A2Z

A is for Alphabetised wargame and sim news. Once a month, assuming I can persuade Austerity’s Blackburn Cirrus Bombardier engine to perform the miracle of internal combustion, I spend a day or two scouring Simulatia and Grognardia for stories with the potential to fascinate, startle, cheer, dismay or amuse. Those stories are then dehydrated, alphabetised and delivered, via articles like this one, to people who’ve got better things to do than plough through puff and platitudes.

B is for Boat Crew

Hopefully, Tabbing Tabby’s commitment to Bomber-Crew-but-with-PT-boats will prove stronger than Gattai Games’ commitment to Bomber-Crew-but-with-WWI-AFVs. There hasn’t been an update for the latter – Armored Battle Crew – in around a year, and Early Accessers are understandably miffed.

C is for Chiang Kai-shek sim

Maestro Cinetik crossed “Release Cauldrons of War – Stalingrad demo” from their To-Do List on Wednesday. This means they are only a few weeks/biro strokes away from “Put CoWS to one side and concentrate fully on Rise of the White Sun – an upcoming game about political intrigue in 1920s/30s China”. A RotWS demo by Christmas is by no means out of the question.

D is for Dreadfully dull Company of Heroes 3 trailer

A Flare Path flair point to anyone who can point out a scene in the above trailer that shows “enhanced A.I delivering realistic squad reactions to the battlefield” (a Steam page quote) in action. To this CoH sceptic – I always preferered Gem-engined alternatives – CoH3 looks from afar like another uncomfortably cramped, overly frenetic WW2 RTS with little to offer a tactical wargamer raised on a diet of Close Combat and Soldiers: Heroes of WW2.

E is for Eye-catching claim

Developer claims don’t come more arresting than “I believe that, at the end, the game saved hundreds or thousands of lives”. Played by ministers and MPs, the science-steeped Covid countermeasures sim that helped build the political consensus necessary to control the Czech Republic’s parlous pandemic situation, appears at first to be childishly simple. However, the results of myriad playthroughs reveal some surprising things about the relationship between casualty figures and lockdown-related expenditure and economic damage.

F is for FoG2 fortifier

Byzantine Games might have turned their back on strat maps after Sengoku Jidai: Shadow of the Shogun, but if you know where to look it’s possible to play epic freeform campaigns in Field of Glory II and FoG2: Medieval. In development for over three years, the fan-made, standalone Tides of Conflict lets you lead numerous historical factions, and influence your chosen civ through domestic policy decisions as well as military adventures.

G is for Games inspired by racehorse names

This month’s nags/games all ran at Newbury yesterday:

Pride of Nepal has to be an era-trotting FPS, a bloody hopscotch though the battle honours of the Gurkhas.

I see Truganini as a dark Jagged Alliance homage in which you orchestrate a band of mid-19th century Aboriginal Tasmanian outlaws driven to violence by the barbarism of white settlers.

Almost an Angel? A WW2 flight sim in which baling out of stricken aircraft is your one and only goal. Wounds, fire, g-forces, and twisted metal, are just some of the enemies you must overcome in order to exit flak and fighter-ravaged Lancasters, Liberators, B-17s, etc

In Estrela Star you play a pacifist cook aboard an oil tanker that’s been hijacked by pirates. Using nothing but guile, light fingers, and your knack for mimicry, you endeavour to generate lethal friction amongst the squabbling freebooters.

H is for Hmmsim Metro

My interest in trying Early-Accessible-since-June-25 Hmmsim Metro all but vanished after reading the following, refreshingly candid admission from South Korean devs Jeminie Interactive:“No realistic train physics effects yet. There is no friction and drag calculation, so there is a feeling that acceleration is fast and braking is not good.” It will return as quickly as it departed if the update aiming to replace the sim’s simplistic motion maths with something more Newtonian, does what it sets outs to do.

I is for Interview addendum

Although nowadays THC’s first atypical simmer spends less time than most in contact with terra firma, there was a time when he was paid to scan and sample it. This question and answer didn’t make it into last month’s two-part interview:

THC: Not many pilots understand the intricacies of arable farming. How did you come to be au fait with agriculture?

