Caster's Corner - Livestreaming on Twitch

Friday, March 30, 2018

Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China, Mission Seven - Lucky Day Akyab

In December 1942, the first attempt by British forces to retake Burma from the Japanese began with the attempted invasion of Akyab. An island containing a well built, all weather airbase, it represented a strategic location from which IJAAF aircraft could cover most of Central Burma with fighters and transports, and reach Rangoon with their medium bombers.

This mission simulates one possible attack on the airfield by Mk. IV Blenheims of the RAF’s No. 60 Squadron. During a single engagement on May 22th, 1942, a single Blenheim crew was credited with shooting down Lt Col Tateo Kat¬ō’s Ki-43 and badly damaging two other aircraft over the Bay of Bengal. Lt. Kat¬ō’s demise would prove a severe blow to the IJAAF.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Book Review - Operation Hail Storm

An interesting technothriller, bogged down by a few odd tech fixations of the author. Operation Hail Storm's protagonist, Marshall Hail, is basically Bruce Wayne, if Bruce Wayne had decided take care of the world's problems with the vast resources of Wayne Enterprises, rather than becoming Batman and cleaning up Gotham.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Coffee Is For Closers - Ep.7 - Nata The Wolf Dog

Enter Nata, the latest member of the Wolf Dogs team. A dual-blade wielding melee fighter who's a bit of a psycho, he may have a few redeeming qualities.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Around the Web: Closers Review

This was a fun one. Closers is a Korean MMO that has been localized by En Masse Entertainment (Tera), for North American Release. While the game has been out in Korea for a few years now, in only came out of Steam Early Access in the N.A. region in February.

Yuri says you should click the photo and read the review.

Most of my Coffee Is For Closers! series went into making this review. I don't think I'm anywhere near done playing this game, however.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Monday Vlogging - Caught Up!

Three months into the year and I've finally hit one of the goals for the year: a two week content buffer. Now to maintain it...

But this is a time for a bit of celebration, because it took a lot of effort to build up a buffer just to this point. It's at least a little easier to just stay current and not always be working from a state of needing to catch up on everything.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China Mission Six - Train To Nowhere

Not a lot of historical details for this mission, though it is at least somewhat representative of the kinds of patrols the AVG would fly, particularly once they got their bomb-carrying P-40Es.

The forced landing and squeezing two people into the cockpit of a Hurricane IIb is a bit of a stretch, but “Rule of Cool”, Artistic license, and all that.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Well Hello There, New Sportsters!

News that Harley-Davidson would be announcing a pair of new Sportster models set the rumor mill into overdrive. Would we get a scrambler? A true light tourer? Maybe an Iron 1200?

I love my Sportster 1200 Custom, which, as I’ve written before, has been pretty much the perfect first motorcycle for me. It’s been a perfect blend of Swiss-Army knife, jack-of-all-trades, motorcycle. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few things that I’d like to change, so I’m always interested in what’s new from H-D

Outside the fence at one of the local airports on one of the last rides of 2017. Image mine.

The two new Sportsters that we got were the Iron 1200, and the Forty-Eight Special. Of the two, I definitely prefer the Iron 1200. The Forty-Eight Special looks good, but it’s basically just a Forty-Eight with mini-ape handlebars and some other cosmetic changes. With the tiny 2.2 gallon peanut tank, you’re not going very far between stops. It’s a good-looking bar hopper, or a nice 2nd motorcycle for someone who already has a practical daily rider, but a good only bike this is not.

It's a really good looking bike. Just not one that would work in my garage. Image via Harley-Davidson

That Iron 1200 is a different story. I really liked the look of the Iron 883 that I rode last fall, but the 883 engine lacks guts, especially compared to the bigger displacement 1200. With the additional power, and a bit of wind protection from that bikini fairing, the Iron 1200 looks a lot more capable. That 3.3 gallon tank won’t let you keep up with the big tourers forever, and I’d think long and hard before trying an Iron Butt ride on one, but that’s still more than enough range to make a reasonable day trip. Plus with the range of customization options and aftermarket parts available, this could easily be turned into a daily rider, a show chopper, or almost anything else. With most Sportsters, the only real limits are imagination and budget.

