Monday, September 11, 2017

Tigers at Minsk! First Impressions.

I've been reading Norm Smith's outstanding "Tigers at Minsk" rules set on the train to and from work the last week and I have been very impressed so far.  So impressed that I phoned the venerable Dave and recommended our next game be a World War II game of Tigers at Minsk (TAM) and found myself reviewing all of the reasons why I wanted to play it.

Picture from Norm Smith's Tigers at Minsk Rules - used without permission.

So, what makes TAM so impressive, and why should you (we) try it out?  Well for starters, from reading Mr Smith's blog, he is a solid wargamer with lots of board and miniature wargaming under his belt.  Not only that, units are squads (sections) and that fills a sorely missing hole in the game-o-sphere.

In my humble opinion, TAM boasts a challenging activation system where the commander must pick where their command emphasis will be each turn by selecting a hex that is "in command."  Adjacent hexes 1 to 2 hexes out will be considered "in command" and may freely conduct an action but here's the rub - you will inevitably have units that are not in command that will need to carry out actions as well.  For those, you have to pass an activation test!

I'm so excited about using my Platoon Leader stands as markers for "in command" hexes!

Sounds pretty run-of-the-mill right?  No.  TAM also has quite a bit of loose housekeeping, and resource management that will keep you from doing everything you want to do as a commander every turn.  I've read stories of commanders lamenting the fact they couldn't be everywhere at once and that's exactly what you get here.  Plus it seems great for solitaire games, which most of mine are.

Units that opportunity fire retain an Opportunity Fire marker and have to keep it until you use a command action to remove it (well all except HMG and ATG under certain circumstances).  This is brilliant and makes you think twice about blasting the hell out of everything that moves in front of you.

Want to cram multiple squads in a hex?  No problem, but enemy fire is going to be more effective against you there.

Oh and remember how in Squad Leader or Advanced Squad Leader the MMG could breakdown if you rolled a certain number?  TAM's got that too, and it's a subtle and easy to remember mechanic.  In fact there are many little "surprises" in these rules that you will like.  Weapon breakdown, variable line of sight through certain terrain, bog checks, artillery impacts, etc!

The sequence of play is straight forward:

Command Phase (place your "in-command" hex)
Action Phase - units in command conduct actions from a menu of choices:
Fire, Move, Engage in Close Combat, Recover from Pinned, Remove an Opportunity Fire Marker,
End Phase - check victory, check smokescreens, make a morale check for vehicles with a stun marker.

Small Arms Fire is adjudicated with the trusty D6.  Hits are pins, and 2 x pins knock a squad out.  Anti Tank Fire is adjudicated with the D10.  You incorporate the To Hit, then roll on the penetration table to see what happened to the target.

Close combat is brutal and quick and the rules are very thorough.

Speaking of which, something I'll note from the rules also - every question I've had so far has been answered quickly by going back and researching for myself.  I have to be honest, I really cannot wait to try these rules out for myself and will be sure to blog about them, too.  They're very well written.

 A number of things jump out at me right off the bat that I'll share:

Mr Smith's rules are very novel.  You will be hard pressed to find a miniatures rule set out there quite like these.

The game is full of tactical decisions that you, as the platoon or company commander, must constantly make. I'm sold - and I haven't even played the rules yet!

The rules are packed with scenarios, OOBs, examples of play, and explanations, and they max out at 47 pages.  And they're free!

I think the game would probably best be played with 6mm microarmor or 10mm stands but I'll be using my 15mm troopers.

You can download Norm's "Tigers at Minsk" rules at the following link which will take you over to his blog.  By the way, Norm has an awesome blog that support his rules with lots of cool add-ons like a campaign system, and a set of counters if you were so inclined to play with counters instead of miniatures (like on vacation).

The only things I'd add would be a quick reference sheet, along with a supplement for NW Europe and these rules would be perfect.

My hat's off to you, Norm!  Well done sir and we will be playing Tigers at Minsk in the near future!


  1. High praise, indeed, for TaM! Norm will be quite pleased to read this. While I have not given TaM a try yet (my collections are early war western front type stuff), I have enjoyed playings Norms' ACW offering of Two flags - One Nation rules. Innovations abound in those rules as well. I look forward to giving TaM a run-out on the gaming table and your First Impressions make gives those desired a sense of urgency.

    Thanks for the overview!

    1. TAM is a wonderful set of rules and reads like the rules i have been looking for that bridge the gap between squad leader and the tabletop, and really putting me in the boots of the company commander or platoon leader.

      Again, i cant wait to give these rules a go!

      I downloaded TFON and Eagles at Quatre Bras to read them as well. I think ill try and play a solo game before gaming with Dave on friday.

      Thanks for commenting and watch this space!

  2. Great to read this, as I have been itching for a battle using Norm's rules for the last few weeks. They're a great set of rules I think. I think the command command point is particularly genius. And yes, I thought it would make an excellent SL substitute too. I had envisioned larger battles with it even, perhaps with multiple command foci.

    ...and then I started thinking how it might work for WWIII battles too :)

    1. Had also thought about using my 20mm stuff with 4" hexes. Though this means I can probably only get two large (Tiger, Panther) tanks in a hex, perhaps with one infantry, i don't think it matters that much, so long as the hex corner they are pointing at is clear.

    2. Cheers Darren. Im itchimg for a fight with these excellent rules. Have youseen Norms ACW and Napoleonic rules also? They too look equally impressive.

    3. Might get a little crowded on the hex but if you can tell which way the big cats are pointing you should be alright.

  3. I am a little late to this, but thanks for the kind comments gents.

    1. No problem sir. You've got a real gem in these rules, Norm!

  4. As Norman's long-standing gaming oppo of about 30 yrs [just defeated playing the Americans in Washington's War yesterday eveing!], I have no hesitation in saying you'll enjoy every minute gaming the rules,just as you've enjoyed reading them. I've played various variations of ACW, W.W.II and Napoleonic rules that Norman has created over the years and all have been great. Never mind his three DTP hex games Senlac Hill, Orri's Storm and Anzio which are equally successful, of which the first two now have been professionally published.

    1. Cheers, Mike. The WWII rules are excellent. I've been reading the ACW and Nap rules as well and looking forward to playing them in the near future. Just not sure when due to work commitments but the ACW rules at the very least are at a scale I love (Regimental Grand-tactical). Same with the WWII rules where a unit = a squad.

  5. Thanks Mike and I did enjoy Washington's War.

    Steve the games queue is always .... well a queue, I am just pleased that TaM got to your table a couple of times and especially pleased that you took the time to write about it. Norm.