What a Tanker continues to be a popular club-night smash up, and our ongoing campaign has now fought us through the second full year of the war.
You can catch the action from 1940 here, where we started our campaign in the fresh green fields of France (and in 20mm) before moving out to the parched expanses of the western desert campaign.
Each game represents roughly a couple of months of the war, with some extra rules thrown in to represent what was happening in the real life battle. You can see our timeline and our extra rules below. We’ve kept the extra stuff light, mostly it consists of opportunities to score double kills if the players achieve some similar objectives to the actual battles.
We’ve found the game works really well as a club league, with players able to drop in and out depending on availability. We often have some newbies mixed in with the veterans, and haven’t felt the need to bother with points values. We just make sure the two sides look roughly even and/or will give an interesting game given the scenario and terrain.
Game 7: Beda Fomm
During the retreat back along the coast road British and Italian tanks vied for control of a flat-topped hill. Played as a “king of the hill” type scenario where tanks on the hill scored double for any kill, the Italians got good drive dice early on and dashed onto the hill, leaving the British cruisers sniping at them from the dunes. One British A13 made a dash for the hill and tried to nail an M11/39, but return fire from two Italians knocked it out, while a second British cruiser succumbed soon after, the crew bailing out and leaving it to brew up in the dunes. British reinforcements arrived and shored up their line, but it was definitely the Italians’ day. 2 kills to zero, and both would score double. This game gave us our first ace, with my M11/39 crew getting up to five kill rings. I’m keeping them in the M11/39 for now, I think the ace bonuses and cards are awesome in the early war tanks, and I’ll wait until I can double upgrade into a Semovente!
Game 8: Operation Sonnenblume
Known mostly as the arrival of the Germans to the party in North Africa, we had to fight this one without the flashy new guys due to some logistical issues with decals en route from some far flung corner of the globe. So the German tanks Simon had been painting have been a bit delayed.
Not to worry though, as ever in North Africa the Italians were happy to do most of the actual fighting while the Germans took all the credit. The Italians brought a shiny new M13/40 along to back up their M11/39s, and battled two A13s and an A10. After initially getting into some good hull down positions the British got a couple of good shots off on the Italians, but didn’t manage to make anything stick. The A10 charged bravely into the village held by the Italians, but was overwhelmed by two Italian machines and at one point took some nasty ramming damage from a very aggressive little M11/39. British honour was salvaged when an A13 in the dunes one-shotted the Italians’ M13/40 in the last round of the game.
Game 9: Operation Brevity
After taking a bit of a beating in Operation Sonnenblume and falling back to Egypt (leaving Tobruk to fend for itself) the British force goes back on the offensive with Operation Brevity, a raid through the infamous Halfaya Pass.
For this game we played four British vs three Axis tanks, and set the table up with a choke point in the middle and unpassable heights either side of it. The British would score double kill rings on the Axis side of the table. Predictably, this lead to a massed British charge of armour towards the pass, but not before a well-aimed long range shot took out a German Panzerjager I that was guarding the pass. The British fanned out after getting through the pass, but were engaged closely by lurking Italian and German tanks. The cruisers knocked out the panzer, but soon after lost one of their own and had two badly damaged. One Italian M11/39 ace duelled with an A13 for pretty much the whole game. The Italian scored a couple of early hits that badly damaged the cruiser and meant it never actually got a shot off, but the M11/39 wasn’t able to finish the cruiser off, despite hitting it again and again. Eventually the A13 crew bailed out after being immobilised, but fresh British reinforcements took out the M11/39 as well. The pass was left littered with burning and abandoned vehicles.
We decided that the result was a tactical victory for the British, but at great cost.
Game 10: Operation Battleaxe
Brevity was intended to be a limited operation, with Operation Battleaxe as the main event. This was a major attack on Axis positions around Halfaya Pass using plenty of tanks. The Axis had spent the time digging in hard though.
We played this game as an “objectives” battle. Three objectives were placed on the table, and British tanks would score double kills if within 6″ of them. Axis tanks could deploy anywhere they liked, and they were given some trench lines to occupy if they wished.
The British cruisers advanced on a broad front but first blood went to the Germans, with a concealed Panzerjager one hitting and knocking out an A10 with one shot. Soon after though a sandstorm blew up, closing down that side of the table (which had been handled by some of our junior club members, who now had to go home). On the other flank the British cruisers charged and soon got in amongst some buildings and tangled with the Italian tanks defending them. First one and then the second Axis tank was knocked out, although the ace crew of the second one managed to bail out safely and live to fight another day.
Game 11: Tobruk
One of the iconic battles of the desert war was the ongoing siege of Tobruk. This was played as another “objectives” game, but this time it would be the Axis forces trying to take strongpoints off the defending garrison.
Since the Allies had positions with good cover we gave the Axis an advantage of three tanks to two (we also had a couple of younger players on the Axis side). Turns out they didn’t need much of an advantage, because some crack shooting from a tank and panzerjager in the sand dunes took down both experienced British crews defending Tobruk, causing both tanks to explode and kill their crews! A major blow for the Allied cause there…
Game 12: Operation Crusader
As 1941 drew to a close, the Eighth Army gathered its strength to break through the Axis lines and relieve the siege of Tobruk. The scenario here was “breakthrough”, with the British scoring double kill rings in the Ais third of the table. The British had four tanks to the Axis three, but the Axis had veteran crews in all, while the Allies were all rookies. To compensate slightly the Allies got to field some stronger tanks, such as the powerful Crusader and Valentine tanks.
The British advanced quickly, moving into the dunes and through the town. It looked as if the Axis would be quickly caught in a crossfire, so the Axis left one tank on the left to hold, while the other two pushed up on their right. Seizing the opportunity two British cruisers raced to pounce on the isolated German Panzer, but a great shot blew one of the Brits to pieces and stabilised the situation. While their Panzerjager I sniped at various targets, an ace in an M11/39 rashly charged the Brits and ended up fighting point blank against two British tanks in a swirling melee. One British tank broke through and close assaulted the German tank destroyer, but it too managed to evade. The game ended when the second British cruiser on the right (an old A13) got a luckily shot on the German tank facing it and brewed it up, killing the experienced crew and nabbing two kill rings. As night fell the Axis position was looking shaky, but both sides needed to pause for breath.
Campaign League Table
At the end of the second year of the war our league table looks like this:
Going into 1942 the career table drops all the level one tanks, so we’ve decided to just give everybody a one level boost. So a crew with 3 kill rings in a level one tank will now have a level 2 tank and keep their 3 kill rings. And a crew with 5 kills in a level 1 tank could potentially make the jump all the way to a level 3. I definitely feel the lure of my little Semoventes!