Once again hoping to find some tactical goodness in the Korean war, I return to the period of the Inch’on landings.
The game Panzer Elite was released in 1999. It was a Tank command simulator covering battles between the Germans and the Americans from 1943 through the end of the war. At the time it came out, it pushed the limits of technology both graphically and in terms of the realism of the simulation. The player commands a platoon of tanks on a battlefield that includes armor, infantry, and artillery (both enemy and friendly).
In the 17 years it has been out, fans of the game have continued to play and modify the original release. Mods have enhanced the graphics and the realism, as well as expanded the scope of the original game to include the whole time period of the second world war as well as more of the major belligerents on the Western Front.
I picked up the game for the first time very recently. It sells on GOG for under $3 when on sale. The download includes the original “Special Edition” version that came out in 2001, as well as a number of user-made mods. In trying to quickly search for the “right” mod package to start with, I stumbled across a Korean War mod package.
As I’ve pointed out in earlier posts, the Korean War equipment was often the same as, or at least only minor upgrades from, World War II equipment. Thus, Korean War scenarios should be easily buildable using the Russian Front expansion mods, simply pitting the Americans against the Soviets.
A fine idea, but still not quite fully implemented as far as I can tell. The mod’s scenarios are the original Panzer Elite scenarios, except with the North Koreans swapped in for the Germans. I played the first Inch’on landing scenario, which was actually the same as the Anzio landing scenario with units correct for the period substituted in.
Playing the original and the Korean version side-by-side, it seems that not everything works in the Korean mod. In the original Anzio, my supporting infantry immediately take up positions whereas in Korea they seem to be frozen in place.
In contrast, when I create an “instant action” scenario, there does seem to be functioning infantry. Instant action is, in my mind, second best to well-designed hand-crafted scenarios – obviously for historical reasons- but also, it seems that the instant action game truly throws you instantly into the action. My first try started with the opposing forces in contact and firing on each other from the open.
The tools to create scenarios exist, although at first glance it looks daunting. Not the kind of thing where I could throw together a quick Korean village and have a shootout in a few clicks.
Unlike other options, the Panzer Elite mod does seem to include the major tank types. In playing the U.S. forces at Inch’on, I am equipped with the M26. The program is praised for its accurate simulation of armor, and I assume that extends to the Korean war era tanks as they are minor variations of those modeled already. The infantry seems largely useful as target practice. I’ve yet to see the use of bazookas or anti-tank rifles (although that doesn’t mean they are not there). I have seen infantry occupying buildings, so it is possible that with the right setup, AI infantry could be used to model an ambush on the player’s armor.
There seem to be some additional UI factors giving me problems that I don’t see on youtube videos of gameplay. The use of the mouse to select things doesn’t seem to work as it should. Pressing the right mouse button seems to work only occasionally, often taking back to the center of the screen. Even more occasionally, it gives unknown commands to my “wingmen” (the other tanks under my command in my platoon.) The map function has horrible graphics, perhaps even by 1999 standards, and also seems to suffer by a partially working mouse.
All in all, I think Panzer Elite shows some potential for this purpose, but potential that I’ll likely never exploit. Without an existing base of period scenarios, I’ve got quite a learning curve ahead of me. First fixing UI bugs, then learning the scenario editor – not to mention learning the UI itself. Like so many simulation programs, all the commands need to be learned afresh. While I do plan to explore a little more, I don’t expect to find what I’m searching for.
Needing a quick fix, I returned some more scenarios from WinSPMBT.
This one models the days before the assault on Seoul post Inch’on landing. The U.S Marines are closing in on the city, and the North Korean’s have launched an early morning counter attack just west of Seoul.
I left the minmap in the screenshot to try to give some perspective on the location of the encounter. One thing I find particularly fascinating is to look at the Google Map of this area today. What used to be small villages is now a heavily industrialized urban area.
There is also a scenario modeling combat in the heart of Seoul’s urban area (circa 1950). It provides what I expect from U.S. Cold War operations. Massive superiority and virtually unlimited fire support versus an entrenched enemy with prepared positions and booby traps. Nothing else I’ve looked at came close to giving me what I was expecting.
WinSPMBT remains the most fun of any of my options at this point. It almost manages to strike a balance between historical fidelity, realistic modeling and ease-of-use. Almost, but better than the alternatives.
I… WANT… TO… FLY… JETS!
Finally, I returned to IL-2 and support of these same late-September operations from the air. Unfortunately, I’m just not much of a virtual pilot – more likely to put my jet into a spin as actually take down an enemy. That aside, the Jet Age mod provides a handful of pre-configured scenarios with exactly what I was looking for. The scenarios involve flying F9F Panthers off of a carrier for both air superiority and ground support missions.
I’ll keep at it.