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World War II: Barbarossa 1941» Forums » Variants

Subject: Changing the balance between Armour and Everything Else rss

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Jon Darlington
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My gaming group has been puzzling over ways to increase the threat to armour and armoured vehicles, so that it's not quite so lopsided, without deviating too much from history. Some alternate house rules we're considering, although we haven't playtested these yet:

a) SUPPRESSION: Allow machine guns and mortars, which can normally only attack a tank in Assault, to make a Suppression Fire attack against a tank or armoured vehicle at their normal range. Use the Firepower that the shooting unit would use in assault against its target. Such attacks can never inflict damage (or reduce the tank's defense in any way); but if they roll at least one successful hit, the target must make a Fortitude test or become Suppressed. (Might say this only works vs. light tanks.)

b) DESPERATE ASSAULTS: Allow infantry to assault tanks and armoured vehicles in any kind of terrain, even open ground. However when assaulting an armoured unit in any terrain that doesn't currently allow it, the assaulting unit must first pass a Fortitude test. If the test fails, the infantry unit does not move and the assault does not take place. This test must be repeated each turn of an ongoing assault in the open; failing the test in an ongoing assault means becoming suppressed.

If a tank or armoured vehicle is Suppressed, allow infantry to assault it in open ground without having to pass a Fortitude test first.

c) SHORT-RANGE A.T.WEAPONS: Allow regular infantry units to make an attack against vehicles in adjacent hexes using the infantry unit's assault firepower against that target type. This attack can be the result of a Fire, Defend, or Ambush order, but not Suppressive Fire. We assume they're using some kind of limited, short-range AT weapons (not historical, but...). A squad can do this once; put a mark the unit's 'tank panic' box on the front of the unit card to indicate they have made their AT attack. If the unit re-arms from a truck or supply depot, remove the mark; the unit has regained this ability. So it’s essentially one-shot, and only for adjacent targets… but it’s better than nothing.

d) IMMOBILIZING VEHICLES: I would really, really like to see rules to immobilize vehicles, but I can't think of a good way to implement them just yet. One wrinkle is that each tank on the board represents a squadron and not a single vehicle. Still, it would add new possibilities. Might just be an additional roll any time a tank is attacked: if you take any hits from AP weapons (another tank, an AT gun, maybe MG vs. light tanks), roll one die and become immobilized on a 1; for HE (mortars, artillery, dive bomber) or Assaults, become immobilized on a 1 or 2.


I'll update this thread in the future as we try (and possibly discard) some of these rules... but I thought I`d get the conversation started.
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Hello!

I just wanted to weigh in with a few thoughts from the Zvezda design team.

Yes, tanks are extremely powerful in the Art of Tactic, just like they were on the real battlefields of World War II. Every army had to develop tactics and weapons that could deal with enemy tanks, and players in the game must face those same challenges.

Historically, tanks could have a huge impact on a battle, even when their numbers were very small. During the operations around Sevastopol, the Soviet Army had 560,000 infantry men and only 1000 tanks (that's 560 men per tank) and faced a German army of 120,000 men and 200 tanks (600 men per tank). Yet, the tanks were decisive in much of that fighting.

Hitler was so concerned about "wasting" his precious tanks that he refused to send them into Dunkirk, which gave the British a chance to escape with most of their forces intact, despite being surrounded and bombed heavily by the Luftwaffe.

In one incident in 1941, a single KV-1 tank held off an entire German infantry division for nearly 3 days before it had to be abandoned for lack of ammo!

In order to keep the game historically accurate, we had to reflect the powerful nature of tanks on the battlefield. This can create a situation where there appears to be an imbalance in the game. But, like historical battlefield commanders, every player needs to find a way to deal with enemy armor.

The scenarios that we have created are balanced with the mix of units we presented in the scenario or the units included in that boxed set. These unit mixes are based on the type of unit combinations one might expect to encounter in real historical actions.

If you are playing a "free scenario" (where you pick your own units), it is more challenging to design a balanced or historically realistic fighting force. You will have to keep that in mind when you pick your forces. The "task forces" system in Battle for the Danube is designed to help players construct balanced scenarios based on historical unit mixes, and that should help somewhat. We strongly recommend that you use those lists when playing free scenarios.

