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The Flare Path: Urgent Fury

Simulation & wargame blather

sorry no time for capitals or punctuation this week theres a flakturm high stack of demos on my desktop and if im going to introduce each and every one of them to you and still have time for a spot of luncheon grammatical niceties must go by the board on the other side of that html ha ha down there roman chariot haulers paw the dust grenada awaits invasion viking history masquerades as third person adventure and a motorbike sim prepares to graze you in places where youve never been grazed before


Alternatively I could just type really fast. GP Bikes fast.

Hell For Leathers

The trial/latest beta for this formidable crotch-rocket recreation has been around for a couple of months. If FP wasn't so inexcusably wing- and hex-centric I'd almost certainly have noticed it sooner.

Featuring extremely strong physics and (happily) extremely strong rider skeletons, the demo lets you tear around a fictional 4.5km circuit astride a ridiculously thin slice of car.

Even with the various lean assists activated, a racing line aid visible, and the camera trailing your bike like a failed drogue chute, staying in the saddle is challenging. Over the last couple of days my simbuttocks have careered across so many kerbs I now can't grate cheese, carrot, or nutmeg without wincing.

PiBoSo, the clever swine responsible for the thrills and spills, is a one man race-sim factory. Having cornered the market in classy (though, sadly, AI-less) karting and MotoGP games and dipped his toes into the four-wheeled mainstream he's now got his sights set on MX Simulator's mud spattered crown.

In contrast to MX Sim, the riders in MX Bikes should occasionally (frequently if GP Bikes is any guide) separate from steeds. In terms of track deformation and mod friendliness the newcomer promises to be at least as capable as its rival. Will that bot deficit pothole MX Bikes' appeal? With a beta/demo set to arrive this Spring, we should find out pretty soon.


Free Circus Tickets

Phew. Qvadriga, the turn-based chariot racing game I've enthusiastically Flare Pathed on several occasions over the last couple of years, is out, and isn't horribly expensive.

Matrix Games/Slitherine are asking £13 for the right to found and manage a Roman chariot team, travel around the Med in search of fame and fortune, and whip, side-swipe, and squash hated rivals. A fair price? I intend to spend much of this weekend Ben Hurtling so should have the definitive answer to that question by the time we next meet.

In the meantime I recommend you hitch up your toga and hurry along to where a small but illuminating demo awaits.

The management side isn't represented and there's only two tracks and teams to choose from, but a contest or two should leave you with a good feel for the elegant order system, tension-magnifying 'dynamic' mode (where commands are issued against the clock), and the crowd-stoking savagery of the racing. It's rare for an entire field of aurigas (charioteers) to finish an event unscathed. Some poor bastard invariably gets dragged to his death after a qvadriga (chariot) roll. Usually someone will be turned into a flesh-and-bone mosaic while dashing for the safety of the lime-plastered armco.


Grenades For Grenadians

If you like your tanks fast, your winters bitter, and your battlefields birchy, 2014 is turning into a quite a year. Combat Mission: Red Thunder and Graviteam Tactics: Mius Front are nearby, and Lock 'n' Load: Heroes of Stalingrad and Panzer Battles: Kursk are already amongst us.

The latter, a characteristically solid and scholarly offering from one of wargaming's most traditional and experienced teams, is, understandably, hogging the limelight over at at the moment. On my last visit I almost failed to notice another recent release.

Squad Battles: Grenada is a wonderfully generous Operation Urgent Fury freebie. A ten-mission standalone tactical TBS, it fastidiously recreates scraps most of us won't have gamed before.

Together with the clutch of low-headcount jungle skirmishes, there are much larger engagements featuring US parachute drops and Grenadian BTR-60-backed counterattacks. Resistance is frequently tenacious, (especially when you run into Cuban forces), unit mixes and weaponry intriguing. For instance, until yesterday I'm not sure I'd ever played a wargame scenario in which my only AFV was an armoured bulldozer.

SB stalwarts won't need to peruse the succinct 'Getting Started' pdf. Series virgins should definitely do some reading before deploying. Tillerisms like the manual toggle between 'fire' and 'movement' modes, and the need to manually deploy reinforcements (they won't automatically appear on the map) may catch out those that have skipped basic training.


The Long(boat) View

History is my food and drink... my sword and shield. On one memorable occasion in 1992 even my chair and mattress. The point is, I love the stuff and thank my lucky stars daily that I was brought up in a household, and educated in schools, where The Past was valued and vividly evoked.

If you feel the same way, you might want to steer any younglings you know in the direction of the Playing History: Vikings demo, or commit a few dollars to the project via its Kickstarter page.

Serious Games Interactive, a Danish studio I first encountered when they were busy crafting gritty educational games about things like child soldiers, sweatshops, and the Palestine situation, have lately turned their attention to historical themes like the slave trade and the plague. Their current work-in-progress is history dissemination at its most subtle.

Players mouse-click (hopefully, keyboard controls are planned) Erik, a Viking lad, through a 3rd-person adventure ring-ditched by historical truths. There's trade, village life, religion, romance, and raiding. Currently the turnbased-combat feels a bit half-baked, and the 'secret coin' collection mini-game a little out of place (the 'spot historical anachronisms to earn gold' idea sounds far cleverer), but the 30-minute demo segment left me eager to know more about the protagonist's fate, so the omens are good.


The Flare Path Foxer

Budget cuts mean the Flare Path Royal Horse Artillery no longer fires royal horses during 21-gun salutes. It's mostly proletarian goats nowadays. Hopefully, last week's foxer VIPs - Palindrome, LordBilisknir, All is Well, Matchstick, foop, skink74, Stugle, Medicine, phlebas and quietone - will be too busy admiring the regiment's 500-year-old bombards to notice the cheap ammunition.

(Cigarette brands)

  • A) Long Beach
  • B) Bristol, Buckingham
  • C) Black Cat
  • D) Regal
  • E) 555
  • F) Prince
  • G) Embassy
  • H) Solent
  • I) Kent
  • J) Camel

(The Netherlands)

In addition to the bombards, the FPRHA also owns an impressive 1200mm Krupp Cowitzer. Captured near Amiens in the Summer of 1918, 'Dicke Frida' trundles around on four specially adapted A7V tanks, and can fire a medium-sized heifer a distance of 75 miles. Work out the theme of this week's collage before anyone else, and this magnificent beef cannon is yours to play with for a whole weekend*.

*Prize includes 2 cows. Additional cows £1700 each.

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