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TacOps: Description and Features



TacOps Description

TacOps is a realistic simulation of contemporary and near-future tactical ground combat by US Army and USMC forces against a variety of Russian-equipped opposing forces (OPFOR).

Most vehicles, unit organizations, and weapons featured are those expected to be in place by 1995. Weapons and capabilities likely to be available by the year 2000 are included as options.

There are over 60 scenarios, each of which can be customized by you. Additionally, you have the ability to build your own scenarios from the ground up! If that is not enough, TacOps fully supports solitaire and two-player play (by modem, e-mail, and/or network).


System Requirements

Q: Will it support 12" monitors?
A: Yes - 9", 12", 24", whatever - the TacOps game window automatically adjusts to the size of your monitor.

Q: How many colors?
TacOps displays 16 colors. Dithering and the use of the custom palette feature of the Mac creates the impression of more. Limiting screens to 16 colors allows the program to run and scroll quickly in color on Macs having as little as 4 meg of memory - smaller scenarios will run on 2 meg Macs.

Q: Does an FPU help?
I don't know what if anything an FPU might add. I did not compile a version specifically optimized to switch the code into a FPU but the program does take advantage of an 040 cache if you have such. If the program was any faster you would not be able to analyze what was going on.


Interface Design Philosophy

The terrain is actually made up of 16 colors (dithered for cosmetic effect). The overall effect is that of a simplified military topographic map --- low ground is a yellowish green, higher ground is a medium green inside a darker countour line, woods are a dark textured green, roads are gray or white, and towns are a gray and black pattern of small rectangles. Rough terrain has the main colors of the elevation but is irregularly textured. The main priority for the battle maps is that they clearly indicate to the user the type of terrain at a particular point.

A lot can be done with just 16 colors on a Macintosh with dithering and custom palletes. Keeping the color count down makes for much fast game play and screen scrolling on "average" and older Macs (i.e. last year's Macs) and means that the user can have something else on his hard drive besides one darn game <grin>. At 16 colors the whole game package occupies less than five megabytes. TacOps is a computer implementaton of a sort of combination of a traditonal board wargame and lead miniatures. It really doesn't take 256 colors to clearly and attractively communicate the terrain, the situation, and the battle action in a wargame of this type.

Still...having said all that...next year I will probably go to 256 colors for TacOps WWII --- primairly because

  1. it is easier to code for 256 colors,
  2. by the end of next year the "average" Mac will be fast enough to handle TacOps at 256 colors, and
  3. by then the average Mac will have a large enough hard drive that a ten or fifteen megabyte, 256 color, game package won't be a problem for most people.


Game Play

Game length depends on how serious an approach you take to using real world tactics and on which scenario of several dozen you are playing. Small scenarios (company vs company) can be setup and played in less than an hour. Large scenarios (bn or regt vs regt) might take several hours to an evening. If you are playing on a network against a human who gets highly excited about fiddling with every possible game option, a large scenario might take several days.

You can modify factory provided scenarios or you can create your own scenarios using factory provided maps. There is no map editor.

TacOps can be played via network, direct connection modem, play-by-mail, and by EMail.


Realism of the Simulation

Q: I'm glad Saddam didn't have AT missles like the OPFOR --- I lost a lot of M1A1's before I learned to stay out of sight...The only things that bothered me was that the M1A2's could be taken out from the front (do the OPFOR forces actually have a weapon that could do that?
OPFOR having such weapons is a matter of current debate with most authorities saying "probably very few today". However OPFOR can have them anytime they want to spend the money to build or buy them. TacOps is initially set up for a more or less fair fight between US and OPFOR equipment. In order to do this the factory default preference settings give OPFOR thermal sights plus ATGM warheads and tank main gun penetrators that are up to current Western standards.

If you want a game reflecting conventional wisdom on the current real world situation you just need to change the game preferences during the startup turn. You will then be able to happily see most of OPFOR's shots bounce off the front and sides of the US M1 tank - course it won't be much of a game and I doubt that you will be able to talk a human opponent into taking the OPFOR side <grin>.

Q: One suggestion for future version: Turreted vehicles (tanks only would be fine) should have a separate facing for the turret that can be set to face a known threat direction so that they can gain some benefit from the turret's front armour if the threat/target is located to their side or rear.
TacOps gives benefits and disadvantages for unit facing but turret facing is just below the true game scale. Although you can split down to individual vehicles and squads, the game engine is primarily intended to portray platoon (probably optimum accuracy) or even company markers (arty bait). Thus, front and side armor in the game is generally rated somewhere between hull and turret thickness.

The demo does not bring this out because there are only three or four units on each side in the Basic Training scenario. Most of the real scenarios in the commercial version start with anywhere from several dozen to a hundred or more multi step unit markers in play - generally Company vs Battalion, Battalion vs Regiment (Brigade for you Army types), or Regiment vs Regiment. A player would have to be pretty hardcore to want to break all the unit markers down to individual sub units.

The opposing force in TacOps is not the former Soviet Union per se, but it is equiped with modernized Soviet equipment and when playing the AI the computer opponent follows Soviet doctrine. Just about anyone we fight over the next ten years is likely to be using Soviet equipment, and Soviet doctrine offers advantages for less well trained armies.


Scenario Editing/Modifying

Scenarios with AI:
Generally you can add some optional additional units but only from a restricted list. The larger the scenario, the more optional units are usually on the list. You can increase or decrease artillery and air support, modify certain weapons and fire controls, modify spotting rules, swap some weapons for others (T80 for T72, Dragon for Javelin, etc.), change the game length, change the exit percentage if that is a victory condition, you can delete any unit that starts play already on the map, and do assorted other things.

Custom Scenario Templates (no AI):
These are special scenarios with no set starting forces. You create the kind of force you want from a long list of weapons/organizations ranging from one USA/USMC/OPFOR tank platoon up to several entire brigades/regiments. You can add and delete from the list as you like. You can use any factory provided map with the scenario templates. You specify and police your own victory conditions - the computer does not adjudicate victory. These templates were mainly provided to support two player games between experienced, very motivated players with strong tactical opinions. The were not intended for the average gamer.


Netscape HTML Checked! January 24, 1995 - Robert Lentz (ralentz@ralentz.com)

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