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33LIMA

Panzer Elite's new look - PP2-x!

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The old girl's back at the front!

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Wing's Simulations' Panzer Elite - not to be confused with the later 'arcade' tank game Panzer Elite Action - was the doyen of tanksims for many years and in many ways, she still is. With the classic Panzer Elite Special Edition (PE-SE), which included a series of major mods, you could fight your way through campaigns in Libya, Tunisia, Italy, North-West Europe and Russia with British, German, US and Soviet forces, fighting from a great variety of tanks. Artillery support, infantry, A/T guns, light armour and soft-skinned vehicles were all there. Briefings were accompanied by animated maps and voiceovers. Platoon command and control was second to none and better than nearly everything else. Radio and intercom traffic was pretty thoroughly represented. You could swap around crew members with different skills and, within some limits, choose your ammo loadout and some optional extras for your tanks.

 

The years passed and better-looking tanksims appeared, good and not-so-good, but some of PE's talented modders didn't give up and improvements continued to be made, notably time of flight for projectiles and better graphics.

 

This mission report is my first serious outing with a new PE mod, still in beta but already showing the way ahead for PE - Panzer Pack 2-X, or PP2-X. The original Panzer Pack by the Lenort brothers was one of the original big mods for the sim, geared towards multiplayer. Its latest incarnation is by modder Slomo, based on a new PE .exe from fellow modder Brit44 'Aldo'. Main visible improvements include some much better tank models, with 3-dimensional and better-animated wheels and track, which had been 2-dimensional, even on previously-improved models. The latest version of PP2-x also includes more recent work by Aldo which pretty well eliminates the tendency of PE tanks to teeter sometimes like they were made of cardboard, as they moved on uneven terrain, which makes for a big improvement to my eye. Many tank and other models are still the originals from PE-SE, but these are gradually being replaced as work on the beta progresses. As things stand, PP2-x is a mod for the basic sim, so doesn't add Eastern Front, Libyan or other campaigns; to play these in their latest versions, you'll need a different mod, BobR's PE3, which I used in my last PE mission reprot, fighting the Sherman Firefly..

 

Details of PP2-X are available here: http://pedg.yuku.com/forums/52/PP2X#.VG0pTcnHSRE. Graphics and animations are still not up to the latest standards but especially with the new tanks, are a tremendous step forward from the originals and they really give this fine sim a new lease of life.

 

Having installed PP-2x (latest version 1.2) in my 'mods' folder and enabled it using the JSGME-like Mod Enabler that comes with PE-SE, I decided to play for the Wehrmacht, starting with the first mission in the Normandy campaign, 'St Lo - 3 July 1944', a mission which all the PE old hands will know well!

 

Here's the screen that greets you when you start. Your platoon awaits you! You can see your allocated tanks, parked up in front of a slightly-knocked about farmhouse. In the centre stands your 'adjudant', in practice your platoon sergeant whose animated figure, when clicked on, will open up the options that your industrious second-in-command will be able to organise for you, as befits the abilities of the professional Senior NCO that you, a mere Lieutenant, will be glad to rely upon. Click on the tanks and you can choose to replace them (which I usually do, if only to get a platoon that is realistically equipped with the same model of tank). You can also choose to move crewmen or add realistically-available features, like skirt armour ('schurzen') for German tanks. Long-time PE players will recall that the cow moves and moos! It's been a lo-o-o-ong time since sim developers put this kind of care into creating an immersive front end.

 

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In the pic below, I have replaced my Panzer IIIN (short 7.5cm gun) with a late model Panzer IV to match my other tanks - a mix of Panzer IV H and J versions, all with long-barrelled 7.5cm guns, the J model being a late war 'economy' type with manual-only turret traverse and other simplifications. I am also adding available upgrades - some extra protection, including spaced armour for both turret and hull sides, as normally carried from about mid-1943 (hull spaced armour was frequently lost, but the turret 'skirt' generally stayed put).

 

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Having already set my realisim options to my taste (via the 'adjudant'), it was time to kick off the mission briefing. Here is the basic mission map.

 

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The voiceover and map markings, which appear one after the other, talk and walk you through the mission - again, a touch that few other sims have equalled, before or since. Basically, our 4-tank platoon has formed up at the hamlet of la Corbierre and is to move a short distance to the north, to la Croix de Pirou, to help defend that village against imminent, concentric US Army attacks. We are supporting some Panzergrenadiers in that place and are ourselves supported by two other platoons which will follow us, plus others on the flanks. As usual in PE, your side's little battlegroup is a mix of different platoons with often unspecified but varied equipment, when a more coherent, more homogenous force, with slightly less variety and tied more closely together in what they are doing, might be more realistic.

