A is for Alphabetised wargame, sim, and site news. Every so often, assuming I can persuade Austerity’s Blackburn Cirrus Bombardier engine to perform the miracle of internal combustion, I spend a few days 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 Blimey, baize, and balls

Steam has just informed me that I’ve played 134 different games so far this year – 32 more than I played in 2022. Unexpectedly, when it comes to number of ‘sessions’, my most played game isn’t a wargame or a vehicle sim, it’s sublime wind-down diversion Virtual Pool 4. Apparently, I’ve clicked the purple 4-ball icon on my desktop 133 times since May!

C is for Clouds of confusion

Many of GHPC’s turf churners gained the ability to produce smokescreens with grenades and/or exhausts earlier this month. Because Radian care about realism, the billowing barriers don’t inconvenience units with thermal optics (IR sensor-defeating multispectral smoke grenades such as the M76 were still a year or two away in 1985), and Warsaw Pact AFVs fling their canisters in long-range clusters while US ones toss theirs in short-range arcs.

D is for December debacle

Not for the first time, a free update that should have put smiles on the faces of Flight Simulator users, has sown frowns instead. Many struggled to download Update 14 due to a server code bug (now fixed), and some report performance deterioration and new issues since installing the sim’s latest exe. A few months ago I couldn’t wait to finally join the FS2020 revolution. Now I’m dragging decidedly cold feet.

E is for Expect AI improvements

Not purchasable since NorbSoftDev and Matrix Games parted ways, the courier-sprinkled, chaos-stuffed Scourge of Wars are currently undergoing refurbishment in readiness for a Steam re-launch. Norb Timpko explains Scourge of War: Remastered thus: “It’s been many years since those initial releases and old men need something to do in their twilight years. So, we figured we’d take our time and fix some issues, rebrand the game, get on Steam, upgrade the art, and see what we can do to improve performance. There are improvements to the graphics engine and a large number of next generation art assets. The AI is smarter, meaner, and more likely to run you off the battlefield unless you are a skilled wargamer. This game now uses the Steam multi-Player features to allow you to match your skills against human opponents anywhere in the world the AI or both at once.”

F is for Freshened-up Flying Fortress sim imminent

Talking of spruced-up classics, Flying Fortress: The Mighty 8th Redux, the first of MicroProse’s air armada of upcoming B-17 titles, has a new Early Access ETA of January, 2024. DirectX 12 support and heavily reworked interiors are guaranteed, but as no screenshots showing improved terrain or aircraft models have been shared yet, it’s not clear whether, on Day One, scenery and snappers will be any prettier than they were in 2000.

G is for Gnomic nagging

Ignatius is pressing me to give Maneuver Warfare another try. He’s heard the interface has improved a fair bit since I wrote… “After doing its utmost to make a bad first impression with drab visuals and a UI as ergonomic as a rusty PIAT, MW partially makes amends with realism, generosity, and a likeable campaign system.” …in April 2022. And knowing my enthusiasm for all things Bulge he reckons the game’s latest add-on might be of interest. Mission Pack West 44-45 (£15) consists of five three-battle ops, one of which sims snowy Ardennes action.

H is for Hairpin heaven

The nostalgic Shakedown Rally demo contains sufficient hairpins to secure a Rapunzel-sized mane. Right now, owners of the 7€ full game get a second venue (Finland) and profound modability. Assuming nothke doesn’t get too distracted by the space station sim he’s building, one day buyers may be able to barrel through Swedish and Mexican stages.

I is for Imphal from an INA perspective

Here’s something you don’t see every day, a WW2 FPS in which you play an Indian National Army soldier fighting the Allies alongside Japanese ‘liberators’. Historical accuracy may not be Embers Off’s forte, judging by the anachronistic aerodynes in the trailer.

