Meet Richard Taylor
When Penny, Flare Path’s globetrotting PBY pilot, spots an amateur coder quietly crafting a computer wargame or sim on some remote desert island, she always executes a few low passes in order to check out the project in question. When she spots an amateur coder quietly crafting three titles simultaneously she simply has to alight and talk to the industrious individual concerned.
In today’s column, Penny’s Q&A with Richard Taylor, a man whose trio of “hopelessly amateurish” (his words not mine) naval games teem with exciting ideas. Oh, and some half-formed thoughts on Gettysburg: The Tide Turns.
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Communal Combat Mission
I was tempted to explore Nineteenth Century warfare or try something operational for this year’s play-by-comment wargaming marathon, but after surveying my game collection and conducting experiments, found myself gravitating towards Battlefront’s oeuvre and WW2 once again. When it comes to generating gripping unscripted dramas I reckon first-generation Combat Mission is peerless, and that clever WEGO turn structure (the orders of both sides are executed simultaneously) might have been designed with communal combat choreography and episodic AAR writing in mind.
If The Battle of the Perfectly Rectangular Olive Grove is any guide, the coming scrap will play out at approximately 1TPD. Every 24 hours, the Red Army troops and armoured vehicles under your control will experience 60 in-game seconds of Eastern Front hell. Read the rest of this entry »
WWI history with a dash of WOFF
…London was reeling. For the second time in a month a skein of bone-white, Iron Cross-emblazoned bombers had overflown the British capital leaving death and destruction in its wake. For the second time in a month the throbbing heart of the most powerful empire on Earth had been scourged in broad daylight by a band of leisurely marauders apparently impervious to flak and fighters. In today’s Flare Path, the story of a raid that woke up Whitehall, persuaded King George V to change his name, and almost killed one of England’s most famous air aces. Read the rest of this entry »
Direct, motivate, preserve
Thirty-five years of computer wargaming have taught me nothing about the art of military leadership. Yes, I’ve learnt how to attack and defend, how to exploit terrain, triage threats, and tell the difference between a Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf. D and a Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf. G, but no dev has ever asked me to build trust… maintain discipline… inspire loyalty. Since falling in love with Arnhem on my rubber-keyed Speccy in 1985 I’ve been a tactician and puzzle solver, never, in any meaningful sense, a leader of men.
Burden of Command [official site] wants to fill this gaping experiential void. A stat-shunning military RPG that mixes interactive fiction decisions with traditional hex grid battling, if all goes to plan it could prove to be one of the most memorable and affecting war games ever. Read the rest of this entry »
Snatches of sim and wargame news
“She comes down in the middle of the night and finds him on the sofa pleasuring himself with a plastic Ankylosaurus.”
“Nietzsche was your radical Islam – I get that – but it didn’t turn you into a mass murderer did it? You may have hated the human race for a year or two but you didn’t actively plot their extermination.”
“And these are? Giraffes. Of course! So the nice giraffes are helping the firemen save the people in the burning house?” Read the rest of this entry »
Carrier Deck will bead your brow/prow
Johan Nagel’s latest creation feels like a ZX Spectrum title. One third management game, one third arcade game, and one third wargame, Carrier Deck [official site] reminds me of the sort of hectic homework-hinderer I used to play back in the days before manuals, monitors, and genres entered my life. If I mentally squint I can see 11-year-old me playing a 2D version on the family TV. My sister and me have just made a deal. The next time my carrier sustains damage, I’ll call it a night. F/A-18s will make way for the kids from Fame. Read the rest of this entry »
Meet Mare Nostrum
Mare Nostrum, the galley warfare wargame currently in production at Turnopia, shouldn’t have any trouble eclipsing the competition. To my knowledge, in the forty or so years since home computing and tactical gaming first cuddled up, ancient naval aggro has inspired only one title and that title is probably best forgotten. Read the rest of this entry »
Sim sins unforgiven
I was in John’s office the other day watering April, his Aspidistra, for him (He was on holiday, and the nearest WC is a good 150m away) when I happened to notice this forgotten format poking out from under a stack of old issues of What Cat?. “I’ll have that!” I thought, and into my BOAC hold-all it went. With luck it will be back under the pile of moggy mags before John notices it’s missing. Read the rest of this entry »
A message for Mr. D. Jones Esquire. Over the next few weeks, thanks to unlikely-to-disappoint Cold War sub game Cold Waters [official site], your locker is going to see a lot of action. I strongly advise you to make space, grease hinges, and evict endangered echinoderms in readiness for the imminent deluge of mutilated missile frigates and battered boomers. Read the rest of this entry »
This Swiss Army knife needs sharpening
“A turn-ribbed, hex-shunning operational wargame elastic enough to simulate conflicts two millennia apart sensitively, and friendly and affordable enough to appeal to all stripes of strategy gamer – not just Slitherine and Paradox aficionados.”. If I’d read a pitch like this while drawing up my Dragons’ Den shortlist a couple of weeks back, I suspect it would have gone straight on the ‘pie in the sky’ pile. Wars Across the World, a new DLC-fecund release that rifles history like Hermann Göring rifled art collections, really shouldn’t work and almost doesn’t, but happily none of its faults are terminal. Read the rest of this entry »
Wargame ideas assessed by wargame makers
Two weeks ago I invited readers to send in their ideas for military strategy games. The response was magnificent, the calibre of submissions Paris Gun high. Choosing a dozen or so pitches to put before the Flare Path dragons (five industry notables whose creations frequently grace this column) was horribly difficult, but the shortlist was eventually drawn up, the Scaly Ones summoned. While no two dragons first-prized the same pitch, praise did tend to cluster around a particular clutch of submissions. Those submissions together with a few personal favourites are displayed at the end of this piece.
