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The ArmourSoft Inc. Newsletter

Die Haus Orgel

May 1995/Issue #6
Published, oh, about quarterly, give or take
All contents copyright 1995 ArmourSoft Inc. Send submissions, subscriptions, complaints, questions, and recipes for trouble to: ArmourSoft Inc., [obsolete mailing address deleted]
Inside this issue:
Click here to return to The DHO Index.

The Tank's the Thing

First Tankbase beta goes out to playtesters

Despite all the changes going on around here at ArmourSoft (see Big changes going on at ArmourSoft, Editor executed for being redundant on Page 1), Tankbase (TB) development remains the top priority. The programmer who had been doing most of the work on the project bowed out late last year, which meant we had to start over from scratch, but things are now moving along at a goodly rate.

Up until recently, most of the playtesting had been done using the old 1990 prototype TB, which only allowed for the 1:1 non-ID tag vehicle setting and hadn't had infantry, air, or artillery added yet. Since July 1994 we've run several TB demo games at conventions, using an ad hoc program that was hard-wired with the scenario data. We had been planning on using the "real" program for those events, but the project suffered one delay after another and we ended up slapping a makeshift program together in three weeks, just for the conventions.

Now, the "real" program is starting to take shape. In early May we sent out the first beta package to two playtest groups. This beta test kit is primarily to try out the new user interface and to let the playtesters browse through the database, giving feedback on the overall "look and feel" of the whole thing. There isn't any actual "game" stuff in this first beta, but most of the "administrative" functions are there. The database now has about 375 vehicles (sans weapon data), most of them directly ported over from the 1990 TB prototype. We expect that figure to more than double by the time the game is released.

The next beta, which will have actual "game-able" functions for infantry combat, is scheduled for late June.

Speaking of Tanks

While converting the 1990 tank data to the 1995 format, I was again stricken by the disparity between the various references. I'm working from several very large stacks of references, including some sources that are considered to be very reliable: the Hunnicut books, many of the works of Chamberlain and Ellis, Crow and Macksey, the old Profile series, even some photocopies and originals of actual WWII German and US military documents. What's more, I myself physically crawled over many of these vehicles at Aberdeen and Fort Knox and took measurements. In many cases, none of the sources agree. For instance, of five very good books on German tanks, none of them agree on the armour thickness and angle on the front of a Panther G. None of the five books match up with the measurements I made myself from the Panther at Aberdeen. My theory is that when several thousand copies of a tank are manufactured over a period of a couple of years, usually at several different factories, not every one of them is going to be identical. I know from my own dealings with military equipment during my years of service in the US Air Force and Army Reserve that there can be quite a lot of difference between one item and the next, even though they have the same part number and nomenclature.

Continued - see DOG on Page 2

Man Bites Dog

Dog's family blames the government

Continued from Page 1

The best solution I can see, in TB game terms, is to go with the data that's best in my estimate. I'll provide an extensive bibliography, with recommendations on what I feel are the best sources. I'm sure most gamers will find instances where they disagree with my data, so players will be able to copy the data that comes with TB into a user file, where it can be edited to the players' hearts' content. The original data will be protected to keep it from accidental corruption and to help reduce some of the "Hmmm, this BA64 isn't powerful enough, let's give it a 100mm gun!" syndrome that plagues some game groups.

In other words, if you think the armour on a Tiger should be adjusted, you can't change the Tiger data in the German vehicle file but you can move a copy of the Tiger data over into your user file, where you can change it all you want. As is the case in Shipbase III, everything is fully editable, so you can start with an Italian tankette and edit it one piece at a time until you've got an M1 Abrams.

Nomenclature is another issue, albeit not a very serious one. Each gamer and each game group seems to have a different set of names for everything, a situation which is reflected in the references. The books usually list it as a PzKpfw I, but what do you actually call it verbally? I call it a "Panzer One", some people say "P-Z-One", others say it's a "Mark One", a few say the entire "PanzerKampfwagen One" (or "Einz"). Then we get to the Ausfuerung designations: do you say "Panzer One B", or "Mark One B", or try to pronounce "Ausf B"? In such cases I usually ask myself, "What did the Germans actually call it?" but even then I often get as many different answers as I had before.

