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Found 7 results

  1. Refighting the Second Battle of Kharkov in Graviteam's classic WW2 tanksim! Despite acquiring Steel Fury - Kharkov 1942 (SF) not long after release, I only started seriously playing the tanksim years later, when modders added more (especially later-war) AFVs and generally extended SF's scope beyond the Second Battle of Kharkov in early summer 1942. So I never got around to playing the stock SF campaigns…until recently, when I decided it was a shame not to give them a tryout, at least. So that's what I did, and here's how it went! The real battle The First Battle of Kharkov in the Ukraine was fought in autumn 1941 during Operation Barbarossa, when the German 6th Army (later destroyed at Stalingrad) captured the city. The Second Battle - the one featured in SF - came in early summer 1942. Having thown the Germans back from the gates of Moscow over the winter of 1941-2, the Red Army's next major offensive came further south, in May 1942, with ferocious (and initially successful) concentric attacks aimed at retaking Kharkov. However, the Wehrmacht - including once more 6th Army - had been planning an attack of their own, code-named Operation Fredericus. With these forces, the Germans soon stopped and then rolled back and utterly crushed the Soviets, who had, it seems, overestimated their capabilities and underestimated those of the still-formidable Wehrmacht. A more durable and decisive victory over the Germans would have to wait…for about six months, as it turned out. The Red Army had learnt its lesson and the next big offensive, when it came, would see the tables turned and 6th Army annihilated at Stalingrad. But as far as the Second Battle of Kharkov went, the laurels belonged to the Wehrmacht. While SF does support campaigns - and I believe you can create a player profile for each - there's nothing like M1 Tank Platoon II's crew management facility. You will see your crew members moving around inside, and sitting at open hatches of, your tank. But they and the crews of your other platoon tanks ('wingmen' if you like) are annonymous. You can review each tank's/crew's achievements at the end of each mission - but that's about it. Each campaign is basically a sequence of scripted missions which, reasonably enough, follow the course of the actual battle, which you cannot change. So if you're rooting for the RKKA - the Red Army of Peasants and Workers - well, you can destroy all the fascists you like, but it's still gonna end in tears before bedtime. Sorry, tovaritch. Better luck at Stalingrad. Unit affiliation isn't a big thing with Steel Fury. Whereas the campaigns in Ultimation's classic Panzer Commander placed you from the start in a famous tank division (complete with formation insignia in the campaign selection screen) in SF you learn which unit you're with, when you see the first mission briefing. So it's all a bit anonymous, with no real sense of role-playing. However, you do get a short introductory video, with historical newsreel footage and captions which set the scene. After that, you can pick the opening mission from the list of those available for the campaign - just one, to begin with. Complete one mission and the next one in the sequence is added to the list. I think I'm right in saying that this happens regardless of whether you won or not. In my book, it's fine that you can't alter significantly the course of history, and good that you aren't stuck with having to replay unsuccessful missions, before you can progress to the next one. The stock Steel Fury campaigns Out-of-the-box, I believe SF provides three campaigns based on the Second Battle of Kharkov, as follows: Friedericus 1 (Wehrmacht) Soviet Army, Group South Soviet Army, Group North To these, my modded install adds variants with different tanks. I opted to fight for the Wehrmacht. If I recall right, the stock Fredericus campaign starts you off in a Panzer IV with a short-barreled, low velocity 7.5 cm gun, only later getting the longer-barreled weapon with decent armour-piercing capability. If you're not 'well up' on your panzers, one grey panzer might look very much like another; but the Panzer IV below - an early Ausf. F model, with the short, stubby gun - exhibits the eight road wheels per side and the longer, boxier hull, which distinguish it from the 'six a side', more compact Panzer III, pictured below that again. And though the Panzer III's gun is a smaller calibre, in this case it has a much longer barrel and thus penetrates more armour. So...keen to start with a gun which would give me a fighting chance against the Red Army's finest, I opted to play the Panzer III version of the campaign, knowing I would get from the outset a long 5 cm gun - not as good as a long 7.5 but better than the short version of either weapon - better for dealing with tanks, at any rate. Especially big, bad tanks like these: Are you perhaps sitting there thinking 'What a wuss! Why doesn't he just man up and get on with it?' If so, I would suggest you might like to read this account of one of the Germans' most unsettling early encounters with the Klimenti Voroshilov heavy tank. Just one of them in this case, which for 24 hours single-handledly held up a German