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FRAG! Newsletter May, 2011

Charles Rector's Weblog; Jul. 11, 2011; By Charles Rector
Type: News

Issue 117, May 2011"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."   
~ Winston Churchill

  1. The May Editorial Introduction
  2. News Direct from the Frontlines of Shrapnel Games
  3. Trivia Time: The Genesis Of Thrust Vectoring
  4. World Supremacy Version 1.09 Patch
  5. The Dice Of War: The Awful Green Things From Outer Space
  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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Moscow in flames, missiles headed to New York,
film at eleven.

Here in the States it is now the beginning of summer. Maybe not the official seasonal start, but rather the unofficial, “Hey, kids are getting out of school and it’s going to be Memorial Day” start. Soon the summer gaming convention circuit will begin.

For many gamers the reasons for going to the cons have changed over the years. Before the Internet cons were great places to find out of print games (auctions were especially popular) or other unique items. Not to mention since news sources were limited a good way to find out about upcoming games. Cons were also great for getting together with other likeminded individuals and rolling some dice. This, the social aspect, has remained strong, and has become the driving force for most gamers hitting the cons in this day and age.

"Instead of late June in 2012 (and at least 2013) Origins is moving to Memorial Day weekend."

The audiences for the cons though have dwindled over the past several years. While they command respectable numbers still, it’s by no means like it was in the old days. Some of this can probably be attributed to the normal bleed off any activity has with an aging population, but I’m guessing the fact cons don’t offer the uniqueness they once did has a lot to do with it. Couple that with the high cost of living these past few years and you’ll find more and more folks reluctant to drop several hundred dollars on a con. So from the perspective of a convention the last thing you want to do is tilt the balance any more.

Yet, Origins in 2012 is shifting their date. Instead of late June in 2012 (and at least 2013) Origins is moving to Memorial Day weekend. According to their press release this is being done partly to save you, the con-goer, money. From their release:

“Our move into May has allowed us to cut hotel costs for our attendees—both gamers and exhibitors. With more money in your pockets, you can afford to buy

more of those games you get to try at Origins. With having to spend less money to get to the show and stay, companies can afford to bring more staff to run even more events. The move to May means we’re ahead of the prime travel season, resulting in lower gas prices and airline tickets.”

Problem is though will there be more folks attending or less? Considering that for many school will still be in session (here in the metro Atlanta region some counties are out already, others are still in session) that will effectively cut many trips to Ohio out. Likewise, while most folks have a three-day weekend you still have to consider that if you’re coming in from out of state you’ll probably want a day before and a day after away from the normal grind. Problem with that is most companies don’t like having a break already, as it throws scheduling off, and can be reluctant to allow their employees to further complicate matters.

And to say that “lower gas prices and airline tickets” will matter is like saying there’s a difference between getting your arm hacked off and a leg. Right, they’ll be lower but that’s all relative. Have you seen gas and airline prices lately? Do you think they’ll be that different in 2012? Sure, maybe they’ll be few bucks lower, but nothing monumental. And needless to say, the differences between May and June also won’t matter.

Late June guarantees kids are out of school, time off is easier to come by as it’s more expected, and it’s what people are used to. Not to mention that now there will be this odd period where Origins starts the season off early and then Gen Con ends it late, with no major gaming con in between.

We’ll see next year what the change will actually mean, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it backfires.

You are reading the official e-newsletter of Shrapnel Games, publisher of many fine independent strategy games. Before you is the rest of the newsletter. You….

…continue reading the latest news. Go to the next paragraph.

…jump ahead. Scroll down to the next section.

…fight the dragon. The dragon eats you. So sorry. Score = 2 out of 150. Please try again.

Earlier this month Malfador Machinations, developer of World Supremacy, released a brand new patch for the game. Bringing the retail game up to version 1.09, it includes a number of enhancements and kills many bugs. You can read more about it in section four of the newsletter.

World Supremacy is available for Windows as a download. Only $29.99, this is a board game style game of conquering the world using modern weapons of war. Prowl the seas with hunter/killer submarines, blitz the borders with heavy armor, and set the world on fire with nuclear weapons in this beer and pretzels turn-based game. Supporting up to eight players, this is the perfect afternoon multi-player game when you want to blow things up but don’t want to worry about too many gritty details.

Check out all the details of World Supremacy and download the demo (updated to reflect the current state of the retail product) here.

Like the ability to play winSPWW2 in high resolutions with the Enhanced Edition but don’t like the fact the text is so small? Check out this thread over at the forum.

While a work in progress there is enough already there to get many folks excited.

If you don’t own the Enhanced Edition of winSPWW2 (or winSPMBT) then you’re missing out! The Enhanced Editions allow resolutions up to 1600x1200. They may be based off of an old game, but it’s never looked better!

