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 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.


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.


  1. Gap Gen says:

    Ultimate General looks amazing, and I can’t wait to try it.

    • GenBanks says:

      Same here. My decade and a half old itch for something as good as Sid Meier’s Gettysburg may finally be scratched…

    • Fumarole says:

      Yes. Yes it does.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Matchstick says:

    I think the Russian (has to be Russian from the roof mounted PKM) SAM System is the SA-13 Gopher/ ZRK-BD Strela-10

    • Thurgret says:

      I thought some sort of Strela, too, but the shape seems a little off.

      Edit: the shape of the launcher, that is. The chassis lines up with that system’s just fine.

  3. skink74 says:

    That’s a tin of Humbrol 66 – Olive Drab. And the tracks look a lot like a Churchill variant of some sort.. an AVR maybe?

    • Duke of Chutney says:

      i recognised that it was a paint pot, good call on the colour. The tank tracks are very churchill esc too, tank looks a bit short though The strella 10 and Unity of command have already been called.

      The only Lock n Load game ive played is the cardboard Nuklear Winter 68, and the video games on the same system?

  4. Premium User Badge

    Matchstick says:

    The wargame under the line drawing bottom left is Unity of Command

    It’s currently on sale at for £3.75 if you want to try it (only 300 keys left though)

    • Stugle says:

      Beat me to it. :)

    • Premium User Badge

      FhnuZoag says:

      I’m thinking one of the Red Turn scenarios, though I’m not sure which.


      Wait no, Black Turn. It’s Moscow Offensive, maybe? (The counterattack to Taifun)

      • Premium User Badge

        Matchstick says:

        Taifun is Typhoon in German I believe.

        Is it weather that’s this week’s connection or have we had that one already ?

        (Drab could probably count as a weather description)

      • Shiloh says:

        It sure looks like the Moscow offensive – you can see Volokolamsk in the bottom l-h corner, and what I assume is Krasnaya Polyana to the bottom right centre.

        Taifun/Typhoon it is then.

    • MrEclectic says:

      Thank you!

  5. Stugle says:

    Partial screenshot of Unity of Command hiding in the background in the bottom-left corner.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Matchstick says:

    It’s taken me ages to work it out but the line drawing bottom is of a towed artillery gun, no idea which one it is though

    • Palindrome says:

      It looks like a PaK40.
      The Tank is a Churchill I

    • Stugle says:

      I thought it looked like some kind of Armored Recovery Vehicle, with the crane extended. Though I’m lost as far as what type. Perhaps a Chieftain? Of course, if you are pretty sure it’s a towed gun, you’re more certain than I am, so I’m perfectly happy to go with that instead. :)

      The minivan looks a bit like a Chrysler Town & Country, but the styling seems to be too ‘European’, too sharp-angled for US cars.

      • Palindrome says:

        Its definately a Churchill, the exposed drive wheel and the square hatch mean that its probably a MK I.

        It really should be a Valentine though :)

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        It’s a field gun pointed away from the viewer, what you thought was a crane arm is a stabilising foot, I think.
        No bloody idea what type it is though.

        • Shiloh says:

          It’s definitely a Pak-40.

          • Stugle says:

            Front view! Not top down! Hallelujah, I have seen the light! :) Gun, definitely, not ARV. Thanks. :)

  7. Shiloh says:

    Very much liking the look of that Ultimate General… haven’t played a decent-looking tactical ACW game in a long time, TC2M was probably the last one. I tend to stick to the good ol’ John Tiller Battleground series.

    I’ve never played any of the Lock and Load series either, big fan of Tiller’s Vietnam/Tour of Duty Squad Battles though.

  8. skink74 says:

    The transport map in the background is of the Ballarat and Bendigo lines in Victoria, Australia.

  9. Shadrach says:

    I do love seeing GT:OS on Steam! There’s been some uncertainty whether this was actually supported by Graviteam themselves or not, but they have confirmed it’s an official release, although built by the publisher and all interaction with Steam is Publisher only. Such a complex game really needs the developers to be active on the forums and help out with questions, otherwise new guys will just give up after a short time being frustrated at the interface.

    The devs do not have a positive view on Steam unfortunately, but hopefully things can be sorted out and especially the patching process can be automated. From the activity on the forums, looks like it’s gotten at least some well-deserverd attention, which is awesome for Graviteam.

  10. Shiloh says:

    That Hun aircraft is an Etrich-Taube.

  11. Samolety says:

    I believe the plane in the bottom right is a Gotha Taube

    Edit: Welp, beaten by seconds. Good show, Shiloh.

    • robinsparks says:

      It doesn’t look like a Gotha Taube, it looks more like an Albatros D.Va

      • Shiloh says:

        Heh thanks, with a name like Samolety I’d imagine you know your aircraft.

