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The Flare Path: A2Z

A round-up of the realistic

A is for Alphabetised wargame and sim news. Every four weeks or so I hang up a streamer of industrial strength fly paper in The Flare Path water closet and see what wargame and simulation news items stick to it. Below is this month’s bag – 25 stories involving virtual vehicles and surrogate slaughter. If you've visited a transport museum or heritage railway in the past twelve months, or can put these battles – Bunker Hill, Bataan, Borodino – in chronological order, you probably won't regret clicking where it says…

B is for Bandit at 11 o'clock!

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Eagle Dynamics executed a sublime/lemon/cherry/watermelon/banana April Fools' Day prank this week. DCS World Hornet and Viper jockeys who attempted to lower landing gear on Wednesday found themselves playing a high-stakes slot machine.

C is for Corsairs vs Mustangs

Wars Across the World's appetite for obscure aggro is as healthy as ever. The era-fluid wargame's latest dirt cheap DLC explores what happened when two adjacent central American countries came to blows in 1969. Sparked by international football matches but caused by much deeper relationship problems, the Honduras versus El Salvador 'Football War' cost roughly two thousand people their lives, and involved weapons like the M3 Stuart and Vought Corsair well into their twilight years.

D is for Deadstick details

After months of radio silence REMEX is now positively garrulous. The batch of Deadstick progress reports issued in March reveal a flight sim brimming with fresh, exciting features. Our hardworking bush planes will acquire signature dents and mantles of dynamic drag-increasing mud while porting cargos around a wilderness festooned with 2.3 billion trees. Our avatars will experience fatigue, G-Force effects, and hypoxia if we push them and their steeds too hard. Important information about weather and NOTAMs won't always be there when we need it (some small airfields won't boast briefing rooms) and because the Guildford team is even simulating spotty mobile phone coverage, backwater prangs may be followed by hikes to high ground.

E is for Every cloud has a silver lining

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The makers of ventilators, video conferencing software, and bidets aren't the only beneficiaries of the coronavirus crisis. Forced to abandon actual cars-wot-go-fast by the globetrotting flu orbs, professional motorsport is increasingly turning to the virtual kind. While the poor turnout for the Bahrain Virtual GP (only two genuine F1 drivers participated) suggests F1 wasn't quite ready to make the switch, IndyCar's inaugural event was a pretty decent substitute for the real thing. Powered by iRacing, last Saturday's American Red Cross GP at a laser-scanned polygonal Watkins Glen International featured a grid packed with IndyCar stars, and produced plenty of plausible thrills and spills.

F is for Foxer

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G is for Goose Green

As ports of tactical WW2 board games aren't exactly uncommon, and there are hot hex prospects like Second Front on the horizon, Lock 'n Load Tactical Digital will need to pull something pretty special out of its kitbag in order to woo me. That something could turn out to be its post-WW2 DLC. Vietnam and Falklands War add-ons are set to follow the base game's April 2 release.

H is for Honeycombed heavyweight

John Tiller Software's latest honeycombed heavyweight, First World War Campaigns – Serbia '14, has been six years in the making. Designer Ed Williams blames the protracted gestation on a number of factors. Fashioning accurate Orders of Battle for this neglected front was a formidable challenge, as was creating the vast 1 hex = 1km map. A desire to tell the Serbia story from start to finish also increased Ed's workload considerably: “The 1915 campaign - which is when the German Army took care of the "Serbian problem" once and for all - could have been omitted but, in my opinion, that would have been like watching a long television series only to have it cancelled suddenly before its final season is concluded."

I is for Info wars

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Eversim's Steam catalogue is sizeable and, judging by the scarcity of blue thumbs, dominated by divisive titles. The closest the French studio has come to a crowd pleaser is their latest effort, Fourth Generation Warfare. A turn-sliced geopolitical sim with an unusual emphasis on characters, FGW revolves around diplomacy, military brinkmanship, and espionage. Intriguingly, the significant role disinformation plays in today's declared and undeclared conflicts isn't overlooked. Although the thought of prevailing with the help of confusion-sowing troll factories and fake news sites, irrationally perhaps, turns my stomach, FGW is a game I suspect I'll end up trying.

J is for Journalism with a capital J

Recent Flare Path subject, Through the Darkest of Times, gained some slightly more prestigious press coverage a couple of weeks ago. The New York Times piece focused on Paintbucket Games' successful bid to get their swastika-spangled game approved for sale in Germany, and inadvertently ignored a pioneer in the process. TTDOT isn't in fact “the first recent video game to be licensed in Germany that includes swastikas and other Nazi symbols”; that honour goes to Attentat 1942.

K is for Keyed up

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L is for LoS leader

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Having tried and failed to create believable LoS mechanics for a multi-storey tactical hex wargame in the past, I'd be interested to hear about how Jo Bader approached the task. Judging by the above demonstration, Second Front's sight lines will be as intuitive as they are consistent.

M is for Midway mindset

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Launching strike packages in upcoming WW2 carrier wargame Task Force Admiral is going to be a decision-dense business. In a recent blog post Amiral Crapaud listed a few of the things we'll need to mull over when planning torpedo and dive bomber sorties:

  • The kind of arming and spotting sequence you wish to follow (arming and static spotting on deck, ready to take off at a moment notice? Arming in the hangar, to keep the flight deck open for other operations?)
  • The kind of departure the package will use (normal, deferred, or even emergency mode)
  • The balance between loadout and range
  • The tactical orders (target priority, search pattern in case the target is not found…)
  • The flight plan characteristics (should speed be prioritised? Attack coordination? Overall endurance?)

