The Flare Path: AlphaBet Pilot

A is for annus mirabilis

2016, you’ve an awful lot to live up to. I’ve been computer wargaming for over three decades now, and I can’t recall a better year than the one just gone. Vietnam ’65, Rule the Waves, Pike & Shot: Campaigns, Decisive Campaigns: Barbarossa… for any grognard partial to bold designs, unusual settings, and absorbing, plausible action, the temptations were many.

B is for Battlefront marches on

The Combat Missionaries have a busy year ahead. Standalone Bulge title CM: Final Blitzkrieg will be leaving its laager at the end of January. The release of the studio’s first payware ‘battle pack’ is close, a badly needed website/storefront redesign is planned, and work has begun on a new unusually cosmopolitan (British Indian Army, South African forces, Moroccan Goumiers…) CM: Fortress Italy module.

C is for Close Combat sequel sighted

BFC aren’t the only team planning to pummel Europe’s soft underbelly in a coming tactics release. The artisans behind Art of Combat, the unofficial next-gen CC, are powering ahead with their Italian initiative. Alpha images here and here provide early glimpses of the cellular campaign map and a rocky river-riven skirmish venue.

D is for drop-dead gorgeous delta-wing DCS debutante

Santa brought me socks, fancy cider, and a book about Beauforts. I searched my stocking in vain for a triangular parcel reeking of avtur. Evidently, others were more fortunate.

E is for eSim news

Steel Beasts Pro Personal Edition will be getting prettier, larger and bumpier this year. A payware upgrade probably ready by mid-summer, will introduce a slew of new AFVs, together with improved particle effects, and a battlefield-transforming high resolution terrain engine. Infantry control is also in line for an overhaul.

screenshot by Mogwa

F is for foxer

Below is a list of ’25 Things You Might Find In A Sherlock Holmes Story’ (‘Things’ is used here in its broadest possible sense). For purposes of obfuscation, the ‘things’ have been stripped of vowels and had spaces repositioned. For example, if ‘Doctor Watson’ was present, it might appear as…

DC TRWTSN

The last five entries in the list – those marked with asterisks – are especially fiendish. Not only are they vowel-less, they have also been anagrammed.

BS TFL CK!

1. MYCR FTHLMS
2. BRGP RL
3. DRTMR
4. DN CNGMN
5. SC RFM LK
6. NGNRSTH MB
7. BN TPKR
8. STRG HTNDPKR
9. NDRG RNDTRN
10. CTRC TKNF
11. MJRSH LT
12. BNS NBRNR
13. MNGS
14. SDN YPGTL LSTRTN
15. P MDN
16. SCPDCN VCT
17. TRCH NPLYCGR
18. CYNCPL LT
19. VN HR DRRR FL
20. BKRS TRT RRGLR
21.* SNCH BM
22.* SSPPP RRLN
23.* ND RRL
24.* THNG CDNG
25.* RP PNG

(All answers in one thread, please)

G is for grovelling appeal to Graviteam

Some Mius Front news, please! The sequel to the brilliant Graviteam Tactics: Operation Star is now three years late. Should we abandon hope?

H is for Himalayan railway rant

When is fab Train Simulator freeware not actually free? When it’s hosted at creaky community site UKTrainSim.com. If you want to get your hands on gems like Richard Scott’s narrow-gauge Darjeeling route and the rolling stock to go with it, you’ll either have to endure long queues and shunter-slow download speeds, or cough up £3 for one month’s ‘premium access’. When sizeable flight and farm sim repositories can get by on advertising revenues alone, it’s hard to understand why one of rail simming’s most important roundhouses relies on fees.

I is for iRacing intricacy

It seems brain-blistering systems realism is no longer the preserve of serious flight and train sims. Over at RAVSim Jon Denton has been examining iRacing’s remarkable McLaren-Honda MP4-30, a vehicle with an extensively modelled manually-controlled energy recovery/deployment system that no victory-hungry driver can afford to ignore. To this just-staying-on-the-track-is-usually-challenge-enough Sunday race simmer, the workload sounds horrendous…

“To find the optimum laptime in the MP4-30 a driver must work to find a balance between MGU-K deployment and regeneration that suits the particular track layout and their driving style. All the while maintaining sufficient ERS battery charge when you need it for overtaking, keeping fuel consumption under control, hitting the DRS button in the right places, managing brake bias and differential settings as fuel load changes, and, you know, not crashing a car capable of hitting speeds well in excess of 200mph.”

J is for John Tiller Software’s latest

The recently released Panzer Battles: Battles of Normandy is the second instalment of a series designed to bridge the scale gap between the Squad Battles (40m hexes, squad-sized units) and Panzer Campaigns (1km hexes, battalion-sized units) games. Generously proportioned and painstakingly researched, only the high unit count in some of the promotional screenshots gives me cause for concern. Any chance of a demo, JTS?

K is for Knights of the Sea

PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is currently a very reasonable £1.74 (£2.74 for the Gold version) on Steam. Here are some reasons why you might want to flex its gangplank.

