The Flare Path: Battleships, Gunships, Rosehips

While much of the European Regional Development Fund is frittered away on Spanish zeppelin termini and 200ft-tall unicorn sculptures for Romanian mountain tops*, some does end up in the hands of genuinely deserving recipients like JetCat Games. The Vilnius-based studio are using a slither of the vast EC money pie to help build a multiplayer military chopper game. Currently in closed alpha, Heliborne has ‘POTENCIALAS’ written all over it.

* probably

Clearly, JetCat have been enjoying Gaijin’s wonderful War Thunder and eyeing Wargaming.net’s Cyprus-obscuring cash heap. There are no details of the business model yet, but FP would be surprised if this rotary-wing WIP eventually emerged as a traditional £30 purchase with all 64 of the planned chopper types available from the outset. No, it’s far more likely we’ll be starting out in bumbling MASH-style Sioux and Piasecki Flying Bananas, and gunning, rocketing, missiling and troop-taxiing our way up towering tech trees to the guano-streaked roosts of sleeker, more modern whirlybirds.

On paper, Heliborne’s team tussle concept sounds inspired. Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Balkans-themed maps will be studded with capturable bases. Deliver troops to these sandbagged staging posts before your opponent and they’ll come under your control. Arrive to find the foxholes occupied and AA guns manned and you’ve a scrap on your hands. Gunships like the Hind, Huey and Apache will probably do the majority of the base bothering and dogfighting, while specialised snoopers such as the Westland Scout and Kamov Helix scope out future conquest opportunities and keep an eye on current possessions.

With air insertion at the heart of the game, big-bellied transports are sure to be an important element in every force too. When the likes of Chinooks, Hips and Hueys aren’t busy shuttling men and supplies to hilltop Khe-Sanhs, they’ll be chauffeuring pesky anti-air and mortar teams to less obvious locations. Fixate on flying foes and base acquisition and your session may well be cut short by a patient rural ambusher packing a Stinger or an RPG-7.

Encouragingly for those fliers fonder of Apache Air Assault AH-64s than Comanche 4 RAH-66s, JetCat are planning to implement an optional ‘realistic’ FM mode at some point. Having spent a significant portion of the past week on anachronistic WW2 battlefields attempting to sink USN dreadnoughts with USN dreadnoughts, the dev’s commitment to uninational teams and theatre-appropriate ride choices also earns them Flare Path flair points.

My alpha application was submitted yesterday. Assuming it’s accepted, expect impressions of Heliborne hellraising very soon.

Always fancied dipping your toes in the DICASS-dotted waters of Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations but never had the requisite £45 to hand? Slitherine/Matrix/Warfare Sims may have just furnished a solution.

The £13 15-scenario Command: Northern Inferno (also sold through Steam) is available as either a CMANO expansion pack or a standalone wargame. The missions have been crafted by Paul Bridge, a serving RN officer and Falklands War veteran, so should ring true. Browsing his scenario descriptions, the following phrases leap out like bow-wave-frolicking dolphins.

“Norway has been invaded.”

“Iceland has been heavily bombarded and then seized by Soviet forces.”

“The Soviet Navy is sending its Sverdlov heavy cruisers down the Denmark Strait”

“The Ark Royal carrier group and its Buccaneer low-level strike aircraft will strike at the heart of Soviet Naval Aviation.”

“Multiple cells of SAC B-52 bombers, armed with nuclear weapons, are reaching their “point of no return” locations over the Arctic Circle.”

“RAF bases have been hit with nuclear weapons.”

“25-megaton blasts have devastated Plymouth and Faslane, and much improved Portsmouth.”

One of those quotes may be fabricated.

There’s no mention of editor compatibility in the feature list, so it sounds like Northern Inferno purchasers won’t be able to extend their WW3 fun with community-made challenges. That’s a bit of a shame – half of CMANO’s appeal is its plasticity.

Ignoring a sage warning from FP reader mariandavid, I’ve done most of my World of Warshipping aboard a tier 3 South Carolina Class battleship these past seven days. Apparently built from recycled firework cardboard and fitted with a rudder the size of a cigarette case, this hulking leviathan is guaranteed to test the patience and sap the spirit of even the cheeriest captains.

The first BB available to US tech tree scalers, its particular talents include the ability to…

Shield friendly vessels from shoals of incoming tin fish.

Distract enemy attackers with extravagant pyrotechnic displays.

And sink swiftly beneath the waves, thus clearing fire lanes for more effective comrades.

