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Subject: Briefly comparing the old and new MBT rss

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Fen Yan
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With the update of the WWII-themed Panzer (Yaquinto 1979) in 2012 by GMT Games, fans of Jim Day’s tactical armored warfare system wondered if a similar treatment would be given to MBT, the modern warfare version premised on a hypothetical conflict in the late ‘80s east Europe. The answer (for many months now) is Yes!

Back in 1989 when MBT was first published by Avalon Hill, I played the game for six months straight. Having recently completed proofreading of the rules for the upcoming 2nd edition of MBT (currently slated for a January 2016 printing by GMT), with the permission of the designer, I’d like to share a few observations on some of the changes and similarities you can expect.

STREAMLINED
The first thing that popped out to me was the simplification of the data cards. For example on the T-80 card you can see the gunnery range bands being reduced from 12 columns to 5. Despite this reduction of detail, the positioning battles for gun-range dominance still exist between the main battle tanks. I know this having played a quick game using the new T-80 and M1 Abrams data cards, as well as playing a few games of Panzer, which use the same data card template.

old

new

The Game Cards also show the changes from old to new with:
1) A smaller spotting chart,
2) Absence of the Line of Sight Chart for differing elevations (replaced by rules with seven simple example diagrams),
3) A much smaller AP Hit chart due to the reduction of range bands,
4) Shorter list of AP Hit modifiers partly due to the classification of terrain into light, medium and heavy cover,
5) Other simplifications basically halving the footprint of the original reference chart.

In summary, the game play is still interesting but with less/easier chart referencing.

THE CORE OF THE GAME: COMMAND MARKERS
With the reprint of Panzer a few years ago, I introduced this game system to a friend who admitted he was reluctant to try a tactical miniature armor game. In his experience they normally turned out to be dull affairs with one each side shooting up the other in a dicefest. However Panzer really surprised him. He values games where you’re rewarded for making the decisions that a good real-life commander would. The Panzer/MBT command markers system help limit the information available, requiring you to commit your forces for the turn, while not being sure of what your opponent will do.

The command markers (formerly “orders”) are these: FIRE, MOVE, SHORT HALT (formerly Fire/Move), OVERWATCH and a new one, N/C (no command), is useful for morale recovery or disguising your intentions when using the Available Commands rule. This updated rule (formerly Command Control), is better implemented in the new MBT and limits the number of commands you can issue. For example, an Elite or Veteran formation will have more commands available than a raw or green command. At the crux of a scenario, you'll find that one or two more extra commands can help save the day.

You'll also find that the separate ATGM fire order and step in the turn sequence is no more, replaced by a simple rule for ATGM dodge.

DETAILED BUT MODULAR
In the past I would underrate the complexity of this game system, perhaps due to absorbing the rules bit by bit over several months. For my recent stint at proofreading these rules I went through over 100 pages in a few days, and it struck me how much information was packed into the rulebook. I didn’t find the rules mind-bending like certain sections of Advanced Squad Leader, but MBT covers quite a bit of ground.

Some of the new rules include pylon turns for helicopters, morale with hesitating and broken units, hidden units, staggered initiative, and a plethora of new short optional rules to add flavor to your games.

One change of interest to me was with Smoke Dischargers. In the old game, you fired them off and got a big -10 To Hit modifier but that was your one use a game. In the new MBT, Smoke Dischargers can be fired off every other turn, but their usefulness is not guaranteed. For most SD-equipped vehicles, the chance of getting the smoke is 50%. Discharger Smoke also now has a less effective To Hit modifier. In game terms they are now less of a trump card to escape a bad situation, but become a tactic more readily available throughout the course of a scenario.

Players will find several new rules or changes to old ones, all made in the interest of realism or playability. The designer not only actively playtests his games but listens to, evaluates and incorporates comments from players of his games.

All this said, the rules are easily customized to fit your goals for a fun game of tank battles. As with the old set, you have General/Basic rules, Advanced Rules, and Optional Rules. The Advanced and Optional Rules are modular, meaning you can incorporate what you need. You can use the Advanced Game armor rules and ignore infantry, for example. When you're done with the scenarios, the Design-Your-Own scenario section and point values on the data cards will provide almost limitless hours of games. I know, because I’ve played almost as many design-your-own games as official scenarios.

ORDER OF BATTLE
To reflect released intelligence in the past several years, some of the names on the data cards have been updated. The unit mix has been changed a bit also, for example the BMP-3 and 9K22 Tunguska AA vehicle appears in the new MBT while the MT-LB mortar and airborne BMD and ASU-85 vehicles have been left out.

The Germans don’t appear in the base game but will be in their own expansion, along with the never-before-officially published British Army of the Rhine. Yes, bring on the cool-looking Leopards and Challengers!

