Tank on Tank – Boardgame Review
Tank on Tank. Boardgame Review. Publisher: Lock ‘n Load Publishing. Designer: Peter Bogdasarian. $34.99
Passed Inspection: Streamlined rules make it fast and fun.
Failed Basic: Not particularly historically accurate. Price seems a little high.
Tank on Tank is a tactical tabletop wargame set during the Second World War. There are two sides: German and American and players attempt to duke it out by either eliminating the other side or accomplishing objectives such as occupying two of three towns by the end of the game. The rules are some of the most streamlined a gamer could hope for, and the resulting product is a game that is superb as an introduction to the hobby or great for a lunchtime skirmish or filler between monster games.
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The contents of the game are as streamlined as the rules (which I’ll address below). 40 counters, two 8.5 x 11 inch color maps printed on heavy stock glossy paper, two six-sided (D6) dice, a printed Player’s Aid with terrain effects and unit clarification, and a full color rule and scenario booklet. The maps and Player’s Aid are printed on heavy paper and the maps clearly mark the terrain.
Units look good, but the designation of HQ units are differentiated only by underlining the unit’s name. This can make it a little difficult to find them. A friend suggested a guidon be used instead of underlining for better historical realism and easier identification. I didn’t find this a huge issue; consider it a minor quibble.
Just as you can’t eat steak every night, so it is that you can’t always break out a game that will take all day to play. Tank on Tank fills the short-and-sweet niche by having a game system that can be taught in a few minutes and scenarios that can be played in half an hour or so.
Gameplay is simple. Units are either a tank, artillery or infantry. Each unit has three numbers printed on it which represent the unit’s range, movement, and defense. Attack strength is calculated by the number of units attacking offset by any terrain modifiers. The game is driven by action points (APs). APs are determined by a chit drawn by your opponent. You never know how many APs you have; it will be between two and four. APs govern everything from movement to combat. Expending one AP will, for instance, allow all units to fire at one target. Expending one AP will allow a unit to move, but there is an additional feature – some units are leaders and a leader activated for movement can in turn activate all adjacent units.
Combat is resolved by rolling two D6 dice and applying the attack strength of all firing units then applying terrain modifiers. A result less than the defender’s strength results in a miss. Equal to or greater than the strength and the unit is destroyed. German forces tend to have higher defensive values and longer range than American units, but scenarios typically grant American forces an extra unit or two and American tanks enjoy a higher movement allowance.
Gameplay itself is heavily influenced by random chance. A chance drawing of two APs two turns in a row can severely cripple an advance. A chance drawing of four APs two turns in a row can swiftly snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. In one where I was heavily outnumbered 4:2 I managed to gain both a couple of lucky AP draws and follow that up with some very lucky combat dice rolling. The result was that I won the game with a single unit. These games may not be typical, but chance does play a heavy role in determining the fate of players.
A friend of mine observed that Tank on Tank is reminiscent of a free sampler game sent out as a promotional game by SPI called Strike Force One. There are differences, of course, but in general both offer simple, streamlined gameplay. Tank on Tank rises above Strike Force One in production quality, great unit diversity, and more replay value. Six scenarios are included with the game though clearly players can construct their own. I never played Strike Force One, so to me Tank on Tank is reminiscent of Metagaming’s Microgame series such as G.E.V., but with fewer units and packaged in a box rather than an envelope.
The downside to Tank on Tank is that it’s pretty generic. Being so streamlined and easy to introduce leaves historical accuracy in the dust. Sure, Shermans move faster than Panthers and Tigers (by one point), and the German guns have a harder punch and longer reach, but this is relative. A hard-core tank sim it is not. On balance, however, Tank on Tank delivers a lot of fun for such a small footprint of rules.
Personally I really like Tank on Tank. The high production quality makes it visually appealing, the ultralight rules make it a perfect gateway game to the wargaming genre, and the short play time make it great as a filler game or when time is running short. It would be nice if the maps were mounted, but the counters are great, and all the documentation is printed in full color. It may not be a hard-core sim, but it delivers fun like a Blitzkrieg. I really like the uncertainty of having the opposing player draw APs. While it creates a heavy reliance on chance, the trade-off is that players never really know how far they can push their luck. This brings an excitement to the game that keeps players on the edge of their seats. Sound tactics help reduce the impact of bad luck, but in the end you roll your dice and take your chances. And that’s the kind of fun I like.
Armchair General Rating: 88%
Solitaire Suitability (1= unsuitable for solitaire play, 5 = high solitaire suitability): 1
About the Author:
Jim Zabek has been conducting tank on tank warfare with cardboard, pewter, and pixelated armor for decades. An avid military history buff and wargamer he’s a sucker for fast and fun games like Tank on Tank. If you want to get his attention just break out some funny-shaped dice and ask him if he’s up for a game.