When I pressed the South Carolina’s purchase button, I naively assumed that a BB’s outsized armaments would allow me to sit back and pound cruisers from afar. I foolishly imagined thicker armour would mean I lived longer and needed to reach for the firefighting key less often. In fact my Castle of Steel rarely seems to be outside the range of its targets, and any small advantage in reach and punch is more than counterbalanced by horrendous rate of fire and turret traverse speed disadvantages. In short, the South Carolina is a loathsome lummox.

But, like a nugget-obsessed 49er, I persevere, going out day after day in the hope of seeing the glint of gold. Paydirt for the WoWS battleship user is the golden “Hits to Citadel” ribbon. Occasionally – very occasionally if you’re captaining a Carolina – one of your arcing AP shells will find a weak-spot, an open hatch, a vulnerable magazine. A huge hull-rending explosion will make all the misses, all the dawdling towards the action, seem worthwhile.

I gather other types of battleship are far less exasperating than my current tub. Though I’m looking forward to unlocking vessels that (a) come with launchable scout planes and (b) don’t ignite at the drop of a hat, I do wonder if I’ll ever enjoy WoWS’s BBs the way I enjoy the DDs and CAs. It’s not just the sluggishness and slow reloading that taints the battleship experience, I’m not sure I like the way Wargaming have implemented damage control in capital ships. Skipper a cruiser and damage control is limited to dabbing the firefighting key now and again in order to halt HP-haemorrhaging blazes and flooding, and restore temporarily disabled systems. In a BB you also have the dubious ‘Repair Party’ ability at your disposal – a ‘consumable’ that actually restores hunks of lost hitpointage when used. Even for a game that manhandles history as roughly as WoWS does, the ability to gulp what is, in effect, a giant hole-patching, corpse-animating Health Potion in the midst of battle feels like a stylisation too far.

Next week in FP, assuming Neptune smiles on me, thoughts on carrier captaincy.

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The Foxer

AFKAMC defoxes like a young* Elvis Elvstrøm. The quiet industry, the lateral litheness, the infectious confidence… watching him fillet last week’s Woody Allen collage took me straight back to the Leipzig Metropole and the extraordinary summer of ’78.

* pre-LSD

Theme: the films of Woody Allen (defoxed by AFKAMC)

a Midnight in Paris, Paris Manhattan (AFKAMC)
b Annie Hall, Radio Days (mrpier)
c Annie Hall (foop)
d Sleeper (AFKAMC)
e Mighty Aphrodite (Shiloh)
f Bananas (Artiforg)
g Broadway Danny Rose, The Purple Rose of Cairo (Stugle)
h Hannah and Her Sisters (AFKAMC)
i The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (All is Well)
j Blue Jasmine (All is Well)
k Manhattan, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Paris Manhattan (Shiloh)

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Roman and his ilk are a superstitious bunch. A few of the things you’ll never find in a foxer:

An open umbrella
A horseshoe bat
A spadefoot toad
A snark
A boojum
Shergar
A salt cellar
Amy Johnson
Punchinello
Confetti
Cheese
String
Cheesestring
Blood diamonds
Brewer’s yeast
Defeatism
Censure
Closure
The toenail clippings of a serving Postmaster General
The toenail clippings of a serving Witchfinder General

All answers in one thread, please

60 Comments

  1. All is Well says:

    FOXER:
    The airplane nose looks awfully like a B-29 Superfortress.

    • Shiloh says:

      I spy the Ashes urn…

    • Stugle says:

      Curses! I would’ve gotten away with it, if it wasn’t for RPS’s infuriating habit of expiring my sign-on at the most inopportune occasion…

    • All is Well says:

      (More specifically I think it’s the nose of the “Straight Flush” (pictured here: link to atomicheritage.org) that participated in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

    • Stugle says:

      The map in the background appears to be of Aperfield, which is a locality in London near Biggin Hill (so says Wikipedia).

      • Shiloh says:

        I’m just trying to locate the property circled on the OS map – currently without success as I can’t tie it to a modern map…

        • Stugle says:

          Modern map (Google Maps, really): go to Main Street in Biggin Hill, between Haig Road and Village Green Ave. Approximately opposite of the Tesco Express. I checked Streetview, didn’t see anything noteworthy.

          • phlebas says:

            Village green -> green tea?

          • AFKAMC says:

            If the map location is Biggin Hill, there are historical references to Highclere House AKA “Ye Olde Teapot” and “The Teapot Gardens”.

