Jump to content
  • Announcements

    • Erik

      IMPORTANT - Please read   08/15/2017

      Trying to log in? Your new username is your display name (the name shown when posting). We no longer have separate usernames and display names. Usernames were converted to display names.
      https://combatace.com/contact/ for problems logging in.
Sign in to follow this  

Graviteam Tactics: contact!

Recommended Posts

33LIMA    762

New tanks on an old battlefield!




Ukrainian developer Graviteam's widely-acclaimed wargames have entered their third generation with the arrival of Mius Front, but my introduction has come only lately, and with their second-generation series - Graviteam Tactics - Operation Star (GT:OS). Why the wait? Well, I've tried a few PC wargames over the years, namely the original versions of Combat Mission and Theatre of War, and I haven't been massively impressed. Which may seem strange, given that I've been dabbling in wargames for many years - I still have my 1/300 models and terrain for NATO -v- WARPAC, last seen in action circa 1990. Below, Scotia Micro Models T-72As lead BMP-2s as they move up behind smokescreens, before shaking out into line for an attack on an enemy-held ridgeline. Overhead, home-made MiG-27s help keep NATO heads down.


Microarmour 4s.jpg


I played solo, using concepts aired in the Wargames Research Group's Programmed Wargames Scenarios, but with my own method of drawing playing cards to determine the presence and types of enemy units as my force advanced. Rules were WRG's 1950-1985 set, but adapted to use the more realistic concepts in their 1988 rules for the 1925-50 period (preferred over the 'rival' Challenger rules, with their rather complex move sequence). I also dabbled in a game based on home-made rules for 1/76 scale models - which again, I still have. I much referred the larger battles possible in 1/300 scale, though it's interesting to see that, even in the computer age, wargaming with miniatures, and fairly big ones at that, is enjoying something of a revival with the Bolt Action system from Warlord Games.


When PCs arrived, my preference was very much for tanksims over wargames, starting with SSI's Panzer Commander...


Panzer 2015-03-31 20-20-34-256.jpg



...then moving on to Novalogic's Armored Fist 2 and Microprose's  M1 Tank Platoon II...


M1TP2 2014-06-18 22-18-58-89.jpg


I didn't much like Combat Mission Beyond Overlord or, more recently, Theatre of War because to me, they simulated wargaming rather than war. Let me explain myself, here: tactical-level wargames - I have no interest in the strategic variety - cast you in the role of your side's commander. But they seem usually to make you play like a miniature wargamer, with far too much ability - or worse, need - to micromanage, to control individual vehicles or even soldiers.


If - as is normally the case, in a post WW1 tactical scenario - you are wargaming the role of a company commander, your 'pieces' should be you platoons, not your individual tanks; if a battalion commander, your pieces are your companies, not your platoons. PC-based wargames seemed to me to lack suitable AI to play the role of your subordinate commanders, and therefore, as I said, simulated wargaming, rather than war, by encouraging - or requiring - micromanagement.


To me, this was also true, in their own way, of many rules for miniature wargames. The set which broke this mold in my eyes was the aforementioned WRG WW2-era set. These made your platoons, not individual vehicles, the pieces whose moves and tactics you, the player, directed. I make no apology for quoting some telling lines from Phil Barker's introduction.


'In the hope that players are tired of the traditional fascination with minor and often irrelevant differences in tank armour and penetration, we emphasise tactics, terrain and control. This does not mean that the technical content is inaccurate, but that differences in performance not substantiated by careful research or that are insignificant compared with random factors have been given only the attention they deserve...We pay much attention to troop psychology, to what is possible to and with the men who control the weapons, and how these men can be effectively commanded. Real battles are not fought by nicely-painted model tanks, but by men who are tired, frightened, dirty and often cold and hungry. These rules are set in the real world of rain and mud, dust and mirage.'


That's the way to do it!


For me, the Graviteam wargames seem to stand out in the genre much as did these WRG rules in their day, and for much the same underlying reason - that they aim to simulate war, rather than simulate wargaming.


This is a recent discovery, and was made, not with GT:OS, but with SABOW, Steel Armor - Blaze of War. I tried the GT:OS demo a year or more ago, but it featured a little skirmish in near darkness, which, I decided, made it hardly worth making the effort to get to grips with the complex interface. It was SABOW that helped me learn this interface, because its rather excellent tanksim element is embedded in the same sort of wargame. So when BundleStars very recently renewed its amazing deal for GT:OS - £4.45 Sterling for the original game plus 8 DLCs - I decided it was time to take the plunge. Or should that be, 'pull the trigger'?



