HoI 4 – Siamese stream

St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne, Australia, late Dec 1943.
St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne, Australia, late Dec 1943.

Hearts of Iron 4 is out and to my dismay, I can’t say I’m overly impressed for the time being. But instead of listing my numerous problems with the mechanics here’s a small snippet of enjoyment I had with the game recently.

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Australian troops push up from the south as British Raj hold the western border with Siam.
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The quick push succeeds with the help of some naval invasions, despite a river crossing the momentum held by the Australian infantry manage to march into Bangkok with relatively no setbacks.
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After the fall of Bangkok the Siamese and supporting Japanese forces are pushed further back.
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And finally the Siamese Empire capitulates to Australia! (Though the UK and France got all the land.)

It was only a small part of the war (Which ended in 1942 after a final invasion of Japan by Australia (Invading at Kyushu and pushing into Shikoku/Honshu ) and the Netherlands/United states (Invading just south of Tokyo and opening up Honshu to the rest of the allied forces.) but it was a rare moment in HOI4 which didn’t feel messy with multiple factions trampling about, Hopefully in future the game improves, but for now It’s going into the pile.

Does anyone know any good war-games featuring the pacific (preferably Malay, Borneo or Papua. But I’m open for suggestions) Let me know!

ARMA 3/Iron Front – Attacking Baranów – Part One

I missed out on playing Iron Front when it first released, and given how quickly it died off I imagine I probably didn’t miss out on the best WW2 shooter ever. However the assets look fantastic in ARMA3 and I’ve always wanted to play around with more WW2 themed combat. I finally got Iron Front to play nice with ARMA3, here’s some images I snapped from a quick test mission of  throwing units at each other. Note that Baranów is a Polish town and not Russian, it may have made more sense to swap the sides for attack/defense but since it was a quick test of the mod I figured to just stick with it.

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Over open ground with little cover our German soldiers rush towards a small village to the south of Baranów. The goal is for infantry to start the initial push to clean out AT teams, Panzers are further down the road due to delays caused by a previous attack.
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The Red Army however has taken up positions and is ready to defend the coming onslaught of German infantry. The village is lightly defended but has plenty of cover.
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With little cover the engagement begins, the German troops are pinned along a small hill and start to take casualties.
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To pack some punch, a panzer rolls down the road and catches up to the infantry pinned on the hill. It provides some suppressive fire against the defenders but pushes in after thinking the village was cleared.
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As it pushes into the town the Red Army waits with an AT gun facing a main road of the street.
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And a couple good hits put the panzer out of action.
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The southern village has been captured giving infantry much needed cover. Some forces push northwards while surrounding Russian infantry attacks from nearby forests.
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P-39’s fly in to provide air support for the defenders.

 

The Luftwaffe have limited aircraft in the fight, half as many as the Russian airforce.
The Luftwaffe have limited aircraft in the fight, half as many as the Russian airforce.
However, despite being outnumbered the Germans gain air superiority.
However, despite being outnumbered the Germans gain air superiority.
The final Russian pilot is eventually shot down, giving full control of the skies to the German attackers.
The final Russian pilot is eventually shot down, giving full control of the skies to the German attackers.

With that, the assault into the town proper was about to begin. The Red Army inflicted heavy casualties on the initial infantry push and managed to take out a cocky tank crew, however they’ve lost control of the skies and now face urban combat with the remaining German infantry, as well as the remaining Panzer platoon.

EVE – Northern War

Just a quick note on the current northern war in EVE online. If you’re unaware of the conflict but are interested in digital war outside of niche war games, it’s worth digging around the information out there written by the better informed. 

EVE and its various player driven conflicts over the years has always been a point of interest to me in the world of online gaming and video game war fighting, from player groups developing and evolving their battle doctrine to the petty politics and strategy of alliances and coalitions, EVE ticks some special boxes that no other games meet.

So recently the “next big war” has been kicking off in the EVE universe, there’s a bit of history between the various player ran factions and the set up which has been covered by more informed people than myself such as Factionwarfare’s timeline and youtuber Tallardar, who uploads weekly news reports for EVE has summarized the events and issues that the conflict surrounds in the following video.

Extremely interesting to me as there are few games that allow a war between factions to develop in this way (If you happen to know more, let me know). Not so much a game to constantly play war but instead to play in the settings and climate that encourage this level of player vs player conflict.

