Behind the Lines
April 2010

In This Issue


Grazing Fire

Welcome back!

We have some interesting historical insights for our readers this month in addition to some illuminating new information regarding some of our hotest titles. Summer is upon us (well, upon those of us north of the equator) and it can be difficult to remain productive with wonderful weather beckoning us to turn off the computer screen and head outside. Nevertheless, we soldier on!

Enjoy the newsletter,
The Newsletter Team

Comments? Questions? We'd love to hear from you through our general feedback contact form.

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This Week's Historical Short: The World's Worst (Or Unluckiest) Warships - Part 2

The Historical Short section is designed to provide a brief snapshot of an interesting historical event or trivia that is a little off the beaten path of regular historical discourse.

The Worlds Worst Warships - Part 2

The Novgorod (1871; Imperial Russian Navy)

The idea of round ships was neither new no especially unreliable, but the Novgorod carried the concept to an absurd extreme. Her main battery was powerful, all right. But whenever it fired, the guns’ recoil caused the ship to spin like a top; the battery could not fire again until the vessel regained equilibrium.

Her six steam engines were good, but each controlled only a single propeller shaft, making precise navigation impossible except in dead-calm water. When she encountered any sort of stern-current, her rudder simply ceased to function and if the stern-current was strong enough, the ship just rotated helplessly in-place like a ponderous hula-hoop.

If you fired ONE gun, the ship rotated like a top; if you fired BOTH GUNS, it turned into a very large Frisbee.

Nor did she ever attain her intended speed of 7 knots. On a calm day, when all six engines were working properly, she could manage an average speed of just 2 knots, making her too slow to participate in any kind of serious naval engagement.

Although the flaws in her design should have been obvious to any Annapolis Plebe who had taken the time to study her initial sheaf of drawings, the Tsarist Navy built two vessels of this type before abandoning the design as a freakish experiment that simply did not work.

Say this for the bizarre old tub, though: during the period when she was the ONLY Tsarist ironclad stationed in the Black Sea, Turkish foreign policy tended to be conciliatory!


  • Type: Coastal defense ironclad warship
  • Propulsion: six-shaft screw propellers; eight boilers
  • Speed: 7 knots (intended); 2 knots actual
  • Armor: 225 mm (9 inches) armored belt
  • Armament: 2 x 11-inch guns in single barbette mounts; 2 x 4-pounder guns; 2 x 37 mm. guns
  • Displacement: 2491 tons
  • User: Tsarist Russian Navy

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Historical Perspective

The Historical Perspective section is intended to give readers the "history behind the game." Given recent world events, this month Will Trotter makes an interesting foray into United States military history by examining the USMC in Haiti during the early 20th century.

Going After Charlemagne – The US Marines in Haiti, 1915 - 1918

William R. Trotter

It took ten years of savage fighting before the Haitian people drove out the last of the Napoleonic armies that had propped up a harsh, exploitative colonial regime. This was a singular achievement – the only successful Black revolt in regional history of a slave population against their white masters. But the protracted fighting left the island’s once-flourishing economy in ruins and its infrastructure on the verge of collapse. No longer united against a common foe, the revolutionary army soon fragmented into regional militias, whose services were for hire to whatever local strongman offered the best prospects of steady pay, supplemented by plunder. The French pull-out, of course, left a huge power vacuum, and although the civilian leaders of the revolt at length produced a modern, liberal constitution, there was no centralized authority capable of turning its eloquent ideals into a political reality. The only semblance of law and order was sporadically maintained by the bayonets of various warlords’ private armies; brute force, not the rule of law, was the only thing that prevented total anarchy, and the new republic’s Presidency was up-for-grabs to any would-be ruler who could assemble enough muscle to seize it.

By the late 19th Century, in the words of one Haitian historian, “the entire country was an armed camp”. A putative central government existed, on paper, but it had no real power to implement reconstruction plans or carry out social reforms. The populace longed for order, and the once-disciplined “national army” had deteriorated into a fractious armed rabble, badly led, rarely and miserably paid, and regarded by the civilian population not as a stabilizing institution but more as predatory brigands.

In Port-au-Prince, the portals of the Presidential Palace became little more than a revolving door through which passed a tragi-comic array of tin-pot tyrants who managed to seize transient power, but could not hold on to it long enough to affect visible improvements. During the period between 1809 –1879 an estimated total of 70 coups, palace revolts, and gangland-style assassinations installed and quickly deposed a succession of murderous buffoons in the Presidency.

