Some scenes from a fight to seize and hold a village near Zaporozhe, October 1943. I have two Ferdinand heavy jagdpanzers and a platoon of infantry, supporting the assault force who have a platoon of Panzer IV for their own close support.
This is the view from the commander's hatch, heads out.
I've decided to put my little command into single file and looking back, I can see the troops are close behind but my second Ferdinand is playing catch-up. The infantry to the left of the pic are part of the assault force. I'm leading my lot off to their left, to shoot them onto the objective from that flank.
My route takes me first next to, then into, a stretch of woodland...
...in which I duck down and try out the sight view. Which is pretty poor, and realistically or not, closing the hatch just deprives me of any outside view at all. The Ferdinand was a tank destroyer pure and simple without even a bow or co-ax MG, and it's no surprise that later, it was fitted with both a bow MG and a vision cupola for the vehicle commander.
I've noticed that in STA 3.X, my AI driver seems to have something of a mind of his own, reminiscent of those in Steel Armour Blaze of War. Compared to stock SF, they seem more liable to jink around obstacles rather than drive over them - and not to like any efforts on my part to get them to ram enemy vehicles. On this mission, my driver takes us out on a little jaunt further out to the left, off my planned route. It takes me a while to notice this and take over, rather than wait for him to sort it out and get back on course.
This short diversion means that by the time we pop back out of the woods and regain sight of the assault force, the shooting has been going on for some time. And our troops have been counterattacked by Red armour from the other side of the low valley. I waste no time in shooting them up. My victims include several dangerous SU-152 assault guns and this KV-85. It's touch and go for a while, until my second Ferdinand emerges from the woods beside me and joins in.
By the time we've dealt with the Reds across the valley, more Soviet armour is streaming towards us from the objective, having inflicted heavy losses on the assault force during my little ride in the woods. We quickly pop them off, including this SU-152. Its escaping crew gets away with it because I don't have an MG and my attached troops are otherwise occupied - and taking casualties.
At about this point I get 'mission failed'. Usually, Steel Fury missions will not fail you if you have so much as just your own AFV still in action, but the victory conditions this time must be a bit tighter. STA 3.X has the option to continue the mission (even if you are injured) and I decide to do so. I approach the village and use HE to blast some advancing Red infantry. The survivors run for the rear and I let them go rather than doing any more 'quail shooting with cannon', as Heinz Guderian is reported to have said of Ferdinands trying to deal with infantry at Kursk. The way is now clear for me to rumble cautiously up to the objective, with my number two about a hundred metres to my left.
The last surprise is a T-70 light tank which rushes out from behind some buildings and parks on my right. Happily his gun does me no damage. The limited traverse is especially awkward at such close range but I finally get my gun onto him. I have an HE round loaded and this blows off one of his tracks. The AP round which follows settles the matter.
Per the mission script, the battle has already been lost; so while I've now occupied the objective and beaten off the expected counterattacks, this success is uncredited.
I still get the satisfaction of reviewing my big jagdpanzer's kill tally. Not a bad day's work!