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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

RANDOM THOUGHTS #205

Steve Cole's thoughts on Operation Market Garden:
       

This was a battle in September 1944. The general idea was to drop three divisions of paratroopers in the Netherlands to grab a series of bridges, then quickly roll a column of tanks up the road, moving past the surprised Germans to cross the Rhine at Arnhem and reach a point where Montgomery could dash to Berlin and win the war. The operation failed, a division of British paratroops was all but wiped out, and the Allies ended up with a blame game that has never ended. The only gain was a very narrow piece of land that went nowhere but was surrounded on three sides by Germans. What went wrong?
 

1. The whole idea of the dash to Berlin was not workable. The Allies had already proven just how far their supply lines could go (not that far), the Germans were unlikely to ignore the rapidly moving British tanks since nothing would be guarding their flanks, and it was very unlikely that those tanks would just roll into a major enemy city like they had in the friendlier streets of Paris. The whole operation (even if one assumes that Montgomery would accept the American idea for a shorter attack that just captured the Ruhr industrial zone) was badly planned.
    

2. The airplanes that would drop the paratroops and haul the gliders had been hauling supplies for weeks, and had not been able to practice formation flying. That meant that all flying had to be done in daylight, and the distance meant that each plane could only make one flight per day. The airborne divisions needed two flights (or more) to get all of their troops on the ground, meaning that only half of the paratroops could land on the first day. That meant that not all of the key objectives could be captured on the first day, and some of them became much harder to capture after the Germans figured out that something was up and started guarding everything. But even a second trip would have landed eight hours after the first, and the Germans would surely have not been idle in those hours. In the end, the plan was too ambitious, and landing a carpet of paratroops 60 miles through the German lines was too much for the available forces. (The original plan by Montgomery would have landed small groups of paratroops on top of key objectives. The problem was that the Germans would have quickly wiped out such small groups that could not support each other.) The only real way to make the plan work was for the ground offensive to start a week or two earlier and drive halfway to Arnhem before the drop.
        

3. The supply situation did not support a major offensive. Indeed, the British ground troops of XII, VIII, and XXX corps which were expected to drive 60 miles to the Rhine had very few supplies on hand when it started. The Allied supply situation was in a crisis because no ports had been captured and opened for shipping, meaning that most supplies still arrived over the beaches of Normandy and had to be trucked to the front. (A truck actually burned more fuel getting to the front than it could carry, meaning that one group of trucks had to carry fuel to forward stockpiles so that another group could carry ammunition and food to the troops.) The allies had left six divisions behind to use all of their trucks to haul supplies for other divisions. After the plan failed, the British would complain for decades that Patton had stolen supplies that would have made the difference, but in fact, the British actually did receive all of the supplies they calculated they needed. The Americans would complain that Eisenhower had told Montgomery to clear the Scheldt estuary first and then launch Market-Garden, orders Montgomery interpreted with great flexibility.
   

4. The plan was based on the assumption that the Germans were on the verge of surrender and collapse. Given what happened between Operation Cobra (25 July) and the first week of September, that was not an unreasonable assumption. The German western front had collapsed and their troops had run for the German border. The Russians had annihilated a third of the German forces on the Russian front between 22 June and early September. Just one more push, the theory went, and Germany would collapse. But the Germans were far more resilient than that, and had somehow managed to put together a defensive line in the West. (It helped the Germans that the British had twice allowed huge groups of German troops and equipment to escape traps, one at Falaise and the other at the Scheldt). Once the paratroops started landing, the Germans were able to call up huge numbers of Luftwaffe, Navy, police, reserve, training, and other troops and throw them into a ragged defense line. (These troops weren't that great, but against the lightly armed paratroops they did well enough for a few days.) Three key German armored units (9th SS, 10th SS, and 107th Panzer) were able to launch smashing counterattacks.
        
