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Found 30 results

  1. SABOW - M60 day attack!

    An uncertain turn of events in a later round in my Iran-Iraq War campaign! My first M60 campaign in SABOW is proving to be something of a roller-coaster ride. And an expensive one! Back in daylight after the opening mission during the hours of darkness, we seemed to be doing quite well in mission #2, playing our part in the Iranian counter-offensive against the invading Iraqis. The culmination of my plans in that mission was a combined tank-infantry attack on a Iranian defended locality. With no artillery support and therefore no chance of a smokescreen, the risky part was a final dash over a stretch of open ground, to reach the objective. We had got about half-way across, when a tracer round zipped in from our right. Next thing you know, our little force is being torn to bits by fire from an enemy T-55 platoon, which had decided to flank attack our flank attack. No matter how many times you have read accounts of battles like Operation Goodwood, it's still shocking just how fast a formation of tanks can be converted to scrap metal, But that's what happened. Most of the APCs survived the subsequent fire-fight, but most of our tanks didn't. Though the surviving Iraqi tanks withdrew and our objective was gained, it was at considerable cost. Despite all that, the next mission, also in daylight, started promisingly enough. Overall, it seemed that our Iranian counterattack was going well and my formation, the 3rd Armored Brigade, was playing its part. The next battle was a bit of a teaser, though. Intelligence apparently indicated that the enemy had decided to counterattack our counterattack, which of course they are perfectly entitled to do. This intention is shown by the large, triangular ,blue enemy arrow, pointing north-north-east. However, from the red, friendly arrow going the other way, it seemed we were also expected to attack, in the opposite direction, towards the enemy position marked 'Babylon1' - generating a meeting engagement. The smaller red and blue (more rectangular) arrows to the right apparently denote pre-battle moves, during the prior 'operational' phase, though why there are both enemy and friendly moves starting and ending in my territory, I do not know. Anyhow I decided to try to box clever, resulting in the dispositions you can see above. I would stand on the defensive first, and destroy by fire from covered positions the anticipated enemy attack as it crossed the relatively open ground to the north of the central irrigation channel. After that - or if the enemy didn't attack, after all - I would then go over onto the offensive. This plan seemed more sensible than driving forward to meet an advancing enemy somewhere in 'no-man's land'. I always like to start a battle with a plan, even if it may be a bad plan and even if it doesn't survive contact with the enemy. They say that a bad plan is better than no plan at all. I tend to agree. I had just three platoons, two of tanks and one of mech infantry. I put the latter in the woods to the west, to cover my right flank where the battle lines ran north-south. A tank platoon with three M60s I set up in the same woods, further east, placed so as to fire out over the open ground towards the expected enemy advance. Not very subtle but we had a key point, 'Xerxes 2' in that spot and I was determined not to lose that. The more subtle part of this plan was the placement of my other platoon - which had five M60s - in a strip of wood over to the east. Their position had an irrigation channel to its rear whose banks might provide them with cover to move north or south if need be; but above all else it had a good overlapping field of fire with the other tank platoon, covering the open ground in front of 'Xerxes 1'. An enemy force attempting to advance across that ground would be destroyed by concentric tank fire from 'Xerxes 1' and from its right flank. As usual I had no artillery or air support, so this battle would be won or lost by the marksmanship and battle drills of my eight tanks. I felt reasonably confident that the combined fires of eight 105mm guns would make life very difficult for any Iraqis who ventured into my chosen killing ground. I had made my plan and deployed my troops. Now, it was time to wait and see what the other guy had in mind. ...to be continued!