Again, my solution in TB is to go with what I feel works best, seems to be accurate when checked against the references, and is reasonably easy to pronounce and remember during a game session. Once again, I expect many gamers to have their own feelings on this issue, but I hope no one gets too bent out of shape over it.

In the next issue I'll be talking about how infantry works in Tankbase, and explain some of the various unit scale settings.


Big changes going on at ArmourSoft

Thousands flee, apparently just for the heck of it

The staff here at ArmourSoft has been changing on a regular basis from the time we started in the summer of 1991. At first there were four, then six, then four again (although not the same four), and now only two are left. Raymond Clark, who had been the treasurer and bookkeeper and primary playtest coordinator, and John Garcia, who had been sharing the programming responsibilities, both decided to leave ArmourSoft as of the end of 1994. John and Raymond cited priority conflicts with job and family responsibilities as their reasons for leaving, but truth be told, John has decided to run for United States Emperor in 1996 and Raymond has just never been the same since being eaten by an iguana.

The crew, as it stands now:

  • David Ferris, the only person to have been with the company continuously since the beginning, is now responsible for game design, programming, correspondence, mail order, bookkeeping, miscellaneous administrative tasks, and editing this illustrious newsletter. Such as it is.
  • Bob "Doc" Ross, who has been with the company almost since the beginning, pays for everything and keeps an eye on the mailbox as well as being a chief playtester and convention staff guy.

Also on the crew, although not officially part of the company:

  • Jim O'Neil, former Lt. Colonel in the US Army, tank company commander, and infantry guy, has been helping with marketing and sales despite these long sentences.

In addition to the obvious changes in the staff, there have been a lot of changes to the staff since the last issue of Die Haus Orgel. In Issue #4 we reported that aliens had taken over the company and were going to use it as a launching platform for their plan of total world domination. This was actually a misprint, what we meant to say is that game designer Ferris moved from Bloomsburg PA to Flanders New Jersey. Not leaving well enough alone, Ferris went on to attend CNE (Certified Novell Engineer, or computer network expert dude) school and did so well on the CNE exams that the testing center exploded, and got a new job as a software guru at AT&T. (Everyone at ArmourSoft has a "real", i.e. "day" job.)

Despite these interruptions, or perhaps because of them, work on Tankbase continues.

By now I'm sure you've figured out that all this change is the reason that this issue of DHO is several months late. Our apologies to all. To make up for it, we haven't been keeping close track of when peoples' DHO subscriptions are supposed to expire. If you get more issues than you actually paid for and it really bothers you, contact our complaints department. Who was recently eaten by an iguana.

Our Bloomsburg PA post office box is still open, so don't let the Ferris move to NJ throw you off. The best way to get in touch with us is still via the Bloomsburg post office box, or better yet through e-mail at http://www.irvania.com. I check my e-mail on a daily basis, so often you'll get a reply within [months].

Some of you have tried to phone ArmourSoft directly and have been surprised to find that we don't have an office phone number. As I mentioned, we all have "day" jobs and run ArmourSoft during the evenings and on weekends. We don't maintain a separate office, thus keeping our overhead expenses down to practically nothing, and allowing us the convenience of working out of our homes. If you happen to know my home phone number, feel free to call with questions or comments or just to chat. I always enjoy hearing from gaming folk. Just remember that the time I spend on the phone is that much less time I can spend programming Tankbase.

Speaking of e-mail, the Internet and the on-line services provide some fantastic opportunities for gamers with computer access. There are several Usenet newsgroups set up for game topics, lots of areas for questions & answers on specific games, and mailing lists set up for a variety of titles and topics. One of my favourite daily chores is checking an Internet mailing list called CONSIM-L, an area where over 300 gamers and game designers get together to argue over line-of-sight rules. Quite a few game companies, clubs, and "industry personalities" are on-line, which provides gamers with an excellent opportunity to get quick errata updates, design insights, rules interpretations, and more of these long run-on sentences.


Due to staff reductions, we're forced to run this same photo of a P51D Mustang we ran a couple of issues ago.