 5. The British tanks were supposed to reach Armhem sometime on D+3 or D+4 but actually reached the Rhine (at a different spot) only on D+9. There are no end of reasons why this happened. The American view that the British were just never in a hurry to attack is at least partly justified. (During all of World War II, British troops never displayed the sense of urgency that American troops sometimes did, and that German troops always did.) Some of the delay is attributed to the problems of shoving a major offensive up a single road surrounded by swampy land on both sides. Some of the delay was caused by stiffer than expected German defenses and counterattacks (although many British and American staff officers predicted that would happen and were ignored). The key point came when the 82nd Airborne launched a heroic river assault crossing in canvas boats. They captured the key bridge, but the British troops crossed the bridge and immediately stopped for the night. (The Americans and Germans in such a situation would have attacked immediately, no matter the odds or cost, and broken through the Arnhem.) The Germans (no fools at war) used the time to move more troops into position to block the British advance.
 

As with all military failures, there was no one single reason. Turning a blind eye to the two German tank divisions detected at Arnhem, expecting a German collapse, not enough paratroops to grab all of the bridges at once, and a slow-moving relief operation all contributed to a magnificent disaster that many predicted before it began.

Monday, September 01, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 24-30 August 2014

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work on several projects. The weather this week was hot, with occasional cooling rain. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day. We all took a day off; Leanna, Jean, and Steven Petrick used theirs to drive to Oklahoma City and see The Phantom of the Opera.
      

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault this week was SFB Designer's Edition Expansion #2.
     

Steve Cole worked on ACTASF 1.2, ships for the Hydran Master Starship Book, the Wall of Honor update, and the last parts of the Captain's Log #49 FLAP List. He also stumbled into a pirate's lair and reported 161 violations to Steve Jackson Games, his first actual pirate kills.
        

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #50 and the Hydran Master Starship Book.
       

The 2500 project remained stalled by the failure of the prototype company in UK to deliver the next batch of prototypes.
        

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with four new entries.
        

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.
   

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.
   

Simone did website updates and some graphics.
   

Jean worked on the shopping cart link crisis (which was fixed Friday), managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2207 friends), managed our Twitter feed (117 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread a few pages of the Captain's Log Index and the Wall of Honor pages, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

On Teeth and Colds and Work

Jean Sexton muses:

In a small, closely knit company so many things affect the workflow. All it takes is a nudge and the schedule goes off-track, never to recover. All that can be done is to issue a new schedule.

For ADB, colds are our bane. So often we put on a huge push to get a product done, working 12-hour days with no day off. This type of schedule wears down the immune system, making us ripe to catch whatever is out there. Colds are easily transmitted from person to person before any real symptoms occur. They make focusing on anything complicated difficult. When Steve Cole gets a cold, all of his products are delayed by a week. What is worse is that we don't catch the cold simultaneously. This time, Steve got it. He gave it to Leanna. Leanna and/or Steve passed it on to me. Steve didn't do a lot of work needing my proofreading while he was sick. Now he is feeling better and his work needs checking; my brain is not sure if "P" comes before "M" at this point (unless I sing the alphabet song). The net result is the product is delayed two weeks, not one.

Another nudge to the schedule is when something outside the company goes wrong. When the prototype machine breaks, then there are no prototypes. No prototypes means no master molds. No master molds means no master minis to be approved. No approved master minis means no production of minis. No production of minis means no sales of those new minis. Say goodbye to the fall minis release schedule. The minis will come out, just not when we planned.

Smaller nudges happen, too. Wolf Dog Sexton was scheduled to have his baby teeth pulled by his veterinarian. (This happens when the baby teeth don't come out on their own.) Everyone in the office cares about The Wolf, so we remained on tenterhooks waiting to hear the results. I lost part of a day getting him from surgery (only partly alleviated by coming in early after dropping him off). Luckily it was a "cold day" when I couldn't focus as well.  The only saving grace is that it inspired this blog post.(Yes, Wolf is fine now and is his usual self, just minus a baby tooth and an adult tooth that came in wrong and would give him trouble.)

In a larger business, most of the time Person A can do enough of the essential part of Person B's job so that things don't get dreadfully behind. In a small business where part of what must be done is creative work, that doesn't happen as well. No one knows what is in Steve's mind to create. No one here seems able to handle the social media that I do daily. So some things just get "behinder."

So please forgive us if the fall schedule drops a bit behind our predictions. The cold plague took its toll on us.



