A2Z

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.

19 Comments

  1. > ‘Little Wars’ charm

    😀

    > tactical simplicity, AI weakness, LoS issues

    D:

    > The ‘Escape & Evasion’ game jam went down like the proverbial lead dirigible, I’m sad to say.

    I had considered about knocking together an entry on one of several nebulous, half-conceived themes, but day job busyness and outdoors pursuits have sapped my will for evening coding.

    If there’s one in late January, that might be a different story.

  2. I really need to put some quality time into GHPC, especially since I’m a patron already!

    How about a tile for my favorite, almost-certainly-never-to-be-simmed, titanium aircraft: the XB-70 Valkyrie?

  3. Wonderful colum today. I wish could have submitted something, but alas my only programming knowledge is a half remembered community college class.
    I suspect they are not kosher. Even if they where Flying circus is 25 smackers which is a little much. Navel strike is reasonably priced but according to steam review only runs in tiny dosbox windows and has no music.

  4. I love the idea of the game jam and it’s sad to hear that it didn’t work out this time! I hope it hasn’t discouraged you from holding another one, Tim. I too had a nebulous idea (an alpha Emu leading your flightless brothers and sisters to safety during the Great Emu War of 1932) and enough know-how to cobble something together, but life got in the way and I unfortunately forgot all about it.

    If you do end up holding another jam I feel like it could benefit from a slightly more lenient deadline and fortnightly reminders for the absent-minded among us. Someone commented in the Top 50 Wargames thread that they would really like to have a forum here, and while I think it would be a lovely idea (this really is a fantastic community) I can completely understand that it would be far too much work to maintain for a one-man band. Having said that, a forum would be a perfect place for game jams to encourage/goad each other and potentially team up on submissions. So perhaps next time a stickied/pinned post where we could all keep a running commentary going would be a good substitute.

    • Great suggestions. I’m contemplating relaunching the Escape & Evasion game jam with a permanent sidebar link and a much longer deadline (Zombiewarrior would still get his prize).

  5. Thank you, Tim, I am astonished that mine was the only entry, but I’m very glad I entered the game jam, anyway, even if my victory was by default:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhvIISDoarU

    Putting together a game in such a short time frame that was under 40mb, and without any formal game development training and a budget of zero dollars was certainly a challenge!

    In an early version of the game, you could not control the U-boat directly when submerged, but simply selected a depth, pressed the spacebar to go, and then prayed you would survive the numerous underwater hazards. However, I felt that this robbed the player of agency, and so I changed the game so that you could control the depth of the U-boat to avoid such deadly hazards as depth-charges and sea mines. This is, of course, completely unrealistic, but I think the game was simply more fun to play that way.

    Shameless self promotion; here are some of my other ‘micro’ war games, if you are interested:
    https://zombiewarrior07.itch.io/

    Regards,
    Greg Love (aka zombiewarrior07).

  6. Well, now we all know how to behave in an english pub.

    I recommend watching the whole half hour of the video, if you can spare the time. It is interesting from a filmmaker´s view, like how it uses breaking the fourth wall and being so selectively about it. But from a modern perspective the most curious thing is how ham-fistedly and repeatedly it implies not starting a sexual relation at your post overseas, but to what lenghts it goes to not having to actually mention it. Also noteworthy, if not comically tragic, is how it `solves` racism by holding a speech and not requiring the only black character to actually say a word.

    Excellent find, Tim.

  7. This is it! I can’t say why, but this A2Z was the one that finally got me onto the subscribers war-wagon.

    I’d love to submit a tile-request:

    Either the number one “better hope you dont need it” Czech tanker’s side arm: the Vz61 skorpion: https://live.staticflickr.com/4403/36202679240_c0be59bc1c_b.jpg

    Or, the “we’ll get you to the door, but you’ve gotta kick it” British Army’s Warrior Armoured Fighting Vehicle: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warrior_tracked_armoured_vehicle

    Disappointed to hear about the Escape and Evasion jam, but mad credit to Greg aka Zombiewarrior, the only one amongst us to be on the objective on time.

    Count this post here as my sincere commitment to get my hat in the ring one way or another in the next jam, and I’ll worry away at some escape and evasion ideas here on my own. Even if it just boils down to a rather bland choose-your-own adventure: I’ll make sure I submit something!

    • Thanks. Capturing a Puma’s distinctive lines in 32×32 B&W is proving quite a challenge. My best effort thus far is sitting between the Hondekop and sextant in the header. I’d be happy to attempt a tile with a different subject if you like.

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