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Posted on Nov 20, 2020 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

Leopards vs T55s – Who Will Survive?   Main Battle Tanks ‘4CMBG Expansion Board Game Review

Leopards vs T55s – Who Will Survive? Main Battle Tanks ‘4CMBG Expansion Board Game Review

Rick Martin

MBT – 4CMBG     Board Game Review.  Publisher: GMT Games   Game Designer: James M. Day   Price $42.00

Passed Inspection: well researched, new units, great components, an important addition to the Nato forces

Failed Basic:  a little light on components, solo rules would have added to the value of this set, difficult to the get maps to lie flat


29 September 1987 – the third day of World War III – just before dawn

Colonel Sergey Turgenev worked with his command staff on the upcoming attack.  The Soviet 18th Guards Motor Rifle Division was tasked to take a supply depot held by the 4CMBG.  The timing to the advance was critical.  Artillery would fire two smoke screens which should help to obscure the advancing IFVs and T55s.  While the Canadians were occupied, a Mi8T transport helicopter would land three squads of special force assault troops in the village square.  Colonel Turgenev lit up his third cigarette of the morning.  What would be the state of things this afternoon?  Who would survive?

Thin Line of Defense

Meanwhile in the village code named “Papa 27”,  Lt. Thomas Rhodes scanned the horizon from the turret of his Leopard C1 tank.  It was still mostly dark but he could see the darkness begin to fall away just on the edge of the horizon.  His tank was only of two stationed in Papa 27.  There were a few troops and a handful of M113s and his unit was spread thin.  He got word from HQ that reinforcements would arrive soon as a Soviet armored force was seen moving towards their position the day before.  Just as the sun broke, the thud of artillery assailed his ears and then he saw the smoke begin to obscure the edge of the village.  “Button up!” he commanded and prepared his team for battle.  In the distance he could hear the rumble of enemy tanks.  This was it!  The Russians were advancing!

Defensive Action

 4CMBG is the 3rd expansion to the Main Battle Tank tactical combat game system and finally the Canadians have been given their due.  The 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (4CMBG) features tanks, IFVs, troops, weapon systems and aircrafts used by this famous group during its time serving in Nato in the mid 1980s as well as units of the opposition .  Each unit is a squad or half squad, a special weapons team or 1 vehicle.

From James M. Day’s excellent article on the group:

Canada maintained a ground force in Europe as part of NATO since 1951. Initially, an infantry brigade was deployed temporarily to Hannover, Germany subordinate to the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR). In 1953, the Canadian brigade moved to permanent quarters at Soest, Germany when 1 Canadian Infantry Brigade Group (1 CIBG) rotated to Germany.  This was in turn replaced by 2 CIBG in 1955, and by 4 CIBG in 1957.

Up until the arrival of 4 CIBG, the Canadian force fielded just a single squadron of main battle tanks. 4 CIBG included a full regiment of Centurion tanks essentially quadrupling the available tank force. In 1959, when its two year rotation was due to end, Canada modified the rotation policy whereby the brigade would retain its command and administrative elements in Germany and only rotate the major combat formations, i.e., armor, infantry, and artillery, now every three years.

After Canada’s three separate armed forces – army, air force, and navy – were merged into a unified force in 1968, the brigade was reflagged as the 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group in recognition of its three mechanized infantry battalions and its armored regiment. Note that in Canadian usage, as is the case with similar British formations, armored regiments are battalion sized formations.

Around the same time, Canada’s foreign policy and defense spending went through major revisions. It military presence in Europe was cut in half. As such, the 4 CMBG was reduced to three combat effective battalions, 2 infantry and 1 armor, and was re-rolled as a reserve formation. It relocated to Lahr in southern Germany in support of VII (US) Corps and II (West German) Corps.

The 1960s also saw the move away from majority British equipment. The US produced M113 armored personal carrier began appearing in the mid-60s. The late-60s saw the first appearance of the Lynx reconnaissance vehicle, a variation of the US M113. The Centurion tank served until 1978 when they were replaced by the Canadian version of the German Leopard 1. The artillery units field various towed guns including the British 25pdr and US 105mm and 155mm howitzers. In 1968, the towed guns were replaced by the US self-propelled M109 155mm howitzer. The brigade’s aviation reconnaissance element fielded US produced helicopters from the unset, initially with CH‑112 Nomad helicopters in 1961, and subsequently replaced by CH‑136 Kiowa helicopters in 1972.

As one of NATO’s most significant armored formations, the 4 CMBG served over three decades, accomplishing a long and distinguished career.

