Thursday, 12 October 2017

7D2D - Spooky Adventures!

I'm starting to get to grips with 7 Days to Die, to the point where I am considering starting a new game, with a new map seed and with the game difficulty a little higher. But, in the meantime, I want to try out my new base design on a few Horde Nights to test its construction. (Despite the fact I am only just completing it I have already spotted some things which need tweaking or improving.)

This build is taking me so long because I keep adding bits on. What started as an idea for a simple 'keep' has blossomed into a small castle!

I'm also venturing further and further afield in search of new cities to loot. This has made me realize just how big the map really is and I wish they allowed you to build a sort of 'Mad Max' style microlight aircraft...That would be cool.

Despite finding four cities now, I am still coming across new and interesting 'special' buildings. My latest raid to a far-flung location delivered a very nice surprise...

There was a very nice haul of loot in the bank, which made the long drive worthwhile (over 2 hours in-game time) but it still niggles me that I have not come across a single gun store yet!

Single-player Psychosis!
One aspect of these sort of large-scale RPG 'explore and loot' games is that when they are played single player they can be a little 'spooky' at times. I guess that actually lends to the sense of being a lone survivor in a post-apocalyptic world, but it can cause you to get a little jumpy sometimes.

Last night I got completely creeped out when I exploring a town and I found another minibike! It reminded me of the book 'Robinson Crusoe' when he discovered the footprints of another person on his beach...That feeling of not being alone was decidedly eeie!

Is somebody else here?
It took me quite a few moments to eventually realise that my game had not been invaded by some interloper, but that I had abandoned this bike some time ago when I was killed when I first discovered this town!

...This is what happens when you play a game like this late at night on your own! :D

The End is Neigh!
As I said, I'm starting to get that feeling that I've broken the back of the game at this difficulty level now. Even Horde Nights are not that much of the challenge that they were. However, I'll continue a bit longer with this particular game as I still want to try out a few things, such as electrical items.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

7D2D - Sky High Loot

While the primary focus of 7 Days to Die is that seventh-day horde and you have to always be aware of that looming event there are lots of other things to for you to do. I really enjoy the exploration and looting across a large map.

There's nothing quite as exciting as spotting a new special point of interest!

The game has some very interesting special points of interest for you to raid, each with its own challenges and dangers. This week I took on one of the enormous skyscraper buildings that appear in the cities, there are several different types and each has its own particular theme, from pharmaceutical corporate headquarters to a construction site.

You can spend a whole day - or even multiple days - searching through these towering death traps and naturally, they are all occupied by the usual motley collection of hungry undead.

My first high-rise adventure presented me with a bit of a conundrum as most of the stairways to the top floors - where I suspected the best loot was to be had - were partially destroyed. Luckily I came armed with the 7D2D 'Swiss Army Knife - the wooden frame (and plenty of them) so I was eventually rewarded with this stunning view from the building's upper floors...

Clearing the tower floor by floor had already rewarded me with some reasonable loot, but as the danger escalated - with partially constructed and semi-destroyed floors - so the quality of the finds got better and better. So when I was presented with a terrifying obstical course to navigate I knew that there was going to be something special at the end to make its negotiation well worthwhile...

My trip up the tower was definitely not without its squeaky bum moments, 'special' zombies made more frequent appearances as I got closer to the top and I broke my ankle twice as I fell through dodgy floors (luckily I also came prepared with a number of splints). But my major advesary was time and it took two separate visits to this location to conquer the summit!

Even then the adventure ended with an Indiana Jones-style get-away as night-time fell as I made my final descent laden with my ill-gotten prizes. I only just avoided an angry wandering horde in the ground-floor lobby and made my get-away in a cloud of dust on my mini bike! Phew!

But it was all worth it and this was a well-spent couple of days out of my schedule as my haul copped me - amongst other goodies - my very first all purple quality weapons...

My first all-purple weapon.
Stuffed to the gunnels with loot it took me a while to sort and then put together my booty and decide what I was going to keep and what I was going to sell on for a tidy profit. My now numerous storage boxes are starting to get more and more organized as I collect a plethora of different types of items, here's just one of my weapon crates...

I now try not to fill each crate to the gunnels as that makes things harder to
find. Rather I leave space between types of items to make them easier to see.
I can't wait to get this beauty out next horde night...