N is for Not another Panzer General rehash

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A Canadian Army campaign, friendly fog of war so thick you could lose a Karl-Gerät in it, and a decidedly novel order issuing mechanic? Radio General - due next Thursday – seems aimed squarely at novelty-hungry wargamers like Yours Truly. A thorough dissection in Flare Path is inevitable.

O is for Open-handed Osprey

My small collection of Osprey Publishing eBooks is set to grow like Topsy over coming weeks thanks to the kindness of the Oxford-based fish hawks. In a bid to lift the spirits of self-isolating military history enthusiasts, thoughtful Osprey has decided to give away a selection of their volumes. Last week's windfalls included books on the Martini-Henry rifle and the USMC in the Pacific in WW2. This week's haul includes monographs on the Hawker Hurricane and the Battle of Waterloo.

P is for Preposterous peripheral

The eyes and wallet maws of gullible/wealthy War Thunder fans briefly widened on Wednesday when Gaijin unveiled renders of an in-development combination controller. Whatever your vehicular preference, the pictured desk dominator promises to pander to it. It will even facilitate speedy “fine-tuning of War Thunder game settings. For example one push of a lever will allow switching the graphics quality to Ultra Low right in the middle of a battle, allowing the spotting of enemies that wait for you in the bushes.”

Q is for Quick teabreak

R is for Rainstorms from Reiza

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The sequel to Automobilista, the highly rated Brazilian race sim that always makes me think of Roman artillery, hit Steam on Tuesday. An engine switch - rFactor to MADNESS - means Early Access Automobilista 2 is more comely that its predecessor and isn't as dry as the Atacama Desert. As knowledgeable souls like Chris Haye seem to be having a ball with AMS2, genre dilettantes like myself can probably purchase it without trepidation.

S is for Stargazing

Our flight sims are superb at simulating the challenges modern civilian pilots face. However, turn back the clock to the inter-war years and the reality gap widens dramatically. Two of's latest articles illustrate perfectly why pioneering trans-oceanic aviators rarely flew alone.

T is for Telling translations

No-one could accuse Ndemic Creations of dark tourism. In a move that probably makes little commercial sense, the makers of Rebel Inc: Escalation have arranged for their Early Access counter-insurgency game to be translated into Dari and Pashto, the official languages of Afghanistan. What, I wonder, will people with first-hand experience of Rebel Inc's subject matter, make of the game's sophisticated shorthand.

U is for Until the Last Plane

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If Until the Last Plane ships without prangs, UXBs, boisterous squadron mascots, and manually controlled bulldozers for crater filling, CarloC may feel the rough side of my tongue. Around a year from release, the WW2 airfield management game looks to revolve around one-click plane repairing and upgrading at this point – not a promising focus.

V is for Valueless for virtual tourism

What a wasted opportunity. Dovetail's Portillo-endorsed Train Simulator spin-off, Great British Railway Journeys, could and should have been the start of a new sub-genre – the first true slow sim. On hearing about the project, I pictured something akin to BBC TV's All Aboards! or this column's own railway outings. The buyer takes a comfy carriage seat, and sits back while landmarks, explained by unobtrusive annotations, scroll past. Instead we get TS 2020 with a simplified UI and six previously released British routes. The bundlers couldn't even be bothered to put a gaudily clad, Bradshaw's Guide-clutching ex Tory minister in a nearby seat.

W is for War on the Sea

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And in it and over it. Announced today, War on the Sea, appears to be making for roughly the same patch of turquoise Pacific brine Task Force Admiral has its eyes on. Like Drydock Dreams Games, Killerfish (the makers of the excellent Cold Waters and Atlantic Fleet) mention Task Force 1942 and the Great Naval Battles series as touchstones. Unlike DDG, Killerfish is promising a dynamic campaign and the possibility to play as the Japanese. As those draws probably won't come with the degree of realism, fine-control of CV decks, and RPG-style immersion Amiral Crapaud is striving for, hopefully the mutual toe treading won't prove too painful for either studio.

X is for Xtra airpower

Fantasy General II's shortage of flappers has been partially addressed by an £11 add-on released last month. Onslaught adds thirteen aerial units, and random map campaigns to a title with a hard-to-come-by “very positive” user rating on Steam.

Y is for You pay nothing

A superb piece of FSX payware became a superb piece of FSX freeware a couple of weeks ago. In a splendid act of COVID-19 prompted generosity, A2A Simulations is now giving away its deeply modelled Warhawk. The freebie comes in various forms (P-40B, P-40C, AVG model, RAF Tomahawk, and Russian Tomahawk) and features an engine that will suffer if mistreated or infrequently maintained.

Z is for Zouave-infested

Assuming my butterfly mind isn't distracted by a bigger, blousier Buddleia spike in the week to come, some or all of next Friday's FP will be devoted to Victory and Glory: The American Civil War. A solid Napoleonic predecessor and the unexpected involvement of Forced March Games give me grounds for cautious optimism.