Sunday, December 29, 2013

SBPro PE 3.0 - The Joy of Commanding Tanks

I'm finally getting around to shaking the rust off of my tank platoon command skills with Steel Beasts Pro PE 3.0.  SPPro PE is the personal edition (hence the PE) of an armor simulator used for training by many western militaries.  As games go it's pricey, but as training simulators go it's a steal if you're interested in authentic simulation of modern armor.

For an example of just how detailed this simulation is, see this recent post over at Real and Simulated Wars. eSim have actually simulated not just the different thermal signatures of various AFVs, but even the specific areas of the vehicles that would be hotter or cooler. That's some impressive fidelity.

It's been some months since I last played, and that was with a previous version.  So, I'm starting with a very simple mission.  In this case, I'm commanding a platoon of M1A1 HA tanks, tasked with first conducting an attack on a village where intel indicates there are a few supply vehicles waiting to resupply an incoming armor column.  Once the objective, code named "Sherlock" is seized, I'm to take up ambush positions and destroy the incoming convoy, with minimal losses to my forces.  The convoy contains around a dozen AFVs, and will be a mix of APCs and tanks. I'm provided with some artillery and a mission of FASCAM artillery deployed mines that I can use to block the road into the objective.

As always, I'm a sucker for a good tactical map, and SBPro has these in spades.  My tank platoon (blue NATO armor symbol) is located southwest of the objective.  The enemy armor is expected to advance along the road from the east.

SBPro is a simulator and not a game.  As such, planning your mission in advance is critical.  In this case, I plan through the initial assault on the objective.  Once the objective is secured, I'll issue new orders for the ambush.

A tank attack must "flow like water," meaning tanks should move via the low ground and under cover as much as possible.  My plan therefore is to move my platoon down slope to the low ground to my southeast, and then assault from the valley through the objective, destroying any enemy forces on the objective.  I intend for the assault to finish just outside of the objective circle to the northeast.

Note that I've captured screens from the recorded AAR function of the sim.  If I were grabbing these during actual play, you could see the way points I've specified for the actual assault.

My platoon at the jump off point.

The village and resupply trucks.

My platoon begins the assault, moving into the low ground between the hills.

As we exit the valley we quickly destroy the trucks and the lone BMP guarding them.

Assaulting through the objective.

The burning BMP on the northeastern edge of the objective.  In other circumstances I would attack by bounds, but it seemed like the shock of a rapid attack by the full platoon would be most effective here. There were indications that there might be AT missiles in the village, so stopping during the assault seemed like a bad plan.

Through the objective and the platoon stops to regroup.

I pause to issue new orders.  I plot a set of waypoints that will move the platoon to the eastern edge of Objective Sherlock, oriented east to attack the enemy convoy when it appears.

Before we can begin moving enemy AFVs appear.  Fortunately, we fire first...

...quickly destroying an enemy T-72. The enemy force appears to be a mixed company team composed of a platoon of BRDM-2s, a T-72 platoon, and a platoon of BMP-1s.

The BRDMs sprint for the village.

I focus my fire on the T-72s.  A second tank goes up as my platoon scrambles to take up their battle positions on the objective.

The lone surviving T-72 continues toward the objective.

My platoon races to the east side of Objective Sherlock.  I've mostly lost contact with the enemy at this point.  Moving into the objective was probably not the best course.  The line of sight wasn't great, I lost contact with the enemy, and ended up having to maneuver further to regain contact.  I'd have been better off to stay where I was and complete the destruction of the enemy column.

I decide to exit the objective and take up a hull down position on the hills south of the village.  The BRDM platoon is speeding for the objective, but my tanks can't get a clear shot at them.

With the BRDMs in the village, I trigger the FASCAM mission to block the lone T-72 and the BMPs. With no infantry support I do not want infantry taking up positions on the objective, and then have to try and drive them out with only tanks. That's a sure plan for losing vehicles.

As we race away toward the hills we take "Parthian shots" at the BRDMs.  The enemy recon vehicles don't stand up well to fire from tank cannons.

