Behind the Lines
August 2009

In This Issue


Grazing Fire

August is a Bloody Month

We all know (well, we should…) that The Great War (a.k.a. World War One, although we’ve always felt that the earlier title better conveys the shock and horror of the event’s impact on previously complacent European societies) began in August, 1914. But if you scan any standard Chronology of Military History, you’ll see that an inordinate number of significant battles and campaigns occurred in or at least started during that month.

Coincidence? We don’t think so. The reasons are probably the same as the ones that caused Imperial Germany to launch its “Schlieffen Plan” Offensive in August: good weather, dry terrain, and a decent window of time in which to reach a decision before the mud of late autumn glued the contending forces in place.

At any rate, we decided it would be a bit too much to list all the significant Battles of August in a single newsletter since our preliminary list of battles was 14 pages... single spaced. If anyone wants to take a gander at our massive list (some items even have a brief historical sidebar about the battle) feel free to let us know and we'll happily send what we have on through to you.

At any rate, welcome back to the Matrix Games newsletter!

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: A Gallery of Rogues and Heroes - Louis Napoleon

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.

A Gallery Of Rogues And Heroes With Biographical Sketches And Thumbnail Accounts Of The Deeds And Misdeeds

Louis Napoleon

The nephew of the great Emperor, Napoleon III was nobody’s fool even if History seems to have judged him a consummate mediocrity. He was not by nature a vacillating or weak-willed man, but he was susceptible to the highly visible, and often deeply ironic, changes-in-agenda that are so often a corollary to the changed perspective that comes over almost every man who suddenly finds himself elevated from the middle levels of his profession to the very apex of power. The view from the very top is so different, so without precedent to anyone who suddenly finds himself on the summit, that one’s priorities almost always undergo a shift commensurate with one’s elevation in rank and status.

When Louis Napoleon took office as the new emperor of France, his foremost priority was to find a face-saving way to extricate his nation from the bloody and apparently intractable stalemate in Algeria. Yet, virtually overnight, when Louis Napoleon ascended to supreme power and actually had the authority and the moral/political leverage to seek such a settlement, his thinking underwent a reversal as profound as it was sudden. He swiftly became a convert to the creed of the most two-fisted, iron-willed advocates of naked imperialism. Rather than seek an honorable accommodation with the indigenous rebels, he became firmly resolved to “pacify” the entire region, with a massive, open-ended infusion of sheer military force. Searching the globe to find other “primitive” regions where France might gain the same kind of dubious prestige as Great Britain then enjoyed throughout the Indian subcontinent. This obsession with colonial aggrandizement led him to begin maneuvering to achieve the annexation of southern Indo-China, a region that would eventually prove at least as troublesome and unprofitable to France as most of India was to Great Britain – and ultimately, would lead to the worst French military humiliation since Rommel surged across the Meuse River in 1940: the apocalyptic debacle of Dien-Bien-Phu.

Having become a full-blown victim of Imperialist delusions, Louis Napoleon also wasted five years and a vast amount of treasure by blundering around aimlessly in the barren landscape and snake-pit politics of Mexico, a geographic region about as useless to France as a colony founded in Antarctica. Napoleon’s aims there were murky, his political and military direction was spasmodic and unfocused, the leaders he supported were corrupt and despised by the masses, and at the end of this costly and blood-soaked adventure, about the only thing France brought back from Mexico was the legend of a glorious defeat, the Battle of Cameron, which created the grim mystique of the Foreign Legion. That organization, comprising “the salt and scum of the Earth”, would at least serve France well and faithfully on many a far-flung battlefield.

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Historical Perspective

The Historical Perspective section is intended to give readers the "history behind the game." This month, Will Trotter gives us the fourth part of a series about the evolution of military technology before during and after the American Civil War.

Crucible of Blood - The American Civil War And the Evolution of Modern Military Technology

Part 5 - The Rise of the Ironclad

William R. Trotter

There was nothing new about the idea of armoring wooden warships: dampened hides had been draped along the thwarts of Greek and Roman galleys to afford a reasonable measure of protection against flaming arrows and catapult projectiles. But the real impetus for developing armored warships came when the first crude shell-firing guns began to appear on ships in the 16th Century. The first recorded example of a “proto-ironclad” appeared when the citizens of Antwerp were hastily beefing up the defenses of the Scheldt Estuary against the impending attack of the Duke of Parma and his formidable Spanish legions. It was a curious-looking vessel named The Belgian Lion (De Leone Belgico (see illustration 1), an unusually large, flat-bottomed coast defense craft with a castle-like superstructure whose slanted walls provided additional protection, augmenting the iron plates affixed to its sides. The rectangular structure amidships was loop-holed on each side for four large cannon and it bristled with small swivel-guns and musketeer positions, making it a formidable ship to carry by a boarding attack. History does not record, unfortunately, what active role, if any, the picturesque but rather top-heavy Belgian Lion played in the defense of Antwerp, so one may infer that its performance was less puissant that its appearance.

Change must have been in the air, and globally too, for in 1592, the highly respected Korean admiral Yi Sung Sin conceived and constructed a number of “tortoise ships” as a deterrent to Chinese naval aggression. These were low, rounded, oar-powered craft well-protected by overlapping iron plates, which were in turn studded with sharp iron spikes to discourage boarding attacks. They also carried a long iron-tipped prow for close-in ramming attacks, although considering their weight and lack of streamlining, the rams were either a sign of excessive optimism on Admiral Sin’s part, or a testament to the brawny physiques of his Korean oarsmen. Details are frustratingly vague and contradictory, but since the Koreans are known to have won a number of naval engagements against larger but less agile and more vulnerable Chinese ships, we may presume that the Tortoise Ships proved to be effective in battle.

Obviously influenced by their progressive Korean neighbors, the Japanese also got into the act, at least in a limited way. An English traveler named William Adam described a big, ungainly, Noah’s-Ark type vessel he’d seen in Osaka harbor, ponderous-looking but well-armored and displacing an estimated 1000 tons. This ship, his Japanese hosts explained, was kept on station in case the Shogun needed heavy firepower to suppress insurrections on any of the many outlying islands that made up a restive part of his realm.

Click here to continue part 5 of Crucible of Blood - The American Civil War And the Evolution of Modern Military Technology.

Enjoying the article so far? Why not check out these great titles that focus on the same period?

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Game Spotlight: Crown of Glory: Emperor's Edition - Piping Hot Review Scores

Crown of Glory: Emperor's Edition, a Napoleonic-era strategy game, is the sequel to Western Civilization's acclaimed Crown of Glory.

Crown of Glory: Emperor's Edition has been making some strong impressions on reviewers who have had a chance to take a look the game. Anyone who was on the fence about this sequel and wanted to see what other people thought before buying should take a look at these three reviews. There are more reviews on the way as well so be sure to check back to the Reviews and Awards List in the forum.

It should also be noted for any owners of the original Crown of Glory that you get a $10 discount off of the sequel. And now, without further adieu, the reviews:

  • The Napoleon Series - "CoG:EE is not an example of the real-time strategy graphics-fest games posing as strategy war games which have become more and more common on the gaming market. CoG:EE is a balanced, intriguing, subtle, artistically-satisfying, historically-accurate-enough, challenging, easy-to-learn/hard-to-master game: in short, a work of art. In contrast to some larger game companies which seem to strive for maximum market penetration among younger gamers who are less interested in strategy and more interested in beguiling graphics, WCS is not a producer of flash-in-the-pan sequels that show all the signs of massive capital backing, but limited vision, integration, realism and coherency. CoG:EE is a product of inspiration, hard work, team work, vision, and dedication. So if you are a Napoleon era fan or expert and you have a little time, even if you've never played a computer strategy game, check out CoG:EE, it is one of the best in its genre and you are likely to have a lot of fun!
  • "

  • Armchair General 79% - "Players who enjoy methodical game play that allows them to get intimate with all details from shaping their economy to determining the best strategy for their army and navy will find themselves so absorbed in Napoleonic Europe it will be difficult to turn the game off.
  • "

  • PC4WAR (magazine) - 8/10 - "Crown of Glory: Emperor’s Edition is simply the best grand strategy game for this period since... the first Crown of Glory. Rare are games as complete, deep and fascinating as COG:EE."