  2. SABOW - M60 night attack

    On campaign in the classic US Main Battle Tank! Having throughly enjoyed fighting in SABOW's Iran-Iraq War campaign in a T-62, I decided it was time to swap sides and have a crack with the M60A1, fighting now for the Iranians. The latest (May 2015) patch adds some graphical and other improvements, including some new training missions. Such is SABOW's considerable and admirable depth as both tanksim and tactical wargame, I'm still a relative novice and in particular, have had little 'tread time' with the elegant US MBT. This is something which the recently-once-more-expanded set of training or single missions would have allowed me to rectify. But no, impatient as always, I decided to jump in at the deep(er) end and go straight on campaign! The SABOW Iranian M60 campaign is actually chronologically ahead of the Iraqi T-62 one I played first. Both take place during the battle near Sousangerd, where, in difficult terrain, the Iranians mounted a large-scale armoured attack designed to roll back the Iraqi offensives which had started the war. This was ultimately unsuccessful, but that is yet to come. For now, the ball is in the Iranian court and we are about to launch the big counter-offensive. The campaign opens with the player in command of strong Iranian tank forces, massed to the east of the Iraqis. And my first battle in this new campaign was to be a night action! On the map below, the green tank icons represent playable M60 platoons, the red ones other player-controllable friendly forces, and the pink ones (actually yellow, against a pale red background) denote friendly, non-player-controllable units. The blue areas and icons represent Iraqi (enemy) territory and forces. As yet, the lack of markings on the enemy side indicates that we know little or nothing of the forces arrayed against us. The blue circles I believe mark 'key points' which, depending on their relative importance, represent points (in the other, scoring sense) that will contribute to determining who is winning, depending on who is left in possession of the positions they mark. SABOW allows you some scope to move units about at this 'operational' stage but there seemed to be little need here. Besides, the SABOW wargame element was already offering me two imminent battles on the map and I decided to accept one of them now - the more westerly one, IIRC. The map screenshot below was actually taken after the battle, because I I forgot to take one beforehand; but the dispositions it shows are essentially the same, as far as I can recall. In SABOW, you have the option of disabling night battles. Although I’m not especially scared of the dark, I do like to see what I’m doing! But I had resisted the temptation to turn off night fighting. It’s an important part of the SABOW campaign experience, groping around in the dark with only first generation night fighting aids. There’s none of the modern thermal imaging (aka passive Infra Red, forming images from the heat emitted by vehicles or personnel) which makes night-fighting in sims like M1 Tank Platoon II or Steel Beasts relatively easy. In SABOW, you have instead active IR: headlights or spotlights whose light, invisible to the naked eye, can be seen by anyone – friend or enemy! – with an IR-capable sight. And whose range is much more limited than thermal imaging. Having selected a prospective battle on the operational map, I entered SABOW’s tactical phase. This zooms you into a smaller section of the map, with a correspondingly smaller sub-set of the your forces on it, at your disposal. This smaller, tactical map starts in ‘Unit deployment’ mode, presenting you with a set of icon-based commands which you can - and should - now use to adjust the starting position of the platoons to whom you can give orders – in this case, no less than four platoons of M60s and two armoured recce platoons with APCs. After a quick Combat Appreciation, I decided my aim, consistent with our Armoured Brigade's declared mission, would be to take and hold the enemy position marked as ‘Abbasides 1’. to achieve this, I would mount a concentric attack by my tank platoons, while the recce troops would watch and guard our flanks, about which I was rather nervous. 'Time spent in reconaisance is never wasted' they say; but our Brigade's mission, if not also our violated country's honour, seemed to call for early offensive action at all levels. 'One engages, then one sees', as Bonaparte reputedly said. Ever noticed that there seem to be military axioms or bons mots in support of most potential courses of action? Anyway, to business. working from the map (rather than the relatively new 3-d option) I dispersed my platoons in covered positions, out of line of sight of the enemy, distributing them over an arc from the north to the east, like a concave mirror focussed upon the objective. And with a watchful recce platoon at each tip of the arc. You can skip most or all of this next bit if you're getting bored waiting for the first rounds to be fired; but looking at the map below and working clockwise, from the top: the group of 'pointy rectangles' left of our position 'Mithradates 2' (note the green/white/red Iranian flag) is one of my two mech infantry/recce platoons, in M113 APCs. Clustered either side of 'Mithradates 2' itself are six red diamonds, representing my two right-flank M60 platoons, backed into the same woods and also facing south, ready to jump off. To their east, concealed in a patch of scrub nestling in a right-angle bend of an irrigation channel, are the five red diamonds of my strongest tank paltoon, near our position 'Xerxes 3' and also facing south. South-east of them is my fourth and final