Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tigers at Minsk Playtest 1

I actually had a little bit of time this evening after the kiddos went to sleep so I gave Norm's "Tigers at Minsk" a shot (no pun intended).

The game was played using standard Crossfire platoons of 3 German squads and 4 Soviet squads.  Each side had an HMG stand and the Soviets had a T-70 light tank!  (Germans 4 units, Soviets 6 units).

The game starts at 0800 hours.  It's mid summer, 1943.  Think of this as a probing action somewhere on the Kursk battlefields.
Sorry for the crappy pics.  My tablet takes horrible pictures the colors are all off.  Here a Soviet platoon advances.  Note the "platoon leader" stand in lower left.  That is a merely a marker.
The Soviet attack was slow to develop, particularly because most of the time they had a squad or 2 that was out of command and not moving.  I marked them with little yellow beads.  The cornfield and the small hamlet would become the scene of some vicious firefights once the Soviets closed the range.

A Soviet squad is pinned by HMG fire.
One of the big questions you have to ask yourself is "do I really want to shoot overwatch?"  It takes an action to lose an overwatch marker so it may not be worth it!  I like that you can't always do what you want to do.

One interesting thing is that this game units move cautiously and slowly unless on a road and in all cases, only move more than 1 hex if they are not observed by the enemy.  So the game is taking place after the committal of combat units in the operation.

Anyways I keep placing the command emphasis on my Soviet squads to get up into cover in order to fire on the Germans.
Uh oh.  I know this means something...
 So at the turn's end, you roll to see how far the clock advances.  This is a super cool feature that adds some character and flavor to the game and gives you a perspective to how the battle unfolds.  It also ensures a random number of turns played.  Some turns the clock only advanced 4 minutes, in others, 12 minutes.

If you roll doubles, both sides roll on the random events table, which happened twice in a row!  The Germans got "hidden minefield" and naturally placed it in the T-70's hex.  The Soviets got "Sniper" and naturally placed it against the HMG hex, causing a pin.

Pinned Marker is a "stun" result.  This poor crew would never get off the startline.

That German squad is about to get another Pin marker meaning they're KIA.  Note the white bead in the upper right on the German HMG that is serving as an OPP FIRE marker.

The Soviets start to advance (and I start to get a better hang of the rules) and move against the hamlet.  They also dangerously stack up in a hex but since it offers some cover, it offsets the advantage...sort of.  There is a German squad in the hamlet now and it attracts the attention of every Soviet squad nearby, who shoot it to pieces, eventually breaking it.

Another cool feature I'll mention here are the morale rules.  For every 2 combat units, you count 1 morale point.  Your total number of morale points acts as a break point of sorts.  The Germans had 4 units, the Soviets had 6.  German breakpoint is 2 and Soviet is 3.  Once you reach breakpoint, every unit on the table takes a morale check and could bug out.

At this point, the Soviet HMG gets to work and starts hammering away at the Germans in the open.  The plan works and the Soviets, after seizing the hamlet, start using their base of fire to kill Germans.  It's a solid plan and it pays off.

That's another cool feature of the rules - your "in command" hex is constantly changing and adapting to the tactical situation.  One turn it's over at the hamlet, another it's over by the HMG section.  This is very accurate, I think, and I love this feature of the rules.

advancing on the hamlet after KO'ing the German squad.

Still trying to remove that "Stun" marker from the T-70....and the HMG is banging away.
So I ended tonight's game when the 2nd German squad was KIA.  I didn't make my morale checks since I had some other stuff to do but I did get a good feel for the game and also had a fun time actually getting to put the rules to work.

A few observations:
I played the game on my large hexmat and probably played over a larger distance of hexes than was originally intended so it took awhile for the combatants to get to grips.  (maybe 8 x 8 or 8x9)

Fire is subtle but effective and you can suppress with a stationary element while advancing with another.  That's the gold standard in terms of low level tactical rules as far as I'm concerned.

Armor's movement is as fast as the infantry, representing the level at which we're fighting here.  I wanted my tanks to move faster than that, but what for?  Their job was to support the infantry.

i like the variable line of sight rules for scrub (but had some questions about it).  Same with the "equipment breakdown/out of ammo" rules for HMGs.

The random events table really adds some nice flavor to the game, and gives you some additional character.

