Sunday, July 8, 2018

Tank you very much


We had a great game day on Saturday down at Dean Clarke's house in Bonney Lake, WA. We played Too Fat Lardies' What a Tanker! using 15mm Flames of War tanks. The game was set in France 1940.  I have lots of bits and pieces of 15mm WW2. Among them are some Quality Castings Pz IICs and StuG IIICs in dark panzer grey. I needed to do just a bit of finalizing to get them game-worthy and off I went to Chez Clarke. I have a couple Pz IIIEs, a Somua S-35, and a Char B1 bis in progress (well, actually, so far I've just opened the blisters to inspect the parts), which I'll get into a game in the near future.

Mike Lombardy and I were the Germans. We each ran two Pz IICs. Dean and Troy Wold were the Allies. They each had one British A-10 and one French Somua S-35. A few turns after we started Paul Hammerschmidt arrived and started playing a single Pz IIIE.

The game started slow, but then got bloody. With early war tanks, the guns don't have a lot of punch. Even if the armor is weak, the chance of killing a tank outright (3 unblocked hits) is low, so instead, there's a lot of temporary damage being done. In our case, our Strike value (the gun punch) was lower than their Armor and their Strike was higher than our Armor.

The Pz II is a pretty puny tank overall. Its Armor value is a mere 2. Its 20mm autocannon is just barely an AT gun with a Strike value of 3—but it has the Rapid Fire characteristic, which means that in a single turn, it can shoot multiple times without reloading in between. It also has the Small characteristic, which makes it harder to hit. These characteristics helped, since were were out-gunned and out-armored by the Allies' A-10s and Somuas.

We played the Longball scenario and entered on opposite short ends of the table. Ranges are generous in WAT!. It's unlimited, only shooting past 48" incurs a +1 on your hit number when shooting. We could have started taking pot shots immediately, but terrain factors in. The only blocking terrain were several buildings, but there were several hedgerows as well that require extra effort when acquiring a target and hitting it when shooting.

Scene of action
WAT! uses a ingenious command dice system. Each tank rolls six D6 for their activation. The results can be used for specific things: 1s let you move 2xD6 inches, 2s let you acquire a target—basically spotting, 3s let you aim at an acquired target, 4s let you shoot, 5s let you reload, 6s are wild dice that you can use in place of any of the other five—or bank them to use in your next activation.

There are a lot of subtleties also. For example, acquiring a target may require no 2s or multiple 2s. If your target is in the open and your tank is unbuttoned (i.e., TC and/or crew poking out of open hatches), acquiring is automatic. If you're buttoned up, then one 2 is required to spot. Intervening things that obscure (e.g., hedges, low walls, bocage, burning tanks, etc.) will require additional 2s to acquire your target. If the target is a tank with the Low Profile characteristic, an additional 2 is required to acquire. At some point, acquiring a target might require a whole lotta 2s.

We engaged each other pretty soon after starting. One of my Pz IIs got a pile of 1s on my first activation and I was able to speed up and take position behind a hedgerow. Dean's Somua was soon taking shots at me, but being a small target and obscured made me hard to hit. His A-10 was slow out of the gate with few 1s to get him moving and low D6 rolls when he did move.

For a while, Dean and I stood off and took mostly ineffectual shots at each other. I suffered some temporary damage, which I recovered. Recovering temporary damage is another thing you can do with 6s. Damage reduces the number of command dice you can throw, so recovering temporary damage is important to stay in the fight. Once you lose all your command dice from damage, your crew bails out.

Mike and Troy sparred on the German left flank. Mike made use of the buildings to sneak about and get flank and rear shots on Troy's tanks. These shots give extra oompf to your Strike dice. Against a targets front, 5s and 6s are hits, with 6s being critical. On a flank 4s - 6s hit with 5s and 6s being critical. On the rear, it's 3s - 6s with 4s - 6s being critical. Things can go bad quickly. I think most of the kills in the game occurred from flank and rear shots. Mike eventually brewed up Troy's Somua, but lost one of his Pz IIs to Dean's Somua.

Troy's A-10 burning brightly
At this point, Mike took out Troy's A-10 with a rear shot with his surviving Pz II and started stalking Dean's Somua while Dean was stalking one of my Pz IIs.

Taken out by a Somua
I had one Pz II get shot up early by Dean's A-10. Both my Pz IIs found a nice spot behind a hedgerow. I was loth to move, but found myself suddenly under fire to my flank.

