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The Flare Path: Fancy A Viennese Whirl?

Simulation & wargame blather

Check mirror. Indicate. Pull out. Nod at passing tram driver. Coast towards red traffic light. Dab brakes. Slide open side window. Feel cool night air on skin. Smell lilacs. Remember lilac bush that grew beside the war memorial at Pastinakweg. Picture Kathrin. Remember that holiday at Lake Balaton in '93. Grin. Accelerate. Accelerate some more. Curse after clipping kerb at Oberfeld. Sound horn at cheeky bus lane-blocking Golf. Nose into heavy traffic near Kagraner Platz. Contemplate trail of tail lights twinkling like a flare path on Breitenleer Strasse.

This is the life. Outside, the sparrows are shining and the sun is chirping. Inside, the tea is poured, the packet of Viennese Whirls is open, and Flare Path's OMSI-infatuated proprietor is preparing for a few more blissful hours in the charming company of Vienna: The High-Floor Bus LU 200.

M-R-Software's awesome omnibus sim has had to wait a long time for its first piece of professional third-party payware, but, crikey, the wait was worth it. Vienna recreates, highly persuasively, a north-eastern suburb of the Austrian capital that's well-known to Napoleonic wargamers. The 2005-era 24A line runs like a sabre scar through the middle of Marchfeld, the flat, once-arcadian venue of the Battles of Wagram and Aspern-Essling.

Between downtown Kagraner Platz - a busy public transport hub - and dozing, middle-class Neuessling (a couple of hours' stroll from Wolfgang Přiklopil's infamous cellar) there's 20-odd kilometres of wiggling bus lanes, quiet suburban boulevards, fast rural blacktop and intricate junctions... basically a busload of bespoke topography guaranteed to make an OMSI aficionado's indicator flash faster.

Unusually and somewhat disconcertingly, the route includes sections where you're sharing road-space with giant pantographed wireworms. With help from Marcel and Rüdiger, ambitious developer ViewApp has fashioned two forms of Wiener Linien tram. Sadly AI-only, both the old high-floor 'E' type and newer low-floor 'B' type behave appropriately, stopping to pick up and deposit passengers, and pausing at tram-specific traffic lights. When trespassing, you're expected to obey these signals too, unless the intersection in question boasts its own bus-targeted subsidiary lights.

Three forms of traffic lights! Music to the ears of the novelty-hungry OMSIist.

The 20€ add-on's single-deck star is festooned with eccentric/authentic panel paraphernalia. Though drivers of the long-serving LPG-fuelled LU 200 didn't get to sell tickets or waggle a gear stick, they did get to toy with singular roller-display and announcement systems...

...and operate door controls that are nowhere near as confusing as the manual makes them sound...

Audio and physics are at the heart of OMSI's unholy allure, and Vienna doesn't disgrace itself in these respects. Though I detected the odd recycled transmission whine and brake squeak, the LU 200 has a feel and accent all of its own.

The Viennese are represented by the same bag-less, coat-less lumbago-afflicted mannequins that represented Spandau's residents, but they do at least greet you and grumble about late running and bitter temperatures with local lilts.

The Flare Path verdict?

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A Sturmtiger-Sized Lie

Was it disrespectful to spend a portion of yesterday (the 69th anniversary of D-Day) pushing digital tanks, grunts, and planes around a hex map of the Normandy coast? I could claim I was playing Slitherine Group's latest standalone WW2 TBS because I wanted to learn about the challenges, tactics, and human cost of Operation Overlord, but that would be a big fat Sturmtiger-sized lie. In truth I was playing Allied Corps because I wanted to see tiny Sherman Fireflies chisel hit points from petite Panther tanks... titchy typhoons rocket the road wheels off miniscule Marders... Red Devils of reduced stature polish off pint-sized Panzer grenadiers. I wanted to see if the old Panzer General formula still had the power to captivate.

It does.

Though Panzer General/Panzer Corps/Allied Corps' highly stylised combat and simplistic AI means you don't get the theatre-specific flavour and cunning CPU foes of, say, Unity of Command, there are compensations. One of the friendliest interfaces in PC wargaming; a vast selection of fetchingly depicted units (900!); a well-wrought and wide-ranging 30-mission campaign in which linearity is offset by an appealing core unit carry-over mechanism; Allied Corps is so affable and generous, it's easy to forgive the conceptual conservatism. Assuming you've got £25 to spare, and the glut of Panzer Corps add-ons hasn't dulled your appetite for PG-style pursuits, then report here for oodles of old-fashioned wargaming pleasure.


The Flare Path Foxer

What's got eight arms, one moustache, lives at the bottom of the ocean, and is frightfully good at defoxing? FurryLippedSquid! The unusually perceptive cephalopod named and located four of the seven bird-ships from last week's collage.

  • African Kookaburra - South Vietnam (Australian silver coin)
  • STOLT Guillemot - Denmark (stamp)
  • Nord Nightingale - Dominican Republic (photo of WAAF nurses)
  • DMS Siskin - Abu Dhabi (British inter-war biplane)

h_m_murdoch, The_Great_Skratsby, and Hydrogene found a fifth...

  • Black Swan - Isle of Wight, UK (Crimson Skies ace portrait)

and jimbobjunior a sixth...

  • STX Oriole - Adelaide (Baltimore Orioles logo)

Only the Dutch barge 'Moa' escaped detection.

For services to ornithosomething FuryLippedSquid and friends all get Flare Path flair points carved from pieces of shipwrecked frigatebirds.

I was shipwrecked once. In the Bristol Channel it was. For 12 long hours I spoke to no-one but an angry dendrochronologist and 48 cold, wet, cub scouts. I only hung on to my sanity by tearing a beachcombed copy of Lord of the Flies into letter-sized confetti and using the confetti to create the world's largest wordsearch.

Containing 4,989 words fewer than the breathtaking Lundy Lexiathan (currently on display in the Somerset Shoe Museum) the puzzle below shouldn't present too many problems once the theme has been fathomed. A Flare Path flair point made from illegal West Country coinage to anyone that extracts one of the eleven words.

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