Achtung Panzer: Kharkov 1943

Scott Tortorice

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So...yeah. I'm still on the hunt for a new wargame (there must be a new game under the tree every Christmas!!!). Don't get me wrong, I really liked Theatre of War 2 and I will be purchasing it at some point (probably the complete pack, featuring Africa, Kursk and Caen. Steam has a bundle for $45). But there was something bothering me about all three...and you know what that is? No winter maps! :D I can't help it - my region is heading into winter. The last thing I want to do is wargame on the wonderfully verdant and sunny fields of ToW2 (we Catholics are all about ordering our lives according to "feasts and seasons". :) It's part of our medieval patrimony).

So I set about looking for yet another game, one with winter maps. I was hoping for a Battle of the Bulge title (why are they so scarce?!? :angry:), but struck out. Instead, I found this gem from Paradox & Graviteam: Achtung Panzer: Kharkov 1943. Superficially, it has a lot in common with ToW2 - realistic physics and damage with a largely point and click interface (an intuitive UI is essential to me these days) - but this title comes with lots of winter maps.

This game plays a bit like Total War in that there is a strategic portion of the game, followed by real time battles. I can't comment too much on the strategic portion as I am still getting a hand of how everything works (it does strike me as very basic, though, and just a mechanic for generating some battles with context), but the real time battles are quite fun and feel just right. Like ToW2, this is a slow RT game (slower than ToW2 for that matter). It really is a matter of just positioning your squads/platoons (this is a company focused game) and then reacting to the battlefield as events occur. I think it's simplicity is what makes it work.

While fooling around with the demo, I had an interesting mission where I actually managed to stop the AI in an interesting way. Here's some screenies:

In my last battle, I had to defend a sector against a German attack. After looking over the map, I could see that I had a huge defensive advantage as two crucial victory locations were located behind a major river with a single bridge crossing (there was a way around, but it was a mile or so to the far left flank). Naturally, I fortified the crossing with a dug in squad, a heavy MG and an AT gun. Things worked out better than I thought!



The Germans tried to force a crossing with some mounted infantry. I didn't think we had a chance, but my dug-in squad proved me wrong. The AI made a mistake in that he stopped and tried to gun down my infantry. He did get about half the squad, but then my heavy MG (which was at a safer distance) opened up. I didn't think it would do much damage, but it succeeded in damaging one of the vehicles tracks, stopping it for good. We were still getting hammered good, though, from the mounted MG. But then our MG saved us again by penetrating the engine block, which started a fire (you can see it starting to burn in the photo).

Here's a close-up:



This was actually pretty cool. Unlike other games were vehicles are often insta-killed, this one died at a realistic pace. First, there was smoke from the engine. Then, a few minutes later, a fire - at which point the infantry smartly bailed out (and my infantry squad took revenge). Then the fire got more intense and burned for 15 minutes. Lastly, a sudden explosion occurred that threw a German corpse into the river. Awesome. :D



Our heroes on the MG. :salute: Here's a question for you WWII experts: could this MG really stop a Sdkfz in this manner?



The Wehrmacht attempted to force a crossing anyway, but we gunned down the infantry as fast as they came (plus hit them with some arty). I'm not sure why the AI didn't bring up some heavier support (It didn't have any? The Sdkfz was blocking the bridge? They were attempting to flank on the far left?).

The AI did find that way around the left flank, but after capturing a victory flag, stopped. Not sure if it was just a probe or what. Just in case, I moved my reserve infantry to cover the westward approaches:



It is easy to assume the AI was just stupid, but I have to say this AI is smart. In a previous battle, the AI ran into some heavy fighting when I had two of my squads fortify some homes. Much to my amazement, it pulled its units out and tried again on the right! Then it called in arty and hit us again! Sweet!

Overall, this battle really put a smile on my face because it felt real. I believed I had a strong defensive position, yet expected the AI to perform one of those all too common Hail Mary plays where it would magically rout my defenders and win the battle. But that didn't happen. Instead, the AI got slaughtered in a way that usually happens to me. :laugh: In other words, there was no sign of cheating.

Those are my observations of this game at the moment. I really like what I see here, too. Stay tuned for more (I am planning on a review)!

Vid:

[video=youtube;_jQ8PRttK5U]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jQ8PRttK5U[/video]
 

kawaiku

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Re: Actung Panzer: Kharkov 1943

How about the AI in control of your own units? Did you have to micro the infantry and tanks all the time or were you able to just tell an infantry unit to "go here" and they would go there and take cover, not expose themselves on the way there, and other stuff? Same for tanks a vehicles?

I'm currently watching this video and the maps look great! Really surprised I haven't heard of this game.
[video=youtube;3CSS-3w7JMQ]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CSS-3w7JMQ[/video]
 

Scott Tortorice

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Re: Actung Panzer: Kharkov 1943

I'm gonna have to get back to you on the friendly AI as I really don't have a feel for it yet. For the most part, my infantry went where I told them, albeit once or twice I had to micro to get them to do it. But I've only played two battles so far (and the first I didn't know what the heck I was doing), so I need more time to really get a feel for it. And I haven't even had a chance to use armor yet. I'll get back to you on this stuff.
 

Scott Tortorice

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Another vid:

Part 1

[video=youtube;dJMnIYG30pw]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJMnIYG30pw&feature=player_embedded[/video]

Part 2
[video=youtube;HYjoIHP4ULc]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYjoIHP4ULc&feature=player_embedded[/video]
 

Scott Tortorice

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Re: Actung Panzer: Kharkov 1943

BTW: here is the demo.

Main Features:

High replayability and flexible AI: "smart" AI analyzes the players’ tactical movements and chooses the best strategy based on behavior rather than a script. Scenarios can be replayed using different tactics, as though playing against a human opponent

Painstaking reconstruction of Kharko in scope and size

Detailed recreation of weapons, artillery, and vehicles: all battle characteristics, including missile trajectories and crew numbers, have been modelled according to archived military records and WW2 chronicles

Dynamic day, night and weather effects, all of which affect combat through terrain traversability, battlefield visibility, hidden force capabilities, and more

Destructible environment: nearly everything can be blasted and destroyed, from ground terrain to houses and enemy defenses. All traces of previous battles (shell holes, broken vehicles, corpses, etc.) remain on the battlefield

Realistic ballistics: bullets and projectiles follow accurate trajectories. Proper shot longitude, number of frags, and their range are calculated

Comprehensive vehicle damage system: engine, suspension, weapons, and aiming mechanisms can all be damaged separately, affecting the combat capabilities of the vehicle

Real soldier behavior: every soldier has several basic parameters, such as experience level, fatigue, and morale, which affect their behavior and effectiveness
Military encyclopedia with 3D model viewer and detailed data on all units, describing their historical and in-game characteristics
Fast Facts:
6 scenarios taking place in 1943 during the operation to defend Kharkov
2 playable opposing forces: the USSR Red Army and German Wehrmacht
Up to 250 soldiers and officers and up to 40 vehicles in each tactical battle
Detailed global map: 36 square kilometers in size
87 unit types: infantry, artillery, support vehicles, battle tanks, and aviation
More than 40 accurately and carefully reconstructed weapons and vehicles
2 control modes: turn-based strategic mode and real-time tactical mode
 

kawaiku

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Re: Actung Panzer: Kharkov 1943

Ah! Almost forgot one more question! What commands were you able to give the infantry (since it seems you've only been able to play with the infantry so far?) And yes, it's a good video. That person has uploaded several other gameplay videos and the only thing bothering me is that the mg's seem to be really loud, drowning out much of the natural sound of the game itself (I.e. louder than a tank's main gun going off for example).

Here's what I mean by loud mg's:
[video=youtube;cFtsGidwU2o]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFtsGidwU2o&feature=related[/video]
 

Scott Tortorice

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Re: Actung Panzer: Kharkov 1943

Infantry commands seems suitably robust. I mostly relied on the basic "move" "attack" and "defend" commands, but there are also buttons for setting formation, dispersion, loading/unloading, firing arc, sneaking, fast move, and road march. It appears that the player has everything he needs in that regard.