 

Here's how the briefing looks when it's stopped playing through. The green arrows are the expected, concentric US attacks, while the blue markings indicate our (German) positions and movements. If we can't hold la Croix de Pirou, we have been told we can fall back to la Corbierre, whence we came, and if it goes really badly t*ts up, then St Giles to the south is where we must make our stand, with a platoon of anti-tank guns already there as a last line of defence.

 

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I clicked the icons on the right to review advice, weather etc and then had a good look at the map, to choose my firing positions. These I intended to occupy at once, rather than waiting for the enemy to appear, in this fairly close country, where lines of sight and fire were rather short and nasty surprises could creep up on you rapidly.

 

On the left, the ground was fairly level, with open terrain ahead of the village. This open area looked like a possible killing ground but fire positions in that direction lacked hard cover, just limited cover from view amongst some shrubbery and little scope to 'shoot and scoot' under cover, from fire position to fire position. In the centre was the village itself, an obvious target for enemy artillery and while providing some cover from direct fire, this would also limit my own arcs of view and fire, while separating my tanks from each other. On the right was higher ground, with a fair bit of soft cover and some countours which suggested better fire positions, possibly hull down, from which I could shoot and scoot, while possibly firing from the advancing enemy's flank, as they came into that open ground.

 

Plan made - I'd move out wide to the right in column formation, turn back left when just ahead of Croix de Pirou, and then go into line abreast, edging the platoon, in that formation, into our initial fire positions.

 

My plan made and the mission loaded, I ordered my tanks into column and we roared off to the right. Here we go, boys! Let's see if we can teach these impertinent Amis a thing or two, about what German Panzers can do!

 

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...to be continued!

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Es braust unser panzer in sturmwind dahinn! *

 

Out onto the right flank I took my Panzer IV, at the head of my platoon column. I had ensured all of us were fully fitted with spaced armour - solid plate hull skirts in the case of the H models, mesh for the single Ausf. J. The new PP2-X Panzer IVs are big improvements on the rather crude originals. A neat touch is the unbuttoned tank commander. I think only the Soviets routinely fought closed down. While the PP2-X TC's aren't animated, they certainly make your tanks look less like robotic machines in an arcade game.

 

Having passed Croix de Pirou on my left and reached an area of slightly higher ground, I swung left and, facing west, ordered the platoon into line formation.

 

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I slowly trundled forward until we were just short of the edge of a little plateau which overlooked the approaches to the village and halted amongst the bushes. I judged we should be at least partly hull-down to anyone crossing the lower, open ground to our direct front, which I had selected as a likely kill zone for the expected Ami attacks. I could have further adjusted the positions of individual tanks; you can mouse-click on a spot on the ground and order them to go there but for precise control it's best to take over the other tank and drive it into position yourself. But I was reasonably happy with the positions we had stopped in and rather than risk getting caught out by a sudden appearance of the enemy, I left it at that.

 

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After a minute or two's comparative silence, the fun began. My platoon-mates started reporting enemies, more or less straight ahead, at about 5-600 meters if I recall right. I had the text panel at the bottom of the screen turned off and my German isn't great but I've played PE enough to be up-to-speed on the sim's first-class radio and intercom traffic - 'Ziel gesichtet - zwolf uhr - sechs hundert meter!' The text panel would vave identified the vehicle too but I knew from having played this mission before - from both sides - what to expect: a 3-platoon company of US Shermans attacking more or less in line of platoons, with half-tracked infantry later following up from the enemy's left flank, the other side of Pirou from my position. I scanned ahead through the gunsight but saw nothing. Note that PE gives you a pretty good representation of the standard German tank gun sight reticle, which you can adjust for range, the scales providing for different projectives - on the right the standard AP round, Panzergranate 39, and the tungsten-cored APCR/HVAP shot, PzGr40; and on the left, the co-axial MG and the HE round, Sprengranate 34. Note also the 'mouse-tank', which I have downsized and dragged over to bottom right; this gives you an on-screen commnand tool, a visual guide to what your other tanks are doing, and (perhaps must importantly) a compass rose and a turret position indicator.

 

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My platoon-mates were making good shooting though, so I let them get on with it. By hanging back amongst the bushes we were deliberately sacrificing wide arcs of fire for better concealment and I was quite content if only some of us had enemy in sight at any one time...and vice versa. Especially the vice versa. My number 2 was damaged by return fire but from the plumes of dark smoke out in the kill zone, we were hitting the enemy pretty hard.

