Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Achtung Panzer Operation Star, Volokonovka -1942 - The Crossroads I Could Have Lived Without

Short entry today, folks. The workdays are getting longer ...

US Department of the Army Pamphlet 20-234 (Operations of Encircled Forces, 1952) says that "an encircled force can ill afford loss of terrain." Let me add one more: it can ill afford a gain of terrain if such gain has no impact in the relief of the encircled force. In this war game scenario, I'm neither completely encircled nor I gained any real estate. But certainly I can't afford more defeats like this one.

In this scenario, elements of the 79th ID (Germany, blue) are just a couple of kilometers short of completely encircling my forces (343 ID, Russian, red).
The game du jour is one of the most underrated 3D tactical war games of recent publication. Achtung Panzer Operation Star (now playing the Volokonovka add-on) is a hybrid of 3D continuous time and 2D turn based tactical game play with many virtues and the only recognizable sins of being short of a proper user’s manual and goofy translations in the user interface.

The gentle blue arrow in the map above this one is a prodigious understatement. This map shows the troop dispositions, each red icon being roughly a squad under my command. Taking into account the amount of terrain under enemy control (blue areas) and the distance at which the reinforcements are (red icons in the dashed area at the east edge of the map), the situation is about to get FUBAR.
Our mission is to hold on until the reinforcements from the east arrive.

My questionable decision of the day was to move a couple of platoons south (see red arrows above) and expand our real estate to a crucial crossroad (red circle) in order to deny the enemy of a vital advance route towards the east.

The Germans are attacking now the two groups (south and north) under my command. In the north, I'm still fighting. In the south, I was soundly defeated.

Once the two platoons reinforced with an AT gun and a Maxim HMG arrived at the crossroads, they could not dig in. The inability to prepare defenses right after a tactical march is modeled into the game, much to my chagrin. To make matters worse, the hasty defense I deployed my men into was oriented NW. The enemy (an all infantry force) attacked from the west, off course ...

Two squads on my left (southwest) flank were routed in a matter of minutes.
The HMG was the center of my defense and had a great field of fire. The German infantry advancing through that field of fire suffered great losses. But my left flank could have been a better place for this support weapon.
With great effort and unnerving slowness, the AT gun crew shifted positions to the left flank. Here are shown firing at enemy infantry (blue dots and yellow icons in the background). 
German infantry advancing through a plowed field. The field was not entirely flat and these troops took advantage of every fold in the terrain. Note the MG being carried to the front (left).
Out of ammo, the AT gun crew are the last men standing on my collapsed left flank.
Whoever was not killed or routed now surrenders (left). A German infantry man tries to deal with one of the diehards and gets it to the groin (right)
Many times I have finished a Combat Mission campaign scenario victorious and feeling like “whatever, this battle has no real impact in my next battle besides the body count”. In the case of Achtung Panzer, there is no such thing as an insignificant firefight. Each engagement is related to the whole battle. This one, crucial objective lost to the enemy and all, was no more than reconnaissance paid with blood and equipment.



Mike said...

Many times I have finished a Combat Mission campaign scenario victorious and feeling like “whatever, this battle has no real impact in my next battle besides the body count”

EXACTLY! That is one of my major gripes with all of these CM games...

Anonymous said...

I agree..very underated 3D tactical game.

JC said...

Thanks for your comments folks.

@Mike: the sense of continuity in AP is astonishing. You start early in the morning, continue through the day ... Very well done.

@Anon: I think that this game deserves more recognition than what it currently has.


Phil said...

Well for what it's worth i'm gonna give it a good try after reading what you guys have said here. Thanks!

JC said...

Hi Phil and thanks for your comment. Just make sure to be extra patient with the quirks of the interface! :)

Anonymous said...


The Graviteam developers recently released (albeit a beta) patch for AP:OS recently; you can find it on the Graviteam forums.

Doug Miller said...

I picked this up this weekend. I was initially put off by weird display issues, the lack of any manual to speak of, and rough interface translations. After I played my first quick battle though, I'm hooked. This game is worth putting up with the quirks!

JC said...

Thanks for the heads up Anonymous! I will check it out.

Hi Doug. This game is a diamond in the rough.


Dane Rogers said...

I've been playing this game for 6 months.I used to play CM and Theatre of War,but this game by far is the superior engine for recreating tactical battles.Graphics are superb not cartoony and the bredth of the maps really give you plenty of options in how your battles will unfold.Large maps and an unscripted AI makes for lots of replayability.