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33LIMA

Steel fury: upcoming StuG/Panzerjaeger campaign

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The stock Steel Fury campaigns are quite decent, and variants exist which change the player's vehicle eg from Panzer IV to Panzer III. Most of the numerous missions later added to Graviteam's excellent WW2 tanksim - many of which are gathered together in the Steel Tank Add-on (STA) mod's mission packs - are in the form of single missions, or small, themed sets of single missions.

 

However, STA modder Lockie is now working on a series of new campaigns, bringing together adapted or new missions, grouped around a storyline. The first of these to become available seems likely to be 'Schuze's Diary', the premise being that they recreate the wartime combats recounted by a long-lost German tanker's diary. The eponymous Leutnant Erich Schuze will be an officer in a Sturmgeschutz Abteilung whose war starts with the Second Battle of Kharkov - Steel Fury's featured theatre - but moves on to different vehicles and battlefields, as the war progresses.

 

When ready, the campaign will naturally be made available via the STA mod's website.

 

Here are some screenshots from the first set of missions, currently under development.

 

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I have been testing some of these missions and fighting in a limited traverse vehicle is proving a whole new ball game!

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Here's a series of screenshots from mission 5 in the campaign. Our Sturmgeschutze platoon, whose short 7.5cm guns are fine for our normal infantry support role but less well-suited to dealing with the attacking Soviet armour we're running into, has been temporarily issued with new Marder II self-propelled anti-tank guns, thinly-armoured but mounting a long Pak 40 A/T gun.

 

Our three panzerjaeger edge right, to link up with an attacking infantry platoon:

 

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Shifting into column formation, we join our grenadiers and turn left, to face the enemy defensive positions, beyond a wooded crest a few hundred metres away:

 

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Perhaps rather unimaginatively, but deciding to attack on the same axis as the infantry, I lead our guns up a track leading directly towards the objective:

 

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Looking behind, I can see that my platoon's formation-keeping is good for once, including the close order I have chosen:

 

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I have noticed something suspicious where the road crosses the skyline so I pull off to the right and order line formation. Ahead, Stukas have been pounding the enemy and our infantry have begun to fan out and engage targets:

 

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The object on the skyline is the shield of a Soviet 45mm A/T gun! I have an AP round loaded but that'll have to do. Unfortunately a grenadier gets directly into my line of sight, firing an MG34 from the kneeling position:

 

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The MG gunner is hit and falls, dropping his weapon to my left. I now have a clear view of the target, while the crest just about screens me from the enemy's barrel. Although my first round flies over the target - too high! - my second will be a hit, wrecking the gun:

 

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Leaving the advancing infantry to deal with the surviving gun crew, I pull over to the left and continue to advance, keeping just behind our leading troops:

 

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As I come up to the crest, I begin to see the enemy trenches. Even as we close in, the last bombs from the supporting Stukas are falling, 'danger close':

 

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Emerging from the treeline, in good line abreast formation, our panzerjaeger cautiously move up to the enemy trenches, which seem to have been cleared of the defenders by our brave grenadiers:

 

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Beyond the crest, the ground begins to fall away again, opening up long lines of sight across a valley. Creeping ahead, I scan anxiously left to right, looking for targets:

 

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Over on the right, one of my guns has turned outwards and is engaging some unseen enemies on our flanks. Steel Fury isn't good at replicating platoon radio traffic, so the gunfire is the only warning I get of this development:

 

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It seems the village that I know lies in the dead ground over on our right has been cleared by friendly forces and the enemy is now withdrawing. I nervously edge over the exposed crest a few metres at a time to see over the convex slope, into the dead ground to my right front. Some T-34s are escaping and I begin to engage them at long range:

 

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I foolishly dally too long on the forward slope, possibly skylined, and am treated to the scary spectacle of one of the T-34s halting and turning to face me. Before I can back up, a 76.2mm tracer flies towards me, dipping as it arcs straight at us. The hit badly wounds my crew and ends our mission.

 

This is the first time I have spent serious time fighting in some of SF's user-made limited-traverse SP guns and especially in the lighter-armoured vehicles, it's a whole new challenge!