I really think the Iron looks even better though. Especially with the blue tank graphics. Image via Harley-Davidson
Will either of these two replace Kristi in my garage? Probably not. But I’ll sure try to throw a leg over if they show up at the next demo fleet event I attend!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Coffee is for Closers, Ep. 6 - Meddling Kids

In which Yuri finally gets a confrontation with Kalbach Tux. Naturally, with several more story areas to go, the conclusion turns out a little less satisfying than she would have liked. We do, however, get to peel away a layer of the onion to see some of the machinations working behind the scenes that spawned Tux in the first place. No doubt we’ll be seeing more of them in the future.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Around the Web - Raid On Coasts Full Preview on Marooner's Rock

As promised last week with the video, I took some time to write up my full thoughts on Raid On Coasts.

I don't even know what's going on in this splash screen. It's like someone cut and pasted a bunch of elements from different scenes together. That's pretty much the quality you can expect with this game.
It’s not a bad concept. The somewhat balanced map harkens back to some of the classic ‘90s RTS games that experimented with balanced Capture The Flag style gameplay modes, something that Z and Z Steel Soldiers did particularly well. The artwork is surprisingly detailed and clean, with tanks and helicopters having some nice little movement animations. It’s the kind of concept which, with some map randomization and a decent enemy AI, could provide an entertaining set of bite-sized RTS gaming moments.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Monday Vlogging - First Ride of the Year!

The weather forecast promised fifty-two degrees. It only got to forty-four, but the snow's been melting, there was no ice on the roads, so I was going out.

And with that, I'm caught up on my buffer space!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Let's Play Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China, Mission Five - Malaya'd Flat

On December 8th, 1941, less than an hour before the attack on Pearl Harbor on the other side of the International Date Line, Japanese forces invaded Malaya. Resistance came in the form of undermanned and outgunned British, Indian, Australian, and New Zealand forces.

Unlike how the in-game mission plays out, historically this was a disastrous invasion for the Allied forces. Japan held total air supremacy from the start of the invasion, and the Buffalos, Blenheims, and Vildebeasts arrayed against them proved woefully ineffective at stopping the landings, much less providing much air support once the landings had been accomplished and Japanese troops were ashore. The entire defense of Malaya was over by the end of January, 1942.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Museum Stories: The Rogallo Wing and Gemini Tow Test Vehicle

While hunting through my Udvar-Hazy trip photos for something to use in my Flying Tigers companion story on the Westland Lysander, I came across this photo which I’d completely forgotten about.

My photo.
I generally find space capsule exhibits kind of boring. Oh, they’re interesting to look at and visualize the cramped quarters that astronauts have had to work with, and the technology used to keep humans alive where we were never meant to be is fascinating, but with a couple of notable exceptions, spacecraft don’t fly. At best they mostly just fall with style. Or without style, in the case of most capsules. What’s really interesting to me are the rockets that propel the capsule up there.
But this… thing, the Rogallo Paraglider and Gemini capsule Tow Test Vehicle, while its flight characteristics could only charitably be categorized as falling with style, at least flew. More or less. Maybe less, since the concept never really worked as intended. Something about inflatable gliders and high winds not being a happy mixture.
Amy Shira Teitel did a great explainer video a couple of years ago on her Vintage Space channel.

Mostly I think I like this combo because it’s weird, and it’s from the ‘60s space and aviation programs when people weren’t afraid to take some risks and try some crazy experiments. With the budget numbers and risk averse culture that seems to inhabit NASA anymore, it’s tough to imagine anyone greenlighting this concept, much less signing off on the cobbled together training craft built by Milt Thompson and Neil Armstrong.

All the risk now seems left to private industry. Maybe that’s better. I can’t help but notice that while NASA’s Orion capsule still hasn’t left the ground, and will ride non-recoverable rockets when it does, SpaceX is busy certifying their Dragon capsule for human flight and recovering more rocket parts. Scaled Composites is drop testing their new and improved SpaceShip Two and expects to be doing engine runs this year. At least someone’s still trying new things, and willing to take some risks.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Raid On Coasts Video Preview

More on this next week when the full written preview hits on Marooners' Rock, but I got offered a key for upcoming RTS title Raid On Coasts to do a preview. It's... well, look, just watch the video, all right?

Look, if you hand me an ugly baby and ask for my honest opinion, don't be offended if I tell you your baby's ugly.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Around the Web - Backlog Burndown #27, Christmas in March

Over on Marooners' Rock, I finished another game! The first of the year, actually. Maybe I should try to plan out my play throughs of holiday themed games a little better so that they actually roughly coincide with the holidays that they're themed around? That's such a crazy idea, that it just might work!

