A is for Alphabetised wargame, sim, and site 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 BMP goosebumps
I blame Operation Flashpoint for my irrational fear of GHPC’s latest driveable. The sight of a BMP-1 invariably brings back memories of the time I was trapped inside a building by a ravening pack of the blighters in OFP. GHPC’s Boyevaya Mashina Pjehoty 1s come with turret-mounted wire-guided Malyutka ATGMs, many of which are – thanks to accurately modelled MCLOS aiming – destined to end up detonating against turf or timber.
C is for Cheap as chips
A Steam sale set to end on November 4, means IL-2: Sturmovik collector planes like this Hs 129 are very reasonably priced at the moment. Hefty Halloween discounts have also been applied to the base game (which gained an Advanced Quick Mission Generator on Wednesday) and its Moscow, Kuban, and Bodenplatte supplements.
D is for Dig for victory
AFVs equipped with dozer blades have been trundling across War Thunder maps for several years now. What they haven’t been able to do is move earth with their worm worriers. As the video above makes abundantly clear, the burrowing ban is set to end soon.
E is for Edifying election
Flight Commander at #12, Steel Panthers at #5, Total War at #1*… THC’s reader-compiled Wargames Top 50 is studded with surprises. To everyone who has opined thus far, thank you for participating. Not voted yet? Don’t worry, polling stations will remain open indefinitely.
* If I’d classified Combat Mission as a single series, it would top the table.
(NB. Three ballot papers remain unprocessed at this point. Brasshat, rochrist, and TimePointFive, I’ll need a little extra information from you in order to ensure your votes are correctly assigned.)
F is for Far-flung Fortress forays
The November/December issue of PC Pilot magazine carries a sizeable Fortress-focused interview with MicroProse head honcho David Lagettie. Amongst other things, David explains the difference between The Mighty Eighth and B-17 Flying Fortress 3 – The Bloody 100th (the studio is building two different B-17 sims). The former is an action-packed “multiplayer VR experience that you can play with up to nine friends”, the latter a “strategic crew management game very similar in nature to the two previous games in the B-17 franchise”. Although we’ll operate out of Thorpe Abbotts in the Bloody 100th stock campaign, the sim’s staggeringly broad horizons mean custom sorties and campaigns can theoretically be set far away from Norfolk: “The world rendering game engine technology we have will give players access to the entire world… The player will have the ability to recreate virtually any mission from World War Two, be it in the Pacific, North Africa, or Europe.” Jumping Jehoshaphat!
G is for Gratis Great Train Robbery loco
With the exception of the Deltics and Westerns, no class of British diesel loco got a finer, more heartfelt send-off than the Whistlers. Powerful, purposeful, and mellifluous, Class 40s are – thanks to the generosity of a developer best known for its TS add-ons – soon to appear in a game I love dearly – Lapioware’s Diesel Railcar Simulator.
H is for How the west was won
The latest member of the select Exclamatory Video Games Club is an Early Access train sim with appealing touches of Trainz and Railroad Tycoon. Although Railroads Online!’s ‘American’ 4-4-0s are brakeless, the fact that the official forum is full of track-laying talk and bug reports not discussions about ‘try cocks’ and cut-off settings suggests £26 doesn’t buy you Smokebox-calibre realism.
I is for Injurious to pressure hulls
Careless, reckless, or unlucky NATO subs in Triassic’s upcoming naval wargame Sea Power may find themselves on the receiving end of the Cold War’s version of the Hedgehog. The RBU-6000, a device fitted to Soviet warships from 1960 onwards, is capable of rocket-propelling a salvo of twelve depth charges up to five kilometres.
J is for JPEGs…
…from my last Art of Rally session.
K is for Kosher?
I don’t know about you, but when I see an official game description on Steam that’s been cribbed from a Home of the Underdogs review, I smell a Ram Air Turbine. One of two Rowan Software oldies that have recently popped up on Steam, Navy Strike has ‘Empire Interactive’ to thank for its re-release. Pretty remarkable considering Empire went the way of the Raphus cucullatus over a decade ago.
L is for Limited appeal
Judging by its demo, the real-time 18th Century Field of Arms: Tactics won’t be short of ‘Little Wars’ charm, but tactical simplicity (no formations, commanders, ammo representation, or gun limbering/unlimbering), AI weakness (batteries are easily overran), and LoS issues (the cannon on the right of this image is firing straight through the hill beside it!) mean few bona fide wargamers are likely to give it the time of day.
M is for Mimic war
Talking of Little Wars, did you know that the writer of Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Black Arrow was as keen a wargamer as H. G. Wells? I came across a magical account of one of Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘mimic wars’ via an article published on Armchair Dragoons. The rules devised by RLS and his chums acknowledged factors like logistics, fog of war, and weather, but morale simulation proved unpopular and was quickly abandoned…
“If the game possessed a weakness, it was the unshaken courage of our troops, who faced the most terrific odds and endured defeat upon defeat with an intrepidity rarely seen on an actual field. An attempt was made to correct this with the dice, but the innovation was so heart-breaking to the loser, and so perpetual a menace to the best-laid plans, that it had perforce to be given up. After two or three dice-box panics our heroes were permitted to resume their normal and unprecedented devotion to their cause, and their generals breathed afresh.”
N is for No exit strategy
Playdek has two wargames in the THC Top 50 and might have had three if it hadn’t dragged its feet dreadfully on Labyrinth. In Early Access since March 2020, the port of Volko Ruhnke’s topical Twilight Struggle-style board game is still waiting for a promised silicon adversary.
