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The Flare Path: A2Z

Alphabetised sim and wargaming news

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A is for Altfuture’s abject apology. From the tone of Altfuture’s last announcement you’d think unconventional, timetable-shunning train sim Derail Valley had run over the last northern hairy-nosed wombat or trumped during an audience with the Queen. Jan 18’s “very bad” news turned out to be news of a piffling seven-day release delay. The rescheduled ribbon-cutting should happen today. Expect some thoughts on the sim’s 200km fictional rail network, singular 36-resource industry chain, and promising procedural job generator in next Friday’s Flare Path.

B is for Breaking squelch

If Radio Commander had been pitched to the Flare Path dragons in 2017 I suspect it would have made our genre-gingering Top Fifteen Wargame Ideas with ease. A Vietnam War command sim that embraces that military reality, friendly fog-of-war, the way a reticulated python embraces a feral pig, philosophically it appears to have a fair bit in common with Burden of Command. However, key mechanical differences like a manually updated map, promise to give it a quite different feel. Assuming RC’s order parser is as flexible as say, Waterloo’s, and we aren’t reduced to interacting with our troops via crude binary order choices, Serious Sim’s debut effort could prove seriously special.

C is for Co-op cartography

In some respects the map chart in upcoming co-op U-boat sim Wolfpack is an unhelpful cuss (It never shows torps or targets and when you’re below the waves it won’t even tell you where your sub is). In others, it’s extremely obliging. All five of the players working together to operate a single Wolfpack Type VII will be able to scribble on it to make points, suggest courses and indicate threats. If Skvader provide a freehand tool then sub sim scrimshaw is inevitable. Starting to panic during a prolonged depth charge attack? Distract yourself by sketching a fetching mermaid or a shapely seahorse!

D is for Dash of Deutschland

This new American Civil War campaign for free Panzer General-like Open General starts its 26-episode scenario sequence in a most unusual place. Following the adventures of the Forty-Eighters, a group of Germans who quit Europe after the failed revolutions of 1848, and went on to use their military expertise fighting for the Union in the ACW, its first four scraps recreate rarely wargamed episodes like the Hecker Uprising.

E is for Eat my APDS

In development for about two years, WW2 tank sim Steel Heroes still doesn’t have an official website or Steam page, but the videos that emerge now and again suggest that the project is proceeding nicely. The sim’s Sherman Fireflies and Panzer IVs will accommodate up to three cooperating players. Hopefully, VR headsets won’t be mandatory.

F is for Foxer

Movie buffs, you are needed in the defoxing annexe.

G is for Gamepad Gimpy

A recent issue of The Locker, a free British Army magazine aimed at teenagers, contained an interesting glimpse of a VBS-based training session in full swing, and the odd statement that left me slightly uncomfortable. Not only are recruiters here in the UK actively targeting gamers, vehicles and weapons systems are being designed with gamers very much mind…

“For some of the unmanned aerial systems, the control interface is specifically designed to be just like an Xbox or PlayStation controller, because that’s what the guys are used to using. The Panther vehicle, for example, has a remote weapons station. It’s got a GPMG on top that you control with an Xbox controller.”

H is for Haggis hauler

Air Hauler 2, the only Flight Simulator adjunct I’m aware of that lets you get rich by producing and portaging stomach-wrapped sheep innards, completed a marathon three-year Early Access phase on Jan 11. Haggis is just one of hundreds of types of goods involved in the add-on’s globe-girdling economy.

I is for Icebox insurance

Tucked between the brick of spinach and the depth charge-shaped ice cubes at the back of the Flare Path freezer, is a sizeable wedge of humble pie. I’m saving it for the Panzer Corps 2 launch later this year just in case my fears about over-familiar mechanics and battles prove to be baseless. Flashback Games seem chipper so perhaps I should have more faith:

“The good news is, the game is really turning out the way we hoped. It has come a long way since the beginning of development more than 3 years ago. We were taking many risks with this project, and it is great to see that for the most part, they are paying off. 3D graphics works and provides a level of clarity which we need. Random maps are fun to play. Historical content plays just as well. The game is 100% future proof and looks gorgeous on any displays up to 4K. We are confident that 2019 will be a “Panzer Corps 2 year” and that Panzer Corps will get a worthy successor which will deliver many hours of fun to all the fans of this genre.”

J is for Jimmy Jet

What Ace Combat looked like in 1962.

K is for Kamikaze kwestion mark

The more I read about Rule the Waves 2, the better it sounds. Eventful After Action Reports like this one suggest engagements involving carriers (all player designed, naturally) are going to be especially nailbiting. Flat-tops must sail into the wind to recover their flocks, and aircraft landing in poor light are far more likely to end up wrapped around islands or bobbing in brine – factors worth bearing in mind when you organise a strike or CAP. It goes without saying that wooden-decked carriers will be questionable investments and flight decks crowded with loaded strike aircraft catastrophes waiting to happen. One topic I don’t believe the devs have addressed yet is suicide attacks. Kamikazes must, surely, be an option for desperate Japanese players.

L is for Life’s little luxuries

To race sim controllers what Thrustmaster are to combat flight sim controllers, Cube Control have just started taking pre-orders for a high-end car aligner that sports more buttons than a Pearly King and costs a polar 1300 smackers.

M is for Masterly moquette

Work continues on OMSI 2’s long-awaited London add-on. Judging by the screenshots that lengthen this forum thread and this Flickr photostream every now and again, the adjunct will be one of the sim highlights of 2019, assuming, of course, it deigns to appear in the next eleven months.