J is for Jeep jeopardy

As IL-2 doesn’t sim breakable straps and cargo momentum, landing the game’s latest collector plane with a one-ton 4×4 parked just behind your seat, probably won’t focus the mind and bead the brow quite as forcefully as it should. 1CGS’s Wacos don’t appear to be snatchable either, which is a pity.

K is for Koreograph Kamels

Cornerites Colonel_K and cederic weren’t overly impressed by the withdrawn-in-October Skies Above the Great War demo. Hopefully the crashes, flawed FMs, and other shortcomings they observed, won’t be still around on Jan 11, the day the first Early Access build is scheduled to hit Steam. Executed well SATGW’s squadron management layer (“Provide your airfields with machines and pilots and send them on missions that support your overall war strategy on a persistent 10.000 square kilometers wide gameworld fully simulated in real time”) should help distract from flaws and shallowness in other areas.

L is for Legendary Pilots

My high hopes for the “stylised and uniqueLegendary Pilots nosedived when I noticed that BerkBox’s only other PC release was this poorly received showjumping title. However, graphical and thematic quirk are such rare things in the civilian flight game sector, I refuse to abandon all optimism.

M is for Maritime mediocrity?

Homaging the much-loved Ports of Call is harder than it looks. Deck13 tried it in 2014 and 2016 and weren’t entirely successful, and Hidden Tower’s 2023 attempt isn’t exactly going down a storm. SeaOrama’s launch bugs may be fixable. Time will tell whether anything can and will be done about the fundamental fun deficit some Steam customers are reporting.

N is for Naval assets in Nuclear Option

If Nuclear Option had pilot logbooks, mine would reveal that I rarely fly Chicanes. Now the game’s chiseled choppers can re-arm and rest at sea, I suspect I’ll whirlybird more often.

O is for Ottoman offering

The Battle of Vienna – the bloody high-water mark of the Ottomans’ westward push into Europe – provides the fascinating backdrop for the latest Wargame Design Studio demo. Even by WDS standards, Vienna 1683 is an extraordinarily generous freebie. Name another hex merchant that would give away a high-headcount 52-turn scrap (shorter scenarios are included too) and not call a halt to the action ten… twenty… turns into proceedings! In this paragraph plucked from a recent news post, scenario designer Gary McClellan explains what makes the Battle of Vienna so singular: “Timewise, Vienna sort of sits in the middle of the time frame covered in the Musket & Pike series, but it’s at an extremely interesting crossroads. The game features three very different armies. You’ve got the very contemporary Imperial army, fighting in the European style, the Ottoman army with their light cavalry, and finally the Polish army, the great heavy cavalry power of the day. Each of those armies fights very differently, and players will have to learn the ins and outs of each to be successful.

P is for Planned playtests

The line-up for the first 3×3 of 2024 has already been finalised. RBM Studio’s Gettysburg will be sharing THC’s audition stage with Railroader and a poetical puzzle game. A digital adaptation of this Mark Herman design, the £4 Gettysburg features turn structuring that sounds slightly bonkers on paper…

“Turns are completed in an “I go, you go” style, wherein players alternate their turns with their opponent until one player passes. Once that happens, a random number of unopposed actions are given to their opponent. Pass too early and you risk giving your opponent the opportunity to maneuver completely around your forces.”

Q is for Quick tea card

Rushing Bear appears on card #2 of ‘American Indian Tribes’ a 1962 G.P. Tea set inspired by a much older set of trade cards. Although the text on the reverse identifies him as a Pawnee, he was actually an Arikara chief. The Arikara hailed from North Dakota and, before the equine revolution of the 1600s, relied heavily on mutts:

“Traditionally an Arikara family owned 30–40 dogs. The people used them for hunting and as sentries, but most importantly for transportation. Many of the Plains tribes had used the travois, a lightweight transportation device pulled by dogs. It consisted of two long poles attached by a harness at the dog’s shoulders, with the butt ends dragging behind the animal; midway, a ladder-like frame, or a hoop made of plaited thongs, was stretched between the poles; it held loads that might exceed 60 pounds. Women also used dogs to pull travois to haul firewood or infants. The travois were used to carry meat harvested during the seasonal hunts; a single dog could pull a quarter of a bison.” (Wikipedia)

