The Flare Path: Oliver’s Armies

RPS statement on Tim Stone/The Flare Path

Last Friday, Tim was involved in a fracas with an RPS employee. Incensed by the “wildly inconsistent” curvatures of the bananas in the canteen fruit bowl, Tim accosted and then struck canteen manager Paul ‘Do you want custard with that?’ Spence. As a result of the incident Tim has been suspended pending an investigation. In place of today’s column, we bring you news of an Automation milestone and a staggering solo project inspired by Total War and 18th Century imperialism.

Total War malcontents come in various forms. There are the forum grumblers, the review ridiculers, the mod crafters, the mod consumers… Rarest of all are the rival builders – the folk whose dissatisfaction drives them to code breathtakingly ambitious TW replacements. Oliver Keppelmueller, the lone creator of The Seven Years War [official site], is just such a malcontent.

For the last three years, this lone strategy visionary has been fashioning, from scratch Empire: Total War’s denser, deeper, step-brother. Inspired by his favourite games (“ETW, The Settlers, Hearts of Iron and Railroad Tycoon”) and focused on Northern Europe and North America (The plan is to add the Med and Caribbean in a War of the Spanish Succession add-on) The Seven Years War won’t offer Creative Assembly-calibre martial spectacle. What it will offer, apparently, is richer economics…

…greater campaign variety, and – of particular interest to Flare Pathers – superior battle realism.

Scan the feature list and scrutinise the overview vid and several grog-wooing novelties stand out like mitre caps above a parapet. There’s the ability to set up your own three-layer army hierarchy then, once an engagement starts, issue orders via any stratum of that hierarchy. Units can be customised with specific leaders and, intriguingly, with specific weapons too. Visible circa 2.20 in the first vid is an eight-slot musket selection menu.

Seven formations, battlefield engineering, telling terrain effects, intelligent VL placement, artillery capture… assuming Oliver’s AI cuts the mustard – and, as he cites TW’s weak AI as a project motivation, there’s grounds for optimism – The Seven Years War’s unscripted campaign clashes could be pretty special.

Right now the project is “90% complete” and angling for a Steam greenlight. Oliver told RPS “The next steps are to implement the campaign AI, work on menus and scenarios, and add historical battles. The scenarios will include road to war campaigns as well as short lived survival campaigns. I am confident I can deliver a finished game in Q3 2015. My biggest challenge will be attracting an audience in an environment where effects and graphics dominate and game depth can be underrated.”

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If Tim had been at his post today, he probably would have wanted you to know about Automation’s [official site] arrival on Steam. Though the singular car construction game first Flare Pathed in June 2013 still lacks planned tycoon elements, Camshaft have been far from idle this past 20 months. A steady stream of new bodies, components, UI improvements, scenarios, and physics/chemistry tweaks, mean the Steam Early Access build feels Hummer heavy.

There’s now around 50 engine and car construction challenges, and the sandbox is a veritable Sahara of possibilities. With skill, practise, and a bit of lateral thinking, numerous familiar cars and engines can be mimicked.

Automation has one realism setting – full real. Fortunately, the Antipodean designers realise that not all of us were raised by gearheads and telemetrists. The superb selection of integrated video tutorials has been steadily expanded and updated to keep pace with new features and engine changes. Very few serious sims explain their intricacies better.

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Going by his notes and the selection of screenshots he’d prepared for today’s column, it looks like the disgraced Mr Stone was also planning to wax lyrical about the “savage intensity” and “beguiling ballistics” of Steel Armor: Blaze of War again

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The Flare Path Foxer

According to a recent study, the average age of the average Flare Path reader is “old enough to remember candy cigarettes and the Iran Hostage Crisis”. With such an extensive memory lane network at its disposal, it’s hardly surprising the defoxing community managed to correctly ID all ten of last week’s antique ad fragments.

A. Stonkers (access.denied)
B. Close Combat (phlebas)
C. Patton Strikes Back (AFKAMC)
D. No Greater Glory (Matchstick)
E. Harpoon (Syt)
F. Fire Brigade (Matchstick)
G. V for Victory: D-Day Utah Beach (Spinoza)
H. Panzer General (Syt)
I. Tigers on the Prowl (Philopoemen)
J. Age of Rifles (Rorschach617)

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Roman has been a subscriber to XwordXL magazine since 1985. Every Saturday morning he unfolds the kingsize centre-spread crossword and pins it to the custard-spattered noticeboard in the office canteen. Though everyone contributes answers, it’s rare for a puzzle to be complete at the end of the seven days. This week, however, we’re tantalizingly close. The giant D-Day-themed brain-bruiser currently adorning our chow hall wall, is just 25 unsolved clues away from ‘done’. With your help, maybe we can finish it.

