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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Bolt Action - Review: Tank War

Tank War is here, BARbarians! For your previewing pleasure!

That's right, the upcoming supplement from Warlord Games and Osprey Publishing is about to arrive in every greedy BARbarians hands.


For those curious, the writing credits this time around are given to Ryan Miller, Rick Priestley and Alessio Cavatore. Rick and Alessio have also been given editing credit, as before, and Paul Sawyer has been added to the editing team. Artists credited are also familiar to us: Peter Dennis, Howard Gerrard and Steve Noon. The photography was done by Mark Own and Gabrio Tolentino. The painters list reads, similarly, like an all-star team roster. Andres Amian Fernandez, Neil Burt, Jose Bustamante, Alan Mander, Gary Martin, Bruce Murray, Mark Owen and Darek Wyrozebski are listed.

As you may have gathered from Alessio Cavatore's recent youtube video, Tank War represents a departure from the norm for Bolt Action fans. We're all used to "Armies of..." books which have offered highly concentrated supplements to the main rule book. While they offered you more options to play within the core rules, Tank War offers different ways to play the game. In my opinion, this was a great decision executed by the design team, as we've all had the urge to put a ton of tanks on the table - essentially an impossibility using only the core rules.

In short, almost every section of the book offers players with a different set of optional rules they can use when playing Bolt Action.

One of the biggest questions on everyone's mind was whether or not the forces offered in Tank War would be completely compatible with "standard" Reinforced Platoons in Bolt Action games. The answer is - maybe. In a now familiar move, the design team has left decisions like this up to the players. I'm very excited to see what sort of creativity the community at large can apply to this sort of freedom.

This supplement is broken down into multiple distinct sections. The first of them details the rules for constructing Armored Platoons. Most of this will not seem shockingly different from what you are used to if you've already referenced the free PDF Warlord Games released for playing armored battles. However, there are additional rules - some of which are optional - which further enhance the armored experience. One of my favorite additional rules encourages players to field three or more of the same type of tank, mimicking an actual armored platoon from the war. While a random smattering of tanks can be fun, I know several history buffs out there that would vastly prefer to see more historically-slanted formations fielded. Any sort of mechanic that rewards a player for this sort of list construction is a big plus, in my book. In case you were curious, players that build their armored platoon in this manner have access to a +2 command bonus from their command tank, rather than the +1 we're all used to.

The next section of the book describes one scenario for use in Tank War games. BARbarians will find the scenario at least somewhat familiar, as it is similar to what players that participated in the Tank Battles Event at Cold Wars experienced. Multiple objectives are scattered around the entire table, and the two Armored Platoons compete to see which side can control more of the objectives. People that have played the Company of Heroes series of PC game will be familiar with the style of this scenario as well. I think everyone enjoyed this scenario at Cold Wars, and I'm confident you will too. As an aside, it can be easily adjusted to work well with Reinforced Platoons.

After the scenario comes the rules section that covers tank crew experience. For those players that wish to "level up" their tanks over time in some sort of campaign system, this section covers that in some depth. Special abilities can be gained over time as your tanks survive scenarios and destroy other vehicles in an XP-for-Abilities exchange system. Surprisingly, no rules are included to purchase these abilities in standard Tank War games with points. Of course, you and your opponent could simply agree beforehand to each take one or two abilities on a tank or something similar. The designers certainly prefer to give the players the freedom to make these decisions!

Following this section, they've included rules on using "Legendary Crew" in Tank War games. Again, these rules, as with all the rules in this book, are optional. Legenday Crews are probably a lot like you might imagine; a famous tank ace and his crew represented by a veteran version of a pre-existing tank with several special abilities tacked on, resulting in an increase in points of course. It is interesting to see the designers' interpretation of famous aces. Given the nature of war gaming and war gamers, some people will absolutely love having one unit on the board with six special abilities to keep track of. Some people will not. We will certainly witness much debating on the forum as to the balance of these units, but simply remember that the rules are optional and drive on!

The Legendary Crews themselves range in points cost from the three hundred realm up into the seven hundred range. Big cats end up quite expensive, while Legendary Sherman crews and similar end up reasonable. Now would be the perfect time to add that it is suggested to play Tank War games at fifteen hundred points. This is a suggestion MarkDawg can definitely get behind, and I tend to agree that, at least in Tank War games, increasing the points is a must.

With Legendary Crews behind us, we come to a very large section of the book entitled "Great Tank Battles of World War II". This is a cool addition to a Bolt Action supplement, as it takes much of the work out of putting on a historical battle. This section is huge, and if historical scenarios are of interest to you, I'm sure you'll find it useful. I'd like to add that the special rules and restrictions in each scenario are nicely done. There is not so much "new" that it bogs the game down, yet there is definitely enough to spice things up and make it feel like a special game of Bolt Action.

Nearing the end of the book, we are offered some new command vehicle and armored recovery vehicle options. These are all interesting, if not completely game changing. Anytime more unit options are given, it's a good thing, of course. Table time will tell if there are any hidden gems in these additional units.

The second to last section provides the reader with some fun tanker talk of the period. This filler provides some entertaining reading. Finally, the book offers rules for yet another optional way to play the game called Tank Ace. Capturing the feel of World of Tanks, Tank Ace lets you and your friends each bring a tank (or twenty) to a table and have at it. This is the ultimate "kill 'em all" type video game experience - a good filler game, and certainly something you could whip out with almost any crowd.

Overall, I am of course really excited about this supplement. Part of me was disappointed that our beloved gepanzerte panzergrenadier or armored rifles didn't get any special treatment. Yet, this book wasn't about addressing little niggling things you or I might not be completely satisfied with in the main rule book. Tank War is about throwing nearly one hundred pages of interesting, and entirely optional, rules at you. It's exciting, fresh, and different ways to look at Bolt Action. I mean, if you really think about it, this is an entirely new game to play - tanks as a core of your force! I'm most excited to test out how the Reinforced Platoons we're all accustomed to stand up next to these Armored Platoons that Tank War offers; at fifteen hundred points, of course. Let the Bolt Action Happen!

This wraps up the Tank War preview! If you're as excited as I am about, let us know on the forum!

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