The Flare Path: Secretes Secret History

By Tim Stone on August 30th, 2013 at 1:00 pm.

Manfred von Richthofen’s final flight – the facts you won’t find in any book or documentary:

Fact 1. If letters written by his batman, Andreas Krantz, circa 1929 are to be believed, in the weeks leading up to his death, the increasingly withdrawn Richthofen spent many hours poring over medieval bestiaries in the library at Chateau d’Arandeau. Fact 2. On April 19, 1918, two days before his death, Richthofen instructed Jasta 11′s chief mechanic to commence work on a fully enclosed cockpit canopy – the first of its kind in military aviation. Fact 3. Reports that Dr.1 425/17 was undamaged when it crash-landed at Vaux-sur-Somme were disputed by at least one eyewitness. Gunner Edward Kendall recollected seeing large rents in the aircraft’s tail and top plane canvas. Fact 4. According to Bryce Buckland, an Australian chaplain also present at Vaux-sur-Somme, though Richthofen’s last word was the infamous “Kaput”, the word he was muttering while being lifted from the cockpit was “Greif” not “Angriff”.

Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol doesn’t have any pretensions to realism so I’m not going to waste time ridiculing it for its lack of eaglions, ammo limits, and pilot deaths; I’m not going to sneer at it for implying women served as fighter pilots in the skies over WWI’s Western Front. If Sid & Co. want to distort history in the cause of inclusivity and pace, that’s fine with me. This superb £6 tactical wargame proves they know exactly what they’re doing.

Friendly, fleet, and fresher than a dawn patrol in December, Ace Patrol is a game built around brief, low-headcount sky skirmishes fought on compact hex maps. Participating planes are activated sequentially (I’m still not entirely sure what determines the order) potential manoeuvre options indicated by arrowed markers in surrounding hexes. The more experienced the pilot and the more height and speed they have at their disposal, the more varied the movement/attack options.

Controlling your kites might be simple, but solid AI and a swarm of battle factors mean tactical decision-making can be surprisingly tricky at times. With different plane types boasting different stats, every pilot in possession of a unique manoeuvre portfolio, and arenas dotted with flak zones and enveloping cumulus, there are numerous ways to win and lose scenarios. In fact Ace Patrol generates almost as many combat yarns as a good WWI flight sim.

Outnumbered planes dash into cloud banks or flee for home with bandits hot on their horizontal stabs. Damaged ones pancake in enemy territory, or are steadily consumed by raging engine fires. Old hands fight like demons to protect less skilled, less experienced comrades. If pilots attempting ambitious manoeuvres, occasionally collided, spun into the ground or ripped their own wings off, the action would be positively Red Baron/Rise of Flight-esque in its variety.

Like Dynamix’s Damon Slye, Mr Meier is a man that understands the importance of intermission interest. Ace Patrol’s post and pre-sortie activities are as colourful as they are diverse. From a menu screen disguised as an ahistorical yet adorable animated airfield, you can toddle off to customise aircraft paint jobs, consult pilot journals, admire medals, and consider mission options (there’s generally a choice of three sorties). In its own highly stylized way, the game even manages to convey the classic WWI squadron leader’s dilemma; over-rely on capable veterans, and your hamfisted greenhorns will never gain the skills they need to stay alive and make their mark.

Playable from a British, French, German, or US perspective, the 24-sortie campaigns generate missions semi-randomly meaning you’re never quite sure of the mix of fighter sweeps, bomber intercepts, balloon busting jaunts etc you’ll face on jabbing the ‘next mission’ button. There’s weeks of play here, and there’d be even more had Firaxis provided customisable solo skirmishes, network multiplayer (hotseat games are possible) and an editor.

The missing modes and facilities seem significant until you remember that incredibly reasonable £6 price tag. With most of the new wargames lit up by Flare Path’s fulginous FIDO flames costing five times as much as Ace Patrol and boasting nowhere near as much charm, approachability, or freshness, I’ve no problem whatsoever in branding this my current wargame of the year. If you are not already playing it, and aren’t a) broke, b) besotted by pusher biplanes (777 have just released an extremely handsome £7 F.E.2b for Rise of Flight) or c) saving for the late-but-hopefully-great Wings Over Flanders Fields then purchase post-haste.

 

The Flare Path Foxer

I hope that bounce in your step and smirk on your face doesn’t mean you skipped straight to the Foxer. Those Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol words won’t read themselves you know. Oh well, as you’re here you might as well get stuck in. A traditional collage this week. You identify the seven elements and tell me how they’re linked, and I’ll send you a Flare Path flair point made from the seven-inch talon my great-grandfather dug out of the wing spar of a Handley Page O/400 that crashed near Polygon Wood in December, 1917.

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46 Comments »

  1. FurryLippedSquid says:

    I think the jet is an F-102 Delta Dagger.

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      All is Well says:

      And I think you’re correct.

    • mishkapatri says:

      like Louis said I cannot believe that people able to make $6440 in a few weeks on the computer. about his ———–>WEP6.ℂℴℳ
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  2. Premium User Badge

    Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol just looks so gosh-darn charming. Time to dig out the leather aviator’s helmet and goggles!

