The Flare Path: Island Hops

No man is a Britten-Norman Islander entire of itself;
Every Manston is a piece of the continent, a part of the main plane;
If a CLOD be washed away by the Sea Fury,
Eurofighter is the less,
as Wellington as if a promontory were,
as Wellington as any manor of thy little friends or of thine own were.
Any man’s death diminishes Me 262,
because I am involved in Grummankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom the Bell JetRanger VTOLs;
it VTOLs for thee.

(John Do 17, 1624/C/3)

 

 

It’s also Panzer General.

Again.

Out next Thursday, Order of Battle: Pacific pinches its play principles from the dozing Panzer Corps just as Panzer Corps pinched its play principles from the dozing Panzer General. There is, of course, nothing wrong with a bit of canny battlefield scavenging, especially when you’re scavenging from a warrior as well-equipped and likeable as PG. The problem is you risk boring the socks off middle-aged wargame correspondents that have been playing PG in its myriad forms for nigh-on twenty years.

Hang on. What’s this? I’ve been in the company of OOBP for five hours now and my feet are still firmly sheathed by grubby foot mittens! What gives?

I wasn’t expecting much from this palm-fringed pop wargame, but having just completed the fourth and final mission of the substantial starter campaign, I have to say I’m rather impressed. Yes, it’s PG posted to the South Seas, but a sprinkle of new play elements, a plethora of unfamiliar units, and some beautifully crafted visuals and sounds, make nearly everything seem fresh and charming.

The most significant of the innovations is a natty Unity of Command-style supply system. Because land units unable to trace friendly hex-chains back to towns and supply ships, scamper and scrap with reduced efficiency, it now pays to pocket and guard flanks during advances. The Artistocrats’ AI doesn’t seem quite as quick to spot and exploit encirclement opportunities as 2×2’s, but there have been times during the introductory exercises (you don’t encounter the Japanese until the main campaign) when I’ve found myself desperately battling to reach marooned units.

And isolation isn’t the only supply-related SNAFU you must watch out for. It’s also possible to overload particular supply sources. A rash of yellow, orange, or red supply indicators below your units means it’s probably time to dab the space bar, and assess the overall logistics picture. Simple rules and bold, informative numerals, means it seldom takes more than a few seconds to find the root of the problem.

Even with special manually-triggered unit abilities like sonar searches and torpedo attacks, I can’t see OOBP’s naval battles being a game highlight. Separated from landlubberly terrain considerations, the hitpoint whittling at the heart of PG/PC/OOBP combat can feel crude. What I can see myself enjoying, are the amphibious landing scenarios of which there are sure to be many in the pair of main campaigns. Watching core units steadily evolve, exploring a 20-branch  ‘specialisation’ tech tree, and invading Australia (a what-if scenario at the end of the Japanese campaign) will, I suspect, also prove diverting.

Order of Battle: Pacific bustles from its bullet-pecked Buffalo on April 30. Steam will be stocking it.

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That parting line in Island Flight Simulator’s Steam blurb is technically correct. The fun does indeed “never stop”. For the fun to stop it would first need to start.

The tragedy is there’s a great concept lurking deep beneath the polygons of this painfully feeble plane game. Bolting an economic layer to a GA flight sim is something that should happen more. European Truck Simulator with Cessnas instead of Scanias, DC-3’s instead of DAFs… close your eyes for a moment and picture it.

Yes, I know we’ve got AirHauler, and the prospect of an elaborate sequel complete with commodity crafting and Virtual Airline support, but I hanker for something self-contained, something with spirit as well as spreadsheets.

Caiprinha Games piddle on my daydreams by delivering aircraft with Fisher-Price FMs and cardboard cockpit panels. They invite ridicule by neglecting to model weather or code controller support. Even the economic dimension feels thin and unappetising. Flying cargoes around the map’s twelve islands, there’s no competition to worry about or any real sense that you’re participating in a coherent trade network.

Occasionally, just occasionally, when you’re brushing scrub at the end of one of the shorter strips, braking hard in an attempt to avoid a hangar prang, or contemplating whether to undertake a contraband run, there’s a glimpse of the exciting, challenging and colourful game Island Flight Simulator should have been. Will someone please make that game before I’m too decrepit or doolally to enjoy it.