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...
After the excitement of my raid, it was actually nice to spend a day 'relaxing' at the construction site of my new base. This day proved to be just as productive, though, as I finally completed my 'phase 2' concrete fence around my compound. Better still was that I managed to attract the attention of a Screamer Zombie who in turn called up a mini-horde of nasties...Just what I needed to test my new barrier!

Conveniently, although the zombies could not get through my fence, once
dispatched their corses fell through, making it easy for me to loot them in safety!

The pleasant surprise was that my fence design worked perfectly, just how I hoped it would (I was a bit worried as I noticed a similar design in a YouTube video which had some crucial additions which my barrier didn't).

The premise is that the barrier (3000 strength concrete 'poles') would hold off a voracious horde - who I hoped would not be able to crawl through the gaps - while I would be able to have at them with my barbed club with impunity...It worked!

On cue, a single Spider Zombie tried to crawl under the lower posts but couldn't and presented his head as a very easy target for a good bashing. My only disappointment was that swinging my club sometimes made contact - and so damaged - my own barrier instead of the heads of the zombies. But, to get around this I switched to my Hunting Knike to stab through the gaps instead.

I may have to invest in the Machete now to up my 'entity damage' as my Hunting Knife doesn't do anywhere near the same damage to zombies as my beloved Spiked Club does. (Hunting Knife damage: (Current) 15 - Spiked Club damage (Max): 30 - Machete damage (Max): 30.)

Postscript: I later got a chance to try out my theory that the machete would compliment the concrete barrier...And it worked! The extra length of the machete blade allowed me to reach the zombies through the barrier and also caused greater damage...

Monday, 25 September 2017

7D2D - Day 91 Horde

Nightvision woes!
Is it me or is it the game? It seems crazy that when you activate night vision when using the sniper rifle that the sniper scope remains normal vision and therefore you can't see anything!

Surely, it would have made more sense that when using night vision that the sniper scope would them become a 'night scope' too? Or maybe I just haven't found the button for that? Anyway, this video - which shows the complete Day 91 Horde Night (21 minutes worth) illustrates the problem I am having...


As I say in the video, my plan was to use the sniper rifle to engage the incoming zombies further out and then to switch to the shotgun only if they got as far as my perimeter. But, I just couldn't see the zombies at a distance and had to take mid-range snapshots with my rifle instead.

Yes, I could have turned on the rifles torch, but the beam of that does not extend as far as I want (maybe I need a searchlight?)

I will try and come up with a solution to this problem for my next base, maybe by creating an additional barbed wire barrier further out so I can snipe long-range.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

7D2D - Progress Towards 3rd Base

Yes, I've nearly reached 3rd base...Har har har!

I've kept the design compact and simple in order to economise my resources and ensure that the compound is easily defendable (I can run quickly from one side to another).

This is my first completely new build - although I did incorporate a water tower - and I have used a lot of new materials such as concrete, reinforced concrete, and iron. There has also been a lot of thought - based on my experiences in my first two bases - that has gone into defensive architecture, like spike pits and perimeter fence design.

What you see in the above picture is 'phase 1', the tower, but this will be surrounded by a 'phase 2' perimeter fence. Eventually, I hope to build 'phase 3' outer defensive perimeter pits or motes, but the completed basic tower should be capable of holding off the current level of hordes I am seeing at the moment.

Working into the night on my 'phase 2' perimeter 'fence', which is actually a
concrete barrier. Hopefully, I will be able to use my melee club through the
bars (which should save on valuable ammo).

New Enemies, New Challenges
On each horde night (every 7 days) it seems that the level of difficulty is cranked up a notch. Special zombie types make an increasing appearance and things start getting a little hairy as you try to plug the increasing holes in your outer spike defenses. The last horde night saw the first appearance of the dreaded zombie bear...

Luckily for me, this beasty made his entry right at the end of the horde night when things were just starting the quiet down, so I was able to focus my attention on him. Even so, it to 5 headshots with my shotgun at point-blank range (he had gotten caught in my barbed wire fence) to take him down!

I dread the thought that there could be an irradiated version of this powerful zombie (the irradiated zombies slowly regenerate health so are a bitch to despatch). As a rule, I don't even take on the normal bear in this game but avoid them, same goes for wolves unless I know I absolutely have the advantage (I don't think there is a zombie wolf, at least I haven't seen one yet).

