The Flare Path: Arrivals And Departures

Afflicted by something clinicians call ‘a bad back’, I’ve been playing Nonagenarian Simulator 2015 for the last couple of days. It’s an eye-opening game. Mission 3. Pick up that dropped pen in under sixty seconds. Mission 7. Put on both of your socks without wincing, grimacing, or turning the air blue. Mission 10. Stoically refrain from mentioning your condition while writing the intro to a Flare Path on Vietnam ’65 progress, PicaSim experimentation, the next instalment of World of Subways, and the death of one of wargaming’s most influential designers.

Slitherine Group hoover up embryonic wargames like blue whales hoover up krill. Vietnam ’65, one of the latest titles to be sucked into their cavernous maw, showed a lot of promise in prototype form. How much of that promise has been successfully converted into ‘GOSH!’, ‘WOW!’ and ‘SNEAKY!’ should be clear very soon, as the beta version is just about to leap from its grass-tousling Huey.

I’m a little concerned the shift to hexes and 3D unit art (the prototype – pictured above – relied on counters and a period map) won’t have done the design any favours. Unconventional warfare invites unconventional treatments and the COIN simulating V65 seems to be doing its best to appear conventional.

Thankfully, the core mechanics look largely unchanged. There’s still that troublesome Ho Chi Minh Trail snaking invisibly across maps. Victory still revolves around winning the hearts and minds of villagers, rather than securing victory locations or wiping out X number of enemy units. Logistics and base placement remain crucial factors.

I wonder if Every Single Soldier are planning to add a proper campaign layer at any point? With shiny gongs seemingly the only incentive for prolonged play, it’s going to be vital the random map generator is up to snuff, the VC and NVA are a cunning bunch, and V65’s price is as realistic as its guerilla warfare depiction.

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The coder behind free RC flight delight PicaSim really is an awfully clever chap. Recently, he’s been using a camera equipped model glider and some ingenious open source software to add scenery meshes to his sim.

Anyone that can watch the experiments and play the latest build of PicaSim (now with integrated object editing and obstacle placement) without picturing a quirky crimefighting game featuring RC aircraft, tanks, and boats, and octocopter-generated locales, clearly hasn’t read nearly as much General Jumbo as me.

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Flushing – Main Street, Mets – Willets Point, 111th Street, 103rd Street – Corona Plaza… if you’re middle-aged and can name the next location in this sequence without recourse to Google, then you may be one of the few gamers well positioned to judge the scenic verisimilitude of TML Studios’ next release.

World of Subways Volume 4 strives to recreate Line 7 of the NYC Subway as it looked in the 1970s. As the distinctive Redbird livery visible in the screenshots doesn’t appear to have been applied until the 1980s, realism doesn’t seem to be massively important to the German devs. That said, images like the ones below suggest ambience may well compensate for any anachronisms.

Fancy DirectX 11 lighting and particle effects added to the engine since its last appearance (London, the Circle Line) promise to make WoS4 the prettiest train sim yet. Let’s hope the delays that have pushed the release date back to March 19, were prompted by a desire to perfect physics. In past WoS titles, trains and gradients have never interacted quite as they should.

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Board and tabletop wargaming lost a design legend on Monday. John Hill’s influence on PC wargaming is less obvious but no less significant. His most famous creation, Squad Leader, features in the fond reminiscences of most of our design luminaries and indirectly led to the birth of two of our finest franchises.

Both Close Combat and Combat Mission started life as Avalon Hill-approved attempts to bring the drama and intimacy of Squad Leader and its descendent Advanced Squad Leader, to the computer screen (Ironically, the only video game ever to wear the SL legend on its box lid was an indifferent X-COM clone).

As this splendid quote from a Fire & Movement magazine interview reveals, Hill wanted characters and character-sized calamities on his battlefields; he understood that there was much more to WW2 tactical wargaming than getting the ballistic maths and the OOBs right.

“Squad Leader was a success for one reason: it personalized the boardgame in a World War II environment. Take the “leaders,” or persons, away from it and it becomes a bore. Though this may sound surprising, the game has much in common with Dungeons & Dragons. In both games, things tend to go wrong, and being caught moving in the street by a heavy machinegun is like being caught by a people-eating dragon. Squad Leader was successful because, underneath all its World War II technology, it is an adventure game – indeed, Dungeons & Dragons in the streets of Stalingrad.”

Remember John Hill next time your favourite digital wargame generates a pulse propelling act of courage, an amazing feat of survival, or a cruel twist of a fate.

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The Flare Path Foxer

Rorschach617, Matchstick, AFKAMC, Llewyn, mrpier, billy_bunter, P.Funk… Roman raised a brimming glass of ‘Jumo juice’ to you last Friday. It warmed his flinty ventricles to see a Grade ‘FFF’ foxer dissected and demystified so skilfully.

(theme: Janis Joplin)

a. Mercedes Benz museum, Stuttgart
b. Piece of my Hart
c. Woodstock glider
d. Big Brother and the Holding Company
e. Porsche 356 convertible
f. Stinson Model A (Joplin’s ashes were scatttered on Stinson Beach)
g. Pearl Harbor
h. Photo developed from film found in Bonny & Clyde’s Joplin hideout

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Last week’s ‘Dog Foxer’ appeal wasn’t a great success. Though 316 canine readers sent in foxer concepts, the vast majority of those concepts were either “KATZ!” or “SKWIRILZ!”. By far the most original theme came from Bob, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier from the New Forest. Bob (pictured above) claimed his idea came to him during a bracing beach walk. He says there’s nothing like the mingled aroma of rotting seaweed and washed up red herrings for stimulating the old grey matter.

