The Flare Path: On Spangler’s Knob

By Tim Stone on June 20th, 2014 at 1:00 pm.

Rejected candidates for today’s header screenshot included… a bullet-riddled flight engineer tumbling from the wing of a stricken Ilya Muromets, a SpinTires Tiger tank being dragged from a Silesian mire by a trio of smoke-belching Famo halftracks, and a gRally Lancia 037 battling for traction on a crowd-hemmed Rallye de Portugal hairpin. It was a difficult decision but in the end Jiří, FP’s picture editor, decided to go with the most exciting image in his in-tray. Ladies & gentlemen, cast your corneas over Ultimate General’s AI customisation screen.

I suspect a good few Flareopaths have already prodded most of the buttons in the above png and dabbed the arguably more tempting ‘random’ button just out of shot. Game Lab’s blue and gray debut has been available in early access form for a couple of weeks now – time enough for early adopters like myself to realise that, yes, the marvellous Sid Meier’s Gettysburg! has finally got the spiritual sequel it deserves. Though there’s still much work to be done the £6 UGG is already bally playable and utterly mesmerising.

Predictably, considering Nick ‘DarthMod’ Thomadis’ apprentice pieces, strong, interesting AI is a big part of the magnetism. Where other wargames tend to come with a single silicon CO, UGG comes with 9. There’s the slow yet sly swine that likes to camp on hills, and use ridges and woods to mask his manoeuvres. There’s the probey pragmatist who’s always looking to turn frontline loopholes into gaping rents. There’s the irascible iceheart who doesn’t mind how many of his men end up pushing up Pennsylvanian daisies as long as the objective is taken. There’s the clayfooted time-bider who’ll probably wait for reinforcements to arrive before slipping on his frockcoat and flinging his coffee dregs at the campfire.

Even if you’ve manually selected your opposite number’s psyche, carving out victories can be hard work. Most opponents are adept at flanking, utilizing terrain, and responding to unexpected threats. Most are devilishly good – possibly too good – at harassing enemy batteries with roving bands of cavalry and skirmishers. Ignore occasionally wonky commander positioning, the current lack of surrendering, and the odd moment where TacAI routines persuade a partially flanked unit to recklessly rotate rather than maintain its current facing, and battlefield behaviours are hard to fault.

Where there is room for substantial improvement is in pace control, hill depiction, and campaign balance. Right now losing as Lee isn’t easy. It’s difficult to see where high ground begins and ends (therefore hard to position cannon batteries to best effect). And, in the midst of large late-Battle engagements, the default game speed means your mouse is usually darting about like a wood ant in a forest fire. Happily, Nick and co. are working on solutions to these issues.

In a genre where moving and monitoring units is seldom as easy as it should be, UGG’s intuitive waypoint-less movement system and restrained-yet-informative GUI feel masterly. The manoeuvre arrows in the accompanying images? Painted directly onto the terrain with sinuous mouse flourishes. If, come Christmas, UGG isn’t being talked about as one of 2014′s finest and most forward-looking wargames, then I’ll shave off my James Longstreet-style chin thicket.

 

Art For Art’s Sake

Here in Merry Old England, the sun is shining, the lawnmowers are shuttling, and the ice-cream vans are using Elizabethan folk tunes to sell Magnums to minors. In other words it’s Summer, traditional time of sunburn, sporting disappointment, and splendid open-entry art exhibitions.

Next Friday – assuming I can persuade enough of you to share sumptuous wargame and simulation screenshots – The Flare Path will be holding its very own gallery extravaganza. You are welcome to attend (Just turn up at 13.00 as usual) and submit self-snapped screenshots to The Hanging Committee (Me, Roman, Uncle George, and Becky from next door) for consideration.

Sadly, because wall space is limited and The Hanging Committee are hard bastards, only a small portion of the images sent to ‘Tim Stone’ using the email link at the top of the column, are likely to end up on display. To maximise your chances of success, please bear in mind the following guidelines.

The Flare Path Summer Exhibition Submission FAQ

When is the closing date for entries?
Anything that arrives before breakfast, June 27 will be considered.