We can also share a few thoughts about dealing with tanks in the game. Yes, it can be tempting to spend all of your points on "invincible" armor units. But, tanks are very vulnerable to air attack, and can be restricted by terrain more than other types of units. In a lot of scenarios, tanks can be forced into terrain that is dangerous—where more numerous infantry units can attack them in close combat. Tanks can also be forced to use up a lot of ammunition to overcome the defensive advantages of terrain and battlefield fortifications, making them very vulnerable to close combat (remember that a unit without ammunition cannot shoot in close combat!).

Please don't think that I am simply dismissing your concerns. We really do appreciate the feedback on all aspects of the game, and we use them to make adjustments as they are needed. We have recently completed a new revision to the rulebook based on feedback from the community that we hope will streamline the learning and playing process without sacrificing the tactical depth of the game. We are also working on a better system for designing and playing free scenarios that will help address concerns like tank unit balance.

As always, please do pass along your ideas and feedback and I will send them along to our design team!
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Jon Darlington
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Hey, thanks for the reply! Always nice to know that the Zvezda design team is watching player input and is willing to engage in discussions.

I totally accept the historicity of tanks' fearsome dominance on the battlefield in early WW2. (This started to change in '42 onward, which I'm sure will be reflected in the game system as the timeline moves forward and we get to the historical introduction of Panzerfausts, etc.)

In game terms, we're having some trouble either luring or forcing opposing tanks into terrain where they can ambushed by infantry. And we're seeing a few scenarios where one side's best solution seems to be "I'll hide all of my infantry behind these trees while my tanks go out to hunt the enemy and score some VPs."

But that said, this isn't a fatal problem; you raise a perfectly valid point about the role of air attacks in countering tanks in the game -- exactly the historical solution! For scenarios that include artillery pieces, they too can damage tanks at very long range -- not to mention the fearsome heavy AA guns (88s anyone?) that eat tanks (and everything else) for breakfast.

Right now my friends and I are just speculating on some new tools we could give infantry where they find themselves facing tanks without this other support, and change some of the dynamics we're seeing in our games... strictly for "house rules" while we experiment.

Thanks again for the reply. I'll continue to report our experiences with and without these experimental house rules, and hope to hear from others too. Other players may have different pointers or tactics to share, which would be terrific.
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Patrick van Gompel
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I remember this same issue I had with powerfull tanks in my first AoT game. In my eyes it's ok if some units in a game are more powerfull, but since AoT is a point-buy-game I would like to have things balanced. If it is not balanced, players will buy too many tanks, which is neither historical nor fun. So you can artificially limit the number of tanks or make them more expensive to buy. I don't like neither, since I like the freedom to buy tanks and making them more expensive will make them too important on the battlefield (one lucky dice roll to kill that powerfull tank decides the outcome of the game).
So in my opinion a rule change isn't a bad option.

For a couple of years I have been working on rules for a completely different wargame, but I learnt quite a bit from that. The same thing happened in my game: tanks were too powerfull and the whole game was about destroying those few tanks. I tried quite a few things to change that, but the tweaks didn't really work. Then I remembered the PC game Close Combat and how well infantry was balanced with tanks by both having their specific role. (in short: infantry spots and tanks suppress/kill, then infantry goes in for close combat)
So what I did was adding weaknesses to tanks: bad vision and bad close combat.
The last one is the easiest. For eample: lower all close combat numbers to 1.
Bad vision is much harder, but I will try to adopt my double blind system using blocks for this game as well. That will probably not only balance things better but also adds to the game as a whole (at least, it did so in my own game). I will post something about it when I tried.
 
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ROB VERRY
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1. A SATCHEL CHARGE: When used as an anti-tank weapon they were sufficient to severely damage the tracks/suspension, or outright kill the vehicle/crew. Typically, charges exceeding 4 kg (8.8 lb) were enough to destroy both light and medium tanks.

2. CONVENTIONAL HE SHELLS: Were effective against the tank for its 'shock' effect. A non-penetrating shell could still disable a tank through dynamic shock, causing internal armor shattering that could kill/wound the crew, or simply damage the tracks/suspension to immobilize the vehicle.