L is for late foxer solution

20. tibet (Its airspace was undisturbed by aircraft until the 1930s) AFKAMC
19. tiger (Fifties carrier aircraft) Stugle
18. oiler (The father of the Goose has one named after him) phlebas
17. pilar (Hemingway Museum exhibit) Stugle
16. pilot (The key difference between the Fi 103 and the Fi 103R) Stugle
15. pylon (Air race accoutrement) AFKAMC, SpiceTheCat
14. palan ([A] French victory in Vietnam) SpiceTheCat
13. plana (Crater between the Lake of Dreams and the Lake of Death) AFKAMC
12. slava (The target of an early torpedo bomber attack) unsolved
11. slats (Pioneered by Handley Page) Stugle
10. platt (American VTOL visionary) SpiceTheCat
9. slate (Behind Britain’s narrow gauge railway boom) AFKAMC
8. stake (A bowman’s best friend?) Rorschach617
7. stuka (Its shipmates would have included the Fi 167) AFKAMC
6. sitka (Used to build Wooden Wonders) SpiceTheCat
5. betka (Nippy WW2 tank) Rorschach617
4. beria (Ruthless Soviet security chief) Stugle
3. syria (Invaded by the Allies in 1941) AFKAMC
2. strip (Small airfield) AFKAMC
1. stoop

M is for MiG 3s and manned tanks

IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad owners have had a good autumn. The selection of flyables has been bolstered by aircraft from WIP sequel, Battle of Moscow (Everyone gets to share skies with newcomers like the MiG 3 and P-40. Only BoM pre-orderers get to pilot them), mouse control has arrived, and padlocks have been prised from the hatches of several of the sim’s tanks. I won’t be uninstalling Steel Fury or Panzer Elite SE just yet, but there’s a scale and spectacle to IL2BOS’s armoured engagements that’s hard to find elsewhere.

N is for new footage of TitanIM

There’s every chance that features and models made for serious military training sim TitanIM will eventually find their way back into Outerra, the stunning Earth-encompassing combi-sim that inspired it.  With that in mind, run your eye over this recent TitanIM promotional video, remembering as you do that the vistas on show are all parts of the same seamless global scenery .

O is for One Man Army

When One Man Army asked me to feature Dead Hand, their Jagged Alliance-inspired underground tactics game in Flare Path, I said I’d be happy to the moment they replaced the combative burrowing robots with combative Great War miners.  (FP’s ‘no sci-fi’ rule is now non-negotiable). Displaying a disappointing lack of vision/flexibility, they rejected my suggestion. If I hadn’t noticed that one of their bot designs was clearly based on the M50 Ontos, you wouldn’t be reading this.

P is for Pinball Arcade

Adam hasn’t spoken to me since I neglected to include Pinball Arcade in my 25 Best Simulations piece. In an effort to build bridges and sate my ravenous appetite for Seventies and Eighties culture, I was planning to spend a portion of this weekend exploring FarSight’s creation. Any Pinball Arcadians out there? I was wondering, besides the obvious ones, which tables would you recommend to a middle-aged Brit with a penchant for aircraft, WW2 history and TV detective dramas? Will any recreations let me down Dorniers or sink the Bismarck? Did Kelly’s Heroes or Bergerac ever get tabulated?

Q is for quick teabreak

R is for relaxing at the rec with a radio-controlled Spitfire

All hail PicaSim!

S is for Slitherine Group shenanigans

In a plucky post on Pocket Tactics on Wednesday, site stalwart Dave Neumann admitted that PT’s takeover of Slitherine-owned wargamer.com in August was nothing of the kind. It turns out that wargamer.com actually purchased PT, not the other way around as stated at the time; Slith were tightening links with two important wargame news and reviews providers rather than loosening them.

T is for Theater of Operations: World at War

…the new horribly anonymous name for Combat Operations an upcoming operational wargame with a very unusual party trick (Combat Mission can be used for engagement resolution). After a disappointing Kickstarter campaign last year, the devs have paused and pondered. For the second KS campaign (ETA March) a playable demo will be doing the bulk of the parsnip-buttering.

U is for unmissable bargain

I have fond memories of scurrying around Serbian villages in an Iron Warriors’ T-72. While it’s no Steel Armor or Steel Beasts, (and you may need to fiddle with files to get it up and running – see comments) SABOW and SBPPE aren’t available for a piffling 30p until Monday.

V is for Vehicle Simulator

What this quirky combi sim lacks in gravitas, structure and avionic grit, it more than makes up for in flexibility, joie de vivre and honey-coloured sunsets. Hopefully, the influx of new users from the recent Steam release will encourage Ilan Papini to abandon rockets and robots and return to a concept – the unified transport sim – that still feels exciting and under-explored .

W is for winged wildfire control

Randomly generated, wind influenced, wildfires in FSX? Genius!

