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The Flare Path: Isle Of Boobies

Simulation & wargame news

Nobody knows for sure why the Hawaiian Giant Booby (Microsofta Flightus) died out. Some say its nest sites were invaded by shipwrecked rats. Others suggest Polynesian cloak-makers hunted it to extinction. A few believe the bird's demise was directly linked to its unusual habit of aero-ovulation. Me, I'm a subscriber to the 'Fatally flawed DLC' theory. MS released the wrong add-ons at the wrong times at the wrong prices.

The Add-Ons That Might Have Saved MS Flight

  • Dolphin Pack

An MH-65 coastguard helo together with base scenery and a search-and-rescue sortie generator (£8)

  • Sailplane Pack

Two different engineless thermal-riders plus the opportunity to compete in gliding competitions against human or AI pilots (£8)

  • Freight Pack

Carving out a career in Hawaii's dog-eat-dog air freight sector requires solid airmanship, a gentle touch, and a good head for business. Have you got what it takes to prosper? Clients and consignments are randomly generated. The only certainties are regular maintenance bills, unhelpful weather, and ruthless AI rivals. Many competitors will attempt to undercut you. Particularly determined/nasty ones may go even further. Do you spend this week's profits on a new Garmin for your faithful DC-3, or a new guard-dog for your recently vandalised hangar? (£12)

  • Contraband Pack

Legitimate air freighting is a mug's game. Truly ambitious aviators make their fortunes elsewhere. Your charter business is on its knees when a mysterious Venezuelan pharmaceutical rep turns up with a job offer. Nights of tense radar limboing, coastguard dodging, and palm tree skimming follow. Secluded beaches and isolated stretches of highway become your runways. Things go swimmingly until one night, one of your contacts decides to share a dangerous secret. (Eight story missions. Freight Pack required. £10)

  • Gentlemen Don't Wear Parachutes

The base pack for a four-part Crimson Skies semi-sequel, GDWP feature flyable Devastators and Brigands with working weaponry, plus a six-mission story sequence with narration by Daniel 'Nathan Zachary' Riordan. (£12)

  • Flight Z

How many clinging brain-munchers does it take to prevent a fully loaded Cessna Grand Caravan from taking off? Find out with the help of this Zeitgeist-surfing Flight supplement. The 50st state has been overun by restless corpses. It's your job to listen out for the dynamically generated radio broadcasts of survivor groups, then mount daring aerial rescue missions. Expect plenty of hard evacuation choices (Do you give the last seat to the pregnant ex-cop or the old soldier with heart problems?), lots of nailbiting landings and take-offs, and plenty of grisly propeller work. (Pack Includes Cessna Grand Caravan with working windscreen wipers. £12)

  • Jetstream Pack

The days when every Flight flight started and ended in US airspace are finally over! Jetstream uses GEFS Online-type wizardry to retrieve and render global scenery wherever you are flying. Follow the Nile! Sky-hike through the Himalayas! The 'Where shall I go today' magic that was such an important part of MSFS is back, and yours for a mere £5.

  • Lazarus Pack

This wonderful little gizmo converts MSFS flyables into fully functioning Flight steeds. Don't ask us how it works, it just does.  (Free)

Time For A Nap

It's been a pretty hectic week here at Flare Path HQ. I spent most of Monday and Tuesday kicking myself for not making it to a recent press event in Berlin. Marcel Kuhnt and Rüdiger Hülsmann, the engineers behind omnisplendid omnibus opus OMSI, arranged a tour of the game's Spandau venue in a genuine SD200 doubledecker (On the right left in the pic below). Guests no doubt spent most of the trip grumbling about clipped kerbs, delays, and small-denomination change.

Wednesday also passed unproductively. (In the morning FP pal and British Olympics supremo Sebastian Coe rung up in a bit of a flap. One of his scoreboard operators had gone down with scurvy and he was looking for someone to go up to Hampden Park and organise the display screen graphics for that night's women's foot-to-ball events. Naturally, I obliged.)

It wasn't until yesterday lunchtime that I finally got down to some proper gaming. The proper game in question was Mount & Blade: Napoleonic Wars, an £8 Warband add-on that's been gathering dust on my GamersGate shelf since its release in April.

From a singleplayer perspective, it was soon pretty obvious I hadn't missed much. Developer Flying Squirrel Entertainment, offers no campaign mode. While the large state-controlled armies and tourney-free cities of the period obviously don't lend themselves to M&B's traditional rags-to-riches picaresque-ing, I'm sure, with a bit of thought and effort, the map layer could have been adapted to tell the story of a single military campaign, or, perhaps, a gang of escaped POWs or routed troops making for the coast.

Static enemies and a crude inherited order system ill-suited to controlling large bodies of men, mean solitary commanders are unlikely to extract much pleasure from the Custom Battle mode either. As you stand beside smoke-wreathed lines of musket-wielding redcoats, there are glimpses of an utterly fabulous SP experience - a new breed of first-person wargame - but the inanimate AI and the lack of an RTS-style overview swiftly dissipates such pipedreams The day when we can command a Napoleon Total War scrap from a warm saddle or well-appointed knoll, is still, sadly some way off.

Well, it is if you're unwilling or unable to try Nap Wars' singular multiplayer. As vids like this one prove...

Watch on YouTube

...there are groups of players keen to use this adjunct to get as close as possible to the spectacular/suicidal battle tactics of the period. Having blundered into a couple of line battles so far, I can definitely see myself coming back for more. After years of sprinting and strafing, crouching and sneaking - basically doing everything in my power to make myself as difficult or inconspicuous a target as possible - there's something delightfully bonkers about playing a manshoot in which uniforms shout “I'm over here!” and natural urges to run and duck must be ruthlessly suppressed.

When every fibre of your being is shouting 'Leg it!' - when the comrades each side of you have been felled by whistling musket balls - and you find yourself calmly reloading your Brown Bess and waiting for the order to fire, the fundamental lunacy of war, so often sanitized, abstracted, or plain ignored in our wargames, is right there in front of you, quivering and palpable.


The Flare Path Foxer

Every Thursday night FP pops round to his pal Claude's house for a game of chess. Claude, like FP, is a transport obsessive - indeed, he's so keen on vehicles he insists on substituting all the chess pieces for appropriate pictures of planes, trains, ships and tanks. Last night FP (black) had just orchestrated an apparent checkmate when Claude's cat, Sarafand, sent the images flying. Because he could remember which squares were occupied, FP was able to reconstruct the board and claim the victory. Can you do the same? (Five of the eight pieces are white.)


Last week's Kit King was unquestionably Matchstick whose illuminating replies correctly identified...

(Left top) 1/48th Avia B-534 IV from Eduard
(Middle top) 1/48th EA-6B Prowler from Italeri
(Right top) 1/72nd Mil Mi-2US Gunship Variant from HobbyBoss
(Left middle) 1/430th Battleship HMS Vanguard from Hasegawa
(Middle middle) 1/35th Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf.D from Bronco
(Bottom left) 1/35th Allied Assault Monte Cassino 1944 From Dragon Models
(Bottom middle) 1/32nd Mikoyan Mig-23 ML Flogger G from Trumpeter
(Bottom right) 1/35 Land Rover Defender XD ‘Wolf’ WMIK from HobbyBoss

For his efforts, I am a paranoid troll is mentioned in 1/35th scale dispatches.

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