Friday, February 1, 2019

Tanks, For the Memories

Screenshot from Tank Warfare Tunisia 1943
I've been playing wargames since I was knee-high to a grenadier. First the paper kind - maps, cardboard counters representing the units, and six-sided dice, think Avalon Hill and SPI. Yeah, I know, a long time ago. I had a post a few years back where I talked about that topic, the opening photo in that post depicts the first game I ever bought.

Then in the late 80s, early 90s I had my first computer, it wasn't long before I bought my first tank simulator, M1 Tank Platoon. Now at the time the graphics were state of the art for a commercial product, if you skip to the 3:30 mark in the next video, you probably won't be very impressed. But at the time it was some pretty awesome stuff. Very immersive for those days. (The Missus Herself would often ask if I was planning to stay up all night to play. Um, no. But yeah, 3 AM was a little late to be playing a game. Gave The Naviguesser some bad habits, the kind of habits which earn him a lot of money these days - he's a professional game developer out west. Yup, he had the right idea, don't just play the games, learn how to make them. So he did.)



Hhmm, I must be jaded, I don't remember it being that primitive, but they have made a lot of progress in graphics in the past, I don't know, 30 years. (Damn, has it been that long since the 90s?)

Now back in the day when the same company (Microprose) announced that they were going to produce a game along the lines of M1 Tank Platoon but in World War II called Across the Rhine, I was all atwitter. Shermans and Panthers and Tigers, oh my!

But when it came out, it was a bit of a disappointment, skip to the 5:03 mark to see why.



Sure the graphics had improved but the experience wasn't as good. In fact, some of the graphics were just plain bad. I remember leading a company of Panthers across a ridgeline and noted that the other tanks were hovering above the ground. Um, what? And where were all the trees? It looked more like Kansas then somewhere in northern France.

The terrain was rather disappointing, as was the game play. Whereas in M1 Tank Platoon you commanded a platoon of four tanks, and each tank and other vehicle were single entities on the map and on the terrain, in Across the Rhine each tank on the map and on the terrain represented a platoon of five tanks. It felt wrong. That game didn't get played very much. I was sore disappointed, especially after laying out fifty bucks for it!

These days the graphics are a lot better, but you damned near need to attend West Point to figure everything out! In Graviteam's Tank Warfare Tunisia 1943 things get pretty intense at times, but in this promotional clip it's almost like watching footage from the war, well okay it's not that good. but compared to the earlier efforts, it's fairly impressive.

There's a part of the following clip where I almost started yelling at one of the Germans in the back of a halftrack.

"Damn it soldier, are you eyeballing me?"



Master Sergeants do retire, but they never really get over being Master Sergeants.

The kids at work just don't understand...

And somebody want to tell me just where January went? Yup, February already.




44 comments:

  1. Panzer Blitz! And having your buddies buy sets, too, so you could really expand the size of the playing field!

    /
    L.J.

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  2. Quite the change from the games that the Apple IIe played, ah.... the games produced by SSI and the Wizardry series.....but somehow I don't think I'll ever wear a VR headset.

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    1. The VR thing intrigues me but I probably won't do it for the same reason I seldom wear headphones, makes me feel unaware of my surroundings. I don't like that feeling. (Yes, in restaurants I like to face the entrance way, drives my wife nuts.)

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    2. Ya......sitting while facing the entrance is most preferred, indoors it's the closest to high ground you'll get. And these winter clothes help with concealment also.

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    3. I always try to maintain situational awareness and a tactical advantage, no matter how slight!

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    4. Facing the door with your back to a wall.

      Paul

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    5. Indeed, that is the preferred position.

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    6. My wife and I both have an aversion to sitting with our backs to the door, which leads to some interesting races to the table! I'm sure when we are sitting on the same side of a booth, people think we're being cute, when in reality we both want that back-to-the-wall advantage! But I will often cede the position to her since she is at least my equal in things tactical and such. Well, OK, she might be my superior in some areas ... LOL!

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  3. Microprose! I had a Napoleonic Hundred Days game by them way back in that fabled time and place otherwise known as the 90s. Heck, it's probably what sparked my interest in that period of history. A decade later I did my undergraduate theses on Waterloo. Go figure.

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    1. I may have had the same one. I recall that the Dutch 27th Jägers were a tough nut to crack at Quatre Bras. I actually drove them from their position once, exactly once in I don't remember how many times I played that game.

      I wonder if it's the same one you had. I still have the rule books somewhere.

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  4. Maybe we can get a play-by-mail game of this going, with all of us? =]

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    1. Not sure why it broke, it worked when I tested it, but not now.

      https://kotaku.com/the-notorious-board-game-that-takes-1500-hours-to-compl-1818510912

      (I tried to make it a link, because the URL kinda gives away the joke =] )

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    2. I think maybe you have some anti-spam action going on that decided to eat it.

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    3. Now that looks like an awesome game.

      Seems to me that it would be 1,500 hours well-spent. Provided there was enough water for our pasta ration!

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    4. The original link translated to "javascript:void(0);" - the anti-spam mechanism in Blogger might send a comment with a link to moderation, unusual for a non-Anonymous comment, but won't change the link itself. Might leave the link out but this isn't anti-spam behavior on this end that I've ever seen Sometimes when I try to grab a link I get that Java nonsense.

      Sigh, get it at work on links all the time, company links no less. It happens to the best of us.

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    5. I mean, I hand-coded the href= myself and tested it once it posted. In both Safari and Chrome, on my phone... So it clearly was not ME that pasted in the javascript. Gremlins, I sez.

