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 Bundle for Ukraine

Purchased the huge $10 Bundle for Ukraine from itch.io and not sure what to play first? I recommend Imaginaria, a low-key, lo-res glimpse into life inside a careworn Antarctic research station.

C is for Curse of Combat Mission

Call me superstitious, but I hope Battlefront.com sticks to WW2 themes from now on. Every time the creators of Combat Mission decide to concoct a contemporary conflict, the venue they choose seems to end up a real war zone. After jinxing Syria in 2007, BFC moved on to Ukraine in 2014. Combat Mission Black Sea – “a military grade simulation depicting a fictional series of escalations between Russian and Ukraine which results in open conflict in the summer of 2017. As Russian forces move into Ukrainian territory the Ukrainians do their best to defend their country against a numerically and technologically superior adversary.” – didn’t predict NATO reluctance or Russian incompetence, but correctly prophesied that UAVs would play an important role in the fighting.

D is for Dreadnought ding-dongs in deep space

Several Tally-Ho Cornerites have recommended I try NEBULOUS: Fleet Command, an Early Accessible RTS with the visage of Homeworld but the soul of Fighting Steel. The lead designer is a serving Navy officer which explains the highly detailed, decidedly naval treatment of things like weaponry, sensors, electronic warfare, and damage control. Although I rarely leave the old blue marble nowadays, NEBULOUS does tempt. Expect some thoughts on it in the next 3×3.

E is for Escapes still possible

April 1st, the deadline for this year’s ‘Escape & Evasion’ Game Jam, is fast approaching, but there’s still plenty of time to design and playtest an entry. I know because last Saturday I sat down with a pack of cards, a six-sided die, a pen and a notebook, and concocted from scratch a dinky Great Escape game. Compared to ‘Addio’, so far the jam’s sole entry, my effort ‘Stalag 52’ is pretty crude and unimaginatively themed, but I’m not unhappy with the way it plays.

F is for Furry fliers

The Edgley Optica coming to Flight Simulator very soon features two unusually hirsute co-pilots. Animated using the same code FS2020 relies upon for wing flex animations, ‘Matto’ and ‘Kilo’ come with toggleable stances (sitting, resting, and sleeping) and payload/FM implications.

G is for Good luck, Graviteam

I imagine I’m not the only shortsighted soul who has recently clicked on “Fighting near Kharkov” in the GTMF Steam forum hoping to hear some news from Graviteam. The post, of course, relates to an earlier unconscionable invasion. In my less bleak, more fanciful daydreams, Graviteam’s tactical expertise (the studio has at least one Soviet-Afghan War veteran on its books) and extensive knowledge of the countryside around its home city, is currently being put to good use by the defenders of Ukraine.

H is for Huh?

Judging by the above trailer, the most traumatic aspect of Great War M*A*S*H RTS, War Hospital, (ETA Q4) is going to be the English translation. If my avatar keeps coming out with stuff like “It’s always easy keeping oaths and promises in the light of day” and “Mud and the smell of death are friends who will always judge you” we’re going to fall out PDQ.

I is for Illegal insights

For pragmatic reasons, the Early Access version of Rise of the White Sun that’s set to arrive late June (a Shanghai Uprising-themed demo is much closer) probably won’t offer a Mandarin language option. Developer, Maestro Cinetik is waiting to see whether his game about factional struggles in 1920s China is banned in the People’s Republic before committing to the costly and time-consuming business of translation.

J is for Jams

A haunt of Alison, possibly Tally-Ho Corner’s fittest reader, (Last year she cycled from her home in Western Canada all the way to Miami) traffic-simulation.de hosts nine moreish online traffic management mini-games made by Dr Martin Treiber, a German expert in traffic flow dynamics. Picturing a standalone title with complex maps, rush hours, and weather, incorporating Treiber’s code, is awfully easy.

K is for Kulled klose to Kyiv

Outsized six-engined aircraft that linger in war zones seldom live to tell the tale. Circa Feb 27 the unique An-225 Mriya suffered the same fate as the magnificent Amphitrites did during WW2. Apparently, unfinished engine repairs prevented the record-breaking heavyweight from escaping Ukraine. Now if you want to get close and personal with an An-255 your best options are Flight Simulator and X-Plane.

L is for Lawn That Time Forgot

“Like Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Dino Safari defies and disorientates. Some foolish, reactionary game critics will probably go to their graves unconvinced of its genius.” (Tim Stone, March 2022)

M is for Miniature interview…

…with Dan Dimitrescu of KillHouse Games.

THC: Which aspect of Door Kickers 2 is uppermost in your mind at the moment?

Dan: There are two, actually! One is the upcoming Nowheraki SWAT unit, and how it will play differently from the US units currently in the game. The Nowheraki are the locals, they fight for their own homeland – think the Nineveh SWAT unit in the Mosul movie – but since we’re doing a fictional country, the unit in our game is fictional too. Our design builds a little on Warsaw Pact squad structures and weaponry, adapted to account for a partly volunteer force making do with limited supplies and training.

