A is for Alphabetised wargame, sim, and site news. Now and again, 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 Beware of the brambles

Launched last November, LANDNAV, “an authentic simulation of military land navigation training”, takes zero prisoners. If I apply myself and only play it when bright-eyed and bushy-tailed I’m sure I’ll eventually get the hang of it. Right now, however, the much simpler/smaller Orienteering Simulator is my rural ramble-em-up of choice. A bijou freebie from MirageDeveloper, OS is, as its name suggests, a game about finding control points using nothing but a map, compass, and a pair of Mk I eyeballs. Ingeniously, how helpful that map is depends on the difficulty level you select.

C is for Combat Mission in 2024

It looks like Combat Mission: Cold War players will get their hands on Chieftain tanks before GHPC users. Having just shipped Downfall, Final Blitzkrieg’s capstone, Battlefront’s AFV artisans and scenario-smiths are now free to concentrate on British Army on the Rhine, a delayed supplement for Combat Mission: Cold War. Last I heard, BAOR will add British and Canadian forces of the 1976-80 period to CMCW. Lovers of FV4201s, Leopard Is, lightning-quick light tanks, and weird FV432 variants should be well catered for.

D is for Dithery devastation

I hope there will be the odd combat-free interlude in FUMES proper. Admiring the views and soaking up the atmosphere in the demo isn’t easy as you’ve invariably got a pack of hellraising hatchbacks bearing down on you.

E is for Expeditions: A MudRunner Game

Somehow Saber Interactive has resisted the urge to call its imminent MudRunner/SnowRunner trequel Dust, Dirt, or SandRunner. Due to hit Steam on March 5, Expeditions: A MudRunner Game can trace its origins back to Spintires, a game I first wrote about almost a decade ago. Having, for no explicable reason, abstained from virtual mudplugging for years, I’m looking forward to reacquiring the habit via Expeditions. Expect, at the very least, a 3×3 proto-review.

F is for First simulation Let’s Play?

This 1984 episode of US TV show The Computer Chronicles contains what might well be the world’s first sim Let’s Play plus fascinating footage of a period AH-64 training sim in action. Guest Frank Lewandowski of Singer-Link talks about the importance of framerate, and gives show hosts Stewart Cheifet and Gary Kildall a taste of coming graphics advances. Most surprising is the bit where Frank reveals the technological disparity between a 1984 IBM PC and the hardware running Singer-Link’s splendidly smooth Apache sim.

G is for Good-looking, gripping, generous, and gratis

The entertaining Merc Tactics beta also happens to be groaning with guns, grenades, and goons.

H is for History repeating itself

Combat reports, war diaries, orders… the July 1943 Soviet offensive that inspired Stalemate on the Donets, the last Graviteam Tactics add-on, generated plenty of paperwork. Three hardworking friends of Graviteam – Arkadiy Naumov, Anton Prettenhofer, Andrey Zuev – have assembled, translated, and sifted that paperwork. The result is The Semenovka Bridgehead, a free 190-page companion volume of rare scholarship and depth. Depressingly, the fields around Semenovka currently sport a fresh crop of shell craters.

I is for Ignatius indignant

Ignatius, my grumpy shoulder gnome, reckons it’s a “bit rich” of MicroProse to release an Early Access version of a tarted-up 23-year-old bomber sim. He thinks buyers of the £12 B-17 Flying Fortress: The Mighty 8th Redux had a right to expect stuff like updated aircraft exteriors, mouse-controlled bombsights, and long-overdue bug fixes on Day One.

J is for Jan 26

Surely Truck World Studio, the increasingly taciturn outfit behind Truck World: Australia, won’t let Jan 26 pass without a news update. It’s been almost four months now since their last Steam communication and some TWATs (Truck World Australia Thumb-twiddlers) are getting anxious.

K is for Kettles coming to SimRail

Now I’ve got Ada in my life, I’ve no excuse for shunning SimRail. The well-liked (according to Steam’s stats) Polish rail sim has an exciting few months ahead of it judging by this roadmap. Not only should it have left Early Access by the start of the summer, shunting and steam loco operation should be possible.

L is for Lots to admire

Itch.io tenant Gabe1010 is a talented fellow. For the past year he’s been working on a wargame prototype he describes as a “bit like Total war meets Fields of Glory”. Build 58 of Formation Tactics Game comes with a skirmish mode, nineteen factions, and numerous tactical subtleties. Order couriers… influential cohesion and terrain… significant flank attack bonuses… light troops that automatically try to evade… impetuous and distracted units… there’s much here to please the FoG-fond grog.