Exploring the Wider World
As much as you are consumed with the build-up to the horde night, you have to manage and your 7-day cycle between exploration, looting, scavaging (resource gathering), crafting and building. I have settled into a regular schedule of activities to ensure I get everything done that I need to do in time for the Blood Moon, it looks like this...

Cleanup & Repair: I loot the zombie carcasses and plug any major
holes in my defenses. I sort any loot and repair/improve

Any sellable items from my loot are taken to the trader and I buy
improvements to my inventory. I spend the rest of the day on a
journey to scout out any new cities, towns or likely sources
of new loot.

Resource gathering and production of materials for my
trip to my new base location.

Day spent moving important items to new base location and
Continuing the building of the base.

On the hunt for good loot and hunting for meat.
(If any good sellable loot is found then a quick visit
to the trader.)

Search for resources to help prepare for Horde Night.
In particular on the lookout for minerals to make ammo and
timber and iron for defensive items.

Defence improvements and ammunition production.

This is just a general guide, I do change the schedule to reflect urgent requirements plus there are the regular daily tasks I undertake (scavaging for food is always top of the list). On top of this, there is the lottery of the three-day airdrop (what goodies will I get), treasure hunts and quests.

One of the most exciting moments in the game is when you discover a new
city. The sight of tower blocks excites your appetite for new loot! 

However, aside from contributing to the looming Horde Night this variation of tasks keeps the game fresh and interesting and reflects my interest in tasks other than just the weekly game of 'Tower Defence'. I love the exploration and I am getting a lot of enjoyment out of designing and building my new base. And above all, I am always on the lookout for those invaluable parts to make or improve a tool or weapon...Finally creating a new more powerful or useful 'tool' always give me a buzz!

Monday, 18 September 2017

7D2D - Getting challenging

Due to some file corruption and the latest game update I had thought my game difficulty had flat-lined a bit. Horde nights weren't quite as challenging as I thought they should be.

Now, part of this is my fault. Because this is my first game of 7 Days to Die I probably set the overall game difficulty a little on the easy side, so now I'm progressing with my skills and am getting to know the game it feels a little pedestrian now...Well, it did...

At last...More challenging zombies!
Part of the problem was that the zombies I was encountering were the easier sorts, horde night just increased the number and their aggressiveness it seemed. But, from behind my walls, they were easy pickings.

But, over the past couple of horde nights I have - finally - started to see some of the more 'advanced' zombie types. The acid-spitting irradiated policeman and the feral 'whites' are starting to make an appearance, along with more spider zombies and troops of biker zombies.

They shall not pass!
My defences are holding though and - although I'm going through far too much ammunition - the zombie horde has still not breached my outer wall.

That said, my rather ad hoc base design is starting to look a bit shabby and 'bitty' now as I am constantly trying out new build ideas. It's a real patchwork of materials and blocks as I look for the best way to make a 'fortress'.

In fact, because I now have a plan for my new base build I've kinda given up any concerted and consistent new building at my current base - it's all just papering over any cracks. Also, I've resorted to the lazy approach to defence and am just piling on layers of cheap spikes to hold the zombies back.

An overview of the front of my current base with its layers upon layers of
spikes. Not the best defence, long term.

The trouble is that it looks like I will have to stay in this base a few more seven days while I finish off the basic construction of my new base. So it's a case of make do and mend, hence the ramshackle look.

This view of the back of my base illustrates my current strategy...

Next: First look at my new base (Base No. 3).

Saturday, 16 September 2017

7D2D Random Map Generation

One thing that's been niggling me since I started playing 7 Days to Die is my curiosity regarding exactly how the randomly generated world maps are created. I have lots of questions about how the developers went about creating their map algorithm, but at least I have had one of my questions answered...

Map Seed
I kept hearing the phrase 'map seed' bandied about by 7D2D vloggers and wondered what it was, was it a mod or a file you added to the game to get predictable types of random generation (yes, that sounds stupid)?

Well, mystery solved...

Is 'seeding' cheating?
Phew...Can of worms! I haven't gotten my head around this question, I suppose if you were a purest and played strictly 'hardcore' you might say it is cheating. After all, part of the challenge of the game is dealing with the hand you are given and a big part of that is the random factor so being able to squew the 'randomness' in your favour doesn't seem to be totally in the spirit of the game.

