Train wreck of a transatlantic journey

David Horovitz at the Times of Israel, about Bibi’s American Adventure:

“Along with the concern and the cynicism, however, there is one other fairly important aspect of the prime minister’s trip to DC that should be borne in mind: The US-led international community has failed Israel, and failed itself, in its handling of Iran’s drive to nuclear weapons. It is on the point of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. And Netanyahu has been trying desperately to warn against this misguided course of action.”

I don’t agree with all of Mr H’s fine analysis. For one thing, I strongly suspect that Obama’s allies have been feverishly overstating the damage to Israel-US ties so as to undermine BIbi. Why? Because they fear the man, and they especially fear his message. But, regardless, I only have one more thing to say: read it all.

Tel Aviv Shabbat

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We spent Shabbat in Tel Aviv with friends, sampling a variety of shuls, and stretching the limbs with a variety of walks.

Susan and I decided we both miss the sea view – a view we had in Netanya. If you are in one of the taller buildings in Ra’anana, on a good weather day you can see the sea, but it’s not the same. So, it was nice to experience the view again, and have a relaxing (and filling!) Shabbat.

Shavuah Tov!

Boyhood

The most boring film and biggest disappointment in a long, long time. If you haven’t seen it, do not bother. It’s slow with a drab story – hey this kid grows up! – and unattractive characters. What conflict there is, is understated and soporific. I can only recommend this film as a cure for insomnia. Yes, it is that bad.

 

Five for Friday

It’s the weekend! It sure comes round with a certain regularity, doesn’t it? Unlike the world outside, which veers from crisis to war, from famine to crash, from tsunami to terror. What a mess. Sometimes, the mission to heal the world seems like the Mission Impossible. I admire those who can keep the faith and resolutely stay focused, because I have to tell you, there are times…

OK. Enough philosophy. Time for reality. A mix, for sure, but still reality. Here are this week’s links.

Shabbat Shalom!

Blucher lives!

Newly arrived and out of the wrapper is Blucher, the latest game from Sam Mustafa.

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Sam is famous for his miniatures rules, and Blucher is a variation: it is described as a tabletop game because it can be played with cards (or oversize counters for us boardgamers) or miniatures. Indeed the basic game assumes the use of the cards, with the expressed hope that as the player progresses to the advanced game, miniatures will form up on the tabletop. However, the cards will never be far away, as they are a handy way of tracking unit capabilities and current status.

The topic is Napoleonic warfare, with a nominal scale of each unit being 2-3,000 infantry, 1-2,000 cavalry, or 18-24 guns, and 15 pairs of turns to a day’s battle.  I say “nominal” because there are variations of the unit scale offered for smaller or larger battles.

It is infuriatingly hard to pin down a ground scale, but the campaign system hints at each 12 inches equating to 1.5 miles. So that’s about 220 yards per inch. Let’s say 200 yards. The game uses a standard of BWs (base widths) for distances, to accommodate differently based miniatures. Each BW is 3″. Infantry fire is 1 BW (600 yards) for volley fire and 2 BW (1,200 yards) for skirmish fire. Artillery fire goes up to long range at 8 BW which is a whopping 4,800 yards. Hmm. Maybe I have that wrong. The relative ranges seem OK, but the actual numbers feel wrong. I suspect the feel is more important, but we will see when I get a chance to play the game.

I also acquired the Hundred Days set of cards. This has every unit from the campaign on standard sized cards, with leaders, markers, and objectives. In short, everything you need except a flat surface to play on.

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I have only skimmed the rules, but they do look interesting. On neat offset to the “I go, you go” system is the concept of momentum. The opponent rolls 3d6 and keeps the dice hidden under a cup. When the number of your activations first exceeds that number, the opponent reveals the dice and the movement is over. Neat and chaotic, but a pain for solitaire play. I might need to build a chit draw system to get a similar effect.

There’s other cool stuff as well, but I’ll leave that for later. The rules – including the campaign system, a section on army building, some historical scenarios, and rules summaries, comes in at over 170 pages. The Hundred Days package has 216 cards. The production standards are high, and the ability to use ready made cards instead of miniatures is a definite advantage for me. I may get to play it!

Check out the website, here.

And I found this review, which may be of interest.

George wants you to ask him a question

As disclosed by Harry’s Place, George Galloway has put out a call for Twitter users to ask him questions. It appears to be part of his Press TV media work.