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After fighting on the Eastern Front, our hero goes to Tunisia and after a while as an instructor, finds himself in France with schwere Panzerjagerabteilung 654 and its new Jagdpanthers, up against 'S' Squadron, 3 Scots Guards at Hill 226, during Operation Bluecoat:

 

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Thanks Dsawan! Some more pics, this time from a second Normandy mission, which I'm basing on a hypothetical delaying action by s.PzJg.Abt 654 against the 23rd Hussars on 31 July, the day after the real battle with 3 Scots Guards on Hill 226.

 

Moving into a hull-down position in a fold in the ground near St-Martin-des-Besaces, we await the expected enemy attack from Hill 226:

 

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We engage a troop of Sherman Fireflies, as they come over the crest and into our fields of fire:

 

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More Shermans are moving up on the other flank, behind some trees which don't stop our 8.8cm AP rounds:

 

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Back into St-Martin, we counterattack enemy troops reported to have broken through to the town square:

 

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Job done, we disengage and head for the RV point:

 

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Will do! I'm a total newb with the Mission Editor so am still plodding on with missions 9 & 10, the Jadgpanther in Normandy, they're nearly done but still need a few tweaks here and there. Thank goodness most of the stuff is coming from somebody who does know what they are doing (Lockie). Getting there, though I'm going through Shermans and Jadgpanthers at a fierce rate!

 

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Working on the first version of what's likely to be the last mission in the campaign, with our hero transferred to Jagdtiger outfit s.PzJg. Abt 653 in the Rhineland, March 1945:

 

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Some scenes from a more recent test of the Jagdtiger mission!

 

It's late March 1945 and schwere Panzerjager Abteilung 653 is in action in the Rhineland, near Schwetzingen. The Americans have already got across the Rhine at Remagen and it looks like they're about to capture another bridge, in the chaos undefended and not yet wired for demolition. The only hope is my platoon of three serviceable Jagdtiger, tasked with holding on until a kampfgruppe of 17th SS Panzer Grenadier division can arrive, to secure the area properly. But the Amis are closer. After a hasty approach march which we hope hasn't destroyed the zero of our big but sensitive 12.8cm guns, we near the high ground overlooking the bridge. I order the platoon from column into line formation.

 

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As the river comes into sight ahead, I order a halt, driving my own vehicle into a shallow revetment - just in time, for the leading Amis are motoring right to left along the road on the opposite bank. It's a platoon of M8 armoured cars, out on point.

 

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Behind the light armour, the first Shermans pull off the road and turn to face us.

 

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Our cannon have a low rate of fire, but they are pleasantly accurate. With the range set only at a 'battle sight' setting, even crossing targets can be engaged with consistently successful results.

 

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Enemy infantry who have debussed from their half-tracks are working their way towards the bridge...

 

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...covered by yet more Shemans...

 

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As we engage the Shermans, some half-tracks make it over, but they and the Shermans are quickly dealt with....

 

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Reinforcements arrive - unfortunately enemy ones, in the form of M26 Pershings. Under cover of their fire, the leading enemy infantry sprint over the bridge...this is going to be tricky...

 

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Lots more work to be done to this mission yet but so far, I'm enjoying even the testing...there's something to be said for fighting in a big monster of a virtual tank (or tank destroyer) against more numerous but smaller, weaker enemies!

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Here's ome scenes from Mission 11, the final one in this three-theatre campaign and last of the three missions made by me (with a LOT of help from Lockie!).

 

We move out from the Forming Up Place to firing positions overlooking the semi-fictional Hockenheimer Brucke...

 

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The vehicle commander puts the gunner onto an approaching enemy armoured column, so far oblivious to our presence but about to get a rude awakening...

 

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The accompanying Shermans plaster us with 76mm APC and HVAP, but fare little better than the armoured infantry's half-tracks...

 

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Pershings! The 'heavy brigade' has arrived, to rescue their lighter cousins...

 

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But now, it's our turn to be re-inforced, as the 17th SS Panzers line up next to us and open fire...

