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FRAG! Shrapnel Games Newsletter June, 2010

Charles Rector's Weblog; Jun. 30, 2010; By Charles Rector
Type: News


Issue 107, June 2010 "He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious."  
~ Sun Tzu

  1. The June Editorial Introduction
  2. News Direct from the Frontlines of Shrapnel Games
  3. Trivia Time: German Invasion of the United States
  4. Updating Your Shrapnel Titles
  5. The Dice Of War: Field Commander Alexander
  6. Sizzling Sellers and Those Special Offers
  7. Link O' The Month
  8. The Crystal Ball

FRAG! is Edited by Scott Krol

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The ultimate inspiration is the deadline.

Every month in the newsletter we list the top sellers for the previous month at our online store. In the greater scope of things this may not mean much but it does offer a look at what folks are playing. It's always cool to see a title suddenly pop in the top three and realize the sudden interest was probably generated by a forum discussion, or a mention on someone's blog.

By doing the top sellers you also notice that some products are pretty much evergreen products. They sell and sell and sell even though they were released years ago. Funny how the mainstream world is so cannibalistic that rather than let a quality game stay on the public conscious they continually have to release The Next Big Thing. Never mind that no one has time to play all the Next Big Things, nor possibly the cash in this economy. I suppose the goal is it's better to sell a massive amount up front rather than sell an equal amount but over time. I don't know, I'd rather have a steady stream of income than a lump payout. Lump sums tend to disappear too quickly.

"Both games should be in every gamer's collection. But would they be considered classics yet?"

But that's not what I really want to discuss. What I really want to talk about is at what point is an independent game considered a classic and by who?

Both Dominions 3: The Awakening and Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space were released in 2005 and five years later are still being enjoyed by gamers on a daily basis. Both games take familiar themes and turn them into something unique. Both games should be in every gamer's collection. But would they be considered classics yet?

While often when we refer to classics in literature or art there is a span of decades, even centuries, the computer world moves too fast to be constrained by such time frames. So a game from five years ago probably can be considered a classic so we can't say it's too soon.

But who are the voices that will call such games classics? Those that triumph indie gaming still tend to be a splintered lot. There is no one definitive voice, although there are some who carry more weight than others.

Everyone knows the mainstream classics because they've been hammered into our heads year after year, article after article. Will we remember the classics of the indie world in the future though?

Ah, summer time. It's that time when you walk around like a zombie feeling like you've just taken a dip in a pool of vaseline. Fun times. It's also the time of reruns and since things were rather quiet in the month of May around here let's just talk about what's been happening so far this year.

This year has seen the release of three patches: Dominions 3: The Awakening version 3.24, winSPWW version 4.25, and winSPMBT version 5.0. All three patches fixed a few bugs and more importantly added plenty of new content to their respective games. If you've missed the patches you can find them by following these links:

Latest patch for Dominions 3.

Latest patch for winSPWW2.

Latest patch for winSPMBT.

At the end of January we announced that the free print-and-play fantasy boardgame Goblin Slayer from Digital Eel was now available in color. Previously it was all grayscale. As a bonus there are even stand up miniatures included in the download! You can grab the new color edition of Goblin Slayer, along with any of our other free games, by going here.

In February we announced the signing of the Star Legacy Development Group who had begun work on the most epic of epic sci-fi 4X strategy games, Star Legacy. This is going to be a big deal, although a release date is unfortunately quite a ways away.

The folks behind Star Legacy really want to make this a player's game and have been actively requesting potential players to provide suggestions of the type of game they want to play. If you want to make what should be a great game even better be sure to participate in the Star Legacy forum and make your voice heard.

VooDoo Interface, a full length album featuring one hour of Digital Eel game inspired tracks was released. Tracks can be downloaded individually for free. With a small donation the entire album can be downloaded at once, which also gets you several bonus tracks and other nifty items.

You can find VooDoo Interrface here.

Patrick Proctor, the man behind ProSIM, has started a new blog entitled Media Warfare. In his own words the blog is about "Insights, commentary, and book reviews on the history and future of media and warfare. From the dawning of the age of popular war to the War on Terrorism, this blog is all about the interaction between the government, the military, the people, the media, and war."

