SITREP

Today my wife and I lost our beloved pet cat of 15 years who was named Midnight Mouse, or “Middie”.  He exhibited no signs of diminished activity and was actually quite playful this morning when we both left for work. When I came home this afternoon, he had already passed away. My wife and I are having him cremated and will keep his ashes. This loss quite literally is devastating to me emotionally and while some may not understand the connection with a pet, many others do and understand what I am talking about. Over the last 15 years Middie was very interactive with my video gaming habit, often sitting on my desk while I was playing a game or trying to write a blog post.


Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park

Olustee Battlefield is commemorated by the Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park, a part of the Florida State Park system. This park is located within the Osceola National Forest, on U.S. 90. The actual battlefield consists of the state park, part of the national forest and privately held land on the south side of U.S. 90. There is an annual historical reenactment that takes place on the site of the battle, and nearby Lake City (in Columbia County) has hosted the yearly Olustee Battle Festival (a separate event) since 1976.

In February 1864, Major General Quincy A. Gillmore, commander of the Union's Department of the South at Hilton Head, South Carolina, ordered an expedition into Florida to secure Union enclaves, sever Confederate supply routes (especially for beef and salt), and recruit black soldiers. Brigadier General Truman Seymour, in command of the expedition, landed troops at Jacksonville, in an area already seized by the Union in March 1862. Seymour's forces then made several raids into northeast and north-central Florida.

Tropico 4 Eva Peron

The following post will detail a sandbox game (not tied to a specific set of campaign progression goals) utilizing the stock Tropico 4 game. The decision is being made up front to forgo the Modern Times DLC, as it in my opinion makes some undesirable changes to the game (most regrettably various facilities are made obsolete and there is a texturing issue with some of the new buildings that make the game look ugly). That DLC does have its positives however, such as some rather useful edicts like Health Care Reform and my favorite (so far) Police State.

While I have put in some hours on this game I do not purport to be an expert at this or the construction/political simulation genre in general. My build order preference is unique to my experience and what I detail below certainly may not be the best suggestion or optimal approach. One of the great things about this game is the ability to learn and evolve through trial and error, all along the way making both “happy accidents” as well as bone-crushing errors that drive you batty (I could not tell you how many miles of roads I have demolished.

SITREP

I have not posted anything in over a month on either of my primary blogs. I picked up a game on a Steam sale several weeks ago called Tropico 4. A good friend of mine had me try out the demo over a year ago and I was unimpressed, quickly uninstalling it and forgetting about it. Then the developer launched Tropico 5 on Steam in May, and they put the entire T4 game and all DLC (a boat load) on sale for $10.00 (I couldn’t pass up all of that content).

It turns out that the game has completely hooked me in the time since purchase. I have completed the main campaign and have logged over 200 hours of game time on Steam, more than any other game I have owned on that platform – in almost ten years. The closest other game was X-COM: Enemy Unknown (a freaking great game in its own right). There is just something about T4 that hit me at the right time and was just the right amount of different to capture my interest.

Orbiter Space Flight Simulator Delta Glider Test Flight

Orbiter Space Flight Simulator 2010 is a real-time 3D space flight simulator developed by Dr. Martin Schweiger that was first released in November 2000 and has gone through several updates with the most recent having been released in August 2010. The program is available for free and weighs in at approximately 2 GB as a compressed download and 3 GB when stored in a folder (it can be run directly from a folder without writing anything to the system registry).

The game attempts to simulate space flight by using Newtonian physics in an effort to correct a perceived lack of realistic physics based flight models in other space flight simulators that were available at the time of initial development. It models with a high degree of accuracy planetary motion, gravitational effects, atmospheric flight and orbital decay among other things. It allows the user to experience both manned and unmanned space flight missions.

Unity of Command Zitadelle PVP

This evening I faced off against Doug from the Cry Havoc! blog in my first PVP battle in UOC using the Zitadelle scenario, a six turn affair that features overwhelming Axis forces up against a wall of Soviet units fronted by entrenched infantry. The battle attempts to mimic the German offensive in the summer of 1943 in an effort to maintain a strategic offensive achieved after the third battle of Kharkov. The objective was to encircle the Soviets and destroy their mobile reserves.

The scenario consists of three objectives: Orel Outskirts (controlled by the Germans at the start, decaying by 10 points per turn after turn 3), Kursk (controlled by the Soviets at the start, decaying by 25 points per turn after turn 2) and Road to Voronezh (also controlled by the Red Army, decaying by 50 points per turn after turn 4). The margin required to win is 99 points and if there is no change from the start, the Soviets win outright.

Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear!

Today I will be reviewing the demo for the tactical turn based wargame Conflict of Heroes from Western Civilization Software in conjunction with the creator of the original board game, Uwe Eickert. This is one of the few games that have a playable demo offered on the Matrix Games website and came highly recommended by my good friend, Javelin so I had to give it a try to see what it is all about. I never played the original board game so I am coming into this with a fresh perspective of not drawing natural comparisons to that product.

That board game was first released (from my limited research) in 2008 by Academy Games and a second edition followed in 2012. There were a number of expansions released for the game and the total product won a number of awards upon release. The PC iteration currently sports two expansion packs, Ghost Divisions and Storms of Steel (standalone), also available through Matrix Games. The base game is currently running for $39.99 USD. The Ghost Division expansion is $14.99 USD and Storms of Steel is $39.99 USD (all price points are for the digital download versions).

