I've been playing a totally free war game for the past week called Steel
Panthers: Main Battle Tank (SPMBT), and it sure has a lot to recommend it.
Based on the Steel Panthers II: Modern Battles engine, this widely
expanded version allows players to set up a wide variety of battle types
throughout the 1946-2020 period.
Personally, I like to fight defensively, so I usually try to hold off an
assault, but each player can set up the conditions they want to fight under.
With so many options available, it makes choosing the right conditions for your
battle seem almost limitless. Say you wanted to create a hypothetical battle between Iran and Iraq in
the summer of 1975 or even 2005... well, you can make it happen. SPMBT features
90 national armies, including the major warring powers of the time period like
the US, USSR, Vietnam(North, VC and South armies), China, the two Koreas and the often
forgotten nations in Cold War/Vietnam-era gaming like Angola, Ethiopia,
Argentina, Cuba, and a whole score of other nations. An interesting feature is
the fact that as you advance through the years, flags change and new countries
are formed or are removed from the choices menu, so going through a couple of
decades while watching, say, the Afghanistan flag is a treat to see it take on
so many different forms. Its also interesting to see Rhodesia cease to
exist as an independent entity, the Soviet Union become Russia and Germany
reunite as Yugoslavia disintergrates. Of course, if you are feeling a bit
international, you could always play as the United Nations as well.
Thinking back to some of the battles I've fought over the last few days, I
have to say I was most struck by a fabulous long defensive battle I create in
September 2007 between American/Russian forces (who I played) and Chechen
rebels... and though I fought to a technical draw in that contest, I had a lot
of fun trying to hold back the human wave of Chechen forces with a series of
ill-placed defensive works and a surprising lack of air support (ok, I got cocky
and didn't put the points into having air support before the battle, and it cost
me the northern flank of my army, but the centre and south held out
beautifully). Depending on how much work you want to put into the battle before
you start, you can let the computer choose your forces and deploy them on the
map for you, or you can do these tasks for yourself.
Speaking of set-up battles. do you think you could do better in
Iraq/Afghanistan today? Test your mettle in a pre-designed scenario, or a
randomly generated battle or download new scenarios from Games
Depot. The possibilities are endless. I think my favorite scenario would
have to be "Rhodesian SAS: Op Dingo" which involves a
Rhodesian raid "which targeted the Chimoio camp in Mozambique. This raid
involved bombing raids by Hunters and Canberras, followed by a ground assault
supported by Alouettes, and proved a complete success." When those bombers
start hitting the camp, my reaction was a simple, awed "damn"... and
then the battle began in earnest....
I think one of the largest selling points of this title is the vast and
changing arsenal of weapons you can command on the battlefield... and each
weapon has an encyclopedia entry in the game, so you can weigh the benefits of
competing pieces of hardware, troop types and other various attributes... and
you can check out unit by country and find out how long certain equipment was
actually in use by the armies that developed and deployed them. Its both
educational and informative.
Now, I admit that the download is a bit long for dialup
users(77.9 meg for the game and 6.5 meg for the patch), but it was well
worth the wait. The gang at SPCamo have produced an excellent strategic game,
and I couldn't recommend it more. I think anyone who is even moderately
interested in wargaming would love this game.
I have to admit, I was generally not a fan of "hex-based" war
games, but this one has made a believer out of me. Thank you SPCamo for all your
Here's where to get it: