The Flare Path: Victory Over The Ants

Greetings from the Word Sahara, the place where RPS writers find themselves when they run out of interesting ways to introduce game news. I’ve been trudging across the dunes for the past hour-and-a-half and apart from stumbling upon a wrecked P-40 Kittyhawk with the words “BEWARE OF THE ANTS!” daubed on its canopy, and glimpsing a shimmering Battle of the Nile in the far distance, there’s been nothing to break the monotony. Naval Action, Open General, sorry, I’ve failed you.


In the circumstances the least I can do is point excitedly in the direction of the first batch of Naval Action vids and enthusiastically endorse Open General: Anomalous Operations’ anti-ant antics.

Game Labs’ single-player-spurning Age of Sail sim has been undergoing closed focus testing since December. I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of focus testing is, but I imagine it’s got something to do with perfecting the game’s telescope and sextant modelling.

According to dev Maxim Zasov, the tests have, thus far, gone “extremely well”.

“Participants believe that we have found the right balance of realism, action and depth and gameplay is actually very good. We have not found anything unexpected, as we went into testing with an open mind. Sometimes developers assume they know what customers want – which is usually wrong. We are active supporters of community driven development and many features suggested by users are already in the game.”

The focus right now is on framerates, fine tuning ship balance and controls, and ensuring the Greenlight campaign goes without a buntline hitch. The more successful the optimization, the more tars we will eventually see hauling sheets, slaving over hot cannons, and surging across gang planks during boarding actions.

Mentions of boxhauling (the nautical equivalent of a three-point turn) and clubhauling (the nautical equivalent of a handbrake turn) in the Steam feature list, suggest there’ll be ample opportunity for demonstrating superior seamanship. Maxim again:

“You can get extra performance from your ship if you use advanced sail management options. However, manual tricks can backfire as well. Turn the yards the wrong way or at the wrong time and you could be stuck into the wind longer, or fail your boxhauling maneuver. Users playing on auto-skipper will make less mistakes on average.”

Where are the devs getting their Age of Sail facts from? Books mostly, by the sound of it (“Admiralty firing tests, ship logs, historical accounts and other materials… we’ve collected a significant library on the topic, including rare manuscripts”) but they’ve also got an ex STS Sedov crewman on the team to help ensure authenticity.

As honorary under-secretary of the Association of Happy Hermits (Next AGM: Never) I have, of course, been badgering Game Labs about the lack of single-player plans. Their latest response –“We know there is demand for such a product, but our quality targets are high and to make a single player game well we need great writers. Once we find the one we will do it.” – is not particularly encouraging, suggesting as it does that the Kievites still haven’t realised that their handsome ship models and (fingers-crossed) compelling combat approach attached to a SH3-esque campaign would spread joy like an HMS Victory close-range broadside spread grapeshot.


Surviving The Ant Apocalypse: Tim’s Ten Top Tips

Checked out fab free Panzer General homage Open General recently? During the past twelve months Luis Guzman, one of the busiest bees in wargaming’s hexy hive, has tweaked the engine in countless ways, and modders have added hundreds of new historically-inspired scraps and scrappers.

In addition to the dozens of WW2 and WWI campaigns that are OG’s main attraction, there are now integrated ‘efiles’ covering Roman vs Roman and Roman vs. Celt combat, the Spanish Civil War, the Russian Civil War, and mid-19th century revolutionary struggles in Central Europe. I’m currently fighting the British in WWI-era East Africa (Kaiser General: Easy Safari – low headcounts make this a good place to start if you’re new to OG or fancy shorter scens) and battling giant irradiated ants in New Mexico in a splendidly pulpy, hairpullingly tough Cold War campaign.

Redfox’s 17-scenario ‘Anomalous Operations’ sequence draws heavily on 1950s sci-fi. Survive the Reds and the Red Ants and pretty soon you find yourself facing resurgent Nazis on the moon. Novices are likely to find the going extremely tough, but interrogate the manual and peruse the following tips and you may just survive Antageddon.

1. Don’t be afraid of upping the prestige modifier (OG’s equivalent of a difficulty setting) before starting the campaign. Prestige points are generated by scenario success and the more of them you earn, the more you’ll be able to spend on new core units and unit replacements in subsequent battles.

2. Canny use of recon assets is vital in Anomalous Operations. Unlike other OG unit types, your vulnerable jeeps and scout cars can move in stages and move after combat, making them ideal for finishing off grievously wounded adversaries.

3. Don’t expect to succeed without some investment in artillery. Add an arty unit to your core force as soon as possible, then screen that unit with infantry and armour. Suppress tough adversaries with barrages before committing to a direct attack.

4. Get to know your COs. Leaders are spontaneously generated during combat. Each adds different abilities to the parent unit so it pays to check the details via the unit info panel (right-click on unit, then hover cursor over leader icon)

5. The damage predictor is just that, a predictor. Just because the cursor says an attack won’t cause enemy losses or suppression doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a try.