R is for RIP Anton

(Embroidered Ukrainian map by Qypchak)

“I would be lying if I said I’m not afraid. It’s scary for everyone. I’m nervous. But I’m a man, and there’s a war going on. When we win, how can I possibly look our veterans in the eyes after our victory if I hide? Guilt and shame would eat me from the inside. It’s scary for everyone, no one knew how to fight when the war started, but we are learning to defend (our homeland), and fight the enemy.” (Anton Logvynenko)

S is for Swiss tank simming Seventies-style

The RAF used simulators not dissimilar to this Swiss relic to train Jaguar, Phantom, Buccaneer and Harrier pilots. Alarming encounters with colossal insects and toy figures weren’t unknown. This archived pprune.org thread contains some amusing anecdotes from the men that flew, operated, and maintained model-based sims.

T is for Truck sims don’t come more truthful

The last BeamNG.drive update was a corker. Build 0.31’s attractions include overhauled Gavril trucks, new trailer types, physical mirrors, and realistic fifth-wheel operation.

U is for Ultimate Fishing Simulator is £2.50 until Jan 4

Although Fishing Planet is fifty times more popular, no angling sim sold by Steam has a better review ratio than UFS. While its Early Access sequel hasn’t gone down too well, this no-nonsense 2018 stalwart – still regularly revitalised with DLC and patches – continues to captivate its small but faithful fanbase.

V is for Vivid violence

Far too grisly to feature on the sort of magazine demo discs I used to devour in the Nineties, the demo for Half Sword, “an immersive, physically simulated medieval combat game” lets you use anything that comes to hand to bludgeon, slash, stab, gouge, de-limb, and disembowel foes. Careless mouse swings and awkward falls can cause self-inflicted wounds, and particularly energetic attacks can lead to weapons becoming stubbornly lodged in flesh and bone. “Ban this sick filth!” say I. “Play it again! Play it again!” says horrid Ignatius.

W is for Wisecracks galore

After a sorry start in which you’re asked to down painfully predictable Bf 109s using the waist gun of a France-bound Flying Fortress, the American Commando demo fairly quickly finds form. By the time you’ve infiltrated the U-boat pen and explored and sunk your first sub, the “God, this is worse than WWII GI thoughts should be long gone. Unfortunately, the main character’s Duke Nukem-esque witticisms aren’t nearly as amusing as they could have been.

X is for Xceedingly slow progress

If you’re after dramatic battle anecdotes, Return to Cassino, the WW2 memoir I’m reading at the moment, is sure to disappoint. On the other hand, if you’re after insights into how humans behave when exposed to war’s dangers, deprivations, and insanity for long periods, it’s a page-turner. Reading passages like this…

“The next day the rain stopped and the weather cleared, but I had trouble with one of my sergeants. It was his turn to man the OP, and when I told him to get ready to go up he refused. He was the one who had been so enraged, back in the village behind Mount Trocchio, when he heard that we were moving up again. I told him that he had to go because it was his turn. He pleaded with me, saying that he had been on too many OPs and just could not take any more. When his fellow sergeants heard this they were angry with him and said that they had been on lots of OPs too. He would have to do his share. Some of them called him vile names, and he in turn lashed out at them; but I tried to stop all this and told him that he would have to go. To my surprise, he broke down and started sobbing. Nevertheless he began to get ready to go, cursing, as he did so, the army and the war, and then those men in the platoon who had been his friends but who now had no use for him. He reminded them of some of the OPs he had been on, and of some of the battles where he had shown that he was as brave as they were; but he could not take any more, he said. I felt sorry for him, for I knew that he had been a good soldier; but I did not see how I could change my orders. He continued reviling the men and he came close to using nasty language on me too, but I stopped him and made him start up the trail. He went, still sobbing and shouting insults at some of the men as he climbed. When we last saw him he stood at the top of the trail above our hut, shaking his fist at all of us, tears running down his face, shouting “I won’t go to that OP! I won’t go!” and then he disappeared around the bend. He did not go, either, for Stuart, who had known him for a long time and understood the problem better than I did, allowed him to be evacuated as a battle casualty.”

