GrogHeads Reviews Tank on Tank West Front
TANKS! Oooga oooga. GUNNER-SABOT-WARGAME! Rumbarumbarumba. Schwooooosh. BOOM! ~
Brant Guillory, 19 December 2015
click images to enlarge
Tank on Tank is LNLP’s re-release of their older WWII tactical combat game. Unlike the LNL Tactical system, this one focuses on – wait for it – TANKS!
Counters are individual fighting vehicles, with additional infantry platoons running around. The West Front box (this review) has Panzer IVs, Priests, Pershings, and Panthers. There’s also playing pieces that pon’t part with “P”, like Shermans and Stukas, Wolverines and Armored Infantry. The maps are 50m hexes, and include a “winter” map on the backside of each of the standard maps.
Inside the Box
Production values are the usual LNLP high-quality, with a standard 1” deep box, individually-cut pieces (no corner clipping!), and vibrant colors and graphics. The play aids are useful without being obtrusive, and the rules are simple, concise, and compact. Although the production value is excellent, the West Front box seems a tad sparse for $34.99. For only an extra $5, the East Front box certainly packs more into the same size box – twice the counters and three times the maps. You can see the comparison in our previous unboxing article here.
This is fast, tense, and exciting fun. The counter density remains low for virtually every scenario, which keeps the entire battle in easy view of the players. Moreover, there is little downtime, as the turns require the intervention of the opponent, every turn.
There are a few key mechanics that stick out in the Tank on Tank rules. The first is the Action Point mechanic; the second is the idea of a Tank Ace. There are also headquarters units that are very useful for moving around multiple units.
Each turn, the player has an unknown number of actions that can be taken. An action includes moving a unit, firing at a target, changing facing, etc. You can move a unit into position, then have it fire at an opponent, for 2 actions, for instance. But there’s a catch: you don’t know how many actions you have this turn, your opponent does. At the start of each turn, each player draws a chit specifying the number of actions points that your opponent has. Your opponent starts the turn executing his actions; when he hits the action limit on the counter in your hand, you stop his turn and start yours.
This mechanic forces you to plan on two levels: those things you can definitely accomplish, and those you hope to accomplish. The action point counters are evenly distributed between 2s, 3s, and 4s. You can count on getting at least 2 actions. You usually plan a third. If you expect a fourth, you’ll frequently be disappointed.
Another mechanic in Tank on Tank that gets beyond the “shoot-and-move” basics is the “Ace” mechanic. It’s nothing fancy – if you shoot and roll a miss, and one of the firing units is an Ace, you get to re-roll the shot. It’s a very simple implementation of a “XP” style rule.
Finally, some units are designated as headquarters units, with a simple underline under the type of unit. HQ units are particularly useful for movement purposes. When a headquarters is activated with an action point, not only can it move, but so can all adjacent units. What you can’t do is ‘chain-activate’ HQ units to move units 3 or 4 hexes away from the original HQ that was activated with your action point.
Combat is pretty simple: you’re checking for range and LOS. There’s a “front arc” component to the firing, as well, but it’s essentially an extension of the LOS – you only have LOS off of your front slope. There are solid diagrams in the rulebook that explain these checks, with illustrations, but anyone with a modicum of wargaming experience will figure it out in about 18 seconds. Artillery units don’t require their own LOS, so long as at least one other friendly unit has it. There are no radio nets to manage and everyone is assumed to be communicating together.
There are also ‘soft’ targets – infantry, AT guns, etc – that can’t fire and move in the same turn, but they have other advantages. Infantry units gain bonuses in rough terrain, and AT guns can shoot without using an action point. There are also airstrikes you can call, and while they are powerful, they also consume 2 APs.
On the Table
There are 14 scenarios in the book, and all of them are short, sweet, and to-the-point. They all fit on a single map, specify the player to set up first and move first, the pieces for each side, and victory conditions (usually either a body count, or holding a piece of terrain). Counter density stays low. Many of these scenarios will have 2 HQ units, 3-5 additional tanks, 2-3 support units (artillery or AT guns) and an infantry counter or two, per side. So each side is juggling (on average) ~10 pieces in a normal scenario.
And these scenarios play fast. They typically run 30-45 minutes (the box says 20-60) and if you roll high firing rolls, it can go even fast as the kill count piles up.
Players will want to be careful with their HQ units, keeping their vehicles close on the approach march in order to move as many of them as far forward together as possible, before fanning out to take advantage of flanking opportunities and terrain to mass fires on enemy targets while minimizing their own exposure. Frontal assaults are brutally punished, but the limited action point mechanics keeps you on your toes as you try to set up the best options for both this turn and subsequent turns.
The Wrap Up
This is a fast, fun game. It easily fits into a lunch hour at the office, or a short post-dinner game. It can be a two-player filler while waiting for other folks to arrive on game night, or it can be a 4-5 scenario marathon afternoon one weekend.
Among its best qualities, however, are the simplicity of the rules paired with solid depth of gameplay. This is a great game for teaching wargames to new players, as the rules are easy to grasp. It’s also a great game for those new players to refine their tactical abilities as there are nice nuances worked into the simple rules – HQ units used to coordinate multiple subordinates; advantages of flank shots, experienced units performing better – that work the benefit of players than learn to leverage them.
I’ve been a fan of Tank on Tank since the original ‘tuck box’ production years ago. The biggest negative back then was the bang-for-the-buck of the production.
LNLP has upgraded the overall production values of the game – bigger maps, bigger counters, better map art, and a real box. Collectively, it all feels like a much better deal, especially since the cost actually came down from the original game. It still feels a little steep to spend over $30 on what is essentially a light wargame, especially since the scenarios take up such a small page count. However, once you dig into the game, with the sheer count of scenarios, plus the scenario generator, plus the perfect bite-sized package to introduce potential new converts to the wonders of wargaming, it all adds up to a great value that ground-combat gamers should seize and secure.