The mission

This being a mission report rather than a review, there should be a mission, right? So here it comes. It's nothing elaborate, or even terribly challenging but it is somewhat unusual, because it mixes and matches different GT:OS elements. This is possible because the game developed from its WW2 Eastern Front roots - sadly not towards the Western Front, but post-war. So my GT:OS bundle includes the following, on top of the basic game and a pack of high-resolution textures:


- Krasnaya Polyana 1943

- Shilovo 1942

- Volokonovka 1942

- Sokolovo 1943


...and post-war...


- Shield of the Prophet (Iran-v-USSR in Afghanistan, complete with Chieftains, yay!)

- Op Hooper (Angola)

- Zhalanashkol (USSR-v-China)


While each of these has one or more 'operations' or small campaigns, which are excellent in their own right if SABOW's are anything to go by, the GT:OS Battle Editor allows you to generate fights on any of the included maps, using any of the included side's weapons. You can't have KV-1s on the same side as M60s, but you can take one of the Soviet maps and set up a fight between post-war Soviet and Western troops and tanks. Which is what this mission is about.


I really wanted to fight with Chieftains, which are on Iran's side in the Shield of the Prophet DLC, and despite the Iranian markings, look great outside of the Afghan setting...


GTOS Chieftain.jpg


...but either I'm missing something important, or there's a bug, as I can't for the life of me get Chieftains to respond to orders. So they just sit there, looking and sounding great, but quite immobile. So instead, I set up a fight for the Iranian M60A1s. These have no such qualms!


Here's the setup screen, after a few clicks have plonked my chosen friends and foes onto the Eastern Front Sokolovo (winter) map. I have opted to use NATO-style unit symbols, as you can see.




In the blue corner, on the left, we have two tank-heavy Combat Teams (in British Army parlance), each with two platoons of M60s and a platoon of mechanised infantry in M113 APCs. There's also a separate company HQ element (which I forgot to add also to the northernmost team); this includes a mortar section, perhaps it is based on Iranian Army ToE's.


In the red corner, to the right, we have Chinese forces from the People's Liberation Army (from the Zalanashkol DLC), not using NATO symbols as I now see. This is a practice mission so the enemy is just an infantry company, with no heavy weapons, nothing more dangerous to my tanks than RPGs. The enemy is a company defended locality, with two platoons up (in front) and a third one in depth (behind), with company HQ nearby - a fairly standard deployment, giving both depth and a degree of all-round defense. It has taken just a minute or so's clicking to get this set up.


Next step, just as per SABOW, is another click to start the 'Unit Deployment' phase. This takes a little longer, because I take the time to adjust the initial settings to bring each platoon into close formation. Below, you can see the result. In each Combat Team, a four-tank platoon (blue diamonds) is either side of a mech inf platoon (blue 'pointy rectangles'), all facing east. The enemy is indicated only by the red PLA flags north and south of Animal Farm (somebody who built this map was maybe a fan of George Orwell, because the Soviets certainly were not). The conventional symbols on the map indicate things like the cover available at each spot you can place a unit. There is also a 3-D 'real world' view for this purpose, which is handy if you want to place units with more care (eg hull down or in cover, for defensive operations) but I'm not hanging around and am usually happy to use the map view, if I'm attacking.




The next step, when happy with deployment, is to click forward to the Unit Orders phase. The main difference is that from the same map, you get access to the full in-game set of command icons. This being a try-out rather than a deadly serious battle, I keep my orders simple. Each infantry platoon is ordered to attack frontally the nearest enemy position. On either flank of the attacking APCs, a tank platoon is to advance to a fire position short of the enemy positions (hopefully at no closer than extreme RPG range) from which they can shoot the infantry onto the objective. Wider angles between covering fire and assaulting troops would have been better but otherwise, it's all fairly conventional. The blue lines show the lines of advance for each platoon; you can set up dog-leg routes. This pic was taken just after I started the battle, hence the clock at the top is ticking.




I haven't yet worked out how to control indirect fire support, but I try to set the company HQ mortar section to hit the enemy localities, though I am not sure if it will work. I'm even more clueless as to whether I could have opted to have off-map artillery in a quick mission. But until I can control my organic supporting weapons, there's not much point. This will be mostly or wholly a direct fire job.


Below is the bird's eye view - drone's eye, these days - as my troops begin to move off. I hadn't ordered my troops to mount up - I wasn't sure if they would debus to make the final assault, and don't yet know how to make them do that. There's a choice of icons, but I just turn them off. From Youtube videos, a lot of people play with these turned on - or maybe it's just for their videos. I hate markers with a passion; I would simply not play a game that wouldn't let me turn them off. The currently-selected (M60) platoon is on the left, with the M113s and dismounts bottom centre and right.