It will also be interesting to see how this conflict works as an advertisement for EVE, both attempting to pull in old veterans, and entice players who have always been interested. I’ve noticed a lot of experienced commentators/video makers for the game mention things along the lines of “there has never been a better time to begin”. Unfortunately for EVE, antiquated systems and an extremely hardcore (sometimes hostile) player base will still play the bigger part in preventing their numbers from rising too much. With projects like Valkyrie and a new attempt at entering the FPS market after the failure of Dust514, it’s apparent that EVE are still feeling their away around that particular problem.

 

First fight on the Mius-Front

I honestly didn’t get far into Operation Star, with the interface and systems being a little bit beyond me I never gave it the chance to click. I decided to give the series another attempt with the new UI and jumped into Graviteams newest title: “Mius-Front”. Here is the AAR for my first match.

 

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After the initial orders the mission heats up when four m3a1 scout car’s are sighted by the “left” flank.
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Unfortunately for them, they’re in between several units and are in the sights of a SdKfz equipped with a 3.5cm Pak 35/36.
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They’re caught in fire from multiple directions and begin to scatter, the infantry is left in the kill zone as the vehicles attempt to flee.
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Most of the surviving vehicles run into the central bush area of the area.
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One crew manages to get their vehicle stuck (Another crew does this later, frustratingly cutting back my firepower as the soviet units dig into the forest).
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Some of the retreating vehicles come out of the bush and right into the view of the anti-tank gun.
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Not everyone made it out, due to the heavy initial fight on the left flank few units were kept on the right to keep watch. Due to AI getting their vehicles bogged/stuck there was no one to assist towards the end.

In the end the game called a draw, despite the central objective point being under my control the whole time and with the larger force finishing (the soviets had a couple vehicles left and some scattered infantry.  So I’m not entirely sure on what it defines as what, still it was an enjoyable first match and I found the new interface a little easier to dip into. Overall I’m finding it more enjoyable, I’m not sure if exposure to more and more wargames assist this or not.

Time to find some books and blogs and see how to do better next time.

ARMA 3 – Support and Leading from afar.

A group of friendly infantry are being engaged by CSAT infantry, a mortar strike effectively hits the enemy squads team leader and two other men.

The mortar team sit on top of a hill near the main camp.
The mortar team sit on top of a hill near the main camp.

While playing with Eden and the idea of playing a distant commander/support role from the actual fight I’ve come up with a small mission I’ve found relaxing. The player takes the role of a mortar team leader/spotter, the only goal is to aid the effort to repel a CSAT infantry/motorized attack on a gurellia controled valley. The bulk of the fighting is played out below, ideally the player will never really need to fire their gun.

Enemy and friendly infantry are scattered across the valley and there’s always a target to consider ordering a strike on, so it becomes an exercise in picking the most important targets. Is an infantry team being fired on? Probably best to help them out, too close to risk HE? Maybe giving them some smoke coverage could assist them.

Fighting begins below as CSAT forces begin to sweep through the valley.
Fighting begins below as CSAT forces begin to sweep through the valley. The friendly infantry are spread along the valley, CSAT forces sweep in from towards the left.
The AT ambush team manage to destroy an enemy vehicle heading towards a roadblock.
The AT ambush team manage to destroy an enemy vehicle heading towards a roadblock.
The player continues to watch friendly infantry to avoid calling in strikes on their position.
The player continues to watch friendly infantry to avoid calling in strikes on their position.

Currently vanilla AI seems to respond quite poorly to mortar fire, making them sitting ducks. So I’m hunting for some ways to help their behaviour. This is always an issue with any form of singleplayer arma/wargame/game in general due to limitations in how AI performs in these things.


The second mission plays with recon drones and ARMAs High Command system. Controling AI has always been a limited skill for me and something I’m not very comfortable with, the unintuitive string of menus that comes with commanding in ARMA has always put me off it and is something I’d love to see improved in future titles. However for now we’re making do with what we have and this mission is an exercise in learning my way around the current systems in place.

The player has access to a Greyhawk located in a distant air field and a pack holding a deployable AR-2 darter. The mission is a simple “attack the base” design, woth about 5 fireteams and some small specialist teams including a mortar. The Sniper and recon teams can probably be cut as i’ve not found a way to effectively get them to position themselves and start providing fire on targets. If my recon units could assist in spotting for other elements that would also be great, but I don’t think its really all that possible given the systems limitations.