        @robinsparks, it’s definitely not an Albatros, they were biplanes – the Taube was a monoplane, it’s got those distinctive wing-reinforcing/stabilising cables which you can see from the image above. Incidentally, “Taube” is German for “dove” if that’s a clue. Maybe something to do with Valentine’s Day (i.e. if that tank is a Valentine)

        • Samolety says:

          Oh! Valentine’s Day! Strela is Russian for ‘arrow’. Cupid’s arrow?

          • robinsparks says:

            oh dear a total failure on my part for 3d perception ! I saw that wing as a top wing on a biplane ooops.
            Incidentally there is a song called ‘Ballarat” on the Lemonheads album ‘Lovey’ which ties in ! Not sure if that is intentional if that transport map is of Ballarat !

  12. Shadrach says:

    That screenshot of Ultimate General is a horrible example of bad colour usage.
    (link to

    Seriously, considering about 7-10% of males are red-green color blind in some way, designing the LOS colors so similar is very ill thought out.

    I am mildly red-green colour blind and honestly I have serious problems separating the green and the red in that image. If I wasn’t told it was there I probably would not even notice it…

    • mzz says:

      they will probably repair this issue in focus testing

    • Gap Gen says:

      I wasn’t sure if that was part of the UI or just an example shot showing how the AI works.

  13. Samolety says:

    After some digging, I’m pretty sure the upper-left plane is a Republic XF-12 Rainbow.

    • Premium User Badge

      Matchstick says:

      That’s a pretty obscure one. Nice job :)

      Anyother possible for the weather theme then.

    • skink74 says:

      Nicely found – been digging through German prototypes but didn’t find anything…
      I agree weather/storm/rain/flood is looking good for a theme:
      On the background map the upper visible station name is Beaufort – as in Scale so that fits.
      The Churchill has a bunch of vertical things that a normal MkI wouldn’t have, but an Armoured Ramp Carrier or ARK would.

  14. Thurgret says:

    Every time I see pictures of Achtung Panzer, I remember just how splendid it looks. Then I think a bit more, and… the openness of the battles — the fact that you can spend an awful lot of time just blundering in circles — the UI, and the utter ineptitude of the AI when trying to cope with vehicles (its own or yours), and… well, UI. I just don’t know. I would love to love it more than I do. I know the new version is going to cope with the UI issues, and like the look of it so far. Wonder if the AI will be improved, too.

    Ultimate General looks very interesting indeed.

    I clicked the link for the Stalingrad game mentioned above, then saw Matrix Games, then saw the price, and stepped back away. Why are they so stubbornly dug in where their pricing scheme is concerned?

    Finally, yay, Red Thunder soon. Battlefront overcharges somewhat for their games too, admittedly, but it doesn’t feel like I’m gambling on enjoying the games at all, I guess.

  15. robinsparks says:

    The car outline I think is the Toyota ‘Noah’ car. Noah of course ties in with the weather theme.

    • phlebas says:

      More specific than weather, I think – the tracks could be a Churchill Ark, and Noah’s Ark (according to the King James Version at least) was made of gopher wood.
      ‘Taube’ means dove, which would fit the Noah story, as would a rainbow.

      • phlebas says:

        And if we continue along the Ballarat line beyond Wendouree and Beaufort, which we can see, we can disembark at Ararat, just like Noah did.

        • robinsparks says:

          There is also funnily enough a town in northern Victoria called Rainbow. French for rainbow is ‘Arc en ciel’ as in bow in the sky so I guess it’s just Noah’s Ark ? like you said phlebas.

          • Palindrome says:

            How does the PaK 40 fit in?

            40 days and nights of rain…….

        • skink74 says:

          Ah yes I missed the Ararat link. The Humbrol paint fits in with the Biblical flood theme, because the dove that Noah released returned to the Ark carrying an olive leaf.

          Well done chaps.

  16. P.Funk says:

    Its made by the guy who did Darthmod, no wonder it looks amazing.

  17. WladTapas says:

    Hey, thanks for that Unity of Command tip! Been looking to try that for a while.

  18. Shiloh says:

    Unity of Command was a bit of a disappointment to be honest. I bought it because of Tim’s recommendation and I’ve been underwhelmed. It lacks strategic depth and sacrifices the sort of careful manouevre and planning you’d expect of an echt Ostfront game for a lightweight simulation more suited to the beer and pretzels crowd. Yes, the AI is decent but given the very limited amount of variables it has to work with, it should be decent, in fact it should be Manstein-like in its capabilities. I wouldn’t have bought it if I’d played a demo, frankly.

  19. Nate says:

    That lead-in paragraph is incredible. What’s that from? Or is that original? Google just gives me a bunch of links back to this (via innumerable other sites).

  20. aidufus0057 says:

    Excuse me are all of the pictured items “Just Tanks”, nuthin fancy? I definitely spot what looks like a Volvo, perhaps you are appealing to civilians to not piss around with miltech?

  21. cptgone says:

    Ultimate General: Gettysburg looks gorgeous – and its Matrix/Slitherine-free, too!
    Voted :)