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Thread: Permanently Operating Factors - A Soviet LAN AAR

  1. #1281
    Strategy Cognoscenti Demi Moderator Myth's Avatar
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    BritishImperial: Cool? Well, maybe. Dunno about that one. The thing on my knee is a wheel of some sort, from some sort of toy

    A bit of a late update (not my fault this time!) coming up!
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  2. #1282
    Strategy Cognoscenti Demi Moderator Myth's Avatar
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    Now that the AAR is done, the game itself having been played long ago now, I figured Iíd do a little critique of my wartime strategy. I think thereís a lot to be said about it, good and bad. It is, however, undoubtedly a very tangled topic so Iíll try to look at it one thread at a time.

    Definitions
    Colin Gray defines strategy as the use of the engagement (battle) in pursuit of oneís policy objectives. I would not read this until half a year or so after the game, but it makes sense, and draws heavily from Clausewitz. I hope that in the following critique I donít lose sight of the necessity to link my actions to my stated policy, which was, of course, victory in war.

    Assumptions
    First, I must obviously examine the assumptions that underpinned my strategy. My overall assessment of Discomb was that he was a proponent of decisive battle. He might threaten and boast about incredibly indirect approach operations such as landing at Arkhangelsk but he would not actually carry them out as this would detract too much from the main theater of the war, especially given that ours was a war of total effort (though not total ends). In wars of total effort, the main objective tends to be destroying the enemyís army and so that he may be dictated to. Before the game, he had proved to be tight-lipped about his strategy except that he would be building a lot of armored divisions and he wouldnít go straight for Moscow. By the time our war began I did know, however, that he had very little oil. In fact, only about 20,000 units, which I had calculated amounted to about three weeks of constant campaigning if I remember correctly. He obviously did not have much time, kind of like both Napoleon and Hitler.

    Strategic Deception
    This must be, undeniably, where I had the most clear-cut success. I threatened to land at Gibraltar and attack Discomb in the rear. This hearkens back to previous HoI2 LAN games, particularly one where I played a Leninist USA (this was a variation of the mod that we used for POF), Discomb was the Soviet Union and another friend (not Discombís brother) was Germany. The two were allied against me. While I conquered the rest of the Americas, I declared war on Equatorial Africa and conquered many of its territories, I traded them all in return for Gibraltar, from whence I would have launched by armored/mechanized blitzkrieg at them. Unfortunately, we never actually finished that game but the seed had been planted (albeit unintentionally) in Discombís mind that Gibraltar would tend to be a strategic objective of mine. Given verbal threats to Gibraltar, Discomb believed them. Nine British divisions were stationed there. Additionally, Germany had six armored and three motorized divisions scattered throughout Western Europe in three corps (one in France, one in Italy and one in Denmark) for garrison purposes. These forces could plausibly have determined some of the battles waged in the east against me. Nonetheless, overall it was a minor success.

    Original Strategy
    Now, before I go further in examining my strategic performance I should lay out my original strategy. Originally, I was planning to do a fighting retreat at least to the river lines. This is a precedent from (again) one of our previous LAN games. In that same, I was the Soviet Union, Discomb was the truncated Britain and another friend (that same not-Discombís-brother person) played Germany. I had heavily fortified the river liens, with level 10 fortifications, and used European Russia as a secure base from which to make armored encirclements before beating hasty retreats as German reinforcements came up. Thus, I planned to do something similar this time, except without the fortifications and with a more elastic approach. I half expected to be pushed all the way back to Moscow, and having to commit every single unit of each of my three strategic echelons to the fight to successfully defeat Discomb. My initial deployments were defensive. My Belarussian Fronts were not even on the front, they were a province behind, ready for elasticity. The mobile corps of each of my Fronts were behind the Fronts to act as reserves, rather than spearheads. The oil setup was geared so that he would really feel his lack of oil. Obviously, this strategy did not happen in any way, shape or form.

    The Cult of the Offensive
    When gaming, I am aggressive. My mindset is innately offensive. I suppose this is why, in the very first hours of the war, I immediately threw away my elastic defense plan and invaded Lithuania. This might also have had something to do with the fact that I had declared war on Discomb, rather than the other way around. Discomb was not prepared for such a development, so I gained the advantage of tactical surprise. This, and overwhelming forces, led to the complete overthrow of German power in Lithuania; if my Belarussian Fronts had been in offensive deployment rather than defensive I would have likely even encircled the German forces in Lithuania and crushed them. As it is, though I was close, this I did not manage and it would annoy me for the rest of the war. The German forces from Lithuania were the same who would fight so persistently for Konigsberg.