Another thing people seem to do (again, maybe only for videos, but I have my doubts) is play GT:OS from an airborne, God's Eye view. Again, to me this is unrealistic and anathema, even if it is a convenient way of monitoring the battlefield. The pic below shows the view with the hated icons turned off and the camera lowered. Much better! Again, this is the southern company group; the right-flank M60 platoon can be seen moving up to support the mech infantry in the foreground.




At this point, I drop the camera to ground level and track over to the right-flank tank platoon. One day, I may have a go at making a little mod without Iranian markings (they are more conspicuous on the 113s) as I plan on doing a lot of simulated NATO -v- WARPAC stuff in GT:OS.




A single keystroke will, for as long as I need it, bring up the command interface or (as below) the location markers, which are useful for orientation.




For now, as my AFVs grind forward noisily through the snow, I'm content to use what time I have to watch my southern Combat Team advance. I've made my plan, given my orders, and now it's time to see how it pans out. Like real life, GT:OS plays out in real time - you can pause, speed up or slow down the action, but the only turns are in the operational level in GT:OS campaigns. This is a big plus for me.




I don't have too long to wait before the balloon goes up. Automatic weapons fire breaks out somewhere up ahead and left. I see red and green tracers cutting back and forth. A beeping sound, familiar from SABOW, tells me there's a message 'on the air', and I know that it must be a contact report. Which is exactly what it is. Lt. Kashani, on the left of the southern company group with his four M60s, is reporting in, confirming that the party has begun!




...to be continued!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

33LIMA    762

Assault and fight through


As my attack goes in, I keep the camera on the southern Combat Team, whose mech infantry platoon is soon crossing the tree-lined road which runs diagonally across their route to the objective.




Meanwhile, as intended, the tank platoon on their left, which hit contact first, is engaging unseen enemy troops to the east with co-ax and main gun fire. With considerable success, apparently, because I suddenly hear another beep and this time, when I pull up the map, the message tells me that the southern key point has been taken, already. In the pic below, this is signified by the flashing green circle overlay (clicking on each message in the list top right causes its sender and subject to be highlighted in this fashion, which is neat).




Territory is generally a key victory condition in GT:OS (or SABOW) and you gain ground by occupying these key points.


By this time, the paths of the attacking infantry and the right-flank M60 platoon have converged somewhat. In the picture below, you can see two of the tanks sliding in from the right as the dismounted troops advance, covered by the .50 calibre HMGs on their M113 'battle taxis'.




The manoeuvre goes to plan, however. The tank platoon - which started behind the 113s but has edged ahead as the latter were moving slowly with the dismounted mech infantry -  halts to shoot the infantry onto their objective.




In this flat landscape, there's not a lot of cover for big things like M60s, so it's hard to tell if they are making much use of what cover there is. There are orders about taking up defensive positions which you may be able to batch with attack orders, but so far, I'm reasonably happy with the tactics my platoons are employing, without my having to micromanage them.




The southern mech infantry is soon passing in between the halted tank platoons on either flank and presses on to the objective. Even though the foremost enemy platoon must have been destroyed or driven off, a second platoon is in depth here and my troops are soon engaging it, with little streams of reddish pink tracer lacing the landscape up ahead - unfortunately the combat photographer hit the shutter in between bursts, in the picture below. The effects are quite realistic; there's no Holywood nonsense involved.




This M60 seems to have done a decent job of using the limited cover from view that's available in their platoon's battle position...




At this point, GT:OS decides the battle is over and brings up the results screen! The detailed statistics seem quite satisfactory, but the overall result is plain daft.




I guess the battle has been concluded because both key points are reckoned to have been taken - the attackers dominate them and outnumber the few surviving enemies. But the 'Draw' result is just nonsense, since the stats show that we have taken all the enemy's territory and inflicted very heavy casualties, out of all proportion to those we have suffered.


This happens in SABOW as well as GT:OS - you get a draw or even a minor defeat, even though you have clearly won. I find convincing, neither of the reasons I have seen mooted for this. In a campaign battle, things may not have gone so well outside your area of operations, but even if that's so, you have still won your own particular battle, since you fought it successfully. In any kind of battle, as in this one, you may have had significantly more powerful or more numerous forces, but a not-especially-glorious win is still a win. Let's say the Iraqi and coalition forces kick ISIL out of Mosul and mostly destroy them, with few casualties - that's a clear victory, right? Not if you're playing it in GT:OS or SABOW - because you had an overwhelming advantage in forces, you'll likely get awarded a draw. This of course is not sour grapes. It's just plain daft.


I seem to recall a patch toned down this tendency in SABOW but I think it's still there, and it certainly seems to be, in GT:OS. I've seen at least one other player say he just disregards the headline results. If it can't be changed, a mod which alters the text from 'Draw' to 'Minor victory' and from 'Minor defeat' to 'Indecisive' might be better than nothing. It's not a killer, but I find it highly and needlessly aggravating, when the headline result is so completely at odds with the reality on the virtual ground.


