Tanks of War: Third Reich Rising (Preview)
Whenever I’m playing a war game, whether it be a World War II first-person shooter or real-time strategy game, my heart sinks a little every time I catch a glimpse of enemy Panzer tanks approaching in the distance. I don’t know what it is about those massive beasts that makes me so anxious, but I do know that I can never get enough. “Tanks of War: Third Reich Rising” does nothing but satisfy that craving, putting players in the role of commanders who must manage their ever-growing deck of tanks in an attempt to grasp victory. As the last sentence implies…yes, this is a deck-building game. With tanks. How could that not be awesome? Before we take a look at this upcoming Kickstarter project, I’d like to thank Rich Nelson, the President of Giant Goblin Games, for providing me with a prototype copy. It’s important to stress that because this is a prototype, the rules and components mentioned in this article are subject to change.
“Tanks of War: Third Reich Rising” takes place during the early years of World War II, with players having to choose between the Soviet Union and Germany’s Third Reich. The game itself comes with a large playing board, over two-hundred cards featuring tanks and force cards of varying types, a plethora of tokens and dice, and a twenty-plus page manual. Different game types and scenarios exist to give players a short, thirty minute experience or a game that could last for over two hours. I personally appreciated this, as my hectic lifestyle accommodates a much more flexible game where play times can be shortened. While the inclusion of different scenarios makes it hard to describe how players win the game, most scenarios task players with defeating enemy tanks in battle and holding key objectives on the battlefield in order to earn a preset number of points.
For those of you who have never played a deck-builder, you’ll start off with a very basic deck. You’ll be drawing from this deck regularly, throughout the entire game in fact. As the game progresses, you’ll be adding more and more cards to your deck, effectively increasing the tools that you’ll have to complete your objectives. When your deck runs out, you simply reshuffle the discard pile and start anew with the cards you’ve acquired. For those of you familiar with games like “Dominion”, you’ll feel right at home with this game’s particular mechanics. Now, add to that a massive playing board similar to that of “Summoner Wars”. With the cards players draw, they’ll be able to deploy vehicles and bring the hurt to their opponents. The game effectively mixes a tactical and positional tank-battler with that of a deck-builder…it’s something that I’m not used to playing, but I found the concept very engaging nonetheless.
Being that the manual is twenty-plus pages long, it goes without saying that I won’t be able to cover all of the rules in this preview. Rather, I’ll opt to touch on the rules I felt to be most relevant, along with any features that I particularly felt added to the game’s value. Before I do that, it’s worth mentioning that there is a lot of material and content to review before attempting to play the game. I didn’t find this to be a casual game by any means, though simpler scenarios (like the fifty point tank death match) are available for those who want a lighter game. By the same token, the game can be much more complex if you wish it to be. Players can opt to include special terrain types on the board for example, which modify the behavior of certain game elements.
There aren’t that many steps in a game turn, but there are a ton of things to consider while you’re going through the motions. In a nutshell, game turns start with a “draw cards phase”, followed by a “buy phase” which includes vehicle placement, then a “roll for initiative phase”, after which comes an “alternate turns phase”, and finally a “wrap-up phase”. Supply cards act as your primary currency, allowing players to purchase more cards during the “buy phase”. Cards come in two different flavors: force cards and vehicle cards. Think of force cards as powerful effect cards that allow players to make use of specific modifiers and actions to shift the odds in their favor. Force cards are unique to each faction, giving players their own set of abilities to draw from. Vehicle cards are similar in that each faction has their own set of unique tanks, but are a bit more complex in nature. They include hull points, armor values on four different sides of the card, speed levels & movement points, vehicle abilities, starting ammo, rarity, attack values…you name it, it’s probably on there.
What I really enjoyed was how the tanks operated in battle. While the mechanics are somewhat involved, I appreciated how firing arcs, ammo, penetration types, and spotting changed the way a particular combat sequence played out. I also liked how different tank types had different levels of armor on the four different sides of their card. This really made me consider how to position a particular tank in relation to the enemy tanks, so as not to expose its vulnerable side(s). I also liked how each tank had their own set of action points, giving players a choice as to how they wanted their tanks to behave on any given turn. Tanks have the ability to aim, spot, hide, and reload, just to name a few examples…though doing these things costs action points so you’ll need to plan out your moves carefully.
Overall, I found “Tanks of War: Third Reich Rising” to be riveting, intense, and at times, a bit overwhelming. The game prides itself on its authenticity in regards to the tank models used for combat, and I have to say that I really enjoyed the level of detail that went into designing these cards. Vehicle names and actual pictures really brought out the best in the cards, giving them a life all of their own. You parents out there will be pleased to know that there isn’t any sort of violent art associated with the cards, allowing kids of the recommended age to safely play the game. I will caution parents however that I wasn’t kidding when I said that the game is a complex one. There is a lot to learn about each of the different phases and it could take a few games to get a handle on what you’re doing. I highly recommend parental supervision and if you’re a board game vet, all the better.
To sum this preview up, “Tanks of War: Third Reich Rising” is a complex but rewarding experience that will satisfy hardcore strategists to the bone. I can easily see casual gamers being turned off by the in-depth nature of the game, so if you’re more in-tune with family-friendly games with manuals less than ten pages long, steer clear. However, if you enjoy complex strategy games and/or deck builders, then you may want to feast your eyes on this quote unquote “little” gem.
The game is currently in the process of being funded through Kickstarter. If you like what you see, feel free to support the game via the links below:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/159172959/Tanks-of-War-Third-Reich-Rising-Rulebook-updated (Prototype / Beta Manual)