Besides the higher resolutions the Enhanced Editions include many other additions that are sure to please the serious Steel Panthers student. You can grab the Enhanced Editions through their official product pages.

winSPWW2

winSPMBT: Main Battle Tank

Both games recently received a new upgrade, and as usual the upgrades were bursting at the seams with gaming goodness. Be sure to download the latest patches to gain your maximum experience. You’ll find them on their product pages.

Did you know you can always check to see what Illwinter Game Design is currently changing in Dominions 3: The Awakening? Know what will be in the next patch before anyone else (well, anyone who doesn’t go to the same link we’re about highlight).

For all your Dominions 3 patch work-in-progress needs, please visit: http://ulm.illwinter.com/dom3/dom3progress.html

Looking for some strategy gaming outside the usual fare? How about War Plan Pacific, a grand strategy game that is playable in a single session? Supports PBEM, the perfect way to wage war. Then there’s Bronze, the puzzle/strategy game of ancient history that’s easy to learn but difficult to master. What about Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space? The most epic sci-fi game you’ll ever play (and complete!) during your lunch hour.

War Plan Pacific

Bronze

Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space

Until next month, happy gaming!

The Harrier, used by the British and the US Marines, was always a fascinating aircraft; a fighter that could act like a helicopter. But where could this concept be traced?

Like many post-World War II military creations the lineage of the Harrier, at least its concept of vertical takeoff and landing, can be traced to the mad schemes of the Germans in the last days of the Reich. Work began in 1944 at Focke-Wulf to produce a vertical takeoff and landing aircraft to counter the Allied bombing offensives. With a VTOL aircraft they could be placed anywhere within Germany in the path of Allied bombers, and as soon as the bomber stream was spotted could then take off and intercept them.

The Triebflugel was to be this VTOL aircraft. Resembling a rocket with a canopy and three wing-like rotors mounted halfway on the fuselage, the three rotors would rotate around the fuselage. Each rotor was tipped with a ramjet which gave them power. This also helped counter torque in the fuselage because of the configuration. Sounds like a sound design, what could possibly go wrong with it?

Unfortunately the aircraft would have been very ungainly to fly, and extremely hard to land. There's also the question of trying to bail out of the aircraft when you have three huge spinning wings right behind the canopy.

While the German design never saw fruition the United States worked on their own tailsitters after the war. Like the basis of the Triebflugels the concept was borne out of the idea of getting aircraft fast into the air to attack incoming Soviet bombers. Additionally, tailsitters would be ideal for convoy escort since they had no need for a flight deck. You could easily put a squadron on a merchant vessel accompanying the others in the convoy and it would act as the convoy's defense. Finally, with a large enough submarine you could even launch from subs (an idea actually used by the Japanese, although they mounted conventional seaplanes and not tailsitters).

The very first VTOL design was the Convair XFY-1 "Pogo", a prop driven tailsitter. First requested by the US Navy in 1951 the maiden flight of the XFY-1 occurred on August 1, 1954. Flown by J.F. Coleman

the XFY-1 rose to 40 feet, then lowered back down successfully. After more testing in November the aircraft actually did a complete test flight, rising vertically, transitioning to level flight, flying for twenty minutes, then landing vertically. In fact, before the project was ended the XFY-1 had about 40 hours of successful flight time.

The Navy though decided after the testing that it was simply not worth pursuing. Like the Focke-Wulf there was a question of pilot survivability. While not as inherently dangerous in flight to bail out from as the Focke-Wulf would have been, the pilot would still be ejecting from an odd position. Mechanical problems also plagued the engine, and landing would have been a tough proposition on a heaving shipdeck. Finally, it would only be able to carry four 20mm cannons and some free-flight rockets, making its combat potential dubious.

Enter the Ryan X-13. The X-13, unlike the turbopropped XFY-1, was a jet. While the XFY-1 could simply take off from its spot, the X-13 needed a special launch trailer that the aircraft sat on. The trailer would then be elevated into position and the X-13 launched vertically.

The contract to develop the X-13 was awarded to Ryan by the US Air Force in 1953, with the first full flight cycle taking place on April 11th, 1957. Just a couple of months later, in July of 1957, the Air Force canceled the project. The money needed to pursue the X-13 was simply not there, and like the Navy the Air Force realized that while the goal of an interceptor that could quickly become airborne from anyplace was a good goal, the realities of what could be achieved was simply not worth the price. Again, armament restrictions would have hampered combat operations, and landing was tough and required the utmost perfection.

The X-13 did however end up contributing one important piece of technology to future VTOL aircraft: thrust-vectoring. The X-13 used a vectorable exhaust nozzle to engage from conventional flight to a vertical stance and provide the pilot with a decent amount of control. First seen in the X-13 the concept was later used in the world famous Harrier jump jets.