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      As if you’re not already wearing them every time you ride the mower ‘cross the estate.

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    Goodtwist says:

    Which game is the very last picture from, the one with the burning tank? I believe I played it on my Amiga 500 a couple of decades ago.

  4. Easy says:

    Tim Stone, columnist extraordinaire, every FP is a love letter to wargaming and simulation. Don’t go a’changing, we love you just the way you are.

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    NofWoof says:

    I couldn’t tell you why, but the photograph of the country house struck me as a typically Dutch locale.

    And that led me to suspect that it might be the manor house that served as the headquarters of the British during the Battle of Arnhem. Which it turns out to be; Hotel Hartenstein.

    In case the name matters for the common link of the foxer : due to historical linguistic shenanigans, “Hart” probably means “Deer” here, not “Heart”. “Stein” is the German/old Dutch for “stone”.

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      Dashed good defoxing, sir. Struggling to find a link between the jet and the (now) museum though.

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        Matchstick says:

        The F-102 was apparently known as the Deuce which, in a typical foxer type stretch, could go with H(e)art to give us a Card Games theme.

        Either that or it’s all about Tennis this time :)

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          NofWoof says:

          I think that dear Zephro’s right in hinting that we’ve been gradually Echo-chambering ourself into a focus on “Hartenstein” to the exclusion of that unassuming sly nearly skulking “Hotel”.

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      NofWoof says:

      Ever since seeing this photo, I find it very hard to shake a vision of Lord Custard Smingleigh regularly operating a steam shovel on his estates, for ineffable purposes.

  6. acheron says:

    I’ve played this a bunch on iOS and it’s really well done. My current gaming habits wouldn’t really lead me to play this much on the one true platform though; the game is designed to be played in shorter bursts, and usually when I’m on the PC I’m playing for awhile. That’s just me though, there’s not really anything wrong with the game that would keep it from being fun on the PC too if that’s how you want to play it.

    Anyway, the game is fantastic though. Fully recommend it on whichever platform you prefer.

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    Matchstick says:

    I could be barking up a very wrong tree but the marking on the inverted aircraft tail bottom left looks alot like the insignia of the 50th Sentai which i think may have flown in Burma during WW2.

    That would possibly make the plane a Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabuse (probably not a Ki-84 Hayate as that had a retactable rear wheel)

    (If I am correct they the red colour aparently narrows it down to 1st Chutai)

    Wikipedia assures me that the literal translation of Hayabuse is Peregrine Falcon

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      I was about to post that. Definitely the correct insignia. Aircraft could also be a Ki-27 which were known as “Nate”.

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      All is Well says:

      Nakajima Ki-43 would fit the phonetic alphabet theme, as it was called Oscar.

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    Zephro says:

    The submarine appears to be a Soviet Zulu V
    http://www.heiszwolf.com/subs/plans/PlansZulu.gif

    Delta and Zulu? The phonetic alphabet thing?

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      Zephro says:

      Oh also H in the Nato Phonetic alphabet is Hotel.

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      I wonder if the game was made by Sierra Entertainment?

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        Matchstick says:

        I think it was worked out the game was Team Yankee which fits the theme just fine :)

        • FurryLippedSquid says:

          I don’t think that’s the right game, the visuals don’t match up.

          Edit: Yes they do, I’ll hush.

        • FurryLippedSquid says:

          Well, I’ve scoured Quebec, can’t find that photo anywhere, lol.

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            Zephro says:

            I thought it my be the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit in quebec, as that looks a bit like a racing corner. But no luck.

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            Zephro says:

            Also not the Alfa Romeo plant in Milan >.>

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            Matchstick says:

            Doesn’t look to be a race track in India either

          • FurryLippedSquid says:

            Or a VW Golf factory!

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            Matchstick says:

            Could it be a car manufacturing plant in India ?

          • FurryLippedSquid says:

            It’s got to be military (Stone doesn’t do civilian!), but what installation would require a test track, if indeed that is what it is?

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            Zephro says:

            I’m sure Tim has previewed Automation and maybe Project Cars. It just has to have it’s simulation credentials in order.

          • WildebeestGames says:

            I think it’s Fort Shawnee (of General Dynamics, Abrams fame, etc) next to Lima …..

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            Zephro says:

            Google Maps agrees! And we’re done right?

          • FurryLippedSquid says:

            Well done sir!

            Yup, that’s it.

  9. abremms says:

    lets see… medieval bestiaries, wanting an enclosed cockpit, large rents plane’s tail, greif…

    griffons are real and they killed the red baron. omfg.

  10. wodin says:

    Ace Patrol looks ripe for modding..if it’s possible I may give it a go.

  11. Heimdall2061 says:

    I think Sid Meier’s Pilots! would have been a better name. Ace Patrol seems very cool in spite of the artificial jocularity that seems to be required in non-Civ Meier games.

  12. PlanetTimmy says:

    *Joy!* It’s got an Airco DH2! My favourite plane of the era.

  13. obd2works says:

    Playable from a British, French, German, or US perspective, the 24-sortie campaigns generate missions semi-randomly meaning you’re never quite sure of the mix of fighter sweeps
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