|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!