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The Flare Path: Set To Idle

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Has anybody seen a brown and white Protestant Work Ethic, about this big? He answers to the name of Scamp. I was walking him in the park yesterday morning when the little so-and-so ran off. I’ve contemplated searching for him, and I was going to print some ‘LOST’ posters, and stick them up in the local area, but – well – I just don’t seem to have got round to it yet. Right now, I’m not even sure I can summon-up the gumption to tell you about the delights of Combat Mission: Battle For Normandy Commonwealth Forces and Accu-Feel.

 

Laziest After Action Report EvAAR

Even Nazis like to nap.

Assuming dozing on mossy banks and leaning on gates doesn’t get in the way, Combat Mission: Battle For Normandy’s first module should be getting its own Wot I Think at some point next week. In the meantime an AAR would seem appropriate.

Sadly, since Scamp’s departure, a conventional battle commentary seems like a huge undertaking. Moving all those units, devising all those tactics, adding arrows to all those screenshots… I’m exhausted just thinking about it. If only there was a way to illustrate the Caen-focused splendour of this new wargame adjunct without a) spoiling either ‘The Scottish Corridor’ (the 14-mission Allied campaign) or ‘Kampfgruppe Engel’ (the 8-mission SS alternative) or b) working up a sweat. If only the game catered for temporarily work-shy word operatives like myself.

Wait a second. Perhaps it does. If I press this here Quick Battle button, choose to play as the Germans in a smallish defensive battle, then purchase a single example of The Meanest Mountain of Steel in the game, then I may be able to generate a scrap that’s both loafer-friendly and gripping.

Right. It looks like my task on this balmy August, 1944 morn is to defend a couple of Norman hamlets from a British attack of unknown complexion. With luck, the AI will have picked a nice selection of Commonwealth Forces’ new unit types, and my lone 70-ton trundler will stay alive long enough to gape at and gore a few of them.

In the coming clash, I intend to use a tactic Heinz Guderian dismissed as “imbecilic” in chapter 8 of his seminal work on armoured warfare. I plan to park a bloody-huge tank slap-bang in the centre of my enemy’s most obvious avenue of attack, then sit back and enjoy the fireworks.

The first five minutes pass uneventfully. Apart from the bumble-bee drone of a fighter-bomber overhead, there’s neither sight nor sound of the foe. I congratulate myself for deciding to deploy my hulking feline on a tree-screened lane.

I’m starting to wonder if the Brits have stood me up, when a Daimler II armoured car scoots out of the trees on the hillside opposite my position. Its boldness earns it a catastrophic 88mm hull hole.

Two minutes later a Staghound AC breaks cover in roughly the same spot and gets exactly the same treatment. Two shots, two kills. A haughty Heer sneer would seem appropriate at this jun… CLAAAAAANG! Then again perhaps it’s a bit early for Aryan arrogance. Something unidentified at 1 o’clock has just gouged a chunk of Zimmerit off my beautifully-sculpted Porsche turret.

The vandal turns out to be a Cromwell IV cruiser tank halted near the ford on the right-hand side of the map. My metal monarch dispenses swift retaliation in the form of a turret-perforating AP shell. Incredibly, the British machine shrugs off the wound, and puts another round into my flank. No penetration, but this time the pop-up damage label reports ‘armour spalling’.

Concern overriding laziness, I plot a short reverse movement. As the Panzer begins its backward bimble, it spits another projectile at its molester. This one is fatal.

Nine minutes in and the score is 3-0 to the gamey git in the Hitlerian folly. Said folly is still busy hosing fleeing Cromwellians, when it sights an adversary so far below it on the food chain, it seems cruel to even engage it with a bow MG. A Humber III light recon car is making its way gingerly down the slope opposite. Armed with nothing but a piffling Bren Gun, this is Allied pluck at its most preposterous. Predictably, one trigger pedal-stamp is enough. No-one escapes alive from the Tommy jalopy.

The next 120 seconds are particularly bloody, and the blood is all British. In rapid succession a Daimler II, a White Scout Car, two more Humber IIIs and a Cromwell VII enter the fray then exit it wreathed in smoke and flame. Tempted by a mysterious ‘?’ loitering on a road at 11 o’clock, I decide it’s time my Royal Tiger stretched its legs.

On reflection, the wander probably wasn’t wise. Shortly after arriving at the stone bridge on the left of the arena, and euthanizing a confused M5A1 halftrack (I’m beginning to think I’ve encountered the UK Military Vehicles Club annual rally, rather than the spearpoint of 11th Armoured Division) I’m pummelled by a series of shots from various sources. Two of the incoming rounds ding skywards, one – a lower right hull hit – generates that eleven-letter word every tanker dreads: penetration.

It was around this point that things got so insanely chaotic – the air over the little map-bisecting brook so clogged with hurtling munitions – that I stopped taking mental notes. All I can tell you with certainty is that none of the next fifteen minutes passed without at least one allied AFV coughing-up dazed and singed crewmen. Brit war machines were perishing all over the place… on the bridge, on the river bank, in the woods. When precisely my Panzer lost its mobility I can’t say for sure. Was it before that Sherman I with the Rhino hedge-cutter, expired fording the stream? Possibly. Was it before or after that game Cromwell managed to barge its way across the wreck-strewn bridge, only to die in a stupendous fireball? No idea. All I know is that by the 23-minute mark, my hot-barrelled death disseminator was down to its last 2 AP shells and the horizon was black with the smoke from all the brewing British battlewagons.

But in the end it wasn’t ammo exhaustion that caused me to reach for the ceasefire button and halt the most impressive lone-wolf performance I can recall in 12 years of Combat Missioning, it was pity. Those poor, gutsy Brits had suffered enough.

 

Accu-sations

A day doesn’t pass when I’m not accosted in the street and accused of either lying about how often I’m accosted in the street, or under-reporting the still-flourishing Microsoft Flight Simulator add-on scene. When confronted, I tend to use the poverty excuse or the “There’s not a lot you can say about SkyPig’s new ATR-72 add-on or GeoSpangle’s new Orkney Islands Deluxe except they’re fantastic recreations of the ATR-72 and the Orkney Islands.” The excuses work in most situations, but in the case of the fairly cheap, and gloriously generalist Accu-Feel pack from A2A, they don’t really prop-wash.

Having finally got this titchy FSX physics and sound strenghtener installed (to be fair to A2A, my early technical issues were, I now realise, entirely my own fault) I’m pleased to be able to report it really is rather splendid. Returning to an Accu-Feeled FSX after a spell in Microsoft Flight is like gulping Budvar after a month on Budweiser. My tragic Gusto Deficiency means I can’t be arsed to write about the ambience and feedback differences the pack makes, but I am prepared to provide a few Before & After screenshots.

1) Vanilla FSX

1) FSX + Accu-Feel

2) Vanilla FSX

2) FSX + Accu-Feel

Hmm. This really isn’t working, is it. Look, all you really need to know is that clever old A2A have figured out a way to make runways bumpier, cockpits rattlier, brakes squeakier, tyres more talkative and pre-stall scares even scarier. All these effects are automatically adjusted to fit with the plane type you’re piloting. It’s dashed clever, and it’s hard to think of a more cost-effective way to enhance FSX at present.

 

The Flare Path Foxer

…is currently curled up with the lazy dog. Sorry. Back next week.

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Tim Stone

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