This is a customer review of Tank On Tank: West Front post on Board Game Geek (https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1436992/wargame-rest-us-or-why-does-game-remind-me-blood-b_) by Scott M. and is reposted here with his approval.
Alright, confession time: I am not a Grognard. Not that I have anything against Grognards, and in certain ways I kinda wish I did have that level of focus & dedication to "proper" wargames. But, alas, I simply do not have the inclination to wade through 30-page rulebooks in rule/case form in order to memorize the rule that states every infantry unit named after a Danish king is permitted to volley fire 2 extra times on the second Thursday of the month as long as they are firing downhill into a unit of troops dressed in beige & primarily named Steve (with a +1 for each troop wearing a fez.) This does not appeal to me, but I still want to play the occasional "proper" wargame. Enter Tank On Tank: West Front.
So, mayor, what are the particulars of this game?
The game is primarily a tank battle set in a generic Western Front setting. There are 2 double-sided maps included, with each being 9x11 hexes (for reference: Memoir 44 is 9x13 hexes.) Both maps have a "grass/dirt" side and a "snow" side, but each is identical front-to-back, so you basically have 2 maps, with each having a seasonality. This game's sister game Tank on Tank: East Front has more maps (as well as twice as many counters) and some maps that combine to create larger maps. There are a total of 63 counters in the game, though each side will typically only have 8-12 units in any given scenario (of which there are 14 in the box, with the ability to create your own, more on that later.)
So how do you play this game? How do Action Points work?
Each side (Allied & German) will get at least 2 Action Points (aka APs) per turn. Further APs are determined by a chit-pull system that has your opponent drawing one of a possible three chits that will have either a 2, a 3, or a 4. You use your 2 APs, then your opponent will tell you if you have a 3rd, then you use it (if you have it) and then your opponent will tell you if have a 4th, and if you do that is the most you can have. There is also a solo-method of using your 2 APs, then rolling 1d6, on a 1-2 you are done, if not take the 3rd. Then roll 1d6 again, on a 1-3 you are done, if not take the last. So the most APs you can muster on a turn is 4.
What can you do with APs?
You have 3 choices: Move one unit, target one unit for attack, or promote one piece to a Headquarters (aka HQ, more on this later.) Units can only move once and attack once per turn.
How do attacks work?
Notice the AP is used to target an enemy unit, not spent to use one of your units to attack. This is because the game hinges on concentrated fire, but the process is really quite simple: Roll 2d6, add +1 for each attacking unit within range & line-of-sight (so the more units within range the more powerful the attack,) add +1 for each unit firing into the target's flank, and subtract one from the die-roll if the target unit is in a forest/town hex. That is it. If the total amount of damage rolled is equal or greater than the target's defense value (middle number on the chit) it is dead. The unit doesn't flip, there is no step-damage, there are no damage counters, the unit is GONE.
Hmm... seems bloody!
That it is! The crux of the game IMHO is the HQ effect of the tanks. Since you only get 2-to-4 APs per turn, you are going to want to exploit the HQ effect whenever possible. That effect says: When you activate an HQ unit, all adjacent units get a free move. So say you have an HQ Sherman with 3 tanks adjacent to it. Instead of hoping for a 4 AP turn, you spend 1 AP for the HQ tank, and you can move every adjacent unit for FREE. This means you are going to want to coordinate your units to take advantage of the HQ unit's ability. This is also why the third option for APs (promote generic tank to HQ ability) is also kind of a big deal. So if your HQ Sherman bites the dust, you at least have the opportunity to promote a generic Sherman up to the level of HQ, so you can keep on exploiting that ability.
What about these custom scenarios?
You get 14 pre-set scenarios in the rulebook, but on one side of the player-aid the game provides point values for each unit, so you can use them to create your own armies and decide your own scenarios with some help from a page of the rulebook.
Anything involved other than tanks?
Yes. There are Infantry units, Armored Infantry units, AT Guns, and some limited air support counters. Infantry units can't move & fire on the same turn, and can only move one, but are useful for two things: Negating the die-roll penalty for firing into forests/towns, and they can automatically advance into a vacated hex immediately after the target is destroyed.
How is the general game quality?
For me, it's very nice. You probably know that one of the game's unique features are full 1-inch counters. And they aren't just big, they are made from a solid, rigid cardboard that sounds almost like acrylic as you bounce it off of the table. Quite rigid! The maps are paper & aren't huge, but they have a pleasant matte finish and the paper seems like it will wear well over time. The manual is a grand total of 10 pages, one of which is the Table Of Contents and three of which are scenarios. The box is low-profile, but quite sturdy, which is nice. Both Tank On Tank games stacked on each other make less than 2.5" in height. Really the only minor thing I noticed was the manual cover seems to be near the same material as the player aid & board, so where it folds the paper cracks so you can see the bright white paper underneath all the way along the crease. But that is a terribly minor gripe.
So, Mr. Not-a-Grognard, whaddaya think?
I am a realist, and as a boardgamer I go for quality over quantity. I might look at those pretty wargames, but I know they would simply sit on a shelf and never get played. So I need a game that I will actually play, and for me I have a few requirements:
1) Must set up in 10 minutes or less. ToT:WF = check!
2) Must play in 60-90 minutes or less. ToT:WF = check!
3) Must not require me to constantly flip through 27 pages to check rule #3.14159. ToT:WF = check!
The box-back sez "20-60 minutes" and I can confirm they are telling the truth! Most scenarios have a turn limit of around 10 turns, so you can count on games leaning more towards 20 minutes than 60 minutes. Because of this, for me it's a game that I want to play again immediately after I win/lose. It plays very well solitaire, so no concerns there.
Ultimately it is a totally solid game. It isn't pretending to be Case Blue, and you pretty much know what you are getting into when you start. I can haul it out, set it up, play two or three games, tear it down and put it away all in less than 90 minutes. And that is exactly what I am looking for. And I can retain the knowledge of the rules between plays, so if I don't play for a few weeks I don't have to go in cold & spend time re-reading the entire rulebook. If speed and ease-of-play are your requirements, buy with confidence. I rate it 4.5 out of 5 stars.
And why is it like Blood Bowl?
Given the 8-12 counters per side, and the 9x11 confined space, a lot of your strategy ends up being similar to BB. Protect your best units, make sure to support your attacks, and exploit the few special abilities that exist (the HQ.) ToT:WF ends up being a tight dance between antagonists where the dice can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Both games will have you shaking your head in defeat or puffing up in victory.
Those Lock 'n Load folks are devious buggers! In this game there is an ad in the rulebook for the East Front game, then in the East Front game there are ads for West Front, Corps Command: Totensonntag, and Dawn's Early Light: Red Hammer. Getting me hooked on LnL games then working me up the ladder, I see how it works!
- Scott M