He just started it and so there's not a whole lot there but what's there is a good read. Apparently Patrick is on a Vietnam kick at the moment. Check out his blog here.

Lastly we just want to remind everyone that we have completed the process of making our entire games catalog available as purchasable downloads. ALL Shrapnel titles now can be had as downloads. Most are available as physical purchases, too. There are a few titles that are download only titles. We hope you take advantage of these changes and discover more of our great games, all of which are now just a click away from your computer!

Until next time have a great gaming experience! And for all our fellow Americans may you have a safe and pleasant Independence Day!

While Great Britain is only a stone throw's away from the French coast, and thus easily assaulted by invasion, the United States affords the protection of an ocean, not a channel. So during the Second World War while a fear of jackboots thudding down London's streets was a very real possibility those same jackboots down Madison Avenue seemed like a far more distant possibility.

Indeed, during World War Two there was very little the United States had to fear from Germany. While early in the war German u-boats ran rampant on the East coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, the continental United States never actually came under attack. There was always talk of "America" bombers and towed V-2s, but nothing ever came out of it. But there was a time before the Second World War in which Germany had set her sights on invading the United States, even to the point of creating actual war plans for such an invasion.

The very first proposal came in the 1899 Winterarbeiten (naval studies to plan against potential future foes, much like the American color coded War Plans), prepared by Lieutenant Eberhard von Mantey. von Mantey's plan was a surprise attack by two naval squadrons on New York City. One force would block the Long Island sound, while the second force would enter New York's lower bay and shell the city itself. Meanwhile, German infantry would land on Long Island and assault New York City. The land invasion was meant to be swift and hard hitting, as a prolonged battle over the city would not work in the German's favor.

The 1899 Winterarbeiten was well received, though Vice Admiral August Thomsen, the highest-ranking active duty German naval officer, thought that there would be no way to achieve surprise, that the Americans would surely detect the fleets sailing across the Atlantic. So he recommended a change, that being that instead of landing at Long Island the initial invasion would take place at Puerto Rico. Once Puerto Rico became German controlled it could then be used as a base of operations for more major operation against the United States. The objective would then be expanded from New York City to attacking the entire Northeast.

One year later the plan evolved into a Marschplan (plan of advance). This time the attack would be against Boston and New York, with an invasion site between those cities. At the time the German naval attache in Washington was to scout out possible locations for the invasion, and a new Naval Bill created enough funding to add thirty-eight battleships, twenty cruisers, and thirty-eight light cruisers.

In 1901 the Kaiser suggested invading Cuba and establishing that as a base of operations, rather than Puerto Rico. This was followed by Operation Plan III, in which the invasion idea went back to landing in the

Northeast. Specifically, the Cape Cod area was chosen as the launch pad for expanding into the local region.

Of Operation Plan III the head of German admiralty, Vice Admiral Wilhelm Buchsel, said of it, "There can be only one objective for Germany's war strategy: direct pressure on the American east coast and its most populous areas, especially New York. That is, a merciless offensive designed to confront the American people with an unbearable situation through the dissemination of terror and through damaging enemy trade and property."

When the Great War broke out Germany, though fighting a two front war and having to contend with the Royal Navy, still had not given up plans to invade the United States. On July 24th, 1915 the Secret Service was tailing one George Sylvester Viereck. Viereck was suspected of being a propaganda agent for the German government and at the time the Secret Service was keeping tabs on any possible German agents or sympathizers.

On this day Viereck met with the German Commercial Attache assigned to Washington, though they were meeting in New York. The Secret Service watched Viereck and the attache, Dr. Heinrich Albert, as the two talked on an elevated train. Viereck left first, trailed by an agent, and then Albert left at a later stop. When Albert left he had forgotten a briefcase. He rushed back to get it but the Secret Service agent that had been watching him, Frank Burke, had taken the briefcase. Passengers on the train indicated to Albert that another man had taken it, and Albert actually managed to chase Burke. Burke made it to the New York offices of the Secret Service with the stolen briefcase.