The other aspect heavily on my mind is the Random Mission Generator, which the team just improved a lot via last week’s patch. It can now generate more structure styles, more mission types – not just “Clear Hostiles” objectives. But more will be done to it. And since we’ve started adding briefings, lore, and genuinelly useful info to the official missions, the question is how to add a bit of that to the randomly generated missions too. How to make the random seem hand-built? I’ve been pondering that question since Silent Hunter days.

THC: Do you have a favourite DK2 map?

Dan: I particularly enjoy playing an older map – Blockade – which was released in the Night Ops update and allows for very cool NVG use to dominate the enemy – if you do it properly. In Door Kickers 2 keeping hidden in the dark is relatively easy, but open fire and the enemy can spot you. Suppressors help to some extent but tactics help more, so on this map you have to put your pieces in position before turning the heat on and striking decisively, as normally you’ll provoke a reaction that can hit hard if you’re unprepared for it.

But in last week’s patch there’s a new contender for my fave map – Death Dealers. In an uncharacteristic style for our game, you start with troops in the middle of the map, roleplaying two undercover agents in a deal gone bad. The pair have to fight their way out, as well as sabotage enemy ordnance. You’re hugely outnumbered, but still can take advantage of stealth and geometry to pick smaller, winnable battles.

THC: When was the last time you played a submarine game and what was it?

Dan: Not recently, actually, and not a true submarine game, but last year I did try the demo for Stirring Abyss, an XCOM style game, and subsequently bought it on release. Now all I have to do is find some time to play it!

As for proper submarine games … I do keep an eye on the genre, collect them, and am intrigued by the new ideas the devs bring to the table. I don’t always understand them if they’re too esoteric compared to the stuff I was raised on as a kid, but for the public – there’s so many cool options out or upcoming, you can only be happy about it.

THC: What advice would you give to a military history buff with a day to kill in Bucharest?

Dan: Presuming Bucharest still exists as a city as opposed to a nuclear wasteland, there’s two main museums one can visit, and they’re both decent. The larger one is the National Military Museum. They have an eclectic collection of items there as you’d expect given our complex and troubled military history (flintlock pistols, medieval swords, Romanian-made WW2-era submachine guns and 1989 revolution artefacts!). The armour connoisseurs will appreciate the Renault R35 and FT as well as the PzKpfw 4 in short barrel form. They’ve seen better days for sure, but are very cool to check out nevertheless. And there’s plenty of Cold War weaponry too, if that’s your thing.

But my heart belongs to the small Museum of Aviation. I used to skip school and spend my day over there, hearing stories or just gazing at MiGs. Its got a very Soviet-centric collection, sadly. Our full aviation history should definitely include Mk.I Hurricanes, 109 Gustavs and Emils, Stukas, Henschel 129s, Heinkel 111s and of course Polish PZLs and Romanian built IAR 80/81s. But sadly, most of these are not present – I do fantasize about crowdfunding to buy replicas though.

However, what they do have is still cool… the forgotten Yak-23, lots of MiG 15/17/19/21s and a 29-Sniper prototype, Sturmoviks and a La-5, IAR-93s and lots of AA and radar exhibits and control panels. There’s even a huge V2-like rocket that for the life of me I can’t remember the name of.

So definitely go and check these out, especially if you’re a grognard who knows his way around Russian fighter planes.

THC: Name a game, either upcoming or released, that you think deserves more attention.

Dan: I can’t wait to play Task Force Admiral and relive all the PTO history that filled my teenage head with awe. I think I’ve never quite got over missing out on Task Force 1942 as a youngster. Unlike Silent Service 2, European Air War, and Aces of the Pacific, pirated copies of TF1942 never reached my corner of Romania.

In terms of smaller projects, Intravenous warrants a mention. Top down Hotline Miami style action meets Metal Gear Solid infiltration, with interesting AI mechanics to keep things fun and ruthless. Not a team tactics game (sadly) but for the Sam Fisher/John Kelly in all of us, just what the doctor ordered.

THC: Thank you for your time

N is for Nameless no longer

David Walter’s upcoming chopper game now has a moniker as delightfully dated as its graphics. If ‘THUNDER HELIX’ doesn’t emerge from a fiery explosion, crackling with inexplicable electricity, at the end of the intro cinematic, I’ll be slightly disappointed.

O is Omitted for punctuality reasons

P is for Plans sought

It sounds like Ivan Mostyaev, the chap behind Naval Hurricane, could use some help from British and German warship buffs. In this forum thread he mentions that he requires detailed plans of several WWI-era classes including Minotaur, Warrior, Canopus, and Majestic, to properly implement the ships in his promising TBT

Q is for Quick teabreak

R is for Realistic railroading

The differences between Run8 Train Simulator v2 and Run8 Train Simulator v3 are so numerous the devs need eleven closely typed pages just to explain them. One of the following sentences wasn’t plucked from the hefty “Important Changes” pdf

  • “Use Fence Decrease to initially enable the Fence.”
  • “Once bled, proceed with kicking.”
  • “The worse-case scenario is a Dynamiter that happens on a minimum set.”
  • “Dog Nuts must be fully tightened prior to a slip movement.”
  • “The engineer will notify when he is finished humping.”

If you can guess which one, or are keen to find out, you probably need the fifty dollar Run8 v3 in your life.

S is for Stormproof

As I heaved paving slabs onto the roof of my shimmying shed at the height of Storm Eunice, I was struck by two things – the lid of a neighbour’s compost bin, and the thought that I’d never played a game about hurricane preparations before. Stormproof (working title), a first-person sim incorporating top-notch physics and weather engines, would equip the player with a selection of hand-tools and materials, dump them next to something in need of stormproofing, and invert an hour-glass. You’d hone your skills on levels like “Allotment” and “Beach Cafe” before moving on to more intimidating challenges such as “Village Fete”, “1930s Aerodrome” and “Mulberry Harbour”.

T is for Trains with brains

The latest Rolling Line update has made a lot of virtual railway modellers very happy. V4.11 introduces intelligent AI drivers. Once triggers have been added to linesides, trains can navigate layouts without human help or risk of collisions.

U is for Undaunted: Normandy

….a Golden Geek ‘Best Wargame’ winner currently undergoing digitisation. Bookmark Games, the outfit that brought Pavlov’s House to PC, is tackling the task. Unfamiliar with both of the Undaunteds (it sounds like sequel Undaunted: North Africa may not get ported if sales of Normandy aren’t great) I’m looking forward to finding out what all the fuss is about.

V is for Viennese veterans from ViewApp

Scared off by lumpy frame rates, I haven’t touched TramSim Vienna in over a year. The first two add-ons failed to heal the rift, but the third DLC may well prompt a reinstall. ViewApp are about to introduce a type of tram that’s almost as old as I am – the shapely, noisy, agreeably analogue E1.

W is for WEGO WWII: Stalingrad

It’s taken designer Brian Kelly four years to ready his operational wargame engine for service on the Eastern Front. Night turns, depots, a campaign, new order types, additional delegation options… WEGO WWII: Stalingrad boasts an army of things its predecessor, Desert War 1940-1942, didn’t possess. Assuming the enemy AI is less fragile this time, all should be well.

X is for X-Relic devs….

…Diccon Yamanaka and Robert Hartley, two men currently transforming fondness for Crimson Skies and Porco Rosso into a light flight sim heavy with furballing, exploration, and commerce. The Brew Barons can be tried right now via a demo, and should be complete by the end of the year.

Y is for Yes, there will be reasons to vessel view in Destroyer: The U-Boat Hunter

Z is for Zero

The chance Cleared Hot, an arcade heli game with tactical elements and physics aplenty, won’t appear in a 3×3 when it releases later this year.

11 Comments

  1. Thunder Helix and Brew Barons are now on my radar. Thanks Tim! I’m in line for one of those Steam Decks. If I end up getting one, I think those would fit pretty well on it.

  2. Highlight of my Friday! Thanks Tim. For obvious reasons I’m pretty pumped for Brew Barons, 100% up my alley, side streets, and main streets! I played quite a bit of 2015’s Bomb (https://store.steampowered.com/app/301500/BOMB_Who_let_the_dogfight/) and enjoyed the slim package on offer for what it was, but it’s been 20+ years since Crimson Skies and nothing has come close to letting me live my Porco Rosso fantasies out. Hopefully Brew Barons has fun enough flying physics and gunplay to percolate it’s already pretty gameworld.

  3. ” Keep your humping to a realistic medium pace of 2-3mph and everyone involved should be quite satisfied.”

    Also, get cracking on the game jam entries, friends! I really don’t want to win by default.

  4. Brew Barons is definitely getting wishlisted by me!

    In some happier, more sensible parallel universe, Crimson Skies spawned an entire franchise of games (and I played every last one!)

  5. RE: the curse of combat mission, someone noticed that a recent ambush occurred in precisely the same location as one in Black Sea, using almost exactly the same tactics. Eerie!
    https://twitter.com/SeriousStrategy/status/1502423305676070913?t=3y8EVm0_X8GH2l4UUR1Mhg&s=19

    Also, on a much sadder note, it’s been strange playing Graviteam Tactics and seeing names from the WW2 campaign that have been mentioned on the news. I really hope Graviteam are safe.

  6. I really enjoy these brief interviews, Thanks Tim!

    For another title to see in the Itch bundle, have a look at Vienna Automobile Society. It’s top-down racing by adjusting the line your car follows through sections of track in real time.

  7. Excellent AZ!

    Re Graviteam, Andrey responded yesterday. He said their offices are gone but all employees are accounted for. One must assume they’re is no longer in Kharkiv as they’re still putting out patches.

  8. Lots of great content this month. Always good to get a reminder to boot up Doorkickers 2!

    All the “lite-sims” appearing in here give me great hope. I just don’t have the sticks or dedication for X-plane or similar flyers, but I love spooling about over a nice landscape. The free micro-game “Skye” (https://store.steampowered.com/app/1214360/SKYE/) is the only flying experience I can really dabble in these days.

    Any estimates on how long before we see some contemporary wargames from this contemporary conflict that’s seized the global consciousness?

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