A2Z

A is for Alphabetised wargame and sim news.

I could have scattered these topical tidbits throughout the week in the hope they’d make Tally-Ho Corner look lively and well-staffed. Concern for your LMB dabber persuaded me to glue them all together and present them as a single Wiking-sized tract instead.

(I’m always on the lookout for material for my monthly news round-ups. If you’re aware of any interesting games with Strv 103-low profiles, please drop me a line).

 

B is for Bohemian bloodshed

What Armored Brigade’s third nation pack lacks in geographical coherence it should more than more than make up for in novelty. Due “soon”, Czechoslovakia – Netherlands will add over two hundred new units and, unusually, a linear campaign, to Veitikka Studios’ well-liked turnless battle sim. The campaign is inspired by the events of the Prague Spring and set in the portion of West Bohemia that gave the world the Panzer 38(t), Miroslav Holub, and Pilsner Urquell.

C is for Crowded carriers

Drydock Dreams Games could have made life easier for the AI Air Bosses in Task Force Admiral by surreptitiously reducing the number of airframes embarked on American carriers or quietly ignoring hangar capacity. Instead, as is their wont, they’ve acknowledged the fact that USN flat-tops were crowded compared with RN and IJN ones and coded clever AI routines capable of dealing with the dynamic congestion. While you’re planning your next strike, your Air Boss will do his best to get damaged aircraft below deck, leaving others topside where they can be refuelled, rearmed, and sent back into the fray swiftly.

D is for Deadstick with zombies

Tardy bush pilot sim Deadstick better get a wiggle on. GroundFall, a rival project, is breathing down its neck. While the alpha footage on GF’s Steam page suggests REMEX have little to fear from Snow Creature’s effort at present, feature list promises like water-assisted landings, runway construction, and “realistic flight physics” suggests the quality gap may narrow over the next nine months.

E is for Education by wargame

It’s rare for Market Garden to feature in an operational wargame and not get top billing. In the hefty, painstakingly researched Scheldt ’44 (released in November) Monty’s airborne gamble is sidelined by soggy Low Countries scraps that have, up until now, been largely ignored by gamemakers. I confess I know little about the gruelling Scheldt Campaign. Assuming John Tiller Software accedes to my review code request, that blindspot will soon be addressed.

F is for Frail flesh

Pity the tank crews in maturing-nicely armour sim Gunner, HEAT, PC!. High-resolution ballistics plus an unusually detailed human damage model mean unlucky tankers could, potentially, find themselves unable to operate controls because of traumatically amputated limbs or blinded because of minced mince pies. Brain, spine, eyes, lungs, heart… Patreon-funded GHPC cares about their condition.

G is for Globe gala

Few game communities celebrated Christmas 2020 as creatively as Rolling Lines‘ did. Users of Gaugepunk’s approachable railway modelling surrogate were invited to fill empty snow globes with miniature dioramas. 140 people answered the call. Submissions ranged from the achingly festive to the downright apocalyptic.

H is for Handley Page heffalump

Flying Circus Volume II will come with “Bloody Paralysers”, Britain’s first strategic bombers. Mainly used on night ops, the radio-less Handley Page 0/400s relied heavily on a network of aerial lighthouses for navigation. It will be interesting to see whether these navaids make it into FCv2. The chances of the 0/400’s big brother – the V/1500 – ever starring in a combat flight sim are exceedingly slim. To my knowledge, the only time a ‘Super Handley’ was used in anger was in 1919. An aircraft flown from India singlehandedly ended the Third Anglo-Afghan War by bombing the royal palace in Kabul

I is for Indonesian inspiration

Geoff Ayre, the chap behind highly commended jam entry, Infernal Ocean: Denmark Strait, tells me that once he’s finished a sequel to his portable PTO wargame, Pacific Fire, he’ll throw himself into a PC project. Fingers crossed, the game that’s flashing its torch at him from a jungle-choked inlet is this one…

Tim: If you had to make a game based on a piece of Australian history, which piece would you choose?

Geoff: I would love to create a game depicting the early Australian special forces operations in WWII – the year-long guerrilla campaign waged by 2nd Independent Company in occupied Timor, the daring raids on Singapore harbour by Z Special Unit, and the countless dangerous reconnaissance and sabotage missions behind enemy lines in New Guinea and the Dutch East Indies. Not just the combat, but also the stealthy movements from island to island aboard corvettes and fishing boats; the risky expeditions to gather intelligence; the careful management of supplies, weapons, explosives, and radios; the tense but invaluable relationships with the locals. It’s a fascinating and relatively obscure part of Australian military history and I think it would make for a pretty unique wargame or simulation.