Free Game Weekend - Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis

The original Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis (repackaged as ARMA: Cold War Assault) is being offered for free on Steam until Monday. This is not just a free play weekend for ArmA III, but they are actually giving away perhaps the greatest military combined arms game ever created in the Cold War Assault title. Sure it is pushing 13 years since originally released back in June 2001, but great games age well and this title has been verified to run in Windows 7 (I have downloaded the free game and have confirmed this).

Crossing the Dnieper 1943

Chris at the Sharp End Gaming has put together a set of small unit tactical scenarios called “Command Ops Platoon Scenarios” which presently consist of three missions: Charge of the Pioneers 1942, Crossing the Dnieper 1943 and Kekava Firefight 1944. This after-action report will focus on the Dnieper scenario, a bridge defense type effort that pits the German 108th Infantry Regiment 38th Infantry Division against the Soviet 177th Rifle Regiment.

This semi-historical scenario begins at 04:00 on September 24, 1943 with the German forces comprised of the 38th Infantry Division that was depleted to at or below regiment strength. Hitler had allowed elements of Army Group South to fall back across the Dnieper, and faced Soviet forces that consisted of a refreshed and refitted rifle regiment whose goal was to establish a bridgehead and prepare for any possible counterattack.

Conquest of the Aegean Tempe Gorge Crisis

April 17, 1941 Tempe Gorge, Greece: The Battle of Tempe Gorge was a rearguard action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces against Axis units during the German invasion of Greece. While the Australian component retreated to the south, the Tempe Gorge location was selected as a suitable place to perform a holding action against the enemy which had significant more manpower and equipment at their disposal than did the Allies.

The Allied units were designated as “ANZAC Force” and led by then Brigadier General Arthur Samuel Allen, consisting of a depleted group of soldiers fighting with mortars, small arms, scattered artillery equipment and short of ammunition. This force was expected to hold off the advancing German 6th Mountain Division commanded by General Ferdinand Schörner as long as possible to allow for the larger forces to the northwest to withdraw to the Thermopylae Line via Larissa.

Germany at War Barbarossa 1941

Southern Russia, 24 June 1941: Today I will be covering a short mission from the demo version of the game which is titled “Dubno-Brody”. The 1st Panzer Group of Army Group South is advancing into the Ukraine and is the spearhead of the invasion in the south. After crossing the borders it now faces stiffening resistance near the towns of Dubno and Brody.

The objectives are layered into three tiers: a brilliant mechanized warfare victory can be achieved by the destruction of 60 combat strength points as represented by the Soviet 149th Tank Regiment. A high speed victory can be obtained by securing the four specified objectives within seven turns, and an occupational victory can be obtained if it drags into turn eight.

The Death of SWAT (Not So Fast)

A couple of days ago I made a commentary post about the perceived death of one of my favorite tactical shooters, SWAT 4. This post was entirely accurate in that the previous developer Irrational Games and publisher Sierra Entertainment have folded. What I did not point out is that the existing SWAT 4 game (along with the expansion pack) can still be played online.

The in-game server browser was powered by GameSpy and that went under several months ago making the creation and joining of a SWAT 4 game impossible without the aid of a third party modification. Unfortunately the most popular mod that could do this actually disabled the single player capabilities of the engine so it was a complete no-go for me.

The Death of SWAT

The SWAT series of video games began in 1995 with the release of Daryl F. Gates’ Police Quest: SWAT which morphed into the Police Quest brand, becoming the fifth game of the PQ series and the first game of the SWAT series. The series ended with the 2008 mobile phone platform release of SWAT Elite Troops and featured a total of nine games over various platforms and a few canceled efforts, such as the infamous vaporware SWAT Urban Justice.

The original publisher of the games, Sierra Entertainment went defunct in 2008. The developer of the most recent PC variant of SWAT 4, Irrational Games officially closed shop last month ending any hope of either an expansion pack to follow-up The Stetchkov Syndicate or a modernized and updated version of the game, such as a SWAT 5. Given the success of the Bioshock franchise, it is easy to see why SWAT was dropped from their efforts.

Athena Sword a Decade Later

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3: Athena Sword was an expansion pack released on March 9, 2004 by Ubisoft’s Milan studio. The game required the Raven Shield base game released a year prior to be played, and featured a new eight mission single player campaign set in the Mediterranean as well as five new multiplayer maps and three new online game modes, along with seven new weapons.

The base game and expansion pack were based on a heavily modified Unreal 2.0 engine and the resulting retail release required multiple patching to be brought closer to a playable state. The Athena Sword expansion pack however was widely panned upon release for its horrible map optimization, which made otherwise stout gaming machines at that time crawl even at the lowest graphics settings.

Ghost Recon (Original) Eager Smoke

Tbilisi, Georgia April 24, 2008 02:15: Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, the “Ghosts” are deployed to the South Ossetian Autonomous Region to assist the government of Georgia in dealing with rebel forces operating on their border with Russia. In this mission the Navy has been flying sorties against rebel positions from its carrier battle group in the Black Sea.

Last evening the rebels managed to shoot down one of the F/A-18 Hornet strike aircraft and capture both the pilot and weapons officer who managed to bail out. The mission briefing goes into some detail as to where they are being held, a farmhouse that is near the crash site. The primary mission is to rescue both the pilot and the weapons officer and escort them to the extraction zone.