tank platoon, facing east from a strip of wood on the eastern margins of a larger forest, the green triangle amongst the red ones denoting that's the tank I will occupy when I start (which I forgot about). And finally, to their south-west, marked in orange because I have currently selected their unit icon (seen bottom centre of the screen) is my second mech infantry platoon. Ok pay attention again now, please. Here's how my plan was going to work. As is done in real life, I tend to divide these things into successive phases. In Phase 1, the recce platoons would sit tight and watch the flanks. The two tank platoons to the west and north-north-west of ‘Abbasides 1’ had further to go to that enemy position, so they alone would start moving. Phase 2 would kick in when the first two tank platoons were roughly half-way to the objective, having perhaps drawn the attention of the enemy in their direction. At this point, the other two M60 platoons to the north, closer to the objective, would begin their attack. I intended that all four tank platoons would hit the objective at roughly the same time. I had further decided to play the tactical phase mainly from the platoon to the north-north west. This was the one with five tanks, rather than the usual three and as it neared the objective I intended to slow it down. Its role would be primarily as a reserve, uncommitted and therefore ready to deal with anything unexpected; but also ready to provide a base of fire, to cover the other three platoons as they closed in on to the objective. This was the bit where things were most likely to go awry, and so it proved. In Phase 3, with ‘Abbasides 1’ occupied and the defenders destroyed - I hoped - my tanks would ‘go firm’ on the objective while the recce troops, in their thinner-skinend APCs, moved up to rejoin and provide some 'boots on the ground' to help us hold onto the key point we had just secured. For whatever reason, in all the missions I’ve so far played in the Iran-Iraq campaigns, I have yet to see or be given any air or indirect fire support, which seemed to be absent tonight, too. Artillery and aircraft icons remained resolutely greyed out, on the tactical map. I would have quite liked to put in some artillery preparation and perhaps lay some smoke to cover open flanks, but it this option was anywhere available, its presence eluded me. SABOW has a good set of tools to give units their orders, but I’m not sure to what extent you can ‘layer’ these. In M1TP2, for example, you could give each platoon quite elaborate sequences of instructions, like ‘Move fast from here to there; on arrival, face this direction, fire at will and wait for 60 seconds; then move over there, face that way and halt’. Quite capable, but co-ordination between units could be tricky, even though you usually had only between one and three platoons to worry about. Anyhow, for this SABOW mission I decided I would issue each unit's orders at the start of each Phase. 'Keep it simple, stupid' often works quite well for me, for some reason I've never really paused to ponder. As for tools for marking up the map with your planned moves and actions, I may be wrong but I don’t think SABOW allows me to draw phase lines or place other markers on the map, as if on an overlay, the way the Steel Beasts Mission Editor does for its scripted missions. However, it would have been helpful if, having clicked on a spot to designate it as the objective or a waypoint, it didn't just flash briefly; I'd have liked it if both the target and the unit's route there were marked on the map, so you could see the paths you had set for each unit. Maybe this can be displayed and I have somehow or other turned it off, I’m not sure! Something to check, ahead of next time. Ok, ok, it's getting boring again. H Hour. Tme to cross Start Lines, marked or not, and get the show on the road. I kicked off Phase 1 by giving my two left-hand tank platoons the order to attack. Everyone else would wait in cover, for now. The tanksim element now loaded up and I found myself in the command tank of the left-hand platoon, not the other, 5-tank platoon that I had decided to concentrate on. It being pitch dark, it took me a little while to notice and switch to the 5-tank platoon. See anything in the screenshot below? No? Neither could I, hardly. But there are at least two M60s in that shot, one right in the middle. They are from my left-hand platoon, seen before I switched to the 5-tank platoon, further north. That platoon now needed to advance south-south-west alongside an irrigation channel, then swing right at a right-angle corner in the channel and attack ‘Abbasides 1’, due east from there. Lots of good landmarks en route equals less scope to get lost in the dark. As I‘m not sure how to set up routes with a dog-leg or intermediate waypoint(s) and didn’t want to use the faster but less cautious, less tactical ‘Move’ order, I ordered this platoon to attack their intended ‘waypoint’ first, at the corner of the irrigation channel. When they got there, I’d re-direct them, to the east. I was keenly conscious that I might be setting myself up to be smack in the middle of some careful co-ordination of platoons right about the time the enemy might decide to make a bid for some of my attention. But I decided to crack on. To be sure, in the 3-d world I could see diddly much of the time. But various tank noises - and the fact that the little vehicle symbols in the map view started almost impreceptibly to come to life - suggested that Phase 1 had in fact begun. It was time to check out the view through my active IR systems and see (hopefully literally) how things were panning out, on the ground. ...to be continued!