Does the Hanging Committee have any pet hates?
Only unsightly GUI elements, prominent ‘PAUSED’ messages, and, strangely, all aircraft produced by Blackburn between the years 1909 and 1942.

I’m a retro-fiend that hasn’t bought a sim or wargame in ten years. What are my chances of getting an image accepted?
Slim, but you never know.

Should I send confectionery or cash sweeteners with my images?
No, but the names of the featured vehicles/places/battles/sims/wargames together with your own preferred handle would be nice.

I grabbed some uncommonly handsome Dark Souls II pics last night. Any point in me sending them in?
No, it’s strictly sim and wargame-generated art we’re after.

Will the Hanging Committee respond to my submission?
Probably not, they’ll be far too busy scrutinising screengrabs, sipping Earl Grey, and using phrases like “startling juxtaposition” and “bombastic failure”.

I take rejection really badly. Should I send screenshots?
Not sure. When you say “really badly” what do you mean?

When my last girlfriend cheated on me I went round to her house and wrote ‘STRUMPET’ on the lawn with weedkiller.
Perhaps sit this one out.

 

The Flare Path Foxer

Chief foxer setter Roman’s ‘I outfoxed ‘em!’ dance is a horrible thing to witness. There’s booty shaking, pelvic thrusting, and even a bit of the Lambeth Walk involved. Thank God I don’t have to watch him doing it very often; unsolved foxers like the one below, are rarer than crones’ teeth.

To prevent more Crimes Against Disco, I urge you all to defox like your lives depended on it, this week. According to Roman, the funky carrion crow, today’s collage theme is closely related to last Friday’s collage theme (see above) so if you crack one puzzle you should be well positioned to crack the other.

__________________

« | »

, .

57 Comments »

  1. Tim Stone says:

    Affix your foxer guesses to this comment, please.

    • Matchstick says:

      Aircraft nose middle left is from an RAF’s Raytheon Sentinel R1/ASTOR a modified version of the Bombadier Global Express

    • Matchstick says:

      Magazine cover middle right is Science Fiction Adventures Volume 4 No 24 (Jan/Feb 1962) – featuring the first version of J. G. Ballards’ The Drowned World
      http://www.existentialennui.com/2011/05/drowned-world-by-j-g-ballard-true-first.html

    • Matchstick says:

      Is the Fire Tree Patch bottom centre from the 3 Dywizja Strzelców Karpackich (Polish 3rd Carpathian Rifle Division)
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3rd_Carpathian_Rifle_Division_%28Poland%29

      AKA The Christmas Tree Division

      BAH – Beaten to it by Surlywombat :)

    • Shiloh says:

      The banded brick building in the centre is Albion House, the former home of The White Star Line and the Titanic, in Liverpool.

      • FurryLippedSquid says:

        Drowned World, Titanic, Belfast…

        HMMMMM.

        Carpathia was one of the ships involved in the rescue. Pennsylvania Railroad laid on a charter train to take the wealthier survivors to Philadelphia.

        • Rorschach617 says:

          The Raytheon Sentinel ASTOR. Wasn’t Astor a bloke on the Titanic?

        • Matchstick says:

          I definitely think you’ve got it.

          Is it any help to last week’s supposedly related unsolved foxer ?

          • FurryLippedSquid says:

            Green hearts, fury, take your pick from British Rail Class 40 names:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Rail_Class_40

            Of particular note are hurricane and ancient mariner, if we’re on a nautical theme.

          • All is Well says:

            Last week we had:
            Molecule: Nitrocellulose / Gun cotton
            Loco: British Rail Class 40 (See FurryLippedSquid’s list of names)
            Top-center airplane: Iraqi Hawker Sea Fury
            Icons: 1914: Shells of Fury
            Tank interior: Churchill Mk. VII
            Top-right airplane: Bf 109 of JG54 Green heart (other insignia is the Lion of Aspern)
            Portrait: Unknown (looks like he’s wearing an american colonels insignia though?)
            Pilots in front of aircraft: Unknown
            Coat of arms: Unknown (might be the Belgian city of Peer though?)
            Truck: Unknown (lots of suggestions in last week’s thread)

          • FurryLippedSquid says:

            Nope, I got nothin’.

