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The Flare Path: Muskets, Moscow, And M4s

Simulation & wargame blather

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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.

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