regimental combat team from 6th Panzer Division, meantime defying various attempts at its destruction. For all their poor ergonomics and comparatively crude finish, the Germans learned to show Soviet tanks like the KV and T-34 a healthy respect. Of course, the Soviets also still had lots of less formidable tanks, like different light tanks and the BT-5 'fast tank' below, with its US-style Christie suspension, speedy but lightly-armoured and with the ability to run on its road wheels instead of tracks, perhaps useful to save wear on approach marches but mechanically a wasteful concept. There might also be some British 'lend lease' tanks, I knew. The Soviet 45mm anti-tank guns were dangerous enough and their 76.2mm field guns had a good A/T capability. Weapons like this would be dug in and hard to spot, but a priority target for my tanks, in any attack. This was going to be no sinecure! The first mission! I neglected to take a screenshot of the mission brief but the screens below show the ground and the disposition of our forces, soon after I loaded up the mission. Tanks - my platoon's Panzer IIIs - are the blue diamonds on the upper screenshot. The infantry's SPWs (Schutzenpanzerwagen, SdKfz 250 and 251 armoured half-track APCs) are the blue pointy-nosed rectangles, over to my left. In short, it's late May 1942 and my unit, Panzer Regiment 201 of 23 Panzer Division, is to support panzer grenadiers in a two-phase operation. First, we are to assist the grenadiers in destroying enemy defensive positions - marked in red on the lower map - on the nearer edge of a wood. Then in Phase 2, we are to sieze and hold the nearby village of Nepokrytoe, which is just off the top left of the map in the lower pic, a few hundred metres beyond the left-hand side of that big wood. . As usual in SF missions and campaigns - though it's rarely made clear in briefings - you are in command of a platoon of tanks, usually three. The missions themselves tend to be for a company-level operation, a sort of self-contained or scaled down representation of a larger battle. This mission's briefing gave me a reasonably clear idea of our tasks and indicated that artillery and the Luftwaffe (which latter I saw no sign of) would be supporting us. As usual the mission briefing - 'orders' would be a better title - is in a structured format, perhaps Soviet as it's not British or US (which closely resembled and evolved into the standard NATO format, namely Ground-Situation-Mission-Execution-Service/Support-Command & Signals) and possibly not WW2 German either. I find the SF 'orders' a bit repetitive yet short on some of the detail a company commander would put into even a quickly-made plan and set out in his verbal orders to the participating platoon commanders, in the company Orders Group. Nevertheless, having seen the briefing, it's always best to do a 'combat appreciation' before you start this sort of mission and so make a plan of how you intend to proceed. Aim - Enemy - Ground - Plan is an abbreviated format I was taught long ago (by an RM Commando officer, as it happened) and found quite useful. Should I go left, centre or right, was what it boiled down to, for Phase 1. The centre looked too devoid of cover and likely exposed to direct fire from all three marked enemy positions - a slow uphill run into the centre of a storm of enemy fire, targets on a two-way range. Looking at the lie of the land, I decided to risk taking the time to switch flanks and go left. Over there, I'd be able to make use of the dead ground the contours suggested should lie next to a road running towards the wood's left-hand edge; which road would also help me to maintain direction. Once over there, I could push up in comparative safety and from the flank, support the infantry by rolling up the enemy positions from left to right, concentrating on one at a time, instead of taking them all on at once. I could do much the same by going right flanking instead, but to get up onto the enemy's flank from a covered approach, I'd have to open up much too wide a gap with the panzer grenadiers. So left flanking it would be. Unfortunately, in SF there's no way of discussing and co-ordinating plans with the commander of the infantry you're often supporting, or with other friendly forces. For example, you cannot temporarily assume command of the whole force and make a plan designed to integrate the fire and movement of tanks, infantry and supporting fire. Instead, your options usually are - either make and execute your own plan, or just conform to the infantry's movements, supporting them more closely and directly - tanks and infantry attacking on the same axis, if you will. I knew from past SF missions that the infantry tend just to rush straight at the objective. But I decided that this time, tanks and infantry would attack on separate axes. I accepted the risk that the infantry, motoring up to the Effective Fire Line in their nippy armoured 'battle taxis', would get ahead of me and maybe suffer serious losses before I was in position. But I like to play a more cautious, tactical game; if the grenadiers want instead to re-stage the Charge of the Light Brigade, well, on their own heads be it. C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre. ...to be continued!
