Over the River and Through the Woods to The General’s House We Go: The Terrain Tile Pack and Enemy Commander Deck Expansions for the ‘Tank Leader’ Series from Dan Verssen Games (DVG).
WWII Tank Leader Terrain Tile Pack. Game Supplement Review. Publisher: Dan Verssen Games. Designer: Dan Verssen. Price $29.99
WWII Tank Leader Commander Cards. Game Supplement Review. Publisher: Dan Verssen Games. Designer: Dean Brown. Price $19.99
Passed Inspection: New terrain tiles add new battlefield configurations and generate new tactical puzzles to solve. New tiles are an artistic match to the tiles in the other ‘Leader’ series games. New Commander Cards add an additional level of difficulty to the game as well as personalize your opponent.
Failed Basic: The names with the leaders can give the impression that it’s your band of brothers against the all top generals of the enemy.
The release of Sherman Leader game and the Tiger Leader upgrade kit have been nicely complimented with the release of the ‘tank leader’ terrain tile expansion pack and the Commander Card expansion pack, both from Dan Verssen Games (DVG). These expansions are designed to work with either the Sherman Leader game or the Tiger Leader game.
The terrain tile pack adds not just additional tiles of the existing terrain, but also new terrain types that will add new tactical options to the tactical battle. The new terrain types include roads, rivers, soft ground, and outposts – which are an imposing combination of bunker, barbed wire entanglements and minefields.
The new terrain tiles are added for all the geographic regions including the desert, European summer, European winter and the jungle terrain. Using the new tiles, you can create new challenging tactical combinations that allow for rapid shifts on the roads or require a river crossing to close with the enemy.
Physically, the counters are cut from the same grade of heavy cardboard as the basic game components in both Sherman Leader and Tiger Leader. Artistically, the new tiles blend right in with the tiles in Sherman Leader. For Tiger Leader they work, but the tiles from Tiger Leader generally depict a drier landscape that captures the look and feel of the eastern front. The tiles still mesh into an attractive landscape. You will not see any jarring blend of style or color when you combine the expansion tiles with either of the core games.
The outpost tiles are a great way to model a section of the imposing defensive works like the Gustav line, or the Siegfried line, Soviet defensive strongpoints or the bunker complexes constructed by the Japanese across the Pacific. Not just a single terrain type, they represent a complex of defensive works that are capable of dishing out effective fire by themselves. Ensconced in a protective cocoon of wire and mines, the outpost will prove a formidable obstacle to your offensive.
The bogging hexes represent those hexes where the ground is soft or swampy. This poses a movement hazard to all that enter the hex. Interestingly, the effects of the ground are the same regardless of the unit type that enters. Tracked vehicles are just as susceptible to bogging as wheeled or foot units. Some of the tread heads will grumble and mutter something about ‘ground pressure’, but it’s a quick and dirty mechanism that adds uncertainty to the battle narrative and poses yet another ‘command decision’ for the player to make about whether to enter the hex or not.
Roads live right up to your expectations. The road will help facilitate movement from one road hex to another. This is very useful as it facilitates moving from one flank to the other, or driving more rapidly into the opposing sector. But roads cut both ways – the road will also allow enemy units to strike more rapidly into the heart of your defenses. You’ll need to account for the effect of the road when you formulate your battle plan.
Conversely, rivers pose a linear obstacle that will slow your advance. When a river bisects your battlefield, you’ll need to rely on your long-range combat units as getting across the river will require a few game turns, or the use of a lot of tactics counters. If you are defending, you’ll be happy you added those mortars, tanks and AT guns to your combat team. The net effect is to create that sense of peril and uncertainty that come from crossing the open killing ground of the river and struggling to attain the far bank.
The river and roads are semi-geomorphic. They will fit together end to end, but there are only a few combinations that can be created with the river. That’s not the fault of the terrain tiles, but a limitation of the tiles and the space available in the tactical display to place them.