J is for Job opportunity

Right now, fifty thousand smackers a year would really come in handy. If it wasn’t for the fact that I’m a limey, a Command tenderfoot, totally committed to Tally-Ho Corner, and in Matrix’s bad books for hauling Close Combat: The Bloody First over the coals not once but twice, I might have given their intriguing job ad serious consideration. Anyone better qualified and less entangled still has three weeks in which to apply for an extremely rare job as a professional wargamer.

K is for Kit houses from KillHouse

Door Kickers 2’s Steam review graph is one of the bluest I’ve ever seen. Looking at it it’s easy to forget the top-down team RTT is just two months into Early Access. Regular meaningful updates are one of the reasons DK2 hasn’t an enemy in the world. The latest introduced silenced weaponry, five new venues, and a random mission/map generator.

L is for Lots to look forward to

Eagle Dynamics have used their latest vid to show-off coming attractions, thank loyal customers, and broadcast their own syrupy version of the Queen’s Christmas message. Beautifully reworked clouds, a handsome Marianas Islands map, and exceptionally detailled Hinds and Wooden Wonders.. DCS users have plenty to look forward to in 2021.

M is for MORSE

Although I adore MORSE’s premise and aesthetic, time spent with the latest demo makes me wonder if I’ll ever master its central mechanic – moving a targeting reticle around a gridded battlefield by tapping out dot and dash combos. The fact that I’m struggling to deal with the German destroyers in challenge #2 doesn’t bode well. Without an ‘easy’ difficulty setting and some slightly more helpful play aids (help sheet row codes arranged in the same order as the rows themselves?) I fear I may see little of the game’s refreshingly unconventional WWI tale.

N is for Nights and nasty weather

Temporarily transformed by a pre-Christmas snowfall (the sim’s magnificent vistas will remain white for at least the next couple of weeks) Derail Valley is set to undergo some longer lasting environmental changes this year. Altfuture’s priorities for 2021 include implementing day-night cycles and dynamic weather. If learning routes and dragging long trains up steep grades wasn’t demanding enough already, DV railwaymen have darkness, fog, and rain-greased rails to look forward to.

O is for OMSI obsession

If I hadn’t traversed London in my last Flare Path travelogue, I’d be awfully tempted to do it in my first THC one. Over four years in the making, this 16-route, 200-stop OMSI 2 London add-on has been astonishing purchasers with its architectural fidelity and frustrating them with its tendency to hes…

…itate, since launching on the 10th of December. Hopefully, the inevitable patches will increase fluency a little and enhance the four included PSVs (New Routemaster, Citybus 400, Citybus 200, B5LH / Evociti), none of which, by the sound of it, coax compliments quite as efficiently as Rhys’ lovingly sculpted scenery does.

P is for Progress report

The loss of our fox-shaped weathervane* is a small price to pay for the steady stream of aid that has been flowing into Tally-Ho Corner this week. If you’re one of the altruistic aviators who has flown a sortie during the past seven days, many thanks! Consulting the Operation Vittles income-meter, I see it’s already almost a quarter full! Pessimistic Roman has pointed out that things are likely to get harder rather than easier from here-on. He’s probably right, but I still say it’s a promising start.

* clobbered by a careless Dakota

Q is for Quick teabreak

R is for Raffle prizes

This Sunday I’ll be raffling a bespoke THC tile (after an email consultation I’ll design you your very own 32 x 32 monochrome avatar and insert it into the masthead), the opportunity to star in a hive foxer, and a copy of the brill GameMaker 2 (an unclaimed jam prize). If you’re a subscriber or recent donor your name will automatically go into the hat for the draw.

S is for Sidran on slopes

Judging by this fascinating meditation on hills, high ground won’t always benefit a defender in Ezra Sidran’s General Staff. That ridge over yonder with commanding views across the valley? A splendid spot for a picnic, but an awful place to put a 12-pounder. Because ACW field guns couldn’t depress their barrels all that far… “Officers were cautioned against ever placing artillery on either steep hills or high elevations. Ideally, artillery was placed on elevations whose height was 1% of the distance to the target and were never to be placed upon hills where the elevation was greater than 7% of this distance”. How many black powder wargames bother to model this limitation? Do Scourge of War and Grand Tactician? I’ll have to check.