 

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Anyway, the 'Erich Schulze's Diary' campaign is nearing completion. Having finally 'taken the plunge' with the Steel Fury Mission Editor, my impressions are that the initial learning curve is quite steep, but once yuou're past that (preferably with the much-needed help of an expert like Lockie) it's not very difficult to set up quite a lot of useful or interesting things. It's useful that the ME, with its satellite, 3d view of the game world, will let you start the AI moving following the scripts you have devised for each unit, while you watch from above and zoom in or out. The ME's manual is a bit hard to follow in places, and there's some detailed and tricky work needed outside the ME, in doing the right edits to the right files, following conventions that are a tad arcane, to get things like messages, waypoint markers and all the sundry, lesser-but-important details working. Not to mention the time spent in testing, tweaking and retesting (backing up as you go, against the one edit that will break something so badly even the Mission Editor won't load the mission again). There's a lot to learn and much that I still understand poorly - or not at all! But if you're thinking of having a go, fire away. It can be quite addictive, and nothing beats seeing your creation finally come to life, with tracks rattling, engines growling and shot & shell flying, as the Steel Fury STA mod's world springs into violent and noisy life!

 

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The last mission (#11) in this campaign has been completed and I'll post here when the campaign is released. In the final battle, using Jagtigers, to adapt the comment of a German prisoner in Italy, the main challenge can be not running out of ammo, before the enemy runs out of tanks!

 

Typical engagement from the mission, before...

 

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...and after...

 

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Coming soon, to a gunner's sight near you...

 

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    • By 33LIMA
      Battling the Red Army in Steel Fury – Kharkov 1942


       
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      Historically, this is all part of a series of vicious battles near Kharkov in the Ukraine where a Red Army offensive knocked the Germans back on their heels, until the latter re-instated their own offensive plans and threw back the Soviets after much hard fighting.

      Looking at the map to get a better picture of our operation, I could see that my three-tank platoon - though said to be on the right – is on the left of a company-sized mixed (tank-infantry) force. With me are some panzergrenadiers, in SPW armoured half-tracks. Over to our right – rather far away, for mutual support – is another platoon of tanks – Panzer IVs as I will later discoverare and beyond them, some more SPWs. There is no ‘headquarters unit’, which should have been there to represent the company commander and his immediate entourage, who would be on the ground and in command of a group of several platoons like ours. Though long included in the ‘Army lists’ used by wargamers and having an important role in Wargame: European Escalation and the like, many tanksims omit important HQ units, in terms of their physical presence on the battlefield and not really simulating their exercise of command and control during a mission (mission designers can and should try to represent the latter with mission triggers which prompt radio messages like fresh orders, exhortations or excoriations).
       
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    • By 33LIMA
      Missions from the movie, in the tanksim!
       

       
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      Approaching the camp for the rendez-vous with the other Shermans, you soon see that Lockie's scenery-building has spared neither effort nor livestock.
       

       

       
      On the right as you pass into the camp is a firing range...
       

       
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      Having seen the movie, something tells me that it's not going to be quite so simple!
       
      ...to be continued!
    • By 33LIMA
      A new feature for the Steel Tank Add-on mod - British tank missions for North West Europe, 1944-45!
       

       
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      Naturally, you will already know all of this, if you keep a weather eye upon the STA forums. But if you don't, well, now you know!
       
      With the fairly recent addition of a Sherman Firefly - the British 17 Pdr variant - we now have a good selection of British Army AFVs suitable for missions set in and beyond the Normandy campaign - although the only Churchill is still the earlier MkIII. And did I mention already there's a Firefly...
       

       
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      ...and there's a Cromwell, a 'cruiser' tank whose Steel Fury incarnation has an interesting and authentic camo net camouflage option...
       

       
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      Sadly, there are few missions to take advantage of all this nice kit, and what there is, mainly involves reducing it to shell-shot hulks, burning or otherwise...
       

       
      So, having finally cut my teeth with the Steel Fury Mission Editor, making some contributions to the upcoming 'Schuzle's Diary' SP gun campaign, I thought I might try to do something about that. Phase 1 of STA-Britpak is the first result - a single British Army Normandy mission, and a set of supporting file modifications which do useful things like add to the existing 3-tank platoons, a 4-tank option for British medium tanks, with either three Cromwells or Shermans, and a Firefly; and lower the height of the tank commander and loader figures, so that they are just heads out of the hatch when opened up, instead of standing tall like they are on a parade. Also, there will be a voice pack, which will, as the term suggests, add British-accented voices.
       
