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The ArmourSoft Inc. Newsletter

Die Haus Orgel

April 1994/Issue #4
Published, oh, about once every other month or so
All contents copyright 1994 ArmourSoft Inc. Send submissions, subscriptions, complaints, questions, and recipes for Puffy German Pancakes to: ArmourSoft Inc., [obsolete mailing address deleted]
Inside this issue:
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Convention Report

The ArmourSoft Con Squad hit two wargame conventions in the past couple of months: a small but thoroughly enjoyable con in Connecticut and the big HMGS Cold Wars convention in Lancaster PA. Crusades '94 was originally scheduled for January but was postponed due to weather. Organizers in the Connecticut Game Club rescheduled for February, but weather almost cancelled the con again. At this time it occurred to us that every single time we planned to run a game of Generic Legions, a fierce snowstorm made things difficult. We are considering forgetting about developing GL as a game and instead marketing it as an environmental control system. We believe certain resorts and tourist attractions will be willing to pay us large amounts of money to not play GL nearby.

Despite the cruddy weather, Crusades '94 was a lot of fun. There were enough gamers there to keep five or six big games going at all times. We ran a game of Shipbase III in the afternoon, bringing along a selection of Pre-Dreadnought, WWI, and WWII ships and allowing the participants to select the scenario. The players chose Jutland, the 60-ship version that comes with the SB3 rules. Both sides played well, with the British being a bit more lucky (skillful?) and finding their sweet spots before the Germans and doing much better than their historical counterparts.

In the afternoon we ran the first public game of Generic Legions. The players all did very well, especially considering that the rules were new and no one had any experience with the forces involved. The Irvanian 'Sters, surprisingly, were entirely swept from the board following several critical Necktie hits. The rest of the forces limped away with heavy damage, although the Dweaselim player won special honours for his astute use of diplomacy and some very Dweasel-like maneuvres.

The GL game itself worked surprisingly well, considering it was an alpha test version that had been written only weeks before. The diplomacy phase generated the most laughs and the most interesting plot twists. Most importantly, the concepts pioneered in the GL artillery and direct fire systems have been invaluable in the development of the Tankbase design. The experimentation we did for the science fiction/humour game gave rise to some new techniques which work extremely well in the historical game setting.

Continued - see JFK on Page 2

JFK Never Played Slargeball

KGB Suspected in Conspiracy

continued from Page 1

The HMGS (Historical Miniatures Gaming Society) conventions in Lancaster PA are always important events on the ArmourSoft calendar, and well worth the trip for anyone interested in miniature gaming. There were some scheduling screw-ups as usual, but we're manly macho dudes (well, most of us are anyway) and we dealt with it.

We got the con off to a good start by spending way too much loot in the vendor room. Old issues of Strategy & Tactics, 1/1000th scale Spanish-American War ships, DBA armies, and anything that could conceivably be used for Tankbase were the treasures of choice this time around.

Our first event was a game of SB3 on Friday evening. Again, the participants were given the opportunity of choosing the scenario, and again Jutland was the favourite. Also again, the British did much better than was the case historically, although several battlecruisers went up in flames in a most satisfying manner.

We had the Schedule from Hell on Saturday, running from 10:00 am and going straight through until 9:00 pm. We began with a seminar on SB3 and Tankbase. Or, at least, we tried to begin at 10:00. The Gods of Scheduling had slated another lecture to begin at the same time in the same room. After we killed the Gods of Scheduling, we listened to the other lecture (an interesting talk given by a fellow from the Aberdeen tank testing program) and then squeezed as much as we could into the time left.

Three bites of a sandwich later, we began setting up Generic Legions. As was the case in Connecticut a few weeks earlier, the players did exceedingly well considering the rules were new to everyone. This time the Irvanian player did the best job of role-playing his command, an impressive feat considering the complexity of Irvanian mythology and the sparse amount of background information provided to the players. Once again, diplomacy was the highlight of the game, with the players happily double-crossing each other with alarming frequency. The game ended with the Generic Legions patching up their differences with the Irvanians (!) and the resulting unholy alliance mopping up everyone else.

