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 Battles over Boulogne
As Wings Over The Reich’s first add-on is sure to demonstrate, WW2 started around four years too late for the Fairey Battle. Sadly, the past-its-prime RAF bomber won’t be flyable in Battle of France. Simmers that crave aviation esoterica must ‘make do’ with a far more successful Allied type. A third of the Luftwaffe planes downed by the French Air Force during the German invasion fell to the chattering MGs of the expansion pack’s Spitfire and Hurricane alternative.
C is for Commando-esque carnage
Machine Gun Fury is an arcade game in the purest sense of the word. Playing it sitting down and without pals at your elbows feels wrong. The single level demo lets you try all three characters, cull with MG, shotgun, and grenades, and cause havoc in tanks. For sidescrolling slaughter, boat action, boss fights etc. you’ll need to shell out eight pounds.
D is for Delicacy be damned
Will MicroProse offer Second Front review code to an AI assessor as forthright and forensic as me? I’ll know by the end of next month, and even if they don’t, the highly anticipated SF will get a thorough once-over from THC when the time – Jan 31st – comes.
E is for Eye-catching epilogues
A fair few computer wargames offer replays. None, to my knowledge, except Attack at Dawn: North Africa, turn the battles you engineer into a series of stylish history book-worthy maps when the fighting stops. Cartographic epilogues (each map relates one day’s action) were introduced yesterday as part of an update that also improved information provision and rebalanced some scenarios.
F is for Finnish War
Thanks to Wars Across The World and its offshoots, the options for computer wargamers keen to explore the bloodier chapters in Finland’s history, continue to grow. In addition to standalone title SGS: Winter War and the WATW module focused on the 1918 Finnish Civil War, we now have the chance to repulse/recreate Russia’s 1808 invasion. I’m looking forward to finding out exactly how Finland 1808 handles General Winter. In theory, during some playthroughs the map cells down the lefthand side of the board (the Gulf of Bothnia) should become impassable to naval units and accessible to infantry and cavalry.
G is for Gadzooks!
I wonder how many sales the above screenshot has cost Matrix and 2by3 Games. I guess most potential purchasers know roughly what to expect from a Gary Grigsby’s War in the East 2 expansion pack but still… With unity densities like this is it any wonder the game’s silcon adversary takes a while to plot its moves.
H is for Helluva bargain
There’s never been a better time to purchase incomparably realistic Seventeenth Century swordfighting sim Hellish Quart. Over Christmas Kubold’s regularly updated Early Access fence-em-up can be bought for less than a tenner on Steam.
I is for Interminal
“Do you miss airports? Do you miss that wonderful feeling of negotiating duty-free shopping mazes while trying to desperately find your gate?? Great! Well, in Interminal, there are no gates to worry about! You are here forever and you can navigate, smell perfumes, and SHOP as long as you want!”
J is for JBR D
^ “Playing around with little aircraft aboard USS Randolph – CV-15 in 1945. Ref 80-G-K-5395 from the NHHC website.”
If Roman ever does a “33 Things Wot You Might Find Aboard A Warship” missing vowels foxer, one of the things is bound to be JBR D. The low-tech devices that even today help air bosses keep track of their assets will play an important role in Task Force Admiral. In early prototypes ouijas and their adornments were 3D objects. Today they’re simple 2D screens because “let’s be honest, they had no business being down there in the flag plot” and they were “going to be a lot of effort expended for comparatively little gameplay potential, as we are not exactly remaking Carrier Deck here and can’t afford to have the player mess around the parking spots and the missions all at the same time.”
Talking of Carrier Deck, I noticed recently that a fan has converted Johan Nagel’s design into a solo board game.
K is for Komplimentary Kriegsspiel
Put off by Strategic Command: American Civil War’s familiar theme and hexpansive map? Fury’s TBS might be worth a second look now that it provides a European alternative to the ACW. Inserted in early December, the ‘1870 Blood and Iron’ campaign recreates a 19th Century conflict so seldom computerised it almost qualifies as an Untapped Tussle.
L is for LCV4.2
Eighteen months of hard toil went into Automation’s most transformative update yet. Launched a few weeks ago, LCV4.2 delivered a totally new engine simulation model, a redesigned Engine Designer tool, many more trim options, HDRi photosphere compatibility, improved performance, and better sales forecasting tools and more plausible factories in campaign mode.
M is for Miniature interview…
…with Tom Page of Giant Flame.
THC: When and how did you catch the wargaming bug?
Tom: I’ve been wargaming for as long as I can remember. Initially plastic toy soldiers became accompanied by models of tanks I had glued together, then dice were introduced…. My best friend from early childhood was similarly inclined, his (Canadian) father had been in the British army and the family had history of fighting and command going back to Vimy Ridge in WW1 (and probably further). I think love of the format was cemented when we acquired a copy of Blue Byte’s Historyline: 1914-1918 which we used to play on his father’s office PC.
THC: For those who haven’t been paying attention, how has The Troop changed during the past twelve months?
Tom: We went into Early Access very quietly a year ago with 13 scenarios available in Story mode only (10 of them playable both ways, 7 of them on large maps). As of right now there are 28 scenarios with all the added content on large maps and playable both ways. We have also added Skirmish mode which allows players to choose their own force for a given mission, and play against a different randomly generated (within parameters) AI enemy force every time. It gives real long term replayability to the game and is the technical basis for another upcoming mode.
