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Video Game: Graviteam Tactics

Graviteam Tactics is a wargame series developed by Graviteam. The series was formerly known as Achtung Panzer before a series of copyright issues with Paradox Interactive forced the developers to change the series' name to its current form.

The game has two primary modes of play: the turn-based campaign map and the real-time tactical battle. Each campaign (called an operation by the game) is set within a small section of a larger historical military operation, played out on a grid-based topographical map. The size of the operation depends on the designer; the largest ones involve 1-3 regiments/brigades on each side. Each engagement on the operation map is played out as a real-time battle, on a section of the operation map represented by a 3x3 grid.

Given the creators' location in Kharkov and their eye towards recreating terrain as accurately as possible, the series has focused on the Eastern Front of World War II, though that appears to be changing with the release of new DLCs based on battles from the Cold War.

The series includes:

  • Achtung Panzer: Kharkov 1943 (2009) - Set during the Third Battle of Kharkov. This is the first and only game published by Paradox.
  • Graviteam Tactics: Operation Star (2011) - Covers the same battles as Kharkov 1943; the difference is that this game is self-published by Graviteam, and they have been continually adding improvements and additions in the patches. This game is set in the areas of Taranovka and Rakitnoe.
    • Sokolovo 1943 - Covers the actions of the 1st Separate Czechoslovak Battalion during the battle for Sokolovo in March 1943.
    • Volokonovka 1942 - Depicts a battle during Operation Fall Blau in July 1942; a division from the German 6th Army clears a village on the way to cross the Oskol River.
    • Krasnaya Polyana 1943 - Covers Joachim Peiper's rescue of the 320th Infantry Division in February 1943.
    • Operation Hooper - Set during the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, in South Africa and UNITA's February 1988 offensive against FAPLA and Cuba.
    • Shield of the Prophet - Set in an alternate history scenario where Iran invades Afghanistan to overthrow Nur Muhammad Taraki's communist government in July 1979. The DLC covers a battle between Soviet and Iranian forces (and their Mujahidin allies) west of Herat.
    • Zhalanashkol 1969 - Covers a battle between Chinese and Soviet forces near Lake Zhalanashkol during the Sino-Soviet border conflict in August 1969.
    • Shilovo 1942 - Covers a clash near Shilovo village in early July 1942.
  • Graviteam Tactics: Mius-Front - Summer 1943 on the Mius River front.
    • Taranovka 1943 - Summer 1943 in Taranovka.
    • Sinyavino 1942 - Fall 1942 near Leningrad.
    • Shilovsky 1942 - Shilovsky bridgehead near Voronezh during Operation Blau.
  • Graviteam Tactics: Nomonhan - Covers the last clash of the 1930s Soviet-Japanese Border Wars—Khalkhin Gol.

This game series provides examples of:

  • Alternate History: In Shield of the Prophet's timeline, Ayatollah Khomeini seizes power in 1976; Saddam Hussein is assassinated in 1977 by Iranian-supported Shiite groups, which sparks a civil war between Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites; as Iraq ceases to be a country by mid 1978, the Kurds manage to declare an independent state, while a Shiite state backed by Iran becomes the most powerful successor state in Iraq; Kashmir turns into a war zone between India and Pakistan-China in May 1979, after India seizes the Siachen Glacier and the Shaksgam Valley; and Iran decides to take advantage of these regional wars to export its Islamic revolution to Afghanistan by launching Operation "Shield of the Prophet" in July 1979; the Soviets respond to the Afghan government's requests for help by launching Operation "Molniya" (Lightning) to push the Iranians out the country.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: There are certain limits on how many platoons you can pack in a operation map square, which depends on the operation. Map squares with particularly important objectives are capable of holding up to four platoons, while unimportant squares may hold just two.
  • Artificial Brilliance: The unit AI can be relied upon to handle attacks and maneuver in battle with just one order. The March 2013 patch gives commanders of on-map artillery batteries the ability to direct and adjust the fires of their guns without human intervention. Vehicles with grenade launchers will fire smoke grenades at their own discretion to block enemy vision.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Even after numerous updates, the AI for the vehicles can still be troublesome when it attempts to navigate obstacles (such as trench lines), which can lead to the crew abandoning the vehicle for the rest of the operation. Antitank missile crews are also guilty of hitting the parapets of any entrenchments that stand between the launcher and target with their missiles.
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: The BTR-60PB, Ratel, M113A1, and BMP-1 in the Cold War operations.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted. Nearly every weapon in the game consumes ammo, which can be resupplied from a replenishment platoon on the operation map.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: FAPLA in Operation Hooper and the Mujahidin in Shield of the Prophet use ZiS-3 76mm field guns, which is a World War II-era artillery piece; nevertheless, the ZiS-3 remains effective against light armor. Justified as the Soviet Union did export surplus World War II weapons to friendly states during the Cold War. The Mujahidin also use Mauser 98Ks and Lee-Enfields alongside AKs.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Zhalanashkol adds Soviet infantry wearing 6B5 armored vests, which are only usable in quick battle.
  • Cold War: Operation Hooper takes place during the Angolan Civil War in 1988; Shield of the Prophet depicts a war between Iran and the Soviet Union over western Afghanistan in 1979; Zhalanashkol is set during the 1969 Sino-Soviet border conflict along the Kazakh SSR-Xinjiang border.
  • Color-Coded Armies: On the operation map and tactical battle mode, red is the color for friendly icons, while blue is the enemy.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Justified as the game replicates historical vehicles and weapons. ATGM teams will find themselves hard-pressed against anything other than armored vehicles; though this trope is averted for certain artillery pieces which can be used for both indirect fire and antitank duties.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Averted. Infantry can be put out of action fairly easily. Tanks and other armored vehicles can be knocked out in ways other than outright destroying them, which can force the crew to bail out; they will also attempt to retreat from the battlefield if their main armament is disabled.
  • Death from Above: Air spotter teams grant the player the ability to call in CAS aircraft, such as the Ju-87 and Il-2. Operation Hooper takes it up further by giving FAPLA-Cuba MiG-23BN ground attack fighters and Mi-24D helicopters, while UNITA-South Africa get Alouette IIIs (with a 20mm cannon mounted in the passenger compartment) and Impalas. The Iranians in Shield of the Prophet have F-5E Tiger II fighters and AH-IJ "International" helicopters to support their ground forces, and the Soviets use the same aircraft as FAPLA-Cuba. Soviet border guards in Zhalanashkol use the Mi-4.
  • Deployable Cover: If your troops on the operation map remain stationary for a number of turns, then they are able to dig trenches if they participate in a battle. Troops that have remained stationary for more than one turn can dig foxholes, while those who have stayed longer can build trenches. The same applies with pits for crew-served weapons and vehicles, with the pits dug deeper the longer the weapons or vehicles stay on the same square.
    • In Mius-Front, troops will suffer a fatigue penalty in battle if they choose to dig trenches in deployment mode.