T is for Tally-Ho Corner tweaks

Since we last met THC has gained comment editing (you’ve 5 minutes in which to make changes) and lost, possibly permanently, Recaptcha everywhere except for the registration screen. Aware that some potential supporters would prefer off-site subscription facilities, we now have a simple Stripe-hosted payment page too. If there’s anything else I can do to make your THC visits more agreeable, just say.

U is for U-boat museum

Deprived of museums for much of the year, I can’t wait to have a mooch around Crush Depth’s. Marius Dornean’s WW2 naval MMO will feature the most realistic Type VIIs ever to sally from polygonal pens. You’ll need to pay a subscription to operate, orchestrate or hunt these mechanical masterpieces, but a free-to-enter virtual museum will mean there will be nothing to prevent the cash-strapped from admiring the hard work and scholarship that went into them.

V is for Valiant Effort

Is MicroProse funding a Lancaster-centred combat flight sim on the sly? It appears so. Valiant Effort aims to recreate, in unusually holistic fashion, the wartime experiences of a Canadian Lanc crew. The official site mentions features that seem almost too good to be true…

“Before going up in the air, ground school includes the Link Trainer simulator. Trainees begin flying in the single-engine Tiger Moth biplane, graduating up to Harvards and eventually on to multi-engine aircraft such as the Anson and Bolingbroke. VE features the bombing ranges on Lake Erie, the runways at Mount Hope and other RCAF stations scattered among the fields of southern Ontario.”

Let’s hope Sharp End Studio hasn’t bitten off more than it can chew.

W is for Waronoi

I wish Waronoi wasn’t quite so dessicated. Going by the couple of hours I’ve spent with it, this elegant wargame-adjacent RTS needs a bit of narrative – a dash of Möbius Frontish idiosyncrasy – and a more imaginatively structured campaign to truly fulfil its potential. Some briefings or cutscenes explaining the fictional war I’m fighting, and the odd inter-clash decision, would have made MFC’s debut release seem less like an impressive tech demo.

X is for Xit the 483s

Britain’s railway network became slightly duller last Sunday when the ancient Class 483s were finally withdrawn from service on the Isle of Wight. Now just about the only place you can ride one of these ex-London Underground EMUs is in a Dovetail train sim, and sadly, the versions in TS and TSW aren’t nearly as raucous and rough-riding as they ought to be.

Y is for Yes or no?

A show of hands, please. Who’d like me to run my eye over SGS Afrika Korps next week? As this £19 standalone Wars Across the World offshoot received a major AI update just before Christmas, I’m hoping it now includes a Desert Fox worthy of the nickname. Obviously, if I discover I can wreck Rommel’s plans simply by sneaking a few Humber armoured cars into his rear via the Qattara Depression, SGSAK will earn a review similar in tone to my Winter War one.

Z is for Zenobia

…snaffler of Roman lands in the Middle East until Aurelian decided she’d gone too far, and namesake of a board wargame design competition that’s aiming to increase diversity in the (cottage) industry. The submission deadline is only a week away, but as the judges are only after promising concepts and appropriate credentials at this point, it’s not too late to enter. Eligible teams and individuals with distinctive ideas (I imagine hexy Bulge games will go straight into the bin) will be mentored by old hands, presumably from the game companies that funded the $4k first prize. If you triumph, securing a publishing deal for your creation should be a formality.

21 Comments

  1. Thank you! I missed these lovely A2Z so much.
    That’s a real treat!

  2. I would like to read what you think about the latest SGS. The scenarios look more open to maneuver than in Winter War, so potentially it can be a quite different game. I would not mind either reading a quick comparison with other recent (and not so recent) games covering the Desert War (Operation Crusader, JTS Battles for North Africa, Desert War 1940-42).

  3. I am now trying the John Tiller games for the first time. If the abundant demo on their site manages to tingle my interest I will then proceed to Scheldt; looking forward to your report on that.

    • Interestingly, JC over at Real and Simulated Wars had the first negative comment in a game in at least ten years

      https://kriegsimulation.blogspot.com/2021/01/scheldt-44-less-playability-can-lead-to.html

      I am not sure exactly what he means by “realism” – as JTS amalgamation of all kinds of stuff into “Morale” has long been noted as an issue in the games – or by “playability”. The kind of problems he lists have been there for nearly 20 years, and become apparent whenever you play the Soviet side in any of the Eastern Front games (bar Minsk’44), as the Soviets get ‘D’ morale on average, and the Germans are, ahem, all ‘A’ with some ‘B’.