  3. Swings and roundabouts...with tanks! My first Iran-Iraq War campaign in Graviteam's rather excellent & recently-relaunched wargame/tanksim Steel Armor - Blaze of War (SABOW) had been a bit experimental, not least as I only discovered some quite useful aspects of the wagrame interface towards the end of my assigned eight turns. My final battle had been inconclusive, resulting in a drawn campaign overall. So I decided to replay it from the get go, rather than move on to the other available campaign in that war, which is from the Iranian side in an M60. No, I decided to stick with my trusty T-62. With my new-found knowledge I would fling my platoons across the battlefield with the verve of a Rommel and the cunning of a Montgomery. At least that was the idea. Needless to say, it didn't work out quite like that...to begin with, anyway. Reasonably enough, it seems that each SABOW campaign starts off with the same tactical situation, based on the real-life battle - in this case, with an Iranian salient (red) having been driven into Iraqi territory (blue in the map below - I have reversed the Soviet-style SABOW colour convention in the options menu). What makes each campaign run-through different is (i) the different moves made by the AI in the 'wargame layer' (which AI controls all enemy units and those friendly ones the player can't give orders to) and (ii) the moves you the player make, with the platoons you do control. Last time, I had spent a lot of time in 'wait and see' mode, mostly in a defensive posture - let the enemy come to me, if he dared. Which of course he did dare, though in his own sweet time. On this occasion, I decided that I would call the shots. I waited for the first part of the turn to play out, during which the enemy's movements are made. Having discovered that I could then pre-position my units in the initial map, shown below, I shifted my troops - three tank platoons plus the tank company HQ element. I moved them north-west, along the tracks shown by the little blue arrows. Basically I laid the company out so as to be able to advance 'two up' - two platoons leading, roughly side-by-side, with the third platoon 'in depth' to the rear, along with Company HQ. My intention was to drive north-west, cutting the shaft of the enemy spear, somewhere behind its tip, where I hoped most of its offensive strength (tanks!) would lie. As expected, these dispositions caused SABOW to offer me a battle, in my chosen sector. So it was off to the Unit Deployment screen to...well, to deploy my units, what else? I didn't seem to have air or artillery support available and the available infantry were evidently fully occupied defending on the other side of the battlefield. Our tank platoons were the only forces available in my sector so we would have to be thown into battle alone. The nasty red arrows on the map above showed that we now had intelligence that the enemy was expected to attack in our sector, coming in roughly from the oppisite direction to my planned offensive. If I'd had that particular piece of 'int' earlier, I might have sat and taken them on from defensive positions. But I'd made my plans and decided to stick to them. The 'int' might be wrong. Even if it wasn't, we might catch them while they were forming up. It was not yet daylight and I had confidence in the night-fighting abilities of my T-62s, not to mention our stabilised 115mm smoothbore guns. If a meeting engagement developed, so be it. I was up for it. I quickly switched to the orders screen. A few clicks and my platoons had their orders - attack towards the north-west! Fire at will! My experience so far has been that enemy attacks in SABOW take time to develop. But not this time. I had no sooner begun scanning through the commander's sight of one of my platoon leader's T-62s when the shooting started. I switched to the gunner's sight and picked up an M-113 APC coming straight at us, coming into and out of sight amongst intervening clumps of vegetation. This was not a good time to discover that I hadn't bothered to learn the gunner's night sight. Which of its markings represented my point of aim, for the APFSDS round I had loaded? I struggled to remember my brief perusal of the manual's description, but failed. I took aim, fired, and missed. I only knew that I had missed, because when the gun came back into firing position after the usual T-62 reloading cycle, the M-113 was still on the move and my commander didn't announce a hit. I had no idea whether I was over or short, because the elevation of the gun to reload took my gunsight skywards, with it, before I could see the fall of shot. This T-62 characteristic is bad enough in daylight, with a sight you are used to. In near darkness with an unfamiliar one, it was a recipe for disaster. Disaster duly showed up. My tank commander called out a more pressing target. A Chieftain tank. Two of them, in fact. The was a dull ringing, thumping sound which tailed off into a sort of buzzing. My view slipped down and off the gunsight, revealing bloody bodies in the turret. The tank brewed up rapidly as further AP rounds slammed into us. I think no-one got out. I changed tanks several times. Those Chieftains seemed to be able to knock out my tanks, about as fast as I could occupy them. Their 120mm APDS rounds hit home and red-hot sparks flew. As if to spare my blushes, SABOW decided enough was enough and ended the battle. Apaprently there are set conditions which trigger this, like one side calling it a day and retreating, or a truce being offered and accepted (an odd feature, which I haven't used yet). I considered myself lucky, that the fight was adjudged a draw. It didn't seem so, from where I had been sitting. Day was breaking and the enemy seemed to be ranging freely over the battlefield, just to rub my nose in it. So, the Chieftains had had their revenge, for such indignities as my T-62s had been able to inflict, in previous missions. Where had I gone wrong? For one thing, I'm not yet fully accustomed to the scale of the SABOW maps, which are not huge and limit your elbow room for deployment - not unreasonably in my view, as you are commanding a tank company in a battlegroup not a Panzer Armee or a fleet at sea, with wide boundaries and considerable freedom of movement. Still, I had set up my forces just a little too close to the enemy. And when I discovered they were attacking, I should have been a bit more flexible and changed to a defensive posture, moving onto the offensive after I had let the enemy waves break. This wasn't over, though. The Chieftains had got some pay-back. Now, it was my turn. ...to be continued!
