The Flare Path: Searching For The Seeds

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?



  1. Faldrath says:

    The first computer game I played was the original Test Drive. It blew my 11 year old self away – primarily because of the in-car view. I was *really* driving, not just watching a car from above! Of all the cars, I was instantly drawn to the Lamborghini Countach. I don’t know why, maybe the name was more exotic, or the car looked more aggressive, I can’t tell. But I spent countless hours with it, and to this day I will play any driving game with Lamborghinis, just because they’re there (latest one was Driver: San Francisco).

    • LionsPhil says:

      The coolest car in Test Drive was the Chevy with the digital dash, though.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      The Countach is the original supercar. No car had ever been so spectacularly silly or stupendously super before, and few have since. It was the pinnacle of the short lived wedge design trend. You had to sit on the treshold to drive backwards. Grotesque yet gorgeous. A car like sculpture.

  2. Rodafowa says:

    My dad worked at the Rolls Royce plant in Leavesden that is now Leavesden Studios (where the various Harry Potter movies were shot). As a result I’ve got an affection for the Wessex and Sea King helicopters that surpasses all reason.

    Is the plane a Fairey Delta II?

  3. CdrJameson says:

    I want a Fairey Delta!

    And a pipe.

    (Lived near RNAS Yeovilton when I was little)

    Actually, I want to fly a Lego Galaxy Explorer, but they haven’t got around to that one yet.

  4. Llewyn says:

    Judging by the nose I assume the driver is Fangio.

    Edit: The driver’s nose, that is, not the 250F’s.

  5. tungstenHead says:

    My father was a farmer and I’m always finding myself trying the demoes for the Farming Simulator games. Having worked for Dad a few years and having actually driven a tractor though, I am also finding myself immediately bouncing off of those games because there is no tractor simulation there at all. It’s the barest arcade controls for tractor driving. I want two brake pedals, a throttle and a gear shifter, dammit! Mud bogging would be an added plus.

  6. Tim Stone says:

    Fangio and the Fairey Delta II are unfoxed faster than a Fangio or a Fairey Delta II. Jolly well done, Rodafowa and Llewyn.

    • Capt. Eduardo del Mango says:

      I believe that’s actually Fangio’s team-mate, Jean Behra – he had that chequered band helmet. Fangio only drove the German GP in a 250F once in ’57, when he looked like (link in second post in case it flags it for moderation)…

      • Llewyn says:

        Thank you. The helmet was confusing me, and the internet didn’t throw up any photos of Fangio wearing that helmet in a 250F either. But I was obviously sure it wasn’t Sir Stirling so I went for the easiest and safest guess ;-)

      • Capt. Eduardo del Mango says:

        This; link to

        • Capt. Eduardo del Mango says:

          And here’s Behra at Rouen the next year (as Fangio’s team-mate); link to

          I know it’s pedantic but the Flare Path Foxer is kinda graded pedantry, so…

      • Tim Stone says:

        Eduardo del Mango secures himself a very rare humble pie-shaped Flare Path flair point.

        The pic is a scan of postcard I had pinned to my wall for many years as a kid . It was my ‘Fangio Postcard’, but having just checked the small print on the reverse, it is indeed his teammate Jean Behra (Nurburgring, August 1957). Nostalgia – sometimes it doesn’t bear close scrutiny.

  7. Sunjumper says:

    OK that strategy game bundle is incredibly cool.
    I always wanted to have a go at the more arcane war games but never wanted to pay the very high entrance fee to see if I had the patience or even inclination to appreciate them.

    Now I just bought a bunch of games I would not have even considered buying in the past, looking forward to try them out.

  8. cptgone says:

    i give my thanks to Strategy First.
    (and wow that name sounds so familiar i got curious what games i remember them from)

  9. Ross Angus says:

    The pistol is a Walther PP. Some bloke in a suit uses it, with a license.

  10. Claidheamh says:

    Ah, wouldn’t it be amazing if some dev made a racing sim based on the early days of F1, or motor racing of the 50’s and 60’s in general? With the 20km long racetracks and the deadly wooden cars… That would be racing sim heaven, or very close to it.

    • Llewyn says:

      An updated version of Grand Prix Legends, basically? And yes, it would. GPL still has a very active community as far as I know, but I’ve always found the whole thing a little daunting. Something that could combine that type of hardcore sim with a few more options to make it more forgiving for the rest of us set in that era would be glorious.

      On a slightly more modern and non-F1 note, Simbin’s classic GT Legends finally debuted on Steam this week.

      • Claidheamh says:

        Yes, that is precisely what I was thinking of.

        • Capt. Eduardo del Mango says:

          Seeing as you mentioned ’20 km’ tracks…

          link to

          That’s the 72km Piccolo delle Madonie course of the Targa Florio for GPL. Your wish answered!

      • Capt. Eduardo del Mango says:

        Updated, you say? Fortunately they have. Get the excellent GPL Installation Guide from link to – with the stuff they’ve added into the physics engine the most recent mods (1966, 1967 Formula 2, 1967 Sports Cars, 1971 Can Am) are every bit as good as anything released currently.

