The Steam Tank- Why I need it in my list!

People say when choosing which faction you want to collect in a miniature wargame such as 40k or A.O.S, the best advice is to go with the one you love the models for most. After all, you will be spending countless hours building/ painting them and pushing them around the table. It’s also said that rules are temporary but models are eternal! (Or until you sell them on ebay.) This is generally my approach to choosing which factions I want to collect and it’s also why you will likely never see me at a serious gaming tournament. (Well, a combination of suboptimal list choices and crippling anxiety.)

Cue the steam tank. Ohhh mannn, I love this miniature. It’s essentially a steam punk tank with a combo of Victorian/ Renaissance/ medieval elements. Completely nuts yet iconic for any fans of the Empire faction. There is something really appealing to me about the idea of normal humans facing down against demons, dragons, giants and the other horrors of the old world/AOS. To me the steam tank epitomises this idea, using engineering to overcome a dangerous world.

Steam Tanks are monstrous, smoke-belching creations that rumble towards the enemy, firing deadly cannonballs from their steam-powered guns. A thick, armoured skin protects the whole Steam Tank and the advance of these iron behemoths is terrifying to behold; arrows and sword strokes rebound harmlessly from hulls and enemy warriors are crushed beneath their immense bulk.

The Empire- 8th edition Warhammer Armies book
Image from-

Historical Examples?

Oddly enough, the tank does seem to pop up in a few historical sources from around the late medieval/ Renaissance period. (Arguably the key period which inspires the aesthetic of the Empire faction & free guilds.) The first example which comes to mind is the Leonardo Divinchi “fighting Vehicle” dated 1487.

Leonardo’s armored vehicle represented a conical cover inspired by a turtle’s shell. The covering was to be made of wood and reinforced with metal plates that add to the thickness. Slanting angles would deflect enemy fire. The machine was powered by two large inside cranks operated by four strong men. The vehicle was equipped with an array of light cannons, placed around the perimeter.

Other examples of historical “proto-tank” designs can be found in the Talhoffer Fechtbuch MS Thott.290.2º which contains a copy of Konrad Kyeser’s treatise called the “Bellifortis”, dated 1459. Here we have two interesting designs:

[54] One shall make two wagons of this form as viewed from below; from there, within the wagons, folk combat those outside, they fight with the guns and the lances; the lorication is all-around them. If you come to water, then set the two wagons one after the other such that only half the train be in the water while fording. Either wagon should have six wheels supporting its bulk; and driving these are the horses equaling half the wagon’s length, while also the first pair of wheels equal two ells length; and so they be secure. And so are laid out all the things beneath, the poles which are thereunder and inboard, protected from whatever happens; and likewise upon the boarding of the sides hangs shelter for the unarmored horses. It should go with one horse after the other; and to either side is one pair enough; and those are linked with twofold chains.
An early light tank.

[55] This rig is called a “crayfish” and is wrought from iron and goes hin and yon. It conducts itself upon four speeding wheels. It shears front and behind. There are twofold sickles of long iron to either side at the axles of the wheels. It has four eyes. If one kindles its munitions then it shoots stones before it, steel buckshot as a hail, wherewith one smites low the foes. One may make this rig either big or small, as one will deem.

I was unable to find accounts of these proto-tanks actually being deployed on the battlefield, so it’s likely they where just theoretical. However it’s fair to say if the Steam tank was instead horse or crank powered, its design wouldn’t be out of place from these other proto-tank designs which we have.

That’s very well and good but how is the miniature on the table top? Well from list building feedback I’ve been given… not great. It’s overpriced (in points) and underwhelming in fire power. What’s more, the steam tank has a tendency to blow itself up if you are using the “More Pressure!” ability. Another point is that movement is dependent on a dice roll of 2D6, going down to D3 once more than 10 wounds have been suffered. In a game where capturing objectives is key, not having reliable movement is pretty detrimental.

All that said, sometimes you just have to follow your heart and bring a steam powered tank to a fantasy battlefield.

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