  4. A small but satisfying battle of manoeuvre, in Steel Armor - Blaze of War! Many sims give us a way of jumping straight into virtual battle with the minimum of preliminaries and Graviteam’s wargame-based tanksim is now no exception. The original release featured what the new version of SABOW has accurately re-labelled a ‘Battle Editor’. This provides a fast way of choosing multiple parameters to set up platoon-to-company level armoured battles. To this, the new release has added some ‘instant action’ options – a firing range for the US M-60, driver training for the Soviet T-62 and – one for each tank – the ability to set up both sides instantly for a smaller-scale battle you can drop straight into. You can still get the best from SABOW by learning the wargame element, which gives you control over multiple tank and infantry platoons and other units. But if you want to get straight to the tanksimming, it’s now much easier, with these instant battles putting you right onto the battlefield as a tank platoon commander. This short mission report describes one such encounter, which came as a pleasant surprise. I suppose I was expecting to face waves of enemies, advancing upon me as if in a Space Invaders arcade game; an opportunity for little more than some gunnery practice, but with targets that would shoot back. Fun and good practice but nothing special. If I was lucky, I might be able to squeeze in some platoon application of fire and maybe some ‘jockeying’ as the British Army calls the movement of tanks in defence, when moving between fire positions. The advancing enemies did appear, but they weren’t overdone and this, along with sufficient time and the initial disposition of friendly forces, gave me the opportunity to think as well as shoot, to plan and execute movement and generally practice the tactical handling of my platoon. For an instant action scenario, it was actually rather more ‘tactical’ than with most such sim options I’ve seen. And this was the way of it. SABOW models its two tanks – functionally, as well as visually - in such detail that I had decided to concentrate on playing and mastering one, rather than dividing my time more equally between them. Because its systems are simpler to learn – no stereoscopic rangefinder, for instance – I decided to focus on the sleek T-62. So, in the mood for a quick tanksimming fix, I decided to fire up a battle for that tank, clicking its icon on the main menu (the other T-62 icon, with the steering levers graphic, is for the driving course). This took me straight to a map of the battlefield, with my own side’s forces laid out. The briefing consisted of just a warning that enemy tanks were approaching , reinforced visually by some threatening red arrows directed at our positions (SABOW’s default is’ friendly red, enemy blue’ but I have reversed this in ‘options’ so we are the blue side). Sorry, no pics of this - I wasn't planning this to be a mission report, just some harmless, tank-bashing fun :) The map was from the Iran-Iraq war, which is the best ‘tank country’ of SABOW’s three theatres, Angola and Afghanistan being the other two. The main headache with this terrain is the frequent presence of irrigation channels which block movement or channel it (sic!) over fords. Elsewhere, though basically level, there are low mounds or hills and smaller dips and folds in the ground, interspersed with clumps or rows of trees or bushes, all of which provides some cover from view and/or fire. The map was clear of enemy sightings at this stage, but I could see that our side consisted of two tank platoons, facing north, marked as diamonds (you can cycle through alternative unit markers, including one which shows which way individual vehicles are pointing). Both platoons had the playable T62 so while I was started off with the left-hand platoon, I could have opted to play with either one, or indeed, swap platoons during the fighting. I tend not to do this as – when I’m in tanksimming mode – I prefer to role-play as a single platoon commander. From the map, I could have spent a little while playing the overall commander role, setting up deployment and initial orders for one or both of our two platoons. I could have done this from with new 3-D deployment option, instead of the map. This being a defensive action with our platoons pre-deployed pretty well so as to block the enemy axis of advance, I decided I would just jump straight into my assigned command tank, and take it from there! And there I was, sitting in my T-62 with the other two tanks of my 3-tank platoon (Soviet-style, but also common British Army practice). Seeing that we were all lined up facing the enemy somewhere up north and that my tank had a sabot round ‘up the spout’, my first task was to scan ahead for the foe-man, just in case they were about to hit us. This I did using the gunner’s sight, the better to be ready to let fly quickly, if need be. All seemed quiet, so I decided I would now take stock and get as organised as circumstances – notably, the enemy - would allow. Back to the map I went. Offensive action – even in defence – is one of the most important of the Principles of War. So I decided that my objective should be not merely to hold ground, but to destroy the advancing enemy forces. Now then...how best might this be achieved? ‘By taking them in the flank, with fire from a covered position’ seemed the obvious answer. The more I thought about it, the better I liked this idea, compared to simply sitting tight or making minor adjustments to my current position. I could have paused the battle while I thought, but I didn’t need long. Scanning the map from left to right, my eyes were soon drawn to an area of what - from the contours - looked like a sort of rough, low hillock, just ahead and on the left flank. I quickly decided that my platoon would move there, leaving the other three T-62s where they were, on our right. Between us, we would catch the enemy advance in a crossfire. The fact that this scenario had not immediately thrown the enemy straight at us gave me hope I might be able to complete my move in time. Even if the opposition appeared sooner rather than