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Board Game: Team Yankee
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Subject: Matt's Rambling Review - Team Yankee rss

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Matt Jolly
United Kingdom
Bourne
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Team Yankee is a simple miniatures game system based initially on the situations graphically described in Harold Coyle's novel of the same name. It is based on the Flames of War WW2 rules, but I know nothing about these so will not mention them again. I have owned the Team Yankee (TY) rules for some time now, and have finally had the chance to try them out. I've been in New Zealand on holiday and my wife has given me time off to wargame. And I have been lucky enough to learn in the company of some really nice guys including a serving officer in the NZ army.

Bottom line up front, TY is an entertaining game, and has lead to exciting gaming with cliff-hanger endings. But it really is not a simulation, instead in the words of one of the players, it's the "movie of the book".

TY is a one model = one thing set of rules with no defined time or ground scale. It is commended for use with the 1/100 scale miniatures which are produced by the same company, but accepts that any appropriate figures could be used. The model scale, movement, weapon range and command range interactions are important however; I'll return to this later. It is worth noting that progressively smaller models not just look better on the table (to me at any rate) but even the reduction from 1/100 to 1/144 can make the rules appear to work a lot better. My personal experience of using a mate's forces based on Galoob micro-machines is that although the models are less pleasing than the "official" scale models, keeping all the movement, ranges and in particular command ranges the same with the smaller models creates a (for me) more convincing look and feel, and these feelings are reflected (for example) in the vibrant Team Yankee 6mm Facebook community.

Presentation

TY starts with a good quality hard-back rule-book, which includes all of the game mechanics required to play the game. Not only that, but with an active and friendly community (on Facebook for example) which includes the games designers and model sculptors, canonical answers to rules queries are readily available (at least in the same time zone!).
It does not however include all of the rules required for play as this is a game dependent on unit information, not all of which is in the rulebook. Instead, following the Games Workshop model, only a few basic units (those from the TY novel for the most part) are in the basic rules. These include (I don't have the rules in front of me at the moment so can't check);

Russian
T-72 Tank
ZSU-23-4 AA
SA-13
BMP-1 (and recce & OP)
BMP-2 (and recce)
2S1 122mm SPG
BM-21
SU-25
Mi-24
Infantry with RPG-18
RPG-7 Team
PKM Team
SA-14 team

American
M1 Tank
M163 VADS
M113 FIST
M113
M901 ITV
M109 155mm SPG
M106 Mortar
A-10
AH-1 Cobra
Infantry with M16
M47 Team
Infantry with M249 & LAW



...which is a reasonable starting set but no more. For more unit types you must buy the accompanying army books or the models themselves. For us more historical gamers this is an unfamiliar model, but by no means a show-stopper. It is frustrating though as the novel is eclectic in it's depictions of units, and means that there are some strange omissions like the Bradley IFV.

Army books introduce at least the British and East German armies, as well as more Russians and (soon) more Americans. It is easy to criticize the selections of unit types in TY, but to be fair, given the model that the writers are using, they have to pick something, and they can't pick everything. They seem to be working hard to make sure that each force has a representative type for each role even where these were uncommon (or non-existent in-theatre in the case of the Sgt York DIVADS) in the historical model. This presumably ensures that it is harder to have dominant force mixes for any side in tournament play.

This is important because TY has an interesting mix of scenario- and points-selection mechanism to define the game. The scenarios included in the rulebook are engaging and set up fascinating games with well matched forces, and who can complain about that? Alternatively, players can design forces for tournament play.What about the rules themselves?

Combat

These are minor variations of the tried and tested Donald Featherstone rules; roll a dice to hit, roll a dice to damage/save, with the addition of a third dice sometimes to resolve "bail out" which is a bit more like a short suppression. Interestingly each target is rated by the chance to hit it, rather than this being dependent on the firing type. But firing modifiers mean that the mathematical effect is the same as the more familiar hit-based-on-firer model. Given that many weapons have a rate of fire of greater than 1, and that the rules encourage firing by unit, the player can have a very satisfying experience rolling huge handfuls of dice. The number of rolls reduces the effect of chance and generally works well.

There are some surprises though, flank shots can only be taken by a firer entirely behind the target, even if the target is exposing far more side armour than front, the firer deliberately picks the smaller, harder target. There is no opportunity fire, so the old Panzerblitz "panzerbush" tactic rewards careful players. Aircraft and infantry firing from upper stories of buildings do not hit the top armour of their target which means that they are not very effective, and indeed a fully effective tactic against infantry in built up areas seems to be to charge up to the BUA at full speed, ideally up a road, stop in the middle of a swarm of close assaulting infantry and fire at full effect with near complete immunity. A unit receiving fire may be able to reassign hits to other models in the same unit making targetting of specific vehicles because of their location or command role problematic sometimes.

Artillery and close assault have similar but slightly different rules, but are generally clear and well explained.

Command and control

C2 is very simple, and basically related to a range of control from a unit leader. It is an unfortunate effect of the preferred model scale (c1/100) and command radius of 6" that larger units (soviet tanks may be up to 10 vehicles) have to cluster in a hubcap to hubcap way that looks very unrealistic, and should be the answer to an artilleryman's prayer. The distance gets larger if the vehicles are deployed in a single line one vehicle deep. The leader may also issue a single special order each turn such as "Blitz", "follow me" and so on which have specific effects beyond move or fire.

