The Flare Path: In Search Of A Sub Title Subtitle

The eyecatching Yellow Pages advert that is currently serving as my bookmark, is tucked between the pages of Bob Whinney’s ‘The U-Boat Peril’ at the moment, a fact that may explain why work-in-progress sub sim Wolves of the Atlantic is on top of this week’s word heap. A mobile game destined for the PC, WOTA seems eminently dismissable until you glimpse the screenshots, peruse the feature list, and realise that lone creator Mark Hessburg is drawn to realism like a GNAT is drawn to propeller noise.

Mark’s been toiling away on his Type VIIC sim for six years now. The myriad man-hours that have gone into handsome superficialities like 3D interiors, sumptuous sea shaders and clever cloud-influenced lighting, but they’ve also been lavished on unglamorous fundamentals like physics, enemy AI, and diesel engine realism. The latest news bulletin boasts of stuff like “correct hydrodynamic simulation” and “absolutely correct acceleration and fuel consumption”. There’s even talk of attacking aircraft using blade element theory-based FMs.

Though the first mobile incarnation of WOTA will wear the ‘Arcade Battles’ subtitle and fast-forward through the duller side of Das Booting (players will be bustled from one random encounter/sighting to the next, returning to port when ammo and fuel levels run low) later instalments should offer Silent Hunter-style campaign dynamism.

Tonnage sent to the seabed is likely to be at the heart of the scoring system, but, interestingly, campaign ratings will also reflect a Kapitan’s willingness to throw in the towel and save his crew when necessary.

“When you know there is no chance to save your U-Boat anymore then your highest priority should be to save your crew by surfacing and by giving order all hands to leave the boat, this process takes some time and success depends on the current situation. While leaving the U-Boat your crew automatically scuttles the submarine. Depending on the number or survivors and the success of scuttling, your final score of the patrol will be multiplied with a factor of humanity and a factor of dutifulness”.

And when the lights are flickering and the bulkheads are buckling, it sounds like there’ll be no quickloading the nightmare away. Mark’s uncompromising approach to saves (automatic, one slot only) and penchant for permadeath promises to make depth charge and Hedgehog mortar attacks excruciatingly nerve-wracking affairs.

The iOS and Mac versions of WOTA have priority over the PC one, so it may be a while before we’re stalking convoys, scrutinising stopwatches and shuddering as corvette screws churn overhead. For a tiny taste of the delights to come, there’s always Mark’s wunderbar U-Boat compass app to tide you over.

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AGEOD’s WWI TBS To End All Wars is to get the clutch of smaller, day-sized scenarios it sorely lacked at launch. The bad news is the Palestine, Serbia, Romania, and Italy-focused ops (a 1916 Grand Campaign is also included) will come as part of a payware (price TBA) ‘Breaking The Deadlock’ expansion rather than a morale-boosting, acclimatisation-aiding free patch.

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The same Ukrainian dicky bird that last week assured me Graviteam Tactics: Mius Front was near, this week shared a snippet of news that implies Seventies/ Eighties tank sim, Steel Armor: Blaze of War, is in for a bit of an indian summer. In February Graviteam complete their slow disentanglement from not-always-particularly-sympathetic publishers when a 5-year publishing deal with Noviy Disk and UIG expires. The SABOW reins/steering wheel will soon be back in the hands of the coders which could mean a bevy of unusual adjuncts for one of the quirkiest, most ambitious and under-appreciated armour sims around.

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Phew. Having spent most of yesterday toying with the Vietnam 65 beta, I’m happy to report that the qualities I so admired in the prototype have survived the engine shift and publishing deal intact. Under its new hex grid V65 still feels invigoratingly fresh and bally clever.

Every Single Soldier’s determination to capture the essence of counter-insurgency operations in late Sixties SE Asia results in a game in which traditional frontlines don’t exist and more time is spent hunting the enemy than neutralising him.

As the US/ARVN player (it’s not possible to play as the VC/NVA) you’re meant to be the cat in the COIN cat-and-mouse relationship, but when RPGs are plucking your shuttling Hueys out of the air and you’re struggling to medevac or resupply badly mauled patrols, you often feel far from feline.

The secret of success is canny use of the Political Support currency that ‘buys’ new units (PS is topped up by battlefield victories), thoughtful forward base placement and the development of a sustainable logistics network. Troops outside bases need regular supply drops. Fail to keep them provisioned and they lose effectiveness, eventually vanishing.

Village visits are essential. The more sympathetic a settlement (The ‘Hearts & Minds’ scores of villages are steadily eroded by the enemy and together determine ultimate victory) the higher the chance someone will spill the mung beans, exposing nearby insurgents. Once spotted (Ranger units are also great at flushing out foes) you’re free to send in the Phantoms or Cobra gunships, or maybe unleash a stonk from one of your immobile but air-portable artillery units.

The prototype’s atmospheric period map is gone, but the intel map that painstakingly records contacts and slowly reveals the route of the randomly generated map-traversing Ho Chi Minh Trail apes its look and feel well enough.

Just about the only aspect of the game I’m struggling to enjoy at present is the unintuitive control implementation. Because movement orders can be issued with a left or right click currently, deselecting units isn’t as straightforward as perhaps it should be. Oh, and identifying at a glance units that have action points remaining seems to be impossible at present.

Without a campaign layer (a medals/achievements system encourages replay) and multiplayer (planned) Vietnam ’65 won’t be monopolising your PC play time for months to come, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As I’ve argued before there’s a crying need for a new old breed of affordable ‘short form’ wargames with bags of flavour and the bottle to try something different.

The fearless, flavoursome Vietnam 65 should be leaping from its UH-1 some time in March.

