Tank Tales #3: Advanced Command Pt. 1

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In our last post, we discussed the detailed Fire Action Resolution Procedure in Tank Duel: Enemy in the Crosshairs. While that example is typical of normal play, there are many different options available to Commanders who wish to outwit the enemy. In the next two articles, we will use a series of examples, each building on the last, to more fully explore the possibilities of a Tank Action, and see the consequences of our actions play out through the Administration Phase of the game.

This article builds on the basics of combat outline in the previous article; it’s suggested that readers familiarize themselves with these concepts to best understand the examples below.

Play Note: For ease of explanation, each example has been scaled down to a 1v1 engagement. In a real game of Tank Duel: Enemy in the Crosshairs, expect to play engagements with at least 2 tanks per side. This will greatly increase the richness of the strategic decisions presented here and provide more exciting experiences.

Example: StuG III G vs. T-34/85 at 1600m

In this matchup, we’re isolating on one German tank in a one vs. many scenario, 2 StuG III vs. a Single Russian T-34/85. The Sturmgeschütz III was the most produced German AFV in World War 2. Mounting the same gun as the Panzer IV, the StuG had the stopping power to take out the T-34, but against the more modern T-34/85, the StuG was only effective at very close range: 800m or less. By contrast, the T-34/85 mounts an 85mm gun which can penetrate the StuG’s armor at long ranges, up to 2000m. As the German commander, I have to employ Cover and use all of my wits to ensure that I survive this engagement.

On my first turn, I move my StuG up 400m, hoping that by closing quickly I can level the playing field. I also get to draw an additional card at the end of the round once my tank is within 400m of the center of the battlefield, since being in the thick of things gives me more options. Any advantage I can get will help me out wit my enemy. My opponent Spots my tank since I moved, but by staying In Motion I minimize the chances of his shot hitting me. Instead of taking the very low chance shot, the Russian commander moves up 200 meters and stops his tank in the Woods. I spot him, but he has a chance to Conceal his tank because he has just entered terrain with the red Conceal keyword. He reveals the top card of the Battle Deck, looking for a number equal to or lower than the Wood’s Concealment value, but fails to conceal his tank.

Our next turn starts with me again having the initiative, and my top priority is to Conceal to force the Russian tank to lose sight of me. The old axiom “you can’t shoot what you can’t see” is wise advice in Tank Duel. I move up another 200m – now we are only 800m apart! – and stop in some rubble. This is a high risk, high reward decision. If I reveal a Battle Card with a Battle Number 30 or lower, the Russian can’t see me, but I also have to check if my tank Bogs Down by revealing a second Battle Card. I check for concealment, and succeed! I can see Ivan but he can’t see me. Next I check if I Bog Down: on a 20 or lower, I bog. Fortunately, I reveal a 91 and my StuG continues to move freely.

Imagine the frustration the Russian Commander feels – he has me in his sights and a clear kill shot but I manage to hide in the rubble. Fortunately he is holding a Command Card. Command Cards are special because they can be played as a Field Action: on your turn you may take as many Field Actions as you like, but only one Tank Action. By playing a Command Card as a Field Action, the Russian Commander can create combination plays that allow him to quickly react to conditions on the field.

Our Russian plays the Command Card and decides that he wants to resolve the bottom text: “Gain one of the following: SPOT, HULL DOWN, or CONCEAL.” He decides to spot my StuG and in a moment the tables are turned. At 800m, he has an excellent shot, no matter what type of terrain I try to hide in. His 81 To Hit is modified to a 56 due to my Cover from the Rubble (-15) and my StuG’s smaller size (-10). Still, any hit at this range is almost certain to penetrate my StuG, so I play a Tactics Card from my hand as a response to the Russian’s Tank Action.

Tactics cards can be used to cancel an enemy’s Spot or Flank attempt during a Tank Action, prevent an enemy from playing a Terrain Card during a Field Action, or to reduce an enemy’s To Hit number by 20 during a Fire Action. Once a player has played a Tactics Card as a response, their opponent can cancel it with another Tactics Card, and so on until one player cannot respond. In this case, I play the Tactics card to reduce the Russian’s To Hit number by another 20 to a 36. And a good thing too, as the revealed Battle Card shows a 41; a sure hit if I didn’t have the tactical advantage.

How this scenario would continue is anyone’s bet, but hopefully this showed the versatility of Command and Tactics cards, and the value of Terrain for Concealment and Cover.