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Moor Mius Front
Graviteam’s reputation for martial eccentricity is under threat. Their next standalone dual-layer wargame isn’t set in a cobwebby corner of the Eastern Front. It doesn’t simulate an operation in the Bangladesh Liberation War or the Western Sahara Conflict. Manned exclusively by German and US personnel, the monikered-with-a-mallet Tank Warfare: Tunisia 1943 (out on Monday, price TBA) has at its hub an operation that is almost a household name compared with the likes of Operations Zvesda and Hooper. Read the rest of this entry »
In search of the next Nagel
That idea for a PC wargame you’ve been mulling over for the past five… ten… twenty years – is it ready for primetime yet? Are you prepared to run it past five of the most talented and experienced people in the industry? Today’s Flare Path is a light-hearted Dragons’ Den-style competition (Each of the five dragons will be choosing their favourite submitted concept). A chance to get feedback from the pros. It’s also an opportunity to put cherished ideas to fellow Flareopaths who could be coders in search of themes. If you know deep down you’re never going to get round to programming Kia Mate Toa: The NZ Wars, or Red Ball Express: Fuelling The Fight, then why not place your blueprints where they can inspire. Read the rest of this entry »
Shifting frontlines and Polish branchlines
Happy Eggmas! As this Steel Division/MaSzyna Flare Path may end-up lingering longer than usual on the front page, I’ve been asked to preface it with a quality intro rather than the usual nonsense. Apparently, a list of my Top Ten Knots (10. Sheepshank, 9. Highwayman’s hitch, 8. Dutch bunch, 7. Cream splice, 6. Inverted Medusa, 5. Double Windsor, 4. Sir John Knot, 3. Pixie snare, 2. Quarter Lincoln, 1. Bee-and-thistle) or my Ten Favourite Sexual Positions (10. Sheepshank, 9. Highwayman’s hitch, 8. Dutch bunch, 7. Cream splice, 6. Inverted Medusa, 5. Double Windsor, 4. Sir John Knot, 3. Pixie snare, 2. Quarter Lincoln, 1. Bee-and-thistle) won’t cut it today. Read the rest of this entry »
Your pilot today is...
Jeremy Louden’s first passengers were reluctant ones. As an eleven-year-old he’d make his younger brother and sister sit behind him while he piloted his MS Flight Simulator 4.0 Learjet 25 from Chicago to San Francisco in real time. Today, flying MD-88/90s for Delta Air Lines, he no longer has to arrange chairs prior to a flight and very seldom arrives at a destination only to discover his passengers have vanished en-route. Read the rest of this entry »
Wargame and sim news
How to find the Flare Path stand at EGX Rezzed 2017. Make for the gap between the Signal From Tölva booth (giant robot skull) and the Steel Division: Normandy 1944 one (two bomb-flipped Tiger tanks). Roughly midway between these unmissable landmarks, projecting a few inches above the heads of the milling crowds, you should see some plastic cabbages and leeks. Said vegetables are sprouting from the roof of a replica Anderson shelter. Enter the shelter and, assuming there’s room (there will be) sit down opposite the man wearing the pith helmet, the ear plugs and the frightened rabbit expression. Congratulations. You’ve made it. Read the rest of this entry »
Wargaming and simulation observations
Steam tells me Train Sim World: CSX Heavy Haul requires a mere 2.8 of my Great Britains and will be in my possession in a trifling 48 minutes. That should leave me just enough time to a) draw your attention to the fairly imminent Cattle and Crops, an agri sim with a feature list [
guaranteed] likely to gladden the heart of serious sodbusters, and b) run my Phantom Leader review, and this intro, through RPS’s new Objectivo 6000, [ probably] unquestionably the finest subjectivity removal device money can buy. Read the rest of this entry »
A first-rate idea
Reader #43, put down that euphonium. Reader #119, stick a bookmark in that “Paddington Station, 1967” daydream. Reader #723, you can finish that doodle of an IS-2 crushing a Kübelwagen later. Right now we’ve got work to do. Vital work.
During a recent email exchange with Johan Nagel, the man behind 2015’s cleverest wargame (and possibly 2017’s too) happened to mention that one of his other projects was becalmed at present. After prototyping ‘HMS’, a management wargame in which players captain 18th Century British warships, he realised that though “the concept sounds cool… it runs a high risk of being boring”. Struggling “to inject drama and tension in multiple and varied ways and at the same time giving an overall strategic objective that is compelling” it sounded like he was close to moving the project to the backburner. Read the rest of this entry »