…I found my mind turning to Burden of Command, a game that aims to confront leadership dilemmas such as this head on. More than six years after it first made headlines, BoC still has no firm release date. Project Lead, Luke Hughes, recently apologised for the game’s lengthy gestation while emphasising that work on the game hasn’t stalled. This November forum contribution from a playtester makes me think we’ll be lucky to see Green Tree’s groundbreaking leadership RPG before Q4 2024:

“The first offensive scenario using the new AI has been handed over to the play testers. This is a significant milestone as it means the only thing left before stitching the campaign together is play testing all the offensive scenarios. Once we stitch the scenarios together there will be a long phase of play balancing across the campaign, polishing, and adding remaining lite RPG elements. The effort to do this right should not be underestimated.”

Y is for Y in heaven’s name can’t I buy…

…a hexy Old West computer wargame? Some free advice to my favourite producers of hexiana – if you want your next TBT to sell like hot cakes not cold sick make sure it’s set in the Old West, sports friendly/transparent mechanics, one-man ‘units’, and decent AI. Market gaps don’t come much bigger.

Z is for Zouaves included

Norm Koger’s Age of Rifles, snuck onto Steam on Tuesday. Should you buy? In a word, ‘yes’. In a thousand words…


  1. Hey Tim, don’t give up on MSFS. Yes, it has its frustrations, but in my experience far less than spending hours tweaking and buying addons like I suspect we all did with FSX or other sims. You can of course buy addons if you want, but mostly I find them to be just that – addons – not essentials as they often seemed to be before. As a sim to just jump in and go sightseeing its hard to fault.

    Having said that, I’d love to see do one of your travelogue style writeups using parallel 42’s Campout utility. I’m sure a man with your talents could find somewhere in the world where you could fly over interesting terrain, land in the middle of nowhere and yet still tell a series of interesting tales and anecdotes about the area. I keep meaning to try an island hopping tour of the Caribbean for instance, camping out on whichever beach next to my aircraft at the end of each leg…

  2. MSFS does mostly more good than wrong these days, don’t let a silly server bug which meant people couldn’t download an update for a few hours put you off. When it comes to performance and whatnot everyone has different experiences it seems. I have my gripes with the game but it’s still miles ahead of everything we had before.

    The game has plenty of historical addons as well for you to explore, a ton of vintage and classic planes and warbirds, get the FlyingIron Spitfire or Me109 and have a cruise across the channel. There’s the classic Tiger Moth from Ant’s Airplanes that has been ported over to MSFS as well, perfect for cruising around slow and enjoying the scenery. Try something a bit different with the English Electric Wren motorised glider or the Flying Fleas by Rara-Avis Sims. A1R Design Bureau have a number of classic birds as well that are all well worth it such as the Ryan STA Special or Chilton DW1. Or try a racer like the BlueMesh Cauldron or Sal42’s freeware Supermarine S5 or Weddell Williams racers, speaking of Freeware check out Dave Garwood’s Hawker Hunters. If you’re feeling more nautical give some flying boats a go like the Latécoère 631or Savoia-Marchetti S.55, both ‘Local Legends’ published by Microsoft directly. Or Big Radial’s Grumman Goose for something a tiny bit more modern. There’s a Farman Goliath that looks quite interesting as well although I’ve not got around to buying it. Almost did today but ended up buying a Cessna 207 and 337 instead. Crap load more out there as well and all worth exploring. You got three years worth of payware and freeware to catch up on!