In summary, I expect the new MBT to be another fun and authentic addition to the Jim’s portfolio of game designs. If you haven’t read the design background comments on the Inside GMT Blog, please do so: http://www.insidegmt.com/?p=498
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Adam Siler
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Having never played the original, it all sounds like changes in the right direction.

The best things about Panzer are the orders and the simplicity of the game if you are only using tanks. I look forward to tank on tank DYO stuff.
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Dario Domenici
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While I'm waiting to my copy to arrive, I have a couple of questions:

I didn't have the old 1989 AH game but I understand the rules have been revised and new unit types added. The reason why I bought MBT (apart from having a good playing time with it) is because I'm interested in modern tank combat and a simulation game (when good) is usually a fun way to learn and understand many aspects beyond the usual technical infos in reference books (armor thickness, gun size, speed etc...).

Since the old AH MBT went to print many more infos have become available (especially about Soviet tanks) and there has been the first Gulf War which has has been a spectacularly successful combat test for Western armor (even if the abysmal performance of Iraqi T-72s may have provided an excessively bad publicity to Soviet armor).
As an example, we now know that export T-72s (like the one used by Iraq and Syria - and those in the non-Soviet Warsaw Pact armies) were lower quality models (no composite armor and detection, fire control and ammo usually several years behind Soviet standard). Some things are still reserved: actual values for M1 Abrahams armor have never been disclosed and the best infos available are from Russian estimates.

So, have the AH MBT values been just copied in the new GMT game (except new types added for the new edition) or have they been revised and updated (not just to conform them to the modified rules)?

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Fen Yan
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moresby wrote:


So, have the AH MBT values been just copied in the new GMT game (except new types added for the new edition) or have they been revised and updated (not just to conform them to the modified rules)?



I am not up on the modern AFV news but my impression from looking at the data cards and the designer's posts at Consimworld is that the data is updated to reflect his research.
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Fen Yan
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MBT 2nd ed.
I finally got to play the new version of MBT from GMT Games. It feels as detailed as the original, but is easier to play with the bonus of being updated with new rules and combat units.

This afternoon we played a 1000-point design-your-own meeting engagement. I set up three mapboards (out of a choice of 10) and my opponent chose the edge to set up on. Unlike the original MBT, the mapboards were cardstock instead of mounted. So, I needed to find my plastic sheet to cover the maps with. No big deal, as mounted maps would’ve pushed the cost and shipping of this game beyond acceptable levels.

With our 1000 points, we agreed to not purchase leg units or anything other than vehicles. We had three T-80s vs three M1A1s on each side. These were joined by three to five APCs whose purpose was to get flank shots with ATGMs on the MBTs or to harass the opposing APCs.

The spotting rules, just like for those in Panzer, have received quite a few requests for clarification on the Consimworld forums. My opponent and I didn’t experience many difficulties with the spotting rules, perhaps due to our prior experience with the game. Throughout the turn we periodically check “can this unit see this one?” since spotting tends to dictate how we maneuver and set up our shots.

We found the simplified spotting chart, along with the greatly simplified rules for calculating blind hexes behind obstacles, a great improvement over the old MBT.

The main objective was control over a building in the center of the map. As suggested in the Playbook, well-chosen objective hexes and victory point minimums help prevent turtle tactics.

The Americans deployed in three pairs (MBT + APC) spread over the width of the map. The Soviets advanced in a single group in the center along a path that became a paved road. Early on, a T-80 dodged a 2100-meter ATGM shot but fell victim to AP from an M1A1, whose thermal imager helped see through the discharger smoke that the T-80 had fired off.

The shifting of initiative helped the Soviets come back. They were able to swarm a lone M1A1 near the objective building and knock it out. One of the BRDMs got a rear ATGM shot on another M1A1 which was effective.

The funniest moment was when a BRDM/Spandrel and a Bradley fired ATGMs at each other, and each scored track hits!

The Overwatch order allows your units to shoot at targets of opportunity, but you’ll sometimes experience the enemy moving right by you. Realistic or not? I think you just have to plan your orders carefully and have units positioned with mutually supporting fields-of-fire, as well as in reserve.

In addition, it might be discouraging to lose the initiative roll several turns in a row, giving one side first shot and last move. Unlike the old version of MBT, fire is not simultaneous. This is probably more realistic and has the added benefit of speeding up the game. So, unless you have to, don’t gamble on having to win the initiative. It’s always best to put yourself in the best terrain position so that your opponent has to take worse shots or poorer moves. That’s what MBT really is about, maneuver. There’s nothing like putting yourself in a good tactical position and having your opponent having to struggle to even up the odds.
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Nadir Elfarra
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Quote:
In addition, it might be discouraging to lose the initiative roll several turns in a row, giving one side first shot and last move.


Remember there's an optional rule for Staggered Initiative where instead of one side going first and the other going second, they alternate formations (e.g. companies in large games, platoons in smaller ones, etc.). That mitigates the all-or-nothing aspect of the rule.

-N
 
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