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The Flare Path: Juno's Golden Sword

Simulation & wargame news

What's General Paulus' take on splendid recent releases like Achtung Panzer: Operation Star and Unity of Command? Does Genghis Khan play anything other than Mount & Blade? Does Oliver Cromwell still believe the lack of English Civil War wargames is the result of a fiendish Popish plot? In an effort to answer nagging questions like these The Flare Path has acquired a SpiritMaster IV ouija board. I'm still ploughing through the manual and tutorials at present. Early experiments haven't been wholly successful. In preparation for this week's pieces on the the first Combat Mission: Battle For Normandy module, Steel Beasts PPE 2.6, and Eagle Dynamics future plans, I attempted to contact Michael Wittmann and Chuck Yeager, but ended-up chewing the ectoplasm with Florence Nightingale and Samuel Pepys instead.

Epsom Assaults

Fortunately Flo turned-out to be a pretty big CM fan and was very happy to share her thoughts on CMBN:Commonwealth Forces. The lady admitted to being "f**king excited" by the thought of skirmishing her way to Caen with the help of British, Candian and Polish troops. She confided that the Brit and Canuck scenarios had been amongst her favorites in Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord.

Talking of CMBO, I mentioned the disappointing absence of napalm-spewing Churchill Crocodiles and Universal Carrier 'Wasps' in the otherwise impressive preliminary CMBN:CF unit list:

  • Webley revolver
  • Browning pistol
  • Lee enfield rifle
  • Lee enfield rifle with scope
  • Sten SMG
  • Vickers HMG
  • Bren mk2
  • PIAT
  • 2" mortar
  • Sherman I
  • Sherman IC
  • Sherman II
  • Sherman III
  • Sherman V
  • Sherman VC
  • Churchill IV
  • Churchill V
  • Churchill VI
  • Churchill VII
  • Churchill VIII
  • Cromwell IV
  • Cromwell VI
  • Cromwell VII
  • Cromwell VIII
  • Stuart III
  • Stuart V
  • Achilles
  • Wolverine
  • Sexton
  • M5A1 halftracks
  • M9A1 halftrack
  • White scout car
  • Otter LRC
  • Daimler Mk II Armored Car
  • Humber Mk III Scout Car
  • Humber MkIV Armored Car
  • T17E Staghound
  • Universal Carrier (Vickers MMG)
  • Universal Carrier (Bren LMG)
  • Universal Carrier (Mortar)
  • Universal Carrier (OP)
  • Loyd Carrier
  • Bedford QLD - GS
  • Bedford QLT - Troop
  • 6pdr AT Gun
  • 6pdr AT Gun (Airborne)
  • 17pdr AT Gun
  • King Tiger (Porsche turret)
  • Jagdpanther-g1
  • Pz IIL Lynx
  • Marder I
  • Wespe

Flo directed me towards a typically defensive official forum statement that explained but didn't - in my mind at least - completely excuse the omission.

"..all good things take time to do. We are working flat out on a variety of stuff that doesn't involve flames... Flame stuff is right up there with the big things requested, but there are LOTS of big things requested. Even with increased staffing we're still about 200 years behind where you guys want us to be. Anybody who thinks our games are unplayable until they have all these features should just steer clear of Combat Mission."

As I understand it, flamethrowers were an important element in British and Canadian tactics in Normandy. Not featuring them, even in a fudged form, in a 'Commonwealth' module feels like a compromise too far for this old pyromaniac wargamer.

Flo was more alarmed/mystified by the apparent lack of turretless Cruiser tanks. As she pointed out, "It seems f***king weird that oddities like the Otter LRC and the Loyd Carrier appear to have made the cut, but t**t-wagons like the Ram Kangaroo haven't".

One thing we were both agreed upon, was playing Michael Wittmann in a CMBN recreation of 'Villers-Bocage' could be one of the wargaming highlights of the year. As The Lady with the Lamp put it "Cut me and I'll bleed red-white-and-blue, but f**k me if there's isn't something f**king magnetic about that f**ker's dash and talent".


The Restoration

Sam Pepys' knowledge of contemporary combat flight-sims is, frankly, patchy. He was unaware of the flap over Black Shark 2 so the news that Eagle Dynamics had, very sensibly, responded to it, by sharing their intriguingly diverse/ambitious future plans with fans, didn't mean a great deal.

Honestly, he seemed more interested in telling me about the real inspiration for the dome of St Pauls Cathedral (Wren's mistress' left "dumpling") and grumbling about the fact that he'd never earned a penny from his diaries, than hearing about how one of gaming's last serious combat flight sim studios were planning to release five(!) very different projects over the coming year.

In addition to giving the DCS Warthog a 'US fixed-wing' companion (surely an F-16 or similarly nimble jet) the team are toiling away on the first 'Flying Legends' aircraft. Informed forum speculation suggests this propellor-blessed throwback(?) might be based on one of The Fighter Collection's (ED's parent company) current or past possessions. Given that simmers aren't exactly short of high-fidelity recreations of Spitfires and Mustangs, I've got my fingers crossed for a cat (Bear, Wild or Hell) or a crop-dusting, forest-fire dousing Air Tractor AT-802.

When the conversation shifted to Flaming Cliffs 3 - a coming payware modernisation package for Flaming Cliffs 2 (ED's eight-aircraft Lock On follow-up) Sam commenced one of his interminable Great Fire anecdotes (the one about burying his precious Stilton cheese in the back garden). He didn't seem to care a fig that that FC2 owners sim would - for a price - eventually get to fly their Frogfeet, Fulcrums, and F-15s in the same firmament as DCS: A-10Cs and Black Sharks.

He wasn't all that impressed that a Nevada scenery add-on was on the way, either. What started out as third-party effort, and later was talked about as a possible venue for A-10C training sorties, will finally arrive as free (if you pre-ordered DCS:A-10C) DLC.

Perhaps the most exciting portion of the ED roadmap is the bit devoted to 'Combined Arms'. This $20 adjunct will allow owners of DCS:A-10C, Black Shark 2, and FC3 to switch switch-studded cockpits for bustling HQ bunkers and command vehicles. With it installed, we'll be able to "direct ground units, set fire missions for artillery/multiple rocket launchers, and take the role of a Joint Terminal Air Controller (JTAC)." For those that don't have the patience or the time to experience ED's remarkable sims at their high-fidelity best, Combined Arms looks like a god-send.


Tank Trap

Miss Nightingale had heard of contemporary armour ode Steel Beasts PPE through her friend Mrs Gaskell, but had never actually played it. Apparently Mrs G. spends much of her leisure-time hunched in a plywood mock-up of a Leo turret scanning the horizon for bimbling BMPs and T-72s. The writer of 'North and South' and 'Cranford' has doubtless already seen eSim's latest '2.6' preview vid, the one showcasing coming enhancements like improved audio, chunky infantry, Centurions, helo-holing Shilkas, and a bolstered array of scary wire-guided whizzbangs.

I wonder if she's also seen shots of the new civilian vehicles and watched studio head Nils 'Ssnake' Hinrichsen accidentally incarcerate himself while researching the new playable CV90/30-FI.

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Tim Stone