Some questions I had during play:

  • Can you combine firing?  I assumed no since units activate individually.
  • If a unit has both a PIN marker and an OPPORTUNITY FIRE marker, does one take precedence over the other to remove?  I assumed no but rolled to remove the PIN marker first.  Then the next turn I removed the OPP FIRE marker next.  They're both actions so you cant do both.
  • Do I roll variable for Line of Sight EACH time I fire into scrub, or only once?  
  • Does an AFV have to be In Command to rally from Stun?  (I know an infantry squad does have to be in command to be given a rally action).
  • If I have 2 infantry squads in a hex that are farther than 2 hexes from their Platoon Leader's "in command" marker, do I have to roll them both separately for being "In Command" or just roll once for both squads in the hex?
  • Can stunned AFV's shoot?

Besides these questions, the game move pretty quickly.  Here's an idea of how the time clock advanced.  Note how the action speeds up and slows down and you can almost imagine the platoon leaders checking their watches constantly during the battle.

Start was at 8:00am
9:12 Second German Squad Breaks and I called the game.  This game lasted 10 turns and in game time, the battle took 1 hour and 12 minutes.

This game took me awhile to play because I was "flipping" through the rules on my tablet trying to look things up.  I will say that most of my questions were answered and my next game will likely go faster.  I'd like to play with artillery and more vehicles on each side.

First game was lots of fun.  Looking forward to more Tigers at Minsk!  I definitely need more terrain on the table also.


  1. An informative replay, Steven. Really provide a good sense of what is what in the rules. If I had some Eastern Front troops and a larger hexmat, I would be giving this a try sooner rather than later.

    1. Cheers Jonathan. It was a very fun little dust-up. There is much, much more also that im only scratching the surface of like close combat, armored combat, and more of the optional rules.

      I may get time for one game this weekend. Hopefully Norm has some western desert stats up his sleeve!

  2. Steve,

    Wow, thanks for posting, that's very interesting. I've followed Norm's blog for several years now and read his various posts associated with Tigers at Minsk, but I hadn't had (made?) time to play them. They looked pretty cool and, nothing against Norm, but you put a lot of things in perspective that I didn't understand from reading the rules.

    One question: how did it feel/work out with such small opposing forces on the table? I'm intrigued as I've had problems finding a good set of platoon-level rules.

    I hope you get another fight in this weekend, can't wait for the batrep.


    1. Jack,
      The rules took me a few reads to get through and each time i read through i learn something new.

      Actually with 6 units per side the game played pretty well. I could have used some more cowbell. And by that i mean probably incorporate artillery and more armor but i figured the system was best tried out with smaller forces.

      The game takes some getting used to but i love it. Reminds me of a quicker, more modern version of squad leader.

    2. Steve,

      Thanks for the explanation. Glad it took you a few reads, it's not just me being a Marine then ;) Sounds cool, I'll definitely have to give it a try.


    3. If you ever played squad leader or any game like it (lock and load?) chances are you'll like this. Then again I could be wrong. I really like the alternating in-command hex, the way the turn clock moves with dice, the small arms fire method, and the way you are constantly making decisions. I feel like I'm making decisions as a platoon leader or company commander and I like that.

    4. Unlike most WWII gamers, I never did play SL/ASL or any of the board games. I used to make fun of dorks that played with stuff like this ;) It wasn't until I got married and had kids that I figured I needed to change my heathen ways, settle down and find more gentlemanly hobbies ;)

      I downloaded the rules last night; when I saw 47 pages I nearly fainted! But upon further review, I see it's not that bad. Some of it scenario stuff and Designer's Notes (which I always appreciate), and a lot of the rules portion is actually just Norm giving some great examples of gameplay to keep them tight, so good to go.


    5. Hahahaha i laughed out loud (at a work meeting) when i read that. Jack you gotta work with me here im resisting the urge to make Marine jokes but even i have my limits!

      The rules are pretty solid but i had to read through a few times ro get everything. I will say 90 percent of my questions were answered by me looking up the answers in the rules.

      Norm mentioned below having some key pages ready when playing. Definitely the command rules page in regards to what actions you can take when you activate units.
      Also the tables pages 25 through 27 or something like that.

      I am totally a big SL dork. And my NCOs told me in more "subtle" terms :)

    6. "Subtle" indeed ;)

      Make all the jokes you want, IF you think you can handle the return fire! ;)

      I'm not going to be able to try these this weekend, I've already got some other stuff on the table (using Ben Lacy's "SOF Warrior" rules), but maybe next?


    7. Return fire from a Marine? No thanks. Ill be in turret defilade with my head down. They call that "suppressed".

  3. Excellent playtest Steve. I got a lot of information on the rules just reading through your commentary. Some great stuff, almost 'roleplay' in there too, as you can see the squads making decisions on the basis of where you place command. I had always assumed effects by hex in the rules - since it stops you bunching up, but I could be wrong on that.
    I MUST try these rules.