The Darter allows for a quick and close look at the enemys defensive situation. However it's also easily shot down.
The Darter allows for a quick and close look at the enemys defensive situation. However it’s also easily shot down.
High command allows easy movement orders to large numbers of units. Unfortunately that's about as much as I've found useful with the ARMA3 version.
High command allows easy movement orders to large numbers of units. Unfortunately that’s about as much as I’ve found useful with the ARMA3 version. A burst of smoke shells are called in to cover a planned friendly advance.
The Greyhawk allows a top down view as two infantry squads approach a CSAT patrol west of the base.
The Greyhawk allows a top down view as two infantry squads approach a CSAT patrol west of the base.
With the ARMA AI being what it is my infantry team takes casualties that it most likely shouldnt have when it reaches the enemy and catches them off guard.
With the ARMA AI being what it is my infantry team takes casualties that it most likely shouldnt have when it reaches the enemy and catches them off guard.
A final push on the enemy base from two direction clears out the remaining guards.
A final push on the enemy base from two direction clears out the remaining guards.

Both missions have been enjoyable to experiment with and learn more about things that I had so far ignored. If anyone knows good guides for leading ARMAs AI I’d love to give them a read.

ARMA 3 – 3den Enhanced

After checking out Eden and thinking of a few things that would have been nice to see directly editable via the interface (Animations and stance to name a couple things), I decided to see if there happened to be any mods out to extend the editor. There is! 3den Enhanced extends the editor to add a few extra helpful menus.

It even lists the animations in the tooltip text.
It even lists the animations in the tooltip text.
This could easily be done with the Init box and the usual line of script, However this has the advantage of showing the animation in editor so you can make sure it lines up with the object properly.
This could easily be done with the Init box and the usual line of script, However this has the advantage of showing the animation in editor so you can make sure it lines up with the object properly.
Stance, damage, setCaptive and disable AI can easily be tweaked through the extended menus. Again, saving a little bit of time.
Stance, damage, setCaptive and disable AI can easily be tweaked through the extended menus. Again, saving a little bit of time.

These look to be small time savers for me (especially the animations being lined up in editor) so I figured I’d share.

ARMA 3 – Eden Editor

ARMA 3’s Eden 3d editor is out and I’m impressed. The new editor is extremely easy to pick up and I imagine will be difficult for me to put down.

The editor makes putting together detailed environments a complete joy. The interface doesn't cut it's functionality at all either.
The editor makes putting together detailed environments a complete joy. The interface doesn’t cut it’s functionality at all either.
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Editing unit initializations and paths is still extremely easy, being able to see the way-points in 3d space relative to obstacles nearby allows for generally smooth AI commands. 
Characters load-outs can also be customised in-editor, without going out and grabbing a script to paste into the initialisation box.
Characters load-outs can also be customised in-editor, without going out and grabbing a script to paste into the initialisation box.
Testing the scenario without needed to jump in and out for minor tweaks allows creators to focus on balancing/blowing things up more.
Testing the scenario without needing to jump in and out for small errors unnoticeable in 2D means that more time can be spent on refining the balance (or lack of) for the scenario. 
Only a few minutes to jump in to a new editor system, set up some things and then blow them up.
Only a few minutes to jump in to a new editor system, set up some things and then blow them up.

 

Rule the Waves – Sinking the Kinburn

A small victory in my latest Rule the Waves campaign. 

Painting by by Vladimir Emyshev
Painting by by Vladimir Emyshev

The Kinburn had been a bane for the German navy during the war of 1917, come 1920 it again caused trouble in the Baltic sea for Germany. It had become an obsession for Admiral Tirpitz to find and sink it. Russian cruisers would run ahead and appear unorganised against relatively small cruiser fleets, they would engage and then the Kinburn would appear, sending them into the depths.

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Over numerous battles the Kinburn had taken torpedo strikes and heavy fire. Every time it came home. Until the 4th of May 1921, at around 8 in the morning the German light cruiser “Stuttgart” sighted and identified two ships to the north east. A Diana class light cruiser and the Kinburn. Nearby two German battle cruisers, freshly home after a short campaign in Asia to take Formosa from the Japanese Empire approached at full speed.

The Goeben and Graf Spee, both of the Goeben class Battle cruisers, were ready to put Germany’s worries to rest.

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By 11:29 the Kinburn had finally been destroyed.  Nearby German ships were dispatched to rescue the survivors, as German naval officers had gained a level of respect for their long hunted foe.


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Shortly after the sinking of the Kinburn, the Russian leadership conceded to the Kaiser. Germany gained the eastern holdings that it had occupied during the war. Admiral Tirpitz retired shortly afterwards in 1926.