Mere seconds after we tore down the GL terrain, we began setting up the very first public game of Slargeball 3-D: Guys In Shorts. Of all the things we did at Cold Wars, this event attracted the most attention. Perhaps it was the immediately apparent sports nature of the game; perhaps it was the obvious speed of gameplay, with nary a paper cluttering the table; perhaps it was simply the groaning from the players whenever the First Aid Squad made an appearance. Whatever the reason, lots of passers-by stopped to gawk and chuckle. The 76 team member miniatures are modified Airfix and Tamiya Desert Rat and Afrika Korps figures, in glorious 1/32nd (54mm) scale. The field is a simple green cloth with white (not necessarily straight) lines painted on it. The goal bunkers are, well, bunker-like. The rules are pretty much the same as the regular Slargeball rules, with a few modifications to account for the conversion from a hex grid to an open playing field. We will detail the conversion rules in an upcoming issue of Die Haus Orgel.

On Sunday, we recuperated.

We met lots of great people at the convention, ran across lots of old friends, and answered lots of questions. The most significant thing that happened at Cold Wars, however, was that we have finally been picked up by a major distributor! The Armory, operating out of Baltimore Maryland, now carries the entire ArmourSoft/DIPCo line of goodies and has been distributing the stuff to game stores all over the East Coast and at least as far west as Cincinnati Ohio. In the next few months we'll be contacting more distributors and covering more of the country, so pester the owner of your local game store if you haven't seen ArmourSoft/DIPCo products there yet.

Naturally, we enjoy going to game cons, but we can't make all of them (sigh). If you've got a game con going on in your area (hopefully not too far from Bloomsburg Pennsylvania) and you think some or all of our games would go over well, drop us a line.

Speaking of aardvarks, this is a good time to mention game clubs. If you've got a game club in the central Pennsylvania area, or are a gamer looking for a club, drop us a line too. We're trying to rebuild our local game club to past glories, meeting weekly at the local college and playtesting lots of new ArmourSoft game designs. All victims-- er, gamers welcome!

Right now we're working on a big demonstration game for Historicon in Lancaster PA in July 1994. This will be an alpha test version of the Tankbase system with limited features, but it includes enough to give a good taste of the game. The planned scenario takes place in northern France in the autumn of 1944, using 1/76th (20mm) scale miniatures. A scale of 1:1 will be used for this particular event, making it a skirmish-level game with each player controlling a squad of infantry or platoon of armour. American and German paratroops, regular infantry, armour, and artillery will face off in a night engagement. Limited intelligence and some interesting observation rules will provide some nasty suprises for unwary players.

We haven't forgotten the naval side of things for the summer conventions. Our plans for the next big SB3 events include a large WWII Kriegsmarine vs. Royal Navy engagement, with some clever tournament-style twists and lots of things blowing up. There are also plans in the works for a large hypothetical Spanish-American War matchup (attempting to make it a bit more challenging for the American team, you see) and if things go well, perhaps a public demo game of the SB4:B>I system using the Lissa scenario (Austro-Hungarians versus Italians, 1866).

This Newsletter is Late

Thousands Flee in Panic

Lots of things have happened here at ArmourSoft since the last issue of Die Haus Orgel (December 1993): crew members Ferris and Clark got new jobs; Clark graduated from college; Ferris had a minor car accident; Clark moved to a new apartment; we made a second printing of Slargeball; Ferris, Clark, Ross, and Garcia all came down with the plague; and we attended a couple of great game conventions. We spent quite a lot of time preparing for the winter conventions, particularly Cold Wars in early March, and so work on the newsletter got pushed back a few weeks. We also thought it would be a good idea to hold up the newsletter for the few extra weeks in order to include news of all the good things that happened at the conventions.

DHO subscribers need not worry; your subscriptions are based on the number of issues you get, not including the couple of issues we gave out for free, so you'll still get six issues for each "year" of subscription.