X is for X-Plane xpert who xposed xtraordinary aerodynamic error

After years of low-key grumbling and inventive workarounds from third-party aircraft creators, a clever X-Plane user has finally identified the cause of X-Plane’s surprisingly fierce prop torque. Hats off to Austin and co. for swiftly acknowledging and fixing the issue.

Y is for yet another Steam sale bargain

Dangerous Waters, the Moby Dick of modern sub sims, is a mere £1.34 until Monday.

Z is for gotten in the interests of sanity

42 Comments

  1. TheDreamlord says:

    *chuckles* you said “annus”!
    (Sorry!…. Happy New Year RPS!!)

  2. Firenz says:

    Foxer –
    1. Mycroft Holmes
    20 – Baker Street irregulars

    • Firenz says:

      4 – Dancing Man

    • Llewyn says:

      3. Dartmoor

      • Llewyn says:

        And 6. Engineer’s Thumb

      • Llewyn says:

        And my last one for now; I looked at 10 and all I could see was ‘Cataract Knife’, but apparently this is actually a thing, so:
        10. Cataract Knife

    • Firenz says:

      7. Bent Poker

    • Firenz says:

      11. Major Sholto?

    • Firenz says:

      15. Opium Den

    • Firenz says:

      14. Sidney Paget Illustration

    • skink74 says:

      16 – ESCAPED CONVICT

    • skink74 says:

      and 9 is UNDERGROUND TRAIN

    • skink74 says:

      23 – IRENE ADLER

    • Llewyn says:

      18. Cyanic Pellet? I can’t find any direct reference to this phrase, though ‘cyanic’ seems to be used as a Victorian-era alternative to cyanide for solutions etc.

      Of course it’s also possible that Roman has fat fingers. Or more likely that I’m barking up the wrong tree completely.

    • Firenz says:

      2. Bogria Pearl?

    • Firenz says:

      Here’s where we are so far:

      1. Mycroft Holmes
      2. Borgia Pearl
      3. Dartmoor
      4. Dancing Man
      5. SCRFMLK
      6. Engineer’s Thumb
      7. Bent Poker
      8. Straightened Poker
      9. Underground Train
      10. Cataract Knife
      11. Major Sholto
      12. Bunsen Burner
      13. MNGS
      14. Sidney Paget Illustration
      15. Opium Den
      16. Escaped Convict
      17. TRCHNPLYCGR
      18. Cyanic Pellet?
      19. VNHRDRRRFL
      20. Baker Street Irregulars
      21.* Hansom Cab
      22.* SSPPPRRLN
      23.* NDRRL
      24.* THNGCDNG
      25.* RPPNG

      • skink74 says:

        13 is MONGOOSE

      • AriochRN says:

        22. Persian Slipper

      • AriochRN says:

        25. Orange Pip, one of five

        • Llewyn says:

          Good work! I think that just leaves no. 5 unsolved.

          • AriochRN says:

            5. Saucer of milk, for the feeding of speckled Swamp Adders :D

          • skink74 says:

            Excellent! I could see the milk, and figured it was referring to the Speckled Band but couldn’t make a coherent string from the rest of the letters. Well done everyone and a belated Happy New Year!

          • Llewyn says:

            Excellent indeed. I was fixated on “Scar of…” so convinced myself milk couldn’t be right.

            A Happy New Year to you (all) too!

    • Firenz says:

      24. Changing Tide fits but I don’t remember/can’t find a Sherlock Holmes reference for it

  3. Firenz says:

    12. Bunsen Burner

  4. GWOP says:

    *clap* *clap* *clap*

    Bravo!

  5. Warduke says:

    Tim, you’re brilliant my friend. Happy new year!

  6. HeinzHarald says:

    Should perhaps be noted that the compatibility wrapper for Dangerous Waters was updated for Windows 10 a few months ago.

    link to jiri-dvorak.cz

  7. Stugle says:

    Great information wrapped up in a delectable outer coating of the finest wordsmithing. Thank you for a great year and here’s wishing you another one.

    I’ll take up the recommendation for PT Boats Gold and I’ll add that I found Achtung Panzer Operation Star for a measly $4.49 in the Steam sale. The Operation Hooper expansion is only $2.24, so I’ll get those two as well.

    • Hartford688 says:

      Agreed, nice post.

      I also finally grabbed PT Boats Gold, and now know that I will need to upgrade my Steel Beasts PPE in hopefully not too long. Such good news, great sim.

  8. Olderman says:

    Being French with a brief stint in the FAF I absolutely MUST make time for that Mirage 2000 DCS DLC!

    (No I wasn’t a pilot, but still!)

  9. Hydrogene says:

    As a former Armée de l’Air, what do you think of this Patrouille de France Alphajet carrying ordnance? Is it even possible? ;)

    Thank you Tim for such a cracking sim and wargame column! It’s always surprising and interesting. I always feel like I’ve learned something important after reading it!

    • Olderman says:

      The Alphajet is used for training and exhibition today but it used to have a combat version. It was quickly obsolete but did carry weaponry.