The Flare Path: Does The Hippy Hippy Shako

Why are AGEOD revisiting the American Civil War? Is firing from the Hip as tricky as it looks? What’s the largest animal that could pass through a John Deere 1400 baler and survive? Why is there Marmite on my bannister?* Does beginning yet another Flare Path with a string of questions mean I’m as creatively bankrupt as Nathan “Oh. Oh my.” Grayson? In this week’s Flare Path I intend to answer the questions the other simulation and wargaming columns won’t, can’t, shan’t, daren’t or Robert Plan’t answer.

*Not a euphemism.

Let’s get the baler and the bannister ones out of the way first (Juvenile badger. My domovoi has a thing for yeast extract).

AGEOD’s motivation is harder to pin down. After a day with Civil War II preview code, I suspect the studio briefly known as Paradox France have returned to the disUnited States of the 1860s because they are determined to make my brain melt think a massive new map and some interesting extra play mechanisms will lead to richer and more redolent American Civil War recreations.

The opportunity to play regional decision cards and choose battle plans does mean there’s more period flavour and military intimacy this time round.

More an additional order selection than a card game-style fan of possibilities (your hand is determined by the scenario, and many cards can be played several times) decision cards affect single regions and generally result in new units, weakened enemies, boosted treasuries, conscript pools, or VP tallies. Sometimes there’s a cost in cash, local loyalty, or national morale, and a chance your efforts will be fruitless. As a mechanism for adding historical nuances like submarine ops, slave labour (only available to CSA players, natch) and scorched earth tactics without introducing a mass of extra rules at the same time, it’s rather clever.

The battle planner, another sound idea, is less pleasingly executed. Engagements in earlier Athena engine games could feel a tad arms-length, a little lottery-like. The WeGo turn structure meant you plotted unit movements and assigned combat stances, then looked on helplessly as armies attempted to carry out those orders, possibly colliding with enemy unit stacks in the process (The actual fury of battle was, and still is, represented by a jaunty slaughter swingometer). Now when two opposing armies tangle, you’re sometimes invited to influence the bloodshed by choosing from a range of deployment templates and battle blueprints. The better your commander, the more information you’ll have on the enemy deployment, and – in theory – the higher your chances of picking a canny plan. While it’s nice to have a seat at the tactical table at last, that seat is currently a little too low and far away from the lantern-lit maps to be all that useful. Because the battle planner interface doesn’t let you scrutinise your own force composition and fails to provide much useful information on the opposing general – his character, previous battle habits etc – the ‘let the AI decide’ button ends up far more attractive than it should be.

The combination of multi-tiered armies and a vast 3000-territory map mean this is not a game I could confidently recommend to an AGEOD ingenue (If you’ve never tried one of the dev’s creations Alea Jacta Est is probably the place to start). Where earlier titles in the series simply ask you to attach leaders to suitably sized stacks of brigades, battalions or legions (the better the commander, the larger the force they can boss), in CW2 truly effective armies are those thoughtfully subdivided into corps and divisions.

At the start of the 114-turn (turns represent 15 days) full campaign, there are numerous unattached generals and brigades standing around waiting to be appointed and arranged. It’s all a bit overwhelming to be honest. Command chain chores combined with that colossal play area, and some crashes (that, happily, AGEOD seem to be on top of) explain why I’ve spent most of my time thus far with the three short scenarios: Bull Run (5 turns), Shiloh (8 turns) and New Mexico (16 turns).

With its Amerindian units, fort-littered venue, and approachable scale and duration, the latter has a strong whiff of the excellent Birth of America 2 (another good place to start if you’re new to the series) about it. What a shame there won’t be more challenges of this size included with the base game. Once you’ve tired of the three lunchtime-friendly micro-scenarios, you’ve no option but to embark on one of the two versions of the mammoth main attraction.

I’m not sure I can say anything all that useful about AI quality and turn processing durations at this point (Though, early in the main campaign there’s no sign of Pride of Nation-style ponderousness, and based on previous AGEOD offerings, I’d be surprised if artificial opponents were less than competent). Musically and artistically, CW2 is a demure delight. Card illustrations and unit and general portraits are lovely. The cartography and terrain window art isn’t as decorative or atmospheric as it was in Civil War I, but with the new style comes greater clarity.

Released next Tuesday, CW2 isn’t for the faint of heart. Series veterans and scholars of the Civil War should enjoy the colour, depth and the dizzying room to manoeuvre, but newcomers may find themselves floundering at first and decrying the lack of medium-sized scenarios later.


Hip Hip Hooputthattruckthere?

At the time of writing DCS:WW2 is $35,000 away from getting its airworthiness certificate and $310,000 away from taking off from a significantly extended map in the company of a Flying Fortress.

Meanwhile, in another corner of the DCS World aerodrome, Belsimtek erks are crouching nervously in the weeds as dumpy Russian helos flown by an assortment of eager Mi-8MTV2 early adopters stir up dust clouds, flop onto concrete taxiways, and clip carelessly parked service vehicles.

