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The Flare Path: Searching For The Seeds

Simulation & wargame news

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The chemistry between yourself and that INSERTVIRTUALVEHICLETYPEHERE is really quite remarkable. I hope you don’t mind me asking, but is it purely a consequence of the skill of INSERTSIMDEVHERE or are there other factors at work? Putting it bluntly, are you and INSERTVIRTUALVEHICLETYPEHERE old flames?

It’s amazing what you can see from the top of IL-2 Cliffs of Dover. I was up there yesterday doing one of my periodic heir-worthiness spot-checks (thanks to developments like this one CloD is finally beginning to feel like a worthy Sturmovik successor) when the prettiest little Bluebird of Realisation fluttered into view. Faced with the old ‘Spitfire or Hurricane?’ dilemma, it suddenly struck me that the choice really wasn’t a choice at all. I was going to select ‘Hurricane’ not for any sound tactical or ludological reasons, but because of a relationship that began thirty-odd years ago in a gloomy workshop in the Home Counties.

Engine oil. Petrol. Grass cuttings. Sawdust. To the little boy standing amongst the jerry cans and the tools, the smell of this place is both exotic and familiar. It’s the smell of a dragon’s cave, a medieval armoury usually padlocked and out-of-bounds. It’s also the smell of Daddy just-home-from-work.

Today, the diminutive proto-simmer has been allowed in to watch his father put the finishing touches to a birthday present. Very soon the sturdy wooden Hawker Hurricane gripped by the steel jaws of that 8-inch bench vice will be gripped by the pudgy fingers of a grateful five-year-old. It will be dragged across a cerulean Seventies sky by a sprinting infant. The rotating red and black propeller will be spun. The grinning sharkmouth admired. The black-and-grey underside paintjob crash-landed on innumerable patches of grass and gravel. Hurricane KZ320 is about to get a lip-wobbling engine note and an incredibly daring pilot. The Luftwaffe don’t stand a chance.

A part of me wants to be the Scientific Simmer, the true omnivore whose steed choices are determined purely by quality. Tiny Romanian studio produced an extraordinarily plausible drag-racing sim? I’m there! Finnish outfit executed an unbelievably realistic Airbus A380 FSX add-on? Hold me back! In reality, like most of us (?), I suspect I’m driven as much by deep-rooted predilections and Raw Nostalgia, as a taste for excellence. While a fabulous sim can kindle a love affair with the dampest/unlikeliest of fuels (OMSI, I’m looking adoringly at you) more often than not my everyday sim choices are inextricably entangled with decisions made wittingly or unwittingly decades ago.

Are you similarly tethered to the past? Do you find yourself drawn to sim P-47s because your grandfather flew the real thing? Do you drive digital Deltics because as a Sixties schoolkid you walked past Finsbury Park MPD on your way to and from school? It would make my Friday infinitely more interesting if you’d deign to decorate the comments section with the intensely personal stories behind your intensely personal sim preferences.

 

Strategy First-Quencher

Because FP gets all his games for free by threatening devs with a nail-studded shillaly called Old Spike, he seldom bothers his pretty little head with trivialities like pricing. Are most wargames 50% too dear? Are the pricing strategies of key publishers like Slitherine/Matrix, HPS Sims, and John Tiller Software ensuring the genre remains a cobwebby niche? The answers are unimportant when you’re toting a 4ft-long bone-splintering tetanus-spreader.

That said, there are times when a deal is so absurdly generous, the firing of a Flare Path flare seems not just justified but essential. Take a look at the cornucopia of conflict Strategy First are currently selling for a measly five US dollars!

The disappointingly simplistic Ironclads games are little better than ballast, but the Graviteam efforts – Steel Fury and Achtung Panzer – represent, in this correspondent’s Humble Indie Bundle opinion, some of the very best WW2-themed gaming around. You’ll loathe the convoluted patching procedure but almost certainly love the vast battlefields, believable ballistics, refreshing campaign approach, and exciting mod potential.

 

The Flare Path Foxer

Today, two puzzles are sunning themselves on Flare Path’s mossy embankment. To solve the Quick brown chappy PageUp to the pics of the jet and the racecar above, then use all that General Transport Knowledge you keep under that battered beret of yours, to identify plane & driver.

The cryptic Foxer below will probably require a little more thought. There’s a common theme uniting the seven elements in the collage. What is it?

 

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Tim Stone

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