Steel Panthers: Main Battle Tank (or SPMBT) is a recently released (June 2002), completely free turn-based war strategy game by SP Camo Workshop, the guys who brought you SPWW2.
The scale is 50 meters per hex and units are either single vehicles (including tanks, APCs, trucks, helicopters etc.), infantry squads or single heavy weapons with their crew (including everything from pesky little anti-tank rocket launchers to SAM batteries and 203 mm howitzers). A single turn represents a couple of minutes of real time. Units may freely move and fire as they please, however, moving quickly depletes shots and vice versa. Generally, responding to enemy fire or firing at (and hitting) moving enemy units during his turn won't happen unless the player keeps his units on standby.
Suppression and morale is represented very well. Enemy fire and casualties add suppression, which makes hitting harder and may cause a unit to be pinned, buttoned down or routed. Leaders can reduce suppression by rallying troops. However, a unit that routs is usually quickly blown apart or chopped to pieces. So it goes.
In SPMBT, you may command a force ranging from maybe a company (platoon-sized encounters are possible, but they don't make much sense) to a full brigade with appropriate support forces.
- enhanced PBEM security (makes cheating by repeated loading until the desired outcome is reached more difficult)
- battle dates can now run from 1946 to 2020 instead of 1950 to 1999
- larger battles (up to 500 units per side, in up to 200 formations)
- larger maps (up to 200 x 100 hexes = 10 x 5 km)
- hundreds of new units, formations and weapons
- some new unit classes have special abilities (paratroops etc.)
- some weapons have new special abilities (missiles that penetrate tanks' top armor, anti-ERA ATGM warheads etc.; naturally, many of these have their corresponding countermeasures)
- new terrain types, including mud, impassable (for vehicles) terrain, orchards, hedgerows, trenches, volcanic sand, railways and tramways
- 15 different altitude levels instead of SP2's 3, allowing truly mountainous terrain
- improved terrain generator
- parachute drops and gliders may be used to air land troops and equipment
- both players may now have air power available if neither one has air superiority
- units respond to enemy fire by changing facing and using smoke dischargers; infantry will hit the ground and take cover
- enhanced AI
Steel Panthers II veterans will take note that SP Camo Workshop has actually fixed most of the things that were wrong with SP2 and improved the rest, making SPMBT the best turn-based war game covering this level of command in modern warfare.
The following countries and factions are available as combatants in SPMBT:
Afghanistan (including Al-Qaeda and Taleban), Albania, Angola, Argentina, ARVN (South Vietnam), Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Chechnya, Chile, China (PRC), Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, East Germany, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Great Britain, Greece, Gulf States, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Macedonia, Mozambique, Mujahadeen, Myanmar, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Nigeria, North Korea, North Yemen, Norway, NVA (North Vietnam), Pakistan, Pathet Lao, Peru, PLO, Poland, Portugal, Rhodesia, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea, South Yemen, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, UN, USA, USMC, USSR/CIS/Russia, Viet Cong, West Germany, Yugoslavia and Zimbabwe.
As you can see, SPMBT offers most countries that have been active in wars during this century, many terrorist groups, UN forces and some Nordic social democrat countries that haven't seen combat since the 19th century. In addition, there are two special factions, Green and Red, that have Western and Warsaw Pact equipment, respectively, to emulate countries that are not implemented.
Almost every single piece of equipment and weaponry used by these factions since 1946 is available (excluding weaponry out of the scope of the game, e.g. submarines, ICBMs, etc.) There is an encyclopedia which shows detailed data on available units, and sometimes brief descriptions (too rare at the moment). There is, however, no search function, so to find info on mysterious vehicles, infantry squads or heavy weapons, you'll have to wade through hundreds of unsorted unit types. Update: Now unit data, previously only accessible through the encyclopedia, can be accessed directly from battle screen.
The bad stuff
It's not all good, however. Some of SPMBT's downsides include:
- MS-DOS executable = compatibility problems
- no TCP/IP play as in Steel Panthers: World at War
- you can purchase 500 or more foot soldiers for the price of a single modern MBT
- units retreat in ridiculous directions, sometimes towards the enemy unit firing at them, sometimes through buildings (often immobilizing their vehicles)
- SPMBT lacks the excellent soundtrack of SSI's Steel Panthers games
However, these can be forgiven, since
The download is available at http://www.wargamer.com/spcammo/page4.asp
Be sure to grab the v1.01 patch.
SPMBT version 1.01