  2. Roaring into battle with the famous Tiger tank in 'Steel Fury - Kharkov 1942'! 'Tyger, tyger burning bright In the forest of the night What immortal hand or eye Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?' William Blake, 'The Tyger', 1794 And now, for something completely different. No, not a Monty Python sketch, but a change of pace and scenery: from the clear blue skies and snarling aero-engines of combat flightsims to the solid earth and thundering heavy weapons of perhaps the best available tanksim, from Ukrainian developers Graviteam - 'Steel Fury Kharkov 1942'. The sim My first tank sim was back in the early 1980s, believe it or not. It was played on my younger brother's Sinclair Spectrum and compared to 'Pong', 'Rommel's Revenge' was a revelation, albeit the wire-frame graphics were perhaps not quite what we're used to these days. Fun, though; I was pleased to see that it's been preserved for posterity on Youtube: Turn the clock forward about 15 years, and my first modern tanksim was Ultimation's 'Panzer Commander'. Graphics had come a long way and despite simplified (but very usable) targeting, odd bunker-based anti-tank guns and no infantry at all, this was a great product, with a dramatic musical theme and varied and engaging single-player campaigns covering US, British, Soviet and German tanks and AFVs. It was soon joined on my hard drive by another classic, Microprose's 'M1 Tank Platoon 2', showcasing the US Army's formidable M1A2 Abrams. This also had its vicissitudes, like near-instant deluges of lethal artillery fire which usually killed off any attached APCs early on and a tendency to over-rely for successful gameplay on the simulated IVIS real-time tactical display, where, as one reviewer put it, you could spend the whole battle watching little blue and red squares firing pixels at each other. Still, with high production values (including newsreel-style video intros from 'MPS News' to each of the campaigns) it was a great sim, a classic that, with a bit of fiddling, can be played on modern PCs and is still great fun: Tanksim fans were rather spoiled back in those days. There were other less capable but still fun modern tanksims like Novalogic's 'Armoured Fist 2' and 3 and Interactive Magic's 'Spearhead', soon joined by the original 'Steel Beasts' from eSim, which simulated the mechanics of tanking with unpredecented accuracy. For World War 2 fans, as well as 'Panzer Commander', there was Interactive Magic's 'iPanzer 1944', but the best of all came with Wings Simulation's 'Panzer Elite'. Modders soon appeared who tweaked the original rather cartoonish graphics and by the time the Special Edition arrived, this was clearly the premier WW2 tanksim, and I think still is, in many respects. This is not least due to the continued work of the mod community, notably Aldo and other members of the PE Development Group and BobR and the Ostpak team. PE is still playable on modern systems and well worth it, too, as seen in this 'playthrough' of the Beresov mission from Ostpak: And so to modern times. 'Steel Beasts' is now a grapically-improved professional military training tool with a spun-off version for simmers, and if you want something simpler and cheaper there's IDDK/Crazy House's 'T-72 Iron Warriors/Balkans on Fire'. Although you're often just a single tank driving around and clobbering stuff with little opportunity to co-operate with fellow AI, this looks good, has plenty of detail and plays well: http://store.steampowered.com/app/1670/ For World War 2, there was 'T-34 -vs- Tiger'. Like the same developer's 'T-72', this is a pretty good simulation of the operation of the featured vehicles. Again, you're essentially on your own in missions, with the other AI, friendly and enemy, acting out their scripted functions. Looks and sounds great though: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmyM-WLyd8U Which brings us to Ukranian developer Graviteam's 'Steel Fury Kharkov 1942', which at last puts you in the role of the leader of a platoon/troop of tanks and pitches you right into company-sized combined arms operations on the Eastern Front. While the original release featured a decent set of German and Russian tanks (including the Lend-Lease British Matilda infantry tank, of all things!) it was limited, as the title suggests, to the mid-1942 era. While the sim's mostly still Eastern Front only, the modders have been at work, making AI AFVs playable and adding new missions and vehicles. And unlike other Graviteam titles like the 'Achtung Panzer/Graviteam Tactics' series which are essentially wargames, or 'Steel Armour - Blaze of War' which is an unusual sort of tanksim within a 'strategy' game, SF'42 is a proper tanksim, through and through SF'42 was hard to come by for a while but is now available at GamersGate: http://www.gamersgate.co.uk/DD-SFURY/steel-fury-kharkov-1942 The mods are now de rigeur for anyone wanting to get the best of this sim and the best place to start is I think over on Tanksim.com: http://www.subsim.com/radioroom/showthread.php?t=178218 Edit - since writing this I've discovered that the best place for SF mods is Gaviteam's on forum for the sim: http://graviteam.com/forum/index.php?board=1.0 Use of Jonesoft's Gerneric Mod Enabler is essential and many mods seem set up to use it. Install order is important and as with most sims there are some aspects of modding with which you need to have a bit of patience. But most or all of what you need to know is there on Tanksim.com. And most of the stuff you'll want seems to be on Mediafire, here, courtesy of Godzilla1985: http://www.mediafire.com/?q38nkzaginphq Edit, August 2014 - the SPM mod was used for this mission; the later NTA mod has been discontinued, but its successor, the STA Mod, is now available and I think it's fair to say STA is the latest and most comprehensive mod for Steel Fury: http://stasf2008.eph...d-on-steel-fury Fancying a slice of tank action for a change, I dusted off my old modded install of SF '42 and knowing that it is better to give than to receive - especially if the 'present' is a solid round of 'Armour-Piercing Capped, Ballistic Capped' travelling at over 2,000 feet per second - I decided to start with my favourite tank - the German Tiger. Which by all accounts, is pretty good at both giving and receiving. The tank The Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I needs little introduction. Its unsloped armour reflects the fact it was designed more for superiority over the likes of the British Matilda and French Somua than the T-34 or KV-1 which so shocked the Germans on meeting them in the summer of 1941. But the Tiger proved an excellent antidote to the superb Soviet tanks and indeed, to the Shermans, Cromwells and Churchills it would meet in the Mediterranean and North-West European Theatres. 