Behind the Lines
June 2010

In This Issue


Grazing Fire

Welcome to the latest newsletter! Since the last newsletter there's been some pretty major news out on the Matrix front: Slitherine Ltd and Matrix Games have merged to create the world's largest wargaming specialist publisher! Of course, the primary focus for this new entity will remain the same as it was for each company individually: providing quality war and strategy game with top-level customer service and great product support. There are plenty of exciting opportunities for both companies and for their customers that will materialize out of this merge so stay tuned to see what we have in store!

Since the newsletter has traditionally been a Matrix Games gig, let's say a few words about Slitherine: Slitherine is a privately funded company operating in the entertainment business. Its mission is to deliver history based products to the widest possible audience. Slitherine’s main focus is publishing and developing of videogames, however Slitherine is also involved with book publishing, internet gaming, board games and has provided a range of consultancy services to TV and other media companies. Slitherine is at the forefront of delivering entertainment through history and history through entertainment. Founded by wargaming world champions JD and Iain McNeil, the company works with key partners such as HISTORY™, MILITARY HISTORY™, Horrible Histories™, Osprey, Scholastic, Casemate Publishing, Spike TV, Showtime and many others to deliver the best blend of historical accuracy in an exciting and entertaining way.

Slitherine's Group Chairman JD McNeil said: “We are excited and thrilled about the deal with Matrix Games. We both operate in a niche market and we see many opportunities to further grow and expand the business by joining forces. By combining our resources and experience we are confident that we can lead this market to the next level”.

David Heath, Director of Operations at Matrix Games said: “Matrix has always been at the cutting edge for innovation. We started over 10 years ago and were the first to move into the digital download business. With a very focused emphasis on customer service we have becoming market leaders in our field, where gameplay is all important. By merging with Slitherine, we can pursue our common goals to grow the business and this market sector as a whole.”

Additionally, The Wargamer ran an in-depth interview discussing further details regarding the merger so be sure to check that out for more information.

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 3

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 3

U.S.S. Maine (1889; American Navy)

Oh, but she was a beautiful ship! Her gleaming white paint scheme, trimmed with gold and bronze (and kept sparkling, during those days of filthy black coal smoke) only by strenuous daily maintenance on the part of her proud and zealous crew). She seemed the gleaming embodiment of the young, virile America’s somewhat raucous appearance on the international scene as a rising power to be reckoned with. She was, everyone agreed, the perfect vessel to use when ”showing the flag” was considered a vital act of “Big Stick” diplomacy, and her first major assignment was to sail imperiously into Havana Harbor for the announced purpose of “Protecting American interests” in strife-torn Cuba, where rag-tag guerilla bands were fighting a cruel war of liberation against their heavy-handed and often brutal Spanish oppressors. Exactly what “American interests” could be “protected” by a single warship anchored in Havana Harbor seems rather murky as mission objectives go, but the implicit threat to the Spanish lay in her formidable armament of 4 x 10-inch guns and 6 x 6-inch, which were perfectly capable of leveling any municipal building, utility plant, or barracks within the Cuban capital.

She also boasted such modern innovations as searchlights, and a telegraphic fire-control system coordinated by skilled officers stationed in the armored “fighting top”, who were able to spot the fall of shot through powerful glasses, and send corrections instantly to the gunnery crews below. In practice, the mixture of heavy and medium caliber weapons, all firing salvos at once, made the fire-control process less smooth and efficient as it might have been, had the 10-inch shells contained a distinctive dye-marker component so their water spouts could readily be distinguished from the more numerous and almost as large plumes thrown up by the six-inchers – but no one had thought of that little trick yet. Gunnery officers were still working on this problem, and undoubtedly they would have come up with some sort of workable solution before the Maine went forth to engage capital ships of the Spanish fleet, should that become necessary.

USS Maine entering Havana Harbor on 25 January 1898, where the ship would explode three weeks later

Alas for American patriotic glory, the Maine never fired a shot in anger. Shortly after she anchored in Havana Harbor, a mysterious nocturnal explosion ripped her in half and she sank with heavy loss of life. “Spanish Sabotage!” screamed the 36-point-type headlines in the Hearst newspapers, and prompt, effusive Spanish protestations of innocence were arrogantly dismissed as lies. “Remember the Maine!” became the rallying cry that roused the American public to a pitch of war fever.