 

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Squad – First Impressions/thoughts

I’ve waited to try squad for a while, I’ve owned it since alpha but the early version disagreed with my machine. Today was my first match of it. What a messy round it was. Sorry for a garble of ideas, this was written coming freshly out of the match.

First of all let me say I have a lot of faith in the team to make a middle of the road shooter “between Insurgency and ARMA”. It’s a lot of the way there already both in terms of the mechanics and the players. Now for my first impressions, which are obviously as subjective as can be.

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Our squad already had a bad start by being the last out of the base, our squad leader (SL) had zero communication from the other squads already presumably engaging the enemy and as a result wasn’t sure on where to position the team. We opted to plug the gap between squad one and squad 2 and then assist whichever needed help when contacted or just protect from flanking. From getting to the middle point onwards almost everything went wrong.

Communication Breakdown

It’s hard to get an organised group using proper Radio communications let alone a group of random players in a public server, but I feel this in particular murdered our squads chance at success. Only one player from memory on the radio actively called out the compass direction and bearing of what he was engaging. We were constantly being flanked and encircled due to poor communication letting hostile groups behind out lines or worse, creating friendly fire incidents from people not communicating between squads.

There was also the issue of people not using local voice communications. I’m not sure if local voice has a very short radius just yet, but when things got busy the entire squad would be yelling over the squad radio channel and making no one audible as a result.

Leadership makes or breaks

This is not an attack on the SL player, but they might not have been the best to fill that role. They were possibly overly passive with issuing orders to their squad and as a result we had multiple “back seat” leaders adding to the confusion, who are just as much to blame for poor performance overall. Without a unifying leader to issue out orders everyone becomes a lone wolf and as a result the effectiveness against organised squads on the opposing force completely break down. The max squad size in the game is 9, I would suggest people playing as SL’s find a way to perhaps designate two fire team leaders and split the squad into two groups of four with the SL assigning themselves to either one of the fire-teams. There are probably other ways to split the squad to improve its effectiveness. Having one player lead nine they don’t know may be too large a task a lot of the time however.

I’ve seen it discussed on the game’s subreddit whether there should be a short period of the start of the match where players can move around their base and plan for their attack. Some argue that there’s not much that can be done here that can’t be done in the briefing screen (a screen with the map and squad list). I disagree however, the small amount of time to meet your squad members and even break the ice would help immensely for the SL and the regular squad members. It also gives time for assigning fire-teams and planning with other squad leaders locally.

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The result of effective leadership/communication

Take for example this clip from reddit user Nickoteen, the automatic rifleman does a fantastic job supporting his team by firing through the smoke (obscuring the medic). Once revived the team fall back to safety.

 This is fantastically handled and works as a great example at how Squad has potential to meet that middle road of “milsim”/shooter. When I was shot in my initial match I was almost never near a medic because our line was spread so far and thin, I don’t even know if we had someone equipped with an automatic rifle to provide suppression. I don’t know a lot of what was happening, because nothing was being communicated.

There are all kinds of great clips of functioning teamwork and effective tactics being employed within squad, as they introduce new mechanics and features such as vehicles for combined operations I’ll be extremely interested to see how the community evolves and grows.

 

Shogun 2 – Shimazu sneak attack

Fog rolls over hills and through trees in the middle of winter, 1868. Two forces assemble in central Kyūshū: The Shimazu clan, loyal to the emporer and the Shogunate loyalist Nobeoka clan.

Shimazu forces are seen in the fog from the enemies location, they move in order to face them.
Shimazu forces are seen in the fog from the enemies location, they move in order to face them.
The Shimazu forces general sits behind the crest of the hill to guard from gunfire.
The Shimazu forces general sits behind the crest of the hill to guard from gunfire.
Using the heavy fog as cover, a force of line infantry and spearmen move to the hill left of the enemy forces.
Using the heavy fog as cover, a force of line infantry and spear men move to the hill left of the enemy forces.
The enemy begin to fire on the main force.
The enemy begin to fire on the main force.
Triggering the surprise attack on the rear left, the location of the enemy general.
Triggering the surprise attack on the rear left, the location of the enemy general.
A volley of gunfire is followed by the rush of spear men towards the enemy's command.
A volley of gunfire is followed by the rush of spear men towards the enemy’s command.
As confusion breaks through the enemy lines, forces at the front begin to falter and the Shimazu forces clean up stragglers.
As confusion breaks through the enemy lines, forces at the front begin to falter and the Shimazu forces clean up stragglers.