      Scheldt’44 research is impeccable, the engagements and battles included have been portrayed with great attention to detail. Pretty much amongst the very best stuff ever made for Panzer Campaigns, if not the best.

  4. Ah, now that’s the stuff.

    >Pity the tank crews in maturing-nicely armour sim Gunner, HEAT, PC!. High-resolution ballistics plus an unusually detailed human damage model mean unlucky tankers could, potentially, find themselves unable to operate controls because of traumatically amputated limbs or blinded because of minced mince pies. Brain, spine, eyes, lungs, heart… Patreon-funded GHPC cares about their condition.

    I think their heart is in the right place, but I wonder about this commitment to realism/verisimilitude. Are there many cases of modern tank crews continuing to operate their vehicle (besides perhaps attempting to withdraw their angry house) after a traumatic crew injury? I generally assumed most modern tank damage is either to tracks (in which case you want to leave before something worse happens) or a full penetration where you are gruesomely killed. The devs would know better, I suppose. I guess it’s a reminder of the bleak reality that undergirds our hobby.

    I’m curious to see what comes of the Zenobia competition – let a thousand hexes bloom, after all – but I was initially disappointed it wasn’t specifically about the brief Palmyran state and its extinguishing. I do wonder how successful any selected designs will be with the target audience – IE anyone who isn’t a stale pale male (which of course I am). It occurs to me that there has never been a better time for someone in the desired categories to be a game designer – nobody knows the individual identities of the submissions to the Bismark game jam, presumably. Who is to say the winners were not members of those groups?

    And thank you Tim for the commenter shako!

    • There will be a new public demo of GHPC soon so you can try it out yourself.

    • “I think their heart is in the right place”

      I believe that Tim already mentioned they were putting hearts in the correct position.

  5. SpiritYossarian
    SpiritYossarian

    Ahhh, things feel so much better when there’s new news on a Friday!

  6. I hope the Zenobia competition has a healthy turnout. Only good things can come when new ideas are encouraged!

    I checked the website and it turns out both Morgane Gouyon-Rety and Volko Ruhnke (together with a bunch more… Jason Matthews! Cole Wehrle!) are involved… I’ll be keeping an eye on this one!

    • Yes only good things can come from woke identity politics and the obsession with race, gender and “diversity”.

      Not like it leads to individuals getting the boot for “transphobia” or anything……..

  7. Lovely! A Flare Path (sorry: Tally-Ho Corner) A2Z, one of my favourite Friday things.

  8. Welcome back Tim!

    Apropos “Progress Report” I found this new site in a rather round-about way via a comment on Reddit. Hopefully soon this site will start showing up in search results. I was periodically searching for “Tim Stone games” and “Tim Stone games writer” to find mentions of you because I knew you’d be back.

    I don’t want to shill for a website I know nothing about, but there is one that mentions you that you will see that maybe you can update with the new site for free. You’ll find it quickly if you search one of the terms I mention above.

  9. Thanks! I missed your A2Z posts, always my favorites.

  10. I’m just glad A2Z is back to brighten my Fridays!

    I can’t wait for GHPC, there hasn’t been a decent normally-priced single player tank PC game since M1TP2. In fact your upbeat report on it just inspired me to go finally pull the trigger on joining their Patreon.

  11. Awesome post! Some really cool highlights here. Made an account to say thanks for including GHPC in your write-up (and to keep our eyes on your work). Feel free to join the official discord: https://discord.gg/eH5vf65

  12. Good to hear about the Stripe-hosted payment page: have signed up!

    Just a heads up that ‘Support the Site’ still leads to the old payment page.

  13. CaptainSlackbladder
    CaptainSlackbladder

    Oh how I have missed these A2Z columns. Love having you back with us, me old mucker. +1 for SGS Afrika Corps and here’s hoping the sale-fearing JTS bedazzle you with a review copy before the Germans call in the Luftwaffe. Glad to hear GHPC is still around and kicking, a further armour sim to bridge the gap between Steel Beasts and Steel Armour, without “Steel” in the title, will be mightily welcomed in my insatiable games library.

  14. Living on the edge of Bomber County and occasionally seeing a Lancaster passing overhead it feels weird to have a Lancaster sim based in Canada.

    However, living on the edge of Bomber County I know how uninspiring the landscapes are and think Canada will be far prettier to fly over during training so perhaps this is an inspired choice.

  15. Great you see you back Tim! Fascinating article as always.

  16. Sorely missed, yes. Nice to have you back 🙂

  17. I think this one speaks for it self , not made by me i wish i could.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2dEBUP-VuY

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