The Flare Path: Sea Of Sand

“They’ve found her!”. 5 seconds ago I was fast asleep. “Ekrem, is that you? Do you know what time it is here?”. “Listen. HMS Clytemnestra has been found.”.  The words are ice-water hurled into my pillow-creased face. Warm feet slap cold floor tiles. “Where?”. “Are you sitting down?” .“WHERE?”. “You won’t believe this. She’s in the middle of the Gobi Desert.”.

“Are you still there?”. “I think so”. “Oil prospectors working out of Baotou discovered her a couple of days ago. I’ve seen photographs. It’s definitely Clyte. She’s upright, half-buried in the sand. No sign of damage, but the spotting plane is missing. I’m emailing you the pictures now. How soon can you get to Beijing?”.

How soon could I get to Beijing? I pictured Magda putting on her ‘brave soldier’ face after hearing Daddy would be missing her 10th birthday party. I pictured Henry at Whizzbang Tours desperately searching for a replacement guide for the August Ypres trip… the RPS Hivemind pulsating tetchily at the news that the next Flare Path (stories on Panzer Corps: Afrika Korps and Rise of Flight) would be horribly late. I pictured all these things, then began packing.


Corps Florps

Panzer Corps: Afrika Korps – your lack of boldness and your titular noun inconsistency offends me, but your approachability, (relative) affordability, and enthusiasm for WW2 what-ifs makes an FP recommendation just about possible.

Slitherine/Matrix’s latest standalone TBS is a sandy, mid-priced version of their 2011 Panzer General homage tribute celebration flagrant facsimile, Panzer Corps. Like PzC, much of its appeal stems from the simplicity of the interface (most of the time, unit interaction boils down to setting movement destinations and assigning targets), the charm of the art, the carefully constructed puzzle-like balance of the scenarios, and the strong reality-derived delineations between unit types. To have any chance of success it’s usually vital to employ units in historically appropriate ways. Attempt to wrap rocks with scissors, or blunt scissors with paper and you’re sure to wind up looking like a prize arse.

If there’s a problem with the tried-and-tested Panzer General/Panzer Corps approach it’s that a) it’s been around for donkey’s years, and b) it can, despite the best efforts of talented devs and scenario designers, produce slightly generic skirmishes. Alex Shargin and chums at Flashback Games Studio and Lordz have plainly worked hard to bring the Desert War to Panzer Corps but the limitations of the engine (many of which were unnecessarily imported from PG) mean some theatre-specific subtleties end up blurred or abstracted into absurdity.

Take the representations of minefields and the Long Range Desert Group for example. In-game, the Allies’ roving bands of recon-gathering/mayhem-spreading truckaneers are represented in much the same way as normal armoured car or light armour units. The AI (apparently improved for this instalment) doesn’t seem to have the wit to use them in their historical role, preferring instead to squander them on frontlines.

Minefields, when they appear, seem to be treated like ammo-less bunkers. A few blasts from a tank gun and Bob’s your uncle, no more Minen.

A gutsier dev would have used Afrika Korps as the test-bed for a new campaign mechanism. Instead we get the ‘classic’ scenario sequence format with core unit carry-over. The sequence is generous (24 battles) and, towards its end, crammed with entertaining hypothetical scenarios (Axis invasions of Palestine, Syria, India and East Africa anyone?) What it’s not is the perfect device for telling the story of the North African tug-of-war, or a reason for a jaded veteran wargamer to cease his campaign for classier campaigns.


Pistol Whip-Round

FP considers slaying fellow pilots with MGs or cannon dashed unsporting. He prefers to best opponents by hurling cricket balls into their propellers, or by lowering himself onto their wings, then painstakingly unbolting ailerons. At a pinch, assuming an enemy has proved himself either a bounder or a cad, yes, it has also been known for FP to use a handgun like the four beauties lately added to Rise of Flight.

As part of the most recent update (1.027) 777 have introduced the Personal Package 2, an $8 satchel of personal firearms and plane prettifying/personalising chequered streamers. Mauser, Luger, Webley and Lebel weapons mean every RoF airforce now has an appropriate side-arm.

At the same time as the hand-cannons were unholstered, the team also unveiled an impressive video of their new sea modelling tech, and broadcast encouraging news of successful seaplane tests. The day when RoF-ers can recreate the extraordinary antics of Kilner and co. may be just around the corner. Who knows, perhaps one day those of us that still fire-up flawed WWI sub sim Shells of Fury now and again, may get a surrogate sequel from an unexpected source.


The Flare Path Foxer

FP Academy of Aircraft Identification students live in fear of random Block Tests. There you are, day-dreaming at your desk when all of a sudden Miss Budvanova or Mr Stubbs appears, and presents you with ten ‘blocks’ (square cards, each a different colour and adorned with a different combination of numbers and letters). The idea is you use nine of these cards to quickly build a 3×3 square in which every inter-block, word-number combination refers to an aircraft type. Cards can be rotated, diagonal combos ignored, and the letter doesn’t have to be on the left of the number (‘190, Fw’, for instance, would be acceptable). The important thing is your 3×3 square ends up containing 24 genuine aircraft.


  1. Vinraith says:

    For anyone interested, the Iron Cross edition of Rise of Flight is available on Gamersgate for $10 right now. At that price, I finally took the plunge. I haven’t played much, but it looks amazing.