In the briefcase were several documents, most aimed at controlling unions and shutting down factories which could help in the war effort if the United States entered. But there were also plans for an invasion. Once again the northeast was the target, with the beachhead being the New Jersey shore. The plan called for 100,000 troops to come ashore in two waves and to cut off New York City, laying siege to the city.

Obviously at no point did the Germans manage to even attempt to mount an actual invasion of the United States. Since all their plans centered around strangling the Northeast it is also reasonable to assume that they had no real insight into the minds of Americans. It was expected that the rest of the United States would cave, rather than have New York City (an interesting sidebar, even during the Second World War German plans for air and naval attacks were still focused on New York City, not Washington D.C. as one would assume) fall to German aggression. In reality it is very doubtful that would have occurred, and instead the Germans would have been destroyed for little gain.

For the majority of you reading this you're well aware of this, so feel free to skip ahead to the next section of the newsletter. But with the fact that all our titles are now available as downloads, which has led to welcoming new friends to our Shrap family every day, we wanted to ensure that everyone was aware of how to update their newly purchased games.

If you've just bought a game from us the first thing you'll want to do is make sure it is the latest and greatest. One of the best things about the wonderful developers we work with is that most continually update their games long after their release. In most cases this means that gamers get a constant stream of new content., which is pretty awesome.

Updates can be found on the individual product page. The easiest way is to hit our homepage at www.shrapnelgames.com and choose your game from the list on the left. Once on the individual game site

you'll find the patch/patches listed on the right side of the screen. They will be broken down by operating system if necessary.

Most games will feature comprehensive patches while others require patches to be applied in a specific order. Examples would include the patches for Dominions 3: The Awakening are comprehensive, meaning you just have to apply one to get all the updates, while winSPWW2 requires the patches to be applied in order. If patches must be applied in a certain way the page will instruct you on what to do. If there are no specific instructions then it's a comprehensive patch.

If you run into any problems applying patches feel free to contact customer support at the Gamers Front. We want you enjoying our games as soon as possible and are happy to help out.

Field Commander Alexander (DVG)

You know you've made it as a military commander when folks are still talking about you thousands of years later. Field Commander Alexander from DVG is their follow-up to Field Commander Rommel, and follows the career of Alexander in four campaigns: Granicus (battle of Chaeronea and beyond), Issus (starts at Lycia and goes to Sidon), Tyre (covering only the siege of Tyre), and Gaugamlea (there and back again).

Field Commander Alexander (FCA) is a solitaire board game, part of the renaissance of solitaire gaming currently going on in the tabletop market. Considering how the computer gaming world is increasingly focusing on multi-player first and single-player as an afterthought (or at all!), it warms the old wargaming heart to see that the single-player experience is still alive.

As both the next in line for the Field Commander series and a sequel to Field Commander Rommel it's important to go above and beyond the initial offering. After all, no one wants to pay for the same game twice with only a cosmetic change. Happily, FCA succeeds, managing to keep the core gameplay of the first Field Commander game while injecting its own flavor.

The player takes command of Alexander, who starts off weak but grows in combat power as the campaigns go on, while the system plays the role of the Persians, Indians, and Southern Greeks. Each campaign comes with its own mounted (yes, mounted) area based map. Measuring 11"x17" these maps are a decent size, allowing the game to be playable in a fairly limited space. Counters are very appealing, with excellent graphics and good craftmanship.

Each campaign dictates what Alexander's enemies will do, along with specific mechanics such as modifying the victory conditions. Additionally, one campaign-the siege of Tyre-plays out with a completely different set of rules than the rest of the campaigns. These factors really help because not only does it allow the system to react intelligently but it also keeps the game fresh. Still, there are some general aspects of gameplay that applies to each campaign.

In each game the player is in control of Alexander (whose death would immediately cause the game to end in a fail state for the player) and his forces. The basic mechanics involving stomping around the map and winning battles in pivotal areas while avoiding having Alexander killed. Movement is not automatic though as the player must roll for each area they wish to move into to see whether they must forfeit gold (to represent the area not having enough supplies to sustain your forces) or lose forces (representing active military resistance). The roll is compared on the size of Alexander's forces which means that while a larger army base will mean less of chance to lose units you will probably suffer a loss of gold. Rolling equal to the size of the army is the only way to avoid either negative result.