Rated 10/10 on dueling Santa costumes, regardless of any other issues.
Backlog Burndown #27, Sakura Santa, is now live.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Monday Vlogging - February Wrap-Up

Taking a look at February, I made some major productivity changes that seem to be producing immediate dividends. Let's see if I can keep it up for a full month.

I broke my car, but I got her back. Lesson learned: do a full Nut and Bolt inspection of my four-wheeled vehicles, not just my motorcycle. Contacts are back on my face!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Let's Play Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China Mission Four - Rangoon Rumble

In a period of five days from December 20-25th, 1941, a massive force of Imperial Japanese Army Air Force aircraft attacked the city of Rangoon, and the airfields used by the RAF and AVG. The Brewster Buffalos and Curtis P-40B Warhawks of No. 67 Squadron and AVG 3rd Squadron rose in defense.

While in the game mission you seem to manage an unmitigated success, in truth, the Japanese attacks did manage to kill over a thousand civilians and destroy twenty Buffalos and P-40s, mostly on the ground.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Flying Tigers Companion: Brewster F2A/B-339 Buffalo

This week, we take on the third and final flyable aircraft from the first training mission in Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China, and also the initial star of the fourth mission in the game. The Brewster F2A Buffalo is something like the Rodney Dangerfield of World War II aircraft, it gets no respect at all. A frequent inclusion in various “World’s Worst Aircraft” lists, the poor Buffalo was generally disliked by American and British pilots, but also loved by the Finns, who compiled a 32-to-1 kill ratio against early Russian aircraft during the Continuation War of 1941-1944. (Although this last stat could also simply be considered more proof that Finlanders will happy kill Russians with whatever equipment they have available. See also Simo Häyhä.)
RAAF Buffalos of No. 453 Squadron. (Wikipedia)

First flown in December 1937, the F2A-1 Buffalo was the United States Navy’s first monoplane fighter. While it won the fly-off competition against Grumman’s F4F Wildcat, Brewster’s production delays and management issues pushed the Navy into procuring the Wildcat as well. By the time war broke out in the Pacific, only a handful of Buffalo squadrons were still operated by the U.S. Navy, while the Finns, the RAF, and the Dutch operated squadrons of their own.
Dutch Buffalo from IL-2, dirtied up for landing.

Of the three major sub-variants of the Buffalo that were produced, it is the performance of the final version, the F2A-3, which mostly earns the poor Buffalo its place of shame on “World’s Worst” lists. That version, with increased fuel capacity, cockpit armor, and heavier weapons, was simply more weight than even the upgraded engine could handle. Where early F2A-1 and -2 models were compared favoriably to the P-40Bs of the time, the -3 was simply inferior in almost every way to not only other U.S. Navy fighters, but critically inferior to the Japanese Zeros against which it would be flying in the opening year of World War II in the Pacific.

British Buffalos suffered similarly to the American F2A-3 models. Overloaded and underpowered for the hot, high climates of Malay and Burma, the export model B-339Es were often run with a minimum of fuel and ammunition to at least keep up with the older Ki-27s that the IJAAF initially flew in theatre. With the arrival of the Ki-43, however, the Buffalo’s days were essentially over.
B-339C Replica in the Netherlands. Wikipedia

There are no restored, flying Buffalos. Given its reputation, there are no flying replicas either. A single restored B-339 of the Finnish Air Force is displayed in the Aviation Museum of Central Finland. In addition, a full-scale replica B-339 built by the Cradle of Aviation Museum is displayed in Militaire-Luchtvaartmuseum of the Netherlands. A second replica F2A-2, also built by the Cradle of Aviation Museum and sporting U.S. Navy markings is displayed at that museum.
Odd, but historically true markings of another British Buffalo from IL-2

Virtual pilots, at least, have an easier time finding the cockpit of a Buffalo. In addition to its appearance in FTSOC, it shows up as a Tier IV American multirole fighter in World of Warplanes, and in War Thunder as a Tier 3 aircraft. The more sim-minded can find both the Finnish B-339 and American F2A variants in IL-2, still my old go-to for combat flight sims.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Coffee is for Closers! Ep. 5 - A Villian Emerges

Episode Five of Coffee is for Closers, the continuing series wherein I play through En Masse's new MOARPG Closers!

