One of our newer members, Eric, reports on a What a (Grav) Tanker game run by Marcus at a recent meeting.
Today I was fortunate enough to play a modified game of “What A Tanker“. Rather than use the original rules published by “Two Fat Lardies”, my opponent and host, Marcus, had adapted them for a sci-fi setting. I was advised from the off that it was a “beer and pretzels” game aimed at having fun and rolling dice rather than anything with any complex hardcore mechanics and depth. Marcus explained that what we were playing was still very much a work in progress and had only ever played in solo mode. There were kinks to iron out and rules to be tweaked, but what he has done with it so far worked well. I get the impression that it’s not meant to have the scope of some small-scale future skirmish games (e.g., Hammers Slammers) – troops and heavy weapons weren’t present in our game. Maybe that is something that will appear later as Marcus works on the rules.
The original Lardies concept is a one-to-one ratio with multiple players fielding one tank each, and in an ideal situation you would have more than two players. However, Marcus’ adaption allows for two players with an increased unit count and the ability to scale up/down players/tanks if desired. As this was essentially a play test, we had several tanks each to command and the rules would be fluid and subject to change as we went.
We used 15mm tanks – the main battle tanks (MTB’s) were a combination of Old Crow miniatures tank chassis with Brigade Models Rapier MBT turrets.
The wheeled, light tanks were Ground Zero Games Paladin II models.
To add to the atmosphere (and create interruption for lines of site), there was some truly brilliant scratch-built scenery supported by alien flora, which looked suspiciously like plastic home aquarium plants (something that was used in Marcus’ sub aqua game). You can have a house point if you can figure out what the basis is for the 15mm buildings.
The rules were quite simple and easy to pick up. Each tank generates a dice pool which in turn is used to generate power that is allocated to different functions – movement, firing, shields, repair and so forth. This provided a level of complexity which meant that it wasn’t just rolling dice and saying “BANG! Your tank’s been destroyed”. Management of the power available to you is an important factor in making effective use of your tank and how it operates. The dice rolled at the beginning of each activation also determine what actions you can perform, with a wildcard number being available (should you generate one) which could be used to facilitate any one of the other functions. For example, you might generate the numbers needed to acquire a target, aim, fire and reload, but not necessarily move. Clearly this is a hindrance if your enemy has snuck behind that abandoned generator shed with the annoying graffiti, and you can’t get a clear shot. This is where the wildcard can be used to perform any of the prescribed game actions. At this point, you would logically trade it for the opportunity to move your tank to get a better shot. The same can be said for any of the other actions that you might need to perform. The wildcard number can also be used to repair non-critical damage.
Unlike other games that rely on a move -> shoot -> melee formula that you don’t normally deviate from, you can issue the commands for your tank in any order you choose. Instead of moving, aiming and firing, if you’ve already acquired your target and have line of sight, you could fire, then move away and reload. This of course, all depends on the previously mentioned power that you have generated via the dice pool and how you have pre-assigned it to different functions.
Let battle commence!, Game 1.
For our game, I was given command of three Paladin II wheeled units whereas Marcus had two heavy/MBT’s. Whilst the heavier tanks looked like they had the edge, we were in fact quite well balanced by me having three units to his two.
We deployed either end of the table with the intention of getting close enough to acquire each other as a target and then aim and fire. All the time, lines of sight were hampered by the local vegetation and buildings, making it tricky to get a bead on one other without exposing ourselves to a barrage of shells/lasers/railgun rounds.
After a while of getting used to the rules (for my benefit) we managed to engage in combat with one of my Paladins taking a couple of hits from Marcus’ MBT. Damage comes in two forms: critical and non-critical. Both types strip you of dice from your pool. If you were to have five dice in your pool and you took two hits; on your next activation, the dice pool would be reduced from five to three. Critical hits can’t be recovered from; these represent non repairable damage, but non-critical ones can. In your next activation round if you generate a wildcard result, it can be traded to remove one non-critical hit, thus restoring a die to your pool. Without those dice it’s a lot tougher to generate the actions you want and provide the power for them each turn.
After several turns of skulking through the undergrowth I finally managed to get into position and land a good couple of solid hits on one of Marcus’s MBT’s. He fired on me but with power management points applied to the shields, I successfully negated any damage he would have caused. The subsequent turn, I trundled into a kill position and finished off the already crippled MBT. This awarded me a special card which could be used in that game or saved and carried over to a future skirmish.
As it looked like our game would turn into one of cat and mouse between Marcus’s remaining tank and my Paladins, we decided to end it there.
As there was still time on the clock, we decided to play a second game.
This time Steve and James joined me, so we had a Paladin each, while Tony joined Marcus controlling one of the two MBT’s. The scenery set up remained the same and the deployment as was as the last time, with both teams starting at opposite ends.
James took the left flank, Steve, the right and I went down the middle. Tony had managed to work his MBT into a spot where he could snipe on me and stripped away a couple of dice worth of power which made my next activation extremely difficult. It wasn’t long into the game though before we had our first casualty, me! Trying to shield myself next to a building did no good and a second round of firing from Tony reduced my tank to a burning wreck without me even getting a shot off.
Meanwhile Steve moved up the right-hand side of the table exchanging fire with Marcus whilst James tried to outmanoeuvre Tony. Steve took some hits which would have meant he was seriously compromised but managed to recover all the damage he had suffered (including any critical hits) with the help of a special play card. Unfortunately, he subsequently succumbed to fire from Marcus, meaning the MBT’s were in a superior position and dominating the battle, leaving just James to try and slug it out with the two MBT’s on his own.
James, still on the flank, his Paladin now damaged and functioning at 80% capacity, managed to get into position which gave him a clear shot at Tony. A hail of fire destroyed Tony’s tank, while Marcus looked for a firing solution against James. Marcus fired, but the shells glanced harmlessly off the Paladin thanks to some wise use of power management to his shield. With only Marcus left and in a clear line of site, James reciprocated Marcus’ salvo after winning initiative. The hits were enough to cause some non-critical damage but with the help of a special play card earned from taking out Tony, James’ shells found a chink in Marcus’s armour and truly ended the battle with a bang and winning the game.
I’ve deliberately neglected to include some of the rules that were used – for brevity’s sake and because it’s Marcus’ project it’s undoubtedly subject to change.
I can say in all honesty, I look forward to Marcus getting the rules fully realised and written up as this makes for a great pick-up game, with more subtle complexities than would first appear. With the planned revisions that he has this has all the markings of being a great little game. It’s certainly made me want to buy some 15 mm sci-fi tanks now!