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TANKS: Panther vs Sherman Starter Set Review

Charlie & Michael

What does this rating mean?

Posted by Charlie & Michael on Jul 7, 2016



CT: While many of us know Gale Force Nine from their U.S. based board game studio (Firefly, Spartacus, etc.), their origins lay with their New Zealand parent company that is responsible for the ever popular World War II miniatures game Flames of War. Tanks comes from this side of the globe as a new armor-based skirmish game akin to X-Wing and Wings of War. It’s a light head-to-head duel that is targeted as an intro into the hobby and pulling those who have drifted away back into the fold.

MB: And I think as an introductory product, this game succeeds in spades. I love that it says “Complete Tank Game Inside!” on the box, I love that it feels like getting a Revell/Monogram/Testors model kit but then you can play a game with it. In some ways this product feels like it is aimed more at kids than the middle-aged grognards that anything WW2 is generally marketed toward. I really appreciate that, and my kids do too- they love the game, and they are six and almost five. They need help with the cards and I had to explain how tanks have less armor on the sides and rear, but by the second game my son was flanking my Panther with the two Shermans. It’s supremely accessible, even more so than X-Wing, at least in terms of rules.

CT: When I first heard about this game, “X-Wing heads to the European Theater”, I was hooked. I’m a retired WWII buff and a fan of films like Fury. What more could we ask for?

MB: Well, that’s where it gets a little trickier. Because I think there is a lot more we could ask for, the question is if we actually want it or not. The game is, at this stage, in a “just enough” state. For a simple tank versus tank battle with a small number of vehicles on each side and a couple of pieces of terrain, it’s right-sized. But it isn’t hard to see where the potential for more variety and depth are in it. During the second game we played, my son said “it would be really cool if there were some army trucks or a base to attack”. And since this is sort of a stealth expansion of Battlefront’s Flames of War product line, maybe we’ll get that.

CT: Yeah, I threw you a softball there. Although, I definitely think we’ll see the product line develop and mature as time goes on. The first wave of new forces, including British and Soviet, looks great and we know there’s more coming since the almighty Tiger isn’t listed.

MB: That’s really unfortunate. That is like when the first X-Wing expansion didn’t have the TIE Interceptor. I usually gravitate toward Soviet stuff in a WW2 setting. I’m on board for more, but I can’t help but wonder how far this “armor only” concept can run.

CT: My main concern with Tanks is depth, not unit variety. This is a fantastic little game that plays out like X-Wing on a much more simplified scale. No pre-plotted movement, no action system, just move anywhere within that little range ruler and then fire. We have the X-Wing initiative and upgrade system with interesting crew slots, but beyond that the game is all about positioning and cover.

It succeeds due to this simplicity and it’s very easy to get into, which works in the game’s favor. I wonder though if this will garner a large audience since there’s not quite as many gears to tinker with or builds to discuss. I worry the action could get repetitive, although it’s hard to tell with the small forces included in this affordable starter.

MB: Here is where I think I skew a little more positive than you do, and on the fulcrum of this game’s accessibility to kids and to folks who may not have much experience with wargames or miniatures games. Approaching this as a kids’ game, all of the concerns about depth, audience, organized play, longevity and so forth melt away. When I play this with my son, none of that matters. Positioning and cover – along with some other minor details like flanking, hit location, and balancing movement versus accuracy – are plenty enough for us.

But I will grant you that I think there are some that will see that little movement arrow and the super loose movement rules and think that there isn’t much here. But if you are familiar with more complex games or you play more complex games, then this is either a fun-first trifle, a guilty pleasure, or anathema to all that hobby gaming stands for.

CT: Totally, it says a lot that I’m criticizing the game’s long-term depth while still ready to fork over some cash for the expansions. While the depth may not be there to make this a lifestyle game, the fact that it’s not exactly a lifestyle game makes it so damn appealing. I don’t have the fortitude for another of these “all-in” type product lines, but this one is simple and easy enough to pull out and hit the table that it’s going to get played. There’s definitely something smart and enjoyable in the simplicity that has me itching to go and have a little throw down right now.

MB: Yes, I am actually glad it is not another X-Wing, I’m not feeling the “three of everything” pull. But I think that again speaks to how smartly this game is packaged and marketed. It’s not really intended to be something for the veterans or for the competitive scene so I wonder if concerns about depth and longevity are even relevant. It’s perfect for people like me that have kids that I’d like to get interested in miniatures, modelling and other aspects of the gaming hobby. Or for more casual players who don’t’ want to go “all-in”. It’s pitched square at these mindsets, but it also has a few hooks that could lead to more – such as the entire Flames of War product line. That said, if it stays Tanks and that’s all it is, I have ten of the Tanks models now and it’s plenty enough to throw out the green felt and some Heroscape trees and have a little armor battle with easy rules and easy fun.

CT: For sure, we’re in agreement here. I think the future of this game is wide open and Gale Force Nine will definitely be offering support. Where it’s going and what it looks like in two years is definitely something to muse on. Hopefully when we reconvene on this title down the line we’ll still be tearing up Normandy with zest.


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