N is for Nachthexen nigh?

Although IL-2 Sturmovik’s latest Collector Plane would struggle to overtake a superannuated stork with wing sprain, it has generated a flurry of compliments from fans of ersatz Eastern Front air warfare. Just about the only aspect of the $23 Po-2/U-2VS package that hasn’t met with approval is the mission component. At present the biplane can’t be campaigned. Fingers crossed 1CGS will eventually furnish purchasers with a female pilot model and a bewitching sortie sequence.

O is for Organic opponents only

Equipped with an AI, Strathexa’s imminent (Jan 30) Barbarossa-em-up Barbarroja might have sold like hot pierogi. As it stands, suitable for hotseat and internet multiplayer only, I doubt its sales will reach triple figures. Hopefully, the studio’s next effort, a Spanish Civil War recreation, will sport a silicon foe.

P is for Postcard from Stalingrad

Want a gentle/cheap introduction to the world of solitaire board wargaming and don’t fancy printing components or braving eBay? Zulus on the Ramparts is one of Tabletop Simulator’s finest and simplest solo diversions, but Rattenkrieg has the edge where rule brevity and game duration is concerned. A bijou recreation of the battle of Stalingrad, this lively ‘postcard wargame’ is a lovely example of low-fat game design.

Q is for Quick teabreak

R is for Raft of refinements

Clumsy comrades, shared skins, sparse/shy LW formations… many of the issues I red-penned during my three-part Wings of the Reich AAR back in the autumn, look to have been addressed by subsequent updates. Once Old Brown Dog deliver the free Spitfire they’ve promised (a “few months” away apparently) I’ll be heading back for a second look.

S is for Swiss struggle

Compared to most civil wars Switzerland’s Sonderbund War was a restrained affair. Fewer than 100 combatants perished during the three weeks of fighting in 1847. Deathtolls are likely to be far higher in the fictional Swiss internal conflict Lucas Slavik has engineered for Wars Across the World.

T is for Talkative trams

Cramped and lacking passengers and road traffic, Early Access LOTUS-Simulator still resembles a tech demo. It does welcome mods, however. Mods like this loquacious Hungarian antique.

U is for Unnecessary uniforms

I’m not convinced dual layer American Civil War wargame Grand Tactician needs to explicitly depict every soldier and tree. Preview videos suggest the game’s strat map-sparked scraps will look their best and be at their most manageable when the slightly primitive Seven Years War-style scenery and soldier sprites are replaced by period maps and stylised unit icons – something that occurs automatically when the camera is lifted above a certain height. When the camera is close to the ground GT somehow manages to look fustier than the Take Commands.

V is for Validatory Verstappen video

When a top F1 driver holds the lap record on a race sim’s latest circuit, it’s fairly safe to assume that the race sim in question has its realism ducks in a nice neat row.

W is for Waterloo 3D

A “mini demo” for this nascent Napoleonic RTS is now “very close” according to a Jan 18 post on Plus Infinity Studios Facebook page. While the trailer above doesn’t fill me with confidence, FAQ statements like… “You must use the “passage of lines” technique to pass one battalion through another, both for forward and for rearward passages. Otherwise your battalions will get disordered. Infantry, if shrouded in smoke or after excessive officer loss will take longer time to form square. Battalions at close proximity to the enemy might fire without orders if under too much stress. Cavalry regiments might get uncontrollable after a charge.” give grounds for cautious optimism.

X is for Xpected xcision

I reckon it’s about time Sim155 removed “with mission planner and fully dynamic open ended campaign.” from the Steam page description of Combat Air Patrol 2, or at the very least attached an emboldened “eventually” to its tail. Their Harrier sim has been Early Accessible since mid 2016 and despite considerable progress in areas like weapons, sensors and environment modelling, shows no sign of acquiring the dynamic campaign that was such an important part of its predecessor and such an eyecatching element of the early publicity and dev blogs.

Y is for Year of yearning

2019 promises to be exhausting for Eagle Dynamics and its symbiotes. DCS aircraft modules in the pipeline include an F-16, Mi-24 Hind, MiG-19, de Havilland Mosquito and Polikarpov I-16. Mapmakers are hard at work on Falkland Islands, Syria, and unspecified WWII real estate. There’s even a slim chance the faithful will be particpating in dynamic conflicts by this time next year:

“While a hangar of great aircraft is certainly a wonderful thing, having an engaging, exciting, and dynamic combat environment to fly them is equally important. We recognize that and have been developing the inner-workings of a dynamic campaign system for DCS World. This development will continue into 2019 and create a simulation with the simulation of a real-time campaign systems that has each side fighting for dominance across the map. Based on the strategic goals and tactical situations, the systems will create dynamic Air Tasking Orders (ATO) that players then join to help their side to victory. It will be epic!”

Z is for Zulu dusk

Jeff Lapkoff’s Zulu Dawn! The Battle of Isandlwana – a tactical TBS I’m getting to know at present – includes a morale modifier you won’t find in many (any?) other wargames. A solar eclipse occurs during the course of the 50-turn battle and while the sun is hidden, warriors on both sides are noticeably windier. Another novel touch is the mini game the British get to play in the latter stages of a Zulu victory. If the four central ‘camp’ hexes are overrun, a unit representing Lieutenants Melvill and Coghill materialises. Successfully gallop this to the far map edge and you’ve “saved the colours” gaining a potentially face-saving ten Victory Points in the process.

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