Sunday, June 10, 2012

Tank Tactics in Iron Front Liberation 1944 - Turret Down!

That hill in front of your tank could be the dividing line between life and death.

One of the major surprises of Iron Front Liberation 1944 is a very decent armored warfare experience. It's time to get real with your tactics, folks!

Simulation-wise, Iron Front Liberation 1944 (IFL44 from here) is not Steel Fury or Steel Beasts but it offers some very solid tank warfare elements. Modelling of armor thickness, angle of impact of shells, damage to different parts of the tank and physics-based ballistics (just to mention a few) are a zillion times better than in the stock ArmA 2.

That being said, tank battles in IFL44 tend to be protracted affairs devoid of that "one-hit-instant-death" so frequent in modern day armored warfare. Yeah, specially at long ranges, you can get your tank hit many times seemingly without damage. This doesn't mean that it is OK to sit at a single spot of a battle position and endure 10+ hits just because your tank didn't blow up.

Some tanks in IFL44 are heavily armored and can stand multiple hits from long ranges. One tactic that I'm not particularly fond of is some sort of dumb cousin of "recon by fire": crest a ridge, scan for targets while waiting until somebody shoots at me. A visual on a target or an incoming shell, whatever comes first ...  If the latter happens, the puff of smoke generated by an enemy tank gun is easily recognizable from afar. Yes, my tank's crew is not so thrilled about it ...

When it comes to the tactical use of hills by tanks, apart from the very popular and well known "hull down" position (keep the hull of the tank hidden from enemy targeting and observation) there is also the forgotten child of tactical armored warfare, "turret down" (keep the whole tank, hull and turret hidden from enemy targeting and observation). I confess to not being such a big fan of it but I blame everything on modern tank sensors: you can go and play Steel Beasts and you will see that many modern tanks in "turret down" position can't use its powerful IR imaging sensors to observe the enemy from the hill (the IR sensor and optics are in the middle of the turret).

But now that I am playing with WWII-era tanks, where my commander's binoculars are almost as good as the gunsight optics, "turret down" makes a lot of sense.

The view from the commander's hatch. The view is narrow and from the level of the turret. There is a very gentle slope ahead and there is an enemy tank platoon on the other side.

The same situation from the above image, but now seen from the main gun's optics.

If you press the "z" key while playing as a commander of a tank, your character will "unbutton" (open the hatch of the tank and stand on the commanders seat, an external view of this is in the first screenshot of this entry and in the screenshot below). From this unbuttoned position, the commander can see the enemy tanks (below the yellow arrow) on the other side of the slope while his own tank is completely concealed by the hill. 

An external view of an unbuttoned tank. The commander's point of view is higher to enough to see the enemy that remains out of sight for the rest of the tank crew. In this case, the enemy is at a very short range but as a commander you can use your binoculars (press the letter "b") for longer range observation.

Acquiring the enemy without being observed is a huge advantage. Don't squander it by driving through the crest, guns blazing. A thin silhouette is a valid target ... Remember that even AP shells drop a bit and that with a bit of practice you can have the shells arching over the hill. In this image, an enemy T-34 is hit repeatedly without any chance to fire back. 
Where did my target go? Oh, wait ... :)



William said...

JC: thanks for another great read.

I'm curious, how is Iron Front's "physics-based ballistics" different from Arma2's? AFAIK, Arma2 has bullet drop and wind influencing bullet and shell trajectories.


JC said...

Hi William,

I'm affraid I have overextended the use of the word "ballistics" from just the firing and flight to actually include the effects of ammunition.

Sorry for the confusion.


Anonymous said...

Can you give us, the reader some information about the level of realism this simulator has with regards of tank battles. I have played RedOrchestra 1, same tactics you mentioned applied here. But there is also armor modeling. How is it done in IFL? Does angling the tank work, using angles to maximize armor protection? Also front, side rear and possible weak spots in the armor?

If you can shine a light on these aspects.

Thank you,

Bil Hardenberger said...

Good looking game. Too bad its an FPS, I hate those... is there a command aspect to this game that would allow you to play it in more of a commander mode ala Steel Beasts Pro?

JC said...

Hi Marc,

Not extremely hardcore but very decent. There is no engine management as in Steel Fury. Depending on the shell impact location, some specific crew members get injured/dead. I have seen the benefits of putting the tank at an angle, but I'm not sure it actually deflected the shell completely or just got a penetration that didn't hurt anybody, damaged the engine or blew off ammunition. I'm running some tests right now. Is there an interest in those?

Hi Bil,

In most of my singleplayer experience (custom made scenarios) I spend most of the time commanding rather than shooting ... Now don't get me wrong, the vehicles in ArmA 2 make weird moves when they are left completely in control of the AI.


Anonymous said...

Hello JC,

Now i'm just curious. I have Arma2 with ACE, but that is still a diamond in the rough. Maybe they improved on the model in Iron Front.

Reason i ask is because i'm looking into purchasing this game, but want to know some details in advance.

I think like al Arma games (including operation flashpoint), you should not use the AI. PvP works great in my opinion, although spotting the enemy is rather tough.

And yes, i'm interested in the ammunition impact tests.

I never played Steel Fury, but did play Steel Beasts in the past (Lost my copy of the game). That was a nice game, could be played as a strategy, or you could jump into a vehicle and operate it. Worked very nice.

Anyway, now i have a new game i Like, Command Ops: HTTR.
As i am a Dutch citizen, i find it fascinating. It's fun knowing the villages personally. I live in Uden, i heard some stories from my grand parents about how the Brits fighter planes scared the heck out of the german infantry and attacking the transport trains.

I'll be following this blog, its nice to see people so passionate what they blog about.


GunnyHighway said...

Great Article!...A member of SimHQ!...Thank you!

JC said...

Command Ops is one of the greatest wargames of all times! Glad to hear you like it.

I will run that test and post back in another post!

You are Dutch? How is Princess Maxima doing these days? I am from Argentina and worked in research with her half-sister, back when I was young ... :p


JC said...

Hello Gunny!

Thanks for dropping by. I will try to be less of a good target. You are a great sniper. :)


Anonymous said...

Haha, Yes i'm dutch. Wel to be honest i haven't met Princess Maxima in person, but i think she is doing fine and enjoys her life ;-).


Anonymous said...

This is far too arcade to even give lip service to it being any kind of sim. Iron Front and especially Arma2 are jokes.

JC said...

Clarify, please ...

Lieste said...

Actually 'ballistics' does encompass everything from:
what happens inside the chamber and barrel - Internal Ballistics
what happens near the muzzle - Intermediate Ballistics
what happens during the projectile flight - External Ballistics

What happens during projectile-target interaction - Terminal Ballistics

I think that the 'internal and intermediate' ballistics are probably treated as constants used as inputs to the external ballistic model (which may be similar to Arma2). The terminal ballistics however are according to the developers rewritten to account for armour thickness/slope and penetration in a somewhat more consistent manner.

JC said...

Woah, Lieste! That was awesome information.