    Also check out the Arrows Across America mod which adds in old 1920s and 30s air beacons and directional arrows for intrepid US aviators to deliver the mail hundreds of miles. The history behind that is quite amazing and following flashes of light in the distance can be quite fun.

    And so glad to see Age of Rifles available again. Gotta be one the best war games of all time.

  3. My eyes are firmly fixed on B17_Flying_Fortress__The_Mighty_8th_Redux, and just about anything from MicroProse! A game demo for B17 would be a great way to start 2024.

    By the way, Merry Xmas to all! We can creep out of our trenches and enjoy a friendly game of soccer with the enemy.

  4. The British Army used also these model based simulator for Tank Driver training as the Italian Army. I suppose plenty of others did too. As a sidenote I have been told that people were able to do miniature gaming on the table of the now replaced British Army one…

  5. Hi Tim!

    Thanks for the mention and the well deserved ‘ding’ as well on tardiness 🙂

    On the upside progress is better than quoted I’m happy to report. Burden reached early Alpha late summer (subscribe to our newsletter for such updates: https://bit.ly/BoCnewsletter_signup).

    Since then we’ve been running squads of about 10 playtesters at a time through *full* campaigns. We’re now close to early beta if I can just get the eight Mindsets the video above shows done :). Then it will only be bugs a d polish.

    But no release date 🙂 Not making that mistake again 🙂 Will announce when confident.

    Happy Holidays,

      • Hi Tim,
        The AI is a mix of scripted and opportunistic. On the plus sides it assess bang and buck for its various options and dynamically adapts (“utility AI”). On the downside you cannot currently release on a random map without at least setting objectives for it. It can be told to attack, defend, retreat/maneuver (breadcrumbs). The script writers can intervene to changes its goals and behavior on the fly based on sophisticated triggers of their choosing. It operates organizationally by Platoon/company.

        It sucks at armor as this is an infantry focused game for this campaign (but future we will do armor campaigns and focus on iy). And again it cannot operate out of the blue on random scenarios. But that will come in future.

        Generally it seems well received but I would not oversell it,I think it is at least adequate. Early in campaign it will seem quite passive as it operate low morale Vichy and Italians. But wait for the Germans 😉


  6. I’ll echo what’s been said about MSFS. It’s not perfect, but it’s by far the richest and most user-friendly variant we’ve ever had, and there is already so much to do and see. There will always be those who claim an update has ruined their install (not always unwarranted – I’m sure it happens more often than it should) but that hasn’t been my experience. I’d also rather have all these updates than the opposite.

    Regarding B-17, if it is nothing more than a copy/paste of the original that is playable on today’s hardware, I’ll be satisfied. It has the dubious honor of being the first game I ever got wrapped up in the drama of production delays and feature cuts, followed by an extremely buggy shove out the door by the publisher. It was years later before I ended up even giving it an honest go, but even then I didn’t get more than a few missions in. It would be nice to have one more shot at it.

  7. Merry Christmas Tim. Thanks for another year of peerless wordsmithery (and to Roman for another year of frying my noodle). And a big merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of the Tally-Ho Cornerites out there. You’ve all made this little corner of the web a very special place to be.
    Best wishes and all possible happiness to everyone in the new year!

    • Thanks, Capt. I’m afraid there may not be a foxer tomorrow. Roman started work on the traditional ’33 things that hit the headlines in 20XX’ missing vowels foxer, but found the research so depressing, he abandoned it.

  8. Merry Christmas everyone.

    Re Y. I’m always surprised by the complete dearth of Old West games played straight in any genre. There have been what RDR and Call of Juarez in the last decade? I guess it’s because no one wants to touch an “historical” portrayal of the racism inherent in the period with a barge pole.

    I’ve had an idea for some time of a rpg, either single pc first person or isometric party based, set in the 1870s and based on greedy rail barons trying to exploit gold in treaty native land, where you could side with anyone from the natives, the local settlers, the federals, the capitalists or the local outlaws to resolve the issue.

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