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The Flare Path: Victory Over The Ants

Simulation & wargame blather

Greetings from the Word Sahara, the place where RPS writers find themselves when they run out of interesting ways to introduce game news. I've been trudging across the dunes for the past hour-and-a-half and apart from stumbling upon a wrecked P-40 Kittyhawk with the words “BEWARE OF THE ANTS!” daubed on its canopy, and glimpsing a shimmering Battle of the Nile in the far distance, there's been nothing to break the monotony. Naval Action, Open General, sorry, I've failed you.


In the circumstances the least I can do is point excitedly in the direction of the first batch of Naval Action vids and enthusiastically endorse Open General: Anomalous Operations' anti-ant antics.

Game Labs' single-player-spurning Age of Sail sim has been undergoing closed focus testing since December. I'm not entirely sure what the purpose of focus testing is, but I imagine it's got something to do with perfecting the game's telescope and sextant modelling.

According to dev Maxim Zasov, the tests have, thus far, gone “extremely well”.

“Participants believe that we have found the right balance of realism, action and depth and gameplay is actually very good. We have not found anything unexpected, as we went into testing with an open mind. Sometimes developers assume they know what customers want – which is usually wrong. We are active supporters of community driven development and many features suggested by users are already in the game.”

The focus right now is on framerates, fine tuning ship balance and controls, and ensuring the Greenlight campaign goes without a buntline hitch. The more successful the optimization, the more tars we will eventually see hauling sheets, slaving over hot cannons, and surging across gang planks during boarding actions.

Mentions of boxhauling (the nautical equivalent of a three-point turn) and clubhauling (the nautical equivalent of a handbrake turn) in the Steam feature list, suggest there'll be ample opportunity for demonstrating superior seamanship. Maxim again:

“You can get extra performance from your ship if you use advanced sail management options. However, manual tricks can backfire as well. Turn the yards the wrong way or at the wrong time and you could be stuck into the wind longer, or fail your boxhauling maneuver. Users playing on auto-skipper will make less mistakes on average.”

Where are the devs getting their Age of Sail facts from? Books mostly, by the sound of it (“Admiralty firing tests, ship logs, historical accounts and other materials... we've collected a significant library on the topic, including rare manuscripts”) but they've also got an ex STS Sedov crewman on the team to help ensure authenticity.

As honorary under-secretary of the Association of Happy Hermits (Next AGM: Never) I have, of course, been badgering Game Labs about the lack of single-player plans. Their latest response -“We know there is demand for such a product, but our quality targets are high and to make a single player game well we need great writers. Once we find the one we will do it.” - is not particularly encouraging, suggesting as it does that the Kievites still haven't realised that their handsome ship models and (fingers-crossed) compelling combat approach attached to a SH3-esque campaign would spread joy like an HMS Victory close-range broadside spread grapeshot.


Surviving The Ant Apocalypse: Tim's Ten Top Tips

Checked out fab free Panzer General homage Open General recently? During the past twelve months Luis Guzman, one of the busiest bees in wargaming's hexy hive, has tweaked the engine in countless ways, and modders have added hundreds of new historically-inspired scraps and scrappers.

In addition to the dozens of WW2 and WWI campaigns that are OG's main attraction, there are now integrated 'efiles' covering Roman vs Roman and Roman vs. Celt combat, the Spanish Civil War, the Russian Civil War, and mid-19th century revolutionary struggles in Central Europe. I'm currently fighting the British in WWI-era East Africa (Kaiser General: Easy Safari - low headcounts make this a good place to start if you're new to OG or fancy shorter scens) and battling giant irradiated ants in New Mexico in a splendidly pulpy, hairpullingly tough Cold War campaign.

Redfox's 17-scenario 'Anomalous Operations' sequence draws heavily on 1950s sci-fi. Survive the Reds and the Red Ants and pretty soon you find yourself facing resurgent Nazis on the moon. Novices are likely to find the going extremely tough, but interrogate the manual and peruse the following tips and you may just survive Antageddon.

1. Don't be afraid of upping the prestige modifier (OG's equivalent of a difficulty setting) before starting the campaign. Prestige points are generated by scenario success and the more of them you earn, the more you'll be able to spend on new core units and unit replacements in subsequent battles.

2. Canny use of recon assets is vital in Anomalous Operations. Unlike other OG unit types, your vulnerable jeeps and scout cars can move in stages and move after combat, making them ideal for finishing off grievously wounded adversaries.

3. Don't expect to succeed without some investment in artillery. Add an arty unit to your core force as soon as possible, then screen that unit with infantry and armour. Suppress tough adversaries with barrages before committing to a direct attack.

4. Get to know your COs. Leaders are spontaneously generated during combat. Each adds different abilities to the parent unit so it pays to check the details via the unit info panel (right-click on unit, then hover cursor over leader icon)

5. The damage predictor is just that, a predictor. Just because the cursor says an attack won't cause enemy losses or suppression doesn't mean it isn't worth a try.

6. Failing to meet victory conditions in an OG scenario means instant campaign failure so it pays to read briefings thoroughly. In most engagements you'll be attempting to secure a set number of VLs, but in some you may be asked to escort, exit, or protect mission-critical units (MSUs).

7. Unit suddenly lost its edge or is unable to fire? It's probably run out of ammo. Spend a turn manually resupplying it with the appropriate button or hot key (ALT+S).

8. Bolstering battered units with timely replacements can and often does make the difference between defeat and victory. Consider rotating badly damaged units out of a frontline so that they can regain strength in safe surroundings. Usually, if PP points are scarce, you'll want to patch up core units first.

9. With terrain so important in OG and backgrounds occasionally a tad misleading, it's wise to dab CTRL+L now and again. There are few things more infuriating/embarrassing than realising you've marooned important vehicles on the wrong side of an impassible mountain range or river.

10. There are three types of ant loose in Anomalous Operations: the flame-spitting Fire Ant, the tank-like Warrior, and the pesky Scout. All should be approached with extreme caution and terminated with extreme prejudice. Basically, the only good ant is a dead ant. Give those formic ****ers hell!


The Flare Path Foxer

Pretty soon Captain Edgar Bedford-Rascal III will be picking The Flare Path team for this year's Foxer World Cup in Chad. JB and All is Well must be hoping for a call up after their strong performances last Friday. And if Matchstick, Palindrome, skink74, mrpier, and Shiloh aren't aboard FOX-1* when it touches down at N'Djamena International, I'll eat FOX-87*.

*Team FP's temperamental Airspeed Ambassador.
*Team's FP's magnificent mahogany hatstand.

a. Belgian Gate (Agate)
b. Panzerkampfwagen VI driver's vision port (Tiger's eye)
c. P-800 Oniks missile (Onyx)
d. Tokyo Rose (Rose quartz)
e. Smokey Bear (Smoky quartz)
f. Gibraltar quarts (quartz)*
g. Jasper Maskelyne (Jasper)
h. Richard Todd in Yangtse Incident (Amethyst)
i. Blackburn Roc (Rock crystal)

*Strictly speaking, the theme was 'quartz' not 'precious stones'


Greetings from The Word Sahara, the place where Tim Stones go when they run out of interesting ways to introduce foxers. I've been trudging across the dunes for the past hour-and-a-half and apart from stumbling upon a wrecked Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 with the words “BEWARE OF THE RED HERRINGS!” daubed on its canopy there's been nothing to break the monotony.

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Tim Stone