O is for Orchestrate an insurgency
Assuming you’re willing to share a map with a sentient opponent rather than a synthetic one, you can now play as the insurgents in Rebel Inc: Escalation. The ‘Vs Multiplayer’ update dropped a week before Ndemic’s pacy hearts and mind wargame left Early Access. What’s next for this “very successful, small studio focused on making intelligent, high quality strategy/simulation premium games for mobile and PC”? Search me, but if I didn’t have THC to tend I’d be thinking seriously about applying for the Junior Game Designer role listed here.
P is for Post war
Fingers-crossed, either Richard Berger or Jeremy Zurcher (the chaps who, respectively, digitised Pavlov’s House and Castle Itter) will eventually be given the job of bringing the latest David Thompson board game design to PC. Already available as a Tabletop Simulator module, Soldiers in Postmen’s Uniforms recreates the courageous defence of Gdansk’s main post office during the German invasion of 1939. Most of the plucky Polish postmen who survived the battle’s fiery conclusion (“Bethke requested a rail car full of gasoline. Danzig’s fire department pumped it into the basement, and it was then ignited by a hand grenade.”) were executed as ‘illegal combatants’ after surrendering.
Q is for Quick half
R is for Reader recommendation
A missive I received this week reminded me that I still haven’t tried the free Aircraft Carrier Survival prologue. The sender, Cederic, recommends its PTO plate-spinning (“navigate, crew the flight deck, conduct recce, deal with inbound threats, handle damage control…”) while acknowledging minor bugs (“My damage control team getting trapped in the med bay after delivering an injured sailor”), realism compromises (“You can ignore speed and wind direction when conducting flight operations”), and save restrictions.
S is for Steel something-or-other
Steel this, Steel that… tank sim dev’s affection for the ‘S’ word is understandable, but can lead to customer confusion. For those struggling to remember which Steel is which, here’s a handy guide.
- Steel Fury (2010) – Just about the only WW2 tank game that can hold a candle to Panzer Elite Special Edition. A bargain £2 on Steam until Sunday.
- Steel Armor (2015) – Graviteam’s excellent Cold War (T-62s and M60A1s) follow-up to Steel Fury.
- Steel Gear (ETA 2023) – A promising solo project with an Eastern Front focus and a purchaser-accessible beta.
- Steel Crew (2021) – A multiplayer-oriented WW2 armour sim that hit Steam yesterday.
- Steel Beasts (2000-2021) – The high-fidelity ‘SB’Pro’ trains real tankers in addition to entertaining armchair ones.
- Steel Thunder (1989) – A long-in-the-dragon’s-tooth ‘contemporary’ AFV sim that treats pirates harshly.
T is for Tile, anyone?
It’s ages since I fashioned a new logo tile. If you’re a subscriber and have yet to claim your bespoke masthead square, put a thematic suggestion or two in a comment or email (tim at tallyhocorner dot com) and I’ll do my best to turn your idea into a black-and-white 32 x 32 sprite .
U is for Ultimate Fishing Simulator was actually Penultimate Fishing Simulator
I’m wary of angling sims that are too eager to please. The fact that it took me over an hour to hook my first fish in the Ultimate Fishing Simulator 2 demo, encourages rather than discourages this worm dangler. Would I have caught something sooner if I’d switched from lure to float earlier, or ‘cheated’ by using the underwater camera for recon? Possibly, but exploring the trial’s stretch of Snake River in search of likely piscine haunts, and getting the hang of the slightly uninspired casting mechanic, those fruitless sixty minutes passed suprisingly quickly.
V is for Virtual Sailor NG
Master of hydrodynamics and marine ambience, Ilan Papini, has been toiling in Virtual Sailor’s engine room, and Virtual Sailor NG is the result. You can inspect the rewritten sea and terrain engines, the dynamic tides with adjustable amplitude, the revamped instrument panels and other improvements by using the installer at the top of this list. As with previous VS trials, play is regularly halted by “Demo time limit expired!” messages, but autosaves and quick loading make continuing interrupted test voyages easy.
W is for War Mongrels
The subgenre revival sparked by Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun seems to be slowly gathering pace. Warm on the heels of Desperados III and Partisans 1941, comes War Mongrels, the most Commandos-like Commandos-like yet. There’s a good chance WM will feature in a future 3×3. Hopefully, by the time I get around to trying it, the bugs currently thronging the game’s sweaty seams will have been eradicated.
X is for X-Plane 12 on final approach
Pinch me, someone. The X-Plane 12 announcement vid I’ve just watched contained a sequence in which Austin Meyer’s disembodied head floated about like an acid-addled Beholder. The psychedelic montage illustrates Laminar Research’s switch from ‘real weather’ based solely on METAR reports to a much more naturalistic system reliant on NOAA GRIB files and METAR data. Combined with new volumetric clouds and weather effects, the improvements should help offset ortho scenery envy.
Y is for You probably know the name ‘David Kaemmer’…
…but have you heard of a chap called Terence Groening? Race Sim Central’s Tim Wheatley talks to the unsung artisan “responsible for what is widely regarded to be the most realistic physics and tire models in sim racing (He coded the important bits of Sportscar GT, Electronic Arts F1 (PC), EA NASCAR Thunder (PC), rFactor and rFactor 2*)” about his recent move to iRacing in this illuminating interview.
* £5 on Steam at the moment
Z is for Zombiewarrior07 triumphs
The ‘Escape & Evasion’ game jam went down like the proverbial lead dirigible, I’m sad to say. Zombiewarrior07, a veteran of its Bismarkian predecessor, was the only reader to submit an entry. Half top-down torpedo and flak slinging, and half side-scrolling depth charge and mine dodging, U-boat-y arcade game Beneath the Waves wins by default. A THC escape kit will be winging its way to Australia shortly.