Tuesday “Interview”: The Grogs’ Favorite Tank Games

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We asked the Grogs to give us their favorite tank-heavy game ~

The GrogHeads Team, 21 November 2017


This one’s not even close:  Combat Mission in its various iterations.

These are games played with a merciless physics engine that feel every bit as gritty and grand now as they did nearly two decades ago.

I remember getting hooked on the WEGO gameplay and the ability the 3D environment gave you to peek over the shoulders of your digi-troopers and guess at what war must have been like for them.  Multi-player randomized battles to the wee hours of the morning were pretty great too.  What made both x1 and x2 really special, though, was the incredible variety of, yep, AFVs.  I’m not an WWII rivet-counter — I save my O.C.D. for Napoleonic games — but the fellows who designed Combat Mission are and it shows every time you pan around their products; not to mention the remarkable array of modifications available on-line.   There are no CRTs or bog charts here.  These are games played with a merciless physics engine that feel every bit as gritty and grand now as they did nearly two decades ago.  They’ve let me play with some of the most famous tanks of the war and some I never even knew existed.

Others have come for her throne, but CMx1 and x2 are still queen of the battlefield for me when it comes to tank warfare.


I fell in love with tank games back in the 80s at the local mall arcades (remember those?) like Space Port in Cortana Mall in Baton Rouge, or Starcade on Hillsborough Street, or Aladdin’s Castle in Northridge Mall, when Battlezone put you in control of a wireframe, monochrome tank blasting targets across a landscape whose graphics were, shall we say… ‘primitive’.  But my favorite tank-focused wargame is of more recent vintage: I love me some Tank-on-Tank from LNLP.  The game plays fast, with simple (not simplistic) rules, and a myriad of interesting tactical challenges.  The uncertainty of activations forces you to develop multiple on-the-fly plans, and it all plays in about an hour.  Best of all, it elegantly incorporates a variety of important facets for armored combat – the importance of flank shots, maintaining formations for C2, increased survivability of crunchies in towns, and massing fires for greater effect.  The new versions offer some serious bang for your entertainment buck, and while they’re not trying to be a hi-fidelity tank-sim-on-the-table (cough*MBT*cough) they’re fun, and that’s an oft-overlooked factor in a game.


For me it has to be Combat Mission, although Graviteam Tactics comes close, at the expense of less control over individual units. The Combat Mission franchise covers some of the key periods of tank development demonstrating their power, but also their weaknesses. I love the 3-D interpretation of that game, and how a mission can be extremely cinematic, while at the same time an unforgiving tactical challenge. I like the fact that there is immense variety in the game, and that infantry – played right, and with a good use of cover – can give the tankers a really hard time, as happened in real life.


I do love some tanks, and I’ve played a lot of tank games. Two rise above the rest though. For a pure tank simulation, nothing comes anywhere close to Steel Beasts Pro in my book. The number of vehicle types, weapon systems, and environments simulated, the accurate crew positions, the views of the environment, and the military maps draw me in like nothing else. Adding a mission editor and scripting engine that allows for easy creation of custom missions is icing on the cake.

While Steel Beasts Pro scratches the itch when I want to play tank commander or platoon leader, sometimes I want to be an armored brigade commander. The hands-down winner of those times has to be Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm. No other game captures the OODA loops and command friction on the modern armored battlefield like FC:RS.  Its an accurate enough simulation to allow real-world military planning processes to work, and that earns a gold star in my book.


Back in 1998 Nova Logic released Armored Fist 2: M1A2 Abrams. They did a great job of building on the original Armoured Fist, a game that showed promise despite mediocre graphics and a less-than-realistic composite interface. Armored Fist 2 (AF2) was as accessible as the original, but also modeled the commander, gunner and driver crew stations, much like the venerable M1 Tank Platoon. Graphics were well-done and watching exploding T-72 turrets go flying end-over-end never got old. The sound effects were also top notch and small touches, such as internal crew chatter and radio communications made for a delightfully immersive gaming experience.  Overall, AF2 may not have been a “true” simulation, but it was accessible, fun and it ran flawlessly on a Pentium 166 Mhz system!


Steel Beasts shines not only because of its detailed, careful modeling of its several dozen armored vehicles; it shines because it carefully places them in their tactical combined arms context, forcing the player to come to grips with coordinating a variety of assets, from infantry to artillery, in order to defeat the enemy.  A great scenario editor and supportive community ensures a steady flow of new challenges, whether it’s dodging ATGMs at several kilometers or trying to move help infantry move across the street in urban terrain without eating an RPG, and any distance and terrain mix in between.  Completing the picture, when the shooting is done, Steel Beasts provides a detailed AAR mode so you can figure out exactly where and how you went wrong, and hopefully learn to survive a little longer the next time.  You’ll learn not only that your tank has strong armor, a powerful computer-assisted cannon, and high mobility…  but also that your tank is exceptionally vulnerable to a wide variety of enemy weapons, that it takes practice to hit anything with the cannon, and that there’s plenty of terrain that will stop your tank cold.  Steel Beasts remains fresh over the years by correctly highlighting the vulnerabilities as well as the capabilities of various battlefield systems, most certainly including those of your own tank.

What are your favorites?

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