James: Well, first off, I’m a farmers son, so I grew up on farms (mainly coffee plantations, but Dad also grew stuff like maize, wheat and cotton), but I must confess that farming didn’t really interest me at the time. After being made redundant from the RAF and after finishing my commercial pilots license training I needed a temporary job. A friend of mine mentioned that a friend of his potentially needed someone to do some soil sampling on a temporary basis for his precision agriculture company. Long story short, I got taken on to do that.

To begin with I really enjoyed it. I’d load a small Kubota buggy on to the back of a truck, head out to whichever farm land I was sampling that day and get set up. Setting up involved driving the Kubota around the field perimeter to give the GPS fed computer a field shape to work with – it divided the field into a number of areas of equal size depending upon the density of sampling that was to be done, and marked the centre point of each area. I would then drive to the marked points, drive a hydraulic probe into the ground 16 times, in a small circle, and then feed the collected soil into a bag and mark it with a barcode produced by the computer that identifies exactly where it has come from. At the end of the day I’d load all the collected samples into large boxes and ship them off to a lab to be analysed for things like P.H. The results would then be overlayed onto digital maps of the farmland in a database program for easy interpretation and analysis of the results. The P.H. results, for example, can then be used to create a variable rate spreading programme that when fed to a lime spreader, with the appropriate kit and GPS feed, varies the amount of lime it applies to a field based on the P.H of the area that its in at the time.

I also used the buggy to carrying a electromagnetic scanner behind me that could be used to map how compact or otherwise the ground was beneath the surface – this data can then be used in a similar fashion to create variable rate drilling programmes – drilling more seed into harder ground, the idea being that when the crops emerge you have equal emergence across the field despite variation in soil density. The company I worked for specialises in the gathering, storing, managing and interpretation of agricultural data with a view to better understanding fields variability in order to match inputs to requirements and thus maximising yield.

Other than the soil sampling and conductivity scanning already mentioned, they are/were able to read crop nitrogen levels in real time to vary the amount of nitrogen being applied and map arable crop yields when combining amongst a host of other things. I actually found it absolutely fascinating, but after a little while, I confess I began to loathe the soil sampling – its incredibly repetitive and the buggy was extremely noisy – sticking a hydraulic probe in the ground 16 times in a small circle up to 100 times a day can become soul destroying especially in the depths of winter when the ground is freezing, you’re freezing and entire landscape is empty and bleak. Still, I very much enjoyed the company I worked for it, and it kept me in beer money.

After a while and some pushing from me I was taken on as a salesman – there was quite a steep learning curve to try and understand the technical details of everything that I could potentially sell, but I enjoyed the learning – that’s how I know a bit about high tech arable farming! The kit was very exciting – things like autosection control on sprayers almost sells itself; If a sprayer is able to automatically shut off sections of its boom when it detects that the tips of the boom have already passed over that section of the field (and British fields are notoriously odd shaped, making this inevitable), then you are immediately saving on the amount of chemical that you have to use. I can’t remember the exact figures, but I think we reckoned that most farmers would save 16% by using auto-section control. If it costs £16k to fit and you spend £50k a year on chemicals, then its paid for itself in two years.

I regret to say that despite this I wasn’t a particularly successful salesman for various reasons, although I very much enjoyed trying – there are far worse ways to spend your days than travelling around to farms, meeting with farmers and discussing farming, not to mention agricultural shows etc. As a matter of fact a chance encounter on a farm (with one of our existing, long time customers) actually led to some flying at a time when I hadn’t been doing any – it turned out the farmer was a keen pilot and owned an aircraft at a nearby airfield, so naturally we got chatting. He then invited me to go flying with him, which led to quite a few trips around the country with him, mainly to ‘Flying Farmers‘ meetups – flying a twin into small farm strips is great fun!. Andy, if you ever read this, thank you very much for taking me and letting me fly the twin Comanche!