    Given the unfavorable Belarussian deployments, no offensive occurred in the center except in support of Lithuanian operations. I remained static, and once the German juggernaut struck I was forced to defend, desperately. In retrospect, I could have tried to push across the Bug River into Poland but my mobile units took some time to reach the front from the deep rear (approximately the eastern border of Belarus) so this really wouldnít have been that feasible as a possibility and would have left me much more open had Discomb not reacted but had, as in actuality, thrown his juggernaut into northern Belarus.

    My offensive in Romania was very limited, amounting to just a bridgehead that was heroically held through hard fighting before being forced back. Thereís nothing special here.

    In Scandinavia I also had a defensive deployment but also immediately went into the attack. The British had only four corps of troops in the area and by the end of the war only one was left, deep in Sweden. By all standards it would have been a stunning campaign, except that it was in a complete backwater nobody cared about.

    In all, the consequences of my offensive mindset meant that I had effectively abandoned a deep elastic defense in favor of, at best, a shallow one unless something truly terrible occurred. My original strategy was probably the optimal one in terms of playing my strengths to Discombís weaknesses. He would have run out of oil very quickly and have become spread quite thin. My predominantly infantry army would have been hard-pressed to match his speed initially, but my mobile corps would have been anticipated to have somewhat offset his armored mobility advantage and my greater numbers and successive reinforcement echelons would have meant that eventually my numbers would prove decisive and turn the war back around in my favor.

    Shallow Elastic Defense
    As noted above, in reality once the German juggernaut(s) hit I adopted a shallow elastic defense. This probably because I felt that the best way to contain a spearhead was to hold the shoulders. The Americans did this in the Battle of the Bulge, and the strategic theorist Edward Luttwak advocates this in his book Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace, which I read the summer afterwards. Obviously Luttwak had no influence on my thinking (or perhaps intuition, rather) at the time, but it seems that I was more or less correct. Give way in front of the enemy, but hold on either side of him if remotely possible. The transition from offensive to a shallow elastic defense was smooth. Elastic defense means, as the name implies, an elasticity in your deployments. Defense is followed by counterattack, and all that.

    In the Ukraine it became very positional very quickly, but that was primarily because the Germans were first turned back due to my elastic defense and then they turned northward at the very end.

    In the center, my elastic defense was centered around the unfortunate 3rd Belarussian Front, whose plight I will examine in more detail later. All local efforts were focused around keeping its supply lines open as much as to isolate enemy units. Even the grandiose plans I had for that one Baltic Front (they became so interchangeable I keep forgetting which was where when) to push on to Warsaw was quickly rerouted to taking Bielsk and opening up another supply corridor. That move also isolated the German shield pocket. This is also the point where my elastic defense became its deepest; the Germans reached all the way to Baranowicze and Luniniec, which were both the third province in from the border.

    The Baltic Fronts had a very easy and very shallow elastic defense. It was just a back and forth across Konigsberg, which was at least the second most fought over province after Suwalki, possibly the first most fought over.

    There was no elastic defense to speak of in Scandinavia; it was an outright offensive.

    The 3rd Belarussian Front
    No sane commander would have done this. No sane commander would have let an entire Front of twenty-four divisions (1 HQ, 17 infantry, 2 Mechanized and 4 Motorized divisions) become, for all intents and purposes, the bait. To be fair, it wasnít intentional; when it was defeated, the Front automatically retreated back to where it had come from, which was Brest-Litovsk. Nonetheless, I could have strategically redeployed them out, though that would have been a bit cheap. I donít think I even thought of that possibility, however. I just focused on rescuing it, which had the dual-purpose of isolating the Germans. It was a bad situation I had to make the best of.

    Decisive Battle
    There is no doubt that Bialystok was a decisive battle. Not only did I inflict massive damage on Discombís army, totaling a fifth of his entire armed forces (not including Luniniec) but it forced him to sue for peace. But the concept of decisive battle should be looked at somewhat. Decisive battles are by nature quite rare; Michael Howard calls them the militaryís philosopher stones. A pursuit of decisive battle can be described as a lack of strategy. Itís more or less the default plan every conventional military attempts to implement. This is because of the great influence both Clausewitz and Jomini still have in todayís militaries (one more justified than the other); both mentioned centers of gravity or decisive points (respectively). Neither attempted to actually explain what they were, but generations of soldiers since have assumed them to be, generally speaking, the enemy army. This especially occurred once Moltke the Elder gave Clausewitz some much needed publicity (and thus inadvertently causing the first of many mistranslations and misinterpretations of Clausewitz).

