Share This Article

Command carriers in a North Atlantic conflict, or fly the LEM on the moon.

Consider the problems of modern-day naval commanders: Today’s weapons are better, but commanders have to face the same challenging decisions  that WWII leaders did. Where should scout planes search? When should you attack? Will the moment you’re preparing for an attack, when your carrier deck is vulnerable with fuel- and bomb-laden aircraft, prove to be ill-timed? Would you send out strike aircraft without fighter escort?

Naval War: Arctic Circle, a modern naval warfare strategy game that asks these types of questions ($20, requires Microsoft Windows XP/Vista/7, 1.8Ghz dual-core processor, 2 GB RAM, 2 GB hard drive space, 256 MB 3-D video card, Turbo Tape Games,, is reminiscent of the Harpoon computer game based on the work of Larry Bond. Naval War is from a small publisher, but what it lacks in production values it counters with detail. The game features nearly every ship and aircraft a near-future navy might deploy, including the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

The focus here is mainly on asset management rather than craft operation. Players command fleets, air and submarine forces in a fictional conflict in the North Atlantic region involving the U.S., Russia, Germany, Scandinavia and the UK. Two campaigns, dozens of scenario missions and multiplayer support add up to plenty of activity.

Naval War can be a bit tricky to learn at first, and its tutorials aren’t as intuitive without video and voice, but ultimately I found it was a good teacher. I paid for poor decisions the hard way, deprived of an airborne warning plane because it lacked an escorting combat air patrol and losing an anti-submarine helicopter to a bingo fuel situation. The game also reminded me that technology is not magic. I had to saturate a well-defended target with multiple strike attempts to achieve success. I also came to appreciate strike aircraft capable of defending themselves, though I wonder if AIM-120 air-to-air missiles are as effective in real life.

Big decisions also loom in Lunar Flight ($10, requires Microsoft Windows XP/Vista/ 7, 2.4Ghz processor, 2 GB RAM, 1 GB hard drive space, 500 MB 3-D video card, Shovsoft,, another reimagining of a classic, the Lunar Lander arcade game. Lunar Flight is a simulation of NASA’s Apollo Lunar Excursion Module in which players control a LEM in transport and ferry missions to different moon bases. The use of the LEM as a reusable vehicle is the game’s primary fictional conceit; in real life the LEM made only a single landing before its ascent stage later separated from its bottom half descent stage to return to the command module orbiting the moon. But the physics modeling is good enough that Lunar Flight becomes a convincing exercise in low-G flight training.

The LEM is nicely modeled and shows the use of the reaction control thrusters to effect pitch, roll and yaw. Every pitch or yaw costs precious fuel, which players need to carefully ration. On several occasions I stranded myself, but I had a blast practicing. Lunar Flight extends play by rewarding successful mission completion and allowing players to upgrade the LEM’s capabilities.

Naval War and Lunar Flight are nice examples of the creative work being done in the independent game space. Given these packages’ reasonable price, they both represent entertaining options for sim fans.


Originally published in the September 2012 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.