 

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At this point I spotted an angular green shape moving across my front from right to left, close by and mostly out of sight in the dead ground just the other side of the dip in the ground to my direct front. I managed to put a round into him and he stopped and smoked but didn't burn. From the commander's position, through my binos, I could see that he was in fact a US M8 armoured car. His scouting days were over! Beyond him, on the edge of a cornfield, was one of my comrades' victims, a Sherman tank with a column of dark smoke climbing up from its turret-less hull.

 

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Things seemed to go quiet. I scanned left and right, then hard left, in case we were now being by-passed. But there were no more enemies to be seen. Next to me, one of my Panzers lurked, watchful for any further sign of the Amis.

 

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The tension of the last few minutes began to ease, to be replaced by a sense of mounting elation. Our Panzers seemed to have stopped the enemy attack in its tracks - literally!

 

...to be continued!

 

* from the famous 'Panzerleid' - 'Our tank thunders in the wind of the storm'

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Wo sind noch die Amerikaner?

 

Ok, now what? What are the Amis up to? Where have they gone? The longer it stayed quiet, the more concerned I got. They're up to something...I can feel it in my hydraulic fluid! Probably creeping around a flank, over there on the other side of Pirou...

 

For a while I resisted the temptation. I was in a good position, four Panzers side by side, with decent fields of fire, out over the relatively open ground in front of Pirou. My mission was to hold that town. We had done exactly that. If they came again, we would beat them again.

 

But in the end, impatience got the better of me. I compromised, though. I would do a bit of a recce over to the other flank, in my own tank. But my platoon would stay put, ready to clobber the Amis if they repeated their attack. So I gave the boys the order to sit tight and in the approved fashion, backed out of my own fire position, knowing that to drive forward out of it was to invite disaster.

 

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Then, far back enough to be out of sight to any Amis, I turned left and rolled along behind my numbers one and three. Turning right, I then trundled across the southern, friendly side of Pirou, swinging my turret to face the enemy and watching for targets, to my front and to my right.

 

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From time to time I stopped in such cover as there was, and had a good scan though gunsight or binos. But there was nothing to be seen, except the occasional knocked-out enemy vehicle and some SPWs* lurking in Pirou.

 

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I rolled across a field of cut corn and turned half right towards a small group of buildings on the western outskirts of Pirou. Now, I was taking a big chance, likely beyond the ability of my platoon to support me and approaching some cover, behind which anything might be lurking. I should have turned back. But I thought to myself, well, just a little further, I'll check out what I can see from the other side of these buildings. If the Amis are lurking there and there aren't too many of them, I'll consider calling up the platoon and putting in an attack. If it's all clear I'll conclude my reconnaisance and rejoin the others, knowing the left flank isn't threatened and that we can continue to defend Pirou from our original position on the right flank.

 

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Halting for observation amidst some shrubbery at a safe (I hoped!) distance from the buildings, I went to the gunsight and scanned to my front, left to right and back again. With all that cover it was hard to see what was what.

 

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Suddenly, there it was...a green, angular thing between two small buildings.., and it was marked with a white star! I could see little of it but from its flat-sided appearance, I judged it to be a US half-track.

 

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I had an AP round up the spout so I put that into him, then another, at which point he started to burn.

 

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Rolling forward to open up some more lines of sight and scanning again, I suddenly came under attack, bursts of automatic weapons fire. This seemed to be coming from a second half-track, which suddenly came into view half right, as I drove forward, rather frighteningly close. Where there were half tracks, likely there were infantry, and where there were infantry, there were bazookas...

 

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I had switched from AP to HE rounds and let the second half track have a couple of these, which had the desired effect.

 

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My little reconnaisance was turning out to be quite a profitable venture. But I had the feeling that maybe sitting out here on my own, driving into goodness knows what, in such close country, was perhaps pushing my luck just a bit too far...

 

...to be continued!

 

* SPW - SchutzenPanzerWager - the Wehrmacht's term for their half-tracked armoured APCs, aka Hanomags or SdKfz 251s.

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Alles kaput?

 

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At this point, things started to happen fast. Just ahead, a squad of infantry appeared from a dip in the ground and started moving right. A split second later, a second squad broke cover, just behind the others. I hosed the first group  with tracer from the co-ax and let loose an HE round. The troops went to ground immediately. They looked to have distinctive British field equipment, perhaps because I hadn't disabled the British infantry mod before enabling PP2-X.

 

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The second squad disappeared again, into another fold in the ground. My tank commander called in a fresh target and traversing slightly left, I quickly picked it up - an escaping half-track, heading for a gap between a two-storey brick house and a smaller building with an ivy-covered wall.