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The last island in this week’s Flare Path only existed for a couple of months. From late November 1942 to early February 1943, Stalingrad was ringed by Soviet steel. For the German castaways marooned in the rubbled city the only way in or out was aboard planes, planes like the Ju 52.

Leaving the Luftwaffe’s corrugated carthorse out of IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad always seemed like an odd design decision. The devs finally addressed the omission on Wednesday. Thanks to an update that also added a new venue (Velikie Luki) and tweaked a host of FMs and DMs, AI-controlled Ju 52s now bumble about in campaign and quick missions.

Though 1CGS/777 are clearly busy on their Battle of Moscow project (the images above show BoM’s two premium planes, the P-40 and MC.202) work on the original title shows no sign of abating. In the last two months IL2BOS has been pummelled and enriched by three substantial patches. Significant recent additions include dedicated server software, a full mission editor, oxygen system simulation, and far more informative debrief maps. Less significant changes include the almost Strange Log worthy…

…Soviet and German skin tones were tweaked to look less washed out

…It is now possible to shoot off wheels from the landing gears of Pe-2 and He 111

…The bug that caused trains to explode when starting movement and crossing Y-junctions was fixed

…The trees that blocked takeoff for heavily loaded planes on the Pichuga airfield were removed

…Ground crews are now running away correctly from exploding vehicles

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The Flare Path Foxer

Last week’s Flare Path Flair Points were made from pieces of Michael Foot’s donkey jacket and went to Rorschach617, AFKAMC, Matchstick, phlebas, Llewyn, Shiloh, mrpier, and Zogg.

(theme: donkeys)

a. Devonia (beached off Bray Dunes during Operation Dynamo)

b. John Simpson Kirkpatrick statue at the Australian War Memorial

c. Curtiss Jenny

d. Page from A Midsummer Night’s Dream

e. Mitsubuishi J2M Raiden ‘Jack’

f. Sancho Panza from Picasso’s Don Quixote sketch

g. Alan Clark

h. DONKEY.BAS sprite

i. Richard Hammond’s ‘Donkey’

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Roman’s talents don’t stop at collage creation. Before he joined the good ship Flare Path my Chief Foxer Setter made a living writing self-help books. Think Yourself Fit, Think Yourself Calm, Think Yourself Moderately Well-Off, Think Yourself Belgian, Think Yourself Impulsive… all Roman’s work. I’ve read most of his tomes and if I had to pick a favourite – a volume that has influenced me more than any other – then, all things considered, at the end of the day it would probably have to be – no, it would definitely have to be – his life-changing 2003 pocket masterpiece Think Yourself Concise (ISBN 978-085177801308517786000851778068)

All answers in one thread, please.

42 Comments

  1. AFKAMC says:

    FOXER: Plane is a Bristol Beaufighter.

    • AFKAMC says:

      The aircraft tail is from a Hafner Rotabuggy.

    • foop says:

      Car is “Brutus” aero-engined monster.

      • foop says:

        To elaborate: It’s the BMW Brutus, which has a 46 litre V12 aero engine and is absolutely terrifying to drive by all accounts.

        link to steerinpower.wordpress.com

        If you’re that way inclined, there’s a video of it spitting hot oil into Jeremy Clarkson’s face here:

        link to youtube.com

        It’s actually a fairly recently built thing – around the end of the 20th century – unlike its inspiration, the earlier aero-engined vehicles such as the “Beast of Turin”

        built to break land speed records at the start of the same century.

        • Curry the Great says:

          Thanks for the links! It really is a mad car the way it spits fire and sounds like an airplane flying by at high speed.

    • Premium User Badge

      Matchstick says:

      Background look like the Catalan flag

    • AFKAMC says:

      The pilot is Adolph “Sailor” Malan.