        • Llewyn says:

          ’67 Sports cars, y’say? Got to love those Chaparrals. That might be the thing to finally make me hunt down a copy of GPL and get it up and running.

          • Capt. Eduardo del Mango says:

            The installation’s a bit of a chore but it’s worth it. It gives a sense of feedback through the wheel I’ve only found elsewhere in netKar and iRacing – except GPL cars go everywhere sideways.

            The sideways hilarity is because they’re all running on old cross-ply tyres, which keep grip at much higher slip angles than modern radials. GT Legends is a sim of a modern historic racing championship so they’re all on radials – there are mods to convert them into their period equivalents, though, so be sure to look that up.

  11. ritalingamer says:

    I’ve always had oddly sentimental attachments to certain pieces of military kit. For example, I enjoy seeing the B-25 in any games or movies, because my grandfather proudly told me he did maintenance for a wing of them during The War. When we visited the Nimitz Museum of the Pacific War near his home in Fredericksburg, he pointed at the one they had on display and confided in me “That is the loudest damn plane.”

    I played my first Close Combat game, Invasion Normandy, in high school and for some reason the manual’s description of the Stuart V stuck with me. I enjoy maneuvering them around in any strategy game that includes the little “Honey.” It’s ludicrously outmatched against Panzers, but damned if it doesn’t make me smile.

  12. westyfield says:

    When I was about seven, my dad (with ‘help’ from me and my brother) built a kit car over the course of perhaps four years. He’s taken me out on the track in it a number of times (including pranging it at 130mph, aged 13), as well as numerous Sunday afternoon drives, and despite my never having driven it – I’m not a big fan of driving, and it’s a long way from the Fiat 500 I’m used to – I’ll always have a go in any racing game/sim that lets me zip around in a Lotus Seven.

    (If anyone has any recommendations for decent Sevens in sims, please do say so here!)

  13. Brun says:

    The second Foxer is tricky. I would guess that all of the elements shown depict some element of the German military, except for the list of Post-Dreadnought British Battleships in the upper-left corner.

  14. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    I daresay I’m consistently terrible at Foxers, so, can any gentleman identify the plane in the second Foxer, the one with the four open cockpits? :)

    • Brun says:

      I’m having difficulty identifying it, the open cockpits and primitive fuselage design are typically found in WWI designs, but the fact that it’s a monoplane and has streamlined engine nacelles is telling me that it’s likely an Interwar aircraft, probably from sometime in the 20’s or maybe early 30’s.

      Other things that I can identify from that Foxer:

      Upper Left – Incomplete list of Post-Dreadnought British Battleships – every Post-Dreadnought class up to and including Revenge-class (except the Erin and Canada classes) is represented by at least one ship on the list, making them all WWI-era Battleships.

      Upper Right – Walther PP pistol, looks like he chopped the picture straight from the Wikipedia page.

      Center Left – Schematic of a arrestor hook assembly for a carrier-based aircraft, taildragger configuration suggests a WWII naval aircraft.

      Center Large – A military ship of some kind, looks to be between Destroyer and Frigate sized. The construction is quite modern (probably post-1990), but the lack of extensive radar and antenna arrays as well as any visible deck guns leaves me wondering whether this is a combat ship or not.

      Bottom Left – The aircraft mentioned above.

      Bottom Center – A mechanical device of some kind, looks to be a pump (“Water Outlet”). Possibly a bilge pump, since so much of the rest of the Foxer appears to be naval in origin?

      Bottom Right – A soldier whose helmet and and grey uniform suggest WWII German military. The goggles likely mean he was either in a mechanized unit (driving a vehicle of some kind) or involved in the desert campaigns in North Africa.

      • Brun says:

        Identified the ship. It is the SAS Spioenkop, a Valour-class Frigate in the South African Navy.

      • Elmar Bijlsma says:

        That list looks like the battleships of the WW I Grand Fleet.

        And the “German” soldier might in fact be Finnish. Looks like he is holding a ski-pole and shouldering a Suomi SMG.

        No idea how it all fits together though.

        • Spinoza says:

          I thought he is from Feldgendarmerie.

        • ritalingamer says:

          To me, the German soldier’s goggles suggest “Gebirgsjager/mountain troop,” if the little chibi icons in Unity of Command are anything to go by.

      • Brun says:

        Identified the arrestor hook. It is from an Avia Bk-534, a Czechoslovak biplane manufactured during the interwar period. It was used by Slovakia to assist the Luftwaffe in the invasion of Poland in 1939, as well as some other East European battles in the late 1930’s.

  15. wodin says:

    APOS and it’s DLC are superb games..Graviteam on my favourite wargame developer of recent times..I hate RTS games normally aswell..but this is far from a click fest.

  16. Easy says:

    I remember reading your review of APOS and thinking to myself “gosh, I really would love to play this one day”. Thanks to you, that day is today!

