Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Tiger Vs T-34 analysis in Band of Brothers

For those gamers who have a keen interest in WWII tactical wargames, these two vehicles will be well known to them and so they make an interesting study when trying to analyse the Band of Brothers (BoB) system and its gun / armour relationships.

An iPad doodle of the T-34
At the time of writing, we do not actually have any official scenarios in which these two vehicles meet. The Russian module 'Ghost Panzer' does not have the Tiger I (though it does use the 88/56 gun in an anti-tank role, appearing in several scenarios) however, the sister game, 'Screaming Eagles' does, so this article uses the game parts from both modules to make its observations.
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EDIT - please note, this article was updated on 8th August 2017 so that it accords with the rule changes in version v2.1 with regards to modifiers being applied to unit values rather than the die roll. 

Firstly, we should look at the information on the counters. Using the the Tiger I as an example, which carries the 88/56 gun and has 100 - 120mm of verticle armour to the front and 60 - 80mm of armour to the sides.
These characteristics are reflected on the counter as follows. The red numbers on the top left is the anti-tank fire value followed by the high explosive value (used against unarmoured targets). The white numbers below that are the frontal armour value, followed by the side and rear armour value. Top right, is the movement value and bottom right is the profficiency value, notably high here, reflecting that it is turreted, has an elite crew, good training, good communications and good turret compartment layout etc.

The counter has an arrow to the top of the counter to show facing. The counter must face a hex vertex (spine) and the two hexes directly to the front of the vehicle defines the front facing (above).
Proficiency rating - this is central to the design. Tanks and guns all have a proficiency value that represent a host of things, but essentially, whenever the tank wants to do something that places some slightly higher demands on both crew and machine, then the unit must pass a proficiency test before it can do that task. Failing a test means the counter is simply marked as 'used' instead.
For example, if a tank wants to move, then it can, without testing. But if it wanted to opportunity fire or fire at a target at more than 5 hexes away, or fire after moving, then it would first need to pass a proficiency test. If passed, then the vehicle or gun could then go on to do that task.
The test may be modified. So firing after movement for example carries a -4 modifier to the value of the unit's Proficiency rating. This would mean that the Tiger with its Proficiency rating of 9, would have its rating dropped to 5 if it wanted to fire after moving. A D10 would have to roll 5 or less in these circumstance to pass the test. This still gives the Tiger a fair chance of attempting a shot, compared to the T-34 (model 41), which has a starting proficiency of just 5. In the same circumstances, the T-34 Proficiency would drop to '1', requiring a 1 to be rolled on the D10.
The D10 - Using a D10 makes it easier for us to assess and analyse unit performance in a given situation because we can readily convert the numbers into percentages. A typical turreted tank might have a proficiency rating of 8. A non-turreted assault gun with typically the same gun and protection might have a proficiency of 7. So in effect, being turretted would typically give the player a 10% increased probability of say firing opportunity fire compared to the assault gun. This is a lovely way to model differences and keep turret counters and extra rules out of the system.

The three different types of T-34 that come with Ghost Panzer (a module that covers actions involving the German 11th Panzer Division) are the 40, 41 and 43 models as shown below.

The M40 had armour up to 45mm (well sloped) and a 76.2mm gun but only of a 30.5 calibre. The M41 gun was upgraded to a longer 42 calibre version, while the M43 had heavier armour and an improvement in the turret layout. You will note that the M43 also sees an improvement in its proficiency level to 6.
Although we are just looking at the T-34 v Tiger here, it should be remembered that in the game, these T-34's are going to be facing the earlier models of the Pz III and Pz IV and these lighter gunned tanks will struggle to penetrate the T-34.
You can see from the above that over the course of a game, the higher proficiency German tanks should run rings around the Soviet tanks, making it easier to get off flanking shots etc - but when the Soviets pass their proficiency, the full lethality of their vehicle can be felt and what is so nice about the proficiency system is that it 'tends' to show capability rather than tightly closing vehicles and guns down in an over prescriptive way and it leaves both players with a healthy respect of at least the potential danger of the other.

To Hit - Most systems have a separate 'to hit' as part of the firing process, Band of Brothers doesn't. When a tank or gun fires, it may or may not need to take a proficiency test first. This has nothing to do with the fire itself, it is just testing the capability of man and machine in more challenging situations. The firing process itself combines the to hit and the armour penetration process into a single roll.

Tank Trials - The Tiger was first used on the eastern front in August 1942, so for our trials, we will not be using the T34 - model 40, which sits outside that time frame. The first actions between the two tanks would have been against the M41, but during 1943, the M43 appeared in increasing numbers. To keep this article within reasonable bounds, it seems sensible to mostly use the T-34 M43 as the mid war example.

