Star Fleet Universe

A blog for all subjects related to the Star Fleet Universe from ADB Inc. Talking about the games, the background, or its relationship with regular [i]Star Trek[/i].

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F&E Vassal Module 2.0

James Lowry
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After way too many delays, version 2.0 of the Vassal module for Federation & Empire is officially out, and available for download from ADB. There have been some small fixes over the last few months, but mostly I've been trying to get the gumption to get extra scenario setups done. It's past the point of delay for no gain, so the module has been released without all of them done.

New features of 2.0:
* Both regular and large-scale maps.
* New counter art, which is easier for me to work with than the old set.
* The ISC, LDR, Vudar, and Seltorians are in the main module.
* The stack viewer counts ships and SEs. This isn't nearly as good as it sounds because I can't do the 0.5 for cripples, but it will be easy to update if/when Vassal becomes able to do it.
* Crippled ships can be flagged to their new owner, and show up in the tracking under the owning empire.
* The regular map features sector and cordon borders as layers that can be turned on and off as needed. (This ate the memory of most testers on the large map, sadly.)
* All bases, and ships with multiple EW settings, can be set to their current usage, which will adjust the AF in reports.
* Combined MON+pallet and TUG+pod counters are in the module.
* New markers added, such as 'Free Strat' to note just built/repaired ships.

You can see the look of the new module, and the large-scale map in my reporting on Bel and I's game of the Four Powers War.

Scenario setups are included for the first few scenarios of the General War in both sizes. The small map also has setups for the Maelstrom and Winds of Fire. Future releases will include setups for 4PW, ISC conquest, and Minor Empires (note that the initial Seltorian force is already present in these setups, allowing you to use them when your game gets that far) for both size maps.

The zip file also contains a PDF explaining some of the fine points of the module.

Before I go, I'd like to mention that it's a little annoying that even at 50 pixels, the counters are so small. Just about every base hull is a different graphic, but many of the differences just aren't visible at that size. So, here's a few counters closer to the size I see them at in CorelDraw:
From gallery of Rindis


Please, feel free to make comments and ask questions!
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Wed Dec 14, 2016 5:40 am
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F&E Vassal 2.0 Beta 6

James Lowry
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The beta testing of the new Vassal module for F&E is finally starting to wrap up. Bel and I have been working on doing setups for all the major scenarios, and I've found and squashed a number of counter bugs along the way. Hopefully, it won't be too much longer before a completed module is made available.

This has been taking a bit longer than I'd strictly like, but there's been a number of new additions to the module along the way:

From gallery of Rindis
Raid and Battle markers can now be flagged to show which one is currently being resolved. Battle markers flip over to show units are capable of retrograde movement. There's now a marker for units that are eligible for free strategic movement. And there are larger blank markers that can be labeled for a variety of purposes.

Admirals have been reworked and are now with the other 'personnel' counters. These counters will then draw from a hidden store of variable admirals when using that optional rule. (The old ones chose their variable status when originally pulled, meaning that any pre-done set up was always the same unless the players put them all back and re-drew them at the beginning of the game.)

From gallery of Rindis
And just recently, I pulled monitors out of the NSU section (...which they aren't anyway; oops) and did separate MON+pallet counters for them. I am now working on combined tug+pod counters. I won't be doing everything, but I plan to hit all the more likely combinations. I... may have already gone a little overboard on the Federation TUG combinations, but there's still room for a few more....

I'm still working on this last part, and any suggestions as to useful tug counters will be appreciated.
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Tue Feb 16, 2016 6:28 pm
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Straight Down the Middle

James Lowry
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Federation & Empire is about the big 18-year General War centerpiece of the Star Fleet Universe timeline. Fighter Operations, as a descendant of the first expansion to it, mostly deals with some enhancements to the main system (with salvage and a few other things), as well as enhancing the number of options available for carriers, which are a major focus in F&E.

