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The ArmourSoft Inc. Newsletter

Die Haus Orgel

October 1993/Issue #2
Published, oh, about once every other month or so
All contents copyright 1993 ArmourSoft Inc. Send submissions, subscriptions, complaints, questions, and recipes for cornish game hens to: ArmourSoft Inc., [obsolete mailing address deleted]
Inside this issue:
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Changes for Shipbase III version 1.1

Based on lessons learned from the last few conventions we attended and comments mailed in from customers, we've made a few changes to the Shipbase III program. Since we're such nice guys, we're making the upgrade to Version 1.1 free to all registered SB3 customers. If you ordered your copy of SB3 directly from us and/or you've mailed in your reg card, you'll automatically get the upgrade disk free of charge. (It'll probably arrive with this newsletter you're reading now.) If you haven't mailed in your reg card yet, please do so!

All games coming out of our massive manufacturing complex as of mid-October will be Version 1.1. If you're not sure whether you've got the latest version or not, check the floppy disks: if it doesn't have the circular "Ver.1.1" stamp or a newer version marking, you've got the old version. Let us know about it and we'll get ya all straightened out.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

There aren't any changes to the printed material, but there are a number of small improvements made in the computer program. Most are minor adjustments, getting critical hit messages centered properly and that sort of thing, but here are the important differences you need to know about:

  • The .EXE files on the floppy disks are now compressed, so you can't run SB3 directly from the floppy until you install it onto your hard drive or another floppy disk.
  • There's now a proper INSTALL program, as opposed to a simple batch file. It will check to see if you have a previous copy of SB3 on the target drive and if so, ask you if you want to overwrite the original. This will overwrite any scenarios you may have created yourself, so you'll have to make backup copies of your personal scenarios and the SB3SCEN.LST file and copy them back after you've run the Ver.1.1 installation.
  • In the Search system, orders can once again be processed in increments of 0.2 hours (12 minutes), as indicated in the Rulebook. The Appendix still says that turns must be processed in complete one-hour increments, but this is incorrect.
  • We've corrected the armour thicknesses of the aircraft carrier decks. Our original data showed the deck armour to be much thicker for most of the carriers than was the case in real life. This has a profound effect on games with air operations, particularly when dive bombers are involved. The carriers in the database and the Coral Sea scenario files have the corrected thicknesses, data courtesy of Conway's. Note that now those 1000 pound bombs will be much more effective against the flattops.

    Continued - see ALIENS on Page 2

    SB3 Version 1.1 Playtested by Aliens

    Continued from Page 1

  • Air- and ship-launched torpedoes were much too accurate when fired at very close range in Version 1.0. We fixed that.
  • Damage control was also too powerful, particularly for WWII navies. We fixed that too.
  • There was a strange little bug that only showed up under certain circumstances, so only a few people noticed it. When it did pop up, though, it was a doozy. Upon occaision a ship's secondary and tertiary guns would do far too much damage, almost as if they had the power of primary guns. Once we found out about the bug, we tracked it down and fixed it. Many thanks to eagle-eyed SB3 fans Ellis Lyons and Jim O'Neil for noticing the problem and reporting it to us.
  • There was another strange little bug that was even more rare, so we don't even know if anyone else ever spotted it outside our laboratory testing: once in a great while, when editing a ship's data, its damage would change dramatically, as if it were miraculously healing itself. We fixed that one too.
  • Version 1.0 had a semi-serious problem with the Search system: if you had one or more search groups with an aircraft squadron as a primary unit, and that aircraft squadron got shot down in combat or landed or combined, the search group information got all whacky. We knew about this as we were writing the search program but didn't realize how it would effect the game. In the Appendix that comes in SB3, we suggested a technique to avoid the problem by using "dummy" squadrons of planes as search groups, and not letting those dummy squadrons get involved in combat so they couldn't get shot down. Well, we fixed that whole thing, so you don't have to do the thing with the dummy squadrons anymore. Here are the related details:
    • You don't have to use "dummy" squadrons for search group primary units anymore. Use the regular aircraft squadrons.
    • Aircraft squadrons are no longer automatically removed from the list of squadrons when they're destroyed in combat. Instead, an asterisk (*) is stuck onto the front of the squadron name, just like a sinking ship.
    • When you select the Land/ Retrieve or Combine Squadron options, the program quickly checks to see if the Search system is in use at the moment. If there are any search groups active, the Air program will not let you Land/ Retrieve or Combine squadrons. This is to protect the search group data from becoming all whacky. If there aren't any active search groups at the moment, you can freely Land/ Retrieve and Combine squadrons.

If you have any questions about these changes, concerning the program or how they affect the game itself, please don't hesitate to drop us a line. Also, if you spot any potential weirdness in the program or game system, let us know. There's always a chance you might find something we don't know about yet.