Example: PzKpfw VI Ausf. E (Tiger I) vs. KV-85 at 800m

The KV-85 was a Soviet heavy tank designed to stop the Tiger I – so this matchup has a lot of historical flavor. While only a few KV-85’s were made relative to the more numerous KV-1 or Iosef Stalin heavy tanks, their formidable armor made them more than a match for the Tiger. In our game, the player driving the KV-85 relies on its superior turret armor by going Hull Down in a gully. A tank that is Hull Down has positioned itself so that only its turret is visible to the enemy; this makes the tank much harder to hit. For our KV-85, with very thick turret armor, Hull Down makes it almost invulnerable. Almost.

My response to the KV-85 going hull down is to attempt to flank: by flanking I negate his superior positioning and expose his weaker side armor. I play a Move, a Flank, and a Field Terrain card together as a Tank Action, moving 200m closer and flanking the Soviets. That ends the round of play, since both players have taken their turn. We draw back up to our maximum hand size (4 cards + 2 cards for each tank you control) and start another round with the Initiative Phase. I get to draw an extra card because my tank is less than 400m from the center of the battlefield, representing the tactical benefit of controlling the center. Now my hand looks like this:

This is an excellent hand for my needs: it has at least two Fire Cards that I can use (The “Fire 1” cards), and a card with a low Battle Number that I can use for my Initiative Card. I need to hurry and take my shot before he moves away or shoots me first: at 600m, almost any shot from the Kliment Voroshilov’s 85mm gun would be lethal to my Tiger. I play the card with the lowest Battle Number in my hand as my Initiative Card – a 9- and hope my opponent doesn’t have anything lower. He reveals a 19, meaning I get the initiative.

Since I have the KV flanked, I ignore his Hull Down and will hit his weaker side armor, but even the side of his turret has armor thick enough to deflect my shot so I need to make sure I can hit his hull. Rather than leave it to chance, I play two Fire cards together as my Tank Action, so if my shot hits, I will choose the hit location. I calculate my To Hit Number, factoring in flanking and cover, and reveal a Battle Card to see if I get a hit. The Battle Number on the card is lower than my To Hit Number, so it’s a hit!

Naturally, I choose to hit him on his weaker hull armor and because I have his tank flanked, I hit him on the side, where his armor is weakest. Finally, I check whether my shot penetrates his armor. At 600m, the Tiger has a penetration factor of 14, the maximum for my 8.8 cm Kwk 36. While the KV-85 is well armored, I am hitting its weakest armor, with an armor factor of 7. I reveal a Battle Card and add its “Pen Mod” to my Penetration Value, and compare the result to the enemy’s armor value: The Battle Card has a Pen Mod of -1, and 14 + (-1) is 13. That means that my shot easily penetrates the enemy’s armor.

Now to find out what kind of damage we did.

My opponent draws and resolves a Damage Card. In this instance, my shot inflicted Heavy Damage, so the Soviet player resolves the “Hull Heavy Damage” text for this Damage Card, which reads: “Driver KIA, Check for Fire”. The Soviet player removes the Driver counter from his tank as a casualty; this has three effects. First, I score 2 points for killing the Driver. Second, the KV-85’s move level is decreased by 1 because its highly trained Driver can no longer operate the complex machine. Finally, the Soviet player cannot move his tank until he uses his Tank Action to move his Assistant Driver over into the Driver’s Seat.

Next, the card instructed us to “Check for Fire”. The Soviet player reveals a Battle Card, checking for a fire icon in the top right of the card. If present, the tank is On Fire. Luck appears to be against the Russian crew, as my shot was enough to ignite the fuel system in the tank, causing a fire. The Russian player places an “On Fire” token on his KV-85 and takes an “On Fire” card into his hand; these cards are red on both sides as a reminder to all players that during the Administration Phase of his turn, the player needs to check the status of the fire.

The last step in resolving a Damage Card is to check the crew’s morale. The red icons on the right side of this Damage Card indicate that the crew breaks if the tank is On Fire or Immobilized and the KV-85 is On Fire. It’s on fire, so the crew breaks. The Soviet player places an “Broken” counter on his tank and takes a “Broken” card into his hand.

As the last step of my turn, I discard the “Fire 9” card as a field action, so I can draw a replacement at the end of the round.

