Friday, 14 April 2017

First game of GF9 Tanks - Got Thrashed!

Hilarious, and humbling at the same time, I played my first game of GF9 Tanks last night and was the thrashed...By one of the gaming club member's young daughter! TWICE!

Humiliation aside, it was a good chance for me to see the game mechanics in action and confirm that I have read the manual correctly. Not that's there are lot's of rules, the simplicity of the game is part of its charm (though, this same streamlined approach to 'wargaming' with tanks might also be said to be the games biggest weakness at the same time)...

Setting up a game of GF9 Tanks
The simplicity of setup is one of the attractive features of the game, and as I showed in my previous post everything you need is in the starter box. The play area is only 3' x 3', so you do not need a huge table and this small size also has an effect on the length of the game, which is estimated - on average - to take 30 minutes to play.

We opted for - perhaps - the most rudimentary way of playing the game which was a straight forward 'deathmatch' style of game, either side starting from opposite sides of the table. We also played with four played - two aside - with each player controlling one of the tanks (this actually worked quite well, I thought). And we did take some liberties with the rules by going for a 2 v 2 tank setup, as we made no allowances for tank balancing and nor did we use any of the crew upgrade cards.

But, all our compromises were made so that we could just get the game going and learn the central factors of play - the game phases, how to move and how to shoot.

Game 1 saw some rather over-confident play on the part of the Panther! The
Shermans are actually 76mm gunned models so are a better match for this cat.
In our first game, we did play a little more aggressively than we should have. In this, you cannot help but compare the 'arcade' format of GF9 Tanks to its computer counterpart 'World of Tanks' and this affected our initial attempts at playing the game (we went in a bit 'gung ho'). In fact, jokingly, the question of whether ramming was allowed in the rules came up at one point (the answer is NO)!

We're doomed! With our prized Panther destroyed, the Sherman force split to
trap my Panzer IV in a pincer...Mercifully, it was all over quickly.

Tactics and the use of terrain
By game two we had learned our lessons - one of which is that the Panther is NOT a magic tank - and we started to devise a more tactical approach (the teams swapped factions and we played the Americans this time).

One thing I felt about the flat 2D scenery was that - while adequate and convenient for transporting the game - was that is somewhat detracted from the immersion of playing the game. The fact that you could always see you opponents, despite them technically being behind solid cover did take some of the shine off the game.

I see no houses! In reality, the two German tank are technically 'behind cover'.
Unfortunately, the 2D 'houses' do not immediately give this impression.

But this observation wasn't just an aesthetic preference, I di feel - on occasion - that the flat scenery did make it hard to judge whether a tank was or was not in cover, or how much it was in cover or whether a tank had a direct line of sight to a target. Obviously, it was a simple matter of discussing and agreeing with your opponent what effect the 2D houses or woods had and it caused no particular debate, but I think that proper 3D scenery would make any such issues easier to resolve. (And I'm not just saying that as an excuse to make some more models! LOL)

Rules and complexity
There isn't really, initially, a lot to learn to play this game. The two main things are learning the game 'phases' or order of play - which are movement, followed by firing, followed by a 'command' phase and what number of dice you need to attack and defend.

Movement - or the 'speed' of your tank - is set to a maximum of two lengths of the supplied measuring ruler. In short, the further you move - up to two lengths of the ruler - the faster you are travelling (and so pose a harder to hit target). The game ruler is 10cm long, so you could pull off a straight line 'charge' of 20cm (2 moves) if you wanted to, though you can change direction (not during a single ruler movement, but by turning your ruler for your next movement)...

In this close-in encounter, you can see the 'speed' markers next to the tanks. The
Panther, for example, has just moved '1' (half of its maximum movement).
You have to be aware of the effects of obstacles, but moving is as simple as that. Firing is a little more complex (though that's a relative thing with this game)...

Shooting and the 'Command' phase
Firing at the enemy - and defending against attack - is all down to the vagaries of dice (not good for me, as I am notoriously a bad dice thrower, as game two proved). A roll of 4, 5 or 6 score a 'hit', while the 6 indicates a 'critical' hit.

Each tank has a set 'attack' dice allocation - the Panzer IV has an attack of 4 (so 4 dice). Various tanks - and whether you have special rules or special crew abilities - increase or decrease this figure, roughly in line with how 'powerful' a tank is perceived to be (so, for example, the Jagdpanther has an attack of 6 while the lowly 75mm Sherman only has an attack of 4)...

One notable feature of shooting in this game is that there is no range effect...If you can see the tank you can hit it!

The modifiers to this all come in the defence of a tank. Each tank also comes with a basic defence attribute (number of dice), this is augmented by whether it has moved, whether the attacker has moved, whether either of you are in cover, at what angle the target presents itself AND whether you are in close range (within one ruler length of each other)...Working this out is as complex as this game gets.

So, as an example, the M4 Sherman has a defence attribute of '1', so it starts with 1 dice. If the Sherman has moved in its move phase you add one dice for each move and if your attacker moved you add a dice for his move...

This may seem strange, but what this is trying to simulate is the effect of fire between two moving targets.

Now, if the defender is in cover you add another dice BUT if the defender is within close range you subtract a dice! (There are additional modifiers and situations where you modify, but basically, that's the gist of the shooting phase. This is enough to get you started.)

Example: The Panther attacks with 5 dice and scores a 2,3,5,5,6 - so that's 3 hits (one of them a 'crit). BUT the defender - a Sherman - gets to roll one dice as his base defence, another because he moved 1, another because the Panther moved 1, and another because he is in cover. He rolls a 1,3,4,6 - a 4, 5 or 6 is a successful defence so he has countered the Panthers 5,5,6.

OK, that was a whirlwind tour of the mechanics and I have skimmed a bit. But hopefully, I have shown that this is not a difficult game to learn.

I found that the basic game of tank kill tank will prove to be a bit over-simple for most people and will get very samey very quickly. But, I have not covered the crew upgrades not tank balancing features of the game, which we chose not to incorporate in our first attempts at playing.

Aside from this, there are also objective and mission based games and GF9 - the creators - have published free to download 'Ops' kits, which include special mission rules and even more special printable terrain features. I've downloaded their Normandy campaign Ops kit and it looks terrific as it adds things like minefields and anti-tank bunkers, which will certainly add to the challenge of the game.

It is, at its heart, a simple little game though, and is like an appetiser which you could easily play before you start something more complex, like a Bolt Action game, just as a warm up. It's also a nice introduction to 15mm armour tabletop gaming and is intended - I believe - to be a gateway game to the more substantial and in-depth 'Flames of War' war game.

Next: I will set up and explore the 'advanced' rules in depth in a solo practise game

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