The Flare Path: Eras Of Judgement

Last week while I was busy snubbing Stock Car Extreme, Condor: The Competition Soaring Simulator, Deer Hunter: The 2005 Season, and countless other quality simulations, Australian developers N3V were busy outshopping Trainz: A New Era. According to their cock-a-hoop copywriter it’s ‘the best Train Simulation experience ever’! Unfortunately, the laptop that I’m toting round the West Country at present, begs to differ/dither. Flare Path’s TANE verdict will have to wait until I’m reunited with a more muscular rig. The best I can do right now is mull over what others are saying about this aspiring TS2015 toppler and recommend for a second time rapidly maturing roguelike Armoured Commander.

Share a compartment with a group of talkative Trainz: A New Era passengers at the moment and it probably won’t be long before you overhear complaints and concerns. As the name suggests, the latest instalment of the fourteen-year-old rail simulator franchise, introduces new engine technology. Improved shadowing and particle effects, beefed-up physics, greater realism… the Kickstarted-to-the-tune-of-$192k TANE was meant to draw a bold line under the incremental iteration advances of the past decade. Community chatter suggests that the performance costs of the Great Leap Forward are, currently, far too high for far too many. There are also users sorely disappointed that ‘New Era’ doesn’t mean new content everywhere.

Rather than abandon the hundreds of thousands of add-ons created for earlier Trainz versions, N3V have chosen to maintain a degree of backwards compatibility. Drive the impressive-sounding 400-mile London-Edinburgh line and while you will get to enjoy new attractions like a high detail Deltic cab, you can expect to encounter plenty of old rolling stock and scenery assets too. Coming on top of the uneven framerates, longish load times, and limited core content (two US, one British, and one Australian route) the recycled components apparently do TANE no favours.

The negativity that’s swirling around the game at present, obscures franchise strengths such as friendly route building, strong AI, and engaging interactive industries that are sure to have survived the shift to the ‘E2’ graphics engine. Watching TANE’s troubled arrival from a distance (expect hands-ons impressions next week) I find myself wondering yet again why N3V insist on chasing the train sim dragon when Trainz has so much untapped potential as a virtual railway modelling platform.

For every gamer eager to spend an afternoon operating painstakingly recreated locomotives and multiple units, I wager there’s one who’d be just as happy to spend that afternoon sculpting hills, bending track, and shooing giant kittens away from beetling expresses. Give me a range of atmospheric interiors (attic, spare room, shed etc) and a bottomless box full of Hornby, Bachmann and Marklin-style goodies and I’ll play happily for hours. Give me a sim that tries and fails to outsim TS2015, MSTS, and Open Rails and I’ll probably be off before you can say Jack Robinson.

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Talking of free modernised Microsoft Train Simulator remake Open Rails, the project really has come on leaps and bounds in recent weeks. The latest build – 1.00 – introduces, amongst other things, mouseable cab controls, a choose-a-service timetable mode, and support for steam loco subtleties like superheaters.

Lately the sim has also taken a step closer to total independence from MSTS. Download an officially supported demo route like the short but high quality Edinburgh Waverley – Linlithgow (Class 27 included) and you won’t need an existing MSTS installation to play. If the devs can somehow code real-time Chris Jakeman narration into all OR sessions, then Dovetail will really have to start upping their game.

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Another title that’s been evolving energetically of late is tanky roguelike Armoured Commander. Since Flare Path last probed its Patton’s Best-esque charms (All hail Bruce Shelley) this turn-based M4 sim has shifted position more times than a nervous SdKfz 234.

For your zero GBP/USD you now get weather effects, bogging, a simple campaign layer, and crewmen that accumulate experience points and skills. During engagements shell sprites nip to and fro, smoke blankets, gun reports echo, and enemy infantry squads take potshots with Panzerfausts. With AT guns now keen to sit tight in pits and hedgerows, and damage maths and encounter intensities thoughtfully tweaked, combat is now as convincing as it is entertaining. It’s been decades since a wargame dev managed to pack so much redolence and drama into such a tiny (8MB!) space.

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The Flare Path Foxer

Last week’s kipper-dodging divemasters were AFKAMC, iainl, Matchstick, Shiloh, phlebas, Stugle, Artiforg.

(Theme: Jacques Cousteau)

a Stamp depicting a ‘redcap‘ (reference to Cousteau’s trademark headgear)

b Image from Brian Jacques novel, The Bellmaker

c Palme d’or (Cousteau won one in 1956)

d SOE agent Andrée Borrel (Her codename was Denise)

e Poster detail from movie Juggernaut – alternative title Terror on the Britannic (Cousteau rediscovered the Britannic in 1976)

f Godzuki from Godzilla animated series (Godzilla featured a Calyspo-style research vessel)

g Fiat CR.42 ‘Falco’ fighter (reference to Cousteau’s long-serving companion Albert Falco)

h Le Prieur rockets (Cousteau improved Yves le Prieur’s diving apparatus)

Catalina (Cousteau’s son Phillipe died in a PBY accident)

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Roman’s word ladders don’t work like standard word ladders. You clamber from bottom to top, placing appropriate five-letter words on each rung. Usually a word inherits three letters from the word below it (the positions of those three letters are inherited too) .The exceptions are the words derived from [A] clues – these are anagrams of the words below them – and those derived from [2] clues – where only two letters are inherited. Clues should make the climb easier, but be aware that the unspeakably fiendish Roman has shuffled the ten clues on the upper half of the ladder (clues 11 to 20). For example ‘[A] Belgian aircraft company’ probably doesn’t belong next to rung 16.

