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The Flare Path: Dave Does Dovetail

Simulation & Wargame Blather

Six Sure Signs That Your Sim Studio is a Spectacular Success:


A Crown Copyright image Private Eyed with the help of www.superlame.com

David 'You're all in this together' Cameron spent a portion of Tuesday touring the Kent base of burgeoning sim superpower Dovetail Games. Flesh was pressed, sims were politely inspected, and staggering success was slyly appropriated...

“Businesses like Dovetail Games are a crucial part of our long term economic plan for the country, and it is thrilling to come and see the role they are playing in Britain’s economic recovery. Here is a business that six years ago employed eight people and now employs 98. It is growing by about a third every year and wants to stay right here in Medway and continue its expansion and success.”

According to the ever-reliable Daily Mail, when shown FSX Steam Edition, Cameron remarked “I've used one of those. It feels scarily real” before grumbling about the continued lack of offline functionality, and the surprising weakness of the initial DLC line-up.



I spent yesterday evening attempting to secure a hex-strewn hill not a million miles from Dovetail's dockside HQ. The Battle of Hastings is one of 42 historical and semi-historical scenarios included in Jeff Lapkoff's latest turnbased tactics offering.

Vengeance's scraps all take place between 500 and 1500AD, and thanks to an ingenious battle-group command system and an admirably uncomplicated turn structure, rarely take longer than 30 minutes to play out. The pace and control simplicity mask surprising depth. As you'd expect from a title distributed by HPS Simulations, the game is built on solid board wargame-endebted foundations. Morale, fatigue, terrain, weather, LoS, unit facing, ammo levels, leader ability, formation choice, armour type... they all exert their influence on the military maths.

But it's that command system that really elevates the $30 Vengeance above the ranks of the ordinary. Armies come pre-arranged in distinct wings – left, right, centre, reserve etc. Each wing has a unique rated leader unit who, assuming they're breathing and within bawling distance of their men, can be used to issue en-masse orders like advance, attack, and fall-back. Rather than painstakingly plot moves or targets for all 20-odd units in a specific wing, you can just mouse-stab a single button and let the friendly AI work its digital digits to the bone. Because there's always the option to fine-tune by choosing arrow/bolt destinations, manually rearranging individual units, or tweaking AI combat doctrines, the occasional clumsiness of automatic battle-group manoeuvring is easily corrected.

With 20m hexes, units representing around 20 warriors, and dozens of different weapons and armour types modelled, battles should be intimate affairs. They are, up to a point, but the decision to go with strength steps rather than unit headcounts, and to mark costly clashes with blood stains rather than corpse sprites makes the mayhem a little harder to visualize than it might have been.

AI-wise I'm not entirely sure what to make of Vengeance yet. There are four flavours of foe available (Balanced, Aggressive, Cautious, Chaotic) and no sign of heavy-handed scripting, but my artificial opponent has struggled in a couple of the scenarios I've tried thus far. At Agincourt he had no answer to my lazily plotted arrow storms. At Courtrai, after watching two of his wings come unstuck amongst my caltrops and ditches, he seemed to reconsider, holding another cluster of units back until I foolishly left the shelter of my earthworks. At Hastings playing the defending Saxons, he fought much better, doggedly monopolising the heights and, at one point, cleverly withdrawing one wing that was in imminent danger of being overwhelmed. One consistent half-flaw is missile troop recklessness. The CPU sometimes pushes bowmen forward with gay abandon.

And while we're grumbling... Jeff, are you aware of the overlapping text issue? Do you have any plans to implement on-map damage summaries or on-counter morale indicators? Do all the battles have to be left-right affairs? Relatively small battlefields and armies that always seem to start facing each other along an east-west axis, mean scenarios aren't nearly as varied as they could be.

With a few tweaks, a random skirmish generator, and - if wishes were warhorses – some form of campaign system, this could be quite the thing. Right now, I'd advise anyone in the market for a plausible pre-Panzer wargame to sally in the direction of Ultimate General: Gettysburg or Pike & Shot before seeking Vengeance.




The Flare Path Foxer

Adept airframe analyst AFKAMC made last week's puzzle look easy. A fine F-82 spot swiftly followed by some solid spaceflight program sleuthing, and Roman's 'twin' foxer disintegrated like a meringue Messerschmitt. Subsequent clue decrypts from the likes of Matchstick, All is Well, Shiloh, and phlebas completed the demolition.

a. Twin Peaks (Mervyn and Class 44/45/46)
b. Castor beans
c. Evil Twin inventory screen
d. Kofi Annan
e. F-82
f. Gemini 4 patch
g. Bristol Cherub flat twin
h. Xolotl (Quetzalcoatl's twin)
i. Twin Sector logo


I witnessed Roman's last will and testament this week. When my Chief Foxer Setter pops his clogs his vast fortune will be split between the local air ambulance (they're currently flying a Bristol Sycamore) and the RSPRH (the Royal Society for the Protection of Red Herrings).

All answers in one thread, please.

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About the Author

Tim Stone


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