The Flare Path: Wharf Fortress

An MH-6 tells me you’ve got seven minutes to spare and are willing to spend those seven minutes reading about irradiated Soviet submariners and irresistible race sim eclecticism. As the MH-6 in question lives inside my subwoofer, is made entirely from rose petals, and every year recommends I bet on Durham in The Boat Race, I generally ignore him. On this occasion however, I’m rather hoping he’s right.

The work-in-progress Submarine Commander is a free, Mistral-fresh Cold War sub game that splices the hectic top-down captaincy of FTL with the simmy systems shepherding of Dangerous Waters. Its generic block-bulkheaded SSNs were once super-efficient underwater predators. Now they’re temperamental deathtraps bally fond of drowning, asphyxiating, igniting and contaminating their own crews.

Every session starts with the generation of a random home port and a random objective. You might find yourself in Leningrad or Vladivostok with an order to reconnoitre Belfast or Barcelona. You might materialise in Murmansk or Arkhangelsk with instructions to sink a specific enemy vessel in the North Atlantic or South Pacific.

If Poseidon is in an unusually good mood, a whole day of trouble-free cruising may pass before the inevitable flickering warning lights and muffled bangs send your fingers skittering across the keyboard like panicking pondskaters.

Submarine Commander submarine commanders rely totally on keyboards for order issuing and panel navigation. The lack of mouse support together with relatively complex aquionics (Creator Geoff Ayre has attempted to simulate everything from nuclear reactors, steam turbines, and diesel generators to bilge pumps, fire suppression equipment and ventilators) mean early jaunts are likely to be as baffling as they are brief. Klaxons wail, flames spread, water rises, and blue crew dots turn crimson, as you blunder about flicking switches and wringing your hands/trousers.

Persevere however, and slowly the kopeks start dropping. Pretty soon you realise that canny captains commence each mission by sending their most capable firefighters/repairmen to the equipment store to collect appropriate tools. You begin to understand the importance of the various colour-coded consoles in the command centre (Keep an especially close eye on the green ‘Misc Systems’ panel – your primary fault information tool). The folly of neglecting open air vents during a radiation leak, or fiddling with the main induction valve while underwater… it all eventually becomes clear.

Compared to the drama of the onboard crises, combat itself can be rather anticlimactic. Manage to dodge enemy surface vessels and ASW aircraft with the help of your radar/sonar interface, and the game’s ambient temperature- and current-influenced thermal layer, and you eventually find yourself in ‘periscope view’ (a top-down disc of ocean with your sub at the centre) watching as an automatically guided torpedo dash steers towards a locked contact blip.

Hopefully, Geoff will, in a future update, enrich eel slinging in the same thoughtful manner he’s enriched the global map (now patrolled by dozens of authentic ship types and dotted with friendly ports) and sub system modelling in recent months. With SLBMs on the cards, who knows, perhaps one day Sub Commander subs will unnerve their adversaries as adeptly as they unnerve their own crews.


Civic Pride

Watching as hull plates buckle, torpedoes toast, and Seaman Shortstrorov’s Absorbed Radiation Dose steadily climbs into the danger zone, can be stressful. This week, to unwind I’ve been following the advice of RAVSim’s Jon Denton and reader HariSeldon, and sampling the two-stroke stroke-of-genius that is rFactor 2’s newish kart mode.

The consequent death-toll in daisies, marshals, and trackside tyres has been high, but I think I now understand why ISI’s darting delinquents have been received so warmly by race sim connoisseurs.

Whether rF2’s experimental quad bikes will eventually enjoy the same popularity as the karts, is hard to predict. Added to the sim’s official content selection over Easter along with ‘Lost Valley’, a canyon-cradled track, at present engine limitations mean you don’t see rubber biting into soft earth, or furrows deepening as races progress.

There’s fun to be had careering over crests and crabbing through corners, but until community track builders get busy with their virtual JCBs, and surfaces start feeling a little looser, the quads look set to remain a thought-provoking novelty.

If you haven’t inspected the constantly evolving rFactor 2 for a while I’d recommend a dalliance with the latest demo. A couple of weeks ago ISI unveiled a new free tempter featuring a 2013 Honda Civic Touring Car and Silverstone International in place of the old Corvette C6.R/Lime Rock Park combo.

