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The Flare Path: Now Even Harrier

Simulation & wargame blather

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Swift sequels make The Flare Path uncomfortable. When I see a flight sim follow-up like Combat Air Patrol 2 set to arrive a mere 23 years after its predecessor, I find myself wondering how much genuinely new content will be included. Yes, the engine, feature set, and premise look totally different, and Sim155’s commitment to dynamic campaigns and intermediate ‘IL-2 level’ realism sounds right up my bomb alley, but that preposterously tight 276 month development cycle surely means corners have been cut.

Already Greenlit, the Hormuz-haunting Harrier-heavy CAP2 is currently pointing its vectoring nozzles at kickstarter.com. The small British team led by the coder of the original CAP, Ed Scio, is hoping to generate an additional £70k to fund requested features like multiplayer, VR support, satellite imagery, and high-quality radio chatter. Backers (£17 will secure you a copy of the finished sim) should be prowling the game’s 250,000 sq km battlespace by this time next year.

Given the AV-8Bs versatility, I’ll be disappointed if campaigning doesn’t involve AAM, AGM, ASM, bomb and rocket delivery, plus regular sessions of 25mm Equalizing. Splendidly, whatever targets end up outlined in HUDs and magnified in MFDs won’t have been placed there by a human hand. Enemy StratAI routines, player-orchestrated fleet movements, and previous sortie results will combine to shape CAP2’s script-snubbing long games.

With Third Wire now concentrating on mobile gaming, and Thunder Works enfeebled by health problems (the Mirage-filledlike Jet Thunder is seemingly still some way off), there’s a crying need for a new provider of modern, medium-complexity aerial thrills at the moment. Sim155 look well-equipped for the job. Hopefully, a surprisingly sluggish start to their Kickstarter campaign won’t sap their resolve.

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Slitherine tell me (and you) that their not-far-off WW2 board game conversion, Heroes of Normandie (Arriving on Steam, Sept 22) is “one of the most thrilling, charming and captivating strategy games you will ever find” and that it features “a ridiculously well-crafted art style and a ton of extra content.” I say to them a) “Cross your heart and hope to die?”, b) “The art does look rather well done” and c) “Controllable cows! PLEASE SEND REVIEW CODE NOW

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Ironclads 2 – what a strange sea creature you are. The briny battle scenes you scrimshaw on my screen are most attractive. Your American Civil War theme flies in the face of convention like a flying fish adept at flying in the face of convention, flies in the face of convention*. Your simple yet pithy strategic layer gives battles new weight, new meaning. Through a telescope you look like just the sort of unusual, ambitious wargame that The Flare Path delights in championing, but on closer inspection you prove to be battleship grey… a wet blanket… a gallant effort scuppered by treacle-slow engagements and tactical insipidity

*Interested in licensing this metaphor? Contact the author using the ‘Tim Stone ‘ link at the top of the column.

It’s sad. The new turn-based strategic game works rather well. During the course of a 48 month/turn campaign, there are thought-provoking choices aplenty. Should I invest in another shore battery at Mobile or invest in something more mobile at Mobile? Should I expand my merchant fleet in the hope of generating some quick trade receipts, or focus on constructing the seagoing warships necessary to protect that merchant fleet? Am I ready to attack Key West, or would it be better to concentrate on strengthening the blockade there? A dash of R&D and espionage, and the injection of some semi-random global events wouldn’t have gone amiss, but the context Totem provide does what it needs to do; you find yourself approaching engagements with mingled trepidation and hope, aware that one particularly costly defeat or spectacular victory could alter forever the delicate (if not wholly historical) naval power balance between Union and Confederacy.

Things only start unravelling when the Gulf of Mexico chart vanishes and the pretty 3D vessels appear. Totem’s unwillingness to significantly update the real-time tactical side of their earlier titles means we get very limited control instruments. There’s still no formation options, no way to divide squadrons, focus fire on specific areas of a target, or influence damage control. Absent landmasses, inscrutable weapon ranges, ineffective ramming, and an irrelevant weather gage encourage unimaginative tactics. ‘Put your ships next to their ships (ideally on the enemy’s most battered side – ship damage is bi-faceted) and await predictable results’ is the order of the day.

Combine repetitive manoeuvring with engagements that, once started, can’t be cut short, and ships that, once damaged, can be extremely reluctant to use their guns and you’ve got a recipe for scraps that drag on like de-fluked anchors. On finding yourself outnumbered and outgunned, it’s generally wise to flee for a battlefield edge, a process that, even with the clock accelerated, can take 15 minutes. These tiresome flights might well be tolerable if you happen to have a copy of William M. Fowler’s ‘Under Two Flags’ or Bern Anderson’s ‘By Sea and by River’ to hand; however, without appropriate reading matter they’re serious patience testers.

Unless Totem decide to rethink their battles the way they’ve rethought their campaigns, I can’t see myself rushing up the gangplank of any future Ironclads games. Right now the $20 Ironclads 2 is at least one plucky patch away from realising its considerable potential.

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The Flare Path Foxer

Last week’s Three Mile Island foxer was unSCRAMbled by human Geiger counter NofWoof after clue decrypts by Stugle, Syt, Matchstick, Gusdownup, AFKAMC and phlebas.

(theme: Three Mile Island accident)

a Nuclear-powered freighter NS Savannah (Like the TMI plant, it incorporated a Babcock & Wilcox reactor)
b Street Rod cursor (rod)
c X-43A (a hypersonic aircraft powered by a scramjet)
d AS365 Dauphin (TMI is in Dauphin County, PA)
e Susie-Q of the Susquehanna (TMI is on the Susquehanna river)
f Scranton streetcar (reference to William Scranton III, the Pennsylvania lieutenant governor at the time of the accident)
g Britten-Norman Trislander
h EPA (another ‘EPA’, the Environmental Protection Agency, monitored radiation levels in the aftermath of the accident)
i Jane Fonda, star of The China Syndrome
j NATO symbol for an infantry corps (core)

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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] WIA RN moggy’ probably doesn’t belong next to rung 15.

20. —– Winner of both the VC and the MVC

19. —– Mountainous Japanese warship

18. —– GWR heavyweights

17. —– King of Crete

16. —– 10-speed Dieppe participant

15. —– [A] WIA RN moggy

14. —– This Green Devil surrendered in 1953

13. —– Not fitted to later Ju 87s

12. —– Heavily armed interwar flying boat

11. —– Where Muammar met his end

10. —– Jim Dunnigan wargame

9. —– Twin-engined WW2 recon aircraft

8. —– Not a problem for a fascine carrier

7. —– Sailing vessel

6. —– To the Armée de l’air it was a chevron

5. —– [2] Medieval mound

4. —– Harpoon target and GC winner

3. —– [2] Site of a 17th Century siege

2. —– Battle that left the French with big taxi bill

1. Berne
(All answers in one thread, please)

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Tim Stone

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