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Posted on Apr 2, 2008 in Games PR

PR: HPS Simulations is proud to announce the upcoming release of Winter War, a John Tiller Game

Armchair General


From the day it was first published, in 1993, until the present time, Bill Trotter’s account of the Russo-Finnish War (“A Frozen Hell”, Algonquin Books, 1993) has been almost universally considered the finest history of the Winter War to appear in English. Originally, Trotter didn’t even mean to write a book – his research began when he undertook to write a thesis on the subject to meet the requirements for his undergraduate degree in History, from Davidson College, Class of 1966.

But the more research Trotter did (or tried to do), the more frustrated he became. Books and articles published during or immediately following the conclusion of that dramatic, 106-day-long conflict, were filled with inaccurate information and colored by the obvious political agendas of their authors. When Trotter went to his faculty advisor and described the difficulties he was encountering, that worthy professor offered succinct advice:


“Bill, if you want to read an accurate, up-to-date history of the Winter War, you’ll just have to write it for yourself!” (*)

So that’s what he did. After living in Finland for 15 months, teaching himself to read Finnish, and interviewing any veteran who would sit still for it (from former privates-in-the-ranks to a retired corps commander, personally walked-the-ground of those battlefields still inside Finnish borders, and even bribed an INTOURIST bus-driver (also a part-time KGB operative…) to illegally park a tour bus at the point along the Helsinki-Leningrad highway close to the point where the Red Army scored its critical breakthrough.  He was thus the first western scholar to actually visit the ruined forts along the most crucial sector of the “Mannerheim Line”

Bill’s most vexing problem was the scarcity of reliable information from the Russian side. Although the Red Army eventually broke the Finnish defenses, by sheer weight of numbers along with the most stupendous artillery bombardment since Verdun, its “victory” was both costly and embarrassing that even Soviet scholars had difficulty accessing the Kremlin’s archives! In fact, appalling were Russian casualties during the first Soviet offensive, in December 1939, and so bungling were the Russians’ tactics,  that the keenly observant German officers who studied the campaigns convinced Hitler that the Red Army would be a push-over opponent!… and we all know what happened as a result of that erroneous judgment!

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union as a political entity, however, an enormous amount of new and hitherto inaccessible information has come to light; and the very topic of the Winter War is no longer a forbidden area of Russian history. Since the original publisher of “A Frozen Hell” saw no need to discuss commissioning a new edition of the book until the existing edition (now in its fourth printing and currently available in Polish, Swedish, Finnish, Danish, soon-to-be German, and Estonian as well as English) had “sold through” down to the last few hundred copies in the warehouse, Bill was most receptive to the idea of collaborating with John Tiller (the two have been friends since the early days of Talonsoft and have collaborated on a number of projects, usually without Trotter’s by-line attached, since his position as Senior Writer for “P.C.Gamer” magazine made him very sensitive to “conflict-of-interest” allegations (especially from disgruntled game developers who had felt the sting of “The Desktop General’s” negative reviews!), but this time around there was nothing standing in the way of an open and enthusiastic collaboration.

So wargamers who purchase Winter War will have on the CD, at no additional charge, a copy of Bill’s new, significantly revised edition of his award-winning history of the Winter War – basically a new 340-page book written especially in conjunction with HPS’s new Winter War simulation, which is, Trotter feels, the most accurate, detailed, and compellingly playable simulation of this conflict ever published, in any gaming format.

To the best of their combined knowledge (which at this point in the history of PC gaming is encyclopedic), both John and Bill have accomplished something no one else has done before, and something they have both long wanted to do, but until now had not been able to justify on either economic or technological grounds: to present interested lovers of military history with a first-class game partnered with an authoritative, highly readable book, both products reinforcing each other and forming, in a symbiotic manner, a uniquely appealing “product” that combines the best of both worlds.

If the wargaming community responds to this pioneering effort as positively as both John and Bill anticipate, it is entirely possible that more expanded and detailed accounts of some battles may become available on-line, just like “patches” for a game, and can be downloaded periodically by everyone who purchased the original game, as a form of on-going, open-ended “value added” feature.

And –who knows? – if the whole concept “flies” as well as they expect it to, the future may see additional partnership ventures by Tiller and Trotter.

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