I Fought Russia in a Tank War in This Simulator And It Was A Bloody Mess

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I Fought Russia in a Tank War in This Simulator And It Was A Bloody Mess

It was the mid-1990s. The roar of Russian tank engines, the whoosh of anti-tank missiles and the buzz of low-flying Havoc attack helicopters filled the computer room of my suburban home. After a few hours of play, a column of Russian tanks lay smoking on a highway and a Ukrainian airfield was in flames.

No, this wasn’t a fast-paced, real-time strategy game like Command & Conquer: Red Alert — I’d just gotten hooked onto Steel Panthers, a turn-based tactical simulation.

Simple to play yet full of depth, it remains a great way to learn about real-world tactics and equipment — especially because modern incarnations of Steel Panthers are available today … for free.

(This article originally appeared at War is Boring in 2016.)

The controls are simple. You command individual vehicles and infantry squads of six to 12 soldiers across a hex map, with each hex equal to 50 meters, two hexes being roughly the length of a football field. You can move your units around the map by left-clicking, or right click to rotate the unit and check its line-of-sight.

When you spot an enemy, left-clicking attacks it until you run out of shots. Once you’ve moved all your units — and you have to be careful, because moving your units in sight of the enemy can cause them to take snapshots at you — you hit the End Turn button, and the opposing side gets to move.

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