    • foop says:

      Cap badge is probably from the Duke of Wellington’s regiment (West Riding) featuring their motto “Virtutis Fortuna Comes” (“By God, sir, I’ve lost my leg!”).

      link to en.wikipedia.org

    • Premium User Badge

      Matchstick says:

      Cap badge bottom right is from the Duke of Wellington Regiment,
      link to northeastmedals.co.uk

      Latin text is Virtutis Fortuna Comes which (as is probably guessable) translates as Fortune Favours The Brave

    • foop says:

      The cigar looks very much like a “Winston Churchill” Corona, possibly the same one as in this article about a half-smoked cigar of the man himself being sold at auction.

      link to news.bbc.co.uk

    • iainl says:

      The 8-bit graphics lady is the one kidnapped by Donkey Kong, Pauline. Whatever happened to her? Did Peach bump her off, or something?

    • All is Well says:

      Could the connection be Popeye?
      Duke of Wellington – Wellington Wimpy
      Cigar – Segar
      BMW Brutus – Bluto/Brutus
      Adolph “Sailor” Malan – Popeye is a sailor, obviously

      And isn’t Catalonia famous for it’s olive oil or something?
      Can’t make the rest fit though, so I might be wrong.

      • AFKAMC says:

        Well done – I think you might be right. You just beat me to it: I only had Sailor, Wellington and Bluto, though!

      • Rorschach617 says:

        The 1980’s film Popeye was filmed in Malta (apparently the set is still a tourist attraction).

        • FurryLippedSquid says:

          Why?! No offence Mr. Williams (RIP), but that was one terrible film.

          • Rorschach617 says:

            No offence to the Maltese, but after the sieges by the Moors, the Ottomans, the Brits and the Nazis/Italians, it might come as a relief to tourists to find a place in Malta where those outside were not desperate to get inside and kill everybody/set fire to everything :)

            And now I can never go to Malta

      • iainl says:

        That makes sense – Pauline was originally Olive Oyl, when Donkey Kong was going to be a Popeye licence.

      • AFKAMC says:

        The Rotobuggy was a flying jeep = Eugene the Jeep.

      • AFKAMC says:

        There was a 1955 Popeye short called “Beaus Will Be Beaus” – Popeye and Bluto both show up to take Olive to the beach. Olive agrees, but only on the condition they promise to stop fighting = “Beaufighter”?

      • foop says:

        Well done. Stirling work everyone. What’s the record time for foxer de-foxing?

        • All is Well says:

          I think one of the regulars managed to de-fox it in 15 minutes or so one time, so I’d say that’s the time to beat currently :)

      • AFKAMC says:

        Re. the Catalan connection, according to Wikipedia the English word “spinach” may derive from the Catalan “espinac”.

        Bit of a tenuous link, but surely there has to be a spinach-related clue?

    • Rorschach617 says:

      Looks like the island is Malta

    • Rorschach617 says:

      Oh Lord, is that Pope Pius (Popeye-us) XI top right?

      link to en.wikipedia.org

  2. Gothnak says:

    There is an alternate universe where instead of everyone constantly doing their own version of Panzer General, everyone constantly remakes Steel Panthers. In that reality, i am happy.

    • jeeger says:

      Is there some way of making steel panthers less slow-paced? I’ve spent about 2 hours getting a full install of SPWAW working, but the endless reaction fire turned me right off. Is there some fix for that?

      • Rorschach617 says:

        Some workarounds

        Letting the AI run into my reaction fire always worked for me :)

        Failing that, I got into the habit of shelling zones just for the dust cloud to break up LOS. Worked in campaign mode (buy Ammo dumps/supply trucks).

        In missions, the AI is a little trigger happy. Getting the enemy to waste reaction fire on targets too far away to hurt much can help so I would move “from back to front” (if that makes any sense), spearhead units being the last to make their moves.

        Smoke, smoke and smoke again.

  3. All is Well says:

    On the subject of the new IL2 patch, I have to say that the Ju-52 seems extremely fragile in the game. You hardly have to hit them to make them fall apart and go into a spin. Anyone know if they really were that fragile or if it’s just BoS?

  4. Rorschach617 says:

    Last week’s Travel Game pilot.

    I have to admit that, while checking that the route was possible, Google translate was not as helpful as hoped and that the route was needlessly complicated (Punisha Plastics was a stretch, should have stopped the game at Batman, but I got caught up in the “cleverness” of the story). Lessons have been learned.

