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16

The Flare Path: Cobbled With Craniums

Simulation & wargame news

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Thank heavens, Battlefront, the devs behind just-announced Combat Mission: Fortress Italy expansion Gustav Line, aren’t planning to model the propaganda shells that regularly exploded over Allied positions at Monte Cassino. Coming on top of the minefields, the barbed wire, the steep slopes, the cunningly sited German strongpoints, the snow, the rain, the mud, and the infamous Green Devils, blizzards of courage-corroding handbills might have been the last straw for our dispirited D-Day dodgers…

AAR, ‘Rapido Rush’, Turn 18. “Due to the leaflet stonk on Turn 2 most of my units are still refusing to leave their foxholes. The few that are advancing are doing so at snails pace because of dysentery and trench foot :(”

German paratroops, British, New Zealand and Polish forces, AA guns, snow… the Gustav Line feature list has surprised many with its scope. True, there’s no sign of the French North African forces that were so effective north of Cassino (and so feared by local civilians), and I don’t see any Gurkha or Indian faces in the screenshots, but compared to recent CM releases, this new instalment looks generous and cosmopolitan.

Tackling the landings at Salerno and Anzio, and the horrendous fight for the mountain-top monastery at Cassino, means BF campaign designers are going to have be at the top of their game. With its costly frontal attacks and emphasis on artillery and fortifications, the latter four-month battle had the feel of a WW1 rather than a WW2 confrontation. To capture the flavour of the slow, frustrating Allied advance without producing scenarios that are themselves slow and frustrating will require plenty of research and an extremely deft touch. As someone that can rack up impressive friendly casualty totals in the cover-rich terrain of Normandy, the prospect of attacking across open ground carefully sown with mines and stripped of LoF obstructions, brings me out in an icy sweat.

One thing’s for sure, dramatic armoured thrusts aren’t likely to feature in many of the outings. Guderian and Liddell Hart definitely weren’t thinking of the jagged Apennines when they penned their masterworks.

Now that Gustav Line is in testing, Battlefront’s creative flamethrower is being trained on Arnhem (the Market Garden module has been in development alongside GL so, hopefully, should be with us by the end of the summer), Operation Bagration (CMx2’s first Ost Front posting) and Combat Mission: Shock Force 2. If you like your tactical gaming intricate, intense and unforgiving, it looks like it’s going to be an excellent/expensive year.

 

Not Waving But Downing

Would any of you be interested in joining a social networking service I’m thinking of setting up? As the name suggests, www.wavingattrainsandplanes.com will be a gathering place for the kind of people that can’t resist waving at passing trains and planes. I hatched the idea on a glorious summer evening last year when, within the space of 20 minutes, I found myself waving at both a passing Class 66 and – unbelievably – a pair of low-flying S.E.5As.

Your £9.95 annual membership fee would give you the right to use W@T&P’s lending library and dating service, rent any of our delightful trackside holiday properties, and download waving polygonal people packs for a range of top rail and flight sims. Even now our artist-in-waiting is busy preparing a set of arm-waggling Belgians for upcoming WWI sequel Wings Over Flanders Fields.

WOFF’s unspecific imminence doesn’t mean its predecessor, Over Flanders Fields, has been put out to grass by fans. A band of modders led by Lothar of the Hill People continues to develop OFFice, a visionary enhancement bundle that adds extra colour and authenticity to countless aspects of an already colourful/authentic sim.

Recent changes impact everything from flight models and medal distribution, to mission generation and injury simulation. OFFbase, the delightfully domestic text-based social sim that sits at the heart of OFFice, now lets you clobber squadron-mates with snowballs and fall out with pals over dead mice and puddles of mascot pee. Sod dogfights – if flight simulation is serious about escaping its self-built ghetto, it might want to try modelling a few more dogdisagreements.

 

The Flare Path Foxer

Edwardian island inspectors don’t come more efficient than skink74. With tree-fern fronds dangling from his floats and the emerald green tail of a dazed Fig Parrot protruding from his top pocket, he landed alongside the Improbable a mere 50 minutes after taking off. Good show, Sir. Good show.

Today you’re looking for words rather than birds. There are a dozen hiding in the grid (or 17, if you want to be pedantic). Figure out the theme and they shouldn’t stay hidden for long.

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Tim Stone

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