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The Flare Path's May Day Parade

Simulation & wargame blather

...was a bit of a fiasco this year. The Maus replica managed to wedge itself between Specsavers and Cash Converters forcing everyone behind it (85% of the parade) to detour through the Quaker Burial Ground. The counter-IED systems on the Humvees shut down several life support machines in the local hospital. And perhaps most regrettable of all, due to a schedule mix-up, the flypast by the Red Harrows ended-up coinciding with the release of 1000 peace doves. If it hadn't been for the impressive post-parade firing demonstration put on by SAM Simulator's SA-8B Geckos, and the thrilling mock battle staged by Graviteam Tactics: Mius Front's T-34s and StuGs, the event would have been a total disaster.

The skies over the Mediterranean are a pretty perilous place to be at present. If you're a migrating songbird or raptor, you've a fair chance of being plucked from the blue by a pillock with a shotgun. If you're a target drone or a trespassing warbird, you run a high risk of having your wings blown off by a Gecko-equipped SAM Simmer.

Added to Hpasp's marvellous free radar-em-up yesterday morning, the short-range SA-8B is a spring chicken compared to the five Soviet SAM systems already impeccably immortalised.

Unlike its Khrushchevian peers, the boat-bellied Gecko can traverse rivers and track and engage hedge-hopping targets with the aid of a built-in camera. Currently, amphibiosity has no advantage in SAM Sim sessions (all of which start with AA assets deployed) but that tiny blue-hued TV screen is, in theory, terrible news for contour-chasing aircraft.

So far I've managed to dunk a few ambling Apaches in the Aegean, and slay the odd Cessna over the Asuluk test range, but until the inevitable tutorial vids arrive I don't think there'd be much point in me taking on the four bundled combat scenarios. Set in Cairo in 1970, this quartet stick you in the back of a sweltering Egyptian SA-8B and ask you to protect the city and yourself against swarms of swift Shrike-equipped IAF Phantoms and Skyhawks.

As usual, the Cyrillic-scattered panels are a pleasure to ogle/fondle, and the accompanying pdf manual makes fascinating reading. Not only will the latter teach you how to operate a weapon still very active on the world's battlefields, it will also introduce you to Dmitriy Ustinov, plainly The Bravest Man That Ever Lived.


Business As Usual

Spare a thought for Graviteam. They're doing unprecedented things with wargame TacAI at present, in a city where focusing on the day-job must be bally tricky. Behavioural subtleties on the way in done-when-it's-done Operation Star sequel Graviteam Tactics: Mius Front will include...

...jiggling tank riders that, once dismounted, automatically use their taxis as moving shields until changing battlefield conditions dictate new tactics.

...tank hunters that hurl smoke grenades sensibly while close assaulting AFVs

…recon units more interested in discretion than valour.

… and advancing formations that send infantry ahead to sow swirling smoke screens.

I'm desperately hoping that new GUI is as ergonomic and logical as it looks, and the AI improvements include slightly warier tanks and smarter tank drivers. Series flaws are relatively minor, and if the Ukrainians finally succeed in banishing them this time out, then Mius Front could well turn out to be the military masterpiece they've always threatened to make.



The Flare Path Foxer

Last week's EDD extraordinaire was Bookmark. No one else noticed that the eight artefacts unearthed by Matchstick, mrpier, foop, phuzz, phlebas, skink74, Jools and Jops and Shiloh all gave off a faint odour of 'bomb'.

a. Handley Page Hampden (The 'Flying Suitcase').
b. Cherry Street Bascule Bridge, Toronto
c. Cape Petrel
d. Brimstone missile
e. Brixia mortar
f. Northover Projector
g. Combat Action Ribbon
h. The Dirty Dozen


In the Democratic Republic of Foxer most children can defox long before they can walk. Collages like the one below, fill cloth books and adorn nursery walls. Exceptional defoxers are lauded... lionised... adored. In the unenlightened West things are, of course, quite different. The individuals that will patiently prise apart this week's puzzle, are probably self-taught. They may have honed their skills in dingy downtown defoxing dens. They may never have admitted to their nearest and dearest that they can identify most WW2 bombers purely by tail shape.

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