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Armor Attacks: The Tank Platoon
Posted On 3/13/2012
Armor Attacks: The Tank Platoon is a serious gamebook created as "An Interactive Exercise in Small-Unit Tactics and Leadership." The designer and author is colonel (retired) John F. Antal, the former commander of a tank battalion in South Korea. He is better known in the game industry as the Executive Producer at Gearbox, responsible for historical accuracy for the Brothers in Arms series.
Around fifty pages are highly detailed and illustrated specifications of tanks, armored vehicles, procedures, military symbols, definitions and all sorts information to prepare you to be in the mindset of a tank platoon commander. The book is full of military jargon and procedures but Antal does an excellent job of weaving technical explanations into the narrative as you follow your character, US Army 2nd Lieutenant, Sam Jeger, in a series of strategy meetings.
You are battling an unnamed enemy in the desert terrain of the Valley of Tears in the Middle East. You command a platoon (four) of M1 Abrams tanks and also receive support from mobile artillery, various armored vehicles, and some infantry. The enemy is equipped with Soviet technology including the formidable T-72 and T-80 tanks, and similar supporting forces. You manage your resources, greatest being--time, for planning, surveying, rest and more.
Being a gamebook of the programmed instructions genre, there are some design tradeoffs that were made. Unlike most which-way books, there are few choices and each choice leads to a long chain of events. There is only one correct way to play and several key choices are made blindly. Unless you are knowledgeable about military strategy, the multiple choices you face all seem valid. When you choose incorrectly, you and your team die horrifically. Afterwards Anatal lectures you on military strategy and helps you reflect on your choices and then returns you to the last checkpoint for a restart.
What I learned was that war is chaotic and a shrewd tank commander must have a flexible plan. A flexible plan also means that sometime one must follow the intent or goal of the order rather than the exact letter of a command. Armor Attacks: The Tank Platoon is a fascinating way to teach modern military strategy. While Sun Tzu's The Art of War teaches grand strategy, Antal's Armor Attacks: The Tank Platoon teaches modern combined arms tactics in the most entertaining way.
Armor Attacks: The Tank Platoon and If I Ran the Z/o/o/ Con are both gamification via gamebooks. I see great potential in learning via gamebooks.