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The Flare Path: Golden Ladder, Silver Rope

“Lance corporal Ivor Pettibone was the most gifted ‘skylark’ I’ve ever met. Given a quiet place to sit (inside or out, it made no difference) and a few minutes to himself, he could tell you, with photographic clarity, what lurked in the next village or lay beyond the next ridge. It was like having an invisible Auster on call all day every day. One damp evening in the Spring of ’45 he tried to teach me the trick. In a fragrant hayloft near Münster I learnt all about The Golden Ladder and The Silver Rope. At first neither seemed strong enough to bear my weight, but later, long after the war was over, I did manage a couple of brief but unforgettable ascents.”

The Flare Path is no stranger to Golden Ladders and Silver Ropes but these days most of the intel for this column is gathered with the help of high-flying HUNTIR rounds. This week for instance I lobbed a tiny chute-equipped camera in the general direction of www.ultimategeneral.com and discovered that Nick Thomadis’ stupidly promising ACW wargame will be complementing its nine flavours of personality-blessed AI with reassuringly sophisticated LoS modelling.

Watch as an inquisitive Union commander uses cavalry to reveal a sizeable Rebel force hidden by Seminary Ridge…

…then go thunder your approval via the medium of Ultimate General: Gettysburg’s new Greenlight page. I can’t think of a WIP wargame more deserving of Steam shelf-space.

The unmistakeable outline of Steam’s linked gear rods was visible in another of FP’s recon images this week. A HUNTIR round fired towards Kharkiv revealed that wargaming one-offs Graviteam, with help from middle-men Strategy First, had finally managed to get the excellent Graviteam Tactics: Operation Star (aka Achtung Panzer: Operation Star) onto Valve’s groaning market stall.

The bevy of add-ons should arrive soon but right now it’s not clear whether Steam buyers will be spared the somewhat convoluted patch process that has always been one of GT/AP’s least likeable traits. The devs aren’t even sure whether the existing updater software will work with the Strategy First version. Until important questions like these are answered, FP reluctantly recommends discretion rather than valour.

The imminence of Mius Front, the Operation Star sequel, could be another reason to hang back. Engine improvements on the way include Tigerfibel-style penetration shamrocks, smarter auto deployment, and a new streamlined GUI. Combat Mission: Red Thunder isn’t the only reason grizzled Ost Front grogs have a spring in their steppe at present.

OWWW!

Unbelievable! A man just burst into my room, snarled “You pun monkey!” and punched me on the nose. That’s one of the things I don’t think I’ll ever get used to about writing for RPS rather than a traditional periodical – the immediacy of the feedback. Now where was I? Oh yes, East Front gamers and their multiple reasons for Stalingladness.

OWWWW! STOP DOING THAT!! Can’t a man segue into news of the Lock ‘n Load : Heroes of Stalingrad (sic) release without having his conk clouted? All I was trying to say was that Mark and Matrix have finally got around to dotting the IS-2s and crossing the T-34s…

OWWWWWW! (OK, that one I deserved. Anachronistic word play is inexcusable word play – there were no IS-2s at Stalingrad) …on their handsome virtual board game. Early forum feedback suggests my preview code positivity of last summer wasn’t misplaced, and reveal that the dev hasn’t listened to the purists that wanted Mission 1’s infamous infant removed. Good on you, Mr Walker. Who says wargames can’t flirt with narrative or represent a battlefield’s inconvenient inhabitants occasionally?

If Door Kickers came without cowering civilians it wouldn’t be half the game it currently is. Returning to this tense top-down tango topping RTS after a break of two Alphas (early accessers are now enjoying Alpha 8) I’m struck by just how wonderfully everything is falling into place.

I’ve spent much of this week asking Craig Pearson to shoot unpleasant fellows in the head.

And in the game.

Craig is one of the new ‘shield’ class SWATists. His bulletproof scrotum scutum will (until Alpha 9 tweaks things) stop anything thrown at it (except possibly TVs, hot chip fat, and tarantulas. Any chance of ad-hoc weaponry, KillHouse?). Looking for a chap to lead a charge into a kitchenette crawling with shotgun goons and Uzi-ists? Craig’s your man. His bulky burden means he can’t pick locks, set breaching charges or use spy cameras, and his measly pistol means he’s bugger-all use once he’s in the room but as a bullet bulwark, he’s indispensable.

Currently team members are primarily defined by their weapons and equipment (KillHouse are in the early stages of implementing an XP-based perks system which may nuance/complicate things slightly). It’s not quite rock-paper-shotgun but there are certainly times when you find yourself scouring the screen for the nearest MP5-armed ‘pointman’, or calling a halt while a pistol-toting ‘stealth’ dude swaps places with a carbine-carrying ‘assaulter’.

If like me you haven’t played for a while then watch out for the new windows (perhaps one day we’ll see scared civilians attempting to escape through them) and remember you may now be able to call on off-map snipers to thin-out the opposition. In hostage situations cavalier sharpshooter killshots can trigger mission-ending executions, so as with all the other tango takedown tools in your toolbox, timing is everything.

With its 50+ maps and glorious tactical flexibility, the £12 Door Kickers is already a bona-fide bargain. By the time the promised random levels, mod support, and campaign generator arrive, it’s going to be positively irresistible.

 

The Flare Path Foxer

Last week, watching in slow motion as Matchstick turned around and said “Top Gun”, took my breath away. Watching WildebeestGames, skink74, Great Cthulhu, and Stugle working wonders in the run up to and aftermath of the defoxing was also pretty amazing. Collage demolition of that calibre deserves an extra special prize. Ray-Ban Aviator monocles for everyone involved? I think so.

Most top de-foxers wouldn’t dream of approaching a new foxer ‘cold’. The great DornierXL limbered up by bench-pressing volumes of Jane’s Fighting Ships and Putnam’s Aircraft. His infamous nemesis gnomick1971 did outrageous quantities of Speed every Friday morning. Attempt today’s cryptic cartouche without any form of preparation and don’t be surprised if you wind up with a painful stitch in your Sidcot.

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