Friday 2 February 2024

GDW Team Yankee with Steve's hacks...

I've known Steve over at the excellent 'Sound Officers' Call' for many years, and in addition to the fact that we have played games online with Jon over at the equally excellent 'Palouse Wargaming',  we have a few gaming 'likes' in common, including a love for Frank Chadwick's 'Volley and Bayonet' and of course his 'First Battle' series from GDW.

Now amongst the First Battle series was the superb Team Yankee, based upon Harold Coyle's book and released in 1987. (Not the similarly named Flames of War variant with 'tank parks').

We have tinkered with converting this game to tabletop since 2014, and I know Steve has been hacking these rules for several more years, so when he sent me his latest iteration, I was of course all over it.

The original 1987 Team Yankee box. Now, the original was designed to have the box look worn after 24 hours. ALL boxes look like this, no matter what they tell you about quality on BoardgameGeek...if your box is pristine, or undamaged, you clearly have a cheap chinese copy of the game...

The design is mostly seamless, and has been upgraded and upscaled for other conflicts  (Sands of War, Blood & Thunder, Test of Battle et al); but, it is the tactical nuance of Team Yankee that gives it the edge, with units as single tanks and squads.

This is why it works:

  • The Turn Phases are '1st attacks' , 'move and reaction' and 'last attacks'. This is beautifully subtle, with some variation for missile technology, and unlike similar systems (like Rapid Fire for instance), where you can 'move fire' or 'fire move' - yet players rarely use this variation, the discipline of the sequence encourages you to manipulate it to your advantage - but in a tactical manner, which makes sense.
  • For instance, I might use one platoon to shield the move of another - hence 'overwatch' style play is intrinsically built into the rules, and 'reaction fire' can be easily handled too.
  • The stats are also beautifully done - in terms of attack / defence values, which are further manipulated to suit range modifiers. (There is a massive spreadsheet online which collates ALL the games' stats).
  • Steve's changes however, were mainly to the single biggest bugbear of the original system - that of the CRT or Combat Results Table; a holdover from more traditional 1970s hex'n'chit style games (we all know them). This in essence compared the attack/defence values - the issue being that an M1's attack value vs a T72's defence, invariably ended up at 1:1, or at the very least, was less than satisfying with the variability of a single d6 roll on a CRT.
  • Simply put, Steve's variant challenges this by using a number of dice based off the attack/defence differential (1, 2, 3 or more) - said dice achieving hits on a 6, 5-6, or 4-6 dependent on range and target. Hence the whole system is baked into a neater and dare I say, more modern appreciation of probabilities, which 'slays' said bugbear with 2d6 damage to the face!
  • 'Yes!' you will say, 'but doesn't a 2:1 attack end up with the same probability of a hit/kill?". Of course, but if the math still works, but with a system that is more satisfying and actually faster without the 'wayback machine' CRT, then that is what we want.
  • Now, the rolls to hit and kill/damage/pin (infantry), are subsumed into the number of dice rolled, and the results on said dice. (As Steve pointed out, there is a throwback to FFT, which developed its systems from TY, so clearly the world works in perfect balance...).
  • The game that made tactical WW3 work, is now a lot more elegant in terms of design, in my view.
  • We used 'inches' to match range stats in the game in this one, on a 6x4. As a slight upgrade, would probably double this for future games, and use 2" or 50mm gradations on a range stick, as WWIII always needs to have long range stuff happen at 'long' range.
Added to this was the fact that my eldest daughter always offers to play a wargame with Dad on his birthday (which somehow, she always wins), and my young nephew also joined us for the first half too - and now wants to ditch D&D for wargaming (yay). See how the stars aligned? Hence the short action below, which despite the depredations of a little red wine on my part, was hard fought...

The only slight issue with my daughter playing in the games room, is that any 20mm stuff from other games, sitting near the table, thereby seems to become 'doused with bling' ...

A badly mauled Soviet battalion, is ordered to over-run scattered US defensive positions in the small twin villages of 'HauenStadtBahnHoff' and 'BahnHoffHauenStadt'.

We have T80s and T72s, with BTR borne infantry, vs two platoons of M1s reinforced with 3x platoons of infantry. Artillery is unavailable on this, day 6, of the third world war in 1985...(yes, even for the Soviets)...

(Forces below are 1/200 Skytrex, the poor efforts are my painting - the more photogenic vehicles are by 'DiceDemon Steven'):

US units for a hasty defence of the twin villages. They must stop Soviet units exiting the highway...

Soviet infantry on their right, will spend the day moving cautiously 

US units are outnumbered, but well dug in. Canny Soviets however would spring a trap...

M1s use the high ground where possible

Here they come. T80s have missile capability (Songsters down the gun tube) while the T72 does not. Firing said tac missile prohibits movement however. 

US also has ITVs which do a lot of damage early on at range

An M1 on a wooded hill does damage on the T80s, which rather than strike hard and fast, waste time deliberating about their missile technology

A stunning position, for M1 fire would think ;)
...until it got swamped with Soviet infantry
On the Soviet left, armour uses cover to advance, using BRDMs to scout, and acquiring targets...

'BRDM2 800m...engage"

A little hot on the way in, on the Soviet left

...but...poor fire discipline in the centre, allows Soviet armour to make gains. A few kills and damaged vehicles littered the battlefield, but neither side was close to break point

Having overwhelmed the US left with infantry, the remnants of the Soviet BTRs launched themselves into town, dismounting into buildings, without US firepower being able to overwhelm them due to numbers

jazz hands...