As for MGs, didn't really notice anything in the game, but I see you point in the vid (and those ricochets). :) Maybe there is a sound mod (the game is moddable).
 

Scott Tortorice

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Re: Actung Panzer: Kharkov 1943

Thanks for the heads up!

Here it is:

[video=youtube;Q1gLJqLkPOA]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1gLJqLkPOA&feature=player_embedded[/video]

That was a good interview! I just wish Paradox would get a new interview room as I am tired of looking at the scratches on that wall (see the SotS II dev interview for reference :D).
 

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Re: Actung Panzer: Kharkov 1943

It is my understanding that the Russian version of Operation Star (the follow-up game to Kharkov 1943) was released a few months ago. I have not been able to find out when Graviteam will release the English language version or even who the distributor is to be. There was some talk on the Paradox forums that a second follow-up game covering the August 1943 Soviet offensive (Rumiantsev) is also in the pipeline.

While I enjoy the tactical battles, the "Operational" side is quite weak in comparison. The operational map unit densities of 1 platoon per sq km is laughable. I don't play the operational game - I set up quick battles in the editor where I can create battles that approach (my understanding of) historical unit densities.
 

Scott Tortorice

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Re: Actung Panzer: Kharkov 1943

It is my understanding that the Russian version of Operation Star (the follow-up game to Kharkov 1943) was released a few months ago. I have not been able to find out when Graviteam will release the English language version or even who the distributor is to be.
I was nosing around and heard from someone that has the Russian version of Star that it feels like a much improved game (I think the person said you will never go back to Kharkov after playing it). There was also a mention in that Sim interview I posted that Star will be released internationally in 2011 and that it will definitely be available via Steam and through Graviteam's forthcoming digital download server.

There was some talk on the Paradox forums that a second follow-up game covering the August 1943 Soviet offensive (Rumiantsev) is also in the pipeline.
I am glad to hear that. Kharkov is a good first step, but there is so much more that could be done with this series.

While I enjoy the tactical battles, the "Operational" side is quite weak in comparison. The operational map unit densities of 1 platoon per sq km is laughable.
Yeah, I noticed that too. :D It doesn't really bother me because I like smaller battles anyway, but I do hope that Star corrects that oddity.

I don't play the operational game - I set up quick battles in the editor where I can create battles that approach (my understanding of) historical unit densities.
I haven't had a chance to try that yet. How easy is it to use the quick battle editor?
 

KEYSTONE07950

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Re: Actung Panzer: Kharkov 1943

I haven't had a chance to try that yet. How easy is it to use the quick battle editor?
It is very easy. You click the campaign map to designate which 3 x 3 km squares you want for the tactical map. You still select 1 platoon for each sq km, but you can reposition them all in one square if you so chose. The tactical game play is fantastic. I find the infantry as fun to play as the armor.
 

Scott Tortorice

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Re: Actung Panzer: Kharkov 1943

It is very easy. You click the campaign map to designate which 3 x 3 km squares you want for the tactical map. You still select 1 platoon for each sq km, but you can reposition them all in one square if you so chose.
That is good to know! Thanks!

The tactical game play is fantastic. I find the infantry as fun to play as the armor.
I am all about combined arms. :) That is why games like World of Tanks or End of Nations aren't really interesting me yet because there IS NO INFANTRY! A battlefield devoid of infantry just seems so one dimensional.
 

KEYSTONE07950

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Re: Actung Panzer: Kharkov 1943

That is good to know! Thanks!

I am all about combined arms. :) That is why games like World of Tanks or End of Nations aren't really interesting me yet because there IS NO INFANTRY! A battlefield devoid of infantry just seems so one dimensional.
If you are interested in WW2 combined arms maneuvering at the tactical level - this game engine is for you.
 

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Re: Actung Panzer: Kharkov 1943

Operation Star to be released February? Per the Graviteam forum when asked for a release date: maybe February, 2011. A firmer date would be welcome.
 

Scott Tortorice

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Re: Actung Panzer: Kharkov 1943

I'm still having fun with AP, so they can take their time. :) They just better make sure they get it out a good time before or after CMBN because that game might steal their thunder.
 
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