However, if you are just playing for fun and relaxation (seems funny thinking that games should be played any differently, but there are a lot of hardcore players out there who take 'playing' very, very seriously) then using seeding to make sure you have a fun and entertaining map seems fair enough.

Would I use seeding?
Yes. I am all 'seriousnessed out' after playing World of Tanks in a clan. You end up doing a lot of things because have to and not because you want to when you play a game 'seriously'. And I don't want that to happen to my 7 Days to Die play...I want to have fun.

Another questionable 'feature' of the game is that you can - if you want - take
a sneak peek at what your randomly generated world looks like in its entirety.
It's in actually the game options!

A case in point is a number of lakes in my current map, an issue mentioned in the above video. I have found a lot of lakes mean a lot of treasure and airdrops go to the bottom of them and that in turn means a lot of very tedious swimming and diving, And diving - at early stages in the game - can be quite dangerous.

I wish the devs would make a craftable small boat!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

7 Days to Die - Base No. 2 Tour

Just as humanities evolution progresses through a series of technological stages so does your progress through 7 Days to Die. I'm at - what I would call - the 'Iron and Flagstone' age, though I have just started dabbling with some steel items.

I have just finished my video tour of this - my second - base in my first season of 7 Days to Die. So, without further ado, welcome to 'Casa Milgeek'...

Apologies for the mixed quality of this video, by the way, but I was trying out both some new software and a new microphone (so I was continually tinkering with settings and levels). I also split the editing between Mac and PC - just to compare workflow - and brought the footage, graphics and audio files together on the PC in Power Director 15.

My 'Death Garden'...Please do stand on the 'grass'!
My 'zombie-proof' (?) minibike storage solution.

Hopefully, I will get better than this...But - unfortunately - I cannot change the fact that my voice has absolutely no personality whatsoever! That's just the way it is, I'm afraid.


Friday, 8 September 2017

7 Days to Die - The game I've Been Looking For!

First off, a bit of an update about Milgeek (again). Quite simply, when I was in full employment in my last big crappy job I used to Blog a lot because I had lunch-hours with not much else to do. But since I packed that job in and was ill for a long period I didn't have the same incentive to blog on a regular basis. In short, I have been spending my time over the last year (when I've been well enough) to actually do things instead of just blogging about doing things!

This little lot has kept me occupied over the last year!
Computer Gaming Update
That said, I'm now in a happier spot where I feel more relaxed about my free time and how to spend it. I have a more settled weekly schedule and things are getting back to normal, so I have decided the time is right to wire (semi-regularly) again...

The big news regarding my leisure schedule is that I have finally found a computer game that has me really immersed and committed. World of Tanks was always really a concession to my fellow BIG clan friends, I played it (mostly) because they played it so when BIG clan ceased to exist the incentive to continue with WoT just wasn't there.

Playing WoT with a clan became a constant grind for the latest biggest tank.
Not so interesting for me as I actually prefer the mid-tier tanks.

Having a lot of time with my feet up over the past year did mean that I began to watch a lot of YouTube though and I started to look at what games were popular in the zombie/survival genre. I'd never really got into the whole Day-Z and RUST thing, but I did enjoy watching several YouTubers' game-vlogs on them. And Sony's H1Z1 was an unmitigated lemon as far as I was concerned.

Still, I retained an interest in the genre and a Kickstarter project called 'Survive the Nights' piqued my interest, partly because one of the lead developers is from Hull! (So has a lot of experience dealing with zombies!)

Unfortunately, STN has had a -> L...O...N...G  <- development period and it's only now about to be released in a limited Alpha form, so I have been bereft of a favoured game for quite some time...

Then I started watching a couple of game-vlogs by Starsnipe and Kage848 and their adventures with a game called '7 Days to Die' and I started to take an interest.

7 Days To Die - Minecraft for Grown-ups?
The above title fairly much says it all, 7D2D reminds me of Minecraft but with 'realistic' graphics (in relative terms). Having said that, 7D2D is not a new game and, in fact, it is quite a few years old. I remember looking at it when it first came out but the feedback was so negative then that I passed it by, but over the proceeding years the developers have stuck with it and eventually they have produced a very decent game in terms of game play.

You do have to consider its age and the game engine it uses when you look at the quality of graphics, but the do the job.