Fortunately, despite the few small bugs, everyone seems to be pretty happy with the system. We've received a large number of letters from people telling us how much they enjoy Shipbase III. Many times these letters include questions, comments, and criticisms along with the congratulations, all of which we are happy to read. We try to answer as many letters as possible.

One last thing: if you haven't sent in your registration card yet, please do so! It's the best way we have of making sure we can provide for you the kinds of games you're looking for.


Shipbase III Questions & Answers

A new column, promised last issue: we get lots of calls and letters from people about SB3. We send personal replies to all these, but the questions are usually so good that we think it'd be a great idea to share that with all our customers. The first batch:

    Q. How much memory is required to run the program? - E. Derocher
    A. 512K RAM. It will run on some machines with as little as 384K, depending on the version of DOS and the number of TSR's you have. As long as you've got at least 512K you're in good shape.
    Q. Will registered owners of the program receive updates when they are published? - E. Derocher
    A. Most of the time, no. We decided to send out free upgrades of Ver.1.1 to all the 1.0 owners we know about, since it's a fairly limited number involved and because we felt we owed it to all the people who've shown us such great support these first few months. Normally we won't be able to afford to offer free upgrades, but we will make sure the upgrades are available at a very reasonable price. Our business strategy is to get lots of loyal customers by providing a good quality product and good support, within the restrictions of business reality.
    Q. Will a math co-processor chip improve the game's performance? - E. Schultheis
    A. Depends on your machine, but probably not. There aren't many places in the program (aside from End-of-Turn and Process Search Orders) where the computer sits for a while and does a lot of calculating. You might get a little noticable increase in performance, but on most machines the delays you see are caused by disk I/O and screen re-writes.
    Q. Any plans for a Windows version? - T. Warner
    A. Not in the near future. We're a small crew, with only two programmers, and right now keeping both of us busy with Tankbase is our wisest use of resources. We have the facilities to port our programs over to Windows or the Mac, but before we can do that we have to know that we'd sell a minimum number of copies (at least 1000) of that version just to come close to breaking even. The Windows users can use SB3 right now as is, as can OS/2 users, and the Mac users can run the program successfully using a PC emulator package.
    Q. Can we use the range estimation method with SB3? - several people
    A. Not currently. It could be done, but the concept clashes with the philosophy of SB3: quick, easy, manageable naval miniatures rules with which a big or small game can be played in a reasonable amount of time. So far only a few people have asked for this feature, but if enough people express a serious interest we may include it in some future version.
    Q. When do you keep torpedo tracks hidden from players? - E. Lyons
    A. Normally we have a referee for our games, who can examine the circumstances and determine if the target ship would be able to observe the incoming torpedoes and take evasive actions. With or without a ref, dice rolls are often used to determine what the target ship is likely to do in response. Therefore, we normally don't use hidden torpedo tracks in our games. However, many people do prefer to hide the torps to keep the targets from acting unrealistically. If no ref is available, the players have to roll dice to decide.
    Q. On a turn that the damage on a ship is less than the ship's damage threshold, small calibre guns that normally would not damage a ship (over threshold) will get to do their full % damage even if this takes it way over the ship's damage threshold. How do you handle this? - E. Lyons
    A. Damage threshold is a setting that affects all ships equally, and can be changed anytime during the game. It works on the concept of armour penetration: a shell that penetrates the target's armour thickness will damage the target up to 100%, while a shell that does not penetrate will only damage the target up to the damage threshold. For example, if the damage threshold is set to 70%, shell hits that fail to penetrate the armour will take the damage up to 70% and no more. Shells that do penetrate will continue to do damage past the 70% mark. The computer automatically caps the non-penetrating damage at 70% or whatever the threshold is set to.

An early playtest of our experimental system Shipbase IV: From Biremes to Ironclads. Lissa, 1866: the Italian and Austro-Hungarian fleets collide and utter chaos reigns!

Shipbase III Scenario: Dogger Bank, January 1915

This one is an all-time wargamers' favourite. German and British battlecruiser forces blunder into each other in the North Sea, not far from where the battle of Jutland takes place 18 months later.

British:
    Lion - BC
    Princess Royal - Lion class BC
    Tiger - BC
    Indomitable - Invincible class BC
    New Zealand - Indefatigable class BC
    Birmingham - CL
    Lowestoft - Birmingham class CL
    Nottingham - Birmingham class CL
    Southampton - Chatham class CL
German:
    Seydlitz - BC
    Derfflinger - BC
    Moltke - BC
    Blucher - CA
    Rostock - CL
    Graudenz - Rostock class CL
    Stralsund - Breslau class CL
    Kolberg - CL

Hey look! Here's another picture of a P51D Mustang.




Tankbase project update


Tankbase playtest. The Soviets aren't doing very well!