But, it also comes with a scenario for the last major war before the General War, the Four Powers War, which is considered as kind of the end of the 'Middle Era' of the timeline, when all the familiar technology has developed (setting it apart from the Early Years), and before all complications of fighters, maulers, war cruisers, and more, familiar from the General War era have been developed.

The new version of Fighter Operations just coming out focuses more on this era, providing counters for about twenty different ship types that had passed, or nearly so, by the start of the General War. This turns the Four Powers War scenario from just a mini-version of the General War with all the funny ships taken out, into something with a little more character.

In addition, there's a few modifications to the standard General War setup for the new ships. Most notably, the Klingons get several of their diminutive E4s and E4A escorts replaced with even smaller E3s. Yes, the Klingons are the new record-holder for the smallest regular-service ship in the game, with the 3/2 E3 being smaller than the Hydran 3-4/2 Hunter. They're placed so as not to cause much actual change in the game, and they all get removed on turn 10 (given to the police), but it does make the Klingon early-game dismal escort situation slightly worse.

At the same time, the Kzinti have one FF replaced by a FH, an early, not-very-successful, attempt to upgrade the FF, and the Hydrans have two of their Crusader frigate leaders replaced by the older all-fusion beam Saracen frigate leader. The Lyrans get the option to replace a couple small ships with slightly better versions that can't be converted into anything else. Since there's always more FFs and DDs around than ability/desire to turn them into anything else, I can't imagine the Lyran player will often pass this up (especially the HFF, which is an efficient 5/3 ship).

It's nice to see the first F&E expansion getting updated for the 2010 edition, but it's even nicer to see the earlier period getting some attention.
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Mon Sep 21, 2015 8:55 pm
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F&E Vassal 2.0 Beta 1

James Lowry
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I have been continuing to slowly work on the new F&E for Vassal module. I'm now at the point where just about everything is there, and major features shouldn't be changing a bunch. Now comes the process of polishing, doing all the optional extensions, and constructing all the setup files.

I have a list of interested people that I've been sending various in-progress versions to, but if anyone wants into the Beta module, please contact me.

Also, Belirahc and I are planning on putting it and the large map through their paces with the Four Powers War....
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Mon Jun 8, 2015 12:59 am
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R vs B Coalition Turn 10 in Review

James Lowry
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Hopefully, everyone is as glad to be reading this as I am to be writing it. Belirahc's life started getting extremely busy in early 2012, which led to our PBeM slowly grinding to a halt late that year. There were a couple of restarts past that, including a fairly decent one in 2013. Recently, he got back in touch, and we've managed to pick up where we left off.

So, where were we again?

Turn 10 marks the beginning of the third scenario, The Hurricane, and is the the turn in which the Romulans are put under player control. Often, if the Coalition invasion of the Federation does not happen on turn 7, it happens on turn 10 as a combined Klingon/Romulan assault.

However, with Bel still struggling to clean up Hydran space, he declined to declare war on the Federation, and put the Romulans on a Peacetime economy. The bad news is that they must spend at least two turns at peace, but the good news is that they won't hit exhaustion until turn 18, even if they go to war on turn 12.

This leaves me with the decision (on my turn) of if the Federation should declare war on the Klingons. The Federation is fairly hampered in what it can do while only at Limited War, but if they declare war, the Gorns will not join in unless attacked.

However peaceful the Federation border, things were happening elsewhere. Several major fleets moved on the Hydran capital, in the long anticipated second attempt to take it. The on-map reserve was pinned again, though a couple ships reacted out of the Old Colonies, and freed up one ship to help in the capital....

There were a number of aggressive moves in Kzinti space, and I shuffled units back and forth to try and keep everything nailed down.

From gallery of Rindis
Kzinti front.
From gallery of Rindis
Hydran front.

