Wednesday, 11 April 2018

What a Tanker - Rules Review

With the exception of my local gaming friend John its not often that I get invited to play on another's wargames table and earlier this week I received such an invitation to take part in a Tank Battle game called ' What a Tanker'.

Great Tilte - and a good looking book

Before I go further with this story I should add that I have finally been persuaded to join the world of Social Media (apparently this Blog doesn't count) and I set up myself on Whatsapp.

Despite all the misgivings i had about signing my digital footprint to some technocratic organisation in Silicon Valley I realised that if I wanted to keep up with the local wargaming crowd a phone number and email account were just not sufficient. The aforementioned John had set up a group thingy and was using this to coordinate games in the area. Fortunately my regular gamers are on the group as well. It appears that this group is useful for posting upcoming games and calling out for players. I managed to respond to such a request and found myself sitting in Mark's rather smart wargaming den on Tuesday evening. Hopefully I didn't embarrass myself too much as it would be great to go back and see some of his beautifully painted minis on the table.

So now that i have dipped my big toe into the murky world of social media can I expect to receive a message from Mark Zuckerberg soon?

Back to the invite Mark was keen to try out the new Tank rules from the Two Fat Lardies - rather amusingly called 'What a Tanker'. interestingly John & Charlie the other two players had also bought the rules as well.

Ill be honest here - WW2 is not really my bag and if I had to choose I would always plump for the early periods. This jaded view has almost certainly been driven by my earliest wargaming memories. Back when I was small lad (mid seventies) my mate and I would re-fight wargames using the Airfix rulebook - he would always field the Germans and I the plucky Brits. Suffice to say my Tommy Cookers lived up to their name against the numerous Panthers and Tigers - there were never any points battles then !

Remember This

These rules are best described as the equivalent for Tank Warfare as Wings of War was to WW1 dog fighting. In other words each player commands a tank and attempts to knock out the enemies. The rulers are easy to learn and the game play is fast.

If anything maybe too fast - we played 4 games in just over two hours,, with each game consisting of four players each with one tank. The problem is that when a tank is hit it does have a habit of blowing up and thereby knocking the player out of the game. In my mind this game should be seen as a filler for when the big game has finished early and you just want to roll some armour across the table. The issue almost certainly becomes worse if you had a large multiplayer game and some players are knocked out early. Lots of twiddling thumbs,

Unlike Wings of War where tactical play is encouraged with some luck , What a Tanker is probably 80% luck and only 20% decisions. Perhaps I am being unfair here but when you roll your command dice there is no guarantee you can move, fire or even reload. How you use your dice is the decision bit.

Given that long ranges effectively cover most table lengths, the battlefield becomes deadly unless significant terrain is employed.

So how does the game play - well before I start let me first say that it is great fun but would I want to play this week in week out - no.

My Sherman - trying not to get killed

The games we played all featured two American Shermans versus two Pz IV's. Which according to the comprehensive tank lists in the rule book are relatively well matched. At the start of the game every player gets a random special card (eg Dead shot, Nice Bush, Sandbags etc) which they can use once during the game to influence a command decision/dice roll. The more tanks you kill the more special cards you receive and of course eventually you become an Ace.

At the beginning of the turn everybody rolls a dice to determine initiative - the highest goes first. Personally I think this is a real issue for the game. Given you only have one unit (and it might not even do what you want it to do) actually detracts from the game. Their is no sense of simultaneous action in the same way you get from Wings of War. I have a thought on how this might be addressed shortly...

With initiative determined the first player rolls six command dice - these represent his actions for the turn. Each dice reflects an action he can take

1 -Move
2. Acquire Target
3. Aim
4. Fire
5. Reload
6. Wild (can be anything)

It is possible when you roll the dice you may not be able to move (no ones or sixes), your nice shiny panther his sitting directlty behind that Russian T34. You have acquired the target, you've aimed and your gun is loaded but with no 4 or six you cannot fire.

Even if you can fire you have to roll a to hit dice and then roll a penetration test. There are just too many dice rolls. Lady Luck is very important in this game. It does however lead to some great story telling - Last night we had plenty of occasions when tanks found targets but could not get their guns loaded.

