Monday, July 5, 2021

Western Desert - What a Tanker

 I took advantage of the long weekend for U.S. Independence Day to have some friends over for a game on the lawn. This time around we decided to pull out some Western Desert 15mm World War 2 tanks and use the What a Tanker rules from Two Fat Lardies. Most people in the group had tanks to

A German Panzer III watches for the British

The What a Tanker rules some basic scenarios, but they are mainly just tank duels without any objectives. I prefer to have scenarios that are more than just shootouts, so I decided to add some ideas into the game. I borrowed some ideas from Mark Morin's blog (link to his blog post on something he did for Normandy) and I added my own to drive the game objectives. I based our scenario on Operation Crusader, the British offensive to relieve Tobruk in late 1941. This battle gives the British an interesting mix of tanks, which are still weaker than the Germans, and an objective to advance across and exit the area. 

A pair of fast Crusader tanks

For the game, I gave each side a number of buy points to purchase their tanks and other special actions (dust storms, artillery strikes, air strikes, etc.). Each side would earn victory points for destroying enemy tanks and the British would get points for exiting tanks off the map. We had six players and I thought the British should have an advantage, so we went with 4 British and 2 Germans (this was probably a mistake). The British had 2 Crusader Mk I tanks, an M3 Honey, and a Matilda II. The Germans started with a Panzer IIF and Panzer III F. The game map had several hills along with a couple depressions that were  minor obstacles for line of sight and shooting.  

M3 Honey on the move
When on the first round of the game the Panzer III hit a Crusader, reducing the tank's command dice, I thought it was going to be a tough road for the British. But things were downhill from there for he Germans. The other Crusader, the Honey and Matilda advanced on the Panzer II's position. The Honey ended up getting 3 hits on the little tank, putting it out of the game.

KO'ed Panzer II
The Germans brought on another Panzer III while the Crusader and Matilda advanced. 

Matilda on the move
The Crusader closed with the map edge and got into a close-range duel with the newly arrived Panzer III. Neither tank was able to hit the other hard enough to stop them. The Crusader eventually took advantage of the activation order to move off the map. The Honey was also able to get off the map. There were a lot of bad rolls for shooting and damage.
Close-range duel
On the other side of the map, the Crusader that had taken early damage was able to recover the Command die and moved to attack, while the Panzer III tried to take advantage of cover from the hill.
Crusader closes range
Die rolls on this side of the table were not great either, but the range kept closing and tanks tried to use to hill to their own advantage. 

Crusader driving over the hill
The British brought in replacement tanks for the ones that had exited the map. The new Crusader and Honey used their Fast attribute to quickly get into action. 

Honey and Crusader squeeze the Panzer III
The game ended shortly after the last picture. The Germans only lost the Panzer II, but other tanks had some damage. The British did not lose any tanks, although several were damaged, and exited several off the map. So while it seemed like a good close tank battle, the victory points were completely in the British favor.


So, while my basic scenario ideas seemed like they would work, they will need some tweaks and changes to really work.


After talking through the results a little, we decided to have another go with just a straight tank duel with Italian earlier British tanks. So it was an M11/39 and two M13/40s against an A-10, A-13, and Matilda.

A nice Italian M13/40
The die rolling was better and the results were a little more even this time, with each side losing several tanks.
M11/39 blows up

and an A-13 does the same
Overall, the rules are a fun diversion and the addition of some scenario rules will make game play a little more interesting. So I expect we will see the desert steel roll out again later this summer.


  1. Excellent gaming, Dave. I think the W. Desert is a perfect scenario for tank games, particularly WaT.

    1. Hi Dean, It worked out pretty well and I think everyone had a good time. We may need to add some more blocking terrain and I need to rework my scenario ideas. But people are interested in playing more, so that is good.

  2. Thanks for the shout out and I enjoyed the post. WaT definitely is a great game, and I liked reading about your scenario. At some point I will return to WaT (been buried in Mesoamerica lately!)

    1. Just giving credit where credit is due. I'm looking forward to your future posts.