Friday, September 28, 2012

Tanks, Armies, and Scale

Tank Battle on Belhamed, Peter McIntyre

Eriochrome here again with more discussion on game scale this time with an emphasis on Tanks.  I saw this picture on Fritz's great Way of Saim Hain blog (now Fritz 40K) which pretty much showed me exactly the reasons we are trying to go the way we are.

Image from Fritz40K; Labeling by Me

Lets have a quick look.  First, I like the terrain.  Lots of tough ground and line of site blocking stuff.  Terrain dense enough for the armies to have to get in close enough to make the scale of the board appropriate for a battle.  After that not much to like from a tactical game play perspective, Each side has at least 10 tanks on the board plus skimmers jammed into the two corners due to the deployment.  The tanks clearly have no room to maneuver and cannot move at any speed or they will essentially run right into the enemy or each other.

As SandWyrm noted yesterday, the scale length of the board from corner far corner is like 460 ft. Average everyday around the house walking speed is 3.1 mph which means a walking you cover this is 100 seconds.  Modern tanks  have burst speeds 10+ times human walking so they are crossing the whole corner to far corner distance in 10 second or like 1-2 game turns.  If I can move the whole board distance that fast why would I have 10 tanks stacked so close together that a direct fire anti-tank shot cannot miss.  Especially when the weapons on the tanks have ranges measured in 10's of board lengths.

One would actually expect the tank or APC to be firing its support weapons from off the board (like our plan for artillery) and only get this close to the enemy in an ambush or final assault for breakthrough.  Moving the tanks into battle one would find 100 yard combat spacing (ie long edge board length).  While this looks like an effective formation for line-breaking, the reality is that you would get through the line at a narrow point and then get your side armor ravaged by units to the left and right of the board for miles on both sides.

It all comes back to scale.  At 28 mm tanks are beautiful models where people can paint awesome markings and artwork.  Some of the stuff out there on the blogosphere is just breathtaking but as a game element they are just not that great.  Even 15 mm scale is probably too large for real tank on tank action.  Epic's 6 mm scale is probably closer to correct but it emphasis on multiple model units for anything not Titan sort of diminishes the possibilities.

Ofcourse people have these types of models and will want to use them so how to make them interesting but not overpowering.  This holds true for things like Monstrous Creatures and Walkers as well.  We have been thinking about this and are trying to keep the big guys in mind even though we are working mainly infantry rules right now.  The vehicle rules will be a natural extension of the infantry rules as opposed to a whole new damage system where MCs are different from Walkers which are different from tanks.  

We are trying to scale the game at about 5-6 units per side so say 12 units on the table to create more room to move around the table.  I cannot try to out maneuver you if your army stretches from one side to the other side of the table.  Now a tank or MC might cost you 2 units worth of points so I am looking for them to be able to move and shoot at full effectiveness but they should be vulnerable to the other side's heavy weapons be they traditional anti tank, like a Missile Launcher, or short range fusion blasters.  The general effectiveness of these man portable weapons will probably be inversely proportional to their ranges.  Full table range like the missile launcher is unlikely to knock out a main battle tank (on the front) but the close in fusion blaster will be much more effective since the unit it is in will be easier to hit first.

It is going to be the players job to try to suppress the fire from the enemies anti tank units so he can use his tank to storm tough positions approached from the open or move the tank onto the flank of a dug in unit for crossfire bonuses.  A fully mechanized force might be 1 Main battle tank supported by 2 APC mounted infantry units where they provide cover fire so the tank can get its anti infantry shots into the sides of enemy units or enemy vehicles.

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