Saturday, August 30, 2014

In Praise of Our Volunteers

The adventure game (wargame+roleplaying game) industry is a small one, and there isn't the kind of money inside of it that other industries have. The industry consists of creative game designers willing to work 60 hours a week for half the pay they could command outside the game industry, all because they get to BE game designers.

Even at that, the only way the game industry survives is by the hard labor of unpaid volunteers who (for honor, glory, and rarely some free games) provide no end of valuable services to game publishers.

Mike West answers rules questions on Federation Commander. Mike Curtis does the same thing for Federation & Empire, Jonathan Thompson for Prime Directive PD20 and PD20M, Jean Sexton for GURPS Prime Directive, Richard Sherman for Star Fleet Battle Force, and Andy Vancil for Star Fleet Battles.

Frank Brooks runs the play-by-email system as a volunteer. Paul Franz charges barely enough for the online game system (for SFB and FC) to pay the server costs. Tenneshington Decals does made-to-order decals for our Starline miniatures and is run by two of our fans: Will McCammon and Tony Thomas.

Federation & Empire would not exist without Chuck Strong (a retired real-world colonel from Space Command) in charge of the overall game system. He keeps his staff (Mike Curtis, Ryan Opel, Scott Tenhoff, Thomas Mathews, and Stew Frazier) busy moving projects forward.

Very little would get done on any of our games except for the Playtest Battle Labs run by Scott Moellmer in Colorado and by Mike Curtis and Tony Thomas in Tennessee. And all of the other playtesters are invaluable to us.

We have other staffers and volunteers who do specific things (and sometimes a wide variety of things) for us including John Berg, Howard Bampton, and Lucky Coleman (Galactic Conquest campaign); Daniel Kast (Klingon Armada); and John Sickels, Tony Thomas, James Goodrich, Mike West, James Kerr, and Loren Knight (Prime Directive). Some vital part of the product line would grind to a halt without each one of them. Sometimes our volunteers become part of our staff; Jean Sexton started out as a volunteer proofreader.

Added to this list are hundreds of others who, during any given month, by email or BBS or Forum or our page on Facebook, contribute in some way to the company and its product line. They may report a glitch in an existing product, playtest a product in development, suggest a new product, point out something another company is doing what we may want to take a look at emulating, look up a rules reference for another player, report on somebody who using our property improperly, comment on a posted draft of a new rule, or simply ask a question nobody else ever dared to ask.

Many years ago, we began awarding medals, ribbons, and other "decorations" to staffers and others who contributed to each product, and some other projects. These awards not only recognize those who contributed to the various projects, but encouraged others to begin making their contributions to future projects. We have created the Wall of Honor at http://starfleetgames.com/ArtGallery/Wall%20of%20Honor.shtml. This is a tribute to over 30 years of volunteer work. We hope you visit it to say thanks to all the volunteers and their efforts.

Friday, August 29, 2014

101 Ways to Kill the B10, Part 8

71. Tell the Organians it is designed to attack someone. It doesn't really matter who you tell them is the target

72. Put it in the defense budget and let Congress vote on it.

73. [Skipped as it was tres political.]

74. Tell Congress it is an "assault weapon."

75. Tell the Klingons it is scheduled to be converted into a Galactic Peace Monument and they'll kill it themselves.

76. Add a high-resolution camera and send it to Mars.

77. Go mano-a-mano with a Juggernaut.

78. Put it in orbit around Jupiter with an obelisk.

79. Upgrade the computer to Windows 3.1; it will crash.

80. Name Roseanne Karr as morale officer.

c. 1994, Amarillo Design Bureau, from Captain's Log #16.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

RANDOM THOUGHTS #204

Steve Cole's further thoughts on the zombie apocalypse. Given the recent outbreak of super-Ebola, it's clear that the viral revenge of Gaia is only a matter of time.
   