            Edit: Hang about, I may have something, the Halifax Harbor explosion of 1917. Two ships (one Belgian) collided and were carrying, among other things, gun cotton. I can’t really make any other connections other than one crashed in to a pier (Peer!). Yeah, who am I kidding, rubbish!

            http://canadaonline.about.com/cs/canadaww1/p/halifaxexpl.htm

            Edit: Hmm, the Belgian ship, Imo, was also owned by White Star Line.

          • AbyssUK says:

            One of the reasons the Lusitania sank so quick was because it was carrying Gun Cotton were the torpedo hit… ? sinking of the Lusitania ? I can’t make anything else fit however :)

          • FurryLippedSquid says:

            I was just about to edit my post again. It’s the Lusitania.

            The sub sim, Churchill, gun cotton…

          • All is Well says:

            I was thinking about the sinking of the HMS Lusitania, which is also a famous sinking of a ship. One of the Class 40′s was named Lusitania after the ship, she was carrying ammunition (link to gun cotton) and the sinking did incite a lot of fury in the US and Britain. Can’t come up with anything else though :(

            Edit: Haha, ninja’d!

          • AbyssUK says:

            I give it to FurryLippedSquid because I basically just guessed :)

          • FurryLippedSquid says:

            No, no! Credit where it’s due! I think the Class 40 locomotive must be the Ancient Mariner because the Lusitania was painted grey before being set to task. A line from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner reads “As idle as a painted ship”.

            Edit: Ha, only just read your input All Is Well, I am a doughnut!

          • skink74 says:

            Well there’s a class 40 called Lusitania. Also Lusitania left New york from Pier 54. so that links in the coat of arms and the Bf109.
            If sure if we could identify the portrait and the pilots, we’d get those in too.

          • Rorschach617 says:

            Lusitania is better than anything I can come up with. eg.

            One of the class 40s was named Warrior, which was a ship sunk at Jutland or
            Lion of Aspern > Aspern: Austro-Hungarian cruiser of WWI or
            Churchill was Sea Lord during WWI (in the driver’s seat of naval affairs? so tenuous).

          • mrpier says:

            A small fishing boat from Peel (village on the isle of Man, so a MAN truck?) was the first vessel to reach Lusitania after she was hit. Bit out there I’ll admit.

      • Shiloh says:

        John Jacob Astor IV was a passenger on the Titanic.

    • alh_p says:

      The triple tail plane looks like it’s from a Savoia Marchetti S55 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savoia-Marchetti_S.55)

      Edit: The boxy monoplane at top right looks like a Bloch MB 200 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloch_MB.200)

      • All is Well says:

        Regarding the Savoia Marchetti, I think it might actually be a Supermarine Southampton, which would fit better with the “Titanic” theme :)

        • phuzz says:

          It’s the Southampton. Damint, I spent about 45 minutes on this and the closets I got was “It’s almost a Short Singapore but not quite”. Nice work All Is Well.
          Interesting that all three of us ended up looking at flyingboats.

        • alh_p says:

          Good spot sir! I do believe the stabiliser struts belay your claim.

      • alh_p says:

        Also, the top right is actually an Airspeed A.S.39. At least i think so…

        • All is Well says:

          Yes, it looks a lot more like an Airspeed than a Bloch! Thank you for finding it, it was driving me crazy. The Airspeed was called Fleet Shadower, and Frederick Fleet was a crewman and survivor of the Titanic.

    • Rorschach617 says:

      I’ll just recap what we managed to find on last weeks Foxer, to save people looking for it.

      Skink74 gave us the chemical molecule as gun-cotton/nitrocellulose.

      All is Well gave us the Hawker Sea Fury (in Iraqi colours) top center, the BF-109G2 top right of II./JG54 “Grunherz”, and identified the locomotive as a English Electric Type 4/ British Rail Class 40 with Danny252.

      phlebas gave us the F-key shortcuts as coming from “1914: Shells of Fury”, a sub simulator.

      Bottom right is a Churchill VII driver and radio-operator’s stations.

