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Adeptus-B

Actual Tank-Based Campaigns...?

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Does anyone out there play a true tank-based campaign in Only War? Whenever new tank stats are announced in upcoming supplements, a chorus of cheers goes up on the Forum, but most of the comments are in the form of "When I play a tank campaign in the future, that will come in handy!". I don't recall ever reading a post describing an active tank-based campaign.

 

The reason why I ask is that I'm just not seeing how a tank campaign doesn't degenerate into a repetitive series of Drive and Shoot rolls. How do you spin an interesting narrative around staying inside a vehicle? There are no shortage of movies that provide inspiration for squad-based military adventures, but what inspiration for a tank campaign is there to draw upon? I've seen The Beast (Soviet tank lost in Afganistan), and Kelly's Heroes sorta-kinda counts as a tank-based adventure; those provide some inspiration for specific scenarios, but don't really lend themselves to being chapters in an ongoing campaign. So, what else?

 

Do players enjoy actual (not theoretical) tank combat? Or does everyone but the Gunner and, to a lesser extent, the Driver, spend most of the combat twiddling their thumbs?

 

And, since everyone raves about super-heavy tanks- how do you not run out of appropriate adversaries after a half-dozen Baneblade missions? Especially using the Spinward Front setting, which is the only WH40KRP setting that doesn't feature Chaos as the core antagonist. After you have destroyed an Ork Gargant, and contrived an excuse for the Severin Dominate to have access to a Titan- then what?

 

Is my skepticism about tank-based campaigns just a lack of imagination on my part, or is the enthusiasm for Tanks, Tanks, Tanks based on wishful thinking rather than actual play?

 

 

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Play any Combat Mission game, understand the nature warfare. It'll explain everything.

 

Do players enjoy actual (not theoretical) tank combat? Or does everyone but the Gunner and, to a lesser extent, the Driver, spend most of the combat twiddling their thumbs?

 

Tanks don't advance without infantry cover, unless it's open territory or on a blitzkrieg spearhead. Why? Because close range infantry ambushes on your tank are bad. To protect yourself you'll need friendly infantry... and your sponson. So your sponson gunners will probably have more to do than your main cannon. Infantry is plentiful and anyone can pick up a dropped meltagun from a dead body and continue the fight but if your crew kills an enemy tank, it's done.

 

And, oh, the adventures to be had when your tank breaks down and you're waiting for spare parts to arrive.

 

Alex

 

PS There's also some WW2-centered comic books surrounding tank action, I believe.

Edited by ak-73
Talon of Anathrax likes this

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Well, we tried a Tank-Campaign though we had to abort it after two players of the group received new shifts and could no longer participate.

 

Never the less you are referring to a lot of points that are actually quite difficult. For the narrative we took inspiration from Submarine Movies like "Das Boot", especially for the Super Heavies for they become the home of the crew and the theme of living with other dudes in some kind of steel coffin when you are not in a save base added some flavor. For a Leman-Russ it is something else but you can still hit in with the occasional campfire moment. Also I went for a less "part of a huge military" to a more "tank-spec-ops" route, where the regiment was not about some line-grunts but specialist that operate behind or close to enemy lines. it was a mixed regiments and most of the time they operated as a lone hunter-killer with occasional combined arms mission with the rest of their regiment to sack towns or attack larger industrial complexes. This allowed me to make big battles and hence dice orgies less often and thus more "awsome" for I did not have to constantly tell the same story of some awesome charge with them being part of - again.

 

Combat is - difficult. Yes, but actually the "Spearhead" theme allowed them more scenarios. So those players that were not much about driving and gunning in a tank had their moments to shine with acting as a spotter/sniper with some recon duty to mark worthy targets before their tank leaves cover with hot engines to initiate a fast attack with maximum damage, or a heavy gunner that offers additional support with an auto cannon while the tank draws fire. On one occasion they even infiltrated some sort of town that was conquered by the enemy to get some information when the next convoy with war supplies will leave etc.

 

Imho the tank has to be an important part of the campaign, but the campaign has not to be tank-centric all the time. In my campaign it was home and somewhat save haven of the crew, a tool that had to be used but did not define the entire story. Yes, it was a kinda unorthodox scenario but I think the game was more interesting because of that for they had the freedom to do what they want in contrast to the very danger of tank campaign where you tend to have very strict orders for tanks are commonly deployed in combined warfare as assistance where else individual infantry squads can have a ton of different tasks and objectives. So yea, it was kinda like a lone, hunting submarine in that regard.

Edited by FieserMoep

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Well I am one of those who only dream about such campaign, but I can offer some inspiration source for story and feel. Every time a tank adventure is mentioned I remember the legendary polish TV series called Four Tankists and a Dog (Czterej pancerni i pies), which tells the story of polish T-34 crew during late WWII. I am not sure how available it is in english-speaking world and despite its age and occasional ideological crap, it is definitely worth watching. It also shows what the tank crew (OW squad) do, except driving and shooting other tanks.

Edited by TorogTarkdacil812

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I've been running a siege-infantry campaign, with the idea that the players control a Chimera at the very minimum (they've used two Russ variants so far). The mission design has been rather easy for me to spin up. While tank combat is certainly a must and will happen thing, there are lots of key points to remember:

 

1. Squads with an APC will be marching outside (at least half of the squad) to prevent small arms engagement (no explosives getting strapped on to that Chimera). Treacherous conditions of the planet are exposed to them during such times. Note that in open fields and roads, they probably wouldn't be slow marching outside - those times are going to be the moments of game play when the terrain is too thick and cover too viable for the enemy. Anything from saboteurs, pitfalls, explosives, mines, and wildlife can factor in these encounters.

 

2. Missions will be highly varied. While a vehicle-based squad can do almost anything a squad-based unit can, they will also be the ones entrusted to run convoy escorts, recovery of assets and breaking through battlements that infantry simply can't hope to do without a high mortality rate. Some of my favorites have included missions involving protecting columns of infantry, and basing the success ration not on enemies killed, but how many friendlies survive. Other time the vehicle units will need to bring supplies to the front lines, or humanatarian aide to civilian sectors (for those few truly rare commanders who care for the citizenry). Lets then consider the infiltrators of the severan dominate - who may utilize rather terroristic tactics to their advantage (sending imperial children towards the tank columns with explosives strapped to them). Moral dilemnas aplenty.

 

3. As far as adversaries goes, it's not any harder than a regular group facing other infantry. Rare would be the full head on engagements with other vehicles. Most times interceptor squads with tank-killing weapons will be the prime opponent, and try firing off a tank effectively in a cityscape. My point here is terrain is everything - not cycling through vehicles for enemies because you can. An encounter against 10 severan soldiers with melta bombs, lascannon entrenchment, and the determination to get on your underside from the sewers is just as challenging and engaging as facing off a Gargant in the open forest terrain.  

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Check out "lebanon" movie - while recieving mixed feedback because of real-world political issues it is basically a ready-to-play superheavy tank crew adventure on the battlefields of spinward front with npc's, pre-generated characters and a good storyline.

Totally agree with Torog - check out that movie.

Now, if you have enough material for inspiration and are writing your very own tank campaign you might want to consider the following:

-Combined arms warfare and warrior brotherhood. That flyboy you voxed for desperate danger close airstrike is the guy you rescued from behind enemy lines with a swift strike towards crash site. Those truck colums you escort through the hostile territory are mechanics - those guys with faces and uniforms black from sacred oils, without whom you would never even start your engine.

-To hell and back. Either sent on a recon mission or cut off from your main force the tank and its crew are alone on enemy territory with limited fuel, ammo and provision unless they get it somehow. Oh, and your Comrade is wounded - none of you tankboys are good at medicae, but even that dumb main gun loader understands that if you don't get him to friendly hospital he's dead.

-Furnace of war. Tank campaigns allow you to affect the outcome of events on a strategic level if you are spearheading a massive assault, making a breakthrough for huge masses of infantry surrounded by enemy or providing support for awe-inspiring avatars of Machine God. Well, even if you are just rolling dices most of the time you can do it with pathos and gravitas.

- In a trench-rat's shoes. Yup, that's cheating but if the tank can no longer fight but the crew makes their escape - it is a good opportunity for a short change of style in an ongoing tank campaign.

- Innocence proves nothing. You were having good time with your hellhound tank, and when the major said we're going to redeploy somewhere for combined ops with sisters of battle you, having not seen a woman for 2 years now, believed it to be a good thing. But you got yourself an archbishop with unhealthy fire in his eyes for operation commander, zealots who value your life only slightly more than that of an enemy for brothers-in-arms and mass murder of barely armed civilian population of a city with flamethrowers for mission objectives. This is not the war you are used to and there is more and more evidence that whole operation is either a huge mistake or deliberate set up made by some heretic trying to make his bloody sacrifice and frame you

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I'm not entirely qualified to answer this by question, by the OP's request.

I have only played with a chimera, not a true tank. However, since I was planning to set up a tank based campaign, I have analysed and discussed this a bit, with people who have played in pure-tank campaigns (Hell Hound and LR, currently LR Vanquisher).

It should also be noted that at least some of these players are very action oriented, not really the "camp fire moment" types, sadly.

 

  • There is a huge difference between chimera and tank -based. The chimera may qualify as a light tank (and we've certainly used ours as such), it is essentially an IFV - most of the fighting power comes from the infantry inside. The chimera is just there for mobility and a limited support role. The true tank is a very real threat in itself for the enemy.
  • Threat-design is somewhat different between infantry and tank based set-up. Tanks are generally more worried about tank killing weapons (obviously!), which tend to be single shot weapons and so can be swarmed by infantry. Whereas the multi shot/area weapons that are the bane of infantry are rarely much of a threat to tanks - excepting artillery, obviously.
  • Sooner or later your tank is going to be hit - be prepared to bail out at a moment's notice. Especially when you're riding a Hell Hound.
  • A strong recommendation has been made for tanks being a better choice for a small group. 2-3 player, possibly even 4, depending on the type of tank. While everyone recognizes the need to an infantry screen around the tank, no-one wants to be it. In a larger group, divide into seperate tanks (and thus formally, seperate Squads). This appearantly was more of an issue with the LR (variants) than with the Hell Hound, though this may just have been because the Hell hound -focused campaign was played chronologically before the LR campaign.
  • Make sure your standard gear includes a helmet. Every tanker wants a helmet.
  • As mentioned above, at some point, odds are your GM will drag you out of your tin. Getting a new tank may be difficult, or may be as easy as getting back to friendly lines - which can again be as easy or as difficult as the GM chooses to make it. Be prepared to spend time outside the tank as well.

Please remember, much of this is likely coloured by the very action-oriented players that were kind enough to tell me of their war stories and experiences before I myself embark upon this world of tank warfare.

Huscurian likes this

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Also if you need RPG inspiration, the old Twilight 2000 was set in WW3 with the players playing NATO forces trapped in a post-nuclear Poland.

 

Alex

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I guess what I'm wondering about more than anything is, 'Is playing a tank crew a viable option for a group with more than two players (Driver, Gunner)?' Tenebrae touched on this with the suggestion of splitting larger groups up among multiple tanks- is that the only option for making sure everyone has something to do during combat (Short of the unhelpful advice to "Don't be a tank crew, be an infantry squad who also have a tank for some reason")...?

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In a leman russ you have gunners for main boomstick, hull gun and 2 sponsons. If you put all of your comrades in a second tank or get rid of some of them (npc in loader seats only) - you can have enough PCs. With hellhound yeah, split your guardsman between 2-3 of those hellish engines of war.

Another option - housrule trojan suppot vehicle which can minesweep, get fuel and ammo, evacuate damaged vehicles or injured crewmembers and even defend itself with a h bolter - just what you need to introduce medics or techpriests in tank campaign.

Edited by Chaplain
ak-73 likes this

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And do players enjoy those positions (4 Gunners- 3 with limited facings) in actual, repeated tank combats? I'm... not sure I would. Is it your experience that players feel they have enough tactical options to make combat exciting as 'Right Sponson Gunner'?

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A Leman Russ has 3 important crew members: the driver, the gunner and the tank commander. The last one tells the driver to where to go and the gunner to what to shoot so it is a quite eventful role.

 

Also, if you want to really-really screw up a tank campaign so the players will spend the majority of their time outside of combat (and this doing some real adventuring) then simply replace the Tracked trait of every tank with the Wheeled trait. Wheeled vehicles break down frequently, and while repairing them is easy, the maintenance will still take up quite some time so the squad will spend most of the session outside of their tanks. And a wheeled Leman Russ is a pretty darn awesome thing to have  :D .

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Adeptus-B

Swarm your battlefield with infantry trying to outflank you - and your pintle gunners will be very bisy. You can also man those sponsons with a PC and his comrade thus making his firing ark wider.

Try urban warfare with enemies ambushing you from the rooftops - and you might see a pintle gunner becoming hero of the day - not to mention he can try to save tank column from strafing aircraft.

Edited by Chaplain

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Oh, wait, I guess I forgot to take Comrades into account. With that in mind, I'm guessing the optimal breakdown for a 4-PC Leman Russ crew would be:

 

  • A Heavy Gunner manning the Battle Cannon, with his Comrade serving as Loader.
  • An Operator driving the tank, with his Comrade manning a Sponson Heavy Bolter.
  • The Sergeant serving as Tank Commander, with his Comrade manning the other Sponson (if I'm understanding the Rule As Written, only an Operator's Comrade gets the Order to be able to use a vehicle's weapon, so this will require a House Rule, correct?). As the only 'floating' crew member, I'm assuming it would fall to the Sgt. to also take Medicae Skill and serve as the tank's makeshift medic.
  • An Engineseer manning the hull-mounted Lascannon (the 'techy-est' part of the tank), with his Servitor-Comrade standing by to make repairs (if I'm understanding correctly, this Comrade can allow the Techpriest to essentially be in two places at once, and thus able to both man a weapon and make repairs, right?). This slightly exceeds the crew listed in the LR stats in the rulebook, but I think it's reasonable to say that a Servitor can be built specifically to fit in the limited space...?

 

So, yeah, I guess I'm starting to come around...

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Hmm... an Idea I had once for a Tank-Based campaign is the players being stranded in a Baneblade behind enemy lines. Fuel and Ammunition is limited and Baneblade allows for quite a lot of roles, since, well, Baneblade. They'd probably have one single round for the main cannon, a few demolisher shells and some boltshells. Lascannons of course are fueled by the internal Generator, but that'd mean consuming more fuel again... and you probably want to conserve as much ammo as possible, so "sitting on the tank shooting your lasguns" is actually a very viable tactic.

 

And when it comes to Leeman Russ tanks, I'd probably rule that the players are the Crew, while the Comrades are mostly there as Support, sitting on the tank when it's not fighting.

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I dont feel that tank combat with each player taking a different position differs in any significant way from the starship combat in rogue trader. The important thing is to mix it up, spread the crew across multiple vehicles if possible.

Remember that tank battallions also have support crew (as mentioned by the guy who suggested the trojan), command vehicles, and infantry support. I'd say the key to making it work is to make the players an active part of the same company, not necessarily the same vehicle or squad. Some players can be in the tanks, some players can be the support infantry etc.

I think the mistake people make with both OW and DW is focussing so much on combat. The game works around combat encounters and combat themed missions, sure. But it that makes it all the more important to inject the 'spark of life' into the campaign and get the players to play out their relationships to each other, stealing gear/fuel, trying to get hot food ("I'm sick of engine grits sarge...") and all the other core components that make war stories enjoyable.

The only one I feel is going to be unplayably boring is playing an artillerly regiment.

Cogniczar likes this

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Oh, wait, I guess I forgot to take Comrades into account. With that in mind, I'm guessing the optimal breakdown for a 4-PC Leman Russ crew would be:

 

  • A Heavy Gunner manning the Battle Cannon, with his Comrade serving as Loader.
  • An Operator driving the tank, with his Comrade manning a Sponson Heavy Bolter.
  • The Sergeant serving as Tank Commander, with his Comrade manning the other Sponson (if I'm understanding the Rule As Written, only an Operator's Comrade gets the Order to be able to use a vehicle's weapon, so this will require a House Rule, correct?). As the only 'floating' crew member, I'm assuming it would fall to the Sgt. to also take Medicae Skill and serve as the tank's makeshift medic.
  • An Engineseer manning the hull-mounted Lascannon (the 'techy-est' part of the tank), with his Servitor-Comrade standing by to make repairs (if I'm understanding correctly, this Comrade can allow the Techpriest to essentially be in two places at once, and thus able to both man a weapon and make repairs, right?). This slightly exceeds the crew listed in the LR stats in the rulebook, but I think it's reasonable to say that a Servitor can be built specifically to fit in the limited space...?

Looks about right to me, except we weren't assuming sponsons, thus the lower number of characters.

Yes, the sgt's comrade being able to fire is a house rule as I understand it - certainly if he uses the sgt's BS.

Normally they just provide +5 to BS with their supporting fire.

 

The only one I feel is going to be unplayably boring is playing an artillerly regiment.

It sure looked that way, until one of my players said "M*A*S*H - the only show about the korean war that lasted longer than the war itself!", which got me thinking about a OW game where combat plays almost no role - the enemy being miles away most of the time - and it's really more about camp life, swapping tall stories, playing cards and sneaking in to steal a few barrels of extra fuel from Gamma squadron.

Might not be all that long lived, but I'm sure fun could be had.

velocity83 likes this

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How about allowing the non-Operator pc to take the Gunner Order as an Elite advance?

That would make certain things a lot easier, but rather devalues operators I fear.

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How about allowing the non-Operator pc to take the Gunner Order as an Elite advance?

That would make certain things a lot easier, but rather devalues operators I fear.

 

You could give the Operators the advance for free or give them a Veteran Comrade or something simular...

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As I suggested earlier (And use in my games). If the squad is part of a tank regiment than all of the comrades (in the tank) use the operator comrade rules. I don't feel this devalues the Operator, It just reflects the reality that they are living and working in a tank! The balance is when you are outside the vehicle! Those same comrades are not likely as helpful as the standard ones would be in a small arms firefight! (Nor would your heavy gunner be carrying an actual heavy weapon! But that's a different story!)

 

As to crewing a Leman Russ without Sponsons, That simply reduces the number of PC's from three to two. The Tank commander w/ driver comrade and the Main gunner w/loader Comrade.

 

I don't think I would want the tech priest crewing anything smaller than a baneblade since that's not how they normally operate in 40k. Engineseers normally roam the battlefield (That's why they wear powered armor in TT) and tend to the wounded machine spirits of their charges, (which would probably be a Tank squadron)

Edited by Radwraith

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I don't think I would want the tech priest crewing anything smaller than a baneblade since that's not how they normally operate in 40k. Engineseers normally roam the battlefield (That's why they wear powered armor in TT) and tend to the wounded machine spirits of their charges, (which would probably be a Tank squadron)

 

True, but Only War doesn't represent normal Imperial Guard units (witness individual Stormtroopers and Abhumans attached to basic infantry units, even though they are always fielded in dedicated units of their own kind in the lore). In any RPG, you have to come up with a way to give the PCs a variety of options- which sometimes results in less-than-perfect-to-canon groups, and the descrepancies hand-waved away by saying the PC's group is the exception and not the rule. That was my logic in including an Enginseer in my 'optimal' crew build, and it would be explained by saying that this tank will be employed for special missions, and not just used as another vehicle in a column- hence a special AdMech representative stationed aboard.

Edited by Adeptus-B

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