Sunday 15 August 2021

Playtest: Delta Tango (Tank Skirmish)

Pardon the photos but I thought I'd share the results of my homebrew tank rules. I've always wanted a campaign game with a few tanks (yes, I realise there is "What a Tanker" but that's $50AUD not including postage to Australia).

My original rules with 15mm have split into a simplified "Tankmunda" in 1:300 (1930s Dieselpunk with landships) and a mode "in depth" detailed set "Delta Tango" using 15mm FoW minis (but of course it's a pulp WW2 with the Teutonic Empire vs Bretonnia and the United Federation of States - mostly so I can paint the tanks without reference to historical accuracy)

Basically the 1:300 rule have been stripped back and simplified (and owe a lot to FoW/FFT3) but the newer rules have more complicated activation mechanics and "detail."

My design brief is:
1.Crew are the most important factor

2.While tanks should feel 'tanklike', gameplay trumps rivet counting

3. Fast play - can handle 4-12 tanks in an hour

4. Campaign rules (Tankmunda/Tankheim) with crews gaining skills and tank upgrades

While the mechanics are pretty much GW with some hit locations thrown in, activation is 3d6 against crew skill, with each success gaining orders.  Basically I want it so in the chaos of battle, good crews can do more. Basically I'm focussing on activation/initiative and orders and keeping my old pretty barebones mechanics, while also streamlining damage resolution.

The battle: 2x regular PzIII short 75s + 2x elite StuGs vs 2x regular Churchills and 2x regular 75mm Shermans.

Right off the bat, a StuG knocks out a Churchill from across the table. A bit unlucky with the rolls, but maybe toughen the Churchills up more with +1 more frontal armour?

A Churchill retaliates and knocks out a PzIII. I've realised there's no point in having a +1 Aim action vs merely firing an extra shot. So far tanks seem to want to pull up and pump shots into enemies at their best RoF. But this is probably fairly realistic?

A Sherman spanks another PzIII. There's been a lot of 5s and 6s thrown for damage rolls giving instant knockouts - I'm a bit sad as I want to see how my "damaged" mechanics works and I can't if they keep dying all the time! Maybe I need to buff frontal armour as a whole.

I also realise I forgot to activate a StuG. Oops.

A StuG pumps two shots into a Churchill and both hit the crew compartment. While one hit would inflict penalties to dice rolls etc, the second hit kills all the crew.  The tank would be relatively intact to salvage in a campaign game, once you cleaned up the mess inside.

Next turn the same elite Stug hits a Sherman in the turret and jams it. The shock of the concussion disorientates (temporarily penalises) the crew. Unfortunately it is finished off by the other Stug anyway so I don't get to see how Shock impacts things.

The single remaining Sherman exchanges fire with the two StuGs. There's bad dice rolling all round - few activations, lots of misses and some bounces.  Both sides do resist being "shocked" by the ricochetting rounds, however.

In a surprising twist, the lone Sherman guns down both the better crewed StuGs, knocking one out with a single shot, then repeatedly tracking the other. The shocked crew fails a test from the repeated hits and bails out, giving the underdog a surprising victory.


My method of determining overall initiative at the start of the turn (roll d6 vs Crew for each tank, and compare total successes) was a tad clunky. 

If a tank failed its roll it could be reactivated later, so there was a bit of "back and forth" rolling as both sides failed activation rolls. Not sure if this is good or bad.

"Aim" order was worthless as it was always better to fire twice instead. Amend this.

I never bothered to use overwatch. Possibly this is because activating last is usually bad (i.e. if you have extra units "left over" after your opponent acts with all of his, you only get 2 activations max, not 3.)

I forgot that commanders could share orders.

The tanks slow movement (5" move, 10" sprint-but-not-fire) and long range encouraged tanks to park and open fire as soon as they made contact. (Perhaps realistic, but do I want this?) I have lots of built-in flanking bonuses but they were never used as it was too tricky to get into position to use them. (Need more cover? Need a wider board? Or maybe increase tank speed or allow a Sprint-and-Shoot action - but at a penalty to accuracy.)

On the plus side: it was fairly cinematic and I handled 4 tanks per side in half an hour so my aim for ~8 per side in an hour seems very achievable.


  1. Greeting,
    Sorry for the troubles and sorry again if this message isn't related to your post.
    I have been reading your Game Design serie and I want to ask you if you can promote my newly created Discord Server, that have for goal to create one or more wargame entirely via community propositions and choices.

    Thank for reading.

    1. While I have no objection to you posting a discord link inviting others in say a Game Design Index thread, I won't be specifically promoting it, sorry (as I have no idea who you are/your motives/background etc)

      Hope you succeed in your game!

    2. Thank you, I knew you wouldn't promote it, but I thought there wouldn't be another way then you putting it directly (as I am not familiar with blog).
      Again thank you very much for allowing me to put my message.

    3. A lot of the guys in the comments here also are part of a google group (a forum where they toss about ideas etc)

      Feel free to join and ask there:!forum/delta-vector7

  2. Great to see another set of rules play tested!
    The “park and shoot” approach seems a bit unrealistic
    Unless you’re hull down an sniping at an unaware target. Usually an unmoving tank should be a dead tank. What about encouraging movement by giving a great bonus to hit a stationary target (+2 or similar) and just a small penalty for firing on the move (-1 that could be canceled by an upgrade-I.e. gyro stabilizers) ?

