Tank Tales #2: Ready, Aim, Fire!

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As we have been playtesting Tank Duel: Enemy in the Crosshairs, the number one thing that players want to learn about is how the game works once the shells start flying. Tank Duel draws inspiration from games like Up Front, Panzer and Combat Commander, with an abstract movement system but detailed fire action resolution procedure which uses cards for multiple purposes. This article will give you some insight into what the fire action resolution procedure looks like, and how that information is spread out between the Battle Cards and Tank Boards.

In Tank Duel, combat is resolved by drawing and revealing the top card of the Battle Deck. The Battle Deck is composed of 100 Battle Cards, numbered 1-100. These numbers represent the probability of success for the core game actions. The Battle Deck is constructed differently for each game, as players select the terrain and scenario that they want to play. No matter how the deck is constructed, however, it will always include 100 uniquely numbered cards. When it comes time to take your shot, several key pieces of information are printed on each Battle Card.

Each Battle Card is printed with a number in the top left and lower right corner, which is the Battle Number. The Battle Number is used during the Initiative Phase to determine turn order, as well as being used to check for success of firing, concealment, or hull down. It is also used to check the state of less desirable conditions like whether your tank gets bogged down in bad terrain. This number is printed in the top left to make it easy to reference while in your hand, and also in the lower right for playing the card during the initiative round.

In the lower right corner the last digit of the Battle Number is printed in crosshairs. This is the Target Number. The target number is used to determine the hit location during the fire action, assuming the shot hits the target. Each tank has different armor on it’s front, sides, turret, and tracks, so hitting the right spot is essential. Experienced tank Commanders will quickly grasp the importance of making sure their shots hit exactly the right spot.

At the bottom center of the Battle Card is the Penetration Modifier (Pen Mod). This is used to modify the penetration value of a given fire action. In order to penetrate the armor of the enemy tanks, your penetration value must be equal to or higher than the armor value of the tank in the location you hit it. The closer your tank is to the enemy, the higher your starting penetration value. Historically, one of the major design considerations for a tank was how much armor it could carry; different tank models had different armor thickness on the turret and hull, which varied on the front and sides.

The variety of uses for the cards in Tank Duel becomes apparent in a single round of play. Let’s look at a round of combat from a game I played with the designer, Mike Bertucelli. I was playing as the Germans, driving a pair of PzKpfw IV Ausf. G, while Mike was driving two Soviet T-34/76. On my previous turn I moved one tank closer to get a better shot, but had no terrain in my hand in which to take cover. I placed my Move card into my Holding Box, which left my tank In Motion. Tanks that are In Motion are harder to hit, but vulnerable to unfavorable terrain.

Mike saw an opportunity to put my tank at a disadvantage and played a card with a very low Battle Number during the Initiative Phase. Because I was In Motion, Mike used a Field Action to play some nasty terrain against me – a minefield! The effect on the mine card means that if I try to leave the minefield, I have to draw a card from the damage deck and apply the “Track Damage” effect.

The best case scenario when checking track damage is that my tank would lose ½ of it’s move level, making moving very difficult. That puts me in an extremely precarious position! To make matters worse, Mike moved into the woods and successfully concealed his tank, so I lost my spot marker: not only am I pinned in one spot, but I can’t even see the enemy!

So what is left for me to do? Fortunately, Tank Duel never leaves a crafty Commander without options. For my turn, I had three priorities: First, regain my spot marker for Mike’s tank, enabling me to fire on him. Second, find a way to mitigate an attack on my helpless tank. Finally, if possible, I wanted to fire on Mike, or at least find a way to disrupt his plans.

Normally, spotting the enemy requires you to discard any card from your hand, and reveal a Battle Card. If the Battle Card has the Spot icon (Binoculars) you successfully spot the enemy tank. That counts as your Tank Action for the round – you can’t fire right away, as your commander spent the entire round searching for the enemy. Fortunately for me, I am holding a Command card, which I play as a Field Action to automatically spot Mike’s tank.

Field Actions let you improve your tactical position by playing any number of Scenario cards or Command cards, play a terrain card on a moving opponent (like Mike did with the Mine card), or discard a card to draw a replacement at the end of your turn. These actions are in addition to your normal Tank Action, and mastering them is the difference between victory and defeat.

