Behind the Lines
February 2010

In This Issue


Grazing Fire

At long last, the answer to last newsletter's historical True or False...

As you may remember from our last newsletter, we presented you with a little bit of historical true or false concerning a curious German research project entitled “Schwammengelehrsamkeit” or “Sponge-Learning." Well as you may have guessed, this concept and project was fiction but the interesting point we can take from this exercise is that Nazi Germany had so many tin foil hat research projects going on up until its dramatic defeat that it was in fact plausible that a research project like this actually was commissioned and funded.

We have some exciting stuff in store for this newsletter and we hope you will find it interesting and relevant to our products - we certainly enjoy doing the research to create fascinating but still unique historical pieces (or, in the last newsletter's case, at least starting out with an intriguing bald-faced lie!).

Enjoy the newsletter,
The Newsletter Team

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

Back to Top

This Week's Historical Short: The World's Worst (Or Unluckiest) Warships - Part 1

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 1

H.M.S. Captain -- Commissioned in 1870; served with the Royal Navy of Great Britain

Properly used, HMS Captain would have made a formidable coast defense vessel; she carried four 12-inch guns, paired in two armored rotating turrets amidships and was protected by an armored belt that ranged from 4 to 7 inches in thickness. She performed well in her first sea trials, which were conducted in calm, almost tranquil conditions, although to attain her specified speed of 14 knots, it was necessary to augment her twin-screw steam propulsion system with a full sailing rig, which added enormously to her already dangerous top-heaviness.

The designer had specified a scanty freeboard of 2.5 meters (8 feet), but due to her excessive weight, the ship's turret openings were only 2 meters (6 ft., 6 inches) above the waterline. No mechanism was provided for sealing these gaping holes during heavy seas. Her intended displacement was somewhere around 6,300 tons, but in reality she weighed 7, 068 tons, far too much for her steam engine to handle, without an assist from the full sails. During an early open-sea voyage through the Bay of Biscay, the ship encountered gale-force seas and fierce rain. Waves as high as 14 feet broke on her sides, and almost immediately she began shipping water in such quantities that her pumps could not keep up with the flooding.

At first, her sails helped propel her on course, but as they became sodden and heavy, they merely added more dead weight to her already perilous condition. At the end, she just wallowed helplessly in the heavy seas, unable to move in any direction. The desperate efforts of her crew could not restore steerageway. It did not take long - one estimates less than an hour - before the proud ship simply sank like a brick, carrying most of her crew, her captain, and her unfortunate designer, to the bottom. There were but 16 survivors, and they were in such dazed, battered condition that no two of them told the same story about the ironclad's final moments. As the wreck has never been explored, we still don't know whether she capsized or just went straight down bottom-first, carrying untold tons of seawater in addition to her already excessive top-side weight.

The tragic loss of HMS Captain had a profound effect on subsequent ship designs. Armored ships were henceforth designed more carefully and were powered by more robust steam engines. The delicate balance between displacement and balance was eventually found, although it remained illusive and challenging well into the 20th Century.

Looking today at the drawings of this handsome but egregiously vulnerable warship, one wonders how anybody expected her to survive for long in the open sea.


  • Type: ocean-going ironclad warship
  • Propulsion: twin-screw steam engine plus fill sailing rig
  • Speed: 14 knots
  • Armor: 100 - 170 mm. (4-7 inches) armored belt;
  • Armament: 4 x 12-inch guns in dual turrets.
  • Displacement: 7, 068 tons
  • User: Great Britain

Back to Top

Historical Perspective

The Historical Perspective section is intended to give readers the "history behind the game." This month, Will Trotter gives us the second part of an exciting mix of AAR and historical fiction for Operation Barbarossa - The Struggle for Russia with From The Diary of Oberst Wolfgang Wurstfangler. Be sure to first read the first installment, which details the events leading up to his AAR and the tactical considerations surrounding the scenario.

After Action Report

From The Diary of Oberst Wolfgang Wurstfangler - Commander of “Kamppfegruppe Mengelberg”

Part 2

William R. Trotter

My short but accurate barrage has wiped out 3 of the bridge-guard unit's 7 combat-strength points. Exactly as I had hoped/ The ME-109s now come screaming in, ignoring the scattered and ineffective Russian flak, their pilots strafe the confused and panicky bridge guards mercilessly - I myself can see at least fifty men cut down amid long aerosol puffs of whipped-up dust. One intrepid pilot even does vertical for a short dive, pretending he's at the helm of a Stuka, and - mirabile dictu! - actually plants his 500-kg. bomb dead-on the roof of a bunker that surely housed either a Maxim HMG or even a pair of anti-tank rifles. Whatever threat was concealed inside that bunker, my ME-109 pilot just reduced the structure to smoldering matchsticks and its occupants to a grisly strew of body parts. "Piercing a hole in the enemy's defensive line?" Yes, we just did that, and a very neat, clean job of it we did too.