 

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At that point, as I was in the act of clobbering the half-track, the infantry clobbered me. At least I think it was them, a bazooka (or PIAT) most likely. All I know is, there was a loud bang, one of my crew gave a grunt, and my tank was dead. As is the way with PE, I was almost immediately transferred to the command of my first platoon-mate, back on the other side of Pirou. It happens a little fast but it's good that PE (in effect) assumes you have survived and taken over one of the other tanks in your platoon, as a platoon leader would do in real life, instead of just ending the mission when your command tank is knocked out.

 

I checked out the map and mission results screen and while I was doing ok, I hadn't done enough to win the mission, which generally involves achieving a specified main mission goal. As this goal was (per the briefing) to hold la Croix de Pirou, and we were still doing so, I wasn't sure what else I had to do. The US attack seemed to have petered out. Perhaps I just needed to sit tight a while longer for the mission script to recognise my success. Perhaps because I had by-passed Pirou on the way in, some mission triggers hadn't fired and something necessary for mission success hadn't happened. After waiting a little longer, I decided I would count this mission as accomplished, whatever the OC (Officer Commanding, ie company commander) might think or say at debrief  - and in PE, they can give you a fair old tongue-lashing at the debriefing, if you don't succeed.

 

However, I thought I might as well get my money's worth, as it were, so - my platoon commander persona having evidently escaped from his own tank and taken over one of the other Panzers - I led the others out of our fire position and around the back of Pirou. I'm not a vindictive person, as a rule, but payback is payback.

 

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Arriving at the scene of my first tank's demise, I found that the enemy infantry had unwisely advanced from their cover and were now in the open. Perhaps they were mad at us for destroying their half-tracks. More likely, they had regrouped and were following their original orders, to seize Pirou.

 

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They didn't make it.

 

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I still got a right royal rollocking from the OC for failing the mission. There's just no pleasing some people. I admit, I did lose a tank, and a couple of others got slightly bent. But we had stopped the Amis and chalked up a decent tally of AFV kills. A good day's work, in my book.

 

Apart from a few 'Instant Action' missions, this was my first serious outing with PP2-X and I'm delighted with the mod. It's still a beta, the most (only real?) noticeable sign of which is that many AFVs are still stock, like this M4A1(76)...

 

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...while some which were added by the original PP2 mod are also not up to the latest standards, like this E-100 super-heavy tank...

 

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However, the new models are excellent and I gather more of the Shermans (there's already a new Firefly) are next in line for an upgrade, doubtless to the high standards set by the Panzer IVs as featured in this report, not to mention the different Panthers versions and the King Tiger:

 

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Even playing with the stock (or early modded) AFV models, the new sounds, environments and ballistics provide a real shot in the arm for this classic sim. Panzer Elite was and remains a top-notch WW2 tanksim with a great set of vehicles and campaigns, first-rate tank and platoon command and control, and other immersive and/or useful features which you just don't seem to get in sims these days. Between the new .exe and the latest mods designed to make good use of it, the old girl is still capable of showing the 'newer models' plenty of tricks. No question, PP2-X is highly recommended!

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Played this back in the day.  Your AI team mate activity is what really wore on me after a while and one of the main reasons I stopped playing it.  It took too long to hop from tank to tank, trying to get them into proper defilade positions to defend against attack.  If I remember right, Steel Beasts handled that better.  It was in the programming.

 

Better ballistics would be an improvement.  I was under the impression the original programming did not allow for the time it took the round to travel to target.

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Better ballistics would be an improvement.  I was under the impression the original programming did not allow for the time it took the round to travel to target.

 

It does now; has done since Aldo's new .exe. It's quite scary seeing enemy tracers arcing towards you.

 

I believe it also reduced the tendency of your platoon tanks to turn their backs to the enemy.

 

I'm sure in real life if you haven't recced the positions in advance, it also takes a bit of time and effort to find hull down fire positions for a whole platoon, rather than just a single tank. As in the above mission, I get them in close then drive us all in line abreast, at right angles up to a suitable linear feature which I've chosen in advance. Worked fine this time. If it doesn't, I don't find it a massive chore to jump to any exposed tank (click on # behind the mousetank and Ctrl+J works more or less instantaneously for me) and guide him into position. Sure, the AI isn't entirely up to SB standards but it's okay now. Sometimes platoon commanders need to get a grip of the less experienced crews :)

 

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A couple of better pics, taken in 'daylight', of Slomo's Sherman Firelfy. Note the variations in appearance. Top vehicle has dust shields, tracklinks as improvised additional armour on turret sides, and welded-on plates over the ammo bins on the hull sides; bottom vehicle is without those items.

 

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From a recently-posted screenshot, the other replacement Shermans are nearly ready!

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