6. Failing to meet victory conditions in an OG scenario means instant campaign failure so it pays to read briefings thoroughly. In most engagements you’ll be attempting to secure a set number of VLs, but in some you may be asked to escort, exit, or protect mission-critical units (MSUs).

7. Unit suddenly lost its edge or is unable to fire? It’s probably run out of ammo. Spend a turn manually resupplying it with the appropriate button or hot key (ALT+S).

8. Bolstering battered units with timely replacements can and often does make the difference between defeat and victory. Consider rotating badly damaged units out of a frontline so that they can regain strength in safe surroundings. Usually, if PP points are scarce, you’ll want to patch up core units first.

9. With terrain so important in OG and backgrounds occasionally a tad misleading, it’s wise to dab CTRL+L now and again. There are few things more infuriating/embarrassing than realising you’ve marooned important vehicles on the wrong side of an impassible mountain range or river.

10. There are three types of ant loose in Anomalous Operations: the flame-spitting Fire Ant, the tank-like Warrior, and the pesky Scout. All should be approached with extreme caution and terminated with extreme prejudice. Basically, the only good ant is a dead ant. Give those formic ****ers hell!


The Flare Path Foxer

Pretty soon Captain Edgar Bedford-Rascal III will be picking The Flare Path team for this year’s Foxer World Cup in Chad. JB and All is Well must be hoping for a call up after their strong performances last Friday. And if Matchstick, Palindrome, skink74, mrpier, and Shiloh aren’t aboard FOX-1* when it touches down at N’Djamena International, I’ll eat FOX-87*.

*Team FP’s temperamental Airspeed Ambassador.
*Team’s FP’s magnificent mahogany hatstand.

a. Belgian Gate (Agate)
b. Panzerkampfwagen VI driver’s vision port (Tiger’s eye)
c. P-800 Oniks missile (Onyx)
d. Tokyo Rose (Rose quartz)
e. Smokey Bear (Smoky quartz)
f. Gibraltar quarts (quartz)*
g. Jasper Maskelyne (Jasper)
h. Richard Todd in Yangtse Incident (Amethyst)
i. Blackburn Roc (Rock crystal)

*Strictly speaking, the theme was ‘quartz‘ not ‘precious stones’


Greetings from The Word Sahara, the place where Tim Stones go when they run out of interesting ways to introduce foxers. I’ve been trudging across the dunes for the past hour-and-a-half and apart from stumbling upon a wrecked Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 with the words “BEWARE OF THE RED HERRINGS!” daubed on its canopy there’s been nothing to break the monotony.


  1. richtysoe says:

    The Tail section is off a B-29, and the “BP” vehicle in the lower right is an Alvis Stalwart.
    (edit) and just below the B-29 is “Sir arthur” the lead character from Ghosts and goblins.
    (further edit – Wrong boeing….)

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      phuzz says:

      I’m not sure if it helps but I’m pretty sure it’s a B-17 E, F or G model with a “Cheyenne” tail turret.

      • richtysoe says:

        I thought that, but then noticed the remote power dorsal turret, not the glasshouse type you’d get on a B-17.

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      The Character’s name is Sir Arthur.

      Edit: I’ll shut up.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Matchstick says:

    The stamp top right is the Fort Bliss 100th Anniversary Issue of 1948

    link to

    (Glad I got that one in in time as richysoe had beaten me to the other ones I’d worked out ;) )

  3. Stugle says:

    Is that the line drawing of an M-24 Chaffee?

  4. FurryLippedSquid says:

    Bottom right is a Matchbox Lesney 61 Alvis Stalwart.

  5. JB says:

    Background conveyor belts etc would appear to be from Roborally: link to

    Edit: Not sure if it is relevant but I think the board in question is Cannery Row

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      Matchstick says:

      Completely off-topic but the game apparently features art by Phil Foglio from Girl Genius :)

  6. Gap Gen says:

    Anyone else remember the Red Alert secret ant missions? (I actually can’t remember much about them, except that they existed and I played them one time. Worst anecdote.)

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yep, they certainly existed alright.

      Also they were pretty hard.

      (The C&C dinosaur missions were better, because in the last one you could play as the dinosaurs.)

      I do wonder if we should have some effort to collate all the foxer guesses into one reply thread or something. They kind of drown out everything else in Flare Path these days.

  7. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    The aircraft on the right looks a bit like a B-25, but I don’t think it is, the rear of the engine pods is too broad and the turret isn’t quite the right place.
    I’m wondering if it’s actually the view of the underside.

    • skink74 says:

      It is a Martin 187 Baltimore – the wikipedia page appears to have the exact line drawing.

      [Edit] – gah Matchstick’s colleague beat me to it.

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    Joshua says:

    I am extremely suprised by the Foxer’s abilities to almost instantly spot any type of airpline line diagram or picture of military vehicle of sort seemingly from memory, whilst I can’t place any of them whilst using the internet (Well, except Roborally, but JB beat me to it :P).