Now the follow up that first punch an over-the-river assault. The survivors of the bridge guard detachment have had enough. Half of them flee in unashamed terror toward the stronger defenses in the rear, and approximately half of the rest - I estimate 35-40 men-- timidly wave white rags and ostentatiously hurl their rifles and pistols as far away as they can, imploringly shouting "Kamerad!" and slowly rise with their hands groping the sky. Poor Ivan! He's been told that we slaughter prisoners routinely, unless for amusement we torture a few to death over the evening's campfire. But I am a man of honor, descended from soldiers who were also men of honor. In general the forces under my command handle prisoner collection strictly by the Geneva Conventions. I am not so certain that the rough compassion that sometimes exists between combat soldiers on opposing side will survive for long, once these poor terrified bastards are out of our hands and confined in a camp run by goose-stepping SS zealots, but I refuse to be distracted by moral niceties so far beyond the power of myself - or ANY professional soldier - to resolve. The Yankee General Sherman - himself noted for the courtesy and humanity with which he treated surrendered Confederates - said it best and simplest: "War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it."

The plan unfolds; so far, my "machine" is working smoothly, for, in less than fifteen minutes, we have seized our first objective, and as far as I can tell, we did it without sustaining more than a handful of casualties. A good beginning, nicht wahr?

Click here to continue part 2 of From The Diary of Oberst Wolfgang Wurstfangler.

Enjoying the article so far? Then check out Operation Barbarossa - The Struggle for Russia!

Back to Top

Game Spotlight: The Operational Art of War III - Alpha Graphics Mod

The Operational Art of War III is a turn-based operational-level wargame created by the famous design Norm Koger. A masterpiece of flexible design, it allows you to play and create any battle from the entire 20th Century of warfare and up to the modern day.

The Operational Art of War III - Alpha Graphics Mod

The TOAW III forums have been buzzing of late from screenshots posted by the developers showcasing the new "Alpha Graphics Mod" they plan to roll into the next update. This "mod" will provide significant graphical enhancements to TOAW III and will allows players to enjoy much larger views of the battlefield. Here's the word from the developers about the graphical overhaul:

I have worked with Ralph to bring this mod to life. After he made possible the use of png files with alpha channel, I decided to finally deal with the huge view. It was necessary to begin from scratch for terrain tiles and counters. Counters symbols had to be redrawn. I decided for a design solution which would have some boardgame feel to it, but with some real looking elements too. You’ll see that some are symbolic, while others more figurative. That way I could attain a cleaner look, without the overly flat aspect of my boardgame mod. Style is a subjective matter, so that some will like it and some don’t, but the fact that it’s cleaner and the huge view presents better resolution, makes the game look more up to date graphically. There are two or three elements I need to tweak and some tiles, like the railroad one, come with alternative version for better visualization. I also created a number of different counters styles, but some look more artificial then others, so the mod will be initially available with the slightly rounded counters you see.

And check out these beautiful screenshots of the new artwork coming your way with the next update!

Back to Top

Game Spotlight: A Distant Worlds Video Bonanza!

Distant Worlds is a vast, real-time, 4X space strategy game. Experience the full depth and detail of large turn-based strategy games, but with the simplicity and ease of real-time, and on the scale of a massively-multiplayer online game. Below are the first three of several promotional/tutorial videos explaining various aspects of the game.

Distant Worlds is coming very soon: it is expected to be released in the next few weeks!



Game Controls


Back to Top

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. Two New Videos for Distant Worlds! - Get an overview of the sleek game controls and thrilling galactic exploration for this anticipated 4X strategy game
  2. War in the Pacific - Admiral's Edition Wins Game of the Year!! - Congratulations to Henderson Field Designs for winning the Game of the Year Award at Gamer's Hall!
  3. Announcement to Customers: Replacement of Defective CDs - Over 100 orders were fulfilled with defective copies but we are working to replace all effected discs as soon as possible. Any new orders will be fulfilled normally as the problem on the production side has been fixed.
  4. More Matrix Titles Nominated for Awards! - Matrix Games is once again thrilled to note several more of its titles are nominated for awards
  5. Field of Glory Wins Award! - Field of Glory ropes in a bronze medal in the War-Hist Wargame of the Year category!
  6. New Video for Distant Worlds!! - Check out the introductory video for this hotly awaited 4X strategy game
  7. Guns of August Gets a New Update - A small but thunderous new update is now loaded and ready to fire!
  8. Hotfix Released for WW2: Time of Wrath - A quick hotfix is now available for this World War II grand strategy hit
  9. Matrix Games To Publish Distant Worlds! - Explore the universe across the endless stars and make it yours!
  10. Three Matrix Titles Nominated for Awards! - Three hot titles from Matrix Games have been nominated for awards, cast your vote!
  11. Field of Glory Gets Another Update - A few quick fixes and a new scenario is hard charging to gamers!
  12. WW2: Time of Wrath is Updated - Another update for this WWII grand strategy game is locked, loaded, and ready to fire

Back to Top

A Parting Shot

Matrix has been in outer space as of late, first with the highly successful release of Armada 2526 and now we're just around the corner from releasing Distant Worlds to an equally excited audience. We're also very pumped about the impending release of Command Ops: Battles from the Bulge. There are many Panther Games fans out there already who just can't wait to see the third title based on this award-winning engine hit digital store shelves. Things are close to release for this title, of course we don't have a firm release date but there's cause to start getting very excited! I would also stay tuned to our website as additional information about the game and maybe even a video AAR may be released at any moment! Speaking of award-winning developers, SSG is also hard at work on Across the Dnepr II so games should visit Matrix Games frequently for more updates regarding this game as well.

Are those enough exclusive breadcrumbs to keep your wargaming engine running? Remember you heard these little tidbits from the newsletter so be sure to check back for the next issue where we'll spill a few more beans about our future plans. Summer is going to be quite fun indeed!

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

Back to Top