Would they have turned more heads with a trial based on their evocative 1966 Monaco track and its period habitues? Probably, but yes, I suppose it is theoretically possible for someone to prefer bland Buckinghamshire right-angles to iconic Riviera hairpins, and the styling of a shoe-like contemporary hatchback to that of a svelte Sixties Brabham.



The Flare Path Foxer

Last Friday at precisely 16.30, the Foxine Chapel chimney belched a cloud of russet-coloured smoke. Roman & co. were acknowledging the fact that Rorschach617, with assistance from Palindrome, Spinoza, Smion, Sleeping_Wolf and Imposter, had Catholicked a tough Vatican City-themed foxer.

a. Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King
b. Saltpeter
c. SIG SG 550
d. MiG -17 ‘Fresco’
e. Radio Ethiopia by the Patti Smith Group
f. Cardinal route map
g. 2nd Infantry division slouch hat
h. Bristol Belvedere

Saltpeter = St.Peter? Unforgivable. If this week’s puzzle contains clues that tenuous then rest assured, heads, barrels, and Eskimos will roll.


  1. Matchstick says:

    Missile top right looks a lot like a laser guided version of the AGM-114 Hellfire

    • Matchstick says:

      Actually no it’s the UK’s Brimstone missile

      link to

    • protorp says:

      The bird is maybe a shearwater of some kind?

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      I believe that the bird is a Storm Petrel, not sure which sub species though, possibly a Grey-backed.
      (Turns out my bird recognition is better than I thought.)
      The film poster in the bottom left is from the Dirty Dozen.

      • protorp says:

        After more image searching I’d go with a Manx Shearwater, beak is longer and less hooked than a Petrel’s and the wings are a different shape, less Swallow-like with a more pronounced angle change into the fingers.

    • Thurgret says:

      The guys in the bottom left appear to be carrying MP40s, though the leftmost one gives me pause.

      • skink74 says:

        I was thinking they looked more like M3 “grease guns”. And certainly they have US type frag grenades. I feel like I should recognise the comic strip, but I can’t place it…

  2. skink74 says:

    The ribbon is the US Navy / Marine Corps Combat Action Ribbon.

    I agree it’s a shearwater or petrel of some sort.
    And is that a recoilless rifle of some sort bottom right? They’re all basically tubes so I’m not sure which.

    • Shiloh says:

      Bah! Hat tip sir, well struck.

    • Matchstick says:

      The Recoiless Rifle has a WW2 feel about it to me so I was wondering if it was a US M18 or M20 but neither of those has a front blade sight and the tripod and mount are wrong as well :(

    • Jools and Jops says:

      Looks to me like it might be a Northover Projector.

      • Matchstick says:

        I think you’re right and a google image search for Northover Projector has also turned up the gun directly above it which Italian 45/5 modello 35 “Brixia” light mortar.

        The link between the two weapons being that they are both on this webpage of the World Worst Weapons !
        link to

  3. Shiloh says:

    That ribbon is the US Combat Action Ribbon.

  4. trjp says:

    Given that rFactor2’s main aim is to tease people away from the venerable rFactor (and games like GSC/SimRaceWay which are built upon it) as well as competitors like iRacing – choosing a demo car/track which isn’t as exciting as skimmed-milk would have been wiser, perhaps?

    Touring Cars aren’t the best way to show-off your sim engine – they have high levels of grip and a reasonable resistance to hoonery and they’re in EVERY sim out there.

    Silverstone is also a boring place in F1 cars, let alone something with half the power->weight – :(

    I therefore remain unimpressed as to why i should spend $50 on a game which offers less than it’s predecessor (and perhaps always will)?

    Do try harder ISI – or are you just waiting for someone like Reiza to make your engine into a game AGAIN!? :)

    • Capt. Eduardo del Mango says:

      rFactor 2 charging a subscription is absolutely disgusting. The only reason to play rF was the mods – the vanilla content was dreadful, all the stuff that made it worthwhile came from modders. With a yearly sub, ISI are just taking advantage of this – want to continue experiencing other people’s hard work that we had nothing to do with? You’ll have to pay us!

      It’s a sham. A properly disgusting sham. Shame on them.

