Mark came over Saturday for gaming. It was his turn to pick the game du jour, and he for a game he’d gotten some years ago, and never got a chance to play: East Front Tank Leader. By John Hill, it is a late ’80s design focusing on the command and control aspects of tactical warfare, with platoons for individual units.

We went with the first scenario, which is supposed to be representative of the German drive on Prokhorovka. The set up is a little odd, with the first Russian force setting up within so many hexes of the victory city (determined by 2d6 roll), and alternating formations after that with the dice roll determining how far away from enemy forces you could set up. We ended up with one Russian brigade in the victory city, most of my forces south and slightly east of it on the same side of the river, the rest of the Russians in an arc around me to the east, and my last force on the road west of the city, needing to cross the river to get in.

All formations (companies and above) have a card, which is used to activate them during the turn. When a card is put down, it can be interrupted by another one with a better C3 rating. Somewhat oddly for game turns that are ~10 minutes, a platoon can either fire or move. This led to some early caution, since I wanted to move into the victory city, but was worried my PzIVs would be vulnerable in close range city fighting before they could attack.

The secret was the company of veteran Tigers that I had set up on a rise outside of town. Not only are they good tanks, but the veteran and morale bonuses allowed them to really dominate the action as Mark tried to move up to reinforce his company in the city. He was losing platoons at a rate of a little under three a turn, while it took a couple turns for me to lose anything.

I had expected that my two PzIV companies would get chewed up in the fighting against greater numbers of equivalent KV-1s and T-34s, but the Tigers had so much attention that this did not happen. I eventually lost one platoon of them, and two platoons of Panthers (oddly there was no special rule for the poor performance of early Panthers). One was lost guarding the ‘back door’ around the south end of the hill, while the other, and the Tiger, were lost to rolling a ’12’ on morale check, which puts it out of the game. (Actually, both of us got 12s more often than expected.)

By the end of the game, there were only about three Soviet companies left (out of eight), and more losses were taken on the final turn as he tried to charge in to claim some hexes of the city again for victory purposes (rules were just ‘occupy with an unsuppressed unit’—didn’t say there couldn’t be an enemy unit as well), and a final total of 3-1.

It’s not a bad game at all, and we’ll either have to give it another try, or go for one of the other games in the series (West Front, and Desert Steel). Though Mark just got in the reprint of Wilderness War and an AH copy of Hannibal, so the backlog is growing again.