    1. In WW2, tanks DID park to shoot or they would never hit anything. They're not like modern MBTs with computers and stabilisers (which only got decent in the 70s/80s).

      So it's actually quite realistic in that sense. The tank would also rock/bounce for a while after braking.

      It's actually for gameplay, not realism reasons that I want more maneuver.

      Tanks did however "leapfrog" i.e. one shoots while the other moves which I may be able to build into the activation.

      It also takes a while to "acquire" a target to shoot (and follow up shots could be obscured by recoil/smoke etc) so "real" RoF was limited and much slower than "theoretical" RoF.

      I might make it -1 to hit a "sprinting" high speed tank, and allow tanks (with radios) to share a combined action (i.e. one moves, the other fires) or something to encourage the tactic.

  3. Suppose you removed all explicit tank references from the rules and played this on an abstract board with plain counters, would it then be possible to guess for an observer it's a tank and not an infantry skirmish?

    1. You could probably use playing cards as they are the size of a 15mm tank. While the "orders" could be used for anything (I use something similar for PT boats), the maneuvering limits, different armour profiles and hit locations (mobility/turret/crew compartment) make it feel tanky enough.

  4. A few thoughts - a tank going 15kph cross country (that's 4m/s) - let's say a 30 sec turn - it can move 120m. Let's call that 6"
    (actually it'd be far less if the tank stopped to shoot)

    Most tanks could fire reliably to 800m and out to 1200-1600m - which is a gun range of 40+" effective i.e. the whole 4x4 table is within effective range.

    So sticking to complete realism probably would have tanks parking on their baselines and shooting away - anyway, it'd take 6+ turns to cross the board.

    I've roughly halved the real range - using 12" as close range, 24" as effective (50%) range and long range = anything 25"+ which is a major nerf to guns already, trying to encourage movement.

    Just an interesting sample of realism vs gameplay.

    Another thought - make a narrower frontal arc for the better armour making it easier to flank might be helpful as well.

  5. Allow firing with the sprint at a penalty. Also, perhaps reducing "effective" weapon ranges and limiting ammo with some type of ammo roll would help tanks try to get in close and get a sure shot instead of fishing for crits at range?

    Just some thoughts.....

    1. I see you have all ready tackled the range vs movement issue. That comes right out of your Game Design series. :)

    2. Yes I already reduced the weapon ranges to half "normal" but it would be ridiculous if the tanks couldn't shoot across the board (given their scale); any further nerfs are going to be to accuracy or RoF, not range.

      I may also speed up tanks, though I liked my system which was simple to "stat up" tanks.

      Tanks "normal" move is based on p/w (with Sherman as the benchmark at 5" for 12-15hp/t) i.e. 1" each ~3hp/t + bonuses for wide tracks etc. This is their low gear, short stops/turns etc where acceleration is key.

      A sprint move is based on top speed, with 1" each 5kph (so a 45kph Sherman would sprint 9"). A sprint can only be used in good going.

      At the top end, a M18 Hellcat could move 7" and sprint 16". A Churchill both moves AND sprints at 4" (9hp/t but 20kph top speed!)

  6. Great idea mate, love the concept!

    I think the move for survival or stop for accuracy is a great decision mechanic for player experience that you should retain and maximise. Stablisers might offset it somewhat (say -3 to -2 penalty) but you should then see players being very dynamic to react to one another

    1. I may allow them to sprint and fire (-1 acc, limited to RoF1) and -1 to be hit. Previously I didn't give a bonus to avoid being hit, as my theory was moving fast = not taking advantage of cover/depressions in ground which offsets the speed penalty.

    2. Yeah, but it is harder to track a target with your turret when it is moving fast. Especially in the older tanks.

      Not an expert though.

    3. Any target not in the front arc takes an extra action to "acquire" - kinda represents the commander telling the gunner to slew the turret around/acquiring process.

      So I had it as an action penalty not an accuracy penalty.

  7. Visibility was terrible in these things, so spotting distances/detection tests could be effected as well.

  8. Two thoughts:
    - cotton ball smoke could appear after each shot and block LoS, dissipating after a turn or on a roll of X or better, perhaps allowing tanks to target the smoke at a penalty to hit the tank that created it.
    - if a tank can only shoot once per activation (not order, because of smoke, recoil, and it's a game) a bad crew typically getting one order per turn would likely sit in position and shoot once per turn while good crews would maneuver to the flanks with their extra orders in order to make their one shot most effective.

    1. Better tanks do activate and shoot more; I just have tested with average or better tanks who average 2 actions per turn while rookie crew WOULD only rely on 1 action per turn.

      I'm not keen on restricting RoF artificially because it IS an important point of difference between tanks (IS tanks with 2-3rpm, Fireflies with slower RoF than Shermans etc)

      However I am distracted by my shiny spaceships I found in a box today so I may be awhile before my next tank playtest,