My first couple of attempts at the game were unsatisfying and short, due mainly
to my not understanding the basic game settings nor how the game world was
generated...My pitiful attempt to survive in a winter environment was mercifully
short. As in real life, it's sorta all about location!
I've been tentatively tinkering with the game for a couple of weeks now (convinced by Starsnipe's videos that the game is fun) and after a few aborted attempts, I have started my first serious play-through (albeit on an easier setting due to my learning the controls and crafting system).

Caveat: I set the game to an easier level while I learnt and opted not to 'hard core' it and have died and respawned several times. Accepting the respawn turned out to be the right decision as I seem to die through silly reasons, not because of the zombies so much. Once I fell off a roof and another time - after a mega fight with a zombie and a dog which I just survived - I died when I backed onto a cactus! I also activated the 'cheat mode', just so I could fly around taking some screenshots.

OK, Let's Not Die...Oh, I'm Dead!
My first serious playthrough actually started quite well and I was very lucky with my spawn as I materialised near a very nice log cabin in a woodland area which - importantly - was near a town...

Early on wood is your best friend (snigger)! Seriously, every tool, weapon and building will be made essentially of wood, plant fibre or small stones. But, you will soon want to move on.

In my case, I got the first Blood Moon horde out the way (Day 7) in my reinforced log cabin before I felt I had enough strength and skills and equipment to even attempt building a base in a town. For all that there was some nice sturdy brick building in the town - which I scouted out - I knew I would have to do some preparation and defensive reinforcement before I took the plunge and moved in permanently.

'You Were Only Supposed to Blow the Bloody Doors Off!'
The best-laid plans of mice and men... By the time I moved into my new abode I thought I had prepped well. Ha ha ha ha, how naive.

I made sure my defences were all in place in time for the Day 14 horde and I was lucky with my air drops and got a very nice pistol and a decent amount of 9mm ammo. What I didn't know, however, was that building a wrecked car into your spiked post perimeter as a makeshift obstacle is a very bad idea, as the following picture illustrates...

The huge crater and decimated defences were the results of a couple of zombies taking it upon themselves to disassemble the abandoned car just outside my front door! Nobody told me that zombies attacking a car could make the car explode! Bye bye defences, though bye bye zombies too.

And so went my comedy of errors. Though I did manage to survive the subsequent horde nights (Day 21, Day 28, Day, Day 35, Day 42, and so on), always by the skin of my teeth but it was hugely enjoyable and challenging.

A Balancing Act...With the Undead
7 Days to Die is a very nice combination of resource management, exploration and tower defence games. In the six days between hordes, you must restock resources, repair defences, explore and scavenge, upgrade your skills AND not get eaten. (Watch out for the packs of zombie dogs!)

Get it right and you will be prepared for the next horde, but skimp on your resource grinding and Sod's Law dictates that the zombies will exploit the weakness in your perimeter. That's just the way it is.

The AI is just OK (during the day - 4am-10pm - the zombies are the classic slow shambler, but between 10pm and 4am they become the World War Z sprinters) though at times it's spooky how the zombies seem to know exactly where you do not want them to attack or they come from exactly the wrong direction that you had prepared for. Progressively the waves get bigger and more aggressive and dangerous types of zombies will appear.

Unfortunately, due to either a corrupted file or as the results of an update bug my game progression seemed to have flat lined after Day 21 and I may be forced to manually up the game difficulty level to compensate. This video of my defence on Day 49 illustrates my point, it seemed a little easier than I would have expected at this stage in the game...

Having said that I am really enjoying this game, more than I have any other game for a long, long time. It has its quirks and the graphics aren't spectacular but I keep going back for more - in fact, I am already planning my next base having discovered my first big city...

Gaining the skill and tools to be able to craft the mini bike really opens up the
game in so many ways. Exploring becomes a less risky and far more rewarding
proposition. You never have to worry about making it home on time!
Having learned the principals of the game with this first play-through I'll be ready to try a restart with a higher difficulty level, with the additional challenge of trying not to die as much. But, in the meantime, I'll be continuing with my current adventure and build my city base before trying a restart.