Here was something unique in naval history: a capital warship that had never fired a shot in anger, yet which managed to demolish and scuttle herself, and by doing so ignite a needless, costly war between two large countries which otherwise had no earthly reason to start shooting at each other. America’s swift, cheap, one-sided, almost bloodless victory (if you’re talking about Yanqui blood, that is) produced results that would have far-reaching global consequences (indeed, some of the ripple-effects have not entirely subsided even today, in 2009).

The Maine went down in comparatively shallow water (the “fighting top” and the U.S. flag still protruded proudly above the shattered hull, making a poignant image that the newspapers turned into a patriotic icon). Extensive underwater investigation, however, reveals not the slightest trace of “Spanish Sabotage”. Instead, like half-a-dozen-major warships from other countries during this same general time-period, the Maine apparently self-destructed from a spontaneous cordite explosion, followed by a chain-reaction detonation of all her magazines. The most probable cause was an undetected fire started by coal-dust or cinders igniting from one of the coal bunkers. In short, the “Spanish Tyrants” had nothing to do with the ship’s destruction – indeed, the very LAST thing the weak and over-extended Spanish monarchy wanted at that time was to get embroiled in a two-ocean war with the bellicose, arrogantly confident United States and its powerful new state-of-the-art fleet.

In those days, the full potential dangers of sloppy magazine security and the necessity for strong compartmentalization of explosive-propellant charge bags and fused ammunition rounds was but indifferently realized; a succession of spontaneous cordite ignition incidents, resulting in the loss of not only the Maine, but also such major fleet units as HMS Vanguard, HMS Bulwark, and IJN Kawachi, drove home the point, and all the significant navies were compelled to study the problem and dramatically revise their safety procedures, as well as the design, positioning, and internal armoring of their magazines. The more prescient navies also updated their damage control practices do deal with this potentially catastrophic possibility.


  • Type: Ocean-going ironclad warship
  • Propulsion: Twin-screw, triple-expansion steam engines
  • Speed: 16.4 knots (average)
  • Armor: Layer-cake armor belts, measuring 304 mm. (12 inches) in thickness at the ship’s most vital points
  • Armament: 4 x 10-inch guns; 6 x 6-inch guns
  • Displacement: 7, 180 tons
  • User: American Navy

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Historical Perspective

The Historical Perspective section is intended to give readers the "history behind the game." To celebrate the long-awaited release of Command Ops: Battles from the Bulge, we examine the political motivations behind Germany's last-ditch effort in the Ardennes forest.

Cutting the Diamond: the Political Dimension of Adolf Hitler’s Ardennes Counterattack

William R. Trotter


“The Battle of the Bulge” was surely the inevitable historical shorthand name for what should more properly be called “The Ardennes Counteroffensive”. The origin of the popularized name was surely obvious to anyone who looked at a situation map at any point after, say, noon on December 22, 1944. By that time, the narrow spikes of the initial panzer penetrations had combined into a trademark pseudopod-like salient that would expand but not change its basic shape until December 26. That was the date when Patton’s Third Army (after brilliantly executing a massive pivot down near Martelange, Luxembourg, in a virtuosic performance during which Patton and his staff managed to re-direct, in only 46 hours, the axis-of-advance for an entire mechanized army, whose units carried out that dangerous and complicated maneuver with the precision, alacrity, and even the grace of a world-class ballet troupe – and then drove north, like the Hounds of Hell, in an epic 250-mile forced march aimed at breaking the siege of Bastogne) started squashing the German perimeter into something that looked more like a thick, writhing tentacle.

But during the crisis period, a “bulge” it resembled and “The Bulge” it became to the GIs who lived through that most bitter of winters. The war correspondents, of course, glommed on to that name for their own obvious reasons: American newspaper readers could SEE “The Bulge” looming, threatening, expanding, and then slowly being squeezed out of existence as the Germans ran out of steam (and gasoline). Headlines promising fresh news about “The Bulge” were what many eyes locked on to first when American subscribers opened their morning papers.