Some of you may have noticed a little "discrepency" in the order of the pages in the last issue of Die Haus Orgel. Believe it or not, we didn't do that on purpose! It was one of those goof-ups at the printer that we didn't notice until it was too late, although it's the kind of thing we might have done had we thought of it...

The Big Questions

We get a fair amount of mail and phone calls here at the Massive ArmourSoft Office Complex, with lots of great compliments and comments (thanks!) and lots of questions. We fielded a ton (metric) of questions at the recent game conventions as well. Lots of you good folks seem to have the same questions on your minds, so we thought it'd be a good idea to address the more commonly-asked queries here in this newsletter thing.

  • When is Tankbase coming out?

    This is the big question on everyone's minds. The short answer: we don't know. The slightly less short answer: as soon as we can get it finished, which is probably going to be sometime in the summer of 19**. Right now it's our top priority, so we're working on it with full steam, top guns, full bore, and mixed metaphors. The ArmourSoft crew consists entirely of as-yet-unpaid part-timers, all of whom have real jobs and families that tend to get in the way of the important stuff like designing tank games. The limited amount of time we have to devote to ArmourSoft is split between the mail-order operations, marketing, advertising, research, customer service and relations, bookkeeping, playtesting, correspondence, and new game development, so we don't have as much time to devote to Tankbase as we'd like. However, we also know that a very large number of gamers are out there waiting for this game to come out, so we are working very hard on it. A large part of the programming will be done by the time we show the demo game at Historicon '94, but the documenation will still have to be written, the artwork whipped up, and the bulk of the raw data keyed into the database.

    Speaking of which, if you've got some artwork you think would be appropriate for Tankbase, drop us a line. We're starting to look for artist folks for that project now.

  • When is Shipbase IV: From Biremes to Ironclads coming out?

    We were really surprised by the number of people who asked about this project. We had no idea that so many people were into gaming this period. Most of the folks who asked are into the Ironclad naval era, but a fair number are also into Napoleonic and "Age of Sail". There are only a devoted few involved in the Ancient naval period, probably because there aren't many Ancient naval miniatures on the market right now.

    Anyway, because of the overwhelmingly surprisingly amazing response, we've upped the SB4:B>I project on our list of priorities. We've had a "rough draft" of the program, capable of doing the Ironclad era and not much else, ready for about six months now but haven't had much time to do anything with it. We're doing as much work on this as we can squeeze in on the sides, and once we've got Tankbase done and out the door this project will move into the top priority slot.

  • How can you/why did you lump the Ancient, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Age of Sail, and Ironclad naval periods into one game system?

    Actually, we didn't; the different periods have their own game systems, appropriate for the period covered, but the computer program ties everything together neatly and efficiently so it looks like one big system. We decided to group the lot together in one package for marketing purposes; we thought customers would see this as a good buy (three+ game systems for the price of one), and it would save us a lot of development time as opposed to coming up with separate packages for each era.

    From a game design point of view, all ships from this 3000 year span of time have a lot in common: they all move pretty slowly, either by oar power, wind power, or steam power. The weapons all have pretty short range. The ship construction (mostly wood all the way up to the Ironclad era) stayed much the same for big blocks of centuries at a time. The complexity of the whole thing, and the variety of ship and weapon types involved, is considerably less involved than either Tankbase or Shipbase III.

  • What kind of drugs were you on when you wrote Generic Legions and/or Slargeball?

    We don't need any drugs! We're like that normally!

  • What about supplements for Shipbase III?

    Not to worry, we're working on this too. We hope to have up to three scenario packs eventually, with the Advanced Database and Scenario Handler too. The ADSH will have data from Conway's, which can be mixed and matched with the data from Jane's that comes with SB3.

    Hey!! This is the same P51D Mustang picture we had before! Mutter mutter mutter...

  • Any possibility of a future enhancement with more detailed air rules?