Now it’s the Soviet player’s turn. The situation for the Soviet tank is dire indeed. He starts by resolving his Administration Phase. Normally the only thing a player will do during this phase is discard their initiative card, but when they are On Fire or Broken there are additional steps to resolve. Players can pass these checks automatically if they discard cards containing 4 Command Icons (CI). CI are the silhouette in the top left of some Battle Cards. This is a tradeoff for the player – often it requires 3 or 4 cards to get 4 CI which leaves them with fewer options for their tank action. On the other hand, failing an On Fire or Broken check will cause their crew to bail out of the tank and may cause some casualties.

Our Soviet player does not have 4 CI, so he has a decision to make. Because his tank is On Fire, he can choose to bail out before making the On Fire or Broken check. One one hand, this ensures the survival of his crew. On the other hand, it immediately gives me VP for incapacitating his tank. In our game, the Soviet player is losing, so he decides to attempt to stay in the fight.

First he must check if his crew extinguishes the fire, if the fire continues, or if the fire rages out of control. He reveals a Battle Card, checking for a Fire icon or Extinguish Icon in the top right and finds an extinguish icon. Finally! Some good news for the Soviet crew as they manage to put the fire out. Now the Soviet player checks if his crew Rallies: he reveals a Damage Card, ignoring everything on the card except the Morale Icons on the right. If his crew fails any applicable check, then his crew is still broken and bails out of the tank.

Catastrophe! His crew remains broken and abandons the tank in the field. I score 5 additional points for the abandoned tank, but miss out on the points for the crew. My opponent will take control of another tank during the regrouping phase, but he loses whatever Spots, Terrain, or battlefield position he had.

These are just two examples of the many options available to Commanders in a game of Tank Duel: Enemy in the Crosshairs. In the next article, we’ll explore a few more options available to Commanders through the use of Command Icons, special ammunition, and different types of Terrain.

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10 thoughts on “Tank Tales #3: Advanced Command Pt. 1

  1. Thanks for the latest Tank Tales. Each of these columns gives me a better idea of how the game plays out. I’m already envisioning a “campaign” of sorts where players play several matches to advance on an objective.

    • You’re quite welcome! There will be some interesting scenarios in the box that will aid you in stringing a few together to tell a great story.

  2. Really enjoying reading these posts – loving the sound of the game; lots of detail and choices for the players to make. Sounds very authentic!

  3. I saw the game at the GMT Weekend. Looked like you always had 3-4 players. The scenario I’ve played was a StuG against the T-34. The StuG needs to get close to have a chance to penetrate. I have a suggestion at the expense of complicating the game. Russian tanks had a very brittle/hard armor that was very prone to spalling. If the Germans fail to penetrate by one (example: armor 14 against a penetration of 13) there is a chance for a WIA for each crew in the compartment hit (drivers for hull hits and commander, gunner, loader on turret hits). This would give a slight advantage to the Germans and make the Russians more cautious.

    • Steve, we have played 6-8 players at the weekend too. It was a blast. Especially 6, which I am starting to consider the best way to play.

      Great feedback with the spalling, let me think about whether that’s something we could work in. Glad you’ve enjoyed the game.

  4. I don’t know if I missed it, but how does the game account for the different amounts and types of ammunition a tank may carry or is this factor rounded down into a general abstraction? Also I wonder if weather is factored in. I don’t just mean muddy ground with its attendant risk of bogging down wheeled and tracked vehicles, but the effects of excessive cold if the battle is in the middle of a Russian winter, or the effects of limited visibility due to fog, rain, or snow, or even battlefield smoke either due to wreckage or smoke canisters. I know it’s a tank-on-tank game, but I hope there is some aspect of combined arms augmenting a player’s assets. Sorry for all the questions. This is my most anticipated GMT game 🙂

    • Anthony, during setup you provision some tanks with APCR/HEAT rounds, which are a finite resource during the game. Regular ammunition is unlimited, but during the course of an entire game you’ll probably shoot 10-15 times maximum. The game is fairly short so the idea of running out of ammunition wasn’t needed.

      Weather is something we’re still developing the rules for, but I am absolutely confident we’ll have it in the box.

      As for combined arms… let’s just say that we’ve got some ideas there. We’ve been testing a scenario with field guns, and there’s some possibility we’ll incorporate other support as well.

      • Thanks for the reply. I’m also glad to see there was a spike in P500 numbers in the last couple of days. Hoping you guys do another AAR or juicy piece with more pictures 🙂