Some of the critical points in combat for consideration are range, whether the firer moved, whether the target moved and positioning (adjacent, flank / rear shots etc).
Range - Any shot taken at over 5 hexes distance requires a proficiency test. There is a -1 reduction in vehicle Proficiency per 10 hexes of range. this instantly gives the Tiger an advantage in ranged fire, as their proficiency is 9, compared the 5 of the T-34. This is a big difference and it encourages the T-34 to get close. On the hit and kill roll, firepower is only reduced when firing over 20 hexes away, which does not occur that often.
Firer has moved - This gives a penalty of -4  to the firers Proficiency test. The Tiger can suffer this and still have a 50% chance of passing the test, while the T-34 will only pass 10% of the time.
Target has moved - This just reduces the vehicles Proficiency by -1, which will reduce all proficiency tests by 10%. The Tiger would pass 80% of the time and the T-34 40% of the time.

Positional - This effects the hit and kill result (not the proficiency test). A firer will benefit by a +1 modifier to their firepower for being adjacent to the target, firing at the rear and firing into a lower elevation. The firer's firepower value will reduce by -1  if firing uphill. In most respects, the T-34 gains the most from positional advantages, since the big gun on the Tiger is very capable in dealing with a T-34 without needing too much help. If the T-34 could get two positional advantages (say rear shot and adjacent), then it's chance of knocking out a heavily armoured Tiger is significantly increased (by 20%).
T-34's positioned on a higher elevation. They will get a positive modifier
to their firepower and tanks firing up at them will suffer a penalty.

Anti-Tank Fire - The actual hit and kill process is very simple. The armour value is deducted from the attack value to give a hit and kill number. This number can be modified as mentioned above. A D10 is rolled and if the result is equal to or less than the modified hit and kill number, then the target is destroyed. You will note that the attack value of the T-34(M43) is 9. The frontal armour of a Tiger 1 is also 9. Nine deducted from nine is zero, this number cannot be rolled on a D10, so in straight fire fight, without some assistance via die roll modifiers, the T-34 cannot take out the Tiger frontally .... except, if using 'critical hits' from the optional rules, on rolling a '1', there is a chance that a critical hit will follow and that itself might generate an unconfirmed kill, which itself is subject to another die roll (run another attack and +6 to the firepower value), so all-in-all, it's rather a slim chance of causing a knock-out that way. For the field test, we will not be using critical hits.

Field tests - We will assume that a T-34 is moving towards a Tiger and the Tiger is firing opprtunity fire frontally on flat ground.
At 21 to 30 hexes - It must take a proficiency test (with proficiency lowered by -2 for Op. Fire, -2 for range), so the Tiger's Proficiency of 9 drops to a 5, giving a 50% chance of passing the test. Then on the hit and kill roll, there is a -1 to the firepower for range, the Tiger then has a 60% of knocking out the T-34.
At 20 hexes, those chances increase to 60% and 70% respectively.
At 9 hexes, those chances increase to 70% and 70% respectively.
At 5 hexes or less, range does not trigger a proficiency test, but opportunity fire still does, so the figures remain as per the previous entry.
Adjacent, the chances are now revised to 70% and 80% respectively.
note 1 - if a 10 is rolled on the hit and penetration roll, it is always classed as a miss, even if the firepower would normally guarantee a kill, hence the second figure can never get better than a 90% probability.
note 2 - The chance of passing a proficiency test when using opportunity fire can be increased by 10% if the vehicle is deliberately put into opportunity fire mode (think overwatch) in an earlier activation.
This tank is in opportunity fire mode and so will gain a
+1 to it's fire strength when opportunity firing.
Assuming that a proficiency roll is passed, then if a Tiger was able to get a flank shot at a T-34 (i.e. attack the T-34's side armour value of 4), it would have a 90% chance of killing the tank at a range out to 29 hexes.
Assuming that a proficiency roll is passed, then if a T-34 was able to get a flank shot at a Tiger I (i.e. attack the Tigers flank armour value of 6 with their firepower of 9), it would have a 30% chance of a kill at under 20 hexes, a 20% chance at under 30 hexes, a 40% chance if adjacent and a 50% chance if adjacent and firing into the rear.
As mentioned, the T-34 cannot harm the Tiger from a frontal position unless it became adjacent and even then there would be just a 10% chance of a kill.
The T-34/76 is a very capable vehicle against the standard enemy tank that it would face, but of course, the Tiger is something special and a tough cookie. The problem that the T-34 will continually face is that its own proficiency number is low. So if using opportunity fire (-2 to Proficiency), it would only have a 40% chance (at 10 hexes or less) of getting a shot off against the Tiger and a 30% chance at ranges upto 20 hexes. Over time, a Soviet player will find themselves using tactics that work best within the T-34's limitations and this brings realism into the game.
It is worth looking at how up-gunning the T34 to the 85mm gun changes things. We can do this because Ghost Panzer incluges the Soviet self propelled SU 85.

Our stats would stay the same, except that the T34 would now have that firepower of 13, giving it a chance of dealing with a Tiger frontally. The 13 attacks the defenders armour of 9, requiring a 4 or less to be rolled on a D10 to hit and kill. This gives a 40% of a penetration out to 20 hexes to the front of the vehicle and a 70% chance against the flank of a Tiger. That is a worthwhile improvement.
While these odds are much better, you would probably want a few of these tanks firing at those odds to be happy about the likely outcome, especially if a proficiency test is required as this is an area of weakness for our 1943 Russians.