This week, the bandaged man reveals himself (a bit) as our heroine explores more of the second district!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Around the Web - The Void Rains Upon Her Heart Preview (Marooners' Rock)

Over on Marooners' Rock, I took a preview look at a new shmup/roguelike hybrid from indie developer Veyeral Games.

This is a really promising game, with some neat hybrid elements from both genres. It's going to be in Steam Early Access for the next year or so, but is already filled with more features than a lot of full releases. Check out the preview, and check out the game itself on Steam!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Unacceptable Risks - Monday Vlog 2018-9

A few weeks ago I had a mouse in my house.The little jerk stole the cheese right out of a baited trap, escaped when the trap fired, but couldn't resist coming back for a second taste. It was the last mistake he ever made.

My Saturn VUE has been giving me warning signs for months that the ignition or some other electrical component is failing. I ignored them, hoping that they would either go away, or that I could limp back into riding season before something failed catastrophically. I made it to February.

Risky behavior has a tendency to come back to bite you at inopportune moments. When the bait is just too good to ignore, there's probably some unexamined downsides.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Let's Play: Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China - Mission Three

More battle re-creations! On April 2nd, 1942, Karun "Jumbo" Krishna Majumdar took off on a solo mission to attack the IJAAF airbase at Mae Hong Son. Escorted by two Brewster Buffalos of RAF No. 67 Squadron, Majumdar successfully destroyed the hanger, some aircraft, and damaged the airfield. The next day he led the entire contingent of No. 1 Squadron's Westland Lysanders on another raid. This is where you come in in the game.

I don't know why flight action games insist on jamming turret segments into their games. I don't think I've ever enjoyed one of them. The same is true for this mission, which unfortunately insists on jamming you into the gunner's seat of the Lysander for the start of the battle. Once that static bit is past, though, it's back to actually flying, and getting stuff done. Aside from the turret bit, this is a pretty fun mission. The Lysander is no dogfighter, but with FTSOC's relaxed take on reality, it can manage okay against the Ki-27s of the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Flying Tigers Companion: Westland Lysander

Continuing the deep dive into aircraft featured in Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China, today we come to the second aircraft featured in the opening mission - The Westland Lysander. As shown in the first mission, FTSOC largely treats the Lysander as a light bomber, which is the primary role it was used for by the Indian Air Force in the China-Burma-India theater. With its landing gear-mounted stub wings loaded with small bombs, the Lysanders of the IAF were adequate light bombers, at least until better aircraft arrived.
Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum's Lysander Mk III in target towing colors. (Wikipedia)

However, artillery scouting and harassment bombings were not the Lysander's claim to fame. Instead it would be the flat midnight black Lysander Mk IIIs of RAF No. 138 and No. 161 squadrons that would become famous for their support of spying and resistance operations behind enemy lines. Equipped with a large belly tank for extra range and a fixed ladder for faster ingress/egress from the rear cockpit, these aircraft slipped into and out of occupied territory, their excellent short field performance and relatively high cruising speeds allowing them to extract and insert over two hundred agents from 1941 to 1944.
The Shuttleworth Collection's Lysander Mk III. Wikipedia

Lysanders also performed a great number of other, less glamorous duties. The RAF and RCAF used them as target tugs, liaison aircraft, and as trainers. The Canadians also used them to patrol Canada's Eastern coastline with anti-submarine and search and rescue duties. For a brief time they were even equipped by two fighter squadrons when no other aircraft were available.

Today the roar of the Lysander's Bristol Mercury engine can still be heard on good days at some airfields in Canada (Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum and Vintage Wings of Canada), and in England (Shuttleworth Collection). Non-flying exmaples are displayed in Canadian, English, American, Belgian, and Indian museums.
Visible below the Monnett Moni is the NASM's Lysander. And their P-40. I wish I'd gotten individual pictures of those aircraft. Time to play another trip! (My photo).

Virtual pilots, unfortunately, are pretty limited in our options to simulate this aircraft. Lacking the "sexy" roles of fighter or bomber, I cannot recall any other flight-action games besides FTSOC where the Lysander has been represented. For sim pilots, the best bet is add-on mods for FSX, IL-2, or Combat Flight Sim 3.
IL-2 ingame screenshot of modded in Westland Lysander via the Free IL-2 Modding forums and forum member Gumpy

There are also no flying replica kits offered. A single, non-flying Lysander Mk III movie prop is being offered for sale, however. I wonder what my HOA'S rules would be on that?
Sure, this'll look great on my front lawn...
(Photo via Historic and Classic Aircraft Sales