later, I reasoned that the slightly higher ground we would be moving towards would screen us, enabling me to get onto the enemy’s flank while the other platoon kept them occupied, frontally. Plan made! Even before a round had been fired, this little scenario was making me feel like I was right there, on the ground, in the boots of a tank platoon commander, being presented with a realistic tactical situation and the opportunity to make my plans, dispositions and decisions accordingly. I got my tanks into column formation and ordered my driver to advance and turn slightly left, headed for a ford over the nearest irrigation channel. This would have to be crossed, as it lay on the route to my chosen battle position. One of the neat things about SABOW is that the AI drivers behave somewhat as if they have minds of their own. In other sims, it’s like you are just clicking up or down a notch in a throttle setting, when (playing as commander, or as gunner but the commander’s ability to give orders) you order a change of speed or direction. It can be frustrating sometimes, but now I’m used to SABOW, it feels more realistic that my driver will sometimes hesitate or slow down and needs more regular instructions. It's like your AI driver in SABOW is a human being seeing the world only through a couple of fixed periscopes set a few feet above ground level, rather than an unthinking robot. Another nice touch is that the driver doesn’t just turn a fixed number of degrees for each key-press – the longer you hold down the ‘turn’ key (‘A’ or’ D’) to give a driving command, the greater the turn, with an icon displaying the turn angle so you can judge when to release the key. If your driver stops at an obstacle, you can either issue a stock command which starts him attempting an avoiding manoeuvre, or you take over his role and drive the tank as you wish. And that’s what I did when I reached my first challenge on this mission, fording that irrigation channel. The ford was at what looked to be a wrecked bridge and as we came to this I took over the driver position myself, knowing that this is one sort of obstacle they will often be most resuctant to cross, left to their own devices. From there, while I can still use W-A-S-D keys to change direction and speed, I’m beginning to appreciate the additional mouse control option. It’s really rather neat, in the driver’s compartment view, to drag back left or right mouse buttons and watch the animated driver figure pull back on left or right steering levers, as your tank changes direction! As I descended towards the bottom of the channel, my tank swayed and bucked, negotiating the broken concrete slabs that lined the way down, presumably all that was left of the bridge. Nearing the water’s edge, I cast caution to the winds and gave her full throttle, both to get up the other side and to minimise our immersion, in case the water level swamped us and killed our engine. A quick glance over my virtual shoulder showed that my other two T-62s were bunched up at the start of the descent, seemingly hesitant. I’d worry about them later, i decided. That is, if I didn't drown my tank, trying to cross this b****y great ditch full of water. But all went well. Over we went then up and out the other side, jerking and swaying once again over the concrete slabs, as we hauled ouselves back up to ground level. I quickly switched to the tank commander’s station and we hurried off to find some nearby cover, from which I could scan the area before sorting out the others. I should probably have used standard obstacle crossing drill to get over the channel – say, stopping the other two to provide cover, before I crossed - but I had been in a hurry. Now, was time enough to be more cautious. I gave the order to close hatches. Halting behind a small hummock, I scanned ahead and to the right, from the tank commander’s magnified sight. All clear! And just as happily, looking back, I could see that my platoon-mates had sorted themselves out and were now making their own crossing. Soon they were close up behind me again and I rattled off towards the hillock where I planned we’d make our stand. As we stepped off I called my platoon into line formation, the better to concentrate our fire to the front, where the greatest threat must now lie. Making for the nearer, right-hand edge of this hillock, I could see that the lie of the land there would give me some cover straight ahead, but would leave me exposed to the right, where the enemy might well appear. I began to edge more to the left, avoiding the exposed flank and steering for the centre of the area of higher ground. I was encouraged to see that - as prior study of the map had suggested - this was not so much a continuous hill, but more a low cluster of smaller terrain features. The ground was broken, with lots of folds and dips of different sizes, like you might expect to see from some long-abandoned small town whose uneven heaps of ruins had long ago begun to merge with the surrounding terrain. I led the platoon into this, keeping us in closely-spaced line formation. We rolled over the uneven ground, amongst clumps of scattered vegetation. I began to swing around to the right, so that we would acquire lines of sight and fire out over the expected enemy lines of advance. We approached the northern limits of the area of broken ground and I slowed down, halting in a defiladed position with higher ground covering us to both flanks. This gave us only narrow, intermittent arcs of fire, ahead to the north-east, but good protection from east and west. Although the shrubbery scattered around us further inhibited our view, I hoped it would also make us harder to spot. SABOW seems to handle cover quite well, to the extent that the planning map – I think at deployment stage – has tools which give you a visual indication of the level of cover provided in any given area. I hadn’t used this facility on this mission, as it is my habit to assess these things from the map’s conventional symbols. In this case, things seemed to have worked out tolerably well, leaving us hull or turret down to any bad guys able to see us. So far, so good! ...to be continued!