ACROSS
7. Overlord’s underlord (6)
56. Sea grunge plays havoc with crude SMG (6,3)
80. It harbours silkworms (8)
109. Sound of leather on willow reassures lost paratrooper (7)
170. Allied AFV notoriously hard on the rump (8)
214. Company knot known for its bombers or fighters (8)
244. The timer is mangled! How can we disable the guns? (8)
307. Tasmanian joker unwinds on golden sands (6)
433. TD goes back to front on February 14 (6)
667. These wiry Poles fought for the Germans (13)
699. Treeline visible from Canadian beach (3)

DOWN
13. He digs graves with HE (6)
212. Assault on Caen confuses Romanian cowhand (9)
283. Cat killers relied on this dog for motivation (5)
285. Flower leapt in one bound by mythical nag (4,5)
321. Terrain the invaders hadn’t banked on (6)
324. Normandy veteran spends retirement relaxing in pool (3,7)
465. She waves at pathfinders (7)
468. To build one, simply encase materiel in concrete (8)
503. Rhino stampede (9,5)
511. Anne Bonny slays Panzers without help from Royal Engineers (4)
514. Fuel bill shocks Carentan defenders (5,6)
592. Most windmills conceal a German vehicle (7)
600. Beef and venison are excellent in bridge rolls too (3,3,3)
614. Highest Allied rank (3)

(All answers in one thread, please)

94 Comments

  1. Shiloh says:

    80. Mulberry

    • AFKAMC says:

      Beat me to it!

    • Shiloh says:

      56. Grease gun

    • Gusdownnup says:

      214. Beaufort?

    • Gusdownnup says:

      244. Thermite

    • Premium User Badge

      Matchstick says:

      Long Shot:
      7 Across – Tedder
      Arthur Tedder was Deputy Supreme Allied Commander during Operation Overlord

    • Shiloh says:

      244. Thermite

    • Shiloh says:

      592. Ostwind

      • Stugle says:

        I’m not sure about the Ostwind. According to Wikipedia, they were only produced from December ’44 till March ’45. Mind you, I don’t have any better suggestions.

        • Shiloh says:

          Good research. I just went with the obvious answer and pretty much assumed the Germans had had that type of Flakpanzer in Normandy without looking into it further :-)

        • Tim Stone says:

          Not the first time XwordXL magazine have slipped up. They deserve to get flak for this.

          • Stugle says:

            I’m ashamed to admit that it took me until Sunday to realize the pun in here. It’s such an overused phrase these days, it didn’t even register at first .

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      Matchstick says:

      109 – Cricket

      • FurryLippedSquid says:

        How does that reassure a paratrooper?

        O_o

        • Stugle says:

          A little device given to paratroopers to identify friend from foe (forgive me if you were less than serious).

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          Matchstick says:

          The cricket was a clicker issued to paratroopers to allow them to make a sound to identify each other

          link to dday-overlord.com

        • Shiloh says:

          Cricket is very reassuring to a British paratrooper because it is the most British sport ever invented. It instils discipline in a chap, forces a man to think on his feet under pressure (e.g. when one’s weedy bowling attack is being slogged to all parts of the field by some large Unteroffizier with a sturdy piece of Bavarian willow in his hand), and is generally excellent preparation for keeping the pecker and/or dander up in difficult circumstances, such as having one’s cap handed to one by a smirking ANZAC after a proper drubbing somewhere in the bloody colonies for Christ’s sake.

          In fact, there is no better preparation for invading France than cricket.

    • access.denied says:

      667 might be Goralenverein (copied here as the crossword thread seems to have crystallized)

      • Stugle says:

        I was wondering if it was ‘Rommelspargel’, but that’s only singular.

        • Shiloh says:

          I think you’re correct, and incidentally, “Spargel” is the plural of “Spargel”. One thing though – I thought the Rommelspargel were just poles in the ground to deter airborne landings. Did they have wire strung along them as well (i.e. were they “wiry”)?

    • Stugle says:

      321. Bocage?

    • Spinoza says:

      600- Ham and Jam

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      Matchstick says:

      REALLY REALLY Long shot
      514- Horsa Glider
      Only because it fits and they deserve a mention in any D-Day related crossword ;)

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      Matchstick says:

      614 – SAC ?

      • Tim Stone says:

        The one remaining unsolved clue!

        SAC doesn’t fit.

        c _ _

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          Matchstick says:

          That makes me think CIC then, but….

        • Premium User Badge

          Matchstick says:

          However my wife (who is genuinely good at proper cryptic crosswords) suggests col (which is also a mountain pass aparently) or cap (though capt is more common)

    • Stugle says:

      13. Sexton.

    • Shiloh says:

      285. Caen canal

    • phlebas says:

      511. PIAT (pirate – RE -> Projectil Infantry Anti Tank slays Panzers)

    • Don More says:

      433 Archer

    • AFKAMC says:

      I think 511 is PIAT – take the R and E out of PIRATE

    • Stugle says:

      511. PIAT (Anne Bonny – ‘Pirate’, minus ‘RE’).

    • Premium User Badge

      Matchstick says:

      699 – Yew ?

    • Shiloh says:

      514. Cole’s charge

    • Stugle says:

      170. Cromwell (Rump Parliament).

    • Rorschach617 says:

      Sorry I’m late.

      283. PLUTO. The fuel pipeline that fed the tanks, maybe?

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      Matchstick says:

      212 – Charnwood ?
      It was the name of the operation that captured much of the city of Caen but I have no idea how it would fit the rest of teh clue (but then I rejected PIAT as a solution for 511 for exactly the same reason, so what do I know ?)

