Daily Archives: July 9, 2019

Normandy Breakout Game of What a Tanker!

Mark A. Morin

Quote of the day – ” An eighth of an inch can get ya killed in this game”, Mike Morgan.

As the D-Day commemorative events have passed, its important to remember that there was also a hell of a fight for the Allies to break out of Normandy after the landings in the weeks after June 6th, 1944.  D-Day is iconic, and deservedly so.  I wanted to honor the Allied struggle in the Normandy Campaign.

To this end, I have been designing a suitable “Normandy Breakout” What a Tanker© game scenario for my 15mm/1:100 scale tanks.  This game scenario would be one that I could run at a convention or at our club in around four hours.  My goals were to:

  • Create an interesting scenario that incorporates the appropriate German, US, and British armor that was involved.
  • Make the scenario easy enough for new players to pick up and challenging enough for experienced gamers to also enjoy..
  • Maintain the feel of individual tank command in the game, but add other combat forces differentially to each side to increase the historic reality and game action.
    • Add elements of reconnaissance and enemy force location uncertainty to the game.
    • Add elements of infantry, combat engineers, anti-tank guns, and artillery (HE and smoke) to the game.
    • Provide the Allies with naval gunfire support and air support, while the Germans get only a rare case of Luftwaffe support.
    • Add an element of communications breakdown.
  • Make the scenario one where each side faces various risk/reward choices that have ramifications to victory in the scenario.

On June 29th, the Mass Pikemen gathered to play this scenario in East Brookfield, MA.  The tabletop set up was as shown here in the next two photos:

4a game table
Allies move on from the bottom edge.  Their mission is to cross to the other side.  Once the Allies cross, they score points and get a new tank to try to do it again.
4 game table
Same map – Allies move on from the left.

Rules and Scenario Modifications

The What a Tanker© rules are one of the best that I have seen in terms of a creating a tank crew experience in a fun and elegant way.  I have found that for a convention or single scenario game, modifications can augment the gaming experience.  In the rules, each tank crew on its turn rolls 6 D6 as COMMAND DICE.  These control what a crew can do, and as a tank takes damage, dice, and potential actions, are lost.  For the purposes of simplification for those unfamiliar with the game, here is basically what each COMMAND DIE does in the original rules:

  • 1’s allow movement
  • 2’s allow target acquisition
  • 3’s allow aim at an acquired target
  • 4’s allow firing at an aimed target
  • 5’s allow a tank to reload after firing
  • 6’s are WILD, and can be converted to any other die.

There is much more to the game, but this is the main action engine.  Certain tanks have special features/characteristics, like being “Fast”, which allows them to “convert” die to a “1”, or being “Low Profile”, which makes them more difficult to acquire by an enemy.  There are several vehicles that have features like these – and there are many others.

Here are my modifications to the rules for this scenario:

  • To keep the game moving, any vehicle touching a road could additionally convert one of its command dice to a “1” (a MOVE die).
  • I keep score in the game using poker chips.  Each side starts with 100 or 150 chips, depending on the number of players.  At end of game, high chip total wins.
    • Both sides choose their vehicles from a menu, and is charged chips equal to the value of each vehicle.  The starting vehicles must be chosen from different categories, such as “scout car”, “medium tank”, “tank destroyer”, “heavy tank destroyer”, or “heavy tank”.  See examples below of the menus.
    • Chips can be gained by:
      • Successful recon of potential enemy positions (gains two chips).
      • Destruction of enemy vehicles (gains point value of destroyed vehicle in chips).
      • Successful crossing of the battlefield (breaking out) by the Allies (gains chip value of vehicle that successfully crosses tabletop).
    • Chips can be spent to get:
      • Additional Bonus Attack Cards (cost two chips each).
      • New tanks or to get a better tank when you respawn a destroyed tank.
  • I added the category of “armored car” for machine-gun armed light reconnaissance vehicles such as the Daimler Dingo.  This allows them (at their peril) to fire at a heavily-armored vehicle and force them to button up, or have a chance of damaging other lighter vehicles.  There are no rules for armored cars in the original rules.  Some armored cars did have some anti-tank punch, and that is reflected in how I treat their offensive capability.
  • For vehicles that would have been more likely involved in traditional armored cavalry/scouting/reconnaissance roles instead of tank-to-tank combat, I created the characteristic of “recon“.  Recon vehicles could be armored cars, or light tanks like the M3/M5 Stuart.  Recon vehicles get two advantages.
    • The first is defensive.  To reflect the difficulty needed to acquire a well-hidden scout in cover, anyone trying to acquire a recon vehicle in any cover would need an additional “2” in addition to any other cover or vehicle feature benefit the target would get.  This advantage is lost in the open.
    • The second is offensive, in that a recon vehicle can convert any command die to a “2” – so they can acquire targets more easily.
    • The third is also offensive, and involves the use of Bonus Attack Cards as described below.  Each recon vehicle gets two Bonus Attack cards at the game start, and one free card per turn.  A recon vehicle can use two Bonus Attack cards per turn.
  • To represent the need for and the value of reconnaissance (and the uncertainty of knowing the exact locations of enemy positions), I use 18 wooden discs across the gaming mat.  These discs denote potential German positions.  At the beginning of the game, the Germans would secretly choose each of their vehicles and a deployed location.  This information is only known to the GM and the Germans.  Next, the Allies would choose their vehicles and deploy them openly on the deployment side of the tabletop – at positions the Germans would not have known when they made their selections.  German positions are only revealed if successfully reconned, or if the Germans move or fire their vehicles.  The Germans still roll their Command Dice, and can acquire targets and use Bonus Attack cards without revealing their locations.
  • To represent the other combat arms, I made and use the Bonus Attack Cards.  Each recon vehicle gets 2 cards to start the game and every other vehicle gets one.  Each turn, a recon vehicle gets a free card, and extra cards can be bought for two chips each for any vehicle.  A recon vehicle can use 2 Bonus Attack cards per turn, others just 1 per turn.  The target must still be acquired, and hit by rolling a “6” with two dice added together.  The decks for each side are different – and of course randomized when distributed.  The decks are built as follows:
    • 72 Allied “Bonus Attack Cards” made for my What a Tanker© Normandy scenario
      • 18 Infantry Assault Cards
      • 6 Combat Engineer Cards
      • 9 Anti-Tank Gun Support Cards
      • 6 Artillery HE Attack Support Cards
      • 9 Artillery Smoke Support Cards
      • 6 Artillery HE Attack Support Cards
      • 6 Air Support Cards
      • 6 Naval Gunfire Support Cards
      • 6 Commo Problem Cards
    • 72 German “Bonus Attack Cards” made for my What a Tanker© Normandy scenario
      • 18 Infantry Assault Cards
      • 6 German Pioneer Cards
      • 15 Anti-Tank Gun Support Cards
      • 9 Artillery HE Attack Support Cards
      • 9 Artillery Smoke Support Cards
      • 9 Artillery HE Attack Support Cards
      • 3 Luftwaffe (Air Support) Cards
      • 6 Funkprobleme Cards

