Publisher: Lock ‘n Load Publishing
Game Designer: Peter Bogdasarian
Ages: 10 and up
Playing Time: 20-45 minutes
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Panzer to our front, FIRE!
Last year Lock ‘n Load Publishing (LnL) released a new series called Tank on Tank, covering the East and West fronts. Both are billed as entry-level wargames which may cause some grognard’s to groan, as that may seem synonymous with tepid gameplay. Calling a game like that a wargame could quickly get you labeled a heretic in some circles.
Thankfully, Tank on Tank blows through that notion with a well-placed 88mm HE round and proves that small and simple does not mean bad. Both East and West Front games share the same highly streamlined system, composed of just four and a half pages of rules. The balance of the books handle the effortless scenario creation system along with more than a dozen interesting scenarios for each game.
On the way!
The first thing that may shock you is the box; it’s as narrow as the rules. A lean box measuring just a hair over 1 ¼” thick houses everything you need; maps, counters, dice, player aid and rules.
The chit quality is solid; they’re fairly thick and sturdy 1” square chip board representing primarily armor as the title states, but there are some infantry, towed guns, armored carriers and even aircraft to flesh out your TO&E.
Each is illustrated with a silhouette of the unit type, with its range, defense and movement factors listed along with the facing marker. More on that later.
The maps are double-sided 11½ x 17 card stock littered with various foliage and terrain features for both summer/fall and winter. When using one map, its size ensures that you won’t have to travel far to get in a fight, but the limited engagement ranges of the vehicles force you to use maneuver to get into said fight.
When using two maps, there is more space but gets pretty busy with even more units added into the fray. This brings a little more of an epic feel and works very well.
Tank combat dominates the game, as expected given the title, but support units also play important roles. Although support units are deemed soft targets and are limited to one hex attack range, don’t be too quick to write them off.
Infantry have the benefit of gaining a tougher defense value when they aren’t in open ground and cancel the -1 modifier for grouped attacks on town or woods hexes. They also gain a free advance after combat movement when used in a joint attack on a town or woods hex. A great way to steal an objective from an opponent.
Tank on Tank uses the familiar impulse system for all movement and firing actions. What sets it apart is a unique chit pull approach from designer Peter Bogdasarian.
Rather than the phasing player pulling a chit to determine action points, it is the opponent who draws the chit. They keep this number hidden and reveal it once you’ve reached your allotted action points for the turn. Action points are always between two and four per turn for each player.
I like how the uncertainty of not knowing your available action points makes you a little more efficient with your choices, while also keeping your opponent involved in the play. It adds a smidge of fog of war which I find interesting.
Fellow solitaire gamers, have no fear. You can easily play Tank on Tank solo by using a single roll. Use two AP’s and roll a die, a 1-2 ends your turn. If you roll higher, take another action and a roll of 1-3 will end the phase. If you’ve made it that far successfully, then you take one more AP before switching hats to play as the other side.
A key component in these games are the headquarters units. HQ units can order all adjacent units to move when activated, getting them across the map and into the fight quickly. After each player has had their action phase the turn is over, with most scenarios averaging between 8-10 rounds in the West Front, and 10-12 in the East Front respectively. With fast turns like this you can’t loiter around, which is where those HQ units prove their worth.
Soviets in the East Front game have the added benefit of using massed activation and can spend two AP’s to activate up to three HQ units. This lets you send a swarm of armor across the field, a simplified version of the highly mobile Soviet echelon attack doctrine.
In Tank on Tank massed fire is important in taking out targets. While you can sometimes win individual battles, it’s tough and best done by multiple units. The combat system is a little more abstract than your standard wargame, again keeping with its intended simplicity. All units can move and/or shoot only once per round.
Combat is resolved with a 2d6 roll and adding a +1 modifier for each unit in the attack. Other modifiers are also applied as negatives for defensive positions and terrain, and positively added for flank attacks. The modified roll needs to meet or beat the selected target’s defense number to eliminate it.
Massed fire greatly increases your chance for success and is mandatory when taking on Tigers and King Tigers. With defense values of 11 and 12 respectively, a 2d6 roll by a lone tank against them is a laughable matter.
Facing is important in ToT and is handled as it is in most wargames. The front three hexes are the forward arc and the three behind the rear arc. You’ll want to maneuver around for a flank shot as often as possible to gain that +1 modifier. Still, even with a flank shot it will take a lot of luck to take down a Tiger alone, as it should be.
The German, US and Soviet forces are fairly evenly matched with common units such as infantry and support but there is enough uniqueness in the tanks to set them apart slightly. German tanks are more heavily armored, especially the Tigers, with the maneuverability advantage going slightly in favor of the Allies. They’ll need it to crack those tough nuts!
To make things even a little more interesting, Lock ‘n Load has added a simplified and abstracted air strike function. These attacks can be very deadly when the dice are on your side. I’ll leave that for you to see for yourself when you play.
With average games running about 20-30 minutes, these almost fit the bill as a sort of filler game, albeit a meatier one.
Target, cease fire!
Lock ‘n Load Publishing has done a terrific job with this series, providing a wargame system that is highly accessible to anyone. Board gamers who have been interested in testing the waters but who may have felt intimidated by trying out a wargame should fear no more.
The Tank on Tank series has clear and easily digestible rules for any level of gamer. It will take about as long to punch and organize the chits as it will to read and understand the rules.
While this is a quick battle game designed to get right to the fighting, there is still enough space for you to explore some maneuver strategies and the short engagement ranges help here. Everything here is designed to keep things quick but still challenging and enjoyable with each play.
There’s not a lot of in-depth strategy to explore in this game, so don’t expect that going in. It was never intended to be a study sim, but a gateway wargame and in this regard, the series accomplishes its task admirably. This is one that you can pull out when you want to jam out a couple of quick battles with friends or solo.
The ease of play makes it perfect for playing with youngsters and provides a great introduction for your child into the basic tactics, interesting challenges and lifelong fun of the wargaming hobby.
I definitely recommend grabbing both of the Tank on Tank series games and with more releases planned for the series, now is a great time to jump in feet first!
Company Website: https://store.lnlpublishing.com/
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Note: Review copies of these games were purchased by me.