3. SMALL ARMS & MG FIRE: Early WWII tanks had open vision slits which made tank crews vulnerable to small arms and heavy machine guns that killed/injured crewmen when fired through the vision slits. Later tanks' slits had thick glass, as well as sights and periscopes which could still be damaged with powerful small arms such as anti-tank rifles and heavy machine guns, hampering the crew.

4. SOVIET COMMAND ISSUES: Most early Soviet tanks (even the mighty T-34 and KV-1's) had no tank radios and blundered into many an ambush, thus nullifying their overall superiority. Moreover, many medium and heavy tanks were used singly, or mixed with light tanks, further reducing their effectiveness.

Just food for thought, for placing early historical limitations on tanks running around with impunity, shooting everything up.
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Jon Darlington
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Yup! Those are handy facts. It would be nice if there was a mechanism to force a Fortitude test on a tank with HE attacks; maybe you'd have to make a Suppression Fire test to force the test.

There'd be no chance to actually damage the tank, but if the tank failed the Fortitude test that would signify the crew being stunned. They'd have a chance to recover the next turn if they could pass the test.

Likewise Immobilization rules would be cool to add to the game, and satchel charges would be part of that.

Ah well! Variants I guess.
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ROB VERRY
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JDarlington wrote:
Yup! Those are handy facts. It would be nice if there was a mechanism to force a Fortitude test on a tank with HE attacks; maybe you'd have to make a Suppression Fire test to force the test.

There'd be no chance to actually damage the tank, but if the tank failed the Fortitude test that would signify the crew being stunned. They'd have a chance to recover the next turn if they could pass the test.

Likewise Immobilization rules would be cool to add to the game, and satchel charges would be part of that.

Ah well! Variants I guess.


The TELLER MINE 35 was a German-made antitank mine common in World War II and was widely available in significant numbers in 1941 (The period covered by Operation Barbarossa: 1941). The explosives were sealed inside a sheet metal casing and fitted with a pressure-actuated fuze (set to explode at pressures exceeding 200 pounds, or 91 Kg). You wouldn't want a fat dude stepping on it, LOL! Teller mines had a handy built-in carrying handle on the side. The handle made for easy transport (weighing in at around 20 pounds), even by a single soldier and could be deployed in minutes. As the name suggests ('Teller' is the German word for dish or plate) as the mines were plate-shaped. This particular model was fully capable of blasting the tracks off ANY World War II-era tank and/or destroying the suspension to render it completely immobile without extensive repairs. It could also destroy ANY tank, if a soldier were lucky enough to wedge the mine between the tank's turret and hull (right at the turret ring)- when the turret sufficiently rotated it set off the fuse, often blowing the turret off causing catastrophic loss of both vehicle and crew! Otherwise, it was more than capable of completely destroying light tanks, armored cars, half-tracks and other soft-skinned vehicles of the time. Generally, a very effective weapon system for infantry AT defense of the period.

I am still waiting for my game to arrive (should be here on 1/17), but thought these facts may help with the variant rules you are tinkering with. And, once I get my copy will be sure to use your variant rules due to your intimate knowledge of the game system.
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ROB VERRY
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JDarlington wrote:
My gaming group has been puzzling over ways to increase the threat to armour and armoured vehicles, so that it's not quite so lopsided, without deviating too much from history. Some alternate house rules we're considering, although we haven't playtested these yet:

a) SUPPRESSION: Allow machine guns and mortars, which can normally only attack a tank in Assault, to make a Suppression Fire attack against a tank or armoured vehicle at their normal range. Use the Firepower that the shooting unit would use in assault against its target. Such attacks can never inflict damage (or reduce the tank's defense in any way); but if they roll at least one successful hit, the target must make a Fortitude test or become Suppressed. (Might say this only works vs. light tanks.)

b) DESPERATE ASSAULTS: Allow infantry to assault tanks and armoured vehicles in any kind of terrain, even open ground. However when assaulting an armoured unit in any terrain that doesn't currently allow it, the assaulting unit must first pass a Fortitude test. If the test fails, the infantry unit does not move and the assault does not take place. This test must be repeated each turn of an ongoing assault in the open; failing the test in an ongoing assault means becoming suppressed.

