Skip to main content

The Flare Path: A2Z

A round-up of the realistic

A is for Alphabetised wargame and sim news. Welcome to the cosy corner of RPS where the vehicular is valued, the historical is hallowed, and the paragraphs are shorter than 7.5 cm Kampfwagenkanone 37 L/24 barrels. While this flavour of Flare Path usually relies on the English alphabet for structure, in emergencies – in weeks when Life does its best to unscrew my monocle and turn my upper lip to jelly – I'm perfectly willing to use the dinky letter palette of the Rotokas people of Bougainville.


E is for Exotic ecosystem

Crikey, has it really been five years since Fishing Planet won the first/last Flare Path fish off. Drawn back to virtual river bank and lakeside by another splendid series of Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing, I'm currently considering a trip to Peru's Marron River. The latest Fishing Planet venue is around 5 kilometres long. A motorboat or dugout canoe is required to explore it fully. Plying muddy waters in places 10 metres deep and over 200 metres wide are twenty different species, five of which – Tambaqui, Wolf Fish, Apapa, Redtail Catfish, and Red Peacock Bass - are débutantes.

G is for Gallery gunplay

I'm still waiting for one of Jeff Lapkoff's 3D titles to really grab me. I wonder – could Monuments Men be the one? More RPG than wargame, it's a $15 turn-based dungeon salt-mine crawl inspired by the WW2 activities of the MFAA. Scouring an extensive, trap and guard-dotted tunnel complex for looted art treasures sounds like fun, but as there's no demo, refund option (Monuments Men isn't on Steam) or worthwhile trailer, purchase would be something of a punt.

I is for Indecipherable Indonesian inferno

Unconventional mechanics plus instructions that galloped past before I could read them properly, meant I couldn't make head nor tail of intriguing Indonesian WW2 wargame Surabaya Inferno when I tried it earlier this week. The fact that the £5 GameMaker design introduced me to a 1945 scrap that I knew nothing of beforehand, partially assuaged the frustration. Hopefully Sengkala Dev's presentation and translation will improve going forward. Their enthusiasm for their country's history – history largely ignored by European and North American devs – is obvious. If only the same could be said for their controls and play systems.

K is for Kill or cure?

I'm pretty sure consulting a patient's criminal record before deciding whether to treat them, breaches the Hippocratic Oath. Fingers crossed Field Hospital: Dr Taylor's Story (“Coming Soon”) won't lose sight of realism in its attempt to present players with tough triage decisions. The screenshots on the Steam page suggest a text-heavy take on the subject matter. Personally I'd have been happier if a few of the images had shown ward floorplans and personnel stats à la this print-and-play board wargame.

O is for Omitted vowels

If your homeland's loftiest peak is a 171 metre high pimple topped with a millstone, and your national coat of arms features three blue moggies passant you should be well equipped to solve this week's co-op brainteaser. My own personal experience of Denmark is pretty limited. I spent a rather unusual week there circa 1992. Copenhagen and Helsingør weren't on my itinerary, but a mink farm and a pork scratchings factory were.

P is for Proud to be Polish

Watch on YouTube

Scanning the DLC lists for Train Sim World and Train Simulator must be a disheartening experience for a Polish rail fan. Poland and train simulation go way back, but the genre's big brands have never shown much interest in the routes and rolling stock of the PKP. Fortunately since 2006 local rail enthusiasts have been able to satisfy domestic urges with MaSzyna and, in a year or so's time, they'll be able to scratch itches with SimRail 2021 too. With its steam locos and sizeable network, the latter has the potential to attract foreigners disenchanted by TSW's long-standing kettle deficiency and relatively short and lifeless routes.

R is for Regiments

Watch on YouTube

Bird's Eye Games are happy to admit that Regiments, their due-in-the-Spring WW3 RTT title, is heavily indebted to Eugen's Wargame series. With the Steel Divisions it has less in common apparently, weapon ranges being shorter to encourage manoeuvre, units less fiddly thanks to platoon organisation, and task force composition more flexible because of a deckless approach. Disappointingly the trailer's lack of Challengers, Scimitars, and Gazelles isn't misleading. There's to be no British, French, or Canadian units in the four faction initial release.

S is for Seat slashing

Body cavities appear to be out of bounds in Contraband Police, the upcoming blend of Papers, Please and Car Mechanic Simulator from Crazy Rocks. It's 1980s Eastern Bloc vehicles - Ladas, Fiats, Bukhankas etc – that suffer all the indignities. Interested to see how the game telegraphs guilt and manages the monotony that must surely be part of a customs officer's lot, I'll definitely be giving the released-last-week demo a whirl over the weekend.

T is for Teutonic takeover

A 13-scenario Axis campaign simulating German expansion up to and including the Invasion of Crete, 50+ additional unit types, a host of new specialists and HQ capabilities, rethought forts... we've had to wait a relatively long time for Blitzkrieg, Unity of Command 2's first DLC, but it sounds like the £10 offering is no weekend wonder or shallow rehash.

U is for Unseen U-boats

Watch on YouTube

Iron Wolf Studio look to have a higher regard for history than Tom Hanks does. The latest Destroyer: The U-Boat Hunter dev diary claims sightings of U-boats will be extremely rare outside of cutscenes. Realising that blind man's buff can be just as thrilling as British Bulldog, the Polish devs are working hard to sim the sensors and combat information centre instruments that allowed real WW2 convoy shepherds to 'see' the invisible. As it looks like we're going to be spending a fair amount of our time hunched over a plotting table, it's good to see that table looking so tactile and atmospheric in the sim's first gameplay trailer.

V is for Virtual Vienna

Watch on YouTube

In theory less than a month away, TramSim shows considerable promise. The featured line wends past some of Vienna's most striking landmarks and talk of editors and modder cooperation implies one day there may be alternatives to the default 'Flexity' trams. Judging by this video, the Austrian studio behind the project have put a lot of work into architecture. Audio and physics don't sound/look too shabby either. My only concern at this point is the lack of moving road traffic.  Surely ViewApp realise that one of the most enjoyable aspects of driving a virtual tram is dring-dringing obstructive motorists from time to time.

Read this next