    Anyway, decisive battle is the default stance for most conventional armies. Given the rarity of decisive battle and its sheer uncertainty, to attempt to force one is far-fetched and for it to be such a constant goal for the military is ludicrous. Itís essentially chasing a cloud, and usually just as effective. On the other hand, what else is there? The alternative is either a strategic coup such as dropping paratroopers onto an undefended capital and capturing the bulk of the government or a war of attrition. But the former doesnít guarantee success (just look at Napoleon in Spain) and the latter is almost as bad (take the wars of Louis XIV, for example). The difficulty is that, as Clausewitz was perhaps the first to point out, war is about two opposing wills. You never know what the otherís breaking point is. Thatís the danger of going to war. You can never know if you will actually win. So Iím not particularly sure how this can be an argument against relying on decisive battle, save that itís even less reliable than strategies in general.

    I donít really know where to go from here. This section in particular was a stream of consciousness about decisive battle so half of itís probably crap and the other half needs more thought and development. And, of course, I donít know which half is which.

    Coup díoeil
    I hope thatís how you spell it. It is what Clausewitz calls genius, the generalís inner eye with which he can see opportunities. It is the commanderís own innate skill and sense of battle and war. Now that this AAR is over and in writing Iíve had the chance to think about the game, and specifically the war. I think that in the end, it came down to this, to the coup díoeil. I saw opportunities and followed them through whereas Discomb did not or could not despite my initially disadvantageous position given my immediate offensives and my non-use of many elements of my army that could have made my war so much easier (such as my two airborne corps, which never saw action despite being so expensive).

    My insistence on actually creating Fronts and employing them as discrete units paid off because it gave my forces greater flexibility in some ways. My holding the ramparts, especially at Suwalki, would not have been anywhere near possible if I had not had reserve Fronts ready to move out. Iím fairly sure all my Baltic Fronts fought at least one round of battle at Suwalki in the last week and a half alone, and of course they each had the honor of capturing Konigsberg multiple times. Similarly, by creation of a second strategic echelon comprised of NKVD district forces and Shock Armies was undoubtedly very important to my war effort. One and possibly two Shock Armies certainly fought in the Ukraine and at least one NKVD district was engaged, at Baranowicze and later on probably Bialystok. Of course, if I had lost at Bialystok and the Germans were able to get back onto the offensive and push into Russia, the remaining units of the second echelon would have moved to halt, or at least threaten the progression of, the German armored units.

    I guess thatís it. I canít think of anything more to write about that isnít redundant from earlier updates. If anyone has any particular questions this doesnít (fully) answer, Iíll certainly do my best to do so.
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  3. #1283
    I have one - how did you managed to drag out such a short war into 65 page ~1200 post long AAR ? Very nice conclusion post too, sets everything in their places although much of your initial strategy we could guess from updates. When we can expect Discombs reply ?

  4. #1284
    Banned Delex's Avatar

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    That was one of the most honorable fought conflicts ever. Well done.

  5. #1285
    as they say even the best plans dissolve at the first gun smoke ....... lol or words to that effect

  6. #1286
    Strategy Cognoscenti Demi Moderator Myth's Avatar
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    Edzako: Well, it had a lot to do with having a great audience And I think Discomb is going to try to have something for tomorrow

    Delex: Thank you. It certainly was a fun war

    wim butler: Yes, Moltke the Elder is credited with that saying, no plan survives contact with the enemy. It's generally true

    So we'll see what Discomb comes up with tomorrow, presumably!
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  7. #1287
    Outrageously Humorous Title Discomb's Avatar
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    I'm not very good at organizing my thoughts, but I am good at getting to the core of issues.


    This is the core: I planned to win, and I didn't. I didn't win for a number of reasons, but the most important one has to be, in my opinion, an underestimation of my opponent. Initially, before the war, the setup was quite simple. I had infantry and HQ groups lining the front, creating the air of presence without any actual substance or weight to them. A lot of these divisions were actually British. I had thought, that Myth would not be so hasty as to attack, knowing thhat my army couldn't possibly be the few soldiers that he saw, and thus be extremely cautious.

    The Setup
    My attack armies were divided into four groups. In the south, I had a lot of mobile divisions, backed by 30 or so divisions of British infantry. These were all stationed one province behind the border, so as not to be detected ahead of time. In the north, I had one small stack of armor for purposes of deception, and one insanely large stack of armor for shock value. There was very little supportive infantry, except two HQ groups operating on the border, making life easier for everyone. I allowed British forces to handle Gibraltar and Norway. For the record, I did not know if he would attempt to take Gibraltar, but as time went by, I doubted it increasingly. Originally, we had around 18 divisions stationed there as a welcoming commitee. A few months before the war, I ordered half of them to reinforce the front. I wasn't too concerned about Norway either. Whatever he did, he would get stuck in Denmark.