You’ve asked for it, now you got it. Malfador Machinations recently released version 1.09 of their latest game, World Supremacy. This is a cumulative patch, containing all prior changes so if you’ve missed out on any of the earlier patches, fear not.

Version 1.09 contains the following changes:

  • Fixed - AI was not using bombardment. Also, bombard animation should not show if the source or target region cannot be seen.
  • Fixed – AI was not moving units after combat. AI was not building enough land units. Many other general AI improvements.
  • Fixed – Nuclear missiles can now move over land and sea, and detonate over land sea. Submarines are not affected by nuclear explosions.
  • Fixed – Sometimes sight would not be updated from new purchases when a player started their turn.
  • Fixed – Neutron bomb was not killing only infantry.
  • Added – On screen text messages at the beginning of the turn to show results of tech purchases.
  • Added – In combat hit points will show as current amount out of total for the top unit.

Check out the history text in the patch for a complete changelog.

Grab the 1.09 download at the official World Supremacy page, here.

And if you haven’t yet tried out this fast playing game of nation building (well, more conquering than building), be sure to grab the demo at the same page as the patch. The demo has been upgraded to reflect the 1.09 changes.

The Awful Green Things From Outer Space (Steve Jackson Games)

Before there were genetically engineered space grunts fighting off hordes of slobbering xenos in floating stellar hulks, there were Frathms, Snudalians, Redundans, and Smabalites battling for their lives on the Znutar against green things. Awful green things. From outer space. Ill tempered walking eyes, they like to feed and procreate, not always in that order.

Tom Wham’s classic alien on alien board game is back once more, now in its eighth edition. This version is published by Steve Jackson Games, which has also published an earlier version several years before. Steve Jackson Games (of the endless Munchkin series), has of course been accused of some rather shoddy production qualities, that are made worse by high pricing. In the case of The Awful Green Things From Outer Space (Green Things), this is actually no longer true! While a small box game the map is mounted, and the counters are heavy duty Euro-style thick cuts that pop out. And the price is reasonable!

Green Things is a two player game, although it wouldn’t be too difficult to play it solo. One player controls the crew of the Znutar, a mixture of odd aliens, their mascot and a robot, while the other player commands the actual Awful Green Things. The Awful Green Things come in several life cycles: fragments, eggs, babies, and adults.

The action takes place onboard the starship Znutar (and possibly outside also, if using the optional rules). In the beginning the crew members are placed at various locations on the map by the owning player’s choice, while the starting location for the dreaded Awful Green Things is randomly determined, along with the starting composition of critters. An opening turn is played in which one or two are set out to encounter the hostiles. Once achieved the game proper begins.

Each turn the Awful Green Things have the ability to grow one of their life cycles into the next form. So, eggs can turn into babies, babies into adults, and adults can lay eggs. After that those evil aliens that can move are allowed to do so, followed by any combat that occurs from movement. Successful attacks can allow one attacker to immediately advance their life cycle.

The crew of the Znutar go next, and so they are always having to react to the invading aliens rather than going on a full offensive. In their turn the crew can grab weapons and hope the weapons have a positive reaction on the Awful Green Things.

The weapon effects is really the heart of the game. Weapons range from the obvious like knives and grenades, to objects like fire extinguishers and Zgwortz canisters. Each weapon has a general effect, such as whether they target an individual or are area

based, but what they actually do to the Green critters is randomly determined at the time of use. At best, they kill the Awful Green Things. But they can also shrink them to their previous life cycle, stun them, or blast them into bits. Blasting them into bits may sound like a good thing, but oh no, it’s not. Those fragments, while helpless on their own, can grow into something meaner and nastier. So the last thing you want is to turn one Awful Green Thing into six.

And that’s about all there is to the game. One side tries to run around and find the right weapons for the job while the other side attempts to eat them. Additionally, the crew can self-destruct the ship and attempt to make it home via a series of choose-your-own-adventure style questions. Green Things is not a complex game, nor is it a game trying to be the end-all, be-all game. It’s just about killing aliens, and that’s perfectly fine. It’s also the key to enjoying the game.

If you are the Type A, OCD, must have control at all times gamer, you will absolutely hate Green Things. While there is plenty of tactics to be found in the game, such as whether it’s better to divide and conquer or simply steamroll through the ship, there is the overwhelming randomness of the weapons. One game may have the pool stick being a wooden dowel of might, while the next game may make it useless. Until the crew tries something out there’s no way of knowing.

This also leads to how long a game can take and its balance. An area based weapon that kills can make the game brief and favorable to the crew player, and a game in which no good effects are drawn can lead to a very short existence for the crew.

