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 Black Sea expansion plans

The Russian invasion of Ukraine means players of Combat Mission: Black Sea may need to wait a while for the wargame’s second expansion pack. During a mid-March email exchange, Battlefront’s Steve Grammont told me that “This is not the time to be releasing content that involves Ukrainians and Russians”.

While it’s unlikely the delayed add-on – which will introduce US Marines, Ukrainian VDV, and Russian VDV forces to the game – will be reworked to reflect this year’s events, there’s little doubt that Putin’s bloody land-grab will leave a mark on CM. When I asked Steve to outline what BFC had learned from three weeks of war watching, he said this:

“More of a general concept that armored vehicles are not very survivable once they find themselves facing something that has the capability to kill them. And given the amount of lethality in the hands of dismounted grunts, there’s plenty of stuff out there for armored vehicles to worry about.

We do not have NLAW in CM as that system wasn’t relevant for our setting. But of course we have Javelin in there. Although it’s not clear how many of the burnt out wrecks we see in Ukraine now were taken out by one or the other, it is clear that top attack ATGM is extremely effective.

Artillery is another thing that people have, at times, complained about being “over modeled”. Even for our WW2 titles we have heard that. What we’re seeing in this war is that the lethality from artillery vs. vehicles has gone way up. Drones allow an artillery unit far faster confirmation of targets and vastly better/faster adjustment. Back in the old days the vehicles often had a chance to get out of a kill sack because the artillery wasn’t landing accurately enough to hit them first or second salvo. Seems that is no longer the case.”

C is for Cadences, combat, and competitions

Full Metal Sergeant will need to be deeper and less repetitive than its predecessor to linger on my HD. I’m not convinced inter-camp competitions, in their present pick-a-competitor-and-cross-your-fingers form, will contribute much, but post-training combat missions might provide the stimulating decision-making I’m after.

D is for Discord experiment

Would you like to exchange messages with other Tally-Ho Cornerites without using heliographs, carrier pigeons, or current-conveyed bottles? Thanks to something that may one day find itself sharing a cluster foxer cluster with this, this, this, and this, you now can.

I’ve next to no experience of using Discord so if you have any server improvement suggestions, I’m all ears.

E is for Enlarged and enriched

Early Access Ultimate Admiral: Dreadnoughts ends this week a much weightier and more enticing wargame than it began it. Tuesday’s gargantuan update introduced amongst other things 58 additional hulls, a new taskforce system, an expanded campaign map incorporating the Mediterranean, and Italy, France, and Austria-Hungary as playable factions. Combat realism has been boosted by more truthful shell ballistics, salvo patterns, and ship buoyancy. Somewhat mindbogglingly, the shells freight-training to and fro now come in twelve different forms..

  • HEI – High Explosive Incendiary Shell
  • HCHE – High Capacity High Explosive Shell
  • CNF – Nose Fuze Shell
  • CP – Base Fuze Shell
  • CPC – Common Pointed Capped
  • CPBC – Common Pointed Ballistic Capped
  • SAP – Semi Armor Piercing Shell
  • SAPBC – Semi Armor Piercing Ballistic Cap Shell
  • AP – Armor Piercing Shell
  • APC – Armor Piercing Capped Shell
  • APBC – Armor Piercing Ballistic Capped Shell
  • Improved APBC – Armor Piercing Ballistic Capped Shell

F is for Fury switch centuries

Fury Software is breaking the habit of a lifetime (well, twenty years) by setting the next Strategic Command in the 19th rather than the 20th Century. ‘Coming Soon’ SC: American Civil War will ship with six campaigns (1861 Blue and Gray, 1861 Manassas to Appomattox, 1862 Scott’s Great Snake, 1862 Trent War (Alternate History: What if the UK recognized the Confederacy?), 1863 Lee Rides North, and 1864 Make Georgia Howl), an hextensive map, riverine warfare, telling diplomacy, and a host of other temptations. Assuming SC’s ‘no stacking’ rule doesn’t lead to weirdness, and the AI can research, purchase, negotiate, and orchestrate sagely, SC:ACW is bound to find favour.

G is for Games inspired by racehorse names

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

King Orry – A naval TBT. Shape the career of a remarkable Manx steamer with Crown and Anchor dice.

Hellfire Princess – It’s April, 1943. Using an array of assets and clues, organise the time-sensitive search for ‘Hellfire Princess’, a USAAF B-24 bomber that’s gone missing while returning to its base in Libya.

Unfinished Busines – An anagrammatical adventure game. Signs in your home town have begun losing ‘random’ letters. Is there a connection between the vandalism and the disappearance of a local loan shark? The police say no, but you’re convinced they’re wrong.

Echo of Promise – The world’s first high-fidelity bat sim.

H is for Hydrostatic lubricator

One of the drawbacks of doing most of your rail simming on British metals is you rarely get to share a footplate with a Detroit Hydrostatic Lubricator. The Vernian lava lamp demonstrated above equips a beautifully modelled Train Simulator steam loco that may well appear in a Friday feature at some point.

I is Ignored in the pursuit of punctuality

J is for Jam judging is about to start

A big ‘thank you’ to everyone who submitted an Escape & Evasion Game Jam entry. I can’t tell you anything about the quality of the submissions at this point, but the range of wonderfully recherche settings (18th Century France, 1980s Afghanistan, Northern Italy in WWI, the night skies of 1940 Britain… ) suggest judging will be a joy.

K is for Klotzen!

Although the title of this imminent TBS sounds like a Teutonic insult – something you bawl at blundering subordinates – I’m guessing it’s actually a reference to Rommel’s utterance “Klotzen, nicht Kleckern!” (‘Clobber ’em, don’t tickle ’em’). I’ve played far too many Panzer General-likes to be properly excited at the prospect of this one, but screenshots I can parse with ease, and pre-release talk of a responsive AI, and naval and logistical subtleties, make a 3×3 recon sortie not unlikely.

L is for Low-priced Lada sim

My memories of City Car Driving are sufficiently vivid and  happy for me to urge anyone interested in realistic transport games who doesn’t already own it to take advantage of the current Steam deal (£2.50). Manual gearboxes and clutches, unpredictable pedestrians, pesky trams and snow, a taxi driver mode, agreeably antiquated Ladas and UAZ minibuses… CCD has plenty going for it.

M is for Miniature interview…

…with some antediluvian arse over at the eminently bookmarkable Strategy and Wargaming dot com

N is for No place for cowards or clowns

Serial SNAFU overseers and cynical deputisers are going to struggle to motivate their men in WW2 leadership RPG Burden of Command.

O is for Opponents with soul?

Be hydra-headed, Britannia. Do your best to convince me my opponents are scheming so-and-sos – actual persons with actual personalities. A game that compresses one thousand years of Britain’s story into a few hours of play, clearly can’t provide much in the way of historical insight. However, what it could feasibly do is make me feel like I’m sharing a table with a bunch of wise-cracking, trash-talking, backstabbing pals.

P is for Praise from PC Gamer

It’s always good to see a bona fide wargame get some love in the mainstream games press. Veteran CC players will wince a little when PC Gamer’s Steven Messner castigates Invasion: Normandy for cover coyness (to be fair, the outlines mode selector isn’t obvious) but should nod vigorously on reading perceptive paragraphs like this “Close Combat 5 strikes a near-perfect balance between giving me enough tactical options, like being able to order a unit to toss smoke grenades to conceal an advance, while still making the soldiers feel like autonomous, thinking creatures I don’t have absolute control over.”

Q is for Quick tea card

Card no. 49 – “The Coronation Scot” – from Glengettie Tea Co.’s ‘History of the Railways’ (1974)

R is for Recon Wars…

a free expansion for Wings Over Flanders Fields: Between Heaven and Hell II. Over to you, Old Brown Dog…

“For the first time in any PC combat flight simulator, you are now able to carry out proper reconnaissance and artillery spotting missions. Gather intel and preserve the data via notes, photography or radio telegraphy, all in a fully unique and historical dynamic campaign.

Real in-simulator data is collated to evaluate how you fare with your tasks over the very dangerous front lines.

Airdrops are also implemented so at times you have to drop your handwritten intel notes off at your front-line HQ in a “Weighted Bag” at 100m or lower(!), which needless to say can be a harrowing experience for even seasoned pilots. This is no easy task, given the ever-present flak and MG fire around the front lines. The flak and ground fire will vary out there, so be careful if you approach an area with several ground forces or facilities nearby, as it could be heavy.”

S is for Skulduggery in Shanghai

Going by the email I received this morning, the hot-off-the-presses Rise of the White Sun demo shouldn’t be approached by anyone fatigued, tipsy, or impatient. Thomas Guyon of Maestro Cinetik tells me that playtesters “accustomed to straightforward conquest game mechanisms… often found it difficult to plan murky long-term plots, or to patiently prepare an uprising (Rise of the White Sun is the kind of game where you spend more time bribing your own troops than conducing efficient war operations)… I am still working hard to make the learning curve easier for the players.”

T is for Things I’ve never seen in a wargame or sim #164, 165, & 166

Tanks defeating ditches like so…

MANPAD mannequins…

AT teams ambushing aerodynes…

U is for UAZ rally

The maturing-nicely ‘vertical slice’ of Gunner, HEAT, PC! gained TOW-spitting Bradley IFVs and UAZ rallying this month. The Richard Burns mode wasn’t just an April Fools Day prank; Josh Busuito and chums have been using it to test physics-based crew animations that will one day jiggle and jolt unbuttoned tank crews.

V is for VMF vulnerabilities exposed

The unconfirmed (I’m writing this on Thursday morning) loss of the Moskva, is sure to give the developers of Command: Modern Operations further food for thought. Criticised in the past for simulating ‘hard’ technological factors more thoroughly than ‘soft’ human ones, everyone’s favourite Harpoon surplanter can give the impression that modern guided missile cruisers have little to fear from low-intensity long-range AShM attacks.

W is for Wet WW2 wargame on the way from WDS

I described Wolfpack, the last instalment of the Naval Campaigns series, as having “the good looks of a flounder, coelacanth-primitive campaigns, and a GUI that feels like a hurried first draft”. Fortunately “a talent for recreating the sort of mid-Atlantic mob violence that few sub games sim well” was also identified. The words and images on this page suggest the next NC wargame may wind up with a similarly mottled assessment. Focused on surface engagements during WW2 in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, the 50-scenario Naval Campaigns: Kriegsmarine is set for a midsummer launch.

X is for Xpert opinion

This video is old, but well worth watching if you’ve not seen it before. Searching for things that markedly narrow the gap between real and simulated motor racing, the well-qualified Scott Mansell singles out VR, laser scanned tracks, and high-quality peripherals for particularly high praise.

Y is for Y are there no golf tactics games?

It’s that time of the year when, boosted onto one of my hobby horses by a typically memorable Masters, I rant at the games industry for failing to produce any golf strategy titles during the past twelve months. While there are analogue options available, if you scour Steam for a tactical recreation you’ll find absolutely nothing. Considering golf’s popularity, rich decision-making, natural compatibility with turn-based play, and easily AI-ed competitors, the situation is astonishing. Invariably I picture something top-down with hexagons, slope arrows, and RPG-style stats, but there are countless ways the sport could be wargamed.

Z is for Zero chance this won’t reduce my elderly PC to a wheezing wreck

Although the DCS: AH-64D seems to be winning friends, unfinished Stability and Command Augmentation System (SCAS) modelling and the fact that Apache sorties can show-up DCS’s rudimentary ground unit AI rather starkly, mean appreciation isn’t unalloyed.

8 Comments

  1. “Putin’s bloody land-grab” is calling a spade a spade, and absolutely spot on.

    “Special military operation” ? How naive / stupid do they think people are, to believe such propaganda / euphemistic spin? Perhaps if dictators repeat a lie often enough, it will eventually be accepted as the truth, in some kind of alternative reality.

  2. Hi Tim, this is great, I hadn’t ever seen Strategy and Wargaming site, so have added it. Interesting that you nominated Rowan’s Battle of Britain, I never could get this up and running when I last looked, and a lot of the mod links seem lost to time, unless you know different. It was a great game just as a commander, never mind pilot.
    It reminded me of Their Finest Hour on the Spectrum by Dr Nicky Palmer. Would be amazing if someone wanted to take a refreshed game. Matrix’s Eagle Day never quite did the same job.

  3. Regarding the new Strategic Command American Civil War, Fury Software actually has some experience making a 19th wargame in the Strategic Command engine. There is an 1870 Franco-Prussian war scenario in Strategic Command WWI Classic. Haven’t played it in a while, but it was quite fun from what I remember.

  4. I think the biggest takeaway from the loss of the Moskva are don’t park the ship close ashore. Especially without escorts. And stop underestimating the Ukranian capabilities.

  5. I love the idea of designing a game based on the runners at an arbitrary race event, although I’m surprised Exmoor Express didn’t inspire a military logistics management game to fight off an unexpected invasion of disgruntled former miners from Barry.

    A bonus is finding out how the prospective games fared in their racing endeavours. “not fluent in rear, jumped left and behind 7th, pulled up before 2 out” was Unfinished Busines indeed.

  6. Great column as usual. Although I do believe it was Guderian who said Klotzen, nicht Kleckern in his memoirs. Rommel, on the other hand said this (of no relevance whatsoever): ‘If I had to take hell, I would use australians to take it and new zealanders to hold it.’ 🙂

    In seinen Erinnerungen eines Soldaten, K. Vowinkel 1960, schreibt Guderian von einer oft von mir gebrauchten Redewendung (S. 95) sowie: Ich gebrauchte Hitler gegenüber meinen alten Grundsatz: ‘Klotzen, nicht Kleckern!’

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