The twittersphere (or whatever it has called) has responded  in fine form. For example:

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You can see more for yourself – and there is lots of good stuff to see – by going to Twitter and searching on the #AskGalloway tag.

Battle for Stalingrad

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On the table is the Excalibre Games version of John Hill‘s Battle for Stalingrad.

The game is about the 1942 German offensive to take the city. It has battalion and company sized units, with a ground scale of 600 meters per hex, and each turn representing one week. It uses an impulse system with a variation. The Germans move until the Soviets react by drawing the appropriate chit from a special pool. Then the Soviets go until they stop, or roll a ‘6’ in a combat. Mastering that system is key to success, though there is lots more to the game.

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This version has 600 half-inch counters, one standard sized map, a rule book, and a separate book with articles about the game.

I played the original (1980) SPI version when it first came out, and was glad to be able to acquire one for my collection, even it’s not the original.

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So far, I have set it up, read the rules, and that’s it. There is a one turn scenario that seems a perfect place to start, though the perceived wisdom is that the victory conditions are impossible for the Germans. That will not trouble me too much, as the first aim is to get to grips with the rules. It doesn’t look that complex, but in this version the layout is poor, and things are more opaque than they need to be.

A grande session

This week, I welcomed John, Peleg, and Sheer to the regular games session.

John was running slightly behind schedule, so Peleg, Sheer, and I played R-Eco. This short, filler game of card management, has hidden depths, and is a great example of simple and effective game design. It’s also easy, fun, and engaging. Although I was the only one who had played it before to any real extent, neither Peleg nor Sheer had any problems. Thirty minutes later, the game was over, Sheer winning by a small margin.

John joined us for a classic encounter of El Grande. I say classic, but I was the only one who had played it before, and that advantage was too big to prevent me winning. However, Peleg gave it a good go, and was pretty damn close.

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El Grande is a game of area control – you get VPs for controlling areas by having the most pieces there – with several great add-ons. For example, you each have a set of cards numbered 1-13 to determine turn order. But you lose each card after you play it, and no player can play the same card as another player in the same round. Getting the right turn order also affects how many pieces you can bring into your starting area. As for taking pieces from your starting area on to the board, that depends on the action card you choose. There are five of these, each with a special action and an allowance of 1-5 pieces to go from your starting area to the board.

There’s also the king piece that determines where you can play pieces, and where you cannot. (Moving the king – done by an action card – is one of the key skills in the game.) And finally, the castille, a wooden tower that scores as an area, and then allows you to send your pieces to one area on the board. Great fun.

Both Sheer and John were soaking up the atmosphere, and getting to grips with the nuances of the system. (Or, to put it another way, they were not always choosing the best scoring moves!) I expect we will play this again, as everyone enjoyed it, and seemed keen to try out a different approach next time around.

After that, we played Dominion. This was a random setup selection that included Militia, Spy, Moat, Market, Village, Library, Council Room, Chapel, and Chancellor (I think) and set up a good, even game.

Sheer got a great Village and Market deck. John and Peleg never seemed to settle on their strategy, and both suffered because some bastard – ie me – played  a lot of Militia.  In the end, my Militia and money strategy paid off, and I was the winner.

With Peleg’s departure, we finished with a three handed game of Take it Easy. Both Sheer and I thought we had done OK, and John was disappointed. Of course, John won… This is another neat filler game. It does not have the depth of others, but is a really fast game, and keeps you involved with every turn.

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Thanks to all who came for making another great games night.

Damn fools, and liars

As you may have heard, the winter rain flooded parts of Gaza, and the Palestinian authorities in the shape of Hamas decided to put out a ridiculous story (not for the first time) that it was Israel’s fault. Israel had opened the floodgates in some mysterious dam, and flooded Gaza as an act of war, a crime against humanity, and so on, and so on. (Check out the background here and here, if you want to.)

Well, as an acid test for fact checking – like there are no dams, and no possibility of Israel causing the flooding – huge chunks of the media failed. They blindly repeated the lie. Some even stuck to it after the facts were pointed out to them. You know: the facts they should have, and could have, checked before printing a modern day libel. But they didn’t.

Media cloth – never mind the quality

In one view, this is because journalism in the mainstream has so cut its cloth and reduced the quality of its output to cope with demands for quantity (and speed) that there is neither budget nor time for fact checking.

Media mindset – Israel = bad

Another view is that the media believes anything bad that is said about Israel. Israel, in short, