Strange as it may seem, this article is not about miniature wargaming… exactly.
Sometimes, it makes sense to cast an eye on what's going on in the counter-and-gameboard world, to see if something can be adapted for miniature wargaming or just inspire something new on our tabletops.
Back in 2016, TMP ran an announcement from Wargame Vault about a new sci-fi boardgame:
In a post-nuke irradiated hellscape, mechanized warfare evolves into its ultimate form: nuclear-powered Armored Flying Vehicles. Now, split-second death-duels are fought in the skies over the wastes of North America: from bootleggers to mercenaries, imperial armies to rock 'n' roll warlords, they all want their piece of the pie called Mega-Detroit.
Now, if you've seen my musings on the forum, I've got a number of hovertanks and gravtanks hanging around on my unpainted pile, waiting for me to get some inspiration on exactly what to do with them. This game, with 'super' tanks fighting on a scale where mountain ranges are terrain features, intrigued me, so I bought it, downloaded it, printed it out, cut out the cards, and assembled the counters!
Seeing the printed-out 11"x 17" game map reminded me how constricting boardgames feel compare to miniature games! On the other hand, I realized the square grid could be easily upscaled to larger hexes and a full tabletop.
Floating above the post-nuke ruins and the new industrial Megalopolises, Hover Tanks aren't seriously impeded by the Terrain below them.
– rules, page 7
The only terrain that matters are what the rules call ridges, as they block line of fire. Craters are just there for "flavor." The cities have significance in certain scenarios.
The counters provide ten different vehicles, in both red and blue colors. (According to the background, all factions buy their vehicles from the same arms dealer.) When a vehicle is damaged, its counter can be flipped over to its 'damaged' side.
Facing matters, which means you can get counters 'upside down' to their player (a minor complaint).
Play is card-driven. Each player starts the game with a random deck of Action Cards, and draws four cards for his hand. Players alternate turns, with each turn consisting of activating a tank (to move, fire, move and fire, or go on overwatch), playing an Action Card (which may allow activating additional tanks, or trigger reinforcements), and drawing a new Action Card to his hand.
Heavy tanks can only move straight ahead; lighter tanks can also move diagonal-ahead. Light tanks can turn at no cost, but heavier tanks must use up movement points to turn. As a player moves a tank, he also moves a marker to track how many movement points it has left that turn; movement can be interrupted by firing or being fired upon. Some tanks have a required minimum movement if activated.
When a player has activated a tank, it can fire at any point before, during or after movement with all of its weapons. Weapons have no range limit, but can only fire straight ahead. When targeted, lighter tanks can react by changing their facing; heavier tanks cannot. When combat is resolved, what matters is the type of weapon being used, the defender's armor class, and the defender's facing. A die is rolled, and the result is either a miss, target damaged (flipped to damaged side if not already damaged), or target destroyed. Some weapons can be fired in suppressive mode, which improves the chance to hit but negates the chance of destroying the target. Certain weapon types may result in targets exploding or being immobilized, or may cause the firing tank to recoil; or may get a firing bonus; or may suffer critical failures. A card is drawn from the Kerplow deck to resolve catastrophic damage.
Ramming is also an option, and may occur deliberately, or due to recoil from firing a heavy weapon, or due to being pushed after a previous collision!
Ten scenarios are provided, specifying the forces at start, possible reinforcements, victory conditions, the "empty deck effect" (special rules once either player is out of Action Cards), and any scenario-specific rules.
For our trial game, we played the first scenario – Stuck in the Middle with Ewe – which involves smuggling mutton into Mega-Detroit.
The game play is fast and furious. Ramming was surprisingly useful (and fun!), and several times led to additional collisions… and it wasn't always the smaller tank that suffered the most.
To win this scenario, the smuggling player must make between three and five deliveries to Mega-Detroit. The problem we ran into is that the rules don't specify if a tank can only make one delivery per game, or if the same tank can make deliveries on multiple turns (i.e., how many 'deliveries' does a tank carry?). We decided to limit each tank to one delivery per game, which resulted in the smuggling player losing the game due to bad cards (he never got his reinforcements, so he couldn't make enough deliveries).
Was it a fun game? Yes, except for the ending (which was maybe our fault). What I didn't like was how grid-centric the game was; the way that movement and combat is constrained by the grid makes an interesting game, but also a game that feels abstract and 'gamey'. Collisions are fun, but also are a bit silly, and again emphasize the griddedness of gameplay.
Could the game be converted for play with miniatures? Easily, if you have a gridded tabletop. The only terrain you really need are the ridges (easily made); the cities could just be flat overlays, and the craters don't matter. Since the rules do not allow counters to be stacked, substituting models (from a variety of manufacturers) wouldn't be a problem.
However, while I enjoyed the game, this isn't the hover tank game that I'm searching for; my quest will continue…
As I was writing this article, I noted that this game is not currently available from Wargame Vault, and I don't see it listed on the publisher's website either.
And I know you're wondering… why is Detroit north of Ontario? It's because Mega-Detroit was built where the survivors 'think' Detroit used to be; and New Ontario is an aggressive colonization move by the Canadians.