Wednesday 22 April 2020

Shootout at Akarah Oasis - Socially Distanced What a Tanker

Over the weekend I did a YouTube video that mentioned a planned game of What a Tanker to take place over the interweb for members of the Rejects. Well, that game took place yesterday and I have to report it was a huge success. Four members of the group took part and I umpire the game and did all the dice rolling and necessary admin to make the game work even though all the participants were dialling in from various locations. I've just posted a new video that shows a little of what we did, but here are some more pictures of the game and a summary of the rules changes I implemented to make the game work while socially distanced. 

In order to run this game, and make it work, I needed to make a few changes to the rules. The aim was to reduce the amount of dice rolling required...primarily because I would be doing it all, and there was already a lot to do. Most of the changes worked well although having completed the game there are a couple of things that need refinement and I'll discuss these below. First off though here's a picture of the setup in my Operations Room.

The rules changes I made:
  • Fixed Command Dice - Rather than rolling for command dice at the start of each turn I gave each tank a fixed set of command dice. This reduced the amount of dice I needed to roll each turn and sped up play. So each tank had command dice for Drive, Aquire, Aim and Shoot and two wildcard dice*. 
  • Always loaded - Rather than use a command dice for reloading I decided that all tanks would reload automatically. That freed up one dice to be converted to a Wildcard dice. 
  • Always Buttoned - This just simplified the tank Dashboard for remote players. 
  • No Damage - I ignore the damage chart entirely, just taking damage as either Temporary (ie repairable) or Permanent. Again a simplification for remote players and the umpire alike. 
  • *TwoWildcard Dice - These enabled players to boost specific command dice when needed, either for more movement, to acquire targets or improve aim. I also allowed players to opt to use both wildcard dice to reload and fire a second time in a turn. This gave plenty of tactical options for players to think about. 
For the umpire (me in this instance) there were several changes that needed to be incorporated aside from the rules discussed above.
  • The Umpire Rolls - All dice rolling was handled by me. I used a dice tray and rolled the relevant dice in the tray, in view of the camera, so players could see what was happening. 
  • Removing Damage - When a tank took Temporary or Permanent damage I removed the relevant number of command dice, starting with the fixed dice, leaving the wildcards to last (so that temporary damage could be repaired if the player wanted to make that choice). I would roll a d4 dice to decide which command dice was effected. Again all rolls were done in view of the camera so players knew I wasn't cheating! 
  • Initiative rolls were also handled by me to randomise the turn. I think next time I'll try to find a better way to do this, just to speed up this bit of the game. 
  • Movement -  Each player would describe the direction of movement, or desired destination, and I measured and moved the tank for them. 
  • Frikin Lasers! - I used a laser pointer to check lines of sight. This worked well for remote players who couldn't get down to eye level to check for themselves. However...
  • Moveable POV - I placed the video camera (my phone) on a tripod overlooking the table but I regularly took it off to get close up shots of the table or the Tank Dashboards. All players could at any time ask for such a closeup if they needed it and I think this helped a lot with the remote aspect of the game. 

We used Zoom (a web app primarily used to facilitate meetings) to gather together. Meetings are usually limited to 45 minutes (unless you subscribe) but we were able to reenter the meeting multiple times and keep things ticking along for a couple of hours, during which we got two games done.

Participants were able to focus on either a split-screen like this, to see everyone or just a single screen like the tabletop. Feedback from the guys suggested the quality of the video feed was a bit variable but as already indicated I was able to bring the camera in when they needed more clarity or a close-up view of the table. Overall I think Zoom worked well for a small group like this, but I think it would have been more challenging if we had had more players. Having said that, additional participants need not have been playing, they could just join in with the banter and follow the game.

All in all, I think this worked very well and I can see us trying out other games like this in the coming weeks, especially if we find ourselves socially distanced for many months.


  1. I didn't know about the Zoom meeting length limit. The lady who runs our weekly burlesque class uses it and our sessions are an unbroken 60-90 minutes, but maybe she's using a paid-for work copy.

    I still haven't tried a distanced game with miniatures yet. I've been thinking about it for years, and now its time has come just simply haven't got myself organised :)

    1. This game was thrown together on a wing and a prayer, but it all worked in the end.

  2. I signed up for a free gotomeeting account on Saturday and broadcast a game. will be what I use next, since it's free forever, not just for 14 days.

    1. I'll give this a look. Not heard of that one before but I'm happy to explore all options.

    2. works well and doesn't have the time limit. We have played a few games using this over the last weeks.

  3. I enjoyed the vid. There's a lot of innovation happening now in the distance wargaming micro hobby. Keep those dice rolling!

    1. Thank you for the feedback. Needs must...apocalypse or not, we can't miss out on our hobby time!


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