Combats:
1807: SSC: Z: crip FF & retreat; K: retreat
1105: SSC: Z: dest FF; K: capture planet
1202: Z: crip CL, FF; K: crip F5S, capture planet
1303: K: crip D6
1402: Z: crip CM, MEC, dest FF; K: crip D6, 4D5
1502: Z: dest 2xEFF, 2xPDU; K: crip F5L, 2xF5, dest 2xD5, F5; F5 captured
1504: Z: crip CC; L: dest 2xCA
1704: Klingons retreated after refused approach.
0119: H: dest CU; K: crip D5, F5
1506: Z: dest EFF; K: dest 2xD5
0617: Hydrax: 9xPDU, 2xSIDS; H: crip RN, H-D7; L: crip 2xBC, DWS, SC, dest STT, 5xCW, CVL, CWE, DWE; K: crip 2xD6, dest 2xD7C, 2xD7V, 2xD6M, 2xD6, 2xAD5, 2xF5E

Overall, Kzinti space went fairly well, but he has now killed the last PDU on 1502, which makes defending that planet more complicated, since if I want new PDUs (yes), I have to spend a turn setting up the first one.

I probably could have drawn out the fight over the Hydran capital longer than I did (six rounds before retreating out), but I'd either be crippling a lot more than I did, or I'd run out of fighters. Right now, the Hydran fleet is out of supply, so I need a good number of fighters for the journey off-map. I also could have dropped damage rather than direct killing carrier groups, which would have meant a lot more cripples and self-kills, which might have forced Bel into using the smaller ships that came in.... I might, even, have barely forced him to retreat, keeping the capital again (the fact that I rolled consistently higher would help here). But, that would leave me stuck on a shipyard with no economy available. I've been considering abandoning the capital as it is, I'm not going to wreck myself just to try and force a third go at the hex.

As it is, the Klingons and Lyrans both have a reserve in Hydran space, and some Lyran production was diverted down there. There's two reserves that can reach part of the Federation border, but much of that large expanse is wide open, with only the bulk of the East Fleet in 1914 to protect it....
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Thu May 7, 2015 4:16 am
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F&E Vassal 2.0 Test 5

James Lowry
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I've actually been working on the 2.0 version of the F&E Vassal module again for the last month or two. Right now, there's going to be three main phases for the project:

* Test - While I add the bulk of the content and try to get general items working
* Alpha - Cleanup and making sure all the features are up and working
* Beta - Final proofing and scenario file creation

I've just mailed out Test 5 to a few people. It's already been invaluable, as I've been trying to add a new feature, and on the big map, it's having trouble.

Several scenarios use 'sectors' to break them down into small mini-scenarios. The big scenario in ISC War used a new system of 'cordons' to do much the same thing. Rather than have the confusion of two sets of extra lines on the borders on the map at the same time, I came up with a system where you can turn big, transparent pieces off and on as needed.

But a big map with two big transparent layers is defeating most people's systems. I think it's just overrunning the default memory allocation in Vassal, but I'm still trying to get test data on that.

But here's a look at how it's starting to shape up:
From gallery of Rindis


And the latest new feature:
From gallery of Rindis


You can now flag ships with optional EW modes to signal their current settings, and the counter will report the appropriate stats (it still reports max Attack and EW if nothing is selected), and bases can be set to a particular EW level and report the correct AF. I envision this as a good reminder during PBeM games, but I hope to get better reporting of the battle line in this module, and it will help with that.
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Sat Mar 7, 2015 5:52 am
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F&E Vassal Module 2.0 work

James Lowry
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I'm sorry this blog has been quiet so long. Bel's work has been eating his life for a couple years now, and our games are currently at a standstill.

I played an SFB game last year, and meant to post the report of it here, and then forgot and just posted it directly to SFB sessions.

One other thing that has been on the back burner all this time is the proposed version 2.0 Vassal Module for F&E. In addition to just not doing much with F&E lately, I've been trying to get some new features done for the module, and they have not been happening.