    • VFRHawk says:

      Ah, good man! Been thinking about buying this for a while, at that price, no second thoughts.

    • Ranger33 says:

      Oh man, thanks for pointing that out, awesome deal! Been waiting for something like that for a while now.

    • Premium User Badge

      Hodge says:

      Linky. Cheers!

  2. Palehorse says:

    What is Clytemnestra…I don’t even… Ekrem?

    Waiting for more data.

    • MadMatty says:

      It´s from that movie….cant remember which one…. the one with the time traveling aircraft carrier?…. hmmmm

    • jonfitt says:

      That was “The Philadelphia Experiment” and the USS Eldridge.

      • VFRHawk says:

        Wasn’t the time travelling aircraft carrier The Final Countdown?

    • jonfitt says:

      Now there was an HMS Agamemnon, and Clytemnestra was his wife. HMS Agamemnon being Nelson’s favourite ship.

    • Oak says:

      I assume it’s a Close Encounters reference, though in that it’s the SS Cotopaxi.

    • Zenicetus says:

      It could be a reference to the freighter (Cotapaxi, I think?) dropped by ET’s in the middle of the Gobi desert in the Close Encounters movie. Don’t know where the Clytemnestra reference fits in… maybe poetic license.

      Edit: damn… ninja’d!

  3. protorp says:

    Tim Stone, pretty please for you to career change, publish thinking man’s Clive Cussler novels?

    With writing that makes the brain purr rather than bleed?

    Yrs, with utmost sincerity…

  4. Danny252 says:

    Oh, I now understand why only half a dozen people get the foxer each week.

    Back to my spreadsheet I go…

    Edit: So, my figurings are:
    -I can’t find a BV-anything that fits into this lot, as all the BVs are above 100, so if this tile is used, the BV must be in a corner
    -The only valid JU entry seems to be 86, so only one JU tile can be used and the JU must be on an edge
    -The above two are mutually exclusive, so the 24-BV-JU-7 tile can’t be used
    -TU can only be paired with 2, 10 or 26
    -Be can only be paired with 2, 10, 30 or 32
    -He can only be paired with 47 and 63 (…unless you count some very early HE models!)
    -I think Do-Ro-B-2 has to be on an edge. If not, both two-letter sides need to touch 2-number sided tiles – it can’t abut P-M-63-18, as the Do-63 doesn’t exist and the B-63 isn’t a plane. It can’t abut B-30-LA-24, as neither the Do-30 nor the Ro-30 exist. This leaves only He-11-7-32 that can be next to it.
    -B, C, Su are gloriously versatile. P, A and Ki will also go with quite a few things.

    …but I can’t make it work after 5 hours trying, so I must be wrong somewhere…

  5. protorp says:

    No punches pulled on this foxer.

    I think the following hangs together, although the alternating letter / number sequence breaks down in a few places, which makes me think there’s a much more elegant solution out there to get the 24. This one does, I think, have a valid aircraft for all horizontal / vertical letter / number combinations that occur (some quite obscure experimental projects are included) and ends up just under 50 different aircraft.

    Top left: Dark Green rotated twice counter clockwise
    Top middle: Dark Blue rotated once counter clockwise
    Top right: Magenta not rotated
    Middle left: Cyan not rotated
    Middle middle: Grey not rotated
    Middle right: Yellow rotated once clockwise
    Bottom left: Red not rotated
    Bottom middle: Black rotated once clockwise
    Bottom right: Lime Green rotated once clockwise

    Final grid:

    7 : Ju : 11 : 32 : B : 30
    BV : 24 : He : 7 : La : 24
    17 : Tu : 26 : A : 5 : B
    C : 47 : Su : 24 : P : 19
    57 : Ki : 7 : C : 2 : B
    Be : 86 : Ju : 10 : Ro : Do

    • Tim Stone says:

      A valiant (BT-13) attempt protorp, but I’m not sure I can dispense the flair point just yet.

      ‘BV 17’ (vertical combo, top-left block to middle-left block) stands out as one possibly dubious plane.

      • protorp says:

        Yes, of all of them I was hoping you wouldn’t notice that one… thought I can’t currently see how BV 17 is any less tenuous than BV 7 or BV 24. Though maybe that means dark green is the unused square…

        2nd attempt:

        Top left: Cyan, not rotated
        Top middle: Black, rotated 90 counter clockwise
        Top right: Red, rotated 180
        Middle left: Fawn, rotated 90 clockwise
        Middle middle: Magenta, rotated 180
        Middle right: Dark blue, rotated 90 clockwise
        Bottom left: Yello, not rotated
        Bottom middle: Grey, rotated 90 clockwise
        Bottom right: Lime Green, not rotated
        Dark Green not used

        Final grid:
        17 : TU : 10 : Ju : 86 : BE
        C : 47 : C : 7 : Ki : 57
        63 : P : 24 : La : 7 : He
        18 : M : 30 : B : 32 : 11
        B : 19 : Su : 26 : B : Do
        5 : P : 24 : A : 2 : Ro

        One of these is an “internal designation” from the producing company, so I’m not sure if that’ll fly or not.

        I’ve now spent waaaay too long awake trying to work this out, never realised quite how prolific aircraft design companies were with e.g. experimental interwar seaplanes…

        • Tim Stone says:

          Your final grid looked fine to me, but ‘The Dragon’ (DH.84) – Miss Budvanova – doesn’t like Su-19.