The below SU 85 and German StuG III (taken from the Screaming Eagles game) have comparable anti tank firepower values. The StuG is carrying a 75/48 and just for reference, the 75/70 on the Panther tank is valued in the game at 16, which is a tad better than the German 88/56 (at value 15) and that seems about right. Several other rule sets put the Russian 85mm and German 75/48 on level pegging, though I would have been equally happy for the Russian 85 to be a point higher than the 75/48, while lagging behind the Panther and Tiger guns. Note the second gun value though, the 85mm is reflection more explosive power than the 75mm, so I think most keen armour gamers will be pleased with these gun values.

Moving target (below), when a vehicle moves, it ends the movement by gaining a 'move' marker. This stays with the vehicle until it next activates and decides what it wants to do. There is a Proficiency penalty of -1 to fire on a vehicle so marked.

Just how good is the T-34? - All this comparing with the heavy Tiger tank should not detract from how good the T-34 was against mainstay type vehicles.

In the above example. a T-34 lays in wait to ambush a tank. It cannot penetrate the frontal armour of the Tiger on the right, but against the Pz IVf2 on the left, the T-34 can get a kill 50% of the time (assuming that proficiency for opportunity fire has been passed), while return fire from the better gunned Pz IV will only (frontally) get a kill 40% of the time.
Swarming tactic - I thought I would show three T-34's charging towards a Tiger to get a close up shot. Knowing the system, my expectation was that the Tiger would take out two of the tanks on the way in and the final tank might survive long enough to get lucky. As it turned out, I was given a surprise, something that the system is good at, as it shows general traits rather than enforcing a stereotype outcome.

Two model 43's and a model 41 advance on a stationary, front facing Tiger.
The Tiger takes opportunity fire at the moving T-34's .... what can go wrong with such good proficiency? The Tiger's Proficiency is reduced from 9 to 7 for conducting opportunity fire, so the D10 die roll needs to be 7 or less. The die roll is 8, which is a fail. The Tiger is marked 'used'.
All three T-34's move into positions around the tank (we assume here that there are no other German guns that can opportunity on the T34's to ruin their day!). They do NOT move adjacent to the Tiger because they don't want to trigger final opportunity fire, which would no doubt take one of them out and allow the Tiger tank to change facing. As each T-34 takes up a position around the Tiger (ending their movement), they attempt to fire after movement and this requires a proficiency test. There is a Proficiency reduction of -4 for this type of fire and with initial proficiency levels of just 5 and 6, they are not hopeful and indeed they all fail the test. Each is marked 'used' and also have a 'move' marker to signify they have been moving. (note, there was a 10 - 20% chance that one of these fires might have been successful and then that would have been a scary moment for the Tiger).

Next turn - All T-34's are well placed for flank shots, but the German will go first (as the first player in the scenario). The Tiger turns in its hex to face the two T-34's on the left. Pivoting to fire does not attract opportunity fire, but pivoting does require a proficiency check before firing, with -1 to the Proficiency value of the Tiger. The German player rolls a 10, so the test is failed. This crew must be having a really bad day! It is marked used.

The two T-34's on the left now find themselves facing the Tiger's front and not the flank. They will not be able to penetrate the front armour, so the T-34 in the Tiger's rear will act first by firing, just to see how it gets on. This is a straight forward (i.e. not difficult) firing situation, so a proficiency test is not needed (so that is one hurdle jumped by the Russian player). On straight fire, deducting the Tigers flank armour rating (6) from the T-34 attack rating (9) gives a result of 3. 1 is added to this for firing into the rear of a vehicle, so the final hit and penetrate number is 4. The Russians need to roll 4 or less and they roll a 1, resulting in a kill.
If I re-ran this several times, its unlikely that I would end up with that result, but this just highlights the joy of the proficiency system. It reflects what is likely without employing a straight-jacket and so sometimes the less likely happens and good hardware is deadly if it can get to be activated - this is a good sub-system for solitaire play.
Conclusion - The experience of tank combat here is unlike systems that I have played before. The proficiency system offers a nice balance between constraint, lethality and potential. The effect that it has on play actually makes you start to use your own equipment in different ways to exploit advantages and mitigate limitations. The same is true in the infantry part of the game.
I have tinkered myself over decades with tactical WWII designs and trying to get the right effect for situations such as T-34's engaging Tigers is difficult. Also, you end up with such questions as to why the Tiger had this dominant role, when on paper at least, the lighter and cheaper Panther tanks appears to have a better punch and more efficient armour. Trying to square that problem makes so much sense in this system by giving the Panther a proficiency of 8 and the Tiger one of 9, no doubt representing elite crews.
I think anyone interested in tactical games will want to look at this system.
Readers may be interested to read a similar post that I made last October concerning the same vehicles in the Lock 'n Load system.

This is a link to a fascinating collection of gun / armour penetration tables.

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