    Originally the plan was fairly clever. The large stack of armor down south attacks eastward in a two-province wide line. British infantry would follow suit and hold the flanks, preventing an encirclement. These troops were heading in the general direction of Kiev, but I never expected them to reach it. They were there simply to provide a nuissance. I wanted Myth to take most of his reserve armies and redeploy them to the south, so as to prevent my armor spreading through Ukraine like a plague. At the same time, a small stack of armor would attack in the north in support of the larger infantry groups stationed there. This was to create the illusion that the southern group is not in fact a diversion. That I had armor everywhere, and it was simply dangerously clustered down there. The larger armor stack was to attack as soon as the southern group would start getting pushed back.

    The Early Weeks
    Myth's immediate invasion of Lithuania caught me entirely off guard. The soldiers there were spread so thin, I immediately ordered a complete withdrawal towards Konigsberg, to try and chokepoint his invasion there, where I had stronger garrisons. It is amazing that he destroyed only a handful of straggling British divisions as he overran the country. The southern army group hit a bit later than I expected, due to the large distances they had to cover down south. The infantry lagged two provinces behind. It didn't look like the shock value was as much as I planned on, but certainly it did make an impact. The resistance I recieved was significantly less than anticipated. It became clear that he was wearing me out by having me go through the swamp slowly, waiting for me at it's end.

    Being pushed so far back in the north forced me to throw my large stack in a week earlier than I had planned. Their job was still to penetrate the line as decisively as possibly and split inside like a shrapnell grenade. In this they mostly succeeded, but the heavy weight of forces coming down from the north did not permit a vast expansion in that direction. They were limited to going forward and south. That's when the plan to encircle the entire Belarussian theater became extremely apparent. It was the only option available to me short of driving forward, and I persued both goals. This was a mistake.

    Three Weeks In
    I already knew that I would likely be losing after three weeks, when my oil dropped to zero. Yes I had Ploesti and trade partners supplying me oil, but just having as many tanks as I did is already a heavy strain on the supply. I remedied this slightly by having the southern army group advance slowly, resting where they could, letting the northern stack become the focus of Myth's worries. Hence, as I was closing the pocket with half-supplied tanks, I had actually ordered most of them not to attack the final province between me and the encirclement of Belarus. I just didn't have the oil for it. Besides, many of the free armies were already moving deeper into Soviet territory. There was near nothing between them and conquest. The soviet line was very, very broken down there. Needless to say, this was my biggest mistake, as he was able to slip a few divisions into that final province and eventually stall me long enough to resque his troops. It was a matter of game hours , and only the lack of dedicated, supplied armor on my part made it so.

    It didn't help, that one month into the campaign, the British player had a game crash and quit. He decided not to rejoin us, which meant that I had no infantry support in the south (something that would probably have proven critical in that area).

    Up in the north, he continued to weigh down from the north, but I still had the advantage of mobility. With Belarus cleared up, I'd have had a huge chunk of his force concentrated in the Baltics, ready for outmaneuvering in whatever way I desired. Obviously, the resque of the Belarussian front meant that I was being sandwitched, and slowly my supply provinces were being bashed against. It took everything I had in the area to defend them, but it wasn't enough. Sooner or later, my oil-less tanks were going to get stuck between the enemy and more enemy on all sides.

    Nearing The End
    My tanks got stuck between the enemy and more enemy. Though brave, my attempts at freeing them were fairly fruitless. The exhausted soldiers were of little use against the weight Myth was bringing from the north, and though we did give them a fight, it was a fatal one.

    Three lessons were learned from this game, which I took into consideration in later games.
    1. Get more oil. If you don't have enough, don't make that many tanks. Idiot.
    2. Do not drive your tanks into a swamp. Idiot.
    3. Human players generally don't think that I am stupid. Hence, they do not fall for my diversions.

    I don't know what else I could say. There were a lot of external factors working against me, but it was the consequences of some of my strategic choices that contributed most heavily to my defeat. The initial plan was not a bad one. Had I more oil, it would probably have been realized much more spectacularly.

    Oh, and, go read our other AAR. We'll be resuming that sometime soon.

  8. #1288
    Strategy Cognoscenti Demi Moderator Myth's Avatar
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    Yes, your lack of oil was certainly a very crucial factor. I wonder what a repeat game would be line, except I give you some 100,000 oil so you have enough for a while. Plus then we'd be wiser about each other. That war would be totally different. Also, you haven't taken those lessons entirely into consideration as we've not yet had another pvp Arma LAN game

    You also did succeed a bit with causing me to move my reserves southward. My 1st Tank Army went there, though that's all. My shock armies stayed in their general areas, as did the regional NKVD armies. A lot of the other reserves I ended up completely ignoring. Also, like your near encirclement of southern Belarus being a matter of game hours, so was my near encirclement of Lithuania. A couple hours quicker and I would have pocketed a good deal of the forces that would give me so much trouble later on.