Deal me in!
The WWII Tank Leader Commanders Deck expansion is a deck of cards designed to enhance your experience when playing either Tiger Leader or Sherman Leader. The deck is a set of cards depicting leaders from the armies of the US, UK, France, Poland, USSR, Germany and Japan.
Each card includes the leader’s name, a flag denoting his nationality, his tactical benefit and the value of eliminating him from the game. You’ll see the names of famous generals as well as the less famous officers that performed well, if not necessarily with outstanding élan.
The tactical benefit varies from leader to leader. These benefits can vary across increasing tactical aggressiveness in moving up to the front, or as a benefit to attacking or to defending. The value assigned to each leader is measured in Special Operation points, which is the in-game currency used to build and manage you command. Knock out his unit and gain these points to enhance your force!
The deck is designed to support the two current tank leader games. You’ll use the German and Japanese leader cards with the Sherman Leader game. With Tiger Leader you’ll use the rest of the deck, but not the German and Japanese cards.
So how do these cards fit into the game? Easy – for each enemy battalion you face, you draw a leader that matches that nationality. For example, if I faced five German battalions, I’d draw five German leader cards. When you engage in combat assign one of those leaders to the battalion. If you fail to crush that battalion in your initial battle, that leader sticks with the battalion for the duration of the campaign.
It’s a nice mechanism. Instead of just facing a generic enemy unit, or even assigning it an identity drawn from a historical order of battle, the cards allow you to further personify your enemy by giving him a name and a face. It plays into the arch-enemy trope. Now not only are you up against the crack Herman Goering Panzer division, but it’s under the command of the ruthless German, General Gotthard Heinrici. It’s a way of making your campaign even more personal and literally putting a face on your opponent.
Most of the leaders are well known warriors you’ll be familiar with from histories of their national campaigns. Some not so much. For example, the majority of the Japanese leaders are drawn from commanders of the tank branch, most of whom saw the majority of their service in China/Manchuria. Given that you’d tend to use them with the Sherman Leader campaign cards set in the Pacific islands, it seems an odd choice to stack the deck with a number of these Manchurian candidates as opposed to those from the Philippines, Saipan or Pacific battles.
On the other hand, the cast of relatively unknown Japanese officers avoids the problem with the German leader selection, which can be characterized with the statement “Generals Rommel, Hoth and Von Arnim walk into a bar…”. It feels even odder to face the concept that so many senior German generals are assigned to what are characterized as ‘battalions’. If all these guys are here facing you, who’s minding the store?
If the deck had been seeded with the names of lower level divisional and regimental officers, it would make more logical sense in terms of assigning these personas to the enemy battalions. But what’s going on here is that the value of name-dropping these famous officers outweighs the logic that they all would not appear in the same sector of the battlefield at the same time. Now as you wage your cardboard campaign, you are going up against that very personification of the generals that often were in command of the units (albeit corps or armies) in the campaigns the game presents to the player.
Do the leader cards work with the game? Yes, they do! In ways it’s like another form of event card, albeit one that generally will enhance your opponent’s abilities. As such the commander cards will shift the play balance of the game. Think of it as turning up the volume to ‘11’ or playing the game on ‘expert’ rather than ‘hard’. So, bring your “A” game against these guys – you are going to need it!
Armchair General Rating: 98%
Suitability for solo play: 5 (1-5, 1- not suitable for solo play, 5-perfect for solo play)
Ray Garbee has been a gamer for the past four decades, Ray’s interests include the Anglo-Sikh Wars through the conflicts of the 20th Century and beyond but his passion remains ACW naval gaming. Currently, Ray works as a business analyst in the IT field while continuing to design tabletop games. His past works include Iron Thunder, Anaconda, Anaconda: Capital Navies and articles in a number of defunct hobby magazines. When not busy gaming, Ray enjoys working on his model railroad, hiking and sport shooting at the local range.