      The single mission is a follow-on of sorts to the two Jagdpanther missions I made for the aforementioned German campaign; like them, it's using the existing Normandy map based on Villers Bocage (made by Deviator, with input from Lockie), but re-labelled to represent the area around Hill 226 and Saint-Martin-des-Besaces, where some tough fighting took place during the Operation Bluecoat offensive.
       
      For this mission, set on 31 July 1944, the player is a Troop (platoon) Leader in the 23rd Hussars, a cavalry regiment which, being formed during World War 2, never went to war on horses! It's the day after the Jagdpanthers of Schwere Panzerjager Abteilung 654 famously mauled the Churchills of the Scots Guards on Hill 226. Now, the Germans are pulling back to more defensible positions nearer Vire, and your unit, 'A' Squadron, has been tasked with clearing a German rearguard out of St Martin. Though not an actual historical mission, it's based on the sort of battles that the Hussars fought about this time, during Bluecoat.
       
      A feature of this mission - and the others that will hopefully join it, in subsequent phases - is that instead of the common Steel Fury style of 'briefing' delivered to the player alone, the mission will begin with orders, given as if at an 'O' Group by the player's unit commander, to the player and all the other participating sub-unit commanders. These orders, though simplified, will be in the authentic British WW2 format, which was functionally the same as the NATO format I learned in the 1970s.
       
      Units will be deployed in recognisable formations and will have HQ units, present on the battlefield and making themselves 'heard' on the radio net (seen, actually, as scripted radio messages appear as subtitles). The mission scripting will also endeavour to have the units operate to the plan described in the orders, using something approximating to realistic company-level tactics.
       
      The 23rd Hussars attack on St Martin begins with 'A' Squadron formed up in a field, facing the objective, which is on the other side of several hedgerows running roughly left to right across their front. They are deployed in the attack formation described in the orders - 'two up', meaning that two of the sqaudron's three tank troops are ahead, with the third - the player's - behind ('in depth'). Just ahead of the player, are the half-tracks of the attached motor rifle platoon from 3 Monmouths, the player's task being to assault with them, while the other two troops provide fire support from either flank. The two tanks of Squadron HQ are in the middle of the formation.
       
      As the leading troops move off, the hedgerows ahead are struck by the supressive fire of the supporting artillery. A second barrage will fall on the more distant hedgerows immediately in front of St Martin, as the attackers close the range.
       

       
      In line formation, 3 Troop's Shermans speed their way across an open field, trying to keep up with the rapidly-moving half-tracks.
       

       
      Traversing right as we reach the village, I can see in the gunsight a burning house, and that somebody over on the right has helpfully managed to clobber one of the defending SP guns.
       

       
      We have a scary minute or two, as we are engaged head on by another SP which has seemingly been waiting for us to come into sight around the corner of the main street. It gets scarier when a second SP appears, but having called my Troop into close order column formation, we manage to win the fire fight.
       

       
      Reaching our phase 1 objective - the town square - a Sherman ahead and right fires across the street at an unseen target. My own tank's commander spots some motor transport tying to 'leg it', on the far side of town.
       

       
      Spreading out again, we reach the Hotel de Ville, where the Nazi flag is still flying...but not for much longer!
       

       
      This is the only mission that will be available with Phase 1 of STA-Britpak, but as more maps become available, more will be added - ideally and time permitting, in the form of mini-campaigns based on notable tankie memoirs, like John Foley's 'Mailed Fist' and Robert Boscawen's 'Armoured Guardsmen'.
       
      The current release of Phase 1 is in test - at time of writing, it lacks the voice pack (using instead the existing US voices). And it's built in the upcoming STA 2.0 mod with the December update, this so far only being available to testers, so it may be released with STA 2.0, whose release date hasn't yet been announced. If Britpak works with the current 1.0 release of STA, we may release the former sooner. In the meantime, watch your arcs!
       

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