Now that I’ve spotted Mike, I turn to my Tank Action. Even though I am in a minefield, nothing’s wrong with my gun, so I fire! Being at 600m gives me excellent odds: at 600m I need to draw a battle card with a Battle Number of 84 or less to hit. Mike is in the woods, so he modifies that number by -10 for Cover, and his tank is a bit smaller than average, so he gains another -5 to the hit number, leaving us with a 69 or lower for the round to find it’s mark. To resolve the Fire Action, I reveal and discard the top Battle Card. I want the number on the card to be 69 or lower to get a hit.

The resulting card has an Battle Number of 1! Success! But simply hitting a target does not mean I have damaged it; next we determine the hit location. I draw another Battle Card, checking the number inside the crosshair, and refer to the opponent’s Tank board for Hit Locations. In this case the Target Number in the crosshairs is a 4, meaning I hit my opponent on the hull. Since he is not flanked, I hit him in the front, where his armor is thickest. All that remains is to see if the shot penetrates his armor. At 600m, my Panzer has a penetration value of 11; the armor value on the T-34’s front hull is only 9. That means I need my Battle Card draw to have a penetration Mod better than -3 and not be an automatic bounce (Pen Mod: B). Fortunately I draw a -1, and with a modified penetration value of 10, my shot penetrates the armor on the T-34 easily. Boom!

Mike draws a Damage Card and resolves it. First we check for a critical hit by comparing the number at the top of the Damage Card with the Target Number of the Battle Card drawn to check the Pen Mod. In this case, they don’t match, but
when they do match, players resolve the Critical Hit section of the card. Next, we look at the color of the Pen Mod text; red 
is heavy damage, black is light damage. Mike’s tank takes light damage so he resolves the “Hull Light Damage” section of the card: his Loader and Gunner are both wounded! Being wounded makes it harder for them to bail out should the need arise, and makes it more likely I will score points for killing them in a future round. Since both of these personnel are important for firing, Mike loses -1 to his fire level for his Loader and Gunner, making it harder for him to fire on my tank.

Mike also resolves a Morale check – having a round perforate the armor of your tank is enough to break even a veteran crew. Mike checks the icons on the right of the card from top to bottom. Some icons have red “X” under them – if the condition represented by that icon is true, the crew breaks! Mike has a Seasoned Crew so he checks the second icon and passes; none of the other icons apply in this case (from Top to Bottom: Green Crew, Seasoned Crew, Veteran Crew, Commander Wounded/Dead, Immobilized, On Fire).

Finally, I have the option to acquire Mike’s tank as a target. Now that I’ve fired, my gunner can fine tune the shot and give me a greater chance to hit on subsequent shots. The downside is that I lose any spots that I have on other tanks. In this case, I choose not to acquire Mike as I already have a great chance of hitting, and don’t want to lose my spot on his other tank.

I’ve achieved two of the three objectives for this turn, but I’m still a sitting duck. To remedy that I take a field action and discard a relatively useless card. That enables me to draw a replacement at the end of the round. Don’t underestimate the value of drawing an extra card! If I’m lucky, I’ll draw a Smoke card, and disappear from the battlefield in a puff of Smoke before Mike can take a shot.

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4 thoughts on “Tank Tales #2: Ready, Aim, Fire!

  1. Just wondering… The text says “Mike checks the icons on the right of the card from top to bottom. Some icons have red “X” under them – if the condition represented by that icon is true, the crew breaks! Mike has a Seasoned Crew so he checks the second icon and passes; …”
    However, the card pictured is sporting a red X for a seasoned crew – shouldn’t they break?

  2. This game looks great. Made my preorder! I can see the need for mid-to-late war tanks, East and West because that’s what everyone wants, but I hope eventually there can be add-ons including French and early British tanks, maybe even Czech and Polish. Also, maybe I missed it, but will there be cards that add combined arms, i.e., infantry and anti-tank effects? Are there setup cards for weather effects such as rain, mud, snow, fog, which may affect different tanks in different ways (weight displacement on snow or mud, for example)?