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          Benratha says:

          Hello.
          Unfortunately not going to add much that is erudite, but I was wondering if the ‘circle’ that appears to be over the OS map is not actually part of the ‘sorting algoritm/ solar swath’ design? Only because of the colours being used.

      • FurryLippedSquid says:

        Could be the junction of Haig Rd and Allenby Rd, goodness only knows what is being circled, though.

        link to google.co.uk

      • Shiloh says:

        I think the road that house is on is Sutherland Avenue in Biggin Hill – if so, the only thing I’ve found so far is this: “Oberleutnant Siegfried Stronk of 8 Staffel, Jagdgeschwader 53 was killed when he crashed after combat into a house on Sutherland Avenue in Biggin Hill to the south of the aerodrome.”

    • All is Well says:

      The flying boat appears to be a Boeing B-314 “Clipper”:
      link to the-blueprints.com

    • Damn You Socrates says:

      East India Co. logo in the middle

    • Stugle says:

      Look, I don’t know the first thing about Formula One, so don’t mock me too mercilessly, but that car with the ‘Elf’ spoiler, could that be the [consults Pinterest] Renault Elf RS01? First Formula One car with a turbocharged engine, first with radial tires?

    • Llewyn says:

      The F1 car is a Renault RS01 (I think) from either the ’77 or ’78 season. Still trying to hunt down that particular car (ie driver/race combination) though, as there’s a sponsor on the wing endplate that doesn’t seem to fit.

      • Llewyn says:

        Right, it’s this image anyway: link to carblueprints.info

        Jean-Pierre Jabouille’s 1977 RS01, apparently. I’m not sure whether the FACOM sponsorship is not contemporary or whether all the photos I found originally were from ’78.

      • iainl says:

        Yep, I’ve been beaten to it. Spent too long hunting down the image, just in case it was the Tyrrell.

    • All is Well says:

      The powder horn at the top is from some American Revolution (I think) and is engraved “John Mills – This horn made at Crown Point, November the 4 1760”.

    • SpiceTheCat says:

      The pencil sketch looks like Michael Schumacher… well, a bit.

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      Matchstick says:

      Thing at the top look like it could be a Scrimshaw decorated powder horn.

    • AFKAMC says:

      Is there a TEA connection?

      East India Company
      Tea clipper
      Tea urn
      Buds and leaves of the tea plant are called flushes

      • SpiceTheCat says:

        Gunpowder tea is a thing, so that fits.

      • AFKAMC says:

        The circular thing in the background bottom left could be a flying SAUCER?

      • SpiceTheCat says:

        Also the Renault was called the Yellow Teapot.

        • SpiceTheCat says:

          “La Renault F1 turbo effectue ses débuts en championnat du monde à l’occasion du Grand Prix de Grande-Bretagne 1977, et s’attire rapidement le sobriquet de « Yellow Tea Pot » (la « théière jaune ») pour sa propension à terminer ses courses dans un nuage de fumée blanche.” courtesy of fr.wikipedia.org.

      • iainl says:

        I think you’re on the right lines; the Renault was known as the Yellow Teapot, because it kept throwing up clouds of steam/smoke.

      • Rorschach617 says:

        Well, my mind is definitely not up to this Foxer. Minutes late on a couple of clues, and I didn’t even realise there was an F1 car in there (thought it was ornate decoration on the horn).

        Nice work, gentlemen!

      • iainl says:

        The only notable thing to happen in Aperfield itself (rather than Biggin Hill right next to it) is the Aperfield Cedar, apparently one of the “21 great trees of London”.

        Cedarwood is traditionally used to make tea chests.

        • AFKAMC says:

          If the map location is Biggin Hill, there are historical references to Highclere House AKA “Ye Olde Teapot” and “The Teapot Gardens”.

      • AFKAMC says:

        I’m thinking the light aircraft might be a BushCADDY kit aircraft.

      • AFKAMC says:

        The book cover is that of “The Mint” by T E Lawrence.

        • SpiceTheCat says:

          Excellent. I will now give up googling for imprints with a pterodactyl in their logo.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Are the lines across the image early sonar swaths?

      • Hofzwerg says:

        The orange lines across the image seem to be visualizations of sorting algorithms like in these examples

        • SpiceTheCat says:

          It may not have answered the question but that was a fascinating link to read and watch. Thanks!

