Steel Tigers Playtest

March 27, 2013

Steel Tigers is a new set of miniatures rules intended to be played on a hex grid.  Each unit is roughly 1 platoon of tanks or troops.  The rules are quite straight forward.  Pips are used to govern who can move and when.  Units can take up to 3 hits before being destroyed.  The first hit will suppress the unit.  The second hit will reduce the unit and the third hit will destroy it.  Suppression can be rallied off but once a unit is reduced, it remains that way until the game is over.  Both effects cause negative penalties for combat.  This is the small introductory scenario.  It lasts eight turns.  The player that controls the most victory locations is the winner.  In the basic scenario each player controls 1 battalion of infantry.  As you become more familiar with the rules, the scenario suggests a company of tanks and some off-board artillery.  This scenario tested out the artillery rules but had no tanks.

The start of the game.  The English choose to assault the two flanking towns while leaving the hill to the Germans.  The Germans are going to try and bowl over the English on the left.

The start of the game. The English choose to assault the two flanking towns while leaving the hill to the Germans. The Germans are going to try and bowl over the English on the left.

After 4 turns of fighting and two artillery strikes, the Germans can't seem to slow the English on the right.  The left has turned into s stalemate.

After 4 turns of fighting and two artillery strikes, the Germans can’t seem to slow the English on the right. The left has turned into s stalemate.

The situation at the end of the game.  The Germans lost sight of the victory conditions and had no way of winning on turn 8.  The English were content on sitting on their gains.

The situation at the end of the game. The Germans lost sight of the victory conditions and had no way of winning on turn 8. The English were content on sitting on their gains.

The artillery rules are still somewhat up in the air.  Mark (the author) suggested that each unit in the hex gets attacked by artillery.  Normally the type of unit gets attacked by direct fire, either soft targets or hard targets.   So, if you are lucky, artillery can be very deadly.  The game was played out on my computer using VASSAL.

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Look Sarge! No Charts! Thoughts….

March 25, 2013

LSNJ is a really fun and straight forward game.  It is, like most other games, not without its problems.  here are some thought son the matter and some suggested rules modifications.

Morale

In LSNJ morale is handled with two special dice.  The first die tells you if your unit actually fails or not.  Elites fail 1 in 6, Regulars 2 in 6 and Green 3 in 6.  The default state is OK.  The second specially marked die tells you the effect should you fail.  The problem here is that some of the results of this die is OK.  There should be no reason to have the default state as one of your results as well.  A simple solution is to change the OK result on the effects die to the following: For this move, the unit may fire at half effect or move a half move.  Damaged elements may not fire but may still slink away at half speed.  The unit may not charge an enemy in close combat this move.  The unit automatically rallies at the end of the move.

This is not a huge problem either way but it is a minor annoyance from a game design perspective.  The change will also make morale failures slightly more frequent.

Shooting

Here is a more controversial problem I see with the game.  Artillery and air power is pretty weak in LSNJ, especially against heavy tanks.  In some cases artillery can’t actually hurt some tanks.  This is also true for rocket armed aircraft.

The evidence: There are numerous videos of even machine-gun armed aircraft strafing tanks.  Rockets proved to be more effective.  Bombs could pick tanks up and throw them in ditches.  Massed artillery strikes would be devastating with the concussion alone.  During the Battle of the Bulge, the allies were waiting for the skies to clear so that they could bring their air force into the fight against the tough German armor.  If the aircraft really couldn’t hurt a Tiger tank, the allies would be in BIG trouble.

The other issue with shooting in general is that the rules for LSNJ applies a flat -2 for a flank penalty.  Most tanks of WW2 had armor of about half that (or less!) than the frontal armor.  For instance, a King tiger had about 7″ of sloped armor in the front and a little over 3″ in the flank.  The top armor was about 40mm.  It was suggested by the author that “tanks at the Platoon scale would not necessarily be facing the same direction.”  Actually, in WW2, most units still moved in column along a road and fought in a line, generally facing the same direction.  usually they would face their front armor to the biggest threat.  Even if they took a more positional defense, some flanks would still be exposed.

Solution:  So here is a more untested solution.  I’ll knock them out in order, indirect fire first.  For indirect fire, the results are based on near misses and direct hits.  I think it is safe enough to simply cap the defensive value for armor at 10.  That is, you have to beat a 10 with a D10 plus your attack strength.  For lesser vehicles, use the front armor value.  Most of the anti-armor values of artillery are pretty low anyway.  So, this will hopefully make artillery effective without being TOO effective.

The second part is to change the flank penalty based on armor.  First, we need to determine what part of the defense value is armor and what is your chance to hit.  The lowest defensive value of an armored vehicle is 7.  This is for most half tracks and armored cars.  Basically this is enough to turn small arms fire but not anti-tank fire.  So deduct 7 from the total frontal armor of the vehicle and then divide the result by 2.  Example: A tank with an 18 armor value would have a flank modifier of 18-7, which is 11 divided by 2 which is 5.5.  Using my gut feeling, this is a heavy tank so lets round down to 5.  Its a modifier or what you take away from the front armor.  So less is better.  Now this would be a lot to do in game but adding a simple note to each stand or chart line will make it easy to remember.

The final bit about shooting.  There is a “death ray” quality about long range shooting in LSNJ.  At anything past 1500 yards, gunnery was just not that accurate.  Donald Featherstone in his book “Tank Battles in Miniature” gave an excellent chart on hit probabilities for vehicles.  The first shot would have a pretty low chance to hit.  The rest of the shots on the same target would have a much better chance of hitting.  Here is the data:

Range in Yards.  The first number is the chance to hit for the first shot.  The second number is the chance to hit with each additional shots on target.

  • 500  78%/95%
  • 1000 37%/90%
  • 1500 10%/80%
  • 2000 2%/20%
  • 2500+ 1%/15%

There are accounts of German gunnery taking out Russian tanks at 3000+ yards.  You will here fan-boys of the German army bang on at how good the German guns were.  They do neglect to tell you how many shots it took to achieve that result at that range!  In looking at the numbers it is pretty clear that the first shot is a ranging shot.  Other shots are much better aimed and it is the second shot that will tell the story.  So how does this apply to LSNJ and other games where one “game shot” is actually multiple shots?

I think the game works pretty well at close range as it is pretty clear that many of the tanks will get hits when positioned at or under 1500 yards or in game terms at close range.  At long range it becomes problematic.  The chance to hit based on an average is about 17.5% for the second and subsequent shot.  As the chance to hit at this range with the first shot is extremely low, we can discount that shot as an automatic miss.  If we assume a tank takes 5 shots in that time period at long range, then its chance to hit with at least 1 shot will be about 51%.  Adding just one more shot, the chance to hit increases to 60%.  Given that the range is great, the chance to hit is low and the danger of being killed is equally low, it is unlikely that the tank would fire all that quickly.  So how do we apply this result?  LSNJ already has an automatic miss on a natural 1.  So we can simply extrapolate that rule and make the automatic miss a 1-4, which ties in nicely with our 60% chance to hit at long range.

Conclusion

To summarize, LSNJ is a fine game.  It is straight forward and easy to pick up.  With a few simple changes (one a bit time consuming!) the game experience can be improved without sacrificing the games simple elegance.

  • Change the OK result of a morale failure to half move or half fire for that move only.
  • Armor value against artillery and air attacks is capped at 10.
  • Flank penalty (the time consuming one!) is front armor – 7 divide by 2 (round up or down based on armor).  Lower is better.
  • At long range, direct fire shots against tanks miss on a raw die score of 1-4.