    Llewyn wins the coveted “Get out of Arkham Asylum Free” card simply for the Romanshorn detour, and I would like to extend the invitation to him to set a new puzzle. It doesn’t need a story, it doesn’t need to be international. If the start/end points are interesting in any way, that’s a bonus!

    • Llewyn says:

      Most kind, I think.

      I have an immediate idea of a destination but am not sure offhand how easy it will be to plan, at least for most of us (including me) – Google translate does have a tendency to be able to translate well only the parts I could probably understand without it.

      I also don’t know the point of origin yet. I was tempted to suggest it should be Batman so other people could have the fun of wrestling with Turkish bus timetables, but then remembered that I’d need to work out a route first. It won’t be Batman.

  5. Thurgret says:

    Oh for a deep and interesting wargame set in the Pacific theatre with a strong focus on the naval element. Gary Grigsby’s War in the Pacific (the Admiral Edition) seems dauntingly impenetrable – partly due to the hideous UI, partly due to the overload of information – but I haven’t found anything else quite like it.

    I’d only glanced at OOBP on Matrix Games’ site, and it did catch my interest, but this has basically shattered that interest again – the Panzer General formula is enjoyable, but not what I’m looking for in this particular case.

  6. Pengun says:

    Oh Tim, to dangle such hopes in front of my eyes then sadly to have them dashed by shoddy implementation.

    The description of Island FS was pretty much exactly what I did with Airhauler. Tramping around tropical islands in my trusty HU-16; the “Loose Moose” delivering cargo, running the occasional crate of AK47’s down south, best fun I’ve had with in a virtual aircraft (except Crimson Skies, always except Crimson Skies).

    • iainl says:

      The genre does sound ripe for building on, since it’s essentially Elite In Planes. Which as soon as I’ve written that I really want to play.

  7. SanguineAngel says:

    So… this is an off the wall question but would anyone happen to know of a game or games which (relatively accurately) recreates the battles of the peninsular campaign?

    • Shiloh says:

      I am the bearer of mixed news… if you happen to own a wargame called “Waterloo: Napoleon’s Last Battle” by Strategy First Inc., (from 2001), then yes, I do – a dedicated modder created a Peninsular spin off which had quite a few battles contained within. I have it.

      If you *don’t* own the base game, then I’m not sure. Have you checked Matrix’s website?

    • mllange says:

      The Peninsular War was one of the longest and most drawn-out campaigns of the Napoleonic War; a piece of Imperial regime change designed to close off the last European ports open to British trade, which instead developed into the “Spanish Ulcer” that sapped the strength of Napoleon’s empire and left him to fight a two-front war that would ultimately destroy him.

      After 1808, Napoleon left the Peninsular conflict in the hands of his brother Joseph, and of the marshals and generals commanding the various French armies. No one man was given supreme command of all French forces in Spain, and French operations – though frequently successful on a local level, were marred by a lack of cooperation. This was made yet worse by Napoleon’s own attempts to run the war by remote control from Paris, sending written orders that were out of date even before they were dispatched.

      Though often defeated, and similarly bereft of central control for the early years of the war, the Spanish leaders kept on putting fresh armies into the field, while the civilian populace refused to surrender and fought a bloody guerrilla war against the invaders. This tied down a large part of the French forces, limiting the numbers available to pursue further conquests. As a result, once their initial occupying army had been driven out in 1808, the French were never able to conquer Portugal, which was defended by its own reorganized forces and by a growing British contingent. The British were led by Arthur Wellesley, a man of outstanding ability who would subsequently get the better of Napoleon himself at Waterloo. Although initially the French had the upper hand, the reorganization of the Portuguese army by Beresford and the construction of the Lines of Torres Vedras secured Portugal from French conquest. Thereafter, Portugal would become the base for the Anglo-Portuguese army that would eventually join with the Spanish to evict the French from the Peninsula.

      Bonaparte’s Peninsular War will take you through battles and campaigns focused in and around Portugal, but also branch out into Spain for some of the early war actions of 1809. The balance of the Peninsular conflict is covered in a follow-up title currently in development. For further details you may read the Designers Notes.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      Cheers you two, much obliged. I am surprised to find relatively little out there covering this. I’d have thought it would be quite popular!