War Game Review: Warlord Games – Tank War (Bolt Action)

Tank War
Tank War is a supplement for the World War II game Bolt Action, published by Warlord Games and Osprey Publishing.
By Cape Rust

Learn more about Tank War here.
Find other World War II posts here.

Bolt Action has been very popular with war gamers for several years and now Warlord Games and Osprey Publishing have teamed up to bring you the rules for adding armor to your battles. This supplement gives you most of the rules that you need to add armor to your Bolt Action games or to re-create famous World War II armor battles. This 96 page supplement is just what the Dr. ordered for those arm chair generals who are tired of just dealing with Crunchies (Infantry).

Tank War combines the solid Bolt Action rules with the power of Osprey Publishing to create what I would say is one of the better World War II supplements I’ve come across in a long time. Many war gamers are historians or at the very least interested in history and many like all other gamers crave the opportunity to take the driver’s seat and control armies of the past and possibly change the outcome of a significant battle. This supplement combines those solid rules with lavish illustrations and examples of models and adds enough historical reference to satisfy everyone’s wants and needs.

​This book from cover to cover visually is exactly what a war game supplement that involves miniatures should be. Osprey Publishing understands the power of pictures and they are experts in the art of showing readers history through art. Table top war gaming is a very visual activity and it stands to reason the people who play them want their rules sets full of pictures. Tank War has a wonderful combination of painted scenes for each of the major battles represented as well as spot on photos of different tank minis as well as battle scenes containing Tanks and dismount minis. The paint jobs on the minis was great and really gave me a sense of what these tanks would and should look like on the gaming table. The photos were of a high enough quality that someone could use them as paint guides, for their own minis. Tank Wars goes to show us that if you are going to have a rule book for a game involving minis, show some table top scenes and ensure you include pictures of the minis!

​Tank War isn’t just a pretty face; the rules and information both historical and game related is solid and strong. After the introduction the book describes the Tank Platoon and how those platoons were set up in different countries during World War II and how they are set up in Tank War skirmishes. In this part of the book, guidelines for Tank Platoons, radio communications rules, special rules and even command Vehicles are discussed. The rules build off of the baseline Bolt Action rules set so rather than having to learn an entirely new rules set, someone merely supplements their game with these rules.

​The next section covers the Tank Battle Scenario. I would say this is one of the more crunchy parts of the book. This part tells the gamer how to assemble forces and deals with preparation of the battlefield. Battlefield preparation is huge in any military operation and even more so in a military war game. When dealing with the Tank Battle Scenario this book breaks things down into setting up objectives, rolling for sides, preparing forces, the overall objective, the first turn game duration and finally victory. Nothing Earth shattering here, but it is all laid out in a logical manor and the rules that follow these phases are easy to understand and follow.

​The next two sections of the book deal with Vehicle Crew Experience and Legendary Crew rules. As a war rages, some crews will die, some crews will survive and some will excel. These factors are represented as vehicle crew experience. Just like most of Tank War’s RPG cousins, as a crew progresses they gain experience and as this happens they are able to do things that new crews couldn’t dream of. This section discusses how to use experienced vehicle crew rules, the crews themselves and actual experience. Under experience, Tank Wars tells players how to spend the experience that they gain. Next comes the portion dealing with skills and crew quality. This describes the skills that crews can gain and how a crew can use those skills in a battle. This section closes with information on unarmed vehicles and how to deal with smaller or larger crews. This might seem like overkill, but it really makes sense as there was always a mix of vehicles involved in any operation, and if you start to add dismounts into the fight, this becomes even more important. The final rules deal with crew survival. This little gem added a bit of realism that any arm chair leader will love. The Legendary Crew section was more of a history lesson than anything else, however, the stats for legendary crews were included. I never knew about some of the World War II tank aces like Kurt Knispel, Lafayette G. Pool (Ironically American), or Dimitry Lavrinenko to name a few. Actually, the book covers a total of eleven legends from the major armor powers during the war.

The book finishes with eight great tank battles of World War II and provides the rules on how to play them. Not only are rules for playing the battle provided but a concise and interesting historical context is given as well. There are three Appendices as well that, like the rest of this supplement, are full of information.

​There are a few minor problems with this product, but the biggest problem actually stems from something that this book did very well. Throughout the book there are sidebars that introduce the readers to interesting tanks and tank facts from A to Z. These sidebars were never too long and didn’t straddle multiple pages. The information they presented was absolutely fascinating. The problem came from the fact that these vignettes introduced some rare and interesting vehicles, but had no picture of them. I didn’t expect pictures of miniatures of these rare and unusual vehicles, but an actual picture or a line drawing would have been really cool. I’m not as into table top war games as some, but I’ve fought a few battles, and I think this system has the right balance of fun and interesting.

Tank War adds a whole new dimension to Bolt Action and should capture the armor warfare fans as well. This is a great rules set that should appeal to a very diverse crowd.

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