  17. Marcin says:

    Back in eastern bloc Poland, the only way to see fancy foreign cars (real or toy models) was to “send for catalogs”. This was a process of finding (or making) friends with the type of desired catalogs, painstakingly copying the best guess at what the address was (regardless of how alien it looked) and sending it out into the world, stamped with the best guess at foreign delivery rates. And then waiting, oh the waiting.

    To this day I don’t know why these companies sent the catalogs out to what were obviously kids in the eastern bloc; it’s actually easier to think of these days where you go into a database and get regular mailings but back then it must have been a real person on the other end.

    Either way, the fanciest, most futuristic and exotic car that was listed in the catalogs that I remember being endlessly fascinated with was the Lotus Esprit. Something about that name and that shape stuck with me for 30 years – so it’s the car I make a beeline for in every caRPG or sim, regardless of performance.

    There was also a popular WW2 show called Czterej Pancerni i Pies (Four Tankmen and a Dog) which featured (no, you won’t be able to guess) a T34/85, so it’s what I’m going for in World of Tanks, and still think of as the most “tank-like” shape there is. It’s instinctive at this point: tank = T34.

    • Temple says:

      Thanks for this, brings back a memory of an old friend telling me tales of his life behind the curtain.

  18. grundus says:

    First ever computer game I recall playing was F/A-18 Hornet (or a sim in which you fly one) on an old Apple Powerbook. It was tricking flying with a monochrome screen the size of a postcard using a trackball, but damn it, it was awesome. Then I played a sim which was really seriously definitely called F/A-18 Hornet on a Macintosh Performa, I remember one mission where you had to destroy Saddam Hussein’s bizarre mountain cannon thing. Since then I’ve been looking for a decent sim in which you can fly F/A-18s, but so far I’ve settled for X-Plane 9 and DCS World with the A-10C module. Not really the same thing but I never did like dogfighting all that much.

    • Oak says:

      You can fly it in Aerofly FS, but that’s all you can do with it. None of the nitty-gritty is modeled and there’s no combat.

  19. Orontes says:

    Is the link to do with spies?

    Brun pointed out the ship as the Spioenkop. Spioen means “spy” in Afrikaans (according to Wikipedia). Also, the Walther PP is used by a well-known spy (oxymoron perhaps?).

    I don’t know the rest.

    • iucounu says:

      Spioenkop or Spion Kop was also a famous battle in the Second Boer War, and gave its name to lots of football terraces in the UK, most notably at Anfield (‘the Kop’.)

    • Tim Stone says:

      The link isn’t spying, but you’re warm.

  20. Zenicetus says:

    I don’t think I have a favorite old flame INSERTVIRTUALVEHICLETYPEHERE , but I do have a family connection to WW2 in the Pacific theater, and I’ve always liked the few air combat sims in that setting.

    My Dad wasn’t a pilot, but he did some arial recon as a back-seater in a SBD Dauntless flying off a pocket carrier in the last years of the war (yes, that makes me an old fart). Dad got all his front teeth knocked out in a hard landing, but otherwise came home in one piece.

    Unfortunately the SBD is a pig to fly in simulations, so I don’t really focus on it, just the overall theater. I’ll immediately buy any halfway decent flight sim based in the WW2 Pacific, as long as there’s a cockpit I can sit in, and joystick support. One of these days we’ll get another one, meanwhile I still keep IL-2 on my machine for the occasional sortie.

    Speaking of that IL-2 CloD reference in the post… what’s the state of CloD these days? Is it worth buying now? Are there enough user-created campaigns to flesh out the game?

    • Reapy says:

      Side note: I love the pacific theater also, I have no clue why either, there is no attachment to it for me other than a memory of a f4f with folded wings in an air museum I saw when I was a kid, but maybe that was enough.

      In any event I was just reading up on that same question about clod over at and it looks like they company has given up on it and is instead focusing on another game, so it’s probably worth skipping waiting for the next one I think. Though with their track record probably good to let the hardcore try it first ;)

  21. pingu666 says:

    for clod, really buy it when its on sale if you at all, it just didnt capture me like il2 did.

    fairey hendon is the 4 open cockpit plane i think :)

    link to

  22. Shiloh says:

    Well now, let’s see… I have a fondness for Halifaxes because my grandfather was on them in North Yorkshire (RAF Leeming I think)… before being posted out to West Africa to crew Sunderlands (which I also have a fondness for) on the anti U-boat missions… he scuttled a load of them off the West African coast at the end of the war because it was uneconomical to fly them back to Blighty… last off in a dinghy after opening the sea sluices, aparently… err… doesn’t explain the American Civil War fascination though.

    Mind you, I’m 45 and was brought up in the 70s, when the Second World War was still very much part of popular culture, and kids were exposed to Battle Action, Overlord, Commando and all the other Hun- and Jap-bashing literature of the time… first words of German I ever learnt were “Achtung!”, “Spitfeuer” and “Hande hoch!”… never got beyond a toothy bespectacled “Banzai-i-i-i-i!!!” in Japanese, sadly.