Rural discontent gradually coalesced into the so-called "Caco" movement, a growing scourge of armed peasants, operating out of the mountainous northern wilderness near the Dominican border. When the chance arose, they became hired guns for whichever political aspirant could enlist their firepower; in between mercenary gigs, they preyed on the local peasant population, which had precious little to spare during the best of times.

Click here to continue Going After Charlemagne – The US Marines in Haiti, 1915 - 1918.

We don't have any games covering this particular topic per se, but these titles are still a load of fun anyway!

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Game Spotlight: Across the Dnepr: Second Edition AAR - Part 1

Across the Dnepr: Second Edition revisits a classic on a new system. Created from the ground up as an expansion for SSG’s latest acclaimed game engine, Kharkov: Disaster on the Donets, the Second Edition of Across the Dnepr includes Areas of Operations, the latest AI programming and multiple Mystery Variants to keep gamers guessing.

What follows is the first of a two part AAR AAR showcasing the gameplay found in ATD II.

Across the Dnepr: Second Edition After Action Report
Part One

Across the Dnepr: Second Edition is an updated and improved release of the original mega-scenario expansion for Korsun Pocket. ATD II has been completely reworked to bring it up to the latest Kharkov standard, allowing gamers to enjoy an exciting classic battle on a new system.

The battle itself is an epic contest, with four German armies on one side and an (almost) inexhaustible supply of Russians on the other side. While the Germans begin the battle with many advantages, the natural attrition of their own attacks plus the force of Soviet counterattacks can combine to wear down their forces.

SSG's programmer General Keating has, in his colorful language, been tasked with kicking in the rotten door of Russia and clearing the way to Moscow. Long time SSG tester General Alston is required by the Stavka to halt the fascist invaders and then expel them from the Motherland, a tall order indeed.

The objectives for the Germans are to take the western cities of Vitebsk, Orsha and Mogilev as soon as possible and then fight their way east. The northern formations, 2nd Panzer Army and 9th Army are aimed at Smolensk and then continue clearing the way to Moscow. The southern formations, 3rd Panzer Army and 4th Army must fight their way to Roslavl and point further east.

The objective for the Russians is to delay rather than defeat the invaders. Most of the Russian units will be eliminated; their task is to make their sacrifice useful, either by buying time or taking some Germans with them. The quality of Russian units varies widely, but they do have some powerful formations which can be used for counterattacks which can severely embarrass the Germans.

Click here to continue reading part one of the Across the Dnepr: Second Edition After Action Report.

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Latest News

In this section we provide a rundown of the latest updates from Matrix Games, just in case you missed a press release or two.

  1. New Screenshots Released for Across the Dnepr: Second Edition! - New images are smashing into enemy lines for this revamp of a classic game.
  2. Distant Worlds Gets an Important Update! - The highly anticipated 4X “Living Galaxy” Sci-Fi strategy game gets some quick post-release fixes to fine-tune the economy and improve stability.
  3. Distant Worlds Now Available for Purchase - And a spiffy combat video to check out as well.
  4. Horse and Musket: Volume I Is Updated - Six new battles, some new documentation, and more with this first official update!
  5. The Field of Glory System Is Updated Again! - New scenarios, a fix to the routing units crash, and plenty more for both Field of Glory and its expansion. Note that there were three updates before this one, but this update is comprehensive and so it includes all changes from the previous updates.
  6. Three AGEOD Titles Get a Price Drop! - Get AGEODís award winning products at a new lower price.
  7. War in the Pacific Ė Admiralís Edition Gets a Major Update! - New variable resolution complete with widescreen support and so much more!
  8. A Major New Update for Armada 2526! - Tons of improvements, changes, and fixes have decloaked and are headed this way!

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A Parting Shot

Field of Glory has been all the rage since the last newsletter! Tons of updates, a new expansion coming out, plenty of new opponents to test your tactical meddle against, and plenty more have added fuel to the community fire. Don't be too surprised if even more content like the new expansion, Rise of Rome, was announced shortly. We can't say much, but Field of Glory will be in the headlines plenty in the coming months!

The Distant Worlds Forum has also been alight since its heavily anticapted release. If Distant Worlds has caught your eye then definitely head over to the forums because there are plenty of space commanders on the forums chatting away about Distant Worlds, the space strategy genre as a whole, and more! Although we knew all along that Distant Worlds is a fantastic game, the Matrix staff was still surprised by the massive outpouring of support and interest.

And we would be remiss if we neglected to put in a gratuitous plug for the very much anticipated Battles for the Bulge. So... plug!

And as always, anyone who would like to drop us a line and give us some feedback, complaints, etc., please don't hesitate to do so through our general feedback contact form.

Thanks for reading!
The Newsletter Team

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