It was a good, punchy, iambic battle-name, and it practically vibrated with drama when it was set in 24-point type. It alerted readers instantly as to what the descending copy was “about”, whereas even those who knew the location of “The Ardennes Forest” were not quite sure whether or not to show off their erudition by pronouncing that pesky final “s”. Did the Belgians follow French conventions in such matters, or did they have some quirky indigenously “Belgian” way of doing it? (And just who the hell were the “Walloons”, anyway? Some quaintly old-fashioned religious sect in rural Pennsylvania?)

So “The Battle of the Bulge” it became, and “The Battle of the Bulge” it has remained, at least in the popular imaginations of the nations whose soldiers fought and died within the frigid white cauldron that became so familiar from the newspapers’ maps.

Click here to continue Cutting the Diamond: the Political Dimension of Adolf Hitler’s Ardennes Counterattack.


Relive the epic engagement in all its gritty detail with Command Ops: Battles from the Bulge!

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Game Spotlight: Close Combat - Last Stand Arnhem Screenshot Gallery

Close Combat - Last Stand Arnhem is the latest upcoming Close Combat remake from Strategy 3 Tactics. Based on the original Close Combat title depicting Operation Market Garden, Close Combat: A Bridge Too Far, the remake is slated for release some time this summer. Below are a selection of screenshots detailing some of the features packed into Last Stand Arnhem.

Close Combat - Last Stand Arnhem Screenshot Gallery

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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. Command Ops: Battles from the Bulge Now Available! - The most realistic simulation of WWII operational command ever created!
  2. Slitherine Opens A New Front For Commander - The Great War Is The Latest Chapter In The Commander Series
  3. Distant Worlds Updated Again! - The highly acclaimed 4X “Living Galaxy” Sci-Fi strategy game gets a significant post-release update focusing on bug fixes and AI and automation improvements
  4. Slitherine Releases History™ Egypt Engineering an Empire - Rule the cradle of civilization from your iPhone
  5. World War One Gold Edition Now Available for Purchase! - A much improved WW1 experience has jumped the trench and is charging to gamers!
  6. Get a Sneak Peek of Battles from the Bulge with a Google Earth Battlefield Tour! - Peruse the various battles across a real map of Western Europe in this Google Earth tour
  7. Slitherine and Matrix merge to form Wargames Publishing Giant - Market leaders to become largest specialist publisher!
  8. Game Concepts Video Released for Battles from the Bulge - Check out the core concepts that make Battles from the Bulge the highly anticipated title that it is!
  9. Distant Worlds Gets a Major Update! - The highly acclaimed 4X “Living Galaxy” Sci-Fi strategy game gets a major post-release update including bug fixes and many improvements
  10. Field of Glory System Is Updated! - Another update launches into battle with bug fixes, a new scenario, and more
  11. Field of Glory - Storm of Arrows Now Available! - A new Medieval expansion for the acclaimed historical warfare system!
  12. Field of Glory System Is Updated - New battles, interface improvement, rule tweaks and more in this incremental update
  13. Operation Barbarossa – The Struggle for Russia Is Updated - New scenarios, terrain, and more modding possibilities!
  14. Voting Now Open for the Charles S. Roberts Awards - Head over to the CSR Awards website and support your favorite Matrix products!
  15. New Screenshots for Storm over the Pacific - New images detailing the storm raging over the air, sea, and land of the Pacific theater!
  16. Distant Worlds Gets Another Major Update - Many major issues and bugs have been vaporized by this behemoth of an update
  17. Across the Dnepr: Second Edition Now Available! - The hefty expansion to the highly touted Kharkov engine is now rolling across the steppes
  18. Kharkov: Disaster on the Donets Gets a Major Update - A major new update to the famed gaming system is advancing side-by-side with the newly released expansion!

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A Parting Shot

If the Latest News section didn't already convey this point, a LOT has happened since the last newsletter. Although this didn't make the news list, we had to purchase a new digital trophy case because we bagged a bunch of new awards! Distant Worlds took home a Gamer's Hall Gold Award, in addition to sporting a substantial and growing list of positive reviews (not to mention a perfect 8/8 score on Out of Eight Reviews). Across the Dnepr: Second Edition also banked a 90% on Gamer's Hall and took home a Gold Award. Congratulations to both Code Force and SSG for their fine efforts!

There are plenty of solid games slated for release this summer. While we don't like to give out specific dates before we're absolutely sure we can meet them, suffice to say that there's plenty reason to check back periodically and see what we have in store (pun intended!).

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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