1. How you survive the first phase depends on how fast the apocalypse happens and how many people survive. If it's fairly slow (say, a month) then when it reaches the worst stage you're screwed. The grocery stores are all empty and the food production and shipment system shut down long before now. If it's very fast, then the stores (gun stores, food stores, any stores) are full of stuff. If the number of living people is small, you can just go to a Wal-Mart or Sam's Club, lock the doors, kill the zombies inside, and hang out with months of food until something happens. If a significant number of people are still alive (and it will be the gun-carrying ones who are still alive on the third day) then you may have to fight for supplies, which could be really bad, so spend those days barricading your Wal-Mart fortress.
 

2. Say you find a building. You have several choices as to what to do. Ignoring it is easy; just move on. Looting it is worth time if it looks like it was occupied at some point. For a very quick look, check the kitchen (food), bathrooms (medicine), and the master bedroom (guns). Doing this is done on the fly, and any attempt to barricade or defend the building is minimal. Post a lookout if you can spare someone. A more deliberate search, taking two or more hours, includes every cabinet, drawer, closet, maybe extending to the basement or attic. This requires an effort to barricade and defend the place as you'll be here long enough to attract zombies. The next choice is to use it as an overnight camp. This involves an hour or more of defense work, thinking in layers, such as a second line of defense if the zombies break into one entry. Don't forget an escape route. Staying the night is not just a good night's sleep and some quiet campfire conversation; search the place thoroughly, including vents and any hiding places. The final option is to use the building as a temporary base camp, staying several days while you loot nearby buildings. The secure base camp gives you a place to stockpile what you find, sort through it, and eat what you cannot carry. You might even stash the rest of it for a possible return visit, but you're probably not going to come back. In that case, you might still want to leave the building as a secure haven, clearly placing the food or whatever else there is in open view, leaving a few notes about what nearby houses you already looted, and securing the entries in ways humans can easily enter but zombies cannot. You might even spray paint something like "safe house" on the outside.
     

3. It seems to me that one issue in the Zombie Apocalypse is going to be keeping track of the date. This can be important since you want to know when winter is coming. More to the point, if you leave notes for others you could say "We were here on October 3rd 2016 and went to South Podunk" so that others know if they can follow and join you. With no electronics, you're down to marking dates in a diary and even writing down enough notes that you can tell one day from another and be sure you didn't skip or double mark a day. The question is whether anyone reading your messages was accurate in keeping track of the days. Knowing you went west two days ago is one thing, but reading that someone left on a date that is inaccurate is less useful.
    

4. Much is written about the best weapons for the zombie war. Besides the obvious (one each: assault rifle, pistol, machete, big knife) you may find yourself without weapons due to some situation. The easiest thing to find is some sort of club, which might work if you don't have to face more than one zombie at a time. The easiest real weapon to find is a knife. While a good combat knife is preferable, any big kitchen knife is better than nothing. Absent a firearm, several strong knives with blades of a few inches or more will at least give you a fighting chance. When you get time, make a spear. You need a piece of wood maybe four or five feet long and at least an inch in diameter. Hardwood is preferable, and shovel handles can be swell. Shape it to a point with your knife. (You can "fire harden" the spear point by holding it over a flame then scraping away anything charred or burned.) That gives you something that can penetrate a skull, keep a zombie a bit farther out of reach, and use two hands to extract if it gets stuck. If you only have one knife, make some extras by sharpening stakes (a foot long) and using them first. Driven by both hands, they will penetrate a zombie skull, or you can aim for the eye sockets.
        
5. Consider making a pistol lanyard from parachute cord or good string. I know it makes you look like a sissy but this is the apocalypse and being able to drop an empty pistol (that stays attached to your body when you run away) in order to grab your knife has a certain advantage.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Got Any Marketing Ideas?

ADB, Inc., is always interested in great marketing ideas, ways and places to sell our products, as well as new products to sell. Our page on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf) exists to put our products in front of other groups of potential customers. You will find us on Twitter as ADBInc_Amarillo. We also are releasing YouTube videos that show what you'll find in "the box" and our latest releases. You can catch our videos on our channel here: http://www.youtube.com/user/starfleetgames.

We tried a lot of things that didn't work (Google Pay per Click, full-color ads in trade journals) and a lot of things that did work (banners on gamer websites, Star Fleet Alerts) and are always looking for new ideas. If you have any, send them to us at Marketing@StarFleetGames.com and we'll think them over.