The first one was reporting the number of ships, and the Ship Equivalents separately (that was easy enough), and adjusting the SEs for crippled ships. Extensive testing has shown that Vassal 3.2 just can't handle non-integer numbers in the stack viewer in any form. Here's hoping for 4.0.

The second one has been the major roadblock. I've been hoping to get the fleet markers to report the stats of their contents in the stack viewer. I figure there's two potential routes to this: Since you can see the totals in an inventory window, it seems like it should be possible to just query for the sum of, say, SE in a particular zone/map and use it directly; sadly, this doesn't seem to be supported. The second method would be to keep track of the numbers in a global variable which gets adjusted as units are moved into/out of the box. Recently, a demo module was done showing exactly this. So far, I have not been able to get it to work in my F&E module, and even if it does work, it could very well bog down performance to keep track of all stats of all the fleets with hundreds of units sending data out.

However, I'm writing this because I do now have a new feature that is working!

I now have a submenu for ships that allows you to flag a ship as 'captured' by a particular empire, so that it will report as belonging to that empire in the inventory, and there is a visible marker to show its status on the counter.

From gallery of Rindis
How about we just trade back and call it even?

And no, I'm not planning on adjusting AF to account for Hydran hybrid wackiness. gulp

So, this is about where things stand:

New features:
x Choice of regular and large-scale maps. (Hope to figure out an Early Beginnings set up...)
x Stack viewer & inventory counts *ships* and *SEs*
x Flag captured ships to new empire.

Not appearing in this module:
- Crippled SE values (non-integers not possible under Vassal 3.2)
o Display fleet stats on hover over. (still being worked on, but will probably bog down module, even if it works)

Still planned:
* Large Fleet markers. May need a second set for the 'small' map.
* Fix 'crippled' reporting on single-sided units.

Needs thought:
* How to mark captured planets, etc, on LSM: bigger markers, smaller planet symbols, what?
* Mark the Cordon borders like the sector borders? (And how to keep it from being too busy?)
* Mark EW/AF status for ships that drop AF for EW and vice versa.
* Mark repaired/built ships as capable of free Strat Moves (wipe automatically when moved?).
* Mark hexes for retrograde (some sort of 'done' version for battle hexes?)


As always, feedback is appreciated, and as this module is still being pounded into shape, its easier to do something now than later.
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Thu Jun 12, 2014 2:48 am
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R vs B Alliance Turn 9 in Review

James Lowry
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The Kzinti continue to recover, with their economy up to 78.2 this turn (plus 24.6 treasury, thanks to the Feds). They built a full schedule and replaced a PDU on 1502 (which had been reduced to 1), as well as converting a CVL to a full CV. Cycling the repairs is continuing, and the end of the backlog is in sight.

On the other hand, the Hydrans lost another three economy in the Capital grid, reducing it to 13 EP. Seeing the writing on the wall, I repaired another SIDS, built a TR, a pair of CUs (and a third at the off-map SB), and repaired a spare AH to bring the UH group up to full (overstuffed) strength, leaving 0 EP left in the treasury. The Old Colonies didn't have much to do, and is now sitting on 58 EP.

I considered attacking a broad swath of northern Klingon space, mostly to keep some of the Coalition reserves out of the way, but ended up sticking with the main plan: I hit a few other targets to try and sweep the Klingons out of the 13-15 columns, and then sent the Home Fleet in to 1202 to try and retake the last Klingon-held planet in Kzinti space. He reacted out a sizable force to hold some of the fleet away, and then sent in the Lyrans from 1001.

Meanwhile, available Federation forces that I haven't actually moved into Kzinti space have moved closer to the Klingon border, and in range of a few bases in Klingon space.

The Hydrans contented themselves with kicking the Klingons off of 0519 with overwhelming force (I was expecting the Lyran reserve to come in and force me to take damage, but nothing doing), which was about all they could do without the nearby Klingon forces reacting in.

From gallery of Rindis
Kzinti front.
From gallery of Rindis
Hydran front.