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      Matchstick says:

      Wikipedia’s list of all the M-series military vehicles is a big help ;)

    • Palindrome says:

      I’m good at WWII era vehicles, artillery and small arms thanks to a couple of decades spent playing wargames but beyond that I am hopeless :)

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        I would say that Foxers are designed with exactly such an individual as yourself in mind, Mr / Mrs / Miss Palindrome :)

  9. skink74 says:

    The glamorous young lady appears to be from the cover art for Margaret Atwood’s “The Blind Assassin”.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Googling comes up with this anecdote from link to
      “Well, the cover: We were looking and looking for art deco images and stuff like that. We couldn’t find anything that wasn’t a bas relief or something that really wouldn’t have worked too well. [My assistant] Sara said: Look at ads. So the English went to the image archive and they came up with that [points to a copy of the portrait of the woman on the cover of The Blind Assassin] and sent it to us in our e-mail. And we liked it right away and we thought it was a soap ad or a hand lotion ad or something.

      So, we used it on the cover. Then right after the book was published, we got a letter from San Antonio, Texas, saying: I walked into my local book store, and there was my mother all over the place. It’s her mother! She had been a society girl in 1934 and she had posed for the cover of The Saturday Evening Post magazine. And there was a little write up about her, which this woman sent me, which ended: An eyeful in any man’s country. [Laughs] Luckily she liked her mother, so she was thrilled. Because if she hadn’t liked her mother, it would have been a horrible nightmare. [Laughs]”

    • JB says:

      Interesting, as the Roborally board would give us a John Steinbeck connection (Cannery Row) and Sir Arthur could be a reference to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A literary foxer? I suppose we will see.

      PS: I suppose Sir Arthur plus the Fort Bliss stamp could be a pointer towards Sir Arthur Bliss. Not sure where we’d go with that though!

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    Matchstick says:

    my colleague here appears to have an encyclopedic knowledge of planes and has identified the one on the right as the Martin 187 Baltimore
    link to
    (I keep telling him to sign up and claim the credit himself but so far he refuses :) )

    So now I’m wondering if there’s a Wire or Homicide Life on the Streets theme :)

  11. JB says:

    Something we should probably bear in mind is the “BEWARE OF THE RED HERRINGS!” in the foxer introduction.

    OR IS THAT A RED HERRING ITSELF? (!!!!!????!!!!!111!!)

  12. phlebas says:

    ‘I am a Stalwart of the Stalwarts! I did it and I want to be arrested! Arthur is President now!’ exclaimed Charles J. Guiteau after assassinating President James A. Garfield at Baltimore&Potomac Railroad station.
    We have Stalwart, Arthur, assassin and Baltimore. Looks like a match!

    • JB says:

      Top left ship is the Potomac, which fits too. Good work, phlebas and the slightly ninja’d billy bunter!

  13. billy_bunter says:

    I think it’s the assassination of US President James Garfield…
    In Baltimore and Potomac Station
    With a Webley British Bulldog revolver
    His assassin Guiteau called out “‘I am a Stalwart of the Stalwarts!” when arrested
    D. Willard Bliss was the doctor who treated him
    Chester Arthur succeeded him as President
    RoboRail was designed by Richard Garfield

    Sorry, not much of my own work and a great deal of Wiki help: link to

    Edit: bugger, ninja’d!

    • phlebas says:

      Close thing! Good spot on the Richard Garfield connection.
      So is the top left aerial view somewhere on the Potomac?

      • phlebas says:

        Aha. Right connection, wrong location. USS Potomac, nowhere near the actual Potomac. JB gets it.

  14. Hydrogene says:

    Naval Action looks very exciting, with ranging shots and all, but I’ll never buy it if it’s only multiplayer. If they are looking for a story, someone should tell them about a few novels about some chaps called Aubrin and Maturey. Maturin and Aubrey, maybe? I’ve heard it’s quite good.

    • Richard Burton says:

      Heh, exactly. Or maybe they could just watch any of those old Hornblower TV movies? I was watching the box-set again recently so the theme tune was running through my mind seeing those lovely models: link to I agree, it’s incredibly disappointing if it’s multiplayer only because I find playing online with people I don’t know (usually some ADHD child will spoil the game at some point for the rest of us) an incredibly tedious and frustrating business to spend my free time. At least with single player games we can relax knowing some idiot isn’t going to ruin the immersion. *sigh* I think it’s about time to try SH3 again or no wait.. Silent Hunter V, of course! I hear the new mods have fixed it all now? Time to put on the gramophone and get out into the Atlantic for some proper naval action.

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        It seemed such a waste of the beautiful ship models and water physics to float around behind them in gaming’s most gamey game view – third person. I know its for better tactical awareness and control, but I’d much rather be strolling round the decks giving orders as my opponents disappear and reappear behind ominous dark wave crests. Looks like that view is available though.