The foundation of my latest base and I'm putting a bit of planning into it from
the bottom up, instead of the rather ad-hoc and organic reinforcement of existing
buildings that I have done so far. I'm also using advanced materials, like re-
enforced concrete and steel and I'll even be trying out electrical gadgets!
I'll stay in my current base for the Day 56 horde and then work to move into the new city base in time for the Day 63 Blood Moon. I'm hoping I have planned and prepared enough and that the new materials I am using for my latest build will save me from the horde...

It's an addictive recipe - looting, crafting, up-skilling, base building and defending - and one that has me gripped. It's nice to feel that way about a game again and when I do tire of 7D2D there is always 'Survive the Nights' to look forward to, with it's even better graphics and novel psychological aspects which should make surviving the z-pocalypse even more challenging.

Monday, 1 May 2017

GF9 Tanks - New Panzer IV Model

Pay day! And that means goodies...

This month treat will be to add a new tank to my GF9 TANKS game, a German Panzer IV tank model. This is because - as mentioned in my last game report - I don't have this tank and had to use a spare Soviet T-34 model as a stand-in!

Well, I don't have to resort to that now as I have the correct model. It's a pretty good one to have as the Panzer IV was the bread and butter of the German armour from the mid to the later part of the war and saw service on all the fronts that the Germans were fighting on.

A PzKpfw IV Ausf. H of the 12th Panzer Division carrying Sch├╝rzen skirting
operating on the Eastern Front in the USSR, 1944. Source: Wikipedia.

To be honest, you can't really do a German WW2 armour force without including either a Panzer IV or StuG III in the mix, particularly if you are intending to play some Normandy based scenarios.

The model itself is quite nicely detailed for a 15mm scale wargame quality kit and the sprues that you get do come with some extra parts so you can customise your tank...

This is the Ausf. H (June 1943 onwards) variant, as can be seen by the extra armour additions and the long barrelled 75mm gun. This was still a very potent tank in 1944 and could best the M4 Shermans and equal the T-34/85, but was already starting to be - but was never really completely - replaced by the Panzer V (Panther) and was still being made when the war ended in 1945.

The kit is pretty simple to put together and shouldn't take too long...

It comes in a soft beige plastic - which might pass for German 'Dunkelgelb' (Dark Yellow) - so would be a suitable colour for all fronts, but - of course - it would look better painted.

I'm really pleased with this model and my first expansion for the GF9 TANKS game. The pack comes with additional upgrade card and one special 'hero' card to add to the starter set, so I can really beef this panzer up if I want to!

I look forward to adding the Panzer IV to my next game and seeing how it stands up to the standard M4 Sherman. Judging by my last game - where I used my T-34 'fake panzer IV' - it should be a pretty equal match.

Friday, 28 April 2017

GF9 Tanks Practise Games - Part 2: Test Game 2

Still smarting from the humiliating thrashing that my Shermans got in my first practise game, I was determined that they could do better. But, at the same time, I also felt that I needed to adjust some of the parameters of the game to meet my experience level.

I decided to add some additional scenery this time, just to make the line of sight
a little less obvious and also obstruct the temptation to rush tanks in a straight,
unhindered line to their target.
In my last game, I perhaps complicated matters more than I had to by adding quite a few 'uprade cards' as if dealing with the basic rules wasn't enough to be getting on with. So I left this aspect of the game balancing out this time, and instead took a simpler 'nearest equivalent' means to achieve force parity.

I used a spare 1/100 scale T-34 model I already had to give the German force two tanks to match the US force's two. While the points value might not match exactly, the benefits of simplifying the attack and defence values - by just having the basic tank cards - makes calculating effects of engagements easier for a novice like me.

The T-34 will stand in for a 17 point Panzer IV, so the German force will add up to 49 points while the US will be 45 points. Not too much of a discrepancy - hopefully the addition of a 76mm armed Sherman will help counter the fearsome Panther this time around.

Game On! Time For Revenge?
My strategies were - once again - fairly rudimentary (for either side). I split the US team, with the standard Sherman making a bee-line for the 'Panzer IV', whilst the slightly more powerful 76mm armed Sherman had the job of keeping the Panther busy...

As for the German force,  I decided to be a little more defensive - despite having a slight advantage and I was hoping to use the extra cover I had added on the table to maybe do some crafty sniping with the panther before the Sherman '76' could use its mobility to close in.