20. —– Primitive torpedo toter outperformed by the Cuckoo

19. —– Aircraft or aircraft container

18. —– Hungarian AFV

17. —– SLBM and small boat

16. —– [A] Belgian aircraft company

15. —– Stolid WW2 liaison plane

14. —– [2] Operation Crossroads target

13. —– Makers of the above aircraft

12. —– RN hero killed in mysterious circumstances

11. —– Worn short by ACVs

10. —– Word that can be bolted to ‘tiger’, ‘führer’, and ‘gruppen’

9. —– [2] Terrorised Allied ships during Operation Dynamo

8. —– Kept US servicemen warm during Cold War

7. —– City served by 19th Century airmail service

6. —– Tight-lipped Confederate scout

5. —– Exploited by the IJA during the Battle of Saipan

4. —– Largest shipwreck in the Med

3. —– Pacific theatre bomber

2. —– Kamov chopper

1.  kylix

58 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Matchstick says:

    Foxer Answers:

    2: Helix (probably)

    • Premium User Badge

      Matchstick says:

      3: Helen – Allied reporting name for Nakajima Ki-49 ?

    • Shiloh says:

      10. STURM – there, that’s better.

      • Premium User Badge

        Matchstick says:

        Damn, didn’t spot you’d got there way before me :)

        Whoops :)

      • protorp says:

        11. could be (15.) STORK?

        • Shiloh says:

          I think so, but I’ve only ever heard it called a STORCH. Looks like the English version should fit the letter combinations though!

          • protorp says:

            Just spotted that if 13 refers to 15 then this can’t be right (Fieseler being too long)… so probably not.

    • Premium User Badge

      Matchstick says:

      14: BIKINI ? – Wikipedia suggests that Operation Crossraods was the name of the 1946 US Nuclear Tests at Bikini Atlol

      • Premium User Badge

        Matchstick says:

        DOH that of course is 6 letters so doesn’t fit !

        Sorry :(

        • protorp says:

          The submarine SKATE appears to be the only 5 letter ship targeted in operation Crossroads.

          • protorp says:

            Would also fit with CRATE >>> SKATE (2 letter change) >>> SKIFF

          • Shiloh says:

            Agreed – I misread Op Crossroads as Op Crossbow. Need stronger specs, obviously.

          • Premium User Badge

            Matchstick says:

            CRATE being the answer to 19 of course ;)

          • protorp says:

            As far as I can currently see, we have:
            1 – 9 OK
            10 STURM
            ???
            19 CRATE
            14 SKATE
            17 SKIFF
            11 SKIRT
            20 SHORT
            ???
            16 maybe SABCA
            18 maybe TURAN or TOLDI

            12 ???
            13 ???
            15 ???

          • Premium User Badge

            Matchstick says:

            Hows this for a sequence from 10 which is the last one where we know the position is correct
            10: STURM
            11: STORK
            12: SHORT
            13: SKIRT
            14: SKIFF (2)
            15: SKATE
            16: CRATE

          • Rorschach617 says:

            How does this look?

            17. CRABB
            18. ???
            19. SABCA

          • Premium User Badge

            Matchstick says:

            Rorschach617 I’ve been looking at the same thing and I think the middle one
            18: CASBA – link to en.wikipedia.org

          • Premium User Badge

            Matchstick says:

            Daamit that should have ben CSABA of course

          • Rorschach617 says:

            That fits.

            For reference, there is a possibly different answer to Belgian aircraft manufacturer. LACAB was a 1930s concern.

          • Rorschach617 says:

            The answer isn’t LACAB, just wanted to give the impression that I haven’t been loafing around :)

          • Rorschach617 says:

            Hold the phone.

            There is another answer to “20. Primitive Torpedo toter”.

            link to en.wikipedia.org

            Which allows “SHORT” to still be in the ladder as the answer to “13. Maker of above aircraft”

          • Shiloh says:

            Hmmm… so where does this fit (from Tim’s jumbled list)?

            13. —– Makers of the above aircraft

            We have STORK and SHORT as aircraft which could come after it, but I can’t figure out where how it would fit (or even what the solution to the clue might be).

          • Rorschach617 says:

            OK, thought the link would have the clue in the title.

            It’s SHIRL.

          • Shiloh says:

            Excellent work Rohrschach – as I posted simultaneously, that had been bothering me.

            Is that the full list then, in the correct order?

          • Rorschach617 says:

            10.STURM
            11.STORK
            12.SHORT
            13.SHIRL
            14.SKIRT
            15.SKIFF
            16.SKATE
            17.CRATE
            18.CRABB
            19.CSABA
            20.SABCA

            THEY FIT!!!!