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  5. I remember the heady days of first person shooter Wolfenstein and Duke Nukem. The only games that really held my attention were the ACM games, my favorite being European Air War. That game has a huge following, with many independent folks developing add-ons. Sadly, it did not play well (at all) with Win XP. There are some new re-writes out there, I just never followed up. I still have a bunch of my old stuff (like me) and am entertaining the notion of just re-installing Win 98 on an old PC and using it just for that game.

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    1. I have every game I ever purchased. Seeing the really old ones on their floppy disk media makes me realize how much things have changed.

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    2. I played European Air War a LOT, as well as 1942: Pacific Air War. Which was a weird name, considering it ran all the way into 1946, with P80s and Bearcats and stuff...

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  6. I still have my old Panzerblitz (and expansion) games in a storage box. And from time to time I dust them off and play them. Nobody to play them with, but I still enjoy them.

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    1. I pull them out, dust them off and remember.

      My copy of Afrika Korps has a piece which my cat Tommy decided to chew on. It's still usable. Tommy's been gone 48 years.

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    2. I first started playing Panzer Blitz circa 1975 when I was a serving American officer stationed in the UK. Long winter nights and nothing but BBC1, BBC2 and ITV drove us to the game in lieu of getting blind drunk or chasing skirt every night. It wasn't a bad option.

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    3. Much cheaper as well. Same factors were in play on Okinawa '76 - '78. As enlisted we had even less spare change for boozing and skirt chasing.

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  7. Glad to know you're a grognard from the old AH - SPI days. I still have a lot of my old ganes (and newer ones). Played "Midway" with a friend of mine just last weekend. For a game that came out in 1964, it still holds up pretty well, as a game if not a simulation.

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    1. A lot of the old games weren't very good simulation but were superb games. Some were both.

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    2. I love the smell of cardboard in the morning. It smells like...victory.

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  8. You really need to try out, for free, World of Tanks and World of Warships.

    World of Tanks has really great graphics. The only beef I have with them is there are too many 'planned but never made' tanks, there are no nationality sides, and upper tiers (as you progress) is often dominated by rich teenagers who can purchase premium ammo and equipment. I actually like the low level tanks.

    World of Warships has two major game types, play against people (where the rewards are great, but again, premium ammo and equipment which costs money rules) and play against the computer (which is actually a pretty good player.)

    The only real problem? Well, if you work for the President, the company is Russian...

    And I miss tabletop wargaming. One of the many things I could gladly resurrect my inlaws just to kill them for was them deciding to throw away all my wargames and much of my D&D stuff one day when I was out of the house so they could move #1 son into the house without my permission. Oh, left out that they were living in my house on my dime and acted like it was their house and I was their servant. Many a day it was a good thing that the Beans Family Cannon had not been bought yet (Remmie 870 Tacticool…)

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    1. OMG! They threw your games away?!?! Justifiable homicide, has to be.

      As for WoT and WoW, I am sore tempted. (I watch XBradTC's videos of the latter every now and again.) Problem is, I know me. I would get involved with that and neglect so much else. Perhaps once I retire. With the limited man vs machine gaming I do now, there are days when the blog gets neglected. Sleep gets neglected, there's a pattern there. I need to be careful of what I get into. I can be a bit OCD at times.

      There is a lot of great Eastern European software out there, some Russian, Graviteam for instance is out of Kharkov in Ukraine. Il-2 Stumorvik and its many variants is Russian. They have an eye for detail in such things, don't know why.

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  9. And I had that M1 game. Pretty good, but never could get it to run right on my system at the time. Then later systems wouldn't support it. Much like the MechWarrior games I had. Sad, so sad...

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    1. Yes, it ran fine on my first PC, an 8086 IBM clone. Newer computers, not so much.

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    2. Mechwarrior 5 comes out this year :)

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  10. Grrrr!
    I tried to post this link earlier.
    One day I may get to visit it and some of the sites at his other links.

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    1. Nice! Bovington has an excellent tank museum, they have an operable Tiger I, used in Fury.

      Fourth picture down from the top is the tank type my grandfather drove. Saw one in Paris, they are not real big.

      Man, I need to get over there some day!

      Thanks for the link Skip!

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    2. I am glad to have this link - thanks from me too! I have been to the UK a lot in past years, wish I had known about this back then. My dad was a tank company commander in WWII in France and Germany - almost made it to the end of the war before he got wounded and evac'd, may have mentioned him in previous comments. I'll be back over there this year or next, so I'll definitely stop by. Also I saw the link to the Fleet Air Museum, which is not far away. http://bitaboutbritain.com/fleet-air-arm-museum/
      I feel fortunate to have been able to visit the Ropkey Armor Museum outside of Indianapolis - was a wonderful private collection (unbelievable collection of all kinds of stuff, including a couple of interesting planes and a pile of (unfortunately de-mil'd) full auto treasures. But the collection was sold off to other museums - Mr. Ropkey passed a few years ago, and his wife sold it after keeping it going for several years. Would have been a nice side trip to the NRA Annual Meeting.

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    3. That's a nice looking museum, they even have a Fairey Swordfish!

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  11. I have some of the AH and SPI games, in boxes from moves. We have boxes from five moves ago that have yet to be unpacked. On my older active computer I have Civilization IV which is my go to game and time waster. I have my iMac sitting in a box next to me that I will unpack one day so I can again play the games I have for it. Sometimes I have both of my active computers on so that I can play my game and be on the i'net at the same time. The joys of being " retired " with no where to go and all day to get there.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. quandt

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  12. Oddly, the game I miss the most from back in the day is probably "The Ancient Art of War At Sea." So much fun sailing the little ships around and blasting the heck out of the enemy. I've never found a sailing-ship game that was as much fun. (That, and one of the enemy commanders was named Thor Foote.)

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)