The Flare Path: Muskets, Moscow, And M4s

Tim’s pre-FP checks

  • Is it Friday morning?
  • Is coffee pot within reach?
  • Are biros arranged according to ink content?
  • Are members of Perry Miniatures SAS squad a) upright and b) equidistant from each other?
  • Do all visible D6s display odd numbers?
  • Has photo of Neville Duke been saluted?

Yes?

COMMENCE WRITING

Chilled to the bone and snowblinded by IL2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad’s deep-frozen landscapes? Don’t pancake next to that blazing oil train just yet. A Spring rasputitsa is on the way. According to 1C/777’s latest dev diaries, free summer and autumn versions of the main map, together with new campaign chapters, are imminent. Encouraging news for those disenchanted with the sim’s sterile campaign and restrictive MP facilities, the full mission editor and dedicated server software also appear to be close.

Whether these potential game changers arrive before Early Accessers get their hands on the first IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Moscow steeds is anybody’s guess. It seems pre-orderers could be testpiloting the first of the mergeable sequel’s ten flyables as early as March. Though my inner optimist was hoping we’d be off somewhere really exotic like Malta or Burma next, the presence of neglected stalwarts like the Ju 88 and I-16, and foreign novelties like the P-40 and Macchi C.202 (both ‘premium planes’) in the Battle of Moscow hangar, should make the shift to the Russian capital easier to bear.

The dev’s position on aircraft mod unlocks softened slightly earlier this month, but the sequel announcement suggests the inheritors of the illustrious IL2 franchise still don’t realise quite how important graphics setting flexibility, and a coherent and lively campaign environment is to the average simmer. Unless 1C and 777 are keeping fundamental career mode changes under their ushankas, sorties over Moscow promise to be no more involving or unpredictable than sorties over Stalingrad.

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Ten of the above are genuine 16th and 17th Century battles set to appear in Tercio to Salvo, the first Pike & Shot expansion pack; five are types of European cheese sneakily secreted amongst the scraps by Your Truly to illustrate just how little most of us know about conflicts like the French Wars of Religion and the Eighty Years’ War. If you can pick out all five fromages without recourse to Google then bravo, you’re either Byzantine Games’ ideal customer or the kind of well-travelled cheese connoisseur that really should be writing for RPS sister-site Roquefort, Feta, Stilton.

In addition to broadening the single battle selection with a range of Catholic vs Huguenot bloodbaths, Baltic dingdongs, and Balkan routs, Tercio to Salvo will be adding two new playable nations, the Russians and Dutch, and introducing a staggering 49 extra period-linked army lists for use in skirmish games and multiplayer. How would late 16th Century Transylvanians have fared against early 17th Century Scots? What if the Ottomans had got as far as Denmark? Were the Polish Winged Hussars harder bastards than Haselrig’s London Lobsters? The devs have enough confidence in their AI and combat routines to let us find out.

While I like my what-ifs and historical engagements as much as the next keil choreographer, I’d love to see Tercio to Salvo (ETA early April, price TBC) followed by something a little bolder. Sociable P&Sers are already jury-rigging their own simple MP strat layers; Byzantine, how about having a bash at filling the campaign void yourself? A basic Shogun Total War-style strategy layer bolted to a battle engine this piquant and plausible would, I’m sure, do wonders for Pike & Shot’s long-term solo appeal.

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If you ever arrive at The Flare Path Nissen hut and find the door locked and the ‘GONE TINFISHING’ sign dangling, I strongly recommend popping next-door to either Real and Simulated Wars or the newly opened www.mudspike.com . Grog news hub Tactical Wargames across the way is also well worth a visit. I was browsing there the other day when I came across Armoured Commander, a tanky WW2 roguelike with a potentially great future ahead of it.

AC is only a couple of alpha builds into development but there’s already tension by the Opel Blitz load and sufficient realism to bring to mind classic cardboard Sherman sim, Patton’s Best.

