The Flare Path: More From The Web

With Fidget, our Ferret scout car, on loan to the Peshmerga, and Pam, our photo-reconnaissance de Havilland Mosquito, grounded with dry rot, Flare Path is totally reliant on the intel-gathering equipment of cyber comrades at the moment. Today’s stories came via Subsim.com’s cod-kissed sonobuoys, Tactical Wargames’ perpetually circling Auster AOP, Real and Simulated Wars’ energetic-Dutch-schoolboy-on-a-bicycle, and Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s own infinite Tu-95.

On Tuesday Tactical Wargames C-in-C Wodin was kind enough to draw my attention to one of the most exciting grain elevator pitches I think I’ve ever read. There’s nothing to see yet of Barbarossa: Decisive Campaigns except words, but, gosh, those words are promising. In the Gobi-dry domain of hexes, ZoCs and CRTs you don’t find many Eastern Front operational titles preambled like this:

“Grey Dawn. Murky ersatz coffee not doing it’s job. Bustling headquarters. Oberleutnants pinning army dispositions on the wall map. Markers relentlessly pushing eastwards. It’s a big map. Ostland. A nagging, slow burning, realisation of just how big it is. Bottom corner of the map flapping in the draft. Bolshevik cold overwhelming a proper Germanic wood fire.

Sipping mud. Pondering army realignments. Squinting suspiciously at the growing pile of reports on your desk. Staffers spiking ever more teleprints and summaries. In competition with a second pile. Requests. Arbitrations. Judgements. Something to do in between incessant phone calls. Berlin demanding you drop everything. The Führer has called a conference. Again. Colonel Rattus Facius, currently in dispute with your Quartermaster General, is impatiently waiting for you next door, striding up and down in his black, SS, leather boots, demanding that you intervene.

People. Strongly defined personalities. Under pressure. Fighting a war. Fighting for their own corner and agenda. Equally capable of helping or hindering. Decisions. Delegation… COMMAND. It’s this gnarly, gritty experience of front line, operational command that Barbarossa Decisive Campaigns seeks to capture.”

Feature lists seldom promise decision environments as rich or real as this:

  • Are you able to work within a Command Hierarchy with both Superiors and Subordinates in an environment where strategy and politics often conflict?
  • Can you stand up to the Führer? Are you willing to put it all on the line, demand Military Independence, and risk being fired? Or would you prefer to toe the line and support the Führer in whatever goal he is currently fixated upon?
  • Fight to get winter clothing and equipment for your men. Argue with Göring over fuel allocations. Order your individual Divisions to report their status. Fifty different stats and values are tracked for each.
  • Deal with the Dark side of the war. Trade ethics off against operational imperatives. Answer to a War Crimes Tribunal if you lose. Or order both sides to observe the Geneva Convention and fight a gentleman’s war.

VR Designs (Basically Dutchman, Victor Reijkersz) has crafted some Sturmtigersolid wargames in the past but nothing this daring, this unconventional. If he succeeds in blending the STAVKA-OKH-style office politics with compelling counter choreography, the result could be amazing – a new breed of role-playing groggy entertainment. Best of luck, Victor. Thank you for sticking your head above the commander’s cupola.

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A prospect almost as exciting as Barbarossa: Decisive Campaigns is Combat Operations, a WIP WeGo operational title properly introduced to the world on Monday via a post at Real and Simulated Wars. If you’re anything like me you’ll walk away from Matt’s article with the following two thoughts uppermost in your mind:

Blimey, we could be about to get the Combat Mission operational layer we’ve been waiting for for 15 years!

and

16 player co-op multiplayer! Swish.

Initially focussed on Western European WW2 activity, CO will sport battalion and company-sized units, and simultaneously executed turns each representing two hours of tussle/travel-time. When chits clash (the ‘screenshot’ at the top of this section is little more than a concept sketch but boardgamey counters seem likely) it will be possible to use the game’s own combat engine to determine results or – kettledrum drum roll, please – switch to Combat Mission and play out engagements in sumptuous 3D. Though early on the integration between the two titles will probably be fairly Heath Robinson, Battlefront have indicated that they “will be willing to join a mutual effort to create an interface for CO and CM to work together” if CO sales figures are sufficiently healthy. Read more about the planned symbiosis here.

The last (?) WW2 operational wargames to offer high headcount command-chain simulating co-op play never seemed to garner the following their tense, evocative and unusual MP warranted. Let’s hope CO can succeed where the likeable likes of Iron Cross and Hours of War failed.