  • Easy Communication: Averted. The March 2013 patch introduced a new command system that simulates wire and radio communications as a prerequisite for orders to be carried out correctly. Commanders of on-map artillery need communications links back to their guns if they want to direct fire on visible targets. Some platoons now have a dedicated wire laying squad to establish wire links. Certain vehicles may use a limited range radio, or just a radio receiver in lieu of a regular radio.
    • If air spotters do not call in air support during the "initial orders" phase of the battle, an aircraft call can take up to 20 minutes to process to represent the pilots' briefing of the mission, the preparation of aircraft, and the flight towards the battlefield.
  • Easy Logistics: Averted. The game keeps track of every infantry squad and vehicle's damage/casualties, ammunition supply and fuel through the entire operation. Even the vehicle crew casualties are depicted, to the extent that a dead driver prevents the vehicle from moving in the next battle. The vehicle crews themselves are able to repair minor damages to their ride, but at a slower rate than specialist mechanic platoons.
    • At the start of a battle, crew-served weapons (certain machine guns, mortars, artillery) leave the bulk of their ammunition on the ground in wooden cases. The further the weapons move from the cases, the less ammo they get to shoot.
  • The Eighties: Operation Hooper is set in February 1988.
  • Everything Fades: Averted. In an operation, vehicle wrecks, dead bodies and craters from previous battles remain, giving the battlefield an eerie feeling by the later turns.
  • Flare Gun: Some platoons rely on flare guns to communicate with their subordinate units. Artillery spotters at night can direct the guns to fire flare shells to help your troops see better.
  • Fog of War: The series uses a line of sight model for fog of war. Your troops will not always be 100% accurate in their spotting reports, and any enemy that your troops lose sight of gets replaced with a "last spotted" marker with a time stamp. On the operation map, enemy platoons will only be identified properly after you've fought them once.
  • Friendly Fireproof: Averted. Even smoke grenades that land too close to your troops can hurt them!
  • Garrisonable Structures: Any structure in the game can be occupied by infantry, but this is mitigated by the fact that Ukrainian houses don't offer much protection against bullets and shells...
  • Geo Effects: Played straight. Craters, heavy vegetation and forests offer bonuses in cover and concealment.
  • Glass Cannon: In the WWII operations, the German Marder and PanzerJager I tank destroyers are particularly vulnerable to anything larger than small arms fire, and one German antitank gun is mounted on a half-track (Sd.Kfz 250/10 and Sd.Kfz 251/10). The Soviet 85mm 52-K AA gun suffers from its high profile when used as an antitank weapon, even when dug in. In the Cold War operations, ATGM teams are very vulnerable under direct fire; infantry vehicles such as the Soviet BTR-60PB and South African Ratel are vulnerable to anything larger than small arms fire.
  • How Much More Can He Take / Why Won't You Die?: It can happen when an enemy tank receives multiple penetrating hits and continues to fight as normal; moreover, penetration does not guarantee destruction, unlike some wargames which model any penetration as a kill.
  • Kill It with Fire: Soviet troops get Molotov cocktails, and both sides have flamethrower tanks.
  • Lost Forever: Did you lose a vital vehicle in an early battle and find yourself needing it during a later battle? You ain't getting it back.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Some Soviet artillery spotters in Operation Star are able to direct fire from BM-13 MRLs; both FAPLA-Cuba and UNITA-South Africa in Operation Hooper have spotters capable of directing the fires of the BM-21 and the Valkiri multiple rocket launchers, respectively. Soviet troops in Shield of the Prophet use the BM-21 as well.
  • Morale Mechanic: Troop morale is connected to the soldiers' experience, fatigue, and the capability of the higher commander to "be in command". Setbacks (e.g. heavy casualties, heavy fire, squad leader killed) will result in the troops panicking and running away.
  • Night-Vision Goggles: Certain vehicles in the Cold War era operations (e.g. BMP-1, T-55A, Olifant, M60A1) use infrared lights used with infrared sights to fight in the dark. The downside is that anyone else with similar night vision equipment can see the light beam and fire back at the source. The player can also activate a thermal binocular view to see the battlefield better in darkness.
  • No Campaign for the Wicked: Averted. Most battles in the series have two operations to play the battle from both sides' point of view.
  • No Swastikas: The English version has all the historically correct German flags permanently disabled by the developers.
  • Not Playing Fair With Resources: If an operation is playable from both sides, then the enemy side will usually have a few platoons that the player wouldn't get if they played as the opposing side.