Combats:
1106: Klingons: crip F5
1107: Klingons: crip D5; Kzinti: crip 2xMEC
1305: Klingons: dest D5
1505: SSC: Klingons: dest D5; Federation: crip FF, retreat
1202: Klingons: PDU; Lyrans: crip BC, CA, 2xCW; Kzinti: dest SF, capture planet
1303: Klingons: crip F5S
1302: Klingons: dest D6M; Kzinti: crip BC, MEC, dest CLE
0519: Klingons: dest F5L; Hydrans: capture planet
1807: Klingons: dest F5, BATS

I was expecting to see a hard fight for 1202. The Kzinti fleet is getting pretty impressive, but it was fighting over Coalition defenses for a change, and he needs to start slowing the Kzinti down.

Belirahc has been shooting SFs every chance he gets, and I am feeling the effects. I'm going to have to start building MSCs just to make it more expensive (though most of the CMs are still going to escorts...).

This marks the end of the second scenario of the General War, "The Tempest". Here's how the Victory Conditions break down:

For any level of victory, the Coalition must have more ships than the Alliance (only counting Federation ships in released fleets):
Lyrans: 109; Klingons: 276; Total: 385
Kzinti: 150; Hydrans: 63; Federation: 61; Total: 274 Check
(The totals are adjusted for three Klingon ships that have been captured, which I forgot last turn.)

For a Tactical Victory:
A) The Alliance must have a total economy of 250 or less: 281.95 EP X
B) The Coalition has destroyed 35 Alliance Battle Stations: 29 X
(see the Turn 6 wrap up for how bases are calculated)

Even with the Federation economy at 75%, it counts for 165.75 EPs. The other two are only going to be under 84.25 if the Coalition has used the opportunity to really lock up Hydran and Kzinti space. And generally if it can do that, there will be a invasion of the Federation to cut it down to size before its build schedule kicks in.

Again, the 35 bases is going to be hard to do without invading the Federation (which should make that total easy). It's still possible, as the bases left in the Marquis zone, which I've concentrated on keeping him out of, are worth another five. Combine that with fewer losses on the Coalition side, or more new bases built in Alliance territory, it's not hard. And that's not even considering the SBs in the two Alliance capitals.
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Fri Sep 28, 2012 5:13 am
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Second Wind Coalition Turn 3

James Lowry
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With everything moved up to—and past—the borders, turn 3 tends to be a bit simpler for the Coalition. Also, I knew that the Duke's SB was weaker than it ordinarily should be, as he was out of carrier escorts there. I contemplated a raid into the capital, hoping to devastate a few planets while the fleet was elsewhere, but it just too easy for major elements to get intercepted on the way, so I settled for a more normal 'sweep the Kzinti off the map' approach.

Builds:
Lyrans: BC, CA, 4xCW, 2xDW, DWS, 3xFF, PDU, CL->BC, 3xFF->DW, MB->BATS
Klingons: D7C, D7, D6M, 7xD5, LTT, D5S, F5L, 4xF5, FV, E4, E4A, E4R, Activate 2xD6, 3xF5, 3xE4, D6->D6S, D6->D6D, CapDD->K-DD

Converting smaller captured ships to your service is somewhat expensive, but I figure it's less expensive than overbuilding the equivalent ship, so I'm still EPs ahead. Also, I'm planning on converting the DD to a DDE, though I'm still waiting for an answer as to whether the Klingons get to use it as a light or heavy escort. If the latter, it is a poor heavy escort, but serves as an extra for a second-line group as I get all the AD5s in place. If I can use it as a light escort, it'll be the best one I can have for quite a while.

