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The ArmourSoft Inc. Newsletter

Die Haus Orgel

August 1993/Issue #1
Published, oh, about once every other month or so
All contents copyright 1993 ArmourSoft Inc. Send submissions, subscriptions, complaints, questions, and recipes for banana pancakes to: ArmourSoft Inc., [obsolete mailing address deleted]
Special Introductory Issue:
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It's here at last!

After several weeks of delays caused by one of our suppliers, Shipbase III is finally available.

As of early August 1993, the game is available directly through our mail order department. You'll also be able to order it through GHQ's catalog, and the good folks at GHQ will be carrying the game at their vendor stands at various game conventions. It will be a little while before you see Shipbase III on any store shelves; we don't know exactly how long it will take for us to work our way through the game distribution networks.

We had been promising a delivery date of July 1993 (in time for Historicon) for over a year, and dad gum it, we almost didn't make it. We finished our work on the materials in time, but we made one very serious mistake: rather than having the various game components manufactured at separate places and organizing the operation ourselves, we opted for the "convenience" of having the entire package manufactured and assembled by one supplier. In theory, that sounds like a great idea. Unfortunately, the place we picked had apparently never done anything like that before and took considerably longer than promised.

The original plan, had the supplier been on schedule, would have put finished games in our hands right around June 21, in plenty of time for Historicon and perhaps even Origins.

Continued - see UFO on Page 2

UFOs made our game late

Continued from Page 1

To make several long stories short, we finally had to go pick up the games ourselves, eight weeks past the original promised delivery date and with the price tag upped several times by the supplier in mid-project.

After much pleading and begging we did manage to get 20 "emergency" copies of Shipbase III from the supplier just in time for Historicon. They arrived at our office the morning the convention began. We rushed down to the con and dropped off 16 copies at GHQ's vendor stand (we had already gotten mail orders for three copies and we kept one single copy for our office). All 16 copies were sold within a few hours.

Obviously we were tickled (and just a bit surprised) to see the games had evaporated that quickly. Word of mouth had spread so quickly that through all four days of the convention, everyone with an ArmourSoft t-shirt or name tag was stopped by passers-by and asked where copies of Shipbase could be found.

The two SB3 events we ran at Historicon '93 went rather well. Both events were booked up early the first day of registration. Several people who played the first night came back to try it again on the second. We did the Coral Sea scenario, almost identical to the one included on the SB3 disks and described in the rulebook. On both nights, the players on the US Navy team lucked out and found the Japanese carriers by stumbling upon them with air strikes, while the Japanese aircraft flew off in the wrong direction. Both teams played well on both nights, but the American teams had better luck. Interestingly, usually when we play that scenario here at the ArmourSoft Game Room, the Japanese come out ahead.

At any rate, we now have the games in hand in our massive storage facility. They're eight weeks late, the counters look kinda funny, the boxes are a little bigger than they were supposed to be, and our per-unit costs are much higher than we had intended, but the games are here and ready to go.

What's all this mean? First off, it means that from now on we're going to do as much work in-house as possible, to cut costs and to ensure that the final product looks the way we want it to look. Even though the project cost us a great deal more than we had budgeted (according to the "standard" wargame costing formula, we should be charging right around $114 for Shipbase III) we've decided not to raise the price of the game. While arcade-type computer games sell for $60, we're competing with other miniatures rulesets, not arcade games, so we have to price our products competitively.

We will end up raising the charge for shipping and handling, however. We'd been asking $2.00 per game for P&H, which is less than half what it actually costs us to mail SB3, so our finance department is giving us a hard time.

We learned quite a few things at Historicon this year (aside from making sure we had plenty of games on hand to sell). First and most importantly, we found that the concept of computer-assisted miniature wargame rules can be a commercial success, if done properly. The user interface must be easy to use, the game system must be easy to learn, and the game must be fast-paced and above all fun.

We also learned that most of the people we talked to liked the idea of scenario packs for SB3. Even though it takes only a few moments to create a scenario by picking the desired ships off the menus in the database, most people like the convenience of pre-packaged scenarios. The scenario packs would of course include background information on each engagement, a list of forces available, and maps, something we had wanted to put in the rulebook for the six scenarios included in the game but were unable to. The emphasis in the scenario mix would be on variety, with conflicts chosen from the entire 1890-1945 period covered in SB3. The packs will include historical, almost-might-have-been, and hypothetical scenarios.

Although the Coral Sea games went well and the overall game was enthusiastically received, there was quite a bit of discussion over the accuracy of some of the ship data. We chose Jane's as our primary source for the sake of consistency and availability, knowing that there is debate over the accuracy of that source. The SB3 program has a built-in ship data editor because we knew people would want to alter the ship data for various reasons. We'd come up with the idea of making an "advanced database" for SB3, using Conway's as the primary source. This package would include a new database program with extra features not included in the basic game (you'd be able to create your own ships and store them in disk files, for instance) and new data files. These would not write over the original SB3 files of course, so you could pick and choose from Jane's or Conway's as you like, even mixing the two sources in the scenarios you create. This idea was very popular with the players and on-lookers at the Coral Sea events, so we've put it on our project list. It'll require more programming than the scenario packs, so it will be several months before the advanced database/Conway's edition is available.