The US centre held for a time, and armour started to pull back to form a second line ...this was my main mistake; I had not planned adequate second lines of defence and really should have pulled back after first shots. As usual, I kept ITVs in place for too long, and did not pull back at opportune moment...I should really know better. Soviet units were able to overwhelm with simple numbers...

The rules allow for US doctrine and Soviet doctrine to work seamlessly - simply put, the fire-move-fire - notation of the turn sequence builds in continuous advance under fire AND an element of fire and retreat to second line

The centre turned into a massive firefight. Interestingly, both sides left several units out on the flanks and forced the fight into the town, where Soviet numbers became rapid equalisers to US firepower

Soviet troops drink Heiniken in the beer garden  :(

All in all, Team Yankee never fails to deliver - made all the easier with Steve's CRT hacks. Certainly a more valid ruleset now - and it easily competes for attention with more complex sets. My sense was, that 'seven days to the river rhine' hangs off its activation system - without that unique 'token' placement in 7dttrr, it is a d10 based hit system, while Team Yankee is designed for ww3 action from the ground up - the nature of its turn sequence, its hit/armour values, and its variations in doctrine.   More to come, and can not wait to get my British on the table...even my Territorial Army elements ;)

...and in other news, future games, as discussed with Steve, will be using both modern and ww2 variants of Peter's excellent ww2 rules - now although these are company element based, we can also go with platoon variations on hexes. This enables larger scale 3 battle campaigns, Falklands, Fulda Gap, Desert this space...


  1. WOW Darren! Awesome pics, especially the ww2 armored recce bling!

    Its been too long since we've seen your cold war armor on the table. Thanks for playing these and I'm glad they worked well for you.

    The CRT from the original game was effective but a little boring so I think multiple, effects dice based on the force ratio is more fun and satisfying by while still retaining the relative maths from the CRT.

    When I'm back from vacation I will get a game of this on the table and we can compare notes.

    I've also got an idea for a linked, mini campaign using Peter's WW2 rules in north africa!

    Wonderful post and happy birthday!!!

    1. Thank you for reminding me about these rules, and for sharing the great mod Steve.
      I know we have been tinkering back and forth with these for years, and TY is designed from the ground up to handle this type of battle. As i mentioned in the blog, there is so much there from combat, to turn sequence, which doesn't seem to get enough attention.If the problem was the CRT ratios - you have most assuredly fixed it :)
      Peter's rules also to explore - I am looking at Goose Green with company elements right now - and of course your fix for TY had me thinking about the other sets where they use similar rules - but up the scale one level ( 'test of Battle' , 'Battlefield Europe' , 'Blood and Thunder' etc) - and of course that makes the First Battle variants a reliable substitute for 'Command Decision' ... which then brought me around to the ww3 campaign that appears in 'Combined Arms' AND the 'Battle for Basra' first battle game which shunts everything up a level. All good stuff here...and yes, I need to try Pete's rules with your modern variant very soon

    2. If the translation from CRT to dice maintains the same probabilities then why not make the switch? Having to refer to a CRT during play (especially when hosting) is a pain. Much easier to compute differential dice and roll away. Even if the probabilities are different does it matter? Who is to claim that the original probabilities were correct?

      Darren, interesting that you mention Goose Green. I recently bought a hex and counter game on these actions. What prompted your interest in this action?

      We should plan to get you and Steve back to the remote table again but I have no modern stuff with which to tempt you...

    3. Hi Jon
      Steve's work on that old CRT has worked wonders with revitalising what was already a very pertinent and often overlooked design - we're already talking about some other GDW games.
      OHhh? what Falklands game did you get (I do have the Lock'n'Load variant somewhere). I have always been interested in the Falklands conflict, and used to work with an chap that was there - then later I spotted the scenario for Command Decision in a 90s issue of 'Command Post Quarterly' always wanted to play it - there is a lot of lore connected with that one...a fascinating episode in British history, with all the courage, cock-ups, and good and bad luck that is symptomatic of modern conflicts.

      Modern stuff not required to get Steve and I back to your table sir - say the word - though I do believe that there is a thirst for Steve's revenge :) should the American Revolution beckon?

    4. The game is Goose Green by MMP Games.

      After a run of WAS battles, I have Ancients out on the table for a while as I refight Trasimene. I will start thinking about AWI scenarios again.

    5. Ohhh that looks superb. i remember the older TCS games - I still have 'Force Eagle's War' somewhere.
      Yes, some more AWI would be excellent ...Germantown? ;)

    6. yes Steve, the next match shall be hotly contested :)

  2. I always fancied upping the Team Yankee to include the other combat teams, Charlie Company etc. I probably have the stuff to do it, but lack a suitable table......
    I'd also have to get my head back around Combined Arms......

    1. There is a plethora of stuff online for TY Neil, and data for all nations, so it does lend itself to an all encompassing and yet more straightforward version of Command Decision I would suggest, yet with the same sensibilities from Frank Chadwick and Marc the Hex system we refer to from Peter (linked above) uses a very small table space with hexes to do division and battalion level stuff - simplicity with subtlety is the order of the day here...very much in mind, not simply due to time constraints, but I think even on the horse & musket side of Chadwick's designs - games like 'Volley and Bayonet' are simply so much more straightforward and hang off a central tenet (such as division exhaustion).

  3. Great looking 'toys' but I do hope that is not your hand with the red nail varnish !?

    1. Nooo, of course not!

      (I would do a much better job ...and have them done professionally! ...and red is not my colour at all )