After choosing a name for your M4, arranging crew hatches, and loading AP and HE ammo into internal sponsons and the all-important 8-slot ‘ready rack’ (shells in the ready rack can be loaded faster than those in sponsons) you’re plonked at the bottom of a randomly generated cellular map and left to get on with it. Neighbouring map areas can be ‘checked for enemy resistance’ – presumably using fieldglasses – and entered, both processes advancing the clock by an appropriate amount of time (campaigns end when night falls).

Venture into an occupied zone and the patchwork of fields and forest is swiftly replaced by a disk of hexes with your Sherman at the centre. If you’ve thrown caution to the Wirbelwind and entered a stiffly defended locale, there are likely to be multiple targets in the six surrounding 60-degree sectors, and you’ll probably spend your first round of combat aligning your turret, pivoting your AFV towards the scariest foe, or seeking a protective hull-down position.

That’s assuming you get a first round of combat. Stumble into an ambush and AC’s Panzers and Paks are perfectly capable of brewing-up your battlewagon before you’ve fired your first shot or issued your first proper order. Realistic? Totally. Cruel? Decidedly.

Currently, supporting forces are present but unquantified. Occasionally enemies will be destroyed by invisible comrades before you get a chance to engage them. There’s obvious potential for adding a platoon management dimension in future builds, potential I’m sure creator Rev_Sudasana is aware of.

I’d be surprised if the coder behind this exciting prototype wasn’t also mulling over additions like dynamic weather, new ammo types, minefields, bogging and breakdowns, and hadn’t already fixed the closest thing to a bug I’ve encountered thus far, the footloose AT guns.

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The Flare Path Foxer

I lobbied for the inclusion of a Watson-class cargo ship in last week’s foxer, but Roman wouldn’t bend. My Chief Foxer Setter argued that consummate clue clarifiers like AFKAMC, Akbar, foop, All is Well, skink74, AbyssUK, Rorschach617, and Stugle would spot the ‘Sidekicks of Fictional Detectives’ theme without a reference to SH’s Boswell. He was wrong.

a Archie Goodwin (Nero Wolfe)
b Sam (Foyle’s War)
c Troy (Midsomer Murders)
d Crocker (Kojak)
e Lewis (Morse)
f MacDuff (Dirk Gently)
g Dawson (The Great Mouse Detective)
h Hastings (Poirot)
i Magersfontein Lugg (Campion)

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According to Roman’s Pocket Inquisitor today’s puzzle is…

DIFFICULTY 7.9
FRAGILITY 1.0
ELASTICITY 0.4
TOPICALITY 0.0

Of course, it is several weeks since Roman last cleaned the instrument’s lens or checked the calibration using the ‘Wives of Henry VIII’ foxer printed in the manual.

All answers in one thread, please.

63 Comments

  1. deejayem says:

    Actress on the right is Renee Maria Falconetti in as Joan of Arc.

    • AFKAMC says:

      The aircraft carrier looks like the new Queen Elizabeth class.

    • deejayem says:

      Are those stations/metro stops in the background?

      • AFKAMC says:

        I think you’re right. Some of the maps of German S- and U-bahn networks seem to use a similar style. Can’t identify the city, though.

        • deejayem says:

          Ugh, too many transit maps – my eyes have turned inside out.

          • Stugle says:

            I have scanned all German S-Bahn and U-Bahn maps (at least, all those that Wikipedia mentions) and none matches. Munchen comes closest, but the colors of the lines on the map don’t match the order in the Foxer… Argh!

      • Vurogj says:

        They do appear to be in a particular style of metro map. I’ve found examples using that style for San Francisco, Washington and Berlin so far, but nothing that quite matches those lines/station combination.

        • Guvornator says:

          Baring in mind the chap leaning on the car is also from San Francisco, maybe that’s a clue?

          • Vurogj says:

            I was just making my eyes bleed peering at lots of San Francisco metro maps as you wrote :) The area around Forest Hill is reasonably similar to what is in the Foxer, but I’m not very confident in it.

          • Guvornator says:

            I know what you mean – the bottom one could be Van Ness if you reversed the map. But that green line coming off is all wrong. It just depends on how tricksie it is with it’s mapsesss

      • foop says:

        My thoughts exactly. Look distinctly German to me, but can’t place the city.

      • Rorschach617 says:

        The repetition of the 3-line station icon suggests that one of the stations is the clue, maybe?