Hopefully the following photos make these changes clear.

19 Discs
The wooden discs I used for secret German vehicle placement.
WaT Activation Letters
The Germans secretly write down their placements and share this with the GM.
20 Allied Bonus Attack Cards
Examples of my Allied Bonus Attack Cards – all are 1.5″ x 1.5″.
21 German Bonus Attack Cards
Examples of my German Bonus Attack cards – with some Deutsche thrown in for good measure.
Menu Example (2)
An example of the menu for the Germans.  All of the players (on both sides) had to pick vehicles from different categories at the start.  Later purchases and upgrades could be anything they wanted as long as they had the chips.
US and UK Menu (2)
The Allied vehicle menu.  I hope to augment this list with Cromwell and Churchill tanks and Achilles tank destroyers for the British.  The Americans will be getting an M18 Hellcats tank destroyer.  

Now I hope to share some photos of the game – and thanks to Mike Paine for sharing many of these.  Mike is a gaming legend in New England and it was wonderful to have him attend!

We had 6 players – and the game was hard-fought.  In the end, the Allies won 124-115.  It was close and a lot of fun for the players.

2 M10 from Mike Paine
Mike Paine took this shot of my M10 and added the tag!
3 Dingo's last moment from Mike Paine
The Daimler Dingo recons for German armor.
3a Dingo's last moment from Mike Paine
Unfortunate for the Dingo, he found Scott Howland’s hidden Marder III while he was in the open.  
4 gamers
A lively game – Chris Burr makes a point to the GM (me).
4a gamers
The gamers watch Scott Howland and I try to hold my clipboard so the Allies can’t see the German dispositions.
4b Gamers
Ethan Howland maneuvers his Panzer IVH to hunt the M10.
5 SdKfz233 shoots Sherman
Mike Paine’s Sherman is ambushed in the flank by Chris Burr’s SdKfz 233.
5a Sherman and cards
Mike’s Sherman chases the SdKfz 233.
6 SdKfz233 hides from Sherman
The SdKfz hides along the hedgerow.
7 Sherman chases, Pz IVH shows up
Mike pursues, only to face Ethan’s Panzer IVH…
7a Sherman chases, Pz IVH shows up
Mike’s Sherman is attacked on two sides, and is knocked out (but the crew survived!).
8 M8 hides from Marder III and Panzer IVH
Mike Morgan took an M8 Greyhound after his Dingo got destroyed – and it tried to run by the Marder III.
8 M8 takes on Marder III
The Greyhound did not escape either.  Note the undiscovered potential position “K”.
8a Marder chases Stuart
Now the Marder III hunts an M5 Stuart.
9 M8 and smoke screen
Crossroad of carnage and smoke.
10 Tiger I
And then Ethan got a Tiger I.
11 Artillery smoke and burning vehicles clog the crossroads
Allies dropped smoke rounds to try to save another Greyhound.
12 The Sdkfz 233 burns after being taken out finally - it did a lot of damage under Chris' command
After inflicting a lot of damage, the SdKfz 233 is hit and burns.
13 M10 and Firefly work together
A Firefly and Mike Paine’s new M10 attempt to cross the board.
14 Panther arrives and torches the M8 Greyhound
They both run into a Panzer IVH and a Panther D.
15 Firefly vs Tiger I
This Firefly is attempting to gain an advantage on the Tiger I.
16 Firefly vs Tiger I , Don't poke the Tiger...
It did not work – the Tiger dispatches the Firefly.
17 Another Firefly knocks out a Panzer IVH
The other Firefly knocks out the Panzer IVH.
18 StuG III knocks out M10 Wolverine, Firefly seeks vengeance
Lastly, a StuG IIIG took out Mike Paine’s damaged M10.

These shots are indicative that there was a LOT of action.  I plan to run this game again with more vehicle choices, probably at least at BARRAGE.  Thanks very much to the players!

The vehicles shown here were posted previously  – if interested here are the posts:

The next Mass Pikemen gaming session will be on July 27th at 2 PM at 110 Pleasant Street, East Brookfield, MA.  Join us!

If you have any feedback or questions about this post, please share them in the comments section – thanks!

 

from Mark A. Morin https://markamorin.com/2019/07/09/normandy-breakout-game-of-what-a-tanker/
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from Tumblr https://harfordhawks.tumblr.com/post/186157264543
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