      Ernesto, Llewyn, myself and MrPier are guessing at the truck being a Unimog, Iveco, DAF, MAN or something chassis. We all agree it has 4 wheels :)

      Actually All is Well has put it more succcintly above :)

    • foop says:

      The train is the Pennsylvania Railroad’s GG1. Wiki link

      I’ve no idea what this has to do with sinking ships. The photo looks to have a riveted body, so I think it’s the prototype, PRR_4800, ‘Old Rivets’. Wiki link. Subsequent production models were welded.

      It’s quite an interesting train design, with the frame of the loco in two halves joined by a ball and socket joint. This allows it to negotiate tighter curves than a fixed frame loco of similar size and power.

  2. Martel says:

    How RTS’y is Ultimate General? Looks amazing and fills a gap in timelines in my current collection, but I tend to play TBS rather than RTS.

    • Shiloh says:

      It’s a bit of an RTS’y clickfest at the moment to be honest, but as Tim says, the developers are working on variable speeds and the like. You only currently get one save as well which carries forward across the three days of the battle – I think they’re looking at this as well with an eye to allowing multiple saves.

      It’s good fun but not the finished article just yet – that being said, I’ve only played the first scenario, in which I trounced the Rebs and took the decision (one of three offered to you before the next scenario starts) to retire on my supply column to Cemetery Hill and dig in to await reinforcements. We’ll see how it plays out.

    • Jomini says:

      You can pause and then give orders at any time which makes it manageable even in more hectic situations.

    • Mr Bismarck says:

      I am disgustingly bad at RTS, (to a degree that children laugh at me in the streets), but I am absolutely in love with UGG.

      Firstly, there’s no base building or resource gathering, allowing you to concentrate solely on where you put your troops and when and secondly, (and most importantly), there’s a pause button and you can issue orders while paused.

      Also, a recent patch slowed everything down a little bit.

      It’s still quick, and by day three of the battle you can have a lot of units on the field, but I haven’t felt overwhelmed yet.

    • P.Funk says:

      Define RTS’y. It has no base building. It is very forgiving of low micro. Unit AI is very sharp. The brigades will automatically face the most logical threat, fall back to better ground, automatically position themselves along the contours of the terrain, such as a hill, and then deliberately link up with adjacent units to form multi-brigade lines.

      Yes there’s clicking to be done with lots of units but its so easy to not micro them and instead merely mouse around keeping tabs on whats happening, monitoring unit status and strategically shuffling your lines to bring fresh units in while expended ones march to the rear for a breather.

      Its really more like a Total War tactical battle than any RTS except it has persistence between battles. You waste that 2500 man brigade on ill advised charges? Next map you fight that brigade is as expended as it was when the last round ended. Their morale is the same, their condition is the same.

      Its pretty cool. WIP, but cool.

      • Martel says:

        Thanks everybody, this is exactly what I was looking for. And it sounds like it’s something I’ll probably enjoy since it’s the things like base building that I’m less interested in.

        • Cloudiest Nights says:

          I bought it a few days ago, and it’s absolutely wonderful. I don’t normally play a lot of strategy games, but this one is very entertaining for me. And it was only 10 bucks (American thing–eys) so I can’t wait to see where they take it.

  3. Matchstick says:

    Oh completely off-topic but I spot that Unity of Command is in the current Steam sale.

    The Base Stalingrad Campaign is £4.49, the two DLC packs are £2.09 each or you can get the full pack for £6.89.

    They may appear in a flash sale even cheaper so if you aren’t looking for something to play this weekend it might be worth waiting, but frankly you won’t save THAT much more ;)

  4. RedWurm says:

    Hm, I saw the first Gettysburg screenshot with my glasses off and for a moment the corpses looked remarkably like zerglings.

  5. Chiron says:

    Looks good and I love hearing about the custom AI’s and gameplay but as always I just cannot summon up any interest at all in the American Civil War, not even enough to play what looks to be a decent game.

    Curses.

    • P.Funk says:

      Just pretend Lee is a grocery clerk come to collect on a bill and Meade is the personification of every drunk lout late on his bills. The Grey and Blue merely the abstraction of the former’s indifferent and neutral demeanor towards the task before him and the latter’s bruised uniform received as compensation for his abstinent accountmanship.