  • Pinball Projectile: Armor-piercing projectiles that bounce will keep flying until they hit something; this can mean that a round that bounces off a tank's turret can fly into the side armor of a vehicle next to it!
  • Pinned Down: Infantry under particularly heavy fire won't be able to move, much less shoot or respond to your orders. The effect is less prominent for more experienced units.
  • Real Time with Pause: You can pause all you like, and even accelerate the time up to 6 times normal speed.
  • Red China: The People's Liberation Army is one of the playable sides in Zhalanashkol.
  • Save Scumming: Averted. The game autosaves every time you press the "next turn" button, although it is possible to revert to the beginning of your own turn if you make a mistake in moving platoons.
  • Secondary Fire: Tanks use their coaxial and hull machine guns (some like the KV-1 get rear-mounted machine guns). Certain German tanks are able to fire anti-personnel grenades. The Chieftain tank uses a rangefinding machine gun to determine range before firing the main gun.
  • The Seventies: Shield of the Prophet is set in July 1979.
  • Short-Range Long-Range Weapon: Averted. On-map howitzers and field guns are capable reaching from one end of the battlefield to another.
  • Shown Their Work: Especially apparent in the modeling of the AFVs. As for the terrain on the Eastern Front, the developers visited the areas where the battles took place to recreate the terrain on a 1:1 basis.
  • The Sixties: Zhalanashkol is set in August 1969.
  • Smoke Out: On-map artillery spotters are able to request smoke shells in lieu of regular HE rounds to screen an attack or retreat.
  • Sniping the Cockpit: Vehicle crews can get wounded or die from enemy fire. Played straight when tank crews unbuttoned (operating with the hatch open) are wounded or killed by infantry.
  • Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan: Inverted. In Shield of the Prophet, Soviet forces intervene in Afghanistan at the request of the Afghan communist government against a rebellion supported by the Iranian Army. In the ending of the Soviet version of the operation, Soviet troops in the region are implied to have been retasked with a counterinsurgency mission against the surviving Mujahidin groups after the Iranians are defeated.
  • Subsystem Damage: The vehicle damage system modeled is very detailed. Tracks and suspension can be damaged, optics can get destroyed, appliqué armor can be detached from enemy fire...
  • Support Power: Some operations allow you to field artillery and air spotters into the battlefield.
  • Take Cover: Infantry will automatically seek nearby cover in buildings, trenches and craters when given a defensive order. Tanks will do the same thing if pre-dug vehicle pits are close.
  • Tank Goodness: Played straight considering the development studio's past in making tank games and simulations for the Ukrainian Army. For example in Operation Star, both the Panzer III and IV tanks have four variants modeled each. The Cold War operations feature main battle tanks like the M60A1, Chieftain, Olifant, T-55A, and T-62.
  • Terrain Sculpting: Tanks can use their tracks to ruin foxholes and trench lines; artillery shells can create obstacles for vehicles, as well as cover for infantry (as well as destroying field fortifications).
  • Timed Mission: Played straight for the operations. The turn limit pressures the player to capture or hold onto key points on the operation map. One can't idle much on the offensive as he might waste turns and let the defending enemy dig in deeper. On the other hand, it is imperative for the defender to disrupt the enemy's offensive speed as much as possible so that counterattacking reinforcements introduced later in the operation can strike back with the greatest effect.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: AI tank gunners have a tendency to shoot a few more rounds into knocked-out targets even if said vehicle is flaming.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Your troops will no longer fight enemy soldiers who surrender, but that doesn't stop you from manually force-firing a tank or artillery piece just to kill them.
  • Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny: Now with the Cold War era DLCs, you can now say "fuck you" to historical accuracy and pit factions like 1980s FAPLA-Cuba with their T-55s against 1943 Wehrmacht Tiger units, or 1979 Iranian Chieftains against the WWII Red Army. Talk about Anachronism Stew!
  • Universal Ammunition: Ammo replenishment platoons will resupply nearby units regardless of weapon type and caliber. Justified as an Acceptable Break From Reality, as it would be extremely tedious to juggle around specific ammunition types for your tanks, artillery and infantry.
  • Weather of War: Weather has a big influence on the spotting ability of your troops. Heavy rain and snow won't affect the health or morale of your troops, but it (along with darkness) can prevent air spotters from calling in aircraft.
  • World War II: The setting for all the games in the series, except for Nomonhan, Operation Hooper, Shield of the Prophet, and Zhalanashkol.
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