The movement roll (called scouting in the game) drives a player's turn. Until a player balks at moving forward due to what he rolls a turn can go on indefinitely.

Gold, which is earned though destroying enemy forces and either governing or razing conquered pivotal areas, is not the only currency in the game though it drives enlarging your military. Glory is also gained

through battle, which can then be spent on insights or advisors.

Insight counters are essentially playable special events. For example, the insight counter "Trap" allows the player to roll a die at any time in a battle and automatically inflict that many hits on the enemy forces. Advisors represent those in Alexander's camp which help influence his strategies. For example, the advisor Parmenion reduces the number of Battle Plans the enemy receives.

The combat system involves lining up friendly and enemy forces based on their speed rank and then drawing a number of Battle Plans for both sides based on the guidelines. A Battle Plan is a specific event that occurs during the battle. Examples include Archers, in which during the first turn of combat all enemy archers receive a +3 to their combat value, or Rally which absorbs one hit.

Combat is simultaneous by speed value and involves rolling a die and if the result is lower than or equal to the unit's Battle Value a hit is scored. Some units can score double hits depending on the die roll. Hits are allocated as you see fit, but there are special rules governing how leaders are attacked. Most units have two sides but a few are only single sided units.

In some ways the combat system feels a lot like the Columbia Games' system but the Battle Plans and the fact that it is simultaneous by speed makes the system its own. The Battle Plans really make each battle unique and ensures that even fighting against a smaller force may not be a pushover. One thing that is missing is an order of hit allocation. As it stands players are free to allocate hits however they like, which means that obviously the biggest and baddest enemy forces are always going to be taken down first. Admittedly this doesn't seem to have a major impact on play, but it does seem a little odd.

The key to any successful solitaire board game is to give the player enough meaningful choices that he doesn't feel like the game is nothing more than a dice-filled luckfest. In this FCA does a wonderful job. Players have the random Battle Plans to contend with (something familiar with Field Commander Rommel players) but there are also the possible campaign variations. Then there are the Insight and Advisor counters. You'll never have enough glory for them all so who do you choose? And there's the gold problem. Gold fuels your army. Do you govern a region and keep a steady flow of gold coming in each turn or raze the area for quick cash? Oh, you can also spend gold to build cities and temples. Cities help with victory points while temples help with Battle Plans.

FCA even involves a nod to role-playing games. Alexander can receive quests from Oracles and as the campaigns go on Alexander will grow in strength. In this way not only does he become better in battle but he also becomes tougher to kill, as the enemy has to reduce him from his current strength back to zero.

From the redo of West End Games' classic RAF to brand new titles there have been plenty of new solitaire board games now available. Field Commander Alexander is another excellent solitaire game. It has great replay, excellent components, and offers players plenty of choices. Best of all you don't have to be interested in Ancients to truly enjoy it, and the pseudo-role playing aspects should even appeal to fantasy gamers.

And so here we are again, peering back into the previous month to see what were the top sellers at the Gamers Front, our online store. It should come to no surprise that the evergreen Dominions 3: The Awakening and Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space are both once again top sellers. Joining them is winSPMBT, taking the place of its sister game winSPWW2, and a fourth title, War Plan Pacific, brings up the rear. Normally we only examine the top three but War Plan Pacific and Weird Worlds sold close enough that we'll just call it a tie. Of course even with a tie there is still a clear winner-you, the gamer! Yes, it's cheesy and you should have seen it coming.

So at the top of the list is Dominions 3: The Awakening. This is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux and is available as both a physical product and as a download. Falling under the category of simple to learn, difficult to master', Dominions 3 at its core is a turn based fantasy strategy game of conquest. Learning it isn't a problem, as if you've ever played a TBS you already know how to play. Where the learning curve peaks is in discovering all the possible strategies found within the game. While a RTS player may only have to worry about learning how to play two or three sides in Dominions 3 there are scores of sides to discover. Throw into the mix all the hundreds of magic items and spells that can manipulate your tactics and you have a game that is playable for a very, very long time.

The never ending story of Dominions 3: The Awakening.