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For years The Flare Path was drier than a silica gel factory. Nowadays, wet wargames like Naval Battles Simulator seem to feature almost every week. What’s going on?

Sadly, contractual constraints prevent me from answering that question (You’d have to ask our new sponsor, Shippam). What I will say is that FP is always pleased to see a new wargame dev messing about in boats/ships especially when that dev is a demo believer.

The trial of Anarchy97’s unfinished and skirmishy Naval Battles Simulator is a six scenario affair involving (not at the same time) WW2 warships of the Royal Navy, Kriegsmarine, Polish Navy and Royal Norwegian Navy. Scraps are turnless, small scale, and – to be perfectly honest – not especially gripping at the moment. Peer hard however, and you can make out sunlit headlands on the horizon.

Damage modelling is one area where NBS could end up shining. There’s already a lot of subtlety. For damage purposes, vessels are split into three multi-cell layers. Individual weapons can be disabled. Fires can spread, flooding rise, and list angles increase. In my last engagement, one of my ships sustained Bismarckian rudder damage and was left wiggling about the North Sea like a legless mermaid*.

*Yes, I’m fully conversant with mermaid anatomy.

Once damage control mechanisms are introduced, more complicated scenarios become available, and Anarchy97 begin exploring campaign options, NBS should be able to withstand comparisons with rival titles far better.

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I was nudged in the direction of today’s last spotlighted game by RPS Nudger-in-Chief, Graham. Seeing all those lovely hexes and all those aerodynamic aerodynes, he probably thought the Early Access £7 Sky Rogue would be right up my street.

It is. Sort of. Visually, it’s an unalloyed delight – a tilted sweetie jar gleefully spilling clean clutter-free forms and unapologetically bright colours all over the place. On paper, the concept appeals too. Ace Combat’s accessibility, pace, and intensity paired with randomly generated sorties/landscapes, and a totally fictional far-future setting. What could go wrong?

Just enough, it turns out.

An evening or two of Sky Rogue’s missile slinging, bomb dropping, flare popping, horizon twirling aerial action is an evening or two well spent, but this old Crimson Skies, Wings of Prey, Heroes of the Pacific, Secret Weapons Over Normandy, Red Baron, Wings of Power, Wings of War.. etc. fan feels the game lacks the variety, campaign heft and flashes of inspiration necessary to sustain long-term play. While difficulty increases and new technologies become available with each passing mission, you find yourself doing the same sort of thing over the same sort of islands time and time again.

A splash of story and a sprinkling of characters would definitely help (currently, Fractal Phase make no attempt whatsoever to explain the game’s ongoing conflict) as would cockpit cams and more interesting damage implementation, but if I had the developer’s ear/confidence I’d be pushing particularly hard for more to be made of RS’s under-utilized secret weapon – those procedurally generated landscapes.

Why are all the islands so bally flat and so bally green? Why do I never find myself navigating monumental canyons… threading spectacular arches… grazing snow-capped peaks? I want to be awed, disorientated, and challenged by the topography. Toss in some dynamic weather, dangerous fauna, and – ok, I’m getting greedy now – a malleable ground war, and I suspect Sky Rogue’s roguish charms would be utterly irresistible.

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The Flare Path Foxer

Watching Stugle, Shiloh, AFKAMC, Hydrogene, billy_bunter, Beowulf, Rorschach617 and Arglebarf crack last week’s foxer was like watching an unusually dexterous octopus open a jar of Shippam’s Red Herring Paste. Textbook defoxing.

(theme: uprisings)

a Pontiac’s Rebellion
b Revolt of the Barretinas
c Easter Rising
d Warsaw Uprisng
e Boxer Rebellion (The pictured device is a Boxer lifesaving rocket)
f Rappenkrieg
g Sioux Uprising
h Pugachev’s Rebellion
i Simba Rebellion

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This Is Just To Say

by Carlos Williams Carlos 1963-1883

 

I have solved
the foxer
that was in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
it was delicious
so sweet
and so cryptic

 

All answers in one thread, please.

51 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Matchstick says:

    Foxer Answers

    Top Right: Is that a Douglas F4D-1/F6 Skyray

    • Premium User Badge

      Matchstick says:

      So much for a single thread this week :)

      • Arglebarf says:

        I say first in, best dressed. Lets carry on in this fine thread, shall we? Also: Doh! Beat.