  5. Steel Armor - Blaze of War

    No, sorry, not a review, just a link to my recent mission report, as it sort of developed into a more review-like thing. But rather than now move it here, I thought I should post a link. And it's an excuse to post some screenies and offer a few more observations. The mission report/review thing is here. This new release of SABOW has succeeded in getting me playing a sim that I had left in a drawer for over a year, deterred by the fact I wasn't massively a fan of either of the two playable tanks, the steeper-than-usual learning curve and the 'sim within a wargame' approach (which also reduced the appeal to me of Rowan's Battle of Britain/BoB2). However - partly thanks to elements in the new release that make it easier to get to the tanksimming - see mission report for details! - I'm now a fan. Even to the extent that I'm beginning to see the wargame side less as something to be bypassed as far as I can, and more as a feature with a lot of potential and depth; one which I can actually enjoy as I choose, as well as the tanksimming side. Even though everybody in SABOW seems to speak Russian - possibly an advantage, as I know nothing of Farsi or Arabic and am at least beginning to learn some of the Russian terms used on the intercom- I am really digging the animated crews and the fact that all my tank commanders have names as well as unit IDs. And now I'm getting the hang of it, I'm finding there's attention to realistic crew drills that are approaching the technical excellence of Steel Beasts, with the advantage of being able to see the guys alongside me. Panzer Elite still has more hotkeys and an interface more optimised for a tanksim rather than a wargame. Steel Beasts better implements the team radio net and the use of callsigns on the map as well as on the air. But with the relaunch, SABOW has for me the mark of a really top-tier tanksim. And I believe we can expect further updates - there have been several already, since the relaunch, including those which added 'instant action' options and now also a firing range variant, complete with on-screen tips which play out as your M60 drives up to the firing point. Using these tips, for the first time I tried out the drill for getting a range from the tank commander. Go to the gunsight that has the simple reticle. Hit Ctrl (this gets you into 'cursor mode') and with the mouse, put the little crosshairs which appear onto your chosen target. Click on the rangefinder icon - it's the one on the left of the third-from-the-left strip of icons, below seen from the gunner's station... ...and you will then see the icon grey out briefly, hear some clicking sounds and then see the icon light up again. This tells you that your TC has ranged the target with the stereoscopic rangefinder and keyed the result into the analog ballistic computer, setting up your sight for that range. Lay your gun and fire! And you can use a similar drill for the other, graduated sight in the M60 or T-62 and get a verbal range, estimated visually instead. All rather sophisticated, and the firing range mission with its tips is just one example of how the new release's features seem intended to improve the accessibility of the tanksim element. It certainly worked for me! I've still a lot to learn about SABOW but I'm now hooked and would definitely recommend it as a tanksim, alone, whether or not you expect to appreciate the wargame element. Gotta go - I'm due back on the range!