(The original article can be found at: )

The game box is beautifully illustrated by Eric Williams and the package design is by Rodger MacGowan.  While I really love the box artwork, it has been pointed out to me by a Canadian tanker that the design of the Leopard on the box is not accurate for the time period (1987).  I would never have known had he not pointed it out.

Box Art
Back of Box

The components of this expansion include:

2 double sided map boards (10 “ x 27”)

1 full color double sided counter sheet

5 full color double sided unit data cards (10 new units)

One 24 page play book

This expansion adds the following unit types in to MBT :

Canadian Units

CF-18 B Hornet

Ch-136 Kiowa helicopter

Both standard Mechanized Infantry and Heavy Mechanized Infantry

60mm and 81mm Mortar Teams, ITWO, LAW, MAW and Blowpipe Teams

Leopard C1 Main Battle Tanks

M113A1 IFVs

M150 IFVs

Lynx IFVs

Beaver AVLB Engineering Vehicle

Artillery Batteries of various types

Soviet Units

Hind E and Hind F Attack Helicopters

Mi-8T Hip-C  (gunship and transport variants)

Motor Rifle Squads and Heavy Motor Rifle Squads

Saxhorn, Spigot, Rpg-7V/D, Rpg-22, AGS-17, Grouse and Flame Thrower Teams

T-55M Main Battle Tanks




MT-55 A AVLB Engineering Vehicles

Artillery Batteries of various types

AFV cards
Aircraft Cards

The playbook includes rules for Canadian TO&E for the Royal Canadian Dragoons, the  1er Bataillon Royal 22e Regiment, the 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and the 1st Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery.  It also includes rules for track terrain features and supply depots.  Aside for the rules for all of the above units, the rules for Leaders are also included as are special leader units.

Rules are also included for voluntary unit bail outs, delayed reactions, random recon for units and the affects of vehicle sounds and noise on the spotting of units.

5 scenarios are also included and the pictures in this review are from the Beans and Bullets scenario.

airborn assault

Note that you must have the MBT base game in order to use this expansion but you don’t have to own the other expansions to play this one.

After playing many games of MBT using M1 Abrams, I had to adjust my tank commanding style to the fast and accurate but under armored Leopard C1s.  The T55s and the Leopards made for a nicely balanced tank battle with each tank type having its own unique characteristics.

I took out a Soviet Mi-8T helicopter with a Blowpipe team but unfortunately, it was after the helicopter had deployed its 3 squads of infantry and was just beginning to take off!  I did have a really lucky die roll on that attack as was pointed out by anther chap on Facebook who said that the Blowpipe system was a terrible design.  I justified it since the helicopter was in the process of taking off and was a sitting duck.

Nonetheless, I’ll quote part of the Wikipedia article on the Blowpipe system because it is interesting reading:

Blowpipe is a man-portable (MANPADS) surface-to-air missile that was in use with the British Army and Royal Marines from 1975. It also saw service in other military forces around the world. Most examples were retired by the mid-1990s. It is unique among MANPADS in that it is manually guided to its target with a small joystick, sending guidance corrections to the missile over a radio control link.

Blowpipe underwent a protracted and controversial development between the program’s initial conception in 1966 and 1975 when it finally entered service. It had its first use during active combat in 1982’s Falkland Islands War when it was used by both sides of the conflict. It demonstrated truly terrible performance, with only two confirmed kills for about 200 launches. A small number were also sent to the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, where its operators gave up on the weapon after twelve launches resulted in no hits.

(Wikipedia – )

Bridge Laying Operation

While I like the mix of units in this expansion, it feels a little light.  I wish that this expansion would have been included with a previous expansion.  It seems like there just aren’t enough units or rules to justify this as a standalone expansion set.  I also wish that they had included in the rules a variant of the solo rules that were published in James Day’s World War 2 companion game Panzer.  If any game needs solo rules, this one does especially during this age of pandemic.  I ended up breaking out the solo rules for Panzer and using them for my review play of this game.  They worked just fine.

My only other concern is that for some reason I had a heck of time getting these new maps to lie flat.  I don’t remember having this problem with the other maps in the main game or in the expansions. Unfortunately I didn’t have any Plexiglas to put over them.  I guess I’ll have to invest in a sheet.

All in all, this is a solid but somewhat thin expansion to the excellent MBT game system.

Armchair General Rating: 90 %

Solitaire Rating: 4 based upon using the solo rules from James Day’s Panzer system (1 to 5 with 1 being Unsuitable for Solo Play and 5 being Perfect for Solo Play)

About the Author

A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer. He designed the games Tiger Leader, The Tiger Leader Expansion and Sherman Leader for DVG and the solo system for Forsage Games’ Age of Dogfights.  In addition, Rick can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!