    1. Darren,
      I wrote it down as much as for me to remember! The rules are solid. Youre constantly making decisions and there is no shortage of tension.
      Youll love the turn sequence too. There are so many novel concepts in the rules theyre refreshing to play.

    2. These look like a modern day rethink of Squad Leader - with a streamlined and original system working there. Great stuff - I must try this weekend.

      By the way - there is a podcast here you will like. (Link is on Doug's blog - he is on the podcast too). They talk about real time military operational scenarios and training. There were bits I didn't quite grasp but it was very interesting. You'll understand the bits I missed, I think.

    3. They took a few turns for me to shake out all of the concepts but once I got most of my questions answered the turns started flying by. (you have to carefully read some of the rules' paragraphs and you'll find your answer is usually clearly spelled out
      These would work with squad leader scenarios I think. Looking forward to you giving them a go!

  4. Steve thanks so much for giving these a go, there is a lot to take in on a first playing, so I was pleased to see how well it went for you.

    Your questions -

    Q. Can you combine firing?  I assumed no since units activate individually.
    A. No

    Q. If a unit has both a PIN marker and an OPPORTUNITY FIRE marker, does one take precedence over the other to remove?  I assumed no but rolled to remove the PIN marker first.  Then the next turn I removed the OPP FIRE marker next.  They're both actions so you cant do both.
    A. You are quite right in all aspects. For any unit in danger of getting a second pin, losing the first is a priority, but of course it is a test and it might not come off, while the removal of the Opp Fire marker, would give the unit a fire capability back - although with pin penalties ... Decisions, Decisions :-)

    Q. Do I roll variable for Line of Sight EACH time I fire into scrub, or only once?
    A. INTO scrub is not a Line of Sight problem. THROUGH scrub is. Yes each time you fire through scrub, you must test to see whether you got one of those 'fleeting glimpses'.
    Q. Does an AFV have to be In Command to rally from Stun?  (I know an infantry squad does have to be in command to be given a rally action).
    A. No - The attempted recovery from STUN happens in the End Phase. Command only matters in the Action Phase. Since a unit can never do anything in the action phase, it never needs to be in command. You will have already felt the pain of a tank trying to recover from stun whilst out in the open - its vulnerability can add some tension to the game.

    Q. If I have 2 infantry squads in a hex that are farther than 2 hexes from their Platoon Leader's "in command" marker, do I have to roll them both separately for being "In Command" or just roll once for both squads in the hex?
    A. The player chooses the group of 3 hexes that will automatically be in command, Every other HEX must test. The test is a single test per hex and if passed, all occupants are in command.

    Q.Can stunned AFV's shoot?
    A. No, A stunned vehicle cannot do anything, other than attempt recovery in the End Phase. Note page 14 on close assault - a vehicle that goes into a hex to assault and gets a stun result .... is stuck there in that hex (very vulnerable).

    thanks for the questions - I will look at the rules with a view to making sure your points raised are properly integrated.

    By the way, just wanted to make sure that you knew the HMG (and anti-tank guns) do have a chance of retaining their fire capability when doing OPP FIRE and so not pick up an Op Fire marker (a 50 / 50 chance). So for them, there might be good reason to use them for opportunity fire.

    Anyway, again, thanks for taking them for a spin. they were initially designed to be played on a pinboard on an 8 x 6 grid, which is largely the reason why movement rates are so curtailed ( I treated everything as cautious movement, though things can move a second hex if he first hex was open and out of enemy sight). But I do like to play on a bigger space. In one of the scenarios, I have a special rule that allows the German armoured Puma car to travel two hexes, variations on that could be brought into your game. Cheers Norm.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Norm! I will most certainly be playing them again, probably with more toys on the table and more "stuff" (artillery, mines and wire, etc). I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions and thank you for following my humble blog.
      This morning I actually found the answer to a couple of them clearly written in the rules.
      One thing that would be nice for TaM would be a quick reference sheet, but it's not necessary to play the game.

      These rules really are something special. As I said in my post - being able to effectively model the relationship between fire and movement is not easy but you have done so here in an elegant way and my next few games I hope to really push the rules farther.

  5. Thanks for the thumbs up. I know there is a gamer who uses them to play one of his tactical boardgames. He has just adjusted the ranges and movement allowances and he says it is fine, which is interesting.

    I printed out pages 25 - 28 onto heavy paper and sleeved them and I use them as my quick reference sheets.