  6. On campaign with the new release of Graviteam’s Cold War wargame/tanksim! These days, Ukrainian developers Graviteam are famous principally for their PC wargames. These started life on World War 2’s Eastern Front as Achtung Panzer - Kharkov 1943 and morphed into the Graviteam Tactics series, ranging into other theatres and periods in the process. However, as many of us will know, Graviteam have also developed tanksims, not least one of my current favourites, Steel Fury – Kharkov 1942. While the latter lacks some of the more sophisticated features of tanksim classic Panzer Elite, it has some nice touches of its own and with the support of a talented modding community, still provides a top-notch first or third person simulation of fighting WW2 tanks in an all-arms battle, at platoon-to-company level. Combining the wargame and tanksim genres is Steel Armour – Blaze of War (SABOW), dating from 2011 and now re-released with the game engine of the Graviteam Tactics wargame. I recently updated my GamersGate SABOW to the latest version - patches are available on the Graviteam SABOW forums as well as via GG and now Steam - and decided to give it a go. I have had SABOW for some time, but confess that I had previously been put off by its rather complex-seeming interface and somewhat difficult documentation, both of which received some attention in the upgrade. This being a combination of a wargame and a tanksim - more about how this mix works for me, later - there's a lot to learn. And I'm still somewhere along the early part of that big learning curve. So while nominally a mission report, this piece is more of a tanksimmer's first impressions of SABOW, after playing it on and off over the last few weeks. The setting SABOW is set in the later stages of the Cold War. The action itself centres on three single-player campaigns, following the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88), the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan (1979-89) and the middle years of the long Angolan Civil War (MPLA & Cuba vs UNITA & South Africa, 1975-2002). There is also an easy-to-use ‘quick mission builder’ with which you can in a couple of minutes plonk tanks and other units from each side onto a map and kick off the fighting, largely by-passing the ‘wargame’ element. To this, the new version has now added an ‘instant action’ option – click a main menu icon of either a T-62 or an M60A1 and you are pitched straight into a pre-set battle; no setting up involved. The tanks Two of the tanks featured in SABOW are playable, for the tanksim component of the game. First, there’s the Soviet T-62. This is used by the Iraqi Army in the (first) Gulf War campaign, by the Soviets in Afghanistan, and by the MPLA’s Cuban ‘advisors’ in the Angola campaign. Second, there’s the US M60A1, used by the Iranian Army in the Gulf War campaign. Yes that’s right – there are no playable units for the anti-Soviet forces in Afghanistan or for the UNITA/South African side in the Angolan campaign – for those campaigns, you can only fight in the T-62. Which was quite a tank, in its day, despite famously taking a hiding from Israeli Centurions in the ‘Valley of Tears’ during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The T-62 introduced smoothbore guns firing fin-stabilised discarding sabot AP rounds to mainstream tank warfare and with decent armour and a low, ballistically-well-shaped profile, it was a tank to be reckoned with, in its day. The M60A1 needs little introduction to any tank enthusiast. The successor to the post-WW2 M47 and M48 Patton tanks and still in widespread service a half-century after the original version appeared, the tall but sleek M60A1 boasts the famous British L7 105mm rifled tank gun, a stereoscopic rangefinder and a good combat record...not least with the Iranian Army, as featured in this sim and seen in the screenshot at the top of this post, in one of the several paint schemes you can select. The playable SABOW tanks have excellent animated interiors, to which the new release has made some improvements (including more readable internal signage!) Below is the M60A1 turret interior, seen from the loader's position. Standing to the right is the Tank Commander. Seated to the left, ahead of him, is the gunner. You can just about see the driver, lower down, below and left of the breech of the 105mm main gun. All crew figures are nicely animated. Below is the first-person view of the Tank Commander, hands on the controls of his rotating, machine-gun-armed cupola. The sights and view ports you can see here are all usable, as are those for the other crew members. To the TC's right, you can see the back of the gunner and to the left, you can just about see the loader. To the far left are the tubes in the turret rear bussle which hold the ready-use main gun rounds. The T-62 is just as nicely done. Below is the TC's closed-up view, looking across at the loader (autoloaders in Soviet tanks didn't put this guy out of a job until the T-64 series appeared). In the pic below that, is the TC's view with both crew unbuttoned, the loader dutifully manning the formidable 'Dushka' 12.7mm machine gun. There's a goodly selection of AI-manned kit in the sim, in addition to the two playable tanks. AFV-wise, this includes the Olifant (South African Centurion) and the same army's Ratel wheeled Infantry Fighting Vehicle, both seen below somewhat the worse for wear... ..and as well as infantry, sundry APCs and IFVs and various crew-served weapons, there's my fave tank, the British Chieftain, here in Iranian service... Personally I would have preferred a ‘Cold War gone hot’, central European setting for all this nice kit and a couple or so more playable tanks, but SABOW's well-replicated tanks and three featured theatres are something of a novelty and the latter replicate real rather than imaginary conflicts, which is no bad thing. So, how does it all come together in practice? Let's find out how I got on! ...to be continued!

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