I’ve had my mitts now on the new Bolt Action supplement, Tank War, for a while now. For those living under a rock in the Bolt Action arena, Warlord Games has introduced an all armor supplement rulebook. The big bombshell was that this book would not just be alternate rules for players to dabble in armor, but rather a completely new way to field armor platoons in the game. It was meant as a rulebook to allow infantry to face off against tanks, opening up a lot of different tournament options.
The rule section itself is paper thin, with the core rules only being a few pages. A large section details the structure of the platoon and the requirement of a command tank. Further, there is a new rule where if all the tanks in the platoon are on the same chassis (EX they are all PzKpwf IV’s, even if there are variants among the platoon), then the command distance is increased to 12″. Some armies are still limited to 6″ due to lack of radios. But overall it seems a means to encourage players adopting a more uniform platoon makeup, rather than selecting all manner of armored options to build their force.
In addition, the new pin rules are now in print. Making their way from a recent FAQ, there are rules limiting what can actually pin a vehicle now. Rather than any heavy weapon being able to throw pins out, now you actually have to use a weapon that can potentially penetrate the armor.
Morale of the tank is a huge factor also. Inexperienced troops work as the original rules (any heavy weapon gives them a pin) while veteran tanks use the new rule. Regulars roll a die to see if they act as a veteran or inexperienced when they are hit. I dig the idea that there is an advantage to taking veteran troops, however I wish the probability for regulars was skewed some. I’d prefer on a 3+ they act as veterans instead of a 4+. As written it’s sort of a coin flip. I do feel sorry for all those US players that kitted out 50 cals on their transports, as the value of them throwing out pins on tanks is lessened.
Tank War also introduces an optional set of rules for crew experience. As crews survive they slowly accrue experience which can be used to purchase skills. Broadly they break down into command, driving, and gunnery skills. These give a one shot bonus to the player over the game. They also improve the morale of the tank unit, as all tanks start out as inexperienced crew and morale increases as they gain experience. It’s different and allows for players to explore a campaign game where troops improve over time. There are some point values that can be used instead for legendary crews if players want to dabble in fielding a tank ace on the table.
There is a new scenario that is armor-centric for the game, relying on players capturing 1-6 random objectives. Like your typical scenario, to claim an objective you must spend an entire turn within 6 inches of it and be clear of any enemy. However players can claim objectives and roll off it, allowing them to be recaptured on later turns. So having a mobile force claim objectives quickly (while contesting others later) can be a strategy.
The book also highlights a more fun scenario where players duke it out in a massive tank battle. The authors make no bones about it, this clearly goes into the imaginary battle category of historical wargaming. But I enjoy that they are opting to throw some more fun and frivolous type scenarios into an official book. Not to delve completely in the world of ‘what ifs’, there is also a rather lengthy section on theater specific lists and historical battles.
The Good – It’s a nice addition to the Bolt Action family. It doesn’t throw down a ton of new rules to make for an entirely new game. What really makes Tank War for me is the different theater specific lists and battlefields. There are a wide variety of WWII theaters and operations covered in the book, each with relatively historically accurate force composition rules, as well as some special table rules (terrain, air support, armor platoon command limitations, etc.). These certainly make for Bolt Action to adopt a more historical feel over your typical battle scenarios.
The artwork is classic Osprey publishing stuff with some nice model pics. There is also quite a bit of historical flavor for jargon and terms used by tankers at the time which is a nice touch.
The Bad – There aren’t any rules for mechanized infantry. You can certainly get some infantry squads in your armored platoon lists, however it’s squarely on the 3 tank foundation, with a smattering of other choices. I am a little disappointed that transports weren’t revisited, especially the rules regarding firing their mounted armaments. I was certainly hoping for a strong mechanized infantry list, with rules to support allowing transports to actually fire all those MGs. No dice. Which is sort of a shame.
There aren’t more tank-centric scenarios. The theater specific stuff is nice, but more tourney scenarios would be great. There is a lot of optional stuff in here which is good, but some like the legendary crews can border on being too gamey (and might lead to cheese lists).
The verdict – So is Tank War worth picking up? If you are looking to add a little chocolate sprinkles to your vanilla Bolt Action game, it’s a good buy. If you have been drooling over fielding a platoon of tanks, it’s certainly worth picking up. The optional crew experience rules can make for some fun engagements and allow players to explore a campaign game. The theater specific lists particularly stand out for me as a pleasant addition.
However, the actual core rules for armored platoons are rather thin. It could have been easily offered as a free PDF for players wanting to try them out. If you have no desire to play an armored platoon this is certainly a rulebook to pass on. There is a lot of interesting material inside but not a must have and certainly doesn’t need to be considered a core Bolt Action rulebook.