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The Flare Path: Scratch One Summer

Simulation & wargame blather

Featured post This splendid image is the work of Roger Murray AGAvA (click for purchasing options)

A flurry of local airshows and BoB commemorative events meant Spitfires and Hurricanes were regular visitors to my corner of Southern England this summer. Seeing six Messerschmitt maulers fly over in formation on September 15 really should have been my aviation highlight of the season, but that accolade actually goes to an encounter a few days earlier when, tramping along a Wiltshire footpath, I was repeatedly buzzed by a P-40 intent on entertaining crowds at a nearby display. The sound of a Merlin in full spate is a wonderful thing, but the whistle-threaded roar of Lulu Belle’s supercharged Allison V-12 left me beaming like a lottery winner.

Sadly, the quality of flight sim audio usually nose-dives once you quit the cockpit so I’ll be pleasantly surprised if the P-40E-1 just added to IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad (assuming you pre-ordered Battle of Moscow) manages to elevate neck hairs during a fly-by. Early forum accounts, though critical of weapon sounds, are largely positive about everything else. 1C Game Studios/777 modellers seem to have captured the Kittyhawk’s strengths and weaknesses well. Manage to get the chunky, relatively well-armoured Lend Lease fighter’s six Browning MGs aligned with a target and that target shouldn’t last long. The preceding stage of the combat process is where you may struggle. As numerous VVS pilots discovered in their final moments, the P-40’s pleasant flying characteristics, high diving speed and good roll and turn rate, were offset by woeful acceleration and climb performance.

On the subject of fly-by sound effects, I’m really not sure I approve of the use of adulterated audio in ‘in-engine’ trailers like the one above, even if the embellishment is mentioned on a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it title screen at the start of the film. Coming soonish (December) to DCS World, though Razbam’s Dassault Mirage 2000C definitely won’t deceive the ear as consummately as the preview footage implies, it should please a community still very short of options when it comes to contemporary fighters.

Happiest when slinging Magic II and Super 530D missiles at flying foes, the modelled sub-variant (an ‘RDI’ rather than an ‘RDM’) can, if suitably equipped, also engage ground targets with rockets, dumb bombs and LGBs (third-party designation required). What it won’t be able to do – if I understand the specs correctly – is deliver wave-skimming Exocets. That capability is limited to the RDMs.

Set to compliment the upcoming Strait of Hormuz map rather well (true, one of the export variants currently flown by The United Arab Emirates Airforce would have been an even better fit) the 2000C is likely to sell like hot pains au chocolat in regions of Simulatia where La Marseillaise is sung and beautiful airframes are appreciated.

By the time the DCS map arrives, I expect to know the Strait of Hormuz like the back of my hand thanks to Combat Air Patrol 2. Forging ahead with their Harrier sim despite a disappointing Kickstarter campaign, Ed Scio and chums are now less than a month away from an Early Access Steam release.

The latest dev blog post includes some campaign details that bode well for replayability. In CAP2’s dynamic long games we’ll be the ones directing and organising the friendly battle fleet. Our strategic approach will determine the flavour of the automatically generated missions we fly and customise (Aircraft numbers, loadouts and waypoints are all malleable).

Whether we opt to bee-line for rebel bases or hang back inviting the enemy to brave our CAPs and missile-spewing frigates, nursemaiding neutral merchant vessels looks like it’s going to be a major preoccupation. Only desperate players will choose to close the Strait to shipping (always an option). The off-stage campaign scorers don’t look favourably on trade-disrupting defeatists.

One hour by Harrier from the crucial waterway at the heart of CAP2 is the crucial waterway at the heart of Graviteam’s latest offering. With characteristic quirk, the Kharkivites behind gloriously dynamic armour sim-cum-wargame Steel Armor: Blaze of War, have chosen to base their first bit of SABOW DLC on Iran’s expensive/bold thrust across the Shatt al-Arab river in December 1986.

The grim Iran-Iraq War battle lasted three days and cost the lives of 14,000 men, the vast majority of whom were poorly supported Pāsdārān and Basij infantry.

Involving frogmen, pontoon bridges, UAVs and human-wave tactics on the Iranian side, and well-prepared defensive positions, and US-supplied intel on the Iraqi side, Basra 86 should be tactically fascinating. The modelled area doesn’t look vast – perhaps 30 square miles (the titular city doesn’t feature) but bearing in mind the price, the freshness of the theme, and SA’s knack for springing campaign surprises (no scripted engagements here!) I suspect few buyers will end up complaining about the slightly cramped battleground.

Hmm. If I was a PTO-obsessed wargamer with £26 in my pocket right now, would I buy Slitherine’s likeable-if-unadventurous Panzer Corps spin-off Order of Battle: Pacific or lavish my 2600 pennies on…

Absolutely correct!

You know me so well.

It’s taken a while but the folk behind iRacing finally seem to be treating their result-distorting grip bug as the serious reputation-threatening issue it clearly is. On Wednesday, via a post on the official forum, iRacing President Tony Gardner announced that the sim’s dynamic weather was to be temporarily turned off. A day later came the news that the grip gremlin had been located – “we found a bug on the server side which could prevent track temperatures updates from being sent” – a fix was on the way (ETA: Oct 5) and that the $13,000 prize purse Blancpain GT Series qualification season would be restarted.

The extent of the roll-back hasn’t satisfied everyone in the community. With persuasive circumstantial evidence suggesting that other important iRacing series have been contaminated, some feel the remedial action should have been more extensive.

…and extremely frequently.

Sorry, no Heroes of Normandie thoughts in today’s column. Released yesterday, Slitherine’s zesty boardgame conversion has fallen foul of one of my golden play-test rules “#9. Don’t move on to the campaigns until you’ve completed the tutorials”. I’ve nothing to add to last week’s impressions except the following message.

“To the author of Tutorial 6 – ‘Sneaky sneaky…’

You’ve won. I surrender. Admit that dynamiting the bridge is technically impossible and “difficulty 3/5″ is a cruel joke, and I won’t hunt you down and club you to death with a sock filled with conkers.”

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The Flare Path Foxer

Thanks to AFKAMC, phlebas, Artiforg, Rorschach617, phuzz, Gothnak, and Stugle last week’s word ladder is now rung-complete. If you happen to need a lightweight portable staircase for, say, clambering onto the back of a sleeping Diplodocus, or scrubbing graffiti off the side of a small blimp, just ask.

20. panda (Ursine Operation Chastise veteran)

19. janna (Sorcerous LoL champion)

18. janet (This American airline doesn’t advertise)

17. danes ([A] Served in SS Division Wiking)

16. sedan (Battle and car configuration)

15. sidam ([A] Italian SPAAG)

14. midas (The KC-135’s Russian cousin)

13. milan ([2] Wire-guided tank trasher)

12. talon (Hydra upgrade)

11. taler (Silver coin)

10. galeb ([A] Balkan jet)

9. bagel (60% UDMH, 40% DETA)

8. camel (Pup pup)

7. caret (HUD element)

6. civet (British autogyro engine)

5. niven (Played Bond, Blakeney, and Bonnie Prince Charlie)

4. raven (Dev behind controversial military FPS)

3. rover (Antipodean armoured vehicle)

2. rotor (Cold War radar network)

1. voter

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Roman sends the strangest postcards. Usually the written message consists of a single word (recent examples: “RAIN”, “PURGATORY”, “RATTENKRIEG”, “LIZARDY”, “OUZO”) and the photo caption is carefully inked out. With the help of the stamps and postmarks, working out where he’s been isn’t that hard. Without such aids, the challenge is positively foxeresque.

All answers in one thread, please.

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