All guesses in one thread, please.

25 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Matchstick says:

    Bottom left is the Coat of Arms of the City of Christchurch
    According to Wikipedia the motto translates as “Founded in Faith, Rich in the Fulfillment thereof, Strong in Hope for the Future”.
    The Bird on the top is a Kiwi and the birl to the Right (and left) is a Pukeko (or Swamp Hen)

    • AFKAMC says:

      Me thinks the strange jet-powered, tail-dragging airliner is an Avro Tudor 8 fitted with Nene jet engines.

    • Llewyn says:

      Pfft, nothing with four wheels at all? I don’t even get to hang on the coat-tails of the real Foxer Brains this week.

    • Premium User Badge

      Matchstick says:

      Bird bottom right looks quote a lot like a Peacock/Peafowl but I can’t a species that had the red neck.

      Hmmm beak looks wrong as well…

      • Shiloh says:

        Maybe a bird of paradise? Not a six wired one but something similar?

      • mrpier says:

        I think the bird is an Himalayan Monal.

        • Premium User Badge

          Matchstick says:

          Well spotted.

          Starting to wonder about a British Raj connection ?
          Viceroy of India is obvious, Guy Gibson was born in Shimla (capital of Himachal Prades) in Northern India, the Himalayan monal’s latin name (Lophophorus impejanus) commemorates “Lady Mary Impey, the wife of the British chief justice of Bengal Sir Elijah Impey.”

          All incredibly tenuous (even for a foxer), I know.

    • Stellar Duck says:

      The circle with the square in it looks a lot like the symbol for the UNESCO World Heritage sites. At least I’m pretty sure I saw that symbol at the Temple of Bassai in Greece and similar places.

      • Rorschach617 says:

        It is. Well remembered!

        • Stellar Duck says:

          And yet for all that, I can’t remember a phone number for the life of me. :/

          Edit: I also spent too much time looking through NATO symbols before my memory was jogged enough to come up with Bassai.

          I kept thinking it was an anti air symbol.

    • Premium User Badge

      Matchstick says:

      Ship Top Left P&O SS Viceroy of India
      link to thecruisepeople.files.wordpress.com

      link to en.wikipedia.org

      (who knew a Google image search for “Passenger Liner Two Funnels” would actually work !)

    • Rorschach617 says:

      Medal Ribbons.
      Top is Victoria Cross,
      Unknown yet
      Unknown yet
      1939-45 Star,
      Unknown yet,
      1939-45 War Medal
      US Legion of Merit (Commander Rank)

      working on this atm

      • Premium User Badge

        Matchstick says:

        Medal two looks top be DSO & Bar, Medal 3 I think is DFC and Bar, Medal 5 I think is Air Crew Europe Star

        If that is the case could we be looking at Guy Gibson’s medals and the link is something to do with the Dam Buster raids ?

        (AFKAMC points me at Guy Gibsons wikipedia page which lists all these medals)

    • AFKAMC says:

      OK, I think the link is: Simla, or Shimla, the capital city of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh; for one thing, Gibson was born there.

      • Premium User Badge

        Matchstick says:

        Beat me to it ! :)
        Damn these users and their demands to fix their problems ;)

        For the other clues Christ Church (the second oldest church in N. India is in Shimla)

        The Himalyan Monal is the state bird of Himachal Pradesh which is where Shimla is located.

      • Shiloh says:

        Yep, spot on. Named after Kali, has a Christ Church, Gibson’s birthplace etc.

      • Rorschach617 says:

        You have it there.

        Shimla became the place to be during the summer months, and the Government and Army would move up there to avoid the heat further south, which gives us the Viceroy link.

      • phlebas says:

        The portrait top right is Major Ridge, a Cherokee chief.
        The Ridge is an open space in the centre of Shimla.

        • phlebas says:

          The statue is from Champion of the Raj, but I think the fact that it’s Shiva is the important bit.

      • foop says:

        Brilliant work. The Avro Tudor 8 connection is that Simla has a number of completely out of place mock Tudor buildings, a superb product of the English obsession with doing things their way even if it turns out to be not such a good idea.

  2. Shiloh says:

    Shame to hear about John Hill. I played a lot of Squad Leader back in the 80s (we set up a wargaming club at school specifically to play it), and then if I remember aright, ASL came out in the year I left school (I think John had less to do with ASL, Don Greenwood was the main man behind that). I do remember in that last year that the “Escape from Velikiye Luki” ASL scenario was a particular favourite.

  3. Shiloh says:

    Incidentally, re. the Vietnam ’65 switch to 3D – the prototype was using the counter set from John Tiller’s Tour of Duty so unless they had permission from the man himself, Slitherine couldn’t have used it in the production version.

  4. ExitDose says:

    What did they do to Vietnam 65? It looks nothing like the prototype, in a mechanical sense.

    It also looks like an iPhone game, now.

    I guess there’s always hope that Panther Games or On Target will make that Vietnam game at some point.