'Nuff said, except that I count myself privileged to have met the mighty Tiger 131, now restored to running order and authentic appearance by the Royal Armoured Corps Tank Museum at Bovington Camp, Dorset, having been captured, abandoned, from Schwere Panzer Abteilung 504 at Medjez el Bab, Tunisia in April 1943 after being damaged by Churchills of 48 RTR: The mission Here's the mission briefing; the tail end of it, anyway. It's preceded with other sections which help set the scene, telling me that my platoon of three Tigers is part of a Kampfgruppe of Panzer Regiment 201, 23rd Panzer Division, tasked with following up a successful counterattack. Our Kampfgruppe appears to be a combined arms force of reinforced company size, with artillery and air support. Our mission is in two phases - first to destroy enemy defensive positions along a low crest then to swing left and clear the village of Nepokrytoe. While the briefing has the semblance of military orders it could still be rather better presented. The current NATO format for 'orders' like these - Ground (technically a preliminary to the orders), Situation, Mission, Execution, Service/Support and Command and Signal - would be better. Not unrealistic either, as it is essentially the same as the British WW2 format (with detail differences, eg 'Situation' was 'Information') adopted also by the Americans. Convergent evolution being what it is, the German WW2 format wasn't much different. The SF'42 format doesn't give me as much info as I'd like on the operation, eg the composition of the other subunits my platoon's operating with. And the attack itself could have been better described, more clearly broken down into its two constituent and distinct phases, with the detailed tasks given for each subunit for each phase stated, including my own. As it was, while the narrative didn't provide a clear picture of the composition of our force this was apparent from the map, which showed unit type symbols - diamonds are tanks, the 'pointy rectangles' are infantry in APCs. In our case the APCs are SPWs (Schutzenpanzerwagen) as the Germans called their Hanomag half-tracked armoured personnel carriers. The map itself isn't bad but despite the presence of contours and the occasional spot height, it doesn't make the lie of the land very clear (a vital consideration in ground ops) and it doesn't zoom out enough, so you have to pan around to try to orient yourself properly. The map screen is also were you can issue orders to your platoon, which you can do 'in game' only by calling up and clicking on this map - there are no hotkeys to order (eg) a formation change. The scope for giving orders is pretty low, perhaps better suiting Soviet tanks where radios were limited and hand or flag signals were the norm. The most useful orders are 'do as I do! and basic formation commands, options being line (abreast), column/single file, a sort of 'blob' (as near as you'll get to the common arrowhead or wedge formation) and the ability to order 'spread out!' or 'close in!' I probably need to spend a bit more time on this map/briefing screen to better appreciate its facilities. One other issue is that the map is from the original sim which is for operations in the Kharkov area in mid-1942. While this wasn't the only period when there was fighting around this town, even my mission's date is in May 1942, some months before the Tiger first appeared in action, in the Leningrad sector in September 1942. But this is a modder-made tank in a modder-made single mission which makes the best use of what's available, and I for one am most grateful for the opportunity to fight in a Tiger in a modern sim. From the map, I could see that my platoon was sited to the centre rear of the mission's Start Line, which was a track running across our front. You can see this more clearly below, with the briefing panel minimised. We are the three blue diamonds, roughly bottom centre. To our right are some Panzergrenadiers in their SPWs. To our left are some more SPWs with more tanks, all still in column formation until they reach the Start Line clear of the woods. The latter will evidently be our Kampfgruppe's left-hand boundary. So I will be in the centre, as ordered, with a Panzer Grenadier platoon each side, with some other tanks for a bit of extra firepower. Enough of the preliminaries! Time to get the show on the road. I started the mission, the loading screen helpfully giving me a snippet from a German tanker's manual, this one a warning that stopping after spotting an AT gun close by was suicidal and that only a fast-moving attack with all weapons would do. I'd try to remember that! Soon, I found my virtual self standing tall, hatch open, in the commander's cupola of my Tiger, looking up at the Start Line, which I could make out in the form of a line of trees interspersed with telegraph poles, maybe a hundred meters ahead. Here we go! ...to be continued!
  3. Tiger I - Steel Fury Kharkov 1942

    From the album Airsoft & military


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