Once in battle positions on the hills we make short work of the T-72 and 2 BMPs as they advance down the road. The remaining BMP pulls up on the edge on the FASCAM minefield and begins to unload troops.

I move the platoon back toward the road to destroy the last BMP and any infantry that might have unloaded.

The view from my command tank towards the BMP.  The destroyed T-72 and BMPs are the smoke columns on the horizon. The remaining BMP is quickly dispatched. I never did see any enemy infantry.

With all of the enemy destroyed, I move my platoon back into the objective to take up defensive positions. Intel indicates that there are other enemy vehicles patrolling the area.

The final tally was 18 enemy vehicles destroyed to none of mine. I scored 1200 out of a possible 1500 points for the mission.  Honestly, this was about the easiest SBPro mission I've ever attempted.  Most are much more difficult.  It was a lot of fun however and a great reintroduction to this simulator.  I was pleased to find it very natural and easy to get back into commanding a tank platoon again.  I'm looking forward to playing some more challenging missions.  If I get good enough, I might even overcome my aversion to multiplayer gaming and join one of the SBPro groups to play some coop online.


  1. Very cool. I've never played anything like this. Where did the "Flow like water" expression come from?

    1. You and Tim should grab temporary licenses and we could coop a couple of missions!

    2. Drop me a line.

      I have 7 spare (8 on the USB stick) that I used to lend out for demo's before the time limited license option was created in 3.002.

      I can't make it an unlimited "trial" as you should buy the cow if you want the milk (also you need to be on the 'net to access my license).

      But have a chat between yourselves and maybe we can arrange something (suggest you do the tutorials on a given vehicle BEFORE in the scenario to be run you jump into co-op).



  2. Chris, you should really give SBPro PE a try, I think you'd love it. You can get a temporary license for a month for $9.50 to try it out before spending the money for a permanent license ($115). It's pricey but as I said above, it's an actual training simulator and not a game. eSim actually makes their money from their military contracts, not sales to guys like us.

    I went looking for the origin of the "flow like water" expression and I can't find it. I want to say it was either Fuller or Liddell-Hart, but I'm almost certainly wrong about that. What I can say is that I've learned through painful experience in SBPro to keep my AFVs low whenever I can, and to avoid cresting ridges at all costs.

    There are a set of user made scenarios set in an actual armor training facility in Germany that progressively go through exercises used in US Army armor training. The first of these is on tactical movement, and is one of the best tutorials on the subject I've ever experienced.

  3. The only critique I'd say is that SB Pro PE is IMHO no longer "pricey".

    This in the opening paragraph probably turns a few people off.

    If you go via the time limited option now available or even purchasing the permanent license route, I'd argue its cheaper than many of the other products out there with base games and the add on packs that cost $ or supposedly "free" products that then cost $ for either a subscription or to gain vehicles at an accelerated rate.

    A current FPS like Call of Duty 4 costs AU$99.00 here, not much less than SB Pro PE's permanent licence for approx. AU$140.00 (at 90c to the USD) and has much more flexibility / longevity.

    Anyway one person's opinion.

    Happy New Year!



    1. That's a good point Mark. A lot of people are going to spend that much easily on World of Tanks, for example.

      Many potential SBPro players are also customers of companies like Matrix, and I do hear a lot of concern/complaints about pricing for some of their more sophisticated games like Command ($80 US). Similarly, Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm at $49.99 US has been termed "pricey" by some players. The bottom line is that I think things like $.99 US apps and Steam Sales have set expectations that wargames and conflict simulations should be in the $9.99 US to $29.99 US range, and anything else is expensive.

      Most of which is beside the point in terms of your comment, but probably accounts for my original statement of SBPro PE being "pricey" for a game, but a steal as a simulator. Point taken and I agree, compared to not-so-micro transactions in Free-to-Play games, costs for additional vehicles in other simulation products, and the overall cost of AAA game titles and DLC, SBPro PE isn't particularly expensive at all.

      Plus, it just smokes those other games/simulators in terms of accuracy and flexibility!

    2. And Happy New Year to you too!