      • Tim Wheatley says:

        rFactor 2 doesn’t have a subscription. It has two pricing options. If you use the larger option, you pay once and are done. How is that a subscription?

        • trjp says:

          Because if you chose the other option, you have to pay again later

          That’s kinda what a subscription is.

          They are really selling access to online multiplayer servers tho – it’s entirely optional – you can buy the game, play it offline forever with any content you like.

          A bigger issue might be that rf2 still only has a FRACTION of rf’s content.

    • Tim Wheatley says:

      The Touring car probably does a good job of appealing the Touring car fans. Which was the idea. :) There will be content switches to the demo in the future as to what content is included, we just switched to the Civic to allow the Touring car teams to share it.

      There’s already more content (from ISI) in rF2 than there was in rF1. After rF2 is allowed the time rF1 took to get third party mods in there as well, I don’t really understand how it offers less. If it’s third party mods, ok, but that will take time of course.

      But anyway, if you don’t see it being worth your money, that’s ok. There’s hopefully other products in the genre more suited to your needs, and isn’t that fantastic? Nobody has their hand in your wallet except you.

      • trjp says:

        I think my point was that rF2 has some advantages over rF and the demo should make some attempt to show those in a way which makes it irrestitable.

        Picking a cookie-cutter car on a blando track wasn’t a good idea on that basis…

        As the article says, wave a nice lairy racing car and a classic track like Monaco at people and watch them all tip their wallets.

        A Honda Civic around billiard table’ Silverstone isn’t going to tempt many people – we’ve been there and done that.

  5. elevown says:

    Divinity Original sin – release date 20th June announced! Yay :)

  6. AbyssUK says:

    Brimstone, storm, I call an x man theme..

    • Matchstick says:

      bamf !

      If that is the case I wonder if the Soviet WW2 Plane top left is a variant of the Ilyushin Il-10 which had the NATO reporting name Beast

      • Stugle says:

        Sadly not – the Il-10 looks a lot like an Il-2, with a single tail (stabilizer? Whatever you call that thing) and no ventral turret). Damned if I know what plane it IS, though.

  7. Stugle says:

    I thought the bridge looked like Pegasus Bridge, but the photo doesn’t match up with Google Streetview… Any other similar-looking bridges out there I should be aware of.

    • foop says:

      The bridge is the Cherry Street Strauss Trunnion Bascule Bridge if I’m not mistaken.

      Google street view: link to

      link to

      • Matchstick says:

        Heh, beat me to it, I’d just started going through a list of Bascule bridges in the USA & Canada (based on the yellow road centre marking) :)

      • Stugle says:

        Yep, that seems to be it. Thanks! :)

      • RobearGWJ says:

        …And the site in the background, behind the bridge, is the Pinewood Toronto Studio, where part of X-Men: First Class was filmed.

  8. slubberman says:

    Submarine Commander reminds me of a boardgame called Red November. Good fun.

    • AndiK says:

      Is there some kind of tutorial for that game? I’ve had a try, but I’m apparently too dumb to properly manage my men. Stuff keeps failing and burning after seconds of playing and I have not the slightest idea as to why.

    • kulik says:

      Does the game have a pause button?

      • Dozer says:

        Escape pauses the game. Escape twice quits the game :/

        P doesn’t pause the game, P is for Purge which i think is also ‘main induction valve’. Purge isn’t documented, nor is the Main Induction Valve’s control, so they might be the same thing.

        • Dozer says:

          Hold F1 when viewing a console to get all the key commands – P is Purge is Open/Close Induction Valve from the Misc Systems panel.

    • LionsPhil says:

      It has gauges and nuclear reactors. Looks intriguing.

      Edit: I start it up and immediately my weapons room catches fire and starts exploding. In the process of trying to put it out with water (because crew weren’t working), I hit the bottom and for whatever reason everyone runs out of air and dies even though the intentional flooding didn’t spread. Hmm.

      Really, really needs mouse support for toggling those switches.

      Edit: Second attempt, RNG hated me less and I managed to sail out from the Black Sea to spy on Rome and then all the way around to Faaborg where I realized the next mission seemed to expect me to patrol an area of land, so eventually got bored of popping coastal tankers and decided to see what happens if you turn the reactor coolant pumps off.

      Poor, obedient little seamen.