          • Premium User Badge

            Matchstick says:

            That’s the same order as I’ve been playing with but
            13. —– Makers of the above aircraft (SHORT)
            is above SHIRL rather than below :(

            Tim: any chance this is a typo ?

          • Shiloh says:

            Hi Matchstick, it works if you start with 1. KYLIX as the bottom rung of the ladder, and read upwards to end on the 20th rung SABCA :-)

        • Premium User Badge

          Matchstick says:

          Nope can’t go direct from
          SKIFF to SKATE

        • Premium User Badge

          Matchstick says:

          Actually you can go from SKIFF to SKATE if you put the (2) on the correct clue !

          (I wish there was a delete/edit post option on here)

    • AFKAMC says:

      20. —– Primitive torpedo toter outperformed by the Cuckoo

      I wonder if it’s SHORT (Type 184) – the Cuckoo in question being the Sopwith Cuckoo

  2. Shiloh says:

    10. JAGD

    • Shiloh says:

      OK, I really should read the rubric first – scrub 10. JAGD.

  3. Faldrath says:

    Oh, mr. Stone, why must you tease me so? I’ve long wished for a feature on Stock Car Extreme, that most RPSy of racing sims – obscure cars on obscure tracks with great physics made by a small Brazilian indie dev that keeps updating it for free… Maybe some day?

    (If you have never raced the Opalas on, say, Cascavel or even on the old Interlagos layout, you don’t know what you’re missing!)

    • JustAPigeon says:

      Heh, I just had a similar (I’m assuming) pang of excitement when I saw Condor linked. Incredible sim, what I would give for one with snazzier scenery and 6dof cockpits (dare I ask for oculus support too? I’m already dreaming too far).

    • P.Funk says:

      Opalas on Cascavelbrilliant.

      The long half circle Turn 1 feels like NASCAR, downhill, in the rain, continuing left into another anti-clockwise turn, sharper this time where you dare perhaps only to lift damning yourself every moment as your tail wallows hazardously praying that that tap of the brakes you overlooked won’t be your last indulgence, followed swiftly by an altogether flustering right turn where your only focus is on settling the car before finally getting onto the brakes properly for the first time. This breaks any semblance to the peculiar Confederate motorsport as tracking out clockwise now you’re back on the power, a lazy flat out right that barely bothers being called a corner, and then another left, this time uphill, in two parts, the first apex daring you to carry as much speed as your 1970s suspension allows, knowing there’s a blind track out waiting to eat you alive before another apex, much slower, the penultimate turn, that leads onto the longest straight and the place where you’ll get passed in a moment for missing that one corner. After all that another high speed left onto a shorter straight accounts for the final turn, one which ought to seem easy but which is just as daunting in a car that has all the grace of a drunken blaggard stumbling through an alley half bent over looking for his keys.

      Thats a lap of Cascavel in the Opala. Expect a car with an actual anti-roll bar to be less dramatic, and one with some actual downforce to make wallowing corners into ones of insane apex speed. Whatever you drive there though, its a brilliant track and one that you’d never knew existed without Stock Car Extreme.

      Thank you Reiza Studios.

  4. Volcanu says:

    Grizzled Flare Path veterans, I would like your help.

    I’m looking for some reccomendations for a good, mid-level complexity WW2 title. Something at more of the operational level, rather than the more tactically focussed CM type things.

    I really rather enjoyed the various Shenandoah studios titles (Drive on Moscow, Battle of the bulge etc) and have been after something with a bit more depth and complexity – but Gary grigsby’s War in The East is unlikely to be something Im ready for (yet).

    I have tried Unity of Command and whilst its pretty enjoyable, it feels a bit like a puzzle game ( often the best way to ‘win’ feels stupid from the standpoint of conducting a real campiagn) and its a bit lacking in some historical flavour. A good game for sure, but not quite what Im after.

    So far some internet research has me curious about some SSG titles such as Korsun Pocket. Anyone got any views on whether that would be a good bet, or any alternative suggestions?

    I know there was a Flare path before christmas that flirted with the topic of what to reccomend to relatively rookie players- but it didnt really cone up with much (for some good reasons). Hopefully me being a bit more specific with what Im after will help.

    Thanks all!

    • Shiloh says:

      Hi Volcanu, how about HPS Simulations’ Panzer Campaign series? Specifically, PZC Smolensk?

      link to hpssims.com

      One of my favourites, it’s knocking on a bit now but there are some great artwork mods out there to spruce it up, and it’s sufficiently detailed to give you a good feel for the sort of combined arms tactics the Germans used.

      Likewise, Norm Koger’s Operational Art of War series – venerable, but excellent replayability.

    • SlimShanks says:

      Take this opinion with a grain of salt as I am more of a simmer than a wargamer, but you should look into Commander: The Great War. I know it isn’t WW2, but you might like it anyways. Easy to understand, some flavour, well balanced campaign, and overall medium operational complexity. I really liked it, but that said I also really liked Unity of Command.
      You might also check out Achtung Panzer: Operation Star, as it has a strategic layer with some depth, and also tactical battles. Highly flavourful. Also highly byzantine though…