    • Rorschach617 says:

      Looks like an M3 Stuart of some kind Top Right, checking it out.

      • Rorschach617 says:

        Tentatively, M3 Satan flamethrower tank from the drum to the side of the turret.

    • Vurogj says:

      I’ll be the person cheap enough to claim the playing card point. Despite the clubs on his hat, it appears to in fact be a King of Spades.

      • unacom says:

        Ah monsieur, you beat me to it!

        • Syt says:

          It seems King of Spades is (in French decks, at least) supposed to represent Biblical King David.

    • Stugle says:

      The enginey bit top left looks like it belongs to an SR-71 Blackbird.

    • unacom says:

      That dour-looking gentleman to the lower right is a king of Spades or King David in french parlance.

    • mrpier says:

      The chap leaning on the car is John Tanner from the Driver series, and I think that’s a promotional still from Driver San Fransisco.

    • Syt says:

      The dude leaning on the car is Tanner from Driver: San Francisco.

    • Guvornator says:

      The person leaning on the car is undercover cop John Tanner from the “Driver” series of games

    • Syt says:

      The icons/buttons on the bottom left looks like they could from Korsun Pocket/Across the Dnepr.

    • guidom says:

      Is the theme Bridges? Kingsbridge, QE2 Bridge, Bridge over the Dnepr, Alter Bridge made an album called “Blackbird”… is there a bridge called Stuart Bridge? Or Tanner Bridge?

      • deejayem says:

        Ooh – could be. There’s a Pont Jeanne d’Arc in Rouen, apparently.

      • Guvornator says:

        As Tanner might be one of several of possibly San Fransisco-y bits in there, it might be the obvious one that SF is famous for – The Golden Gate Bridge

      • unacom says:

        Tannery Bridge… too many of those.

    • AFKAMC says:

      Or could they all be saints:

      Joan of Arc
      Simon the Tanner, aka Saint Simon the Shoemaker (Coptic saint)
      Saint Kevin (and the blackbird)
      San Francisco (Saint Francis)
      King David is a saint?
      A few Saint Elizabeths

      No idea how the tank and Korsun Pocket fit in, though…

      • unacom says:

        Saint David of Menevia.

      • Guvornator says:

        “David is an important figure to members of the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faiths. Biblical tradition maintains the Messiah’s direct descent from the line of David. In Islam, he is considered a prophet.”

        From wikipedia.

      • Stugle says:

        Apparently, there are some who see King Charles (Stuart) as a martyred saint for his execution by Parliament, but that sounds like it’s stretching things…

  2. Lexx87 says:

    I love PC gaming. I always read this, understand 0.1% of it, but enjoy anyway.

    I love gaming is so varied that there’s a load of people who play this stuff, while being a world i’m not and will never be part of.

    • Hex says:

      Ha, me too. :)

      There’s been some rare overlap of my world with theirs a few times — I got into Door Kickers soon after its Early Access launch. I felt so vindicated seeing that these Serious Gamer Mans also enjoy that game.

  3. Nokturnal says:

    Still no mention of Steel Armor? Tsk tsk… :P I shouldn’t have called off the hit squad so soon, eh Tim?

  4. peterako1989 says:

    Im willing to place my money on DCS’ individual airacraft modules, but IL-2 cannot have my money on that front. I will get it a couple of years from now when a huge IL-2 1946 like bundle ever comes out AND DROPS THE ONLINE REQUIREMENT for the campaing.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I don’t know if the first (a bundle with all planes) will happen, since they didn’t do that for Rise of Flight. They also haven’t removed the online requirement for the Rise of Flight campaign, so that doesn’t seem likely either. They claim it’s needed to harvest stats so people can compare how they’re doing, but it’s pretty obviously just DRM.

      I’m not sure if I’ll ever buy IL2-BoS or Moscow. The unlocks sound annoying, there isn’t a campaign to tie it all together, and the setting and aircraft just aren’t as immediately appealing as a more Western (or Pacific) theater. Get rid of the unlocks and show me a real singleplayer campaign, and I might get interested again.