There is still much work to be done, but early playtest sessions show a great deal of promise. We've got enough done to run simple (but large) games with tanks and artillery shooting things and blowing up. The system is based very loosely on an ArmourSoft project from 1982 called Treads & Turrets, so we've got plenty of experience with computer- assisted armour rules. TB has many more features and functions than its predecessors, however.

In one of our first playtests we ran a company each of T34/76D's and T34/85's up against a company each of PzKpfw IV Ausf. H's and Panther G's, with the detail set at 1:1 level for the vehicles. The results were pretty spectacular and the game went quickly and smoothly.

At the beginning of a scenario, the players tell the computer the level of detail (or scale) they want in the game. Vehicles, infantry, artillery, air, and "objects" (miscellaneous things to be blown up) each have their own independent level of detail settings, and the players can use different settings for every scenario if they like. For instance, the vehicles can be set for 1:1 (each miniature tank model represents one real-life vehicle), platoon level (each model represents about five real tanks), or company level (each miniature represents ten to twenty or more vehicles). With this system, gamers can play a game with four entire panzer divisions on the board one night and a skirmish level firefight with a handful of squads the next evening, and of course any size of miniatures can be used.


Now Available: Slargeball

After sitting in an envelope in the bottom drawer of a desk in our office for more than a year, we decided to drag out and dust off this game design. We had it about 75% completed when CW/SW was released but sort of pushed it aside in order to concentrate on SB3. We remembered about it a few months ago when we decided we needed to expand our list of available products, ran it through the typesetter, and showed it to some playtesters. These guys had never heard of Irvania or Slargeball before, and came from different gaming backgrounds: one is a novice gamer, one is primarily a role-playing game fan, and another is a die-hard historical board-type wargame grognard. All three had the same reaction to the prototype Slargeball game: they loved it.

We weren't sure why this little game has gotten such a universally enthusiastic response. I hate to say it, but it was even more enthusiastic than the reactions we've gotten for Shipbase, if you can believe it. We suspect it's a combination of the humour element and sports, and it's an easy game to play and learn.

Continued - see ELVIS on Page 4

Elvis had nothing to do with Slargeball

continued from Page 1

Based on our experience with CW/SW, we decided to try something a little different from the way we did Chart Wars. Instead of having an expensive box and die-cut cardboard counters and lots of color, we thought we'd try marketing Slargeball in a "game kit" format. For five bucks, you get a bunch of photocopied paper in a plastic baggie, rather like the "microgames" produced by Metagaming and other companies over a decade ago. You have to glue the counter sheets to cardboard and then cut them out to get your chits, and you have to tape the six paper map pieces together. Sure, it's cheap, but we were able to put the whole thing together with practically no initial investment, and best of all we can sell it for $5. Obviously this isn't going to be a big money-maker in this form but it allows us to get some games out there, and if it becomes as popular as we think it might, we can produce a "proper" version of it later. Judging from the reaction we've been getting from everyone who's seen it, Slargeball might just become the cult game hit of the decade.

Special thanks to Charles Phillips and the gamers up in the Williamsport area for the great write-up Slargeball got in the WORG newsletter.


Folk's who've seen issue #1 of Die Haus Orgel have already figured out that we've wandered into:

The DIPCo Section

With Slargeball completed, we now have to decide which DIPCo project to tackle next. The most likely choice is an item we started to do a little work on about two years ago, mentioned in one of our early ad fliers:

"Generic Legions / Irvanian Robots!! Due to an accident involving office furniture and a kitchen appliance, the Irvanians wake up one morning in the 75th Century and find themsevles in control of the entire known universe. Their new responsibilities are in danger, however -- the dreaded Generic Legions are invading from the Other Dimension! Can you command your squads of Irvanian Robots (heaven help us!!) into battle to meet the challenge? Generic Legions / Irvanian Robots!! includes rules for the "Nimble Broccoli" class robots, the awesome 75th Century weapons used by the Irvanians (including the really awesome Plaster Blaster), and explains why all Irvanian Robots go into battle wearing neckties."

Project Update

Who let this guy in?

Our proposed new Napoleon at Chattanooga game will be the first in the GBOTGCN series (Great Battles of This Guy Called Napoleon). We decided that the only way to properly depict this battle would be to use a tactical unit scale, meaning one counter per squad. This requires that we include about 62,000 counters to cover the French and Swedish orders of battle. Unfortunately, in order to keep the game in the $19.95 price range, the high cost of printing that many counters means that we could only afford the map to be about seven inches long by four inches wide. We set the stacking limit at about five and a half feet. The rumours that have been going around that three of our playtesters were killed by a falling stack of Prussian Volksgermanium are not true. We categorically deny that. No one was killed, and only five were hospitalized. It did allow Cromwell's lancers to make an extra overrun attack, so we may have to adjust play balance.

Because of this minor incident, the NaC project has been delayed yet again. We'll have more details next issue.

Well actually, we do exist. That's me on the right.
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The content on this page was written in 1993
Last updated: June 11, 2016