    It was a very good game, though, regardless of mistakes made by both of us. It was ridiculously intense. Now we just need to play our Pacific War LAN concept some time.

    Also, added to the table of contents
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  9. #1289
    Marshal of the Empire BritishImperial's Avatar

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    its really interesting to read about your plans. discombs was a lot cleverer and more subtle than it appeared to me when reading. certainly a lot better thought out and executed than any of my games against the AI (i've never played LAN HoI due to a complete lack of interest from my friends).
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  10. #1290
    Strategy Cognoscenti Demi Moderator Myth's Avatar
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    His plan wasn't bad. It may have worked if he had had his own infantry, rather than relying on somebody else's, especially when that person went AWOL and his infantry kind of sucked. Personally I think he should have reversed his armored stacks; have the distraction up north where my lines were quite dense and the main thrust down south where the terrain was better for armor and I had fewer units. And besides, subtlety is usually the loser when the opposing strategem is the epitome of crassness
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  11. #1291
    Strategy Cognoscenti Demi Moderator Myth's Avatar
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    So that's it, this AAR is now officially over! Whoo! This has, to date, been the longest AAR I've written both temporally and in terms of number (and of average length) of updates. Only Great Ambitions comes close for number of updates, it had 119 to this one's 131 (albeit six of these are Discomb's), though Great Ambitions only ran for four months. Bayonets Made of Milk, Discomb's and my first AAR (suitably, another joint one) ran for just over a year, compared to the year and a half for this one--though both have (very) long stretches of inactivity.

    For these accomplishments, particularly in temporal length (for which I generally don't have much patience, I think) two factors are responsible. One is the greatness of our LAN game in itself, its story deserved to be told no matter how long it'd take. Also, my readAARs and commentAARs have been good ones. Without the likes of coz1, Edzako, BritishImperial, Delex, trekaddict, VILenin and others who posted, as well as those who did not post but simply kept tabs on this AAR, most of my success with this AAR would not have happened. As we know, Edzako asked me how I managed to get a game whose centerpiece was a two month and four day war to last for nearly 1300 posts and 65+ pages worth of thread. My commentAARs were good ones.

    And now what? Well, now that this is done, it is time (finally!) to turn back with Discomb to Like the Heroes, but Bad. It's been sitting out in the cold for too long. And what after that? Well, who knows. Discomb and I still have one prospective HoI2 LAN war left to fight, though god knows when we might do that. And then, well, there'll always be HoI3.
    Last edited by Myth; 06-02-2009 at 08:35.
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  12. #1292
    Marshal of the Empire BritishImperial's Avatar

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    sweet, i was hoping you'd not abandon your other excellent aar.
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  13. #1293
    Strategy Cognoscenti Demi Moderator Myth's Avatar
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    Nope, that one was a good game too. As I say in my other post, hopefully tomorrow!
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  14. #1294
    Revolutionary Leader VILenin's Avatar
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    Very nice introspective pieces from both of you, a nice way to wrap up the AAR. Definitely look forward to whatever your next project might be, hopefully we won't be waiting too long for it.
    "Being a freedom fighter, a force for good, it's a wonderful thing. You get to make your own hours, it looks good on a resume, but the pay sucks."

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  15. #1295

  16. #1296
    Strategy Cognoscenti Demi Moderator Myth's Avatar
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    VILenin: I just realized I forgot to name you in my little thanks post! Sorry about that, your name certainly deserves to be there as well. And we should hopefully be returning to another AAR today, you can begin reading it already here.

    *goes to surreptitiously edit thanks post*
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  17. #1297
    Revolutionary Leader VILenin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Myth View Post
    VILenin: I just realized I forgot to name you in my little thanks post! Sorry about that, your name certainly deserves to be there as well. And we should hopefully be returning to another AAR today, you can begin reading it already here.

    *goes to surreptitiously edit thanks post*
    No problem. Now I need to finish reading thru "Like the the Heroes."
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  18. #1298
    Strategy Cognoscenti Demi Moderator Myth's Avatar
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    Yep, you do. Though unfortunately we're already encountering obstacles to updating. Typical, really
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  19. #1299
    British Unionist trekaddict's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Myth View Post
    Yep, you do. Though unfortunately we're already encountering obstacles to updating. Typical, really
    Excuses!
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