American 'Blitzkrieg'
I settled the Panzer IV in some nearby wood, hoping to use the cover and block the standard Sherman's headlong dash down the flank. But, I swung the Sherman in towards the middle of the table - my thinking was that I wanted to try and deal with the Panzer IV as fast as possible. If I got lucky and destroyed it then it would be 2v1 against the Panther...

Meanwhile, on the other side of the table, I could see the Panther laying in wait for me behind cover so I switched the direction of my '76' and turned left hoping to sneak a peak (and get a shot) at the 'Panzer IV' from a distance through the gaps between the scenery...

Bear in mind, that while it looks like the Panther can see me, the Sherman '76'
is actually completely behind the woods so - according to the rules - out of sight.
Spotting this change of direction, the Panther used it's 'Blitzkrieg' special ability to move from behind its cover in order to track the '76's' movement. And here's where I got clever...

On the next Movement round, the 'Panzer IV' moved first (having the lowest 'Initiative') and chose to retreat back behind the wood and to it's right - still trying to block the oncoming Sherman's advance down that outer edge of the table - BUT, instead, the standard Sherman moved even further in toward the middle of the table and bravely - threatened the Panther's flank!

The Panther - which moved last (having the highest 'Initiative') - used its move to counter this thread by swinging around to face the little Sherman...

Having the highest 'Initiative' also meant that the Panther shot first in the Shooting phase and I held my breath as it rolled its attack (remembering how it had decimated my Shermans in the last game) but the German's dice rolling let it down and the little Sherman managed to pull off a terrific defence roll and survived!

Not only that, but the Shermans replying fire scored a critical and the resultant 'crit card' meant that the Panther suffered a damaged turret. This meant that in the next Movement phase the Panther could not turn its turret to engage the Sherman '76' as it took advantage of the Panther's occupation with ethe little Sherman and rushed forward to - again - threaten the German's rear...

It was a perfectly executed trap (albeit dependent on a good deal of luck), as whichever way the Panther turned now it would expose it's weak rear to either one of the American tanks.

It was a case of the lesser of two evils and with its turret still jammed (as it failed to repair its damage during the previous Command phase), the Panther chose to focus its fire on the little Sherman as that already had the most damage on it already. But - bless it - the little Sherman again pulled off a mighty defence roll and so the 'Initiative' and the advantage passed to the Sherman '76'...

And what a shot! Two crits and three hits, it was a devastating attack and one that the Panther's defence dice failed to cancel out. So it was three normal hits plus to Critical Cards which also added another two hits each for each crit card, making a total of SEVEN hits. The Panther already had two hits, so this meant that it now had a grand total of NINE damage and it was goodnight Vienna for the big cat!

KA-BOOM! ...But, not quite yet! (A tank isn't actually destroyed until the end of
 the next Command Phase and then it gets a chance to have one last consolation
shot at the enemy.)
And meanwhile, it was the little Shermans turn to shoot - caught as it was between a rock and a hard place - and it turned its gun to deal with the 'Panzer IV' in its rear. The Dice Gods definitely seem to have jumped ship in this game as the Sherman pulled off a roll of no less that three 'crits'...

The panzer - unable to answer this with its defence roll - took a huge pounding and drew the drew some very unpleasant 'crit cards', including the dreaded 'Bail Out' card which effectively left it dead in the water! (This also raised the panzers total damage to 4, leaving it just one point away from destruction.)

And, as that action brought the Shooting phase to the end and the Command phase began, it was the time for the Panther to perform its very last action in the game. The 'Final Fury' rule allows a tank which was - technically - destroyed during the last Shooting phase to end its life with a bang (literally) and take one final shot at any target it chooses.

In this case, the Panther attempted to lend what support it could to its teammate and targeted its spite at the little Sherman...

But, in yet another epic turn of events, the little Sherman dodged fate again and rolled an incredible 6 & 5 to counter the Panther's 6 & 5! 'Gott in Himmel!'...There was a moment of stunned silence...

And with that, the Panther exploded...

(I had to pause for a cup of tea at this point before continuing...Honestly, the game was so tense.) In truth, with the Panther dead and the 'Panzer IV' out of action the strains of the Fat Lady warming up in the wings was clearly audible. And after a couple of slurps of tea the star of the game, the plucky little Sherman, could take its time and move in for the final kill.

And - as if it needed the help - the Sherman '76' repositioned itself so it could support its mate with a long range shot...

