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Subject: WWII Tank Combat: A Great Introduction to Art of Tactics rss

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Michael Sweazey
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Concept:

World War II: Tank Combat is a tank skirmish game meant to introduce players to Zvezda’s Art of Tactic wargame system. The Art of Tactic system is a robust and elegant wargame system that uses dry-erase order cards for players to simultaneously provide the orders to their units for the turn. Both sides then reveal all their cards, and actions are carried out in a specific order on the board. The combat is elegant since there are no charts to refer to or any sort of memorization about the units. However, the system does have a lot under the hood. Everything from the types of units that can be attacked to the range, defense, unit status, and strength of attack is right there on the unit card. Each unit has certain orders that it is capable of carrying out, and that is listed on the order card. When you want to execute that order, you mark it and turn the card over so it is hidden from view. The system does require a fair bit of memorization of what each order does and how to use it, but the rulebook is short, well organized, and has an example of how to read and mark each order.

Components:

Zvezda is primarily a miniatures company. They manufacture myriads of miniature figures from virtually all eras. (In fact, Samurai Battles is also a Zvezda game.) These are highly detailed and accurate models. Realize that these include some tiny pieces, and some of them require a fair amount of assembly. (An infantry figure might have a piece for the torso and one leg, and you have to assemble each arm, the other leg, and the weapons and kits. So some of the younger folk (and some of us older folk) might have trouble with clumsy fingers. However, most do not require glue, though I’ve yet to figure out how to get the mortar to stay on the stand without it. However, in Tank Combat, you are dealing with six tanks, and that is all. These are extremely straight-forward and easy to assemble. And like all Zvezda miniatures I have run across, they are beautiful!

The modular map sections are mounted on fairly thin cardboard, but they are extremely serviceable and there should be no complaints about the boards. Additionally, there are terrain hexes to add to the maps. The graphics are good.

The unit cards are laminated to accept dry-erase markers, and they are durable and easy to read. A nice touch is the inclusion of dry-erase markers and even pads to erase the marks! I consider this one of those really nice extra touches that costs the companies very little but that greatly endear me to them. Now, if I could just convince them not to include the tiny dice! (Just my own little pet peeve!) However, to give them credit, there are a lot of dice, and the price-point for this game is excellent given the components. Not being the type who has every WWII unit silhouette memorized, it can be a pain at the beginning to identify the tank model with the silhouette shown on the card. In hindsight, I would have labeled the bottom of the tank with its type just to ease set-up for new players. This is not something that needs to be changed, but just an idea for new players.

And now we get to the strength and purpose of the Tank Combat game. There are other games in the Art of Tactic WWII series, all of which are much grander in scope and almost infinitely expandable. Tank Combat is a great way to be introduced to the system in a manageable way. You only have three armored units per army to worry about, so learning the available orders is much easier. At the same time, you will learn the way ambushes, defensive fire, suppression fire, and fields of fire work. After you become familiar with this game, you can go to the Barbarossa, Danube, or Blitzkrieg games and concentrate on learning the orders for the additional units available. As a matter of fact, I would suggest getting some artillery and/or infantry figures from Zvezda and adding them to your scenarios would be a great way to add to this game and to become familiar with other unit orders. You can then gradually add units to become familiar with them and the added complexity. It won’t be long before you can graduate directly to WWII: Operation Barbarossa, Danube, or Blitzkrieg. Ultimately, you can have one or all of these games AND fulfill Zvezda’s greatest wishes by purchasing more and more individual units to add much more variety/possibility to the games! (I don’t want you to think I did that! No way! Well, okay, I did get a couple…or ten or twenty! I’m so weak!shake) And therein is the other great part of this game system: Zvezda makes tons of units in many eras, and you can easily custom-make scenarios based on historical battles (or not) with just about any type of units on the board you like. And even better: they are not expensive at all, somewhere in the range of $4 each! (I would never suggest that this is a great way to fill out your $100 minimum Coolstuff order to get free shipping. “Dear, I’m saving money in shipping by buying an extra $30 worth of miniatures!” Did I mention that I’m weak?)

The rules:

The rules are straightforward and well laid out. The overall mechanics are simple, involving three phases: Planning (Issuing Orders), Execution (Carrying Out Orders), and Fortitude (Morale Checks). The complexity comes in with the types of orders given. As I mentioned in the overview of the AoT system, each order that a unit is capable of carrying out is right there on the card. However, it will take some time to remember exactly how each order is carried out. This does not mean it is hard, but you will play a few games before you get over referring to a reference sheet or rulebook to see what each symbol is and what it entails.

There are a couple of sections that could be more explicit. For instance, the rules state that progress on an action that requires multiple turns to complete that is interrupted may be finished on a subsequent turn even if other orders have been carried out in the meantime. (I believe there are contradicting rules in other AoT boxes.) However, while this would make sense in the cases of infantry digging trenches – the ditches don’t fill themselves in – it doesn’t make sense when a tank is settling itself in for an ambush. There may be clarifications for this rule in errata or FAQs, but I haven’t seen it. However, I see this as being something that can become a common-sense-house-rule. If it is a multi-turn order that makes sense that it wouldn’t be undone by another order, then it remains marked on your card. Otherwise, it is erased.