    • AFKAMC says:

      307 – Bobbin (one of Hobart’s funnies)

    • Rorschach617 says:

      503. Rhino Stampede (9,5) – Operation Cobra?

    • Premium User Badge

      Matchstick says:

      503 – Operation Cobra ?

    • Rorschach617 says:

      465. She waves at Pathfinders (7) – REBECCA. REBECCA was the airborne radar transceiver that worked with the EUREKA beacons the pathfinders used.

    • Rorschach617 says:

      468. To build one, simply enCASE MATEriel in concrete – Casemate. Feels a bit generic, but it’s in the clue so I’ll go with it. :)

    • Rorschach617 says:

      Stuck on 324. Normandy veteran spends retirement relaxing in pool (3,7)

      Found a reference to an impromptu swimming pool next to a broken Phoenix off Shoeburyness, but doesn’t look good (plus the Phoenix did not get to Normandy anyway).

    • AFKAMC says:

      324. HMS Belfast

    • Rorschach617 says:

      Strange that there is no reference to this incident in this Foxer, so I thought I’d provide one for Roman.

      617. Schoolboy error spills the beans? (5,9,9)

      • Shiloh says:

        Daily Telegraph Crossword?

      • Tim Stone says:

        Daily Telegraph crossword :)

      • Shiloh says:

        975. Up on toes owing to wine – almost too high! (6, 2, 3)

      • Shiloh says:

        Dart along French channel making for town, we hear? (11)

        I give it 5 minutes :-)

      • Rorschach617 says:

        618. This fool bears no resemblance to the real thing (6)

          • Rorschach617 says:

            Worried that the clue was a little wayward, glad to see you on your toes, Sir!

        • Stugle says:

          I was utterly clueless. Did the ‘fool’ refer to Prince Rupert, or someone else?

          • Tim Stone says:

            ‘Ruperts’ were the paradummies (link to en.wikipedia.org) dropped during Overlord.
            ‘bear’ —–> Rupert
            ‘fool’ —–> deceive.

          • Rorschach617 says:

            Ahh, my fault. Should have been a better question setter. Sorry.

            My process was

            Fool = Dummy (Maybe I should have said “American fool”, apologies for being unclear)
            Bear = Rupert the Bear

            added clues

            No resemblance = have you seen a photo of them?

            I could have added “but his show goes of with a bang” to the clue, as an added hint.

          • Stugle says:

            Ah, Rupert the Bear – I am not at all familiar with the character, so that’s where everything went ‘Swoosh’. I found out about the dummies after the riddle had been solved, but thought the ‘Rupert’ referred to Prince Rupert who, if memory serves, royally messed up Charles’ war against Parliament by virtue of over-excited cavalry charges. Hence I was thinking he was foolish. Never mind. :)

  2. AFKAMC says:

    80 across is Mulberry

  3. Shiloh says:

    592. Ostwind

  4. Runty McTall says:

    Didn’t read the article, don’t know anything about the incident but WE NEED A PETITION TO REINSTATE TIM!

    Somebody less apathetic get on that.

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      Matchstick says:

      109 – Cricket

    • Shiloh says:

      Damn straight. And don’t forget, the Flare Path is RPS’s most successful worldwide format – the French love “Le sentier des signals lumineux” while in Germany, they just can’t get enough of “Der Leuchtkugelpfad”…

    • RARARA says:

      No! We want an eco feminist to replace Mr Stone! Mr Stone is obviously a proponent of war with all his love for simulators, thus we need an someone who eschews this macho territorial culture!

  5. access.denied says:

    667 might be Goralenverein

  6. BluePencil says:

    Are all the battles in Seven Years War between the font and one’s own eyes? Couldn’t read a word (and yes, did go full screen for the video). Switched it off within 30 seconds and knew I’d never be able to play it.

  7. BooleanBob says:

    Where do people learn to solve cryptic crossword clues? Is it public school? It’s public school, isn’t it?

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      Like most British-class based characteristics, it is learned in the home and under intense physical duress. In upper-middle class households up and down the UK, on children’s 14th birthdays, the father will take their offspring down to the potting shed and hurl cryptic crossword clues, followed by actual plant pots, at the child. This will continue until the correct answer emerges. No direct instruction is given: It is more like a modern form of Zen, where the desire to be free of overwhelming pain focuses the mind and leads to the correct, yet utterly nonsensical, solution.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      No one knows how to solve cryptic crosswords, and any solution is always nothing more than a huge coincidence.

    • airmikee says:

      Drugs. Lots of them.

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      Matchstick says:

      For me, I find a plausible answer and see if someone else can work out why it might be true – see my solution for 212 for example ;)

  8. Hydrogene says:

    When I read “RPS statement on Tim Stone/The Flare Path” I was afraid for a moment that RPS was putting an end to this weekly sim and wargame blather! I’m really glad it’s not! Pfffffew.

    On another subject, what kind of strange people might play Automation? Build a virtual car that you can’t even drive? What’s the point?