Roll with the random wackiness of the weapon effects though, and much like how a Wand of Wonder in D&D is great for pure, unrestricted chaos, there is a certain excitement to be had. As your hand is placed in the opaque container of effects (aka an empty coffee mug) will you draw something that will help out your poor crew? Or will it lead to an epic failure followed by the crew member who just tried the weapon being devoured?

The Awful Green Things From Outer Space is not a game to pull out with your Advanced Squad Leader group. It is the game to pull out when it’s two in the morning, you and your buddies may have imbibed too many adult beverages, and you’ve just watched Alien. Or Santa Claus Versus The Martians. It’s silly fun, in which a knife may or may not be a deadly weapon, and eating robots can be hazardous to your health. Highly recommended for those days when you want your gaming to be fast and loose.

Once upon a time there was a little game called Dominions 3: The Awakening. Unlike other games it didn’t have fancy three dimensional graphics, or celebrity voice actors, and it wasn’t available on consoles. Instead, it shockingly relied on becoming popular through fantastic gameplay, endless replayability, and extreme awesomeness. Because of this the little game that could became a best seller many, many years after its release, while all those shiny empty games were confined to the bargain bins of history.

Another prime example of the power of good gaming versus chasing the latest fad can be found in winSPWW2 and winSPMBT. Based on the classic Steel Panthers engine that came out in the Age of DOS, the engine has been tweaked and changed over the years, making a classic even that much better. It’s no wonder that both games continue to sell so well, month after month.

Huff and puff and blow the pretender down in Dominions 3: The Awakening.

Learn the art of the blitzkrieg at cannon level withwinSPWW2.

It’s like someone made Modern ASL with winSPMBT.

The Gamers Front specials of the month can be foundhere.

Raging Tiger


Space HoRSE

For the month of May we have on special Raging Tiger: The Second Korean War and the family friendly Space HoRSE.

Raging Tiger: The Second Korean War is from ProSIM and is designed by Curt Pangracs. A hypothetical modern wargame set in the powderkeg known as the Korean peninsula, Raging Tiger offers wargamers plenty of action.

The player, commanding Joint Task Force Iron, will embark on an epic struggle against the forces of tyranny in a story-based campaign designed for playability. Campaign scenarios can be played in any order desired without the need to constantly replay a scenario to advance the campaign.

Raging Tiger: The Second Korean War features all the good stuff that demanding wargamers want to see, meaning lots of shiny chrome. A multitude of weapon platforms, from HJ-8E ATs to M1922s, are available for you and your foe to wage war, in one of the most rugged countrysides in the world. Locked AI units help immerse the player in a fully involved battlespace. Fight the good fight while other friendlies perform their own operations. And with North Korea having one of the largest assemblies of “special” forces in the world expect to encounter asymmetric warfare. Additionally, the player will have to deal with the issue of displaced persons, and much more.

Like all ProSIM titles Raging Tiger is played in “command-time” (aka “real-time”) play. Unlike other RTS games, real-time is used to accurately measure real world situations. How long it takes a unit to become underway, or the time on target for an artillery strike, and more. Learning how to take advantage of all of this, perfecting a synchronized strategy, is one of the most exciting aspects of a ProSIM title. Winning is not simply a matter of pointing and clicking while massing as much force as possible, but confronting the same problems commanders face in reality. Read the terrain, hit the enemy with properly timed assaults, and carry yourself to victory.

Raging Tiger is available for Windows and is on sale all month long for only $34.95.

Space HoRSE is a game based on a classic in the gaming world, M.U.L.E., whose gameplay elements are still as compelling today as they were almost thirty plus years ago.

In Space HoRSE up to four players compete against one another (and it should be noted that the game even supports hotseat play, something that has seem to have disappeared) in this exciting, non-violent, economic strategy game. Buy low, sell high, and before you know it you’ll have your very own intergalactic late night informercial. Over forty-five random events ensures that every game plays out unique, and with an average game taking less than a half hour to play, Space HoRSE can be played multiple times in a single evening.

Space HoRSE is a great game for anyone looking for a strategy game that is easily picked up, and as the cliché goes, difficult to master. Space HoRSE is available for Windows and is on sale for $24.95, a savings of ten dollars off its regular retail price.

The Gamers Front, always open for your dowloading needs—perfect for those long holiday weekends.

Armor fiends can never have enough information at their fingertips. The plainly named site, WW2 Armor, is a fairly decent collection of information on well, World War Two Armor. Technical specifications, unit organizations, marking schemes, and other bits of trivia can be found throughout the site. The level of detail often varies, but overall perfectly fine. There’s even a section devoted to scale models.

While great for the winSPWW2 enthusiast, it would be a tad nicer without the ad placements.

Visit the site at:

http://ww2armor.jexiste.fr/index.htm

All American: The 82nd Airborne In Normandy: 2011

Star Legacy: 2012

Eat Electric Death! (Board game): 2011

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