M is for Medieval messengers

Games Operators, the publishers of Radio Commander (£3 until Jan 28), think RC’s secret weapon, imperfect communications between player and playthings, could work in a Medieval setting too. Obviously, your instructions will travel by VHF (Velocitous Hooves and Feet) in King’s Orders not VHF (Very High Frequency) radio waves.

N is for No instantaneous info sharing

Abhor ‘borg spotting’ in tactical computer wargames? The second Armored Brigade II developer diary should put a smile on your face. In AB2 there’ll be no instantaneous info sharing, instead we’ll get a “system that mimics real-world military communication procedures… To illustrate this with a practical example: suppose an individual tank has spotted a hostile contact. Tank commander will report this at the platoon level, which will then be relayed by the platoon commander up the chain to the company headquarters. Here, the information spreads on two levels: upwards to other headquarters within the communication network, and downwards to other platoons or sections. This feature allows units to share critical battlefield intelligence more realistically, elevating the strategic depth of gameplay.”

O is for Operation: OPS

Don’t be put off by the primitive visuals, bizarre title, and lack of an entrance fee, Operation: OPS is an engrossing stealth shooter in which remaining undetected for as long as possible isn’t just wise, it’s borderline essential. Helping you keep things covert is a range of 007-style kit including a silenced pistol and a motion detector, and abilities such as corpse dragging, guard luring, and noiseless melee takedowns.

P is for Preposterous pistol projectiles

Talking of James Bond gizmos, the latest World of Guns death dispenser fires tiny rockets not bullets. Developed in the 1960s, the Gyrojet pistol and its bigger siblings were lighter than conventional firearms because their barrels didn’t have to withstand rambunctious combustion gases. Instead of relying on an initial kick up the jacksy for propulsion and barrel grooves for rotation, a Gyrojet round was accelerated and spun by four ‘microjets’ in its base.

Q is for Quick fag card

‘Aircraft of the Royal Airforce’, a set issued by John Player & Sons in 1938, must have made Goering grin. The majority of the fifty types depicted are well-past-their-prime biplanes. While the 220 mph Hawker Fury was one of the fastest things aloft when introduced in 1931, seven years later it was sharing skies with monoplane fighters capable of 350 mph. Thankfully, by the outbreak of the war, most of the RAF’s Furies had been replaced by Hurricanes or Spitfires. Very few of the exported examples that saw action during WW2, survived their baptisms of fire.

R is for Red Glare

Amazing! Red Glare, a £12 Commandos-like that sneaked onto Steam yesterday accompanied by a demo, is a solo effort. The ten minutes I’ve just spent tricking, avoiding, and topping far-from-home Hitlerites (You play “agents of the OSS, the precursor to the CIA, combating a secret German expedition in South America”) on the demo’s surprisingly large and intricate map were very promising. I’ll definitely be going back for more.

S is for Second Front swells

The blue, late-January spike in Second Front’s Steam review graph and the recent release of Bully Beef and Biscuits, a sizeable free add-on, probably aren’t unconnected. I can’t remember the last time a wargame dev gave away such a massive expansion for nothing. Grumbling about the absence of portées when this mouthwatering selection of beige brutes and this impressive roadmap has just been dropped in your lap, would be extremely discourteous so bite your tongue Ignatius!

T is for Twirl and turtle dodge

Exosky Gameplay Trailer – ModDB

Reality-rooted aerodynamics and bonkers environments collide, often literally, in aerobatic oddity Exosky and its demo. Going like the clappers, plunging into the sea, grazing obstacles, baiting paintball turrets… there are around a dozen different ways of stirring the score counter at the bottom of the screen. The game’s brainfather, Jordan Elevons, is a licenced pilot from Boston who also happens to have developed a “programmatically-designed prosthetic lower limb system for amputees”.

U is for Uncommonly unfamiliar battleground

Although, courtesy of titles such as Open General, I’ve wargamed in WWI-era East Africa and North Africa previously, I can’t remember ever participating in a recreation of the South-West Africa campaign before. Fingers-crossed, the scenario designer behind the next Wars Across The World DLC is able to coax some challenge from the game’s notoriously vincible AI.