From gallery of Rindis


Combat:
1001: Kzinti: dest MON; Lyrans: crip CL, FF, capture planet
1202: Kzinti: dest MON; Lyrans: crip CW, capture planet; Klingons: crip E4
1502: Kzinti: dest BC, EFF; Klingons: crip D6M, F5, dest D7A
1504: Kzinti: dest 3xEFF, 2xPDU; Klingons: crip D6, 2xD5, 4xF5, dest F5L, F5, E4
1304: Kzinti: dest SB, CC; Klingons: D7C, D6M; Lyrans: crip 2xCA
0902: Kzinti: dest FKE, FFE, wound PT; Lyrans: crip CL, 3xCW, dest CC, DW

As you can see, I'm doing a lot of directing. In fact, my general plan is to try and wear the Kzinti fleet out. The early schedule is sparse, and there's not a lot of spare ships available. In fact, he had no real light escorts for his carriers at the Duke's SB battle at all (1304), which led to it being a single-round affair.

One of the additions of Combined Operations are troop ships and marine assaults on bases. Many people don't care too much for them, and largely ignore them. I don't have enough experience to have a real opinion of them. But the idea is that you can use them to attack ground bases (or regular bases) and do extra damage—if you can roll well. You can also lose your ground troops for no gain, though they get replaced for free like fighters. The main cost is that troop ships have a lower offensive ComPot, so you're doing less direct damage.

Against regular bases, they can cause an extra SIDS of damage, which can make them very useful in a hotly contested SB battle. If you need to direct SIDS to get the SB, this can speed the process up, if the defender is voluntarily taking SIDS, he may find it getting unexpectedly crippled by the ground troops. The problem is the odds aren't too good of making it work, and a SB inherently has a defending marine unit ('G') that must be killed before damage can be done.

Naturally, I rolled two 12s in a row to actually do a SIDS to 1304 with a single D6G.

Overall, the turn went very well for me. SB 0902 is still there, but I took the entire 'second line' of planets (1001, 1202, 1504), and got SB 1304, all for minimal losses. Sadly, I didn't parse the situation with the Marquis area correctly, and that's still on the main grid. Cutting it off will certainly be a priority for next turn.

But now the Hydrans are about to join in, and I have some strategic decisions to make.... Right now, I'm splitting my attention (and new builds) between the two and where I go next will likely depend on how his turn 3 goes.
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Thu Sep 20, 2012 6:16 am
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F&E for Vassal v2—Someday

James Lowry
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As I hinted when I released version 1.3.1 of the F&E Vassal module, I had something new in mind. Specifically, I'm looking to start over and do a brand new Vassal module. My hope is to be able to add new features that I can't current do.

One of the pain points of the current module is actually the map. It is half done in CorelDraw, and half in Photoshop, and exporting the first into the second is a challenge (there's some places where it's kind of coming apart in the latest revision that I just can't get fixed). So, I have done an all-new map purely in CorelDraw. Since it can't be exactly the same size as the old one, using it would break all saved games in the current module. Therefore a new module is needed.

And since I'm starting over, and I have a pure vector map, I can handle a request that's been popular:
From gallery of Rindis


While I'm at it, I'm re-doing the counters to get away from the pixel-twiddled images I have now, and make them a little easier to do. Though doing all those counters all over again will take time. A lot of time.

Also, the new map comes at a price. It takes a lot of memory, and is too big for Vassal 3.1 to handle. However, Vassal 3.2 (which is just entering beta) can do it. It also has a few other new features, dealing with math that should allow the new module to handle stats around crippled status and showing the stats associated with a fleet marker.

What I need now is people to discuss the new module with. I want to bounce ideas off other people, and get input so that I can make it the best module I can, and I can get started on it from the beginning, rather than having to re-do things constantly. If you're interested in discussing this, contact me, I want to have an email conversation with everyone who's interested to hammer out ideas. The only caveat is that you will need to install the test version of Vassal v3.2.0 so you can follow what going on. (Note that doing so will require you to be cautious with Vassal, as you need to remember to switch back to 3.1.20 with any ongoing Vassal games you have.)
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Tue Sep 4, 2012 8:07 pm
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