Tank Attack is a micro-mediated board game for two to four players. The package comprises a top quality fold-out playing board, a total of 48 plastic tanks and armoured cars and a book of instructions.
The opening screen calls on you to select which of the four countries you want to take part in the conflict. My first few combinations were rejected without explanation. Close examination of the playing board revealed the cause - adjacent countries such as Sarapan and Calderon have a common border, as do Armania and Kazaldis. Opposing countries have a shaded no-mans'-land separating their official borders.
By choosing the correct countries you can devise conflicts of increasing magnitude such as one to one, an alliance of two against one or a full blooded four country war. If you are using only two of the four countries you are given the opportunity to double the strength of your forces by using the spare tanks.
Once you have made your alliances you can get on with the job of placing your pieces in their opening positions. A solid blue line denotes the outskirts of each capital city and all vehicles start from within this line.
Other points of interest on the playing board are the repair centres to which tanks may be returned when damaged by enemy fire, the length of a vehicle's confinement being determined by the severity of the damage sustained. The Electron will inform you when you can return a vehicle to active duty.
On-screen headlines are displayed before each round in the battle - these comprise a news flash, a weather report and a political comment. Prevailing weather conditions can have a marked effect upon the movement capability of one or both armies depending on the location of the weather front.
Your link with the micro is your battle strength display. This shows how many active tanks and armoured cars remain and also reports how many units are currently undergoing repairs. If these figures do not tally with the number of pieces on the board someone is cheating!
At the bottom of the battle strength screen are four icons, some of which will be animated. Only the active ones are available. By moving a pointer over them you can choose to move, attack the enemy headquarters or finish your turn and pass control to the next player. Selecting the movement order icon activates a teleprinter which displays your total movement allowance for the turn. This can be divided up among any number of vehicles.
Once this section is complete you can engage the enemy or fire on the opposing HQ. Both types of vehicle have a maximum range of four board squares, with the Electron making accuracy adjustments to your shots based on the range at which you are firing.
As the battle develops you will eventually come within firing range of the enemy. The Electron asks you to input the armour types of the two units involved - there are three for tanks and two for armoured cars - the numbers embossed on the underside of each unit relate to its armour strength. Finally, you specify the range of your shot and battle can commence.
The view changes to that of an observer on a distant hill top. The tanks fire one shot each and the position of the explosion shows whether or not you hit your opponent or were indeed hit yourself. The teleprinter tells you of the degree of damage sustained by each vehicle. A repairable tank can be placed on a repair depot, but you will be asked to remove seriously damaged ones from the board and your tank tally will be adjusted.
When you reach the enemy HQ to deliver the coup de gras you must move on to the square itself as you are not asked for a firing range. This last shot of the conflict is always accurate and always decisive.
There is no need to go through the rigmarole of securing the remaining enemy buildings - the teleprinter display brings news that this has already been carried out and your victory confirmed.
Tank Attack is a superb program that really takes the leg work out of wargaming. By leaving the monitoring of repair times, damage assessment and weather reports to the impartial logic of the micro you can concentrate on what really counts - strategy.* * * Second Opinion (By Janice Murray) * * *
Tank Attack is unusual in that it's a computer controlled board game. This is fine if you like this sort of thing, but it won't be everyone's cup of tea. I would have preferred to see the whole game played on the micro rather than half on the micro and half on the board.