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Game Spotlight: Advanced Tactics - The Space Combat Game??

Advanced Tactics is an award winning strategy game from VR Designs.

Although the Advanced Tactics's subtitle is "World War II," the game boasts some impressive modability - not to mention a very powerful editor. A recent mod and AAR by an avid community member details some amazing mod work which converted Advanced Tactics into a space combat game!

As you can see from the screenshots, Advanced Tactics not only gets the job done as a World War II game, but it can also house limitless possibilities for expansion, conversion, mods and more. Gamers interested in creating their own flavor of strategy or just looking for a fun, versatile game system to test their strategic meddle with should give Advanced Tactics a look!

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Game Spotlight: Operation Barbarossa - Screenshot Feature

Operation Barbarossa - The Struggle for Russia is a recently announced World War II strategy game from Binary Evolution Studios. Operation Barbarossa is slated for release in the next few weeks.

About Operation Barbarossa - The Struggle for Russia:

On June 22, 1941 an avalanche of 153 German divisions crash into the Soviet Union and the largest military operation in history is begun: Operation Barbarossa. In this elegant turn-based strategy game, compelling gameplay combines with gripping history to create an addictive mix.

Aimed at all levels, from those who have never played a wargame before to those who know the history of World War II in detail, this is an entertaining and mentally challenging game of combined arms strategy. Your armor, infantry, artillery and air units will follow you through the most crucial battles of the Eastern Front. You will be able to choose from 47 different upgrades and improvements for your units as well as add new forces based on your success in the campaign.

Take command in two German and one Soviet campaign as well as individual scenarios and determine the fate of the Eastern Front. When you’ve played through all the campaigns and scenarios, try your hand at the editor to create new scenarios for yourself or to share with others!

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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. Matrix Games Announces Operation Barbarossa - The Struggle for Russia! - The Fate of the Eastern Front is in your hands!
  2. Announcing the WW2: Time of Wrath Giveaway Contest! - You could win a free copy of WW2: Time of Wrath just by answering a few trivia questions!
  3. Matrix Games Releases a WW2: Time of Wrath Demo - Try your hand at battling for supremacy over Europe in this new playable demo!
  4. War in the Pacific: Admiral’s Edition Now Available! Announcing the Victory at Sea Sale - The long-awaited sequel to the legendary WWII Pacific monster strategy game is now available and it comes along with a three month sale on other 2by3 Games Pacific wargames!
  5. World War One: La Grande Guerre Is Updated - A new update heads out of the trenches and into action!
  6. WW2: Time of Wrath Now Available for Purchase! - A vastly improved sequel now available for purchase - and it’s a FREE upgrade for WW2: Road to Victory owners!
  7. World War II: General Commander Now Available from Matrix Games! - Command massive armies over vast battlefields all with thrilling real time action!
  8. Matrix Games Announces Gary Grigsby’s War in the East! - The veteran game developers Gary Grigsby, Joel Billings and Keith Brors are working hard to bring gamers WWII on the Eastern Front.
  9. Horse and Musket: Volume I Now Available! - Muster the troops and prepare to march, this anticipated turn-based strategy game is now ready for battle!
  10. PureSim Baseball Now Available for Free! - Get this award-winning baseball management sim absolutely free of charge
  11. Crown of Glory: Emperor’s Edition Gets a Major Update - Great new documentation and dozens of fixes and improvements come with the first update

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A Parting Shot

This has been an action-packed summer here at Matrix. War in the Pacific: Admiral's Edition is positively lighting up our forums as gamers enjoy the mammoth expansion to the legendary Pacific-theater naval warfare game. Since the game's release, approximately 20,000 posts have been logged ranging from calls for PBEM games to in-depth AARs and from cries for help to cries of victory. And this is all in just a few weeks!

Despite the impressive salvo of quality titles from Matrix in the prior months, don't expect us to let up the barrage any time soon. We have plenty of new titles on the way in addition to a few highly anticipated classics that will no doubt make veteran wargamers and people new to the genre very excited. (War in the East anybody?)

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 and happy holidays!
The Newsletter Team

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