New: the Naval Wargaming Review

Nathan Forney of Mechanicsburg Pennsylvania recently began publishing a bi-monthly journal that is of great interest to anyone and everyone in the 1890-1945 period naval wargaming hobby . I can't recommend this publication highly enough. Now up to Issue #6, the NWR is packed with scenario ideas, campaign systems, alternate rules, book and game reviews, and lots of general interest naval stuff. There is coverage of SB3 as well as other game systems, and the articles are sprinkled with notes on applying various rulesets to the historical situations. Nathan has been running SB3 games at various conventions, including Cold Wars and Historicon, and I can attest that he's a first-rate referee.

A one-year subscription to the Naval Wargaming Review will set you back $20. You can order directly from the editor: Nathan Forney, [mailing and e-mail addresses deleted].


Shipbase III Upgrade

Due in part to the suggested improvements to SB3 printed in NWR, we're now seriously thinking about upgrading the SB3 game system. We hadn't really thought much about this before, not because we thought it was perfect or that there wasn't any room for improvement, but because we didn't think anyone would be interested. As it turns out, while many gamers are happy with the overall thing, quite a few excellent suggestions have been made for improving SB3. This is a project we won't be able to get around to until after we finish TB, but it will probably come right after TB in the pipeline. In the meantime, please feel free to send in your suggestions, opinions, things you'd like to see, and large sums of unmarked bills.

Again, the upgrade won't be available until sometime early in 1996 at the very earliest. Don't know what it will cost but we will offer it for a very low cost to registered owners of version 1.1. We gave out free upgrades to 1.1 to all the version 1.0 owners, but that involved less than 100 people and we can't afford to do something like that for all the people who bought 1.1. We won't make you buy a whole new game just to get the upgrade, but we will have to cover costs on it.


Generic Legions

With only one person working on programming and game design, we haven't had much in the way of resources to devote to the backburner projects like SB4 (naval miniatures from the Ancient period up through ironclads) and GL(sci fi). People continue to show interest however, and it seemed such a shame to ignore GL completely when it's got a perfectly serviceable (albeit interim) playtest-version computer-assist program and quite a lot of scenario information already printed up. One of the Tankbase playtest groups asked about GL and it occurred to me that there wasn't any good reason to not send that out for playtesting as well. The GL test program works fine and has been since January 1994, although it doesn't have a full-function data editor yet. The game mechanics are all laid out in reasonably legible charts for manual play mode (i.e. sans computer, using dice and charts and record sheets, lots of fun for small scenarios). All that's needed for the playtest kit is a write-up explaining the whole process and describing the background universe. I hope to send the first GL beta kit by early June.

I've had the opportunity to run GL at the local Friday night game club [HOGS] meetings here in northern NJ. The response has been quite positive. I lucked out a week after I moved here and found a group of seven or eight "regulars" who have gaming tastes similar to mine, and most of these guys also have huge collections of sci fi miniatures. Like me, these guys aren't ready to completely throw out all the other sci fi rules, but they're definitely looking for a sane and playable alternative.

The first week we played a largish scenario with about 120 units, using the computer-assist program. The second week we played it manually with each of the seven players running two or three 'Sters. Both games went well, everyone seemed to have fun, and the players were amazed that such large scenarios could be finished so quickly. The manual game featured 16 'Sters (GL's version of the huge robot-like combat machines that are so popular in sci fi games) and was played to completion, with only one badly-damaged unit limping away at the end of the game, after less than two hours of play. This was the first time anyone had tried an all-'Ster scenario with dice, charts, paper and pencil, so we didn't know what to expect, but we were all astounded that a game with that many 'Sters/titanic/mecha-like things could be played that quickly.

Unlike many other sci fi games, 'Sters in GL suffer frequent balance problems, which would probably be the case if those sci fi miniature designs were "real" units. The figures look really cool but most of them are ridiculously top-heavy and in "real life" would have difficulty keeping upright in any terrain rougher than a parade ground or a parking lot. On the other hand, GL is an inherently silly game and so the Necktie rules have been added to reflect technology in the GL universe. The end result is that 'Sters are very powerful, but not overwhelmingly so, so that "conventional" forces stand a chance of bringing the beasts down with the right tactics.