    Probably not as a manifestation of Shipbase, but we do intend on eventually doing a game that concentrates on air combat. Shipbase is mainly about ships, so everything else in the game is given less attention. In the air game we want to do, the planes will be the center of attention and everything else (e.g. ships) will exist mainly as things to be blown up. Those gamers who would like more detailed aircraft versus ship action will find what they're looking for in the air game.

  • Where are you guys getting your tank data?

    We've got several large piles of books, magazines, official army publications, and correspondence from people who know what they're talking about. We're using every piece of reliable source material we can get our mitts on. This leads to several interesting problems: first off, there are lots of conflicting entries and contradictions. F'rinstance, if you look up the frontal armour thickness of a Tiger in ten different reference sources, you're likely to find five to ten different answers. Which one is right? Can more than one of them be right, under differrent circumstances? Is any of it right? And how much of it really matters, give or take a few millimeters?

    Gratuitous photo of Japanese light carrier Shoho. Actually it's a model of the Ryujo, but what the heck!

    The other problem has to do with the fact that we're covering practically every armoured vehicle ever built and a lot that didn't quite get off the drawing board. If it's in the tank books, we're putting it in Tankbase. There's lots of good data on the Sherman and the Panther and the T34, but where does one find good hard information on the Schofield, or the A6 Medium, or the Lk. II, or the Toldi, or the Polish anti-tank rifles? We can assume the KS Lenin was pretty much the same as the other Renault FT clones, but what about the Fiat 3000? Most of the other tank games don't even bother including the obscure equipment, but we just can't bring ourselves to leave them out. We're going to have to make educated guesses on much of the information in the database, and we hope you the gamers will understand.

Regardless, there's absolutely nothing we can do to prevent the appearance of this issue's edition of

The DIPCo Section

With all the emphasis on tanks and boats and things around here, there's not much left for the DIPCo projects, resource-wise. The big Generic Legions events went well at the winter game conventions so we're going to be running more of them, although we won't be able to do much work on the game system itself or get GL ready for publication for some time to come.

The first GL games involved the Dirty Rotten Stinking Earthies, They Who Are Having A Bad Day, Dweaselim, and Generic Legion ground forces fighting each other and a squadron of Irvanian 'Sters (big robot-like things) over a desolate and remote planet called Zoobner Ceti, on the edge of the Irvanian Empire. The next scenario will take place a few months later, in which the Generic Legions have learned how to make their own 'Sters from some strange and arcane documents found in the Leader's mother's attic. The uneasy alliance between the Dweaselim and the Generic Legions has fallen apart as both sides build up their forces on Zoobner Ceti. The Irvanians finally strike back with the dreaded Irvanian Commandos and the Boo Boo Goldfish Squadron of atmo ships. True to form, the Irvanians seem to be completely unaware that there is a war going on.

Future GL convention scenarios will include a 25mm skirmish-level game featuring the Irvanian Commandos defending the famous Joe's Bar & Ill against a raiding party of Dweasilim Janittories.

Speaking of convention games, work is now afoot on a special modification of the Chart Wars rules for use with WWII microarmour miniatures. One might ask, "how can the rules of a strategic level boardgame set in a hypothetically modern world be converted to a tactical level miniatures game set in a historical campaign?" The answer: "Volume, volume, volume!" We've got the miniatures, we've got the terrain, we can whip up the rules in a few minutes, and it's about the only thing we can do with our limited budget. What's more, with a little production work we can probably sell the new rules for five bucks, and it'll be a better buy (and a better game) than most of the tank miniature rules out there right now.

Naturally the humourous aspects of the rules will be prominent in our convention games, but those things can be left off to make a very playable tank game for when you don't have a computer handy to run Tankbase.

The ArmourSoft guys got most of the attention, but we did get lots of questions and comments about the Napoleon at Chattanooga game project. Well, we got one comment. Well, it wasn't so much a comment as an off-hand remark. Some guy asked if NatC will be compatible with Slargeball. Of course not! Neither Napoleon or Rommel had a coach activation at Chattanooga. Everyone knows that.

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