Me brewed up by Dean's A-10
I got my other Pz II moving against the A-10's flank while Paul was engaging him to the front. I think I managed a few hits, but most of the damage was Paul's. After a few shots, Dean took out my other Pz II with a flank shot and Team Dave was out of the game.

Das Ende
Mike took out Dean's Somua and Dean's A-10 was reduced by damage down to having just one command dice available. Paul just drove past him on to the Meuse!

It was a great game day and included an excellent lunch provided by Dean's wife and some fine single-malt Scotch, of which Dean is a connoisseur. Slange var.



Postmortem

What a Tanker! is a fun game. At first it seems that a game entirely devoted to tank v. tank would be dull or simplistic. However, the dice management keeps things interesting and it's harder to kill a tank than it seems. We went through several turns before the first tank got brewed up.

There is also a lot more moving around than you'd think. Getting flank and rear shots is important, while sitting in place trading frontal shots can be ineffectual. Movement also help to force the tanks shooting at you to re-aim and/or re-acquire. Aim is always lost when one or the other tank moves; acquired status is lost if the target is no longer within the shooter's 60° vision arc or has gone behind blocking terrain.

I'm digging through my lead-pile to see what kind of tanks I have partially completed or as unbuilt kits. I'm also looking at the Flames of War website


I'm dashed!


To keep track of tank status, What a Tanker! uses a dashboard for each tank in play. You can download dashboards from Too Fat Lardies in PDF to use. I almost printed some in color and got them laminated at Kinkos, but I figured Dean would have dashboards and I just needed to bring my tanks.

To our delight, Dean gifted each of us with a nifty MDF dashboard produced by DarkOps in the UK. He'd picked up a bunch at his recent trip there. (Dean's an expat Brit and knows pretty much everyone in the wargaming industry over there.) They need to be built—and can be niftied up in camouflage colors 'n' stuff. They come plain. He had a few finished on hand and Mike had a couple also.

I'm so taken by it that I ordered another five from DarkOps when I got home. I'm now regretting that I didn't order the 8-pack, where you can get eight dashboards for the price of seven. I don't think I'll ever need more than six, however.

I'm thinking through how I want to finish them.


Adventures in GPS


My Kia Soul has Apple Car Play, so I can use Apple Maps on my iPhone as a GPS system for driving. I haven't used GPS before. I usually look at a map and then trust to trial and error. But Dean lives in an area of new construction Southeast of Tacoma. That's pretty much terra incognita for me and most of the human race. The current Google Maps satellite image of it still shows a gash of excavated land, so I figured I'd never find it without GPS.

Satellite photo of installation site under construction
I got there, but there were a few stumbles. Just south of Renton on I-167, I stopped for coffee. When you turn off your route, the little tin GPS gods become confused or angry—or maybe it's me who gets confused because they're angry. The GPS immediately starts telling you to turn here, there, anywhere to turn you around whenever you deviate. Obey the machines.

Part of my reason for stopping was to reset my route. I initially set it as a link from an email where Dean provided his address. The link opened Google Maps, which provided audio guidance, but didn't display onscreen. Stopping for coffee gave me a chance to switch over to Apple Maps and get a screen display of my route.

But switching to Apple Maps didn't shut down Google Maps GPS—though I thought I'd shut it down—so I had both systems giving me instructions. I guess Google Maps wasn't finished pushing me around. I wound up going the wrong way and was guided by two voices through a strange roundabout trail to get back on I-167 South.

Once on my way, I was good for several miles until I got off I-167 in the Sumner/Bonney Lake area. The roads twist and turn, which isn't—or shouldn't be—a problem with GPS. Except that in some places the roads have a funny way of changing names when they twist. A very slight bend in the road was being announced to me as an instruction to turn, but there was no actual turn. I felt a bit disoriented and wondered if something had gone all glitchy. I U-turned, which only got the dueling GPSes grumpy, and retraced my route back to see if I could re-find my way. I stopped to figure things out and saw on the map that there was a long stretch of road. I guessed that it was doing the turn instruction because of the name change and plowed back through until the instructions started making sense again. The Sirens of GPS were luring me onto the rocks, but like Odysseus I overcame them.

Going home, I also used GPS—only the one this time—not because I don't know where I live, but because I needed it to work like Ariadne's thread to get me back out of the Bonney Lake labyrinth.

Thus my first adventure with GPS. I won't use it much because I mostly know where I'm going, having been almost everywhere by now. However, it's nice to have when I need to navigate to someplace off my beaten path.

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