We live in modern times and yet outside of the ProSIM line finding games on modern warfare is actually fairly tough. Strange, when you consider that during the Cold War the boardgaming world was awash with modern wargames and yet that never translated into the PC. winSPMBT Enhanced Edition for Windows (though unofficially playable on certain Mac and Linux setups) is available as either a physical product or as a download. winSPMBT is turn and hex based and covers tactical warfare from 1946 until 2020. It doesn't just cover NATO versus Warsaw Pact either, as with the game you can pretty much game any conflict, real or imagined, with the majority of the military powers. How many other computer games allow one to go from the brushfire wars in Africa to conflicts raging around the globe as we speak?

Plenty of bang for your buck with winSPMBT Enhanced Edition.

Gaming doesn't have to be big to be enjoyable. It's okay to enjoy something that plays fast and doesn't kill the brain. Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space (Windows or Mac, physical or download) is a game that is easy to jump into and just as easy to jump out of thanks to its time-friendly playtime of under thirty minutes. As captain of one of three classifications of starships your mission is simple: the time honored tradition of going boldly where no one has gone before. Each game is randomly created, making the hundredth playthrough just as enjoyable as the first. Low system specs allows everyone to partake in the galactic journey and being a mod friendly kind of game encourages lots of new experiences.

By Grabthar's Hammer it's Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space.

Here's another game that won't require a huge time commitment from you: War Plan Pacific. Out now for

Windows as a physical product or a download, War Plan Pacific is a turn based strategy game on the Pacific theater of operations from December 1941 onwards. Focusing on the naval battles in the Pacific (and by extension, the island hopping campaigns) this is a game of clashing carriers, blazing battleships, and awesome aircraft. This isn't a game of rivet counting though, so expect to play the entire conflict out in just a few hours. With its boardgame-like feel War Plan Pacific is great for veteran gamers or those new to wargaming.

War Plan Pacific sound action stations on your PC.

The Gamers Front specials of the month can be found here.

For the month of June War Plan Pacific and winSPWW2 Enhanced Edition are both on sale for only $34.95.

Unless you're reading the newsletter from bottom to top you just read about War Plan Pacific so let's talk about winSPWW2 Enhanced Edition.

winSPWW2 is like winSPMBT but instead of the post-WW2 era it focuses on WW2 and prior. Imagine that. Featuring old school wargaming gameplay like you grew up on, players can game through hundreds of scenarios, a number of campaigns, quick battles, or even generate their own using AFVs and more from around the world. winSPWW2 does major battles like the drive into the Soviet Union just as well as something obscure, or even totally hypothetical.

We also need to point out that the support for winSPWW2 is unparalleled. Every six months or so the developers, Camo Workshop, release a new patch that injects the game with even more content. With no signs of slowing down winSPWW2 is a game that will keep on giving long after you've forgotten about most other wargames.

The Enhanced portion represents enhancements to the core game (which is available as a free download), giving gamers higher resolutions, more intense map creation options, and much more. Free is perfectly fine but for anyone wanting to go the distance we highly recommend getting the Enhanced Edition.

Be sure to check out all the great new features of the all new Gamers Front store, backed by a wonderful staff who wants to ensure every visit is a pleasurable one.

Combined Fleet is a great example of what can be done when you have a passion for history that goes beyond the average wargamer's interest. A website devoted to the Imperial Japanese Navy of World War Two, this is the perfect site to browse while waiting for your opponent to make his move in War Plan Pacific.

Containing an impressive array of content there is quite a bit of information that goes beyond the usual "here's how many guns this type of ship has" found with more reference material. A great example is in the Tabular Records of Movement section. Want to know where the IJN Amatsukaze was on November 2nd, 1944? How March 1942? The entire section is devoted to detailing the operations and happenings of individual ships of the Japanese navy in an easy to digest format.

There is also a wealth of analysis articles (and the authors are also the folks behind the Midway examination book, Shattered Sword) that make for fun reads along with a series of detailed maps. Anyone interested in the Pacific War, or wargaming the PTO, will thoroughly enjoy the site.

Visit the site at:

http://www.militaryphotos.net/

All American: The 82nd Airborne In Normandy: 2010

Eat Electric Death! (Board game): Box Art

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