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64

The Flare Path: Demonstrably Narcissistic

Simulation & wargame blather

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Five and a half of the following seven questions will be answered in today’s column:

* What happens when you pass a red signal in World of Subways 4?
* Do wargame demos work?
* Whatever happened to Command Ops?
* Just how dreamy is the Assetto Corsa Dream Pack?
* How much does my neighbour’s ex-wife make an hour?
* Was Glenn Miller’s Norseman brought down by Nazi geese?
* Daffodils?

 

Might as well pluck the low-hanging fruit first.

* How much does my neighbour’s ex-wife make an hour?

$61 (Last month her paycheck was $14754 just working on the computer for a few hours!)

* Was Glenn Miller’s Norseman brought down by Nazi geese?

Based on interview material I gathered while backpacking round Chile in 1997, yes, almost certainly.

* Just how dreamy is the Assetto Corsa Dream Pack?

Jon Denton’s scintillating soliloquy over at ravsim.com suggests the groundbreaking laser-scanned recreation of the Nürburgring-Nordschleife circuit that sits at the centre of the first AC expansion pack, is a bona fide masterpiece. Where the Green Hells in other titles inadvertently spotlight physics flaws, Simone Trevisiol’s version consistently underlines engine sophistication, according to Jon.

If Dream Pack 1 contained an FSX airport or a TS2015 branch line rather than a 21km loop of AC asphalt, would it be priced at £11 and come with ten additional steeds? I doubt it. Race simmers are lucky swines – it’s official.

* Do wargame demos work?

When they’re as generous and well-constructed as the Combat Mission: Black Sea trial released last Friday, they have to, surely.

‘Rolling Thunder’, one of the two scenarios provided in addition to a tutorial, allows tentative tacticians to experiment with many of the full game’s most modern and unfamiliar weapon systems on a top-notch George MC-crafted battlefield. Tasked with neutralising a formidable Russian ‘Forward Security Element’ composed of various beady-eyed AFVs and missile-toting infantry, WW2 tactics are not recommended. Fail to utilize UAVs, exploit Apaches, and heed the marrow-chilling “LASER WARNING” reports issued by friendly tanks, and there’ll be burning Bradleys and Abrams all over the shop.

In ‘Gauntlets Crossed’, an hour-long infantry-only FIBUA fest, an old-fashioned approach is more practical. Russian troops are defending a multi-storey structure in the heart of the Ukrainian city of Myrhorod. Using a couple of platoons of US paratroopers together with sundry support and breach teams, it’s up to you to dislodge them. Expect lots of long-range lead and grenade swapping, and some extremely hairy dashes across roads and parks. Like all CMx3 scenarios, the skirmishing can be orchestrated in real time or via order phases sandwiched between sixty second bursts of hands-off action.

* Whatever happened to Command Ops?

Panther Games’ exceptionally fluid and naturalistic operational warfare series left dowdy long-time partner Matrix/Slitherine last year for too-cool-for-conjunctions bad boy Lock ‘n Load Publishing. After a short absence, the games are now back on sale in a new DCS World-style format.

The modular Command Ops 2 boasts a reworked GUI and sharper AI, and can be trialled via a base engine/demo that comes with three substantial (‘Greyhound Dash’ spans almost seven days of fighting!) and uncommonly evocative Battle of the Bulge scenarios.

Issues with overlapping text, unscalable windows, and a shy order modifier panel, mean I’m not entirely convinced by the new customisable interface yet. I do, however, love the new overlay options and the extra icon info. The ability to see at a glance the anti-personnel and anti-tank implications of enemy and friendly unit dispositions, is a particular boon.

Thanks to better weapon selection routines, overhauled arty behaviour, and more subtle order delays (units now have a comms rating representing the extent of their wireless connectivity) Panther’s famously strong AI should be more human than ever. I can’t say I’ve noticed any improvement so far, but dabbling with the demo scens reminds me why I’ve lavished so many warm words on the Commands Ops games and their forerunners in the past.

Those three selected units in the image above? They’re mine – part of a German force advancing towards a village in the North. After encountering a sizeable contingent of Shermans on the main road, they’ve decided, without any intervention from me, to double back and try an alternative route. You don’t see that level of nous and flexibility in many other strategy games.

As Panther are still penning a manual and building tutorials, novices will probably find CO2 rather intimidating at present. Until facilities improve, the Command Ops: Battles from the Bulge manual (included in this old demo) and tutorial movies can be pressed into service as interim instructors.

* What happens when you pass a red signal in World of Subways 4 – New York Line 7?

Jason McKenzie, one of WoS4‘s sizeable cast of perambulating waxworks, gives you a gentle tongue lashing in his office and TML’s latest semi-successful rail sim erases itself from your HD.

I’ve spent a fair few hours peering through the windscreens of virtual Redbirds this week, and the experience has been far from unpleasant. Though WoS4 lacks the kinetic authority of an OpenBVE, OMSI, or even a TS2105 (train behaviour on slopes feels particularly synthetic) and insists on modelling (badly) the bustling HQ of New York’s Line 7 in addition to the line itself, there are compensations.

Even without cab sway, driving the 15km, 21-station (mostly) elevated route from Flushing, Queens to Times Square, Manhattan can be bally atmospheric. At night when the city is twinkling, and your dingy nook is periodically illuminated by passing trains and stations, it’s extremely easy to accept the illusion. Have TML captured the feel of Seventies/Eighties NYC? Having never been there but watched almost every episode of Cagney & Lacey, I can say with confidence that the game needs at least 300% more knitwear.

More on the weird/wonderful/weak WoS4 next Friday.

 

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The Flare Path Foxer

For helping Roman complete a colossal D-Day crossword, Shiloh, AFKAMC, Gusdownup, Matchstick, Stugle, Spinoza, phlebas, Don More, and Rorschach617 win Flare Path flair points made from…

80. Crucial element of D-Day plan (11)

 

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

DOWN
13. He digs graves with HE (sexton)
212. Assault on Caen confuses Romanian cowhand (charnwood)
283. Cat killers relied on this dog for motivation (pluto)
285. Flower leapt in one bound by mythical nag (caen canal)
321. Terrain the invaders hadn’t banked on (bocage)
324. Normandy veteran spends retirement relaxing in pool (hms belfast)
465. She waves at pathfinders (rebecca)
468. To build one, simply encase materiel in concrete (casemate)
503. Rhino stampede (operation cobra)
511. Anne Bonny slays Panzers without help from Royal Engineers (piat)
514. Fuel bill shocks Carentan defenders (cole’s charge)
592. Most windmills conceal a German vehicle (ostwind)
600. Beef and venison are excellent in bridge rolls too (ham and jam)
614. Highest Allied rank (cab)

*****************************************

 

Apologies, the ‘Activities Incompatible With Defoxing’ list included in the last Flare Path, was incomplete:

15378. Shoeing horses
15379. Wooing milkmaids
15380. Storming blockhouses
15381. Cocking PIATs
15382. Refuelling Me 163s
15383. Parking Starlifters
15384. Untangling brittle stars
15385. Filleting red herrings

All answers in one thread, please.

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Tim Stone

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