V is for Very little chance…

… the “physics-based” snowmobile simulator Sledders won’t appear in the next 3×3.

W is for Which WWI weirdo?

I was thinking of devoting next Friday’s feature to one of the three offbeat WW1 titles released this month. What would you prefer – thoughts on War Hospital, All Quiet in the Trenches, or Skies above the Great War?

X is Xcised as I’m running late

Y is for “You’ve proved an appealing level of finger dexterity”

Earlier this month national treasure Joe Richardson updated the trailer for upcoming point-and-click rib-tickler Death of the Reprobate and price-slashed its highly amusing predecessors. Until Jan 29 the two funniest games on Steam are £1.60 and £3.60 respectively.

Z is for Zounds! Check out this colossus.


  1. Formation Tactics Game – looks fun but is crying out for a quick graphics pass on that UI!

    King’s Messenger – I was just reading about the battle of Ulundi recently, which I somehow thought, Omdurman style, was fought rather further apart from Isandlwana than the six months it was. And the idea of Chelmsford desperately running away from Woolsley’s orders and usurpation of his command would make a great game mechanic. The trick would be working out how to not make it immensely frustrating for the player though…

    Next 3X3 I’m interested in both All quiet in the trenches and War Hospital, and if I had a bit more time and money recently would have given them a quick go. I’d suggest Trenches as trenches sims are few and far between.

  2. Forget the projectiles, the Gyrojet itself is preposterous.

    The pamphlet Tim kindly shared wasn’t easily readable so I went straight to World of Guns, found the Gyrojet, field stripped it, disassembled it and went, “Wait? That’s it?”

    Ridiculously simple firearm design.

    So I put it together and test-fired it. It’s a top loader, much like loading a magazine, and frankly the whole weapon isn’t significantly more complicated than some magazines. The safety is crude but effective, the trigger releases a spring that acts on the hammer, which.. well, here is where it made me slow the action down to 1/50th normal speed to see what was going on.

    Instead of the hammer having or striking a firing pin to set off the charge in a cartridge, the hammer pushes the bullet backwards onto the firing pin. Imagine where this leaves the hammer!

    While the pamphlet describes what happens after the firing pin does its job as “the forward thrust of the rocket forces the hammer forward and down” I would put it slightly differently: The first thing you shoot with this gun is the hammer!

    While you make think that this is preposterous, a gun whose very design involves shooting itself, this is sane compared to the next bit.

    The hammer needs space to do all that pushing and being shot. This means that the bullet can of course not be inserted into the barrel for firing. It also means that the bullet must travel past the entire hammer assembly before it can reach the barrel.

    This gun not only shoots itself, it also leaves its bullet merrily floating in mid-air through the first part of its journey, then routes it through a barrel – which is, incidentally, held in place only because there isn’t room for it to fall out – before then expelling it in whichever direction the bullet chooses.

    I can imagine this is an incredibly cheap and easy weapon to make. All the cost will be in the bit you have to buy lots of times: the bullets. But forget the cost. I hate to think how accurate that gun is above ranges of several centimetres.

    Also: World of Guns continues to deliver educational entertaining experiences 2-5 minutes at a time.

  3. Computer Chronicles brings back memories. I remember those shows at the time. I also remember the struggle with my Charlie Chaplin inspired purchase of an IBM_XT and wondering about it’s possibilities above beyond my Radio Shack wonder. . But most of all memories of the excitement of discovering a new digital landscape. I really enjoy your A2Z piece always an interesting read.

  4. I’d be interested to hear about All Quiet in the Trenches. The other two look like they might need quite a bit more time in the oven.

    Pity about The Mighty 8th Redux. The devs to my knowledge never revealed any plans to (or not to) fix the original’s bugs – mostly only about updating the art. Still, one would reasonably expect certain things.

    The Mighty Eighth was my first ever experience with a highly anticipated, extensively delayed, and ultimately disappointing game, including following along with a forum of demanding sim enthusiasts. I learned a lot of harsh truths about game development, publisher politics, and demanding sim enthusiasts in that experience. “Tempered expectations” is now my mantra for release timelines, feature scope, and release quality ever since. My world is easier to live in because of it.

  5. I’m interested in AQITT and War Hospital, but looking at Steam reviews I think I’d rather see your take on AQITT since it sounds like you’ll get to spend more time talking about the game and less about bugs. The concept of Skies Above is great, but after your previous experience and the mixed reviews on Steam… eh.

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