Morale and Troop Quality

Morale is generally simple; units react well until they lose all but a couple of models or stands, making small units much more fragile than large. Troop quality is baked into the units themselves. Every model or stand has a card which as well as listing physical performance like weapons, movement and armour, also lists things like bail-out performance. These reflect both hardware capability and troop behaviour and means that identical equipment operated by different organisations may have different values. It means that modern (in TY terms) Soviet tanks have a lower rate of fire than their NATO counterparts despite having autoloaders and a doctrine of rapid support fire. It means that these cards are very important, and the most practical legal ways of getting new ones is to buy the (expensive but beautiful) miniatures.

Situational awareness

Don't know how else to capture this, but effectively pretty much everyone on the TY playing area is assumed to be known and identified by everyone else, and the ranges to everything are known before a decision to fire takes place. Whilst this is a key factor in minimising the book-keeping it means that (with the exception of the very limited "ambush" rules) it is hard for any kind of complex tactic to be enacted. In particular the game effectively assumes that every potential target has been sufficiently well identified and acquired that it is capable of being shot at. Units in the centre of woods and in buildings deep inside built up areas may be targeted if a LoF can be established using the WYSIWYG rules, and reacted to even if they can't be "seen". This makes the game simpler, and certainly means that acquisition rolls are not needed, but makes the task of the defence far more challenging!

Movement

Movement is relatively simple with each model having situation based movement allowances which change the possibilities and/or accuracy of outgoing fire and the difficulty of being hit. A good feature is the random roll when trying to enter or move through area terrain or cross linear obstacles. It makes rough terrain plausibly unpredictable. The ease of crossing is again dependent on both hardware agility and troop quality. Movement does not affect your ability to respond to a close assault, so although a fast move can stop you shooting generally, you can respond to an assault with equal alacrity whether you have had a whole turn to prepare or are ambushed after a long move.

Despite there being no claimed time or distance scale it is noticeable that some vehicles can move faster than their own MG range, and in a couple of turns can exceed tank main gun range. The effects of this, especially considering that overwatch does not exist in the game, are quite profound in terms of game dynamics.

Missions, scenarios and tournaments.

This is where TY really shines. The missions in the initial book are well balanced and lead to some real nail-biting situations. The points system is sufficiently flexible to offer real alternatives in force-building. It means that you can hope to have a meaningful game between wildly differing forces, even those who might have been on the same side in WW3.

Overall

TY seems driven by two major considerations; the first is a rabid aversion to recordkeeping that means that the resulting system is clean, playable and best of all quick. The second is to underpin the business requirements of the producers who are keen to sell not just their rules but their models too. These considerations are not exclusive and it is up to the buyer how they feel about the shortcuts required by the first and the purchases inferred by the second.

Pro's
• Relatively simple
• Almost no record-keeping
• Powerful narrative generator
• Large and supportive player community

Cons
• Massive problems with realism, some of which are necessary price of eliminating recordkeeping, but others seem more arbitrary decisions which could have been taken differently.
• Difficult to expand into armies not covered by the existing rules without significant invention
• Tendency to game the rules in the knowledge that appeals to common sense or realism are unlikely to succeed.

What do I think?

Would I choose Team Yankee as my "go to" WW3 rules? Absolutely not. The compromises on realism are simply too great for me to willingly suspend my disbelief. Cold War Commander is still my preference, although I will use WRG for smaller games, and have just acquired Fistful of Tows 3 and am experimenting with them. Tankwreck also gets a shout for fast gameplay. For something which is around the same complexity but where I don't find the realism issues as great I would dip into my collection of Eisenbach Gap and its fellow boardgames.

Would I play Team Yankee with a mate or group of mates getting together for some social gaming and trash-talking? Hell yeah, ideally with a beer in my hand and an eye on the inevitable post-mortem. As a simulation TY may be flawed, but as a tabletop miniatures game with a loose connection to a theme it is hard to beat, and I prefer it to (for example) WH40K, and this is I suspect the intent of the designers.

In the end it's a game, and your mileage may vary considerably!

Cheers,

Matt
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Andreas Johansson
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I spent 200 GG and all I got was this lousy overtext!
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I spent 200 GG and all I got was this lousy overtext!
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Nice review cool ... which just happens to largely agree with my own impressions after trying for the first time earlier this year
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Ken Stewart
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Could you elaborate why you like it more than 40k? I have recently been considering getting into this, and I am mainly a casual 40k/AOS player.

Also, what would you recommend a new player buy first to get into the game?
 
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Matt Jolly
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Ken,

I prefer it more than 40k for a couple of reasons:

Firstly I think that the creators love the game and that shows in the support available. They may see it as an economic entity, but they haven’t forgotten it should be fun.

Secondly I prefer the theme. Not only that but model and terrain purchases for TY can be used for any more realistic sets of rules if you too become enthused by the theme.

As to where to start, I think I have suggested that the rules work better with smaller models than the official ones, so I would suggest the rules and some 1/300 models.

Cheers

Matt
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Barry Kendall
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Lebanon
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To me, the best thing about TY is that it means affordable minis in my preferred scale for playing with better systems.
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Joel Dudgeon
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Nice review, thanks. I'm looking for a miniatures war game and have been leaning towards Bolt Action/Konflikt 47 (and will likely be picking up SW Legion as well). I know the scales are different, but I don't think BA is classed as a simulation-type war game either, so if you've played BA, how do you feel it compares to something like Team Yankee?
 
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