  6. Gap Gen says:

    Talking about artillery and hills, one of the nice things about Scourge of War is being able to go up to a place and check out where the best ground is in person. I agree that in 2D the problem is a little tougher (perhaps a contour overlay would help?)

  7. Faldrath says:

    Sorry Tim, I clicked on the gRally link, got all excited and completely forgot to read the rest of the article. A new, realistic rally game? OMG, OMG, OMG!

  8. TC-27 says:

    Get the impression that UGG was built ground up around the AI which shows (it still needs some work though – the AI is so good its almost using gamy tactics in using detached skirmishers and to grief artillery and capture point locations deep behind your lines).

    • Stellar Duck says:

      You say gamey tactics, I say proper tactics.

      Really, warfare is all about gamey tactics. Why would a commander go into a pitched battle if he can avoid it?

      Harassing arty and kiting the enemy into favorable position is what it’s all about.

      That said, I haven’t played UGG, as it looks a bit too large scale compared to Scourge of War and has too little granularity, but the videos I’ve watched, asides from the pace being that of a squirrel on amphetamine, seem to suggest that out generalling the AI is all about using all the tools at hand.

      That pace though.

      • P.Funk says:

        The problem arises if its ahistorical in a game seeking to be historically accurate. The idea is to relive the battle with the option to make different choices than the generals did, not to have choices they never had in the first place because of tactics and units which are not consistent with the actual event.

        Being one of the testers I can say that the AI is not yet all its cracked up to be. After a week you’ll find it hard to lose against any of them, but every patch makes things better.

        I only fear that once multiplayer enters the picture all semblance of historical integrity will go out the window as humans rightly break and game the system.

        Nevertheless its the freshest RTS experience I’ve had since the first Wargame came out.

        • Stellar Duck says:

          Well, again, I can only base this on the videos I watched, but to me it seems that what the game does is basically give you a historical set up.

          Let’s say playing as CSA on the drive for MacPhersons Ridge. The setup is basically historical, and I’m sure there is an AI that matches somewhat to Bufords command style. If you play with that you’d be playing the “historical” way and as the CSA player you’re then tasked with either doing it the way Heth and Anderson did it or perhaps find a different way with the same tools.

          But you could also choose to have Buford be a timid general. That would certainly make for a simpler scenario. Not counting the obvious what if scenarios, it seems to me what the game does is give the player a historical set up and then choose a possible ahistorical commander, so to speak.

          Again, going back to the drive on MacPhersons Ridge. I was playing that as Buford last night in Scourge of War and I basically did things the historical way except for recalling Devin back to the farm. That made quite a difference and I basically managed to repulse the attack before Cutler even bothered to show up. By the time Pettigrew turned up I was well positioned and had Cutler at my back.

          I see that as a case of being given the historical setup and then trying to use that to create a different chain of events. Naturally, if Scourge of War had a campaign sort of thing, Day 2 would be quite different as the CSA wouldn’t have those positions and they sure wouldn’t have been anywhere near Seminary Ridge.

          And again, I just want to say that I don’t quite agree that you can game a strategy game. Or at least, you shouldn’t be able to. Naturally, you can exploit bugs and what not, but if a player or an AI uses skirmishers to harass arty and then cav to take a victory point in the rear I’d say that they’re just playing well. That’s not gamey. That’s just good play.

          • P.Funk says:

            Its not good play if there were no such cavalry units available in the real battle to do such an enveloping maneuver to harass artillery. Capturing Herr’s Ridge with 120 men on horseback is going to accomplish what exactly? One brigade shows up and those horsemen better unass or they’re dead meat. Not that any of that matters since cavalry in the civil war simply did not fight mounted, at least not against infantry.

            Having cavalry that isn’t really historically accurate to what happened means you will see humans use that cavalry like its still the days of Napoleon and in ways that Buford never would have no matter how daring or timid he could otherwise be.

            Should a Confederate player really be worried about cavalry routing his artillery when no such threat existed on the morning of July 1st?