J is for Jogged memories

The overlap between digital wargamer, simmer, and retro shooter fan is, I suspect, pretty substantial. If you enjoyed DUSK and Strafe as much as I did, and haven’t already done so, do give the decidedly dun HROT demo a whirl. Ten minutes of its Quake-reminiscent gunplay, ambience, and level design (there are vigorous nods to Half-Life, Blood and Duke Nukem 3D in there too) was enough to convince me I needed the full £15 Early Access shebang.

K is for Key question

To recreate the tactics the Soviets used during their invasion of Manchuria in 1945, the AI in this imminent Wars Across The World expansion pack will need to mount unscripted airborne assaults and employ aerial resupply. Is it capable of such sophistication? I have my doubts.

L is for Lamentable literature

A Graviteam Tactics DLC dedicated to “the biggest tank battle of the Cold War” is on the way, despite formidable research obstacles. Unhappy with published accounts and maps of Operation Nasr (“most of the articles and books can be characterized in the range from myths to complete nonsense”) project lead Andrey Zuev has turned to Iranian and British* documents for information about the clash.

* Experts from the UK inspected many of the Iranian Chieftains KOed during Nasr and produced a report analysing the causes.

M is for Mouthwaterers from MicroProse

Task Force Admiral, Second Front, Tiny Combat Arena, Carrier Command 2… gosh, the talent scouts at MicroProse Mk II seem to have awfully good taste.

N is for North Atlantic nailnibbling

Iron Wolf Studio is hungry for feedback. Jab the green ‘Request Access’ button that appeared on the Destroyer: The U-Boat Hunter Steam page a couple of weeks ago, to get instant access to the sim’s impressive demo.

O is for One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch: The Game?

Dissident – Frostland Escape, a “survival game about prisoners escaping from forced labor camps”, claims to be “grounded in historical facts”. Will it have the bottle to openly acknowledge those historical facts in its setting and backstories? The screenshots released thus far, suggest not.

P is for Panzer Elite 2

Or ‘Tank Squad‘ as it is officially known. Mentions in the regular development updates of things like mud…

“We’ve added more mud in certain areas and roads, where a tank can get stuck. In such a case player will have to cooperate with other players to get it back on solid ground.”

recon units…

“the player has got at his disposal an AI-controlled recon squad on a motorcycle, which can move quickly on the map to expose enemy units’ positions. It’s a feature in the testing stage and we do not know yet if we are going to implement it in the game.”

and flammable, infantry-infested buildings…

“We created a type of building that can catch fire as a result of taking damage. In the building, there may be enemy infantry spawned. [] When the building is on fire, soldiers located in the house have to evacuate. After leaving, soldiers will group up in a designated place and will try to cover the area around.”

…suggest DeGenerals’ angry house sim (ETA Q3 2022) will capture the flavour of Eastern Front armoured warfare much better than the grunt-free Tank Crew – Clash at Prokhorovka.

Q is for Quick tea break

R is for Revamped proving ground

Times are good for owners of Rigs of Rods descendant, BeamNG.drive. The latest update’s attractions include a radically reworked version of ‘Gridmap’, a Pigeon sibling, and working traffic lights.

S is for Screaming Steel

… aWWI total conversion for Day of Infamy that can trace its origins all the way back to a Half-Life mod called The Trenches, metamorphosed for the final time yesterday. The aptly titled Endgame update includes a Battle of the Lys-themed map, an additional character class, and new weapons such as the Pritchard-Greener Webley bayonet and Robbins of Dudley push dagger.

T is for Tile requests here, please

One of the things I’ve learnt during my first six months of independence is that weekly raffles aren’t a great way of distributing bespoke masthead tiles to the doughty band of airlifters who keep this site going; emails sometimes go unanswered, prizes unclaimed. It strikes me that a better approach would be to ask subscribers and donors who’ve yet to be ’tiled’ to post their requests under monthly A2Z articles like this one. I’ll then process the requests chronologically.

