With the holiday weekend giving the RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself an increasingly rare occasion when we all don’t have work or school, I was (gladly) badgered into a game of Tank Duel: Enemy in the Crosshairs by designer Mike Bertucelli from GMT Games (2019). GMT Games also recently published Tank Duel: Expansion I – North Africa Expansion (2021) and Tank Pack #1 (2021). The release of these two titles was very welcome by RockyMountainNavy Jr. who was anxiously looking for the Crusader, a favorite tank of his. So we ginned up a simple 1942-ish battle in the North African desert with the RockyMountainNavy Boys on the British side each running a Crusader Mk.II A15 against myself running a PzKpfW III AUSf. J and PzKpfW III AUSf. H. Thank goodness the RMN Boys asked early in the day for Tank Duel because I had to review the rules and reset the Battle Deck from the Russian Front to North Africa. Not hard to do but it took time that I was glad I didn’t spend while the Boys impatiently waited across the table.
What I really enjoy about Tank Duel is the narrative it creates in your head. There is no map board; instead, each player a board for each tank in front of them. Range and facing is handled in a relative and abstract manner—you are at a certain range from the “center” of the battlefield and you can either face or flank other tanks. If you lose a tank that’s OK because a new one will
spawn reinforce next turn. Tank Duel is really a team game where the winner is the side that scores the most VP before a set number of passes through the deck are completed. More importantly, Tank Duel creates a wargame story, not just a battle.
The first time we played Tank Duel included one of those epic moments that will remain in a family’s wargaming lore forever. I had set up the perfect shot—cannot miss. Of course (I mean, of course) I pulled one of the only cards that made for an auto-miss. That tank I missed ended up surviving the whole battle and was the bane of my (short-lived) existence.
This game of Tank Duel was more of a slugfest. Whereas last time there was lots of moving about the battlefield, this go round we found ourselves hunkering down and trading shots from Hull Down positions with a bit of some movement to occasionally change the range. At the end of the the full game (the Game End was buried at the very end of the third reshuffle) the Germans had lost three tanks against a single British. Individual scoring was RMN Jr. first, RMN T second, and RMN Dad (myself) last—of course.
Playing with the new North Africa Expansion rules, with Sandstorms and Dust and Heat Haze and the like adds a degree of complexity that took some adjustment. I think what we need is large card or board to display all the weather impacts; referring to a card next to our board makes it too easy to forget or overlook a condition.
Every time I play Tank Duel I am reminded of the narrative power of this game. In no other tank battle game, even my beloved Panzer by Jim Day from GMT Games, do I feel this personally invested in every turn of a card. Tank Duel is a game that I need to be revisit more often. The core rules are actually simple and easy to learn; it’s the extra chrome like weather that needs to be experienced a few times to become more recognizable. It’s also time to play some of the set scenarios and add infantry and anti-tank guns to broaden our experience.
Feature image: Abandoned tank A13 Mk IIa T15228 North Africa