If a tank or armoured vehicle is Suppressed, allow infantry to assault it in open ground without having to pass a Fortitude test first.

c) SHORT-RANGE A.T.WEAPONS: Allow regular infantry units to make an attack against vehicles in adjacent hexes using the infantry unit's assault firepower against that target type. This attack can be the result of a Fire, Defend, or Ambush order, but not Suppressive Fire. We assume they're using some kind of limited, short-range AT weapons (not historical, but...). A squad can do this once; put a mark the unit's 'tank panic' box on the front of the unit card to indicate they have made their AT attack. If the unit re-arms from a truck or supply depot, remove the mark; the unit has regained this ability. So it’s essentially one-shot, and only for adjacent targets… but it’s better than nothing.

d) IMMOBILIZING VEHICLES: I would really, really like to see rules to immobilize vehicles, but I can't think of a good way to implement them just yet. One wrinkle is that each tank on the board represents a squadron and not a single vehicle. Still, it would add new possibilities. Might just be an additional roll any time a tank is attacked: if you take any hits from AP weapons (another tank, an AT gun, maybe MG vs. light tanks), roll one die and become immobilized on a 1; for HE (mortars, artillery, dive bomber) or Assaults, become immobilized on a 1 or 2.


I'll update this thread in the future as we try (and possibly discard) some of these rules... but I thought I`d get the conversation started.



I just finished a thorough reading of the 3rd Edition Rules on-line and completely agree with the seemingly unbalanced impunity of tanks. After a bit of research and knowledge I have obtained over the years, the rules stated above seem appropriate and ARE historically accurate for the period. I was wondering if your gaming group has tested any of these variants and what the overall impact they had on balancing things. In my opinion, they seem to dovetail rather nicely into the existing system.
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ROB VERRY
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I'm not sure if the German 5cm Pak 38 gun is available for play with Operation Barbarossa: 41, but it should be. The Pak 38 entered service with the German army in April, 1941 and slowly began to replace the 3.7cm PaK 35/36, that was largely ineffective against heavier Soviet armor of the period. The Pak 38's were organized into organic AT Battalions, while the older gun was relegated to second-line units. Indeed, during Operation Barbarossa the Pak 38 was one of the few early guns capable of penetrating the armor plating of the T-34. The gun was also equipped with Panzergranate40 APCR rounds with a dense tungsten core, allowing for even greater penetration in an attempt to counter the armor of the heavier KV-1 tank.
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Jon Darlington
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Unfortunately I haven't been able to get this game to the table often enough lately to test out the variant rules yet.

My friends and I are going through a bit of a gaming drought (though we did play a great game of Nexus Ops last week when there were four of us. Thanks, FFB Black Friday sale!)

I'm hoping I can fix this soon and get my friends back to playing Art of Tactic.

There has been a glimmer of hope though, since GOMPEL found out that the third-edition rules removed the restrictions on which types of terrain allowed infantry to assault armour.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/17334373#17334373

Now assaults are permitted in all terrain, so a tank in the open next to some infantry is no longer completely immune to assault. (The odds still aren't great for the infantry, but at least they can take SOME action.)

That effectively implements my suggested variant rule b), without even requiring a Fortitude test to make the assault.
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ROB VERRY
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Well, I guess it is at least SOMETHING. I am eager to see for myself how this all plays out. Tomorrow, FedEx is bringing me the base game + Tank Combat + half a dozen models to flesh things out. Battle For Moscow was on back-order, but now I have that coming as well, along with the Danube expansion. I've got the 'modelling' section of my gaming table all stocked up and ready to build/paint away. As a side note Jon, I still like your variant rules and thanks for posting them as I may find myself using them if deemed necessary.
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Jon Darlington
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Tyrone_Slothrop wrote:
As a side note Jon, I still like your variant rules and thanks for posting them as I may find myself using them if deemed necessary.

Excellent! We can let each other know how they work once we can each try them...
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ROB VERRY
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Will do Jon, will exchange notes for sure. Let me know when you get the game back on your table and test your slick variants, okay?
 
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