Windows, Steel Panthers, Main Battle Tank
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WinSPMBT stands for Windows, Steel Panthers, Main Battle Tank and it's a semi-commercial release of a successor to the venerable Steel Panthers turn-based, tactical warfare series. The game has been kept alive and improved by devotees and has been available free online. For those who enjoy such games, old timers or not, a buy would signal appreciation for a nearly lost genre, abandoned by the big companies (witness the sad fate of Harpoon IV.)
The CD includes a few extra features and a small booklet. It allows some additional high-end screen resolutions, but with the old-fashioned graphics -- just the one overhead view and a few zoom levels -- it looks best in 800x600. The CD also has a play-by-e-mail organizer tool and an enhanced map editor.
If you don't expect too much as far as the age of the interface and graphics, and don't mind the combat results flying by rather quickly on modern fast computers -- even with the message delay set to maximum -- there is really little wrong with this game. Without pressure to please a market or support a company full of employees the old game engine has been refined over the years to the point of near perfection.
The game covers the post-World War II era (another title, SPWW2 covers WWII and is still available online, free.) You can play windowed or full screen. There are 107 single battle scenarios to choose from so battles from the Korean War, Vietnam and the various Arab-Israeli conflicts, among others, are present. There are also three pre-constructed campaigns, one set in 'Nam, one in the Sinai and one in the Balkans, 2008 AD.
Or you can use the elaborate dynamic campaign generator and set yourself up to continue on as Patton wanted and fight against the USSR in 1946 or against the modern day Russia if they should come to the defense of Iran. Infantry of every configuration, snipers, barges and transport, fighters, bombers, lift helicopters, attack helicopters and every kind of support vehicle can be had, along with the mainstays of the modern battlefield, the main battle tanks, the T-80 and the Abrams, in all their variations.
You can pit any two of the 92 included nations against each other, pick the start and end years and the number of battles in the series and you're on your way. Your units will carry over from battle to battle, with the survivors improving in experience. The overall situation shifts depending on the results of the previous battle. Apply your replenishment points to your core formation between battles and prepare for the next mission by spending one-time support points for special needs. This feature alone provides endless replayability.
So whether or not you've been around long enough to remember Squad Leader with paper counters and maps, if you're in the mood for a non-flashy, comprehensive tactical modern warfare game this one's a keeper.