We'll keep you posted on the status of these packages in future issues.

ArmourSoft kicks off newsletter

Thousands flee in panic

Due to the incredible response Shipbase III has been receiving in its first two weeks, we've decided to launch an official ArmourSoft newsletter.

It'll be the standard game company newsletter format: articles on current games, advance warning of new products, scenario ideas, hints and tips for game play, questions and answers about game stuff, letters from readers, convention info, and so forth.

We encourage reader participation in the newsletter. If you've got any questions about ArmourSoft or DIPCo games, scenario ideas, game variants, game-related artwork, or anything else of interest, please send it along.

A yearly subscription to this newsletter, Die Haus Orgel, costs $5.00 per year. We'll be sending free copies of the first couple of issues out to people on our mailing list to spread around the good news, then we'll switch to regular operations.

When in doubt, throw in a picture of a P51D Mustang.

A Brief History of ArmourSoft

We started in 1991. Here we are!

A Not Quite So Brief History of ArmouSoft

Our head game designer guy, David "Ferns" Ferris, began writing computer-assisted wargame rules in 1982 right after a four-year hitch in the Air Force. While in college he met up with Bob "Doc" Ross, an economics professor at Bloomsburg University and long-time wargaming grognard, John "Spock" Garcia, an all-around computer kinda guy, and Raymond "Put Nickname Here" Clark, an old wargaming buddy from the Air Force days. In a bout of really bad timing Ferns signed up for the Army Reserve and was shortly thereafter sent off to Operations Desert Shield & Storm, spending the duration fighting the battle of Harrisburg Pennsylvania. Upon his return in the summer of 1991 the members of the local wargaming group pondered the idea of starting a business selling wargame stuff. After nearly two years of setting things up and drinking way too much coffee, ArmourSoft's first big game design, Shipbase III, is selling very well just weeks after its initial release. That brings us to:

Project Update: Tankbase

This is the big one everybody has been waiting for, and the project we had in mind when we started ArmourSoft as a business. It's in the early stages of design right now so we can't say too much about what the game will be like, but we will say that it will be innovative. The database will contain just about everything involved in land warfare from the turn of the century to the present, with some pretty advanced features for creating scenarios. At the beginning of each scenario you will be able to set the scale and detail level to be played. This will allow you to have, for instance, a very high 1:1 level of detail for the tanks and a simple complexity setting for infantry. The scales available will range from single soldier (skirmish) units, through fireteams and squads, to platoon and company level. In other words, you'll be able to use the same set of rules for a squad- or company-level game and for battalion-, regiment-, even division-sized scenarios. This is pretty mind-blowing compared to what's available on the market these days.

We'll have more details on the Tankbase project in the next issue of Die Haus Orgel.

There's apparently no way out of it. It's now time for the segment covering one of our subdivisions. Sorry folks, we have to give them space in the newsletter, it's part of the lease agreement. It's time for

The DIPCo Section

Hello folks and welcome to the DIPCo Section. DIPCo is a branch of ArmourSoft Inc., although they will rarely admit it publicly. The name comes from a Traveller sci fi RPG campaign we ran many years ago: DIPCorp (Data InterPlanetary Corporation) was the intergalactic organization of bad guys, every bit as subtle and competent as the name implies. We modified the name a little for legal reasons and took it for our own, well, because it was there.

We published our first game, Chart Wars/Space Waste, in June 1992. CW/SW is actually a double game package, hence the name. Both are two-player board-type wargames, with a map and cardboard counters and lots and lots of charts. Chart Wars is a strategic look at modern warfare, or more accurately, a spoof of every "classic" wargame ever made. Space Waste is a simple tactical spaceship combat system for people who like a good quick shoot-em-up.

Unfortunately, CW/SW is so unique and wonderful that people can't figure out what it is. Due to mistakes made at the printer, the text on the box that describes the game is almost illegible, and the style of the artwork is different than most people are used to for a wargame. People pick up the box, look at it for a moment, chuckle at some of the art, and then put it down again because they can't figure out what it is. It looks almost more like a jigsaw puzzle than a game. However, those few people who have purchased the game said they really liked it. We're hoping the game catches on someday.

Since CW/SW sales have been dismally slow and since we sunk all our allowances into the production of CW/SW, we've decided to take a completely different approach for our next game, Slargeball. This is our version of the national sport of Irvania, sort of a cross between football, soccer, hockey, and hand-to-hand combat. Rather than have a color map and cardboard counters and a fancy expensive box as with CW/SW, Slargeball will come in a ziplock bag, have no color, and you'll have to cut out the paper counters and glue them to pieces of cardboard. This allows us to manufacture the game with practically no initial investment and also allows us to sell it for a really low price. We'll have more details on this baby next issue.

Project Update

The big news of course is our new game system, Napoleon at Chattanooga. We had never heard of this battle before but this guy named Bill told us all about it at a convention last year and he said it was, you know, like, the most important military campaign ever fought. So we sent our crack team of historical researchers off to the community college library to begin work on this colossal project. Unfortunately they haven't been able to find anything yet on this battle, so the project is temporarily postponed while we try to dig up some accurate information.

Actually, we do exist, but don't tell anybody.
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