As with SABOW, while (IIRC) you can't continue the fight after the outcome is announced, what you can do is inspect the battlefield, via the 'Statistics' phase. Here are some of the sadder statistics from this battle, in the form of enemy casualties. It's noticeable that the enemy were entrenced, even though I made no effort to arrange this, in setting up the battle.




It's unfortunate I can't fight on, becasue my original orders did not provide for an attack in depth to match the depth of the enemy defences. Now, my platoons have halted on their original objectives, the tanks short of the enemy forward positions and the APCs just beyond them.






As the battle ended, freezing the action, the tanks on the extreme southern flank were still firing at possibly fleeing enemies, their tracers zipping rather dangerously past and over the heads of the 113s and their prone dismounts. Yes, I know - I did say earlier that I should have chosen fire positions for the tanks that were more at right angles to the axis of the assaulting troops.




Below is the Statistics screen with the main interface turned back on. This illustrates the mini-map, top left, and top right, the unit status read-out, here displaying the unfortunate fate of the enemy HQ trenches. You can also opt to display hits and penetrations on vehicle targets.




I did tell you at the outset that this wasn't an especially interesting or exciting little battle. But even just using the most basic commands from the many more available, it did confirm to me what GT:OS is capable of. I will want to learn now how to control on- and off-map fire support, and to make more sophisticated plans and give more sophisticated orders. I hope also that I can get the Chieftains working properly, because even in Iranian markings, they look very much at home in a more European battlefield...




And of course, there's always where it all started, on the steppes during the Great Patriotic War, aka the Eastern Front of World War 2...




In terms of gameplay, GT:OS has a very different take on things from the other PC wargame that I have found generally met my particular expectations - Wargame: European Escalation, with more realistic command and control than W:EE's point and click methods. And GT:OS's sounds and visuals are mostly well up to tank sim standards. Despite an apparent tendency to bring down the curtain somewhat abruptly and a penchant for making screwball assessments of the results of a fight, I'm really liking what I'm seeing so far in GT:OS.





Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
33LIMA    762

...and I got the Chieftains moving, in the Shilovo map, though they are VERY reluctant to start moving, and when they do step off, they creep rather than move, with frequent halts. You really need to get them moving the day before the APCs move off!




But at least they're moving, though even Chieftains should move faster.


It's not quite NATO -v- WARPAC, but it's close.




Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
33LIMA    762

...and to conclude, here's some Chieftain action, as, on the Shilovo map, a tank-heavy Combat Team (company group) attacks a dug-in enemy infantry platoon.


A Chieftain troop grinds slowly but purposefullly forward on each flank, to make first contact, on the left,,,




...and on the right...




The tanks bump the enemy and take them under fire. The APCs now move forward in the centre, to a position from which the troops will dismount and make their assault...




Company HQ calls in an artillery strike before the APCs get 'danger close'...




...but I've been too hasty, for my fire falls about a hundred metres south of the enemy positions...




The indirect fire support having mis-cued, some further direct fire does the needful. The left-hand tank troop moves onto the flank of the enemy position, their enfilading fire causing the defenders further casualties and suppressing the survivors...




This leaves the mechanised infantry little to do, but gun down some enemies who leave their trenches and try to make a run for it...




Meanwhile, tracers fly as the right-hand tank troop faces north-west and engages the second enemy platoon position, preparatory to the whole force re-organising and then re-orienting for Phase 2...




With those painfully slow Chieftains, everything has to be played out at their pace - lose patience and let the APCs get ahead, and things can turn nasty, rather quickly. But I'm getting the hang of it. And before I have even tried any of the many operations that come with the super BundleStars package, I'm finding that GT:OS is a great little sandbox for just the sort of wargames I played with miniatures, all those years ago.


Microarmour 5.jpg



Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
33LIMA    762

...and while GT:OS in NATO -v- WARPAC mode can't compete with the authentic settings of W:EE, and has nothing like the latter's huge range of kit from that theatre, there's still more than enough for the sort of operations pictured with my 1/300 miniatures, except I have to use T-62s instead of T-72s, and BMP-1s instead of BMP-2s...








If only Graviteam would yet make a mainstream Cold War DLC! But I'm rather delighted with what's possible by simply combining Eastern Front maps with the units from the modern DLCs.


'Hello Charlie Charlie 1 this is India 1, Phase 1 complete, MOUNT UP for Phase 2 now, out to you...




..Hello Tango 11 this is India 1, can you please pull Tango 11 Bravo free from that bloody shellhole!




..Ignore my callsign India 31 Bravo, he'll need more than a quick tow! Out!'



  • Like 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this