Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tanks and Infantry

A plumed enemy solider darted across Freidrich's field of vision, hazy through the thick glass of the vision block.  He reversed desperately, feeling the treats slip and spin in mud or blood or water.  A clattering roar filled the compartment as Willie, sweating, worked the loader's hull machinegun from side to side. Above him, half-seen, Jans fired the turret self-defense gun in short, measured bursts.  Muffled screaming sounded from outside, and an alarming banging resounded against the side of the tank.  Did the enemy have bombs?  Friedrich wondered desperately?  The tank's rotation brought the enemy solider into view again.  The strange Roman-looking soldier knelt, and in both hands he hefted a heavy triangular weapon Friedrich had come to fear and loathe.

" Grenade!"  he screamed, and then the compartment exploded with smoke and fire and shrapnel.

A Light Tank and its escorting infantry.
The mathematical relationship between Tanks and Infantry constitutes one of the most important balances in Sabre and Raygun.  Infantry should be rightly terrified of tanks, with their armored hides, bristling weapons, and terrifying crushing weight.  But tanks should also fear infantry, who can make great use of terrain and assault the nearly-blind flanks and tops of a vehicle if they get too close.  Mathematically, tanks should have a fearsome damage output, but suffer a significant chance of being destroyed in Assault Fire and Melee with infantry.

In Sabre and Raygun, the players have choices with their vehicles and must decide how aggressively they wish to field them.  First, they must decide whether to Button or Unbutton their tanks -- that is, whether to run them with hatches open and the crew scouting for threats, or closed, protecting the crew but reducing visibility.  Unbuttoned tanks shoot more effectively, but are vulnerable to small-arms fire.  Second, the player must decide how close to the enemy they wish to drive.  The machine guns and cannon of a Tank are most effective in Assault Fire distance, where all models suffer from reduced Cover Saves.  However, at such a close range, Tanks are more vulnerable to enemy weapons, and are in Melee distance.  Tanks do not like Melee at all, where they are liable to be rudely destroyed by enemy grenades, firebombs, or other improvised attacks. 

Let us examine the threats and advantages Tanks face at difference distances.

Shooting Distance

If the Tank is over 6" from the enemy, it will fire at the enemy with normal Shooting Phase rules. 
 At this distance, all enemy models receive their normal Base Cover Save of 3+ (or 5+ for vehicles).  This may be modified for Soft or Heavy Cover.  The Tank will tank a long time to kill enemy infantry at this distance, but it will do so pretty reliably with its main gun firing high explosive.  Doctrines may help it to target and destroy threatening enemy models, such as guns or grenade launchers.

At this distance, the Tank will be very hard to kill.  All shots will likely hit its formidable Front Armor.  If it is Buttoned, it will be invulnerable to small arms.  Even Unbuttoned, it will probably out-range most normal infantry weapons, leaving it vulnerable only to long-ranged heavy machine-guns or other weapons. If a weapon rolls a 6 to-Wound, followed by another 6, it will Stun the tank regardless of AT value.

Assault Fire Distance

A Medium tank in the Assault Fire phase.
If the Tank is within 6" of the enemy, both sides will fire simultaneously.  Both sides will suffer reduced Base Cover Saves of 5+ for infantry, and no save at all for Vehicles.  A Tank at this distance can easily slaughter enemy infantry with its machine-guns and cannon.  (For you FoW players, consider this equivalent to a FoW assault phase.)

However, the Tank is potentially more vulnerable, too. All shots will hit its weaker Other Armor.  Weaker AT guns become much more dangerous at this range, and, since both sides fire simultaneously, the Tank cannot count on destroying them before they can act.  Moreover, all small arms have a minimal chance of hurting the tank.  If a weapon rolls a 6 to-Wound, followed by another 6, it will Stun the tank regardless of AT value. 

A Tank close enough for Assault Fire is also close enough for Melee.  It had better hope that it Suppresses or destroys any enemy before they can Charge.


Squish! Bang!
Tanks do not like Melee.  Infantry may fear being crushed beneath its mighty treads, but from a tank's perspective, if it is close enough to squash someone under its treads, it is in a deadly precarious position.  Tanks in Melee can be hurt by any weapon.  Unbuttoned Tanks, or Stunned Tanks, hit in Melee are automatically destroyed.  (It is assumed that the enemy kills or captures the crew.)  Buttoned Tanks suffer from double-sixes.  If a weapon rolls a 6 to-Wound, followed by another 6, it will Destroy the tank regardless of AT value.

Tanks in Melee are reduced to trying to crush opponents -- which they may do at a low rate of Attacks.  Should they survive, they are well-advised to back away from combat, which they may do freely.

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