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The Flare Path Foxer

‘Islands’ wasn’t the official solution to last week’s foxer, but the increasingly magnanimous/forgetful Roman chose to overlook this, tiddlywinking shiny titanium Flare Path flair points in the direction of AFKAMC, Matchstick, mrpier, Stugle, JB, phlebas and Vurogj.

a. Alpha Jet
b. ??????
c. Air Jamaica logo
d. ??????
e. Rolls -Royce Vulture aero engine
f. George the Steamroller
g. Morris Oxford
h. ??????
i. Fort Drum

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The following foxer is dedicated to Roman’s sister Romana, one of the most naturally gifted Finders the Flare Path Military Archaeology Unit has ever employed. Whether you’re searching for a fumbled spectacles screw on a hearth rug, or a crashed CAC Boomerang in a New Guinean rainforest, Romana is worth her weight in red herrings.

All answers in one thread, please

36 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Matchstick says:

    Answer Thread (I guess)

    Bottom right, is that the nose of a Ford Ka ?

    • AFKAMC says:

      I think the biplane is an Aviatik (Berg) D.I

      See 3-view drawing here: link to aviastar.org

    • Llewyn says:

      It is, yes.

    • mrpier says:

      The molecule seems to be Oxalate (ethanedioate) C2O4-2.

      • Premium User Badge

        Matchstick says:

        I agree, looks like the image is from the diagram on the wikipedia page

        • Premium User Badge

          Matchstick says:

          Just looking at that is making me wonder if somehow the link is Bond :)

          • Shiloh says:

            Could be – the chap to the right looks very much like a Soviet spy, or a Bond villain. At first I thought he was Richard Sorge but I don’t think it is, too full-faced for Sorge. I’ll keep looking though.

    • Premium User Badge

      Matchstick says:

      Top left looks like a windows desktop shortcut featuring a picture of an underwater ROV.

      Anyone know of any windows marine salvage games ?

      • phlebas says:

        Dive to the Titanic? I haven’t found a picture of the icon, but that looks like the ROV on the cover.

    • jinglin_geordie says:

      That looks like a statue of Wellington (or his horse, Copenhagen)

      The plane looks like an Albatross

      The car is definitely a Ford Ka

      The stamp – New Zealand?

    • Artiforg says:

      Sir Malcolm Campbell : Photo link

    • All is Well says:

      My best guess for the solution is MS Hans Hedtoft, a Danish ship that struck an iceberg and sank.

      • All is Well says:

        Explanation:
        HANS device: Hans Hedtoft (obviously)
        Ford Ka and Oxalate: Hedtofts radio callname was OXKA
        Berg Scout: Hit an iceBERG
        Stamp: She was headed for Greenland
        Malcolm Campbell: Hedtofts distress call was answered by USCGC Campbell
        Wellington&Copenhagen: She sailed from Copenhagen
        Dive for the Titanic: Titanic also hit an iceberg?

  2. Premium User Badge

    Grizzly says:

    H on the old Flare thing is the Ferrari Logo.

    • phlebas says:

      Indeed. It was identified as such at the time, though, so we may be looking for something else about it.

      • Premium User Badge

        Grizzly says:

        Well, all I know of the logo is that it was originally the Stuttgart logo (later also famously used by Porsche) and was adopted after an Italian ww1 flyer found it very striking.

  3. Premium User Badge

    distantlurker says:

    Possible sub title subtitles:

    Unfathomable.
    One hull of a problem.
    Dire straits.
    Just swell.

  4. DrollRemark says:

    I know the technical gap between high-end mobile devices and the average gaming PC is now so little as to be an accepted state of play, but those are some seriously impressive plans for WOTA. The graphics are already quite the thing.

  5. Stugle says:

    That Vietnam 65 thing continues to intrigue me. Shame about the shift in art style, but that is what it is. The underlying premise sounds very interesting indeed and it might be the rare wargame that could actually work in my fragmented, bite-sized playing sessions. Any word on what its price is going to be upon release?

    • Tim Stone says:

      All Slitherine were prepared to say on the price is that it will be “very affordable”.

      • Nokturnal says:

        If you buy two copies it’ll only cost you an arm and a leg, so you get to keep the other leg!

      • GT5Canuck says:

        All Slitherine were prepared to say on the price is that it will be “very affordable”.

        That sent a shiver down my spine.

    • Wowbagger says:

      I’m interested in this as well – Slitherine’s website looks like it was made in the 90’s and never changed. You can sign up for beta testing for the game there if you have an account with them, I couldn’t be bothered to go that far.

      • Premium User Badge

        teije says:

        As someone who has visited their site for many years, I can confirm it hasn’t changed at all. It’s now so old that its now cool and retro.

  6. Nokturnal says:

    Can we get some more news on the Steel Armor deal? I remember them mentioning a while ago that they said they were waiting for the rights to return to them. However I seem to recall that date being many more years into the future.

    I’ve asked on the GT forums but if possible can RPS push for an interview and try to find out if they have plans to extend that particular franchise?
    I know most seem to favour Graviteam Tactics’ RTS titles but the world badly needs more tank sim games!

  7. GT5Canuck says:

    Matrix/Slitherine appear to be increasingly addicted/dependant upon the In-App purchase/Paid DLC model. I blame their shift to an iOS focus.

    • Ranger33 says:

      What? Their games have expansions and scenario packs, sure, but most also receive plenty of free, significant updates years and years after release. Compare that to Combat Mission where you basically have to pay $10 a year per game to get the most up to date version, including bug/glitch fixes.

  8. Gibster says:

    I believe b is the layout of a Queen Elizabeth Class battleship (not sure how this works, just saw the answer blank and thought “I believe I know what that is!”).

    Note: This is before the two stacks were combined in her interwar refit.