woods but now has me Flanked, exposing my side armor to Fire from the Panzer IV. To make matters worse for the Russians, Mike is successful at his unlikely Concealment pull and now I can’t see him. My bad luck continues as Mike uses his Field Action to force me to stop into an open field removing the protection of the Movement card. In summary I am stopped in the open, flanked by a Panzer IV I cannot see by an opponent who can’t dance (but will if he wins).
Deck 3 Turn 3
My tank sits at a major disadvantage to Mike’s so it will be in my best interest to seize the initiative. That means I will have to use a good card (with a low initiative number), reducing my options further. Fortunately, I will be able to burn a Mud card for initiative and still be able to move into a Gully. No Firing option this turn but that’s fine as I need to move.
Mike, of course, does not enable my plan, playing a valuable Command card for initiative beating my Mud card by a wide margin. I’m just hoping Mike doesn’t have a Fire card.
Of course, Mike plays a Fire 2 card with a Leadership card improving his probability to hit by 20%. His hit probability is so high my only hope is the auto miss pull – unlikely. Mike pulls a hit and I pull a Turret hit location. The Turret is slightly better armor than the side Hull but Mike has a good chance of penetrating either way. He pulls a card with a +1 penetration enhancement making damage a sure thing. Now I draw a damage card……… The damage deck continues my run of poor luck as the Damage card indicates a Critical Hit! My crew is stunned and the Commander is KIA. My hand is reduced by 2 immediately and I have to check for fire. I pull another damage card for fire check with no fire. My stunned crew, does not pass its moral check.
It’s my turn and my Commander is dead. During my administration phase I must pull a battle card and check it to see if I pass a moral check and I do, now I may do a little dance. I have 2 cards in my hand and the Gully card was pulled from my hand as a result of the critical hit. Once again I play a Move card to make my T34 harder to hit. I will leave the Movement card on the tank and stay in motion in the hope of finding some terrain next turn as we increase our relative range by 200 meters. Since I am moving I can pull a battle card to see if I can get out of the flanked position. Success! Now I face the Panzer IV head on again at 1,000 meters and we can both see each other.
Deck 3 Turn 4
With a dead Commander I draw 1 less card and reduce my Move and Fire level by 2. This turn I draw a perfect hand to Fire but I am on the move and it will make a hit much tougher. The initiative goes to the good guys as I burn a great Flank card to be sure I can Fire first. I play 2 Fire cards and a Leadership card combo. In response to my 3 card combo Mike plays a Tactics card which removes one of my Fire cards. I can’t select the hit location now but the Fire combat still occurs. Even though my Movement reduces my to hit probability by 40%, my Leadership card helps enough and with a pull of 25 I hit his tank. A little luck comes my way as I get the unlikely hit location of the Tracks. He draws a Damage card that indicates he is immobilized. Against the odds Mike’s crew does not break thus staying in the tank. Perfect.
Mike rolls his eyes at me and the Damage cards. He clearly had another maneuver and Flank in mind. He uses a Field Action to put me in the open field and discards another card as his Tank Action. My Motherland defending crew lives to fight in the next turn.
Deck 3 Turn 5
The cards are starting to fall my way as I pull a low Movement card, a low Flank card and a Tactics card. Mike gets the initiative and takes another shot at me in the open. My Tactics response card stops the attack (and Mike doesn’t have one to respond with) resulting in a groan from Mike. During my turn I play my Move card, play a Flank card exposing his side armor to attack and play a terrain card to slide into the Woods. My chance at Concealment fails. There is a good chance that the first to attack next turn could be a kill shot.
Deck 3 Turn 6
The card draw gods smile on me again with 2 useable Fire cards. The other 3 cards I draw are terrible initiative cards and I want to go first. I would like to play 2 Fire cards to keep the German player from playing a Tactics card to avoid my attack. The tradeoff is I will likely have to fire second as my other cards are high numbered probability cards. I’m not going to take the chance of missing out on a shot so I will play a weak initiative card. As a result Mike wins initiative and as expected takes a shot.
My Woods terrain card reduces his chance to hit but not by enough. The Panzer IV hits my Hull and penetrates. The Damage Card Wounds the Driver and the Assistant Driver. Unbelievably, I avoid a fire and my crew passes a Moral Check with a dead Commander. The Motherland is smiling upon the gunner who will get one more shot at the German Panzer IV.
My play is two Fire cards. Mike chooses not play a Tactical card in response. A hit is easy as I pull a 22. I chose to hit him in the Hull and since he is flanked the shell penetrates like a hot knife through butter. It’s all a question of the Damage card. The resulting perforation kills his Commander and Wounds 3 crew members. To make matters worse for the Panzer IV Mike has to check for Explosion and Fire. Mike’s injured crew can’t avoid the Explosion check as the Immobilized Panzer IV brews up launching its turret into the air.
Mike gets to pull for survival of the remaining 4 crew members (the Commander is dead). The wounded Driver loses his first survival pull. The wounded Assistant Driver passes both pulls and escapes taking his victory points with him. The wounded Loader makes his first pull but doesn’t make the second dying with the tank ironically pulling the End Game card as the second pull ending the game (after explosion resolution). The Gunner makes his pull and escapes to fight another day. As a result I get 3 VPs for the tank, 5 for the Commander, and 2 each for the Driver and Loader totaling 12 points. Subtracting the 5 VPs for my dead Commander I squeak by with a winning margin of 2 VPs.
I finally got my revenge match and we did not have to watch Mike dance. Don’t worry, I didn’t dance either – what a crazy game, VICTORY is sooooo sweet.