There are also a couple of proof-reading errors in the training scenario: Soviet T-26 Tank in hex #108 is being given the defense order to defend hex #102. However, that is the hex that the Soviet BT-5 Light Tank could ambush from hex #107. So basically, the scenario reversed the hex #’s 102 and 104. Be mindful of that when you are playing through the first tutorial scenario. It is unfortunate that this typo occurred in the tutorial where they are attempting to teach the game. However, compared to errors I have seen in many other rulebooks recently, this is minor.

Review:

In my opinion, Tank Combat is extremely capable and highly recommended for the role it is designed to fill. It is a great inexpensive introduction to the Art of Tactics wargame system. With the limited units, it can be taught effectively to a younger player, yet it will not be a wasted introduction to any player who wishes to get heavily involved in the games. I would consider this an initial cheap investment that will become integrated into your later purchases rather than becoming relegated to the shelf or the $5 thrift table at your next gameday. Or, it might be the one you use to get some future opponents hooked!
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Charles Lewis
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I keep approaching Zvezda's games and then backing away. You've just sold me. I'm thinking the 9 year old will love this!
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Michael Sweazey
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Meisterchow wrote:
I keep approaching Zvezda's games and then backing away. You've just sold me. I'm thinking the 9 year old will love this!


I definitely think your son/daughter will enjoy this. It has the advantages of not having as many units to keep up with as Memoir '44, but each unit has more tactical choices. It will take them a number of plays to develop a feel for all the things they can do (They'll start off rushing straight in to attack - but a couple of ambushes or defensive strategies will quickly encourage them to consider other alternatives!), but that's good. It will teach them tactics, and it will take a long time for them to tire of it. And, of course, you can always add some other components when that happens!

And for $20, it will be worth the money! (Speaking of, thank you for the tip!) However, expect this to be an appetizer! I"m thinking after a few games of this, you will be wanting the main course of WWII: Barbarossa with planes, artillery, infantry, etc, and then Danube with trains and boats, then Blitzkrieg with the Brits and Germans! Or maybe I'm just a completist! (I'm so weak.)

Michael

**Edited to remove gender assumption!**
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NWS Wargaming Store
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If it helps any, we have the entire line and at good pricing. The Zvezda games have been well received by our customers to date, they are very expandable, and look very easy to get into for most any wargamer.

Thanks
Christopher Dean
NWS
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Chris Miller
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Does this use the standard AoT rules as found in say Barbarossa? Specifically - I already own Barbarossa, would this work as an expansion or is it redundant?

Great review.. this system doesn't get enough attention.
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Tanks Alot
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In my opinion this is the system they should have started with. OB had so many icons it was a little tougher to know all the meanings. This seems to be perfectly inline with simplicity in gaming
 
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Michael Sweazey
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MillertimeRC wrote:
Does this use the standard AoT rules as found in say Barbarossa? Specifically - I already own Barbarossa, would this work as an expansion or is it redundant?

Great review.. this system doesn't get enough attention.


Thanks. They are the standard rules but simplified simply because there are fewer units. I actually got a hold of Tank Combat after I had all the others.

If you are already familiar with Barbarossa, etc and have the games, this wouldn't add much to what you already have. However, for @$20, you do get six tanks, extra components, etc so it might be a little cheaper than buying the tanks individually (though I haven't compared it).

To me, the main advantage is if you want to introduce players new to wargames in general and this system in particular. You can either pull this out and introduce them to a complete game or you can come up with pared down scenarios with the larger games. I think this works better as a "hook" to draw new players into this type of game. If they are already interested in and have played games like this before, you could use the larger games.
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Thanks for chiming in Michael!
He is exactly right: the rules in Tank Combat are the normal Art of Tactic rules, we just removed all the unit-specific rules that don't apply to tanks. It's not a "stripped down" or "simplified" version of the game by any means.
In addition to being the perfect introduction to the Art of Tactic, Tank Combat features the "elite" versions of six tank units. These units have slightly better abilities than the regular versions, and they are currently available only in the Tank Combat set. So, if you want to field elite units in your regular games, that's where you'll find them.
I hope that helps!
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Chris Miller
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Sounds great, thanks for responding!
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Robert Moore
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What size in inches are the hexes? How do the minis compare in size to the Sherman’s & Panzer IV tanks used in Memoir 44?
 
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Michael Sweazey
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robertmmoore1968 wrote:
What size in inches are the hexes? How do the minis compare in size to the Sherman’s & Panzer IV tanks used in Memoir 44?


The hexes are 2 3/8" with the larger model tanks being 2 1/4" The hexes are 1/4" larger than Memoir (2 1/8"), and the tanks are an inch larger (1 1/4"). They are much nicer models.

Michael
 
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