  5. ExitDose says:

    God yes, more Pike and Shot is good news. The only thing better would be a Flashpoint Campaigns expansion or new game.

  6. Hydrogene says:

    For the more curious Flare-and-pathers, the 5 hidden cheeses are: gaperon, fynbo, grevé, (feuille de) Dreux and Langres (I had to google the non-French ones…)
    Bon appetit !

    • Hex says:

      The Battle of Dreux was the first major battle of the French Wars of Religion. Back to the drawing board!

      • binkbenc says:

        I was going to say, the missing cheese is Piave isn’t it? Although that’s Italian, not French.

        • Hydrogene says:

          Piave was also the location of a battle… during WW1! ;)

      • Hydrogene says:

        You are right! Of course. And Tim even put a link to the Battle of Dreux in his post.

        • Premium User Badge

          john_silence says:

          No wonder there are overlaps – cheeses have a long history themselves, and many are warred against today. Oh and while we’re at facts: Langres is the best cheese.

  7. libdab says:

    Hey, Tim, where’s that review of Gary Grigsby’s War in the West that you’ve been promising? A little game like that shouldn’t take you long! ;-)

  8. GCU Speak Softly says:

    Armoured Commander is giving off a big “Patton’s Best” vibe, which is no bad thing as I played the heck out of that game and had my own meta RPG going with the crew.

    • Rev_Sudasana says:

      Armoured Commander currently uses Patton’s Best as the core of its game engine, with some modifications, but as I develop it I’m going to move further away from the mechanics of the original board game while trying to keep its spirit alive. Next big update adds smoke, which is really useful against Pz IVs, Tigers, and 88s.

      The invisible friendly forces are part of the original board game, but there’s lots of room to expand those in the future.

      Tim I’d like to hear what the AT Gun bug you encountered was! Footloose?

      • Tim Stone says:

        Hello Rev! Thanks for stopping by. Great to hear there are additional features planned.

        The ‘footloose AT guns’ observation may be the consequence of a misunderstanding on my part, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen AT guns scuttling about like AFVs between combat rounds.

        • Rev_Sudasana says:

          Unfortunately this too follows the original game. I’ll change the AI a wee bit to encourage them to stay put rather than move about, but they will still be able to reposition themselves (without shooting at the player in the same turn, of course).

          • Tim Stone says:

            Are totally static AT guns a possibility?

            Moving anything bigger than a Pak 36 any significant distance would have required a towing vehicle and a lot of fuss. Seeing an AT gun move to a new position within the timeframe of an AC ‘encounter’ just doesn’t feel right to me.

            If PB/AC Paks don’t already come in ‘dug-in’ and non dug-in varieties then I think that too would be a worthwhile addition. Obviously, spotting and neutralising a gun that’s dug-in and well camouflaged (highly likely if the crew have had time for position improvement) should be far more difficult than spotting and neutralising one that has been hastily deployed.

  9. cptgone says:

    How to put this politely…

    The reason war is never waged on friday morning, is that a well rested general is a less erroneous gentleman, who doesn’t mistake his tea for some squalid brew of grinded jungle nuts.

  10. skink74 says:

    Armoured Commander reminds me of Tanks! by Design People Software for the BBC Micro. If I recall correctly (my attempts to run it in an emulator so far failing) you spent points on a small force of tanks & supporting units, and used them to move across a simple 2D map in either Western Europe, North Africa or the Eastern Front, looking for the enemy. When you encountered the enemy it switched to an isometric view for the actual shooting action.

  11. P.Funk says:

    Its a terrible shame that the new DCS resource is propagating one of the most dastardly abominations of NATO brevity.

    MUD SPIKE should rank up there with ROGER WILCO and OVER and OUT as transgressions of nomenclature known only to the dilettantes of fashionable war imitation.

    Still a great site though.

  12. wodin says:

    Jason here from Tactical Wargames. Thanks Tim for the mention:) Everyone is welcome. I try to keep it updated though at times illness gets in the way but I do have two great lads with me the invaluable Boris and the newbie Clayton!

  13. wodin says:

    Oh and we’re also doing and giveaway..Crusader Kings 2 Collection..so head over and take a look.