I’m finding the latest DCS World helo – a breathtakingly detailed depiction of the Mi-8 Hip – a bit of a handful compared to the Huey unveiled a few months back, but having had a soft spot for these ungainly workhorses since sharing skies/sorties with them in Digital Integration’s Hind back in the Nineties, I’m not sure there’s a faux flying machine I’d rather be spending time with right now.

Proper cold starts are much more involved than they are on the Iroquois. If the Mi-8’s overhead panels weren’t fitted with natty hinged bars that allow rows of switches to be switched simultaneously, getting this Soviet-era stall wart ready for flight would be a digit wearying business.

Originally intended for civilian use, the Hip has big child-bearing hips, a cavernous cargo womb, and, yes, this analogy was a bad idea. Weapons such as bombs, rockets and gun pods are bolted to unflattering fuselage brackets giving the aircraft an endearing A-Team air. Used by air forces the world over for tasks ranging from ground attack and recon to mine laying and medevac, repainters and sortie builders should have a field day.

At present, while the FM is essentially complete (and verified by a real Mi-8 pilot) there are substantial gaps in the documentation and tutorials, and little campaign content included. By the time this pricey ($50) but painstakingly researched add-on bids goodbye to beta status, those gaps will have been filled and, fingers crossed, Hipsters should be collecting and delivering new high-detail infantry, and wrestling with pendulous sling loads.


The Flare Path Foxer

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got. Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot. Wouldn’t you like to be as good as solving Foxers as phlebas? After Zephro, All is Well and FuryLippedSquid put names to most of last week’s collage components, the phabulous phleb drew their attention to the Cheers theme.

A) Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) and Pointe du Hoc cliff.
B) Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane.
C) Bristol Bullfinch (The Bull & Finch pub was used for Cheers exterior shots)
D) Verville Air Coach.
E) Woody.
G) Douglas Boston.

As I think I may have mentioned before, many volumes in my Alexandria-rivalling reference library have been ravaged by the ink-partial larvae of the common booklouse (Biblioscelis expungus). Just yesterday I was thumbing through a tome written in the 1930s and stumbled on this completely incomplete passage. A Flare Path flair point made from the handle of Neville Chamberlain’s chamberlainpot to the defoxer whose 15 suggestions match my memory of the missing words most closely.


  1. Grey Ganado says:

    I really hope that nickname will stay.

  2. Gap Gen says:

    I still think that the next Total War game should just be AGEOD’s Civil War glued to Scourge of War. But then my living room is wallpapered with newspapers covered in marker pen arrows.

  3. stahlwerk says:

    I bought the UH1 and the P-51D in the Steam DCS sale this week, and I’m deeply fascinated by them. But now I’ve got a problem, since I prefer playing on the living room Couch + TV, and I currently use a Logitech Wireless Keyboard with trackpad but sans num-block or a 360 Controller. Last night I tried setting up the Controller to map the right stick to looking around and it seems that the controller’s sensitivity, dead-zone or range can not really be adjusted via the UI, resulting in neck-breaking head maneuvers.

    Now it seems I have three options going forward:

    – Give up and stick with Arma 2 and maybe three sometime in the future.

    – Try again, maybe with some kind of controller input tweaking Software?

    – Invest in some modest additional gear. Needs to be wireless. Needs to be usable in a reclined position. Needs to not freak out the cat.

    Any thoughts?

    • pupsikaso says:

      You can adjust sensitivity, dead zone and curve all in the “tune axis” settings. Go to controls options, go to axis, select the axis, and click on the tune axis button at the bottom.

    • P.Funk says:

      Trying to fly a DCS aircraft using these items is… madness. I don’t want to tell someone how to play their game, but a sim this involved usually desires at least a modest Joystick. In fact a cheapo Logitech 3d or something ought to be enough.

      I know of no wireless joysticks. I’m almost certain that flying with a 360 controller would be deeply unsatisfying except on game mode.

      I think the spirit behind DCS is somewhat at odds with the spirit behind reclined couch gaming. If you can make it work, hats off to ya.

      • pupsikaso says:

        Well, with some after-market modification it’s possible to setup a wireless transmitter and receiver for a joystick, although it won’t be cheap or easy.

        And if you can handle some simple tools you can also create a stand to fit between your legs for your joystick in your comfortable reclined couch position, too.
        There’s plenty of pit-building information on various sim forums for inspiration, although this seems more to be an ANTI-pit haha.

      • stahlwerk says:

        Hm, I do see where you’re coming from, and maybe I’m a bit in denial about having to rethink this Project. But I think the stuff that I already have should be able to be set up better than constantly having to LAlt+C and frantically two-finger-zoom my way through the Cockpit, and I think tweaking the axis settings should be a first step towards that.

        Flying and interacting with the machine is the priority, combat is only second to that.

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      phuzz says:

      You could pick up a TrackIR, which at least would make looking around easier.

    • Richard Burton says:

      Why must it be wireless? A little research via Google or Startpage should bring up a few medical articles for you to peruse outlining the danger of constant sustained exposure to Wi-Fi radiation. This has been known for many years, it isn’t anything new. Of course, if getting cancer does not concern you, then what about your cat? Or anyone else having to live with you in a toxic environment of electromagnetic radiation?