    • Premium User Badge

      Matchstick says:

      Bottom middle look an awful lot like an engine house and chimney from a Cornish Tin Mine (could be any other kind of mine from the same period though)

    • Gang of one says:

      Cornish Tin Mine remnant at bottom looks like Carn Galver mine

      • Premium User Badge

        Matchstick says:

        Nice going ! (no shortage of the bloody things down there ;) )

    • Premium User Badge

      Matchstick says:

      Figure middle left looks like she could be wearing wearing a WAAF uniform so that might make her a pilot of the Air Transport Auxiliary ?

    • Premium User Badge

      Matchstick says:

      Signatures along the middle top belong to Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

      Haven’t found the exact image used but they are very close to
      link to api.ning.com

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      Logo top left is for a Brazilian football team.

      Clube de Regatas Brasil, or CRB.

    • Premium User Badge

      Al__S says:

      Bottom Right is definitely a Tau Fire Warrior (40k)

    • billy_bunter says:

      Top middle is a Westland Lysander in Finnish guise

    • Stugle says:

      Is the monocled Wehrmacht officer Walter Model?

      • Stugle says:

        By the way, doing an image search for ‘Walter Model’, after the first twenty results or so, turns rather perilous for the workplace rather quickly. :)

    • Vacuity729 says:

      Throwing a fairly random idea out there, but could the theme be models or miniatures? The ATA were famous for moving the aircraft models around maps in operation rooms, tin mines produce tin which a lot of models are mode of, the Tau Fire Warrior comes from a series of tabletop battle games with models, Walter Model’s name is ‘Model’.
      It seems a little too obvious, particularly with the name…

      • Stugle says:

        With the Tau Fire Warrior and Walter Model (if that’s correct), I was thinking in the same direction. A quick Google search suggests there’s a WH40K model called the Sky Ray: a Tau Missile Defence Gunship. You might be on to something…

      • Vacuity729 says:

        Sorry, the WAAF moved the models around, not the ATA, so that may scupper my poor idea, and I’m pretty stuck how anything else ties up with models as well.

        • Rorschach617 says:

          A search of “Lysander” on the Games Workshop site produces a figure of named space marine for sale.

          Carn Galver mine? Was tin used in their alloys, or is it a reference to general tin soldiers?

          • Stugle says:

            There seems to be something called a CRB in Warhammer, but since I’m not versed in the language, I can’t determine what it stands for. Maybe a codex? It seems to have to do with the universe’s canon.

          • Vacuity729 says:

            The only CRBs I can find in relation to Games Workshop is it seems their staff seem to need to have a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check before they get a job at a store. That seems a bit too esoteric a link, but I cannot find anything else.

          • Stugle says:

            I saw that too, yes. :) There were some Warhammer forum posts that referred to something being CRB’d (speaking of some mechanic or lore), which makes me think it might be a codex or something. Anyway, tenuous at best.

          • Samolety says:

            Lysander is indeed a famous space marine. CRB is the Criminal Records Bureau, which Games Workshop employees have to be checked by before they can go to work (in the UK). Sky Ray is a Tau gunship, there’s a Tau warrior. Tin is indeed used in models, (Walter Model is obvious). It is almost certainly “tabletop gaming”, specifically 40k from the looks of it.

          • Tim Stone says:

            “CRB is the Criminal Records Bureau, which Games Workshop employees have to be checked by before they can go to work (in the UK)”

            Roman winced when he read that. My Chief Foxer Setter may revel in the obscure and the oblique but he would never ever forge a link that frail. You’re barking up the wrong tree* with the tabletop gaming/40K idea.

            *not a clue

          • Stugle says:

            Dang. Back to the drawing board.

          • Rorschach617 says:

            Then, are they all “Ford” related?

            “Model” T
            F4-D Skyray (F4-D=Ford, a nickname for the plane)
            Brave New World set in London 632 A.F (After Ford)
            “Tin” Lizzie

            But I really liked the Games Workshop concept

          • Drakshaa says:

            A quick Google search reveals Laurel and Hardy were known for using a Model T in their work.

          • Drakshaa says:

            Further investigation reveals Model Ts had their pedals labelled C(clutch), R(reverse) and B(Brake).
            The Tau figure can be greek Tau, the letter ‘t’, especially combined with Mister Model.
            The WAAF, as previously said, were known for moving models.
            The only link i could find with Westland Lysander is that the Westland factory was built at West Hendford.