    • JB says:

      That desktop shortcut is bugging the hell out of me, I’m sure I recognise it

  2. Rorschach617 says:

    WoWs

    Do BBs get better after the South Carolina? Yes, but they couldn’t get worse. And I agree that the Health Potion is jarring (specially since all ships could have that ability to repair themselves to some degree).
    Something to help BB captains out there which I found on the forums and it seems to work. If you have 1 deck fire, do not use your repair ability, just let it burn out and chug the health potion afterwards. Save your quick-fix for multiple fires and flooding damage.
    But I would have recommended the Japanese line for beginner captains. For one thing, you are not as visible to the enemy, and you are on the way to Myogi and Kongo, which have some speed and range.

    • Cinek says:

      What I can’t figure out in WoWs is why the hell did they implement the Soviet Navy before Royal Navy? Or French Navy for that matter. Or Italian Navy. What kind of nonsense is that?

      • Rorschach617 says:

        Russian (or damned close) company, Russian server players paying in Russian money. Just be grateful they implemented the Japanese Navy, not sure how many Japanese people are on the server.

      • Alfius says:

        I know, RN was by far the largest blue water navy on the planet for most of the relevant time period. That it does not feature at all is disappointing, although I hear they may be HMSes on the way in a later patch.

      • NegativeZero says:

        There was some story where they were struggling to get the plans for some of the RN ships out of the UK and into Russia for some reason which was holding it up. Sounded like complete crap to me but who knows.

    • mariandavid says:

      You can only have fun with battleships when they are fast: The slow ones get trapped into close-quarter fighting where (as with our beloved leader’s South Carolina) ruin and damnation follow. The basic issue is that in real life his turgid dreadnought would be covered by destroyers and cruisers – but in WoW that is a joke as the mood is all for one and one for one in a passionate hunt for points and the idea of protecting others is usually an afterthought (though it is more common in the higher levels).

    • NegativeZero says:

      I don’t know, the Kawachi is IMO way worse than the South Carolina. Slow speed, solid guns but ridiculously low gun range – I think only one other ship in the game has shorter gun range and it’s a Destroyer. Playing it feels like being the fat kid during PE class. You lumber around panting like crazy and periodically get to do something but usually fail at it, and your only hope is that no one pays any attention to you so you can get the drop on someone.

      • Rorschach617 says:

        Sorry for the late reply, only just come back to the page.

        Agreed that the Kawachi is the fat kid, but in my opinion, the guns can reach out as far as you can be seen and thats a big advantage over the South Carolina at mid to late game, which has similar range but can be spotted from much further away. Furthermore, A kawachi can almost always put 3 turrets on target if not 4, so is more dangerous in a brawl.
        But both Tier3 BBs are absolutely awful. I just suggested the Japanese line since you get the Kongo at Tier5, and that thing is beautiful.

  3. Cinek says:

    Bought CMANO… even on sale it’s the most expensive game I have ever purchased after the release. I enjoyed watching twitch channels of people playing it, but… getting a first hand experience is a different cup of tea, so… either I’m gonna love it or it will be by far the worst game ever when it comes to “bang for the buck”.

    • Premium User Badge

      Der Zeitgeist says:

      Problem is, it’s still full of bugs when you look at the forums of Matrix Games.

      Since it released, I keep trying it out every half year or so, build a small custom scenario to just try some things out, and after 10 minutes mostly find bugs, defective AI, or generally unfinished placeholder features.

      It’s just too frustrating, you constantly have to work around bugs and immature AI behaviour, and that just isn’t any fun for me.

      I wouldn’t be suprised if they still haven’t fully implemented mine warfare yet, which was a central feature that was extensively advertised before release. Good thing they are already releasing DLC before finishing the core game…

    • Cardinal says:

      Interested to know how you get on.

  4. JB says:

    Whenever I hear stuff like “a multiplayer military chopper game” I always think of something like the helicopter stuff in Arma, or a multiplayer Silent Hunter type thing (with helos instead of subs, obviously). I do love some multi-crewed vehicle action. Even the larger vehicles in BF1942 were a lot of fun with friends.

  5. magogjack says:

    Some advice that helped me with battleships, If your in front you are dead. always let their be atleast one or two cruisers in front of you.
    This way people focus them and usually get tunnel vision allowing you to get close enough to hit them, or ram, god I love raming DD’s ( although of course this is a desperation move)

    Also I hated Aircraft courier play, its so detached.

    • magogjack says:

      Carrier I mean carrier!! where is that coffee…..

      • dr.denton says:

        Fair point in lower tier games but T5 upwards it gets really frustrating to have BBs hang around in the back “sniping” when they should be in front where they are needed.
        All those structural points and amour are there for a reason.

        Air Courier though … now there is a 1930s themed flight sim with some real adventure !