Convention Report

Last issue we announced that we were going to run a game convention in Bloomsburg PA. In a nutshell, we had a lot of fun with it although attendance was lower than we had hoped. Nathan Forney ran SB3 games all day, I ran Tankbase and Generic Legion games, and a game of Warhammer 40K started in the evening but didn't have time to finish. The Magic: the Gathering card game room was hopping most of the day. Surprisingly, only one table-full of role-players showed up, so they whipped up an AD&D adventure and spent all day at that. Running the con was a fun and rewarding experience but I don't think I'll do it again anytime soon.

We're taking it easy on the convention circuit in 1995 in order to concentrate on Tankbase. Normally we're out in full force for the HMGS conventions in Lancaster PA , but this year we missed Cold Wars entirely (I was taking a CNE test at the time). We're scheduled to run two games at Origins '95 in July: SB3/Jutland on Saturday afternoon and GL/Zoobner Ceti on Saturday evening. We're not officially scheduled to run anything at Historicon '95 but we'll be there waving the flag, and will probably run a pick-up game or two. The Sunday Morning SB3 pick-up game has become a rather nice, relaxing tradition. Note that we won't have any vendor stands or exhibits at these cons, we'll just be there kinda goofing off.


Despite all the changes around here, we still have not been able to find a way to get rid of

The DIPCo Section

If it's not one thing, it just goes to show. The first batch of playtesters for Napoleon at Chattanooga had just gotten back from the hospital and we were on the verge of retrieving the second batch from the alternate universe they had been sent to by a slight typo in the rules, and we were this close to convincing a new group of people that playtesting was a safe and enjoyable pastime, when everything changed on us. The office stuff got moved all over, everybody's notes got mixed up, and now we're trying to calculate the effects of a Slargeball team on a Panzer III J.

To make things worse, last issue's DIPCo column was "mysteriously" lost right when we were about to divulge how those ArmourSoft guys are a bunch of lying, thieving, murdering bas

Hi. We're feeling much better now. Everything seems really, like, you know, wonderful. What were we saying? Oh yeah, we were just saying how wonderful it is working with those guys at ArmourSoft, who are really caring and nurturing and special. Even though they're a bunch of murdering, cheating, lying bas

Hi. We're back again. Did you miss us? We missed you. We were having a Bad Day, but now we're better. Ha ha! We were just like those guys in Generic Legions, They Who Are Having A Bad Day. They were having a Bad Day too. They're the ones who act like they've been possessed by evil powers from an alternate universe, but really they're just having a Bad Day. Just like we were. Ha ha! Of course, when They have a Bad Day, They say bad things. They say things like, "Gosh, I'd love to take a hot soldering iron to those lying stinking ArmourSoft sons of

Look! Halley's Comet!

Oh, wow, man! Oh, wow! Look at the colors, dude!

We have received your instructions, comrade. Your orders will be followed to the letter. The playtesters will be executed and their homes destroyed as our glorious legions march on

Oh wow, man! There's a purple iguana crawling up my leg! My eyelids! My eyelids!

This is disgusting! This is the most blatant display of gratuitous, cheap, unoriginal and inexcusable editorialism I have ever seen. Whoever is responsible for this newsletter should be ashamed. I am going to write to my congressman to complain. Just as soon as our glorious legions complete the conquest. Who let that iguana in here?

Hello? Hello? Is anyone in here? Did you want your wastebaskets emptied today? Hello? Anyone home?

Let's all sing the Irvanian National Anthem, shall we?

    Eat at Joe's, eat at Joe's, eat at Joe's
    Eat at Joe's, eat at Joe's, eat at Joe's
    Eat at Joe's, eat at Joe's, eat at Joe's
    Eat at Joe's, eat at Joe's
    Eat at Joe's, eat at Joe's, eat at Joe's

Next issue: declining interest rates and their effect on the growing world economy. And what about the iguana?


Well, to be precise, we don't exist anymore. At least not in the form of the picture above. Unfortunately I don't have any cool cartoon pictures with just me in it. (I'm the short guy.) Gotta come up with a new pic in time for the next issue.
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