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Subject: A CDG or not a CDG, that is the question. rss

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Western Front Tank Leader was released in 1987 by West End Games and was designed by Leonard C Quam, it built on Eastern Front Tank Leader designed by John Hill and Guy Hail. The mechanics for movement and combat are all very standard for a hex and counter wargame, what sets this game series apart though is how it models command, control and communication or C3.

C3 is the centre of this game, and it is handled by playing cards which depict the formations under the player’s control. Each player has combat formation cards, parent formation cards, and command formation cards which represent different things. Each combat formation cards represent a company, squadron, troop or battalion. Parent formation cards, only used by the Americans, represent battalions and the command formation cards represent combat commands, battalions or a Kampfgruppe. Each of these cards have a C3 rating which effects the way they can be played.

At the start of the turn players look at their cards and play the one with the lowest C3 rating – ‘A’ being high and so on down. If there is a tie the Allied player must play their card and the German player keeps theirs. Once a card has been played it can be interrupted by another card with a higher C3 value. This can keep going until players choose to stop interrupting or are unable to interrupt. The top card on the pile then activates and so on until all the cards in the pile have been activated and the turn continues with the card with the lowest C3 that hasn’t been activated yet being played and repeating the above process. Players can also interrupt their own card if they want to move a different formation.

When activated the different types of cards allow the players to do different things. An activated combat formation card allows the player to move the units listed on it. When a parent formation card is activated it allows the player to activate one of the units on it regardless of its C3 rating. Activating a command formation card allows the Allied player to choose from two options. Option one is to move a combat formation listed on the card regardless of its C3 rating and also the HQ combat formation. Option two is to try and recover morale for any of the listed combat formations. If a German command formation card is activated it allows the player to activate any or all of the combat formations listed on it with a C3 rating better than ‘D’.

As you may gather there is a lot to think about when playing the cards. This really is the heart of the game and poor C3 values can find you reacting to your opponent’s moves rather than taking the initiative. Generally the German forces have a better C3 rating as well as being slightly more powerful, so the Allied player has to use their cards carefully as well as their greater numbers to get an advantage. Also the command formation cards are quite powerful and usually have the best C3 rating. Working out when to play them is an important part of winning and can go a long way to controlling the tempo and initiative.

Another consideration is tactical doctrine. All combat units must stay within a certain number of hexes or else units are marked as separated which makes it harder to pass morale checks and also harder to hit targets. Also Allied command formations must stay within a certain number of hexes as well. The German command formations don’t have this restriction which increases their flexibility no end, and helps to handicap the Allies with their larger forces.

There are advanced rules which add infantry, artillery, smoke, minefields and strike cards to represent air strikes and off board artillery, but again these rules are quite standard wargaming concepts that are easy to pick up. As mentioned before, this game is about C3 and how to apply it to the battlefield as modelled by the card play.

So is it a CDG? Not in the way CDGs are played today. There are no Ops points to activate units or events to influence what happens. But the cards do directly activate units. Also the scale is different, a lot of CDGs are strategic in scope while this game is more tactical. So while it doesn’t look like the modern versions of CDGs I think this is very much a prototype CDG. Anyway whatever you think of this question there is no denying that this is a great game. Easy to learn but still provides plenty of depth and challenge. A good addition to any collection.
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Sean McCormick
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This series is definitely in need of a reprint and a graphical facelift. I haven't played in a while, but I don't see any better platoon-level games on the market.
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Tom Grant
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The relevant question isn't whether it's a CDG or not, but whether it makes any difference.

Clearly, the Tank Leader series uses cards differently than Paths of Glory or Washington's War. It's a different scale (tactical, not strategic), and the whole point of the cards is different (single use, no events, just C3). You might as well ask about whether the Tank Leader games deserve a comparison with Wizard Kings because they both have hex-based maps, or Titan because they both use dice for combat resolution.

Sorry if that previous statement sounds a bit harsh. The Tank Leader games are one of the few tactical WWII games to really emphasize C3, so I'd hate for someone looking for a different sort of game to be in anyway disappointed with what they found. CDGs injected whole new way to model politics, unexpected events, and other aspects of history into historical wargames. Tank Leader presented an innovative way to model command, control, and communications, which has been conspicuously absent from far too many tactical wargames. The activation cards might just as easily have been activation chits, buttons, or marbles.

But that bit of bloviating aside, always glad to see this neglected series get much-deserved attention. Thanks for writing this review.
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And here I was thinking my review would fade into obscurity. Good to see there are people still going in to bat for this great series.
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M King
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seanmac wrote:
This series is definitely in need of a reprint and a graphical facelift. I haven't played in a while, but I don't see any better platoon-level games on the market.


I thought it was getting reprinted. Did I dream that?
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Ethan McKinney
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petegs wrote:
So is it a CDG? Not in the way CDGs are played today. There are no Ops points to activate units or events to influence what happens. But the cards do directly activate units.


Ummm, don't CDGs have decks that you draw from randomly? In TL you either have forced plays (worst C3I starts the sequence) or you get to pick a card from all of the cards available to your side.
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M St
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Michael Dorosh wrote:
seanmac wrote:
This series is definitely in need of a reprint and a graphical facelift. I haven't played in a while, but I don't see any better platoon-level games on the market.


Saying this is the best platoon-level game on the market is a bit like saying you have the best professional soccer team in your hometown, isn't it?

No.

Quote:
Sure, it's not exactly like you're saying you have a women's lacrosse team, but you're still in the shadow of the flashy stuff - in this case ASL the Glory Hog and all its squad-level imitators.

I don't see these as competition at all, exactly because they are squad level. What you seem to be doing is to ask us to compare a soccer team to baseball teams or NFL teams, which seems rather pointless.
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dave Prasse
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oneoldgamer wrote:
seanmac wrote:
This series is definitely in need of a reprint and a graphical facelift. I haven't played in a while, but I don't see any better platoon-level games on the market.


I thought it was getting reprinted. Did I dream that?


This indeed a wonderful dream !! May it happen !!!
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