This is very much as our friends across the pond would call a 'beer and pretzels' game, just be prepared to drink a lot of beer if your tank goes pop ion the opening salvo.

Charlies Sherman also not trying to get killed

So I did mention that I had an idea for correcting the initiative sequence - this only came to me on my commute into work so it has not even been mentioned to the folks who let me play last night.

How might it work?.....

If you have played the dice game Perudo yuopu will know where I am heading

Every tanker rolls their command dice at the beginning but keep this secret from the others. They then bid on how many dice of a certain value are on the table- sixes again are wild. Each bid has to be bigger than the last

Player one says there are four fours
Player two says five fours
Player three says six fours
Player Four says no....!

The players then reveal their dice - on the table are four fours and three sixes - player three was right there were six fours (actually seven) correct so he starts the round. The player bluffing would start last with the table moving round clockwise from P3

secondly the fact that all the command dice are now on the table gives every play ther chance to evaluate what their opponent might do and accordingly plan their strategy.

Finally when you roll two of something you don' t need discard them for a dice of your choice (eg two reloads could be exchanged for a fire)

Big thank you to Mark for hosting

A whole heap of German Trouble

Hope this review is of interest....

Must now get round to finishing my write up on Mondays game...Sharpe's Brest

Catch up soon or perhaps sooner if you are at Salute !!


  1. Thanks for that, much as I expected.

  2. Never understood why people mount vehicles on bases!

  3. I looks like a resin vehicle with a cast on base.

  4. I have to confess, I was curious about these as a ruleset, like you not a period, I would normally indulge in, but the fun element has piqued my curiosity a little more.

  5. This does sound like my cup of tea. So firstly thanks for the review. Secondly one assumes that different tanks have different abilities. The Mk II Matilda was very slow moving in real life so might it need more than a single 1 to move OR would it move a shorter distance?

    Details on the mechanis of different thicknesses of armour might have been appreciated as well.

    But most importantly it gives me a jump of point to start looking at the rules. And for that I thank you.

    1. Different tanks have different armour and shooting values. Once a target tank has been acquired, it must then be aimed at before it can be shot. Once a shot has been fired (hit or miss), the tank must reload before it can fire again. If either it or the target subsequently moves, the target must be aimed at again. If the target moves out of los it must also be re-acquired. Once a tank fires and hits its target, you roll a number of dice = to the shooter's shooting value. Successes (I won't go into specific values needed here) are saved by the target tank that must roll a number of dice = to its armour value. The effects depend on number of successful hits. Some tanks have special rules that may make them slow (may only move twice in a turn no matter how many 1s are rolled) or fast (may turn any rolled dice into a 1). There are other rules for other abilities as well.

    2. This sounds right up my street. Thank you for the reply. To be honest I expected NOTHING less from 2 fat lardies. Who do in my opinion write most excellent rules. Rules now on my wish list.

  6. Thanks for the review. I might consider them for early war France/Low Countries or Western Desert.

  7. It sounds like an enjoyable game.

    However, like the author, I experience strong reactions when games fail to match a historical setting.

    SAGA , for example, is incredibly popular, but I struggle with the whole, charge, invoke a power and wipe out an enemy unit narrative when the norm for the era saw sheieldwalls facing each other down.

    Similarly, WW2 featured tanks, but rarely alone in some kind of 2 on 2 gladiatorial combat.

    So, yes, probably a great game, if it featured space-ships or walking robots, but my literalism means that unless it feels like WW2, I'll find it incredibly frustrating.

    A shame, because I find Chain of Command from the same authors to be an excellent set of WW2 rules.

  8. WhatsApp isn't social media?

  9. What a Tanker! Is designed to be an easy to pick up, quick to play game with friends involving tanks. It's not a simulation of tank combat in every detail, but it does do an excellent job of capturing the challenges of trying to command a crew in a tin box under fire.
    If you don't like the dice roll at the start to determine initiative order its easy to substitute drawing cards or chips from a bag instead. And if you use the King of the Ring rule in your multi-player game then players who are knocked out early have a chance to come back as a reinforcement in a fresh tank. So no need to sit things out. It's great fun.