  9. mrpier says:

    Plane is an Handley Page Hampden flown by the Soviets as part of their Aviatsiya Voenno-Morskogo Flota/Aviation of the military maritime fleet.

    • Matchstick says:

      Well spotted ! :)

      According to wikipedia also known as the Flying Suitcase

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      Nice spot, I spent ages trawling through Soviet aircraft, never even considered it was a lend/lease machine.

  10. Matchstick says:

    I think we now have all clues

    Handley Page Hampden (aka Flying Suitcase)
    Cape Petrel (aka Cape Pigeon, Pintado Petrel & Cape Fulmar)
    45/5 modello 35 “Brixia” light mortar.
    Dirty Dozen
    US Navy / Marine Corps Combat Action Ribbon.
    Northover Projector
    Cherry Street Strauss Trunnion Bascule Bridge

    Any thoughts on the link ?

    Petrel sounds like petrol and Brixia-zust was an Italian car manufacturer ?
    Is Combat Action Ribbon ever abbreviated to C.A.R. ?

    • Rorschach617 says:

      Very tenuous link, this, but I’ll throw it out there. The fruit of 2 hours trawling wikipedia.

      The Northover Projector fired an incendiary round in the AT role (I believe they could also be used to launch grenades).
      The Petrel family can squirt oil at threats.
      In the film”The Dirty Dozen”, the raiders pour petrol into the cellar air vents to accelerate the fire.
      The Hampden bomber took part in the first 1000 bomber raid on Cologne, where 2/3 of the ordnance was incendiary.
      “Fire and Brimstone”.
      Servicemen are eligible for the Combat Action Ribbon for being in a fire-fight,
      In 1769, Brescia (Brixia) was damaged by a fire when 90000kg of gunpowder exploded after a bastion was struck by lightning.

      It all falls down because I cannot see a link between the bridge and fire or oil.

      • RobearGWJ says:

        Got it. Pinewood Studios Toronto, behind the bridge, is where they filmed the 2013 version of the movie “Carrie”, with the famously firey ending to the film.

    • Arglebarf says:

      Yep, the Combat Action Ribbon is usually goes by the informal name of “car” in casual conversation. I’m guessing the automotive link, as I cant’t see what else the ribbon could rever to.

    • Tim Stone says:

      Persuasive hypotheses but this foxer is still very much at large.

      • RobearGWJ says:

        Bridge – Pinewood Toronto studios in background, made movies with fire theme
        Dirty Dozen – Combat film (firefights)
        Hampden – Shares name with Hampden Gurney Studios, home for a decade of Vangelis, who did the soundtrack for Chariots of Fire.
        Combat Action Ribbon – Awarded for firing in combat? Fire-fighting.
        Northover – Projector
        Petrel – software used to aggregate oil reservoir data – oil, fire
        Brixia mortar – Mortars now have camera rounds (SPARCS mortar), although the incendiary round fits the theme better.
        Brimstone missile – Fire and Forget missile

        There’s also a cheesy possibility in that all these are “indirect” references to fire – indirect fire? Fire and movies… Shooting and movies… Shooting movies?

        • Bookmark says:

          Bombs perhaps?. Suitcase bomb, petrol bomb, cherry bomb, car bomb, dirty bomb all fit.

          Ok, quoting from wikipedia the Northover Projector was “was formed of a hollow metal tube resembling a drain pipe” so i guess that could refer to a pipe bomb.

  11. dufus0057 says:

    “I Kissed A GRL” Or to be a little specific on a hard one a; badge for killing a tank, and just about all tank gunz, the best thing eva, to do in a plane. blow up a land lubber, spam in a can man. wew gud shot, Sah!

    • Llewyn says:

      I do like to think that your single weekly comment, always ostensibly nonsensical, is a coded message back to your handler in Moscow, Tel Aviv or Washington. Somehow that would seem a fitting use of the Flare Path.

      Sadly I suspect there’s a more prosaic explanation.

      • puzzlepiece87 says:

        RPS’s willful immersion in games via game diaries always makes me enjoy the description of the game mechanics much more. Similarly, your willful immersion in the comments has also heightened my enjoyment of the mundane. Thank you!

  12. The Random One says:

    Wharf Fortress is about right. For all its obfuscation, Dwarf Fortress has excellent mouse control.