          • Vacuity729 says:

            Ahh, it did seem more than slightly unlikely that I’d get the answer.

            I spotted a reference to Ford while reading about the Skyray, but my complete lack of general automobile knowledge meant I didn’t note any particular relevance. I shall return to lurking and admiring the fine foxers as I usually do.

          • Rorschach617 says:

            Vacuity 729 said

            “I spotted a reference to Ford while reading about the Skyray, but my complete lack of general automobile knowledge meant I didn’t note any particular relevance.”

            You do realise that that is the patented Rorschach617 method of defoxing, right? Just file away the reference and hope that something else clicks :)

            I mean, I couldn’t have made any connection until Drakshaa brought up “Brave New World”

      • Vacuity729 says:

        Turns out there’s a company called ATA Model, which sells all kinds of racing products, the usage of which I’m completely ignorant of.

      • Stugle says:

        There’s a CRB Models and Hobbies in Rayleigh (a town east of London, a small distance west of Foulness Island – what a name), but it seems to be a fairly small store, so not sure it would be included on the Foxer.

    • Drakshaa says:

      Is bottom left a Pietenpol Sky Scout? Used a Model T engine and was a homebuilt aircraft.

    • Drakshaa says:

      Globe in Middle Middle is from the cover of Brave New World. I can’t quite make that fit the model theme.

  2. Filnis says:

    Foxer Thread,I guess.

    The nicely armored person in the bottom right is a Tau fire warrior.

  3. Arglebarf says:

    Foxer: Douglas Skyray in the upper right.

  4. Rorschach617 says:

    Bottom Right: A Games Workshop Tau Fire Warrior? from 40k

  5. Premium User Badge

    Henke says:

    That header image. Fantastic. :)

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      So good. When oh when will commander Stone receive a CBE?

    • Stugle says:

      It is very good, indeed, in a deeply unsettling, way too close to realism kind of way. Looking at it, I was first filled with a sense of alarm and then that creeping feeling of self-loathing I always get from eyeing Taboola links and their ilk. :)

      • Yglorba says:

        I grumbled at the idea that some ads had slipped through my ad-blocker, then spent about a minute fiddling with it to make the ads go away before I realized what was going on.

    • Tim Stone says:

      Thanks! Stop by http://www.tafoola.com for more of the same.*

      *Domain name not yet registered. Other pastiches not yet created. Will probably have lost interest in concept by tomorrow morning.

    • luis.s says:

      I also thoroughly enjoyed that. It really isn’t that different to the one at the bottom of the article.

  6. guidom says:

    Huzzah, well done sir! Took me for quite a ride.

  7. Stugle says:

    That ‘Rock Paper Shotgun’s own infinite TU-95’ took me way too long to figure out. I appreciate the effort at cross-branding between The Flare Path and RPS at large.

    • Hydrogene says:

      Thank you for nudging me in the good direction. I didn’t get the Horace connection when I first read that sentence with the Tu-95! :))

    • Premium User Badge

      Serrit says:

      Hehe yeah the “infinite” bit had me on the right tracks but I needed a search on the Tu-95 to fully make the link. Bravo Tim!

  8. Arthur ASCII says:

    I’m probably off the mark this week but doesn’t the old “Harley’s Rodine Rat Poison” tin list *Fluoride* on the list of ingredients? The connection with the stock photo of Hitler is of course he put Fluoride in concentration camp water supply to sedate prisoners. Did I win?

  9. BluePencil says:

    “Yes, I’m fully conversant with mermaid anatomy.”

    I always thought Mr Stone was pretty cool but would never have dreamed he’d slept with a mermaid. Ultra-cool.

  10. Heliocentric says:

    Sky Rogue is especially pleasant in coop split-screen, I hope the add the ability to configure terrain seeds and settings. I appreciate for covering something a little twee compared to the usual sim fare.

  11. wodin says:

    CO should fare much better than Iron Cross and Hours of War as it will have a single player mode aswell. Games that solely rely on multiplayer usually fare poorly unless an online shooter.

    Also CO sounds amazing and my fingers are crossed.

    DC3 is another wargame where the designer is trying something new and exciting..being innovative. He deserves a huge round of applause. The wargame genre has restricted itself to certain designs and ways of playing and very very few try something totally different. I hope to see less generic Panzer General type games and more games that break new ground, it’s a genre ripe for this as so little has changed from board wargaming on the whole.