          • Stellar Duck says:

            I can agree that it probably shouldn’t be possible for a small cav regiment to take a victory point, but that’s an intrinsic issue with victory point based games I think. However, it should be an easy enough fix I’d guess. Make it so that a VP needs more men to take. That’s how Scourge of War does it at least. It might take 500 men to take one or whatever.

            I don’t agree that a cav unit shouldn’t be able to harass arty if said arty is unprotected.

            I went and bought the game to see what it was like. I picked Union on the first day and picked an aggressive AI. Now, one issue is that I know the way things went, so I had a lot of advantages with that. But that’s hard to avoid.

            I used my skirmishers (really, they should be cav as well. Buford only commanded cav on that day) to fight a holding action against the CSA troops while sending Devin on a screening mission towards Oak Hill. As I pulled my skirmish lines back I pulled Heth into cannister enfilade fire and routed them pretty hard. Meanwhile the CSA skirmishers moved on Oak Ridge and took it so I sent some men and kicked them out and retook it.

            Now at this point, I’d moved my own skirmisher line down the hill from the Mac Farm, out of sight of the enemy guns and their infantry brigades keepiing pushing. So far so good. Making sure the enemy skirmishers near Oak Ridge was tied up and screened I moved Devin on a march round north and engaged the enemy arty that the agressive AI had left alone and was now moving towards the MacPhersons Ridge.

            At this point Cutler was on his way and when he arrived I sent him to engage the enemy brigades in Herbst Forrest. while moving my skirmishers to the rail road cut, catching the enemy in cross fire.

            Now Pettigrew showed up along with Brokcinbrough (sp?) and moved towards the action while I pulled back Devin to wait. The CSA reinforcements joined the fight on the slope of the ridge but at this point the original enemy troops were pretty roughed up and was constantly retreating. Now came the Iron Brigade. I used my brigades to properly tie up the CSA in Herst Forrest while hammering them with cannon from seminary ridge and sent the Bucktails round the flank towards Herr Ridge and the enemy arty that was alone again and being harassed by Devin once more. The Bucktails routed the batteries and took the VP while the AI tried to wheel around and dislodge me getting raked with enfilade fire along the way. From here on out I was just waiting for the timer to finish and whittling the enemy brigades down.

            The final tally was an epic victory to the Union with me holding all VP and 2802 Union losses to 4230 CSA losses.

            I don’t think my use of cav to harass the arty was that ahistorical. It was a result of the AI being aggressive and leaving them alone. That and a result that is inherent in this sort of game. I had perfect information, knew the map well, knew what happened in real life well and all my orders would be acted upon instantly. I very much doubt this would be possible in Scourge of War with HITS as I simply wouldn’t be able to direct the battle this way.

            And that was with the troops under Bufords command. All cav in real life. It hinged upon the AI being too aggressive and me deliberately seeking to exploit that. I don’t think that’s gamey. If it was me being this aggressive I’d expect an opponent to exploit it as well.

            The pace might be an issue too. It’s super fast to send a brigade on a flanking march right now.

            Edit: forgot to touch on this: I completely agree that using cav like a total war game should be out of the question. It simply didn’t happen. But I don’t think using them for screens and probes and harassment is quite that. Afterall that was what they were used for as far as I can tell. I haven’t found it good for much else so far in UGG at least. Note that I didn’t rout the guns with my horseys but kept them busy and distracted. That’s not the same by a long shot and something I think was within the capabilities of cavalry of the day. It wasn’t until the Bucktails showed up I routed them.

          • Gap Gen says:

            Yeah, cavalry tended to unmount and fight on foot when facing infantry (the opening skirmish of Gettysburg had Buford engaging the Confederates with dismounted cavalry, and the overall lack of cavalry at the battle was largely because the mounted cavalry skirmish was happening somewhere else).

            EDIT: Ah, I misunderstood your post. Yeah, I guess you generally didn’t see cavalry charging infantry by that point, say.

  9. CookPassBabtridge says:

    SQUARE
    PICTURES

    Gentlemen, welcome to the future

  10. Jomini says:

    UGG has the nicest puffs of smoke I’ve ever seen in a game.

Comment on this story

XHTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>