As I point out to raffle winners, because my artistic talents are limited and some subjects are hard to render recognisably as 32 x 32 black-and-white sprites, it would be helpful if those interested in logo representation posted several suggestions rather than just one.

U is for Uniformed users

By the time you read this, Steam should have received its lorry-load of Combat Mission: Cold Wars, and Slitherine, the company handling Steamification for Battlefront, will, God willing, have moved onto the next instalment on their list, CM: Battle For Normandy. Stumbling on this video recently, reminded me that the Epsomites’ relationship with CM goes much deeper than redistribution and PBEM integration. Officers in the British Army learn to plan and problem solve with help from special editions of CM: Shock Force 2 supplied by Slith.

V is for Virtually free

If 3x3s had been a thing in 2016, stylish 1920s motor-racing game Cranks and Goggles would have appeared in one for sure. Blessed with decent physics, a career mode, and a perfect period soundtrack, just about the only desirable things this £1.60 charmer lacks is an optional first-person cam.

W is for WeGo renaissance

Cash-strapped WeGo wargame enthusiasts contemplating a CAOS purchase, will ‘soon’ have a much harder decision to make. The engine and graphics for Brian Kelly’s Stalingrad-themed follow-up to Desert War 1940-1942 are “99.9% done” (Brian is working on the scenarios at present), and, judging by vids like the one embedded above, PDG’s Attack at Dawn: North Africa is well on the way to completion too.

X is Xcised in the interests of punctuality

Y is for Y no tracks?

There are sound physics and maintenance reasons why real Mars rovers rely on wheels rather than caterpillar tracks, but as the vehicles in promising Mars First Logistics are expected to tote heavy loads, perhaps they should be an option.

Z is for Zero outlay

The latest piece of DCS real estate is fetching, free, and a perfect play/slayground for the F4U-1D Corsair “in the final stages of development” at Leatherneck Simulations.

13 Comments

  1. How the hell did I miss Cranks and Goggles?!?! Great tip, I can’t wait to try!

    I must also sheepishly admit I’m one of the raffle winners who just didn’t reply to the email! I am severely short on creativity…I tried to think of something, but nothing came to mind.

  2. Damn, HROT looks pretty alright. And I completely agree re: Microprose. I do hope they find success, because I’m already a big fan of the direction of their reincarnated business strategy.

    Some tile ideas (ignore if too difficult/boring/already done and I’ve missed it)… a hurricane lamp? a tiffin box? a Churchillian face chomping on a cigar?

    Also, Tim, have you ever considered some kind of Tally-Ho Corner Shop to provide a touch of extra funding through merchandise? I.e. embiggening some of those tiles (keeping them 32×32, just making the pixels huge) and slapping them on white t-shirts, tote bags, mugs, etc. etc. While my sartorial sense isn’t always to be trusted, I think they would look pretty great. I could definitely see myself puzzling over the weekly foxers with a fox-head mug in hand, or popping down to the bar with a big blocky scorpion (or skull or sopwith or train or just about most of the tiles) emblazoned on my chest. And if you used some print-on-demand service I believe the setup costs would be effectively nil, and they process, pack, and send the orders for you.

    • Tiled t-shirts had crossed my mind, but I was planning to wait until the site was more a bit more established (right now THC has 247 registered users and 130 subscribers). If I can do it without investing anything, there’s a very good chance attire will be available by Christmas.

      “hurricane lamp? a tiffin box? a Churchillian face chomping on a cigar?”

      Thanks for the suggestions. One of these will be part of the masthead by the end of the week.

      • Although I see 4 aircraft-related tiles, none appears to be bomber-related. How about a B-17 cockpit or turret mount? Or your favorite British bomber bit?

        • Happy to have a bash at, say, a B-17 ball-turret or a Frazer-Nash, but the request will have to come from an airlifter. Bespoke logo tiles are one of the few subscriber/donor perks.

  3. @Tim out of curiousity, are you thinking of covering Highfleet? I picked it up recently and it sits in this odd overlap between milsim and side scroller.

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