BUT...In another twist of fate in had already been a game of surprises, the next Shooting phase did not bring about the expected coup de grace, not immediately anyway. The stay of execution was brought about by my being confused about what to do about defending a tank whose crew had abandoned it.

Did a 'Bail Out' have an impact on the number of dice that was assigned to the defending tank?

I actually had to 'pause' the game and seek clarification by means of the GF9 Tanks Facebook page...

Luckily, it is a big and very active FB Group and it wasn't long before I got some replies (enough time for me to finish off my mug of tea). The answer was that there was no special effect, it seems, other than the defender not receiving an extra dice for moving - obviously - because it couldn't.

But this pause in proceedings had allowed the German to catch his breath - it seems - as when I got back to rolling the dice he actually managed to throw a saving roll (admittedly, it was a poor attacking role by the American tank)!

Could this game get any more of a twisty finale? The answer to that was YES...For, as it turned out, the help of the Sherman '76' had to be called upon to finish the job, but guess what?

REALLY? You are joking!
Nope, no joke, the abandoned panzer beat two attacks, it's crew must have been hiding in the nearby woods and laughing their heads off. What a time for the Germans to get their dice mojo back.

But, hold onto your socks, because it gets worse (or better, depending who you are rooting for)...

With the 'Panzer IV' unable to return fire it was onto the Command phase and the German chose to roll - naturally - to cancel ('repair') the 'Bail Out' card and put the crew back in the tank. This was successful and so the next Movement phase saw some shuffling about for positioning with the German (first to move) ending up with the little Sherman firmly clamped to his side (I was darned sure I wasn't going to miss this time)!

And - with some relief - the Sherman didn't miss and threw a destroying roll...But (yes, another 'but'), you remember that 'Final Fury' rule?

With the very last shot of the game, the tenacious Panzer IV (where were these rolls in the rest of the game) managed to roll a critical and a normal hit and the poor little Sherman drew a nasty 3 damage 'crit card' in the most brutal and ironic 'trade kill' (which is one death for another).

--- THE END - U.S. VICTORY! ---

The Debrifing
Phew! That was emotionally draining. I could not have asked for a more different game after the last lacklustre practise game I had. This one had everything in it!

Most of all, I was exceptionally pleased to have my faith in the M4 Sherman tank restored after the beating they took in that earlier practice game. While - as it was historically - the M4 Sherman was at some disadvantage when compared to the later WW2 German tanks, given the right circumstances (and a bit of luck) the Sherman could still pull off a victory.

I think the addition of the extra scenery probably helped, as the Shermans used these to good advantage. Though, the decision to play the German tanks defencively probably helped the Shermans cash in on their aggresive manoeuvring.

Still, in the end, the dice had the last say and I have relived that the American dice were not 'broke' (as I was beginning to think after their last horrendous outing).

Still Learning, But Making Progress
I am still making a few errors in my interpretation of the rules, or am not quite sure how certain rules should be interpreted. But, on the whole, I felt this game flowed a bit more smoothly than the last, with only two or three stops to check the manual or web for clarification.

Even so, there are two areas of the rules I must sit down and study again, and take pains to reinforce in my next game. These are...

• The Defence Dice Allocation Rule: How many dice assigned to a defending tank can vary, and I need to get the various modifiers clear in my head (I felt I missed out a dice here and there, or maybe added one on occasion because of my uncertainty).

• The 'Stand Still' Rule: A tank does not have to during the Movement Phase. In fact, there are certain advantages to standing still. I need to be clear on the rules about this and - in particular - its effect on the allocation of dice regarding a stationary tank when attacking or defending.

But, overall, most of my errors were down to simple forgetfulness due to the excitement of battle. So, the more practise games I have the better I will get and more natural the mechanics of the game will get. And I was exceptionally pleased and had lots of fun with this latest game of Tanks.

The 75mm gunned M4 Sherman was the mainstay of the Western Allies during
the latter half of WW2. So, I was most relieved to find that it actually could
hold it's own against a technically superior enemy if it was handled correctly!
One thing I decided, though, is that for my next game I will print out a 'crib sheet' for the turn order. This will give me a 'tick list' of things to do in a turn so I don't accidentally forget to apply certain rules.

Next: Let's play Tank Destroyer, as I practise using the Assault Gun rules with a Jagdpanther!