  4. pupsikaso says:

    Does the Hip have a clickable cockpit like the A-10C module for DCS? All videos I’ve seen so far don’t show any clicking :(

  5. Spinoza says:

    Slightly upset by Matrix games exclusivity on CW2. If I could preorder on Gamersgate, as I did with AJE, Ageod will already have my money.

    • wodin says:

      Slitherine group want to own all wargame developers..abit like collecting pokemon..gotta get them all!!

      It’s a business sense that a company owning most of a marketplace isn’t good for customers. Thats why there is a law to prevent it with regards to certain business’s..obviously this isn’t on that scale but it does have the same effect.

      We end up with lack of choice on where to buy our games from and it there by stifles competition.

    • JiminyJickers says:

      I like how all of Matrix’s games are DRM free. They have very expensive prices for some things but I prefer them to a lot of other digital providers.

  6. Jomini says:

    Really hate what AGEOD has done with the interface, the counter and partly the map in AACW2.
    Their previous games (with the exception of Pride of Nations) had so much more period flair in this regard and just looked all around better.

  7. Soulstrider says:

    I really like AGEOD games like AJE, RUS and WIC, hell I even spent a lot of ours i PoN but I won’t get this one, ACW is just a conflict that doesn’t interest me.

    Oh Also Matrix purchase is a big turnoff

  8. wodin says:

    AGEOD have said if people like the Battle Planner they will extend and enhance it..the battle planner was the reason I was thinking of buying. hearing this though has put a stop to that. Why developers can’t just go all out and make a feature as good as it can be I’ve no idea..instead the drip abit out to test the water..but that bit isn’t enough to satisfy and so gets criticism.

  9. Osdeath says:

    Having read for a while I figured I’d actually have a go at these fox things. #10 is more of a guess than anything, and I’m not entirely sure 5 or 6 really fit within the provided space, but I couldn’t think of better wording for any of them.

    1 – Loss
    2 – Total
    3 – Ours
    4 – German
    5 – Fortifications
    6 – Unsurmountable
    7 – Armour
    8 – Long
    9 – Production
    10 – Exhausted
    11 – Dinghy
    12 – Flawed
    13 – Largest
    14 – Best
    15 – Battleship

    • Sigh says:

      Wrong, you only got 14 correct. Allow me to correct you:

      1. badgers
      2. badgered
      3. badgers
      4. Badger
      5. badger
      6. badgered
      7. badgers
      8. badger
      9. badger
      10. badgering
      11. badger
      12. badgered
      13. sexiest
      14. best
      15 BADGERS

  10. Dances to Podcasts says:

    Battleship might be too long. I’d go with ‘scone’.

  11. Dances to Podcasts says:

    The reference to Nathan’s Oh mys suggests that these words are assembled quite briefly before posting and not, as I imagined, laid out on a velvety underground an moved around by means of pincers until they are all in the only place they could ever correctly be.

    • Josh W says:

      Unless there was collusion, and the news items themselves were delayed, to create a paradoxical sensation of newness!

  12. BooleanBob says:

    Ok, but was the ‘Domovoi’ a euphemism?

  13. Fumarole says:

    1 palm
    2 Pyrrhic
    3 paper mache
    4 Lego
    5 waste of money
    6 at all capable of preventing the Germans from going around it
    7 schnitzel
    8 gastrointestinal
    9 Bierhaus
    10 nancy
    11 bathtub
    12 redundant
    13 most snappily-dressed
    14 Nelson-lovingest
    15 zerg rush

  14. abbieray says:

    my parents in law just got a nearly new gold Nissan Xterra SUV
    only from working part-time off a pc at home. official source ……………link to

  15. phlebas says:

    him total Paris German fortification impenetrable bombardment long industrial pathetic bathtub transparent biggest best torpedo!

  16. SuicideKing says:

    1 – defeat
    2 – decisive
    3 – ours
    4 – German
    5 – fortification
    6 – impenetrable
    7 – forces
    8 – long
    9 – production
    10 – weak
    11 – U-boat
    12 – detrimental
    13 – largest
    14- best
    15 – destroyer

  17. xfxian says:

    This just in: The DCS Autumn Sale has been announced!

    “From 20 to 29 September 2013, Eagle Dynamics will have a 60% off Autumn sale for the following DCS products:

    DCS: Mi-8MTV2 Magnificent Eight, Pre-Purchase Beta. $49.99 now $19.99
    DCS: UH-1H Huey, Pre-Purchase Beta. $49.99 now $19.99
    Lock On: Flaming Cliffs 3. $49.99 now $19.99
    DCS: A-10C Warthog. $39.99 now $15.99
    DCS: Black Shark 2. $39.99 now $15.99
    DCS: P-51D Mustang. $39.99 now $15.99
    DCS: Combined Arms. $29.99 now $11.99
    DCS: Black Shark 2 Upgrade. $29.99 now $11.99
    A-10A: DCS Flaming Cliffs. $14.99 now $5.99
    Su-25: DCS Flaming Cliffs. $14.99 now $5.99”

    So no reason no to get the Mi-8 right now!