We have been doing an update every month so there have of course been a huge number of other additions in terms of units, tactical mechanics, AI improvements and features – my personal favourite being night fighting with flares.
The members of the community hub on Steam have been a constant and incredible source of ideas for changes and additions. Credit must go to those folks for many of the improvements and additions over the past year.
THC: How is the game likely to alter during 2023?
Tom: We have 1 or 2 more scenarios still to come and another play mode is in the works (for those who enjoy a more persistent campaign-type experience). A couple of major overall gameplay features have also been in development for a while now and are approaching completion, then we are looking to go into full release probably Q1 2023. Beyond that there is still plenty of content we have in mind, both additional free for the base game and potential DLC – I particularly want to get the Americans in.
THC: What are you hoping to get for Christmas?
Tom: 48 hours solid rest.
THC: Thank you for your time.
N is for Not too late
Last Sunday afternoon, using a pack of standard playing cards, a bag of cotton wool balls, and my trusty linoleum hex sheet, I came up with the rudiments of a moderately entertaining sheep herding board game. One Man and his Mastiff (working title) still needs work, but assuming Christmas isn’t too busy/boozy, I reckon I could have it finished by midnight, December 31st. In other words, even though there’s only a week to go until the deadline, it’s still not too late to devise an entry for the Zoological Game Jam!
O is for Ostalgic car game
Hjalte Tagmose’s love of East European automobiles of the Eighties, and affection for the grainy unsmoothed graphics of a staggeringly successful Nineties games console, collide in Szrot, his upcoming motoring sim. The best place to see the game’s splendidly boxy Yugos, Ladas, Polski Fiats and trams in motion is here.
P is for Panjshir ’82
Having gone through “several rounds of reworking and dolling up”, Panjshir ’82, the runner-up in the last THC game jam, is now available on itch.io. You can get a feel for how TV_PressPass’s pacy solo board game plays by perusing this AAR.
Q is for Quick tea card
R is for R.I.P.
…John Prados, the creator of a host of fine board wargames, far too few of which ended up with PC ports.
…and British ska legend, Terry Hall.
S is for Silent Stormy?
While Forgotten but Unbroken’s Steam page is liberally sprinkled with XCOM references, Centurion Developments, the Slovak outfit behind the project, seem to be aware that some reviewers will use a different yardstick. FbU’s scenery looks less fragile/interesting than Silent Storm’s which is a shame, but a plot and armoury free of Panzerkleins and beam weapons is bound to go down well in Grogland.
T is for Thanks but no thanks
After perusing Master of Magic’s Steam and Slitherine forums I can’t see myself replacing Master of Magic Classic with its modern remake any time soon. AI, UI, legibility, pace, balancing, sound effects, stability… few aspects of the newcomer seem wholly satisfactory.
U is for Ukranian UAV game
A combat sim inspired by drone use in the Ukraine War is, I reckon, inevitable. The only question is “Will it simulate activities other than bombing?”. Will players be asked to dogfight, deliver ammo and medical supplies, conduct thermal searches, and recover disabled UAVs too?
V is for Vast volant valley shadowers
Additional destinations and job types… improved physics… a new flyable… intra-planetary ‘trucking’ sim Flight of Nova has matured nicely since I 3x3ed it in August. In mid December players began freighting to and from hefty aerial cargo carriers, in addition to surface bases and space stations.
W is for Wherry Lines 2.0
A few hours after the THC Tours special drew into Norwich station last Friday, I received an email pointing out that my screenshots could have been prettier. Since Wherry Lines came out, Armstrong Powerhouse have released a £5 enhancement pack (not available through Steam) offering improved textures, objects, and sounds. As the above vid illustrates, the pack’s lighting and sky enhancements really do work wonders.
X is for Xtracts from the latest Gunner, HEAT, PC! changelog
- Completely overhauled flame and dust effects (WIP, more to come!)
- Added new vehicle: SPW-60PB (East German designation of BTR-60PB)
- Added a new map: “Eastern Hills”
- Added 6 new instant action missions
- Added scorching to visible crew members
- Added a rare WIP item in some missions
- Improved AI responsiveness to friendly units being blown up
- Improved AI communication of threats to fellow platoon members
- Vehicle decals can now burn off
- Axles, springs, and torsion bars can now melt and fail during a prolonged vehicle fire, causing the vehicle to gradually collapse on its wheels
Y is for Yap yap yap
Sublime retro shooter HROT teems with great ideas and amusing distractions. Last week Spytihněv introduced the world’s smallest dog breed to the world’s Czechest video game. By slaying vermin and yapping whenever it gets a whiff of bigger foes, the feedable and praise-able ‘Prague Ratter’ helps the player survive ‘George of Podiebrad’, a new map.
Z is for Zero evidence
Sticklers for realism will have to refrain from using one of Black Shark 3’s headline features. The £9 upgrade package for DCS World’s Ka-50 allows pilots to engage subsonic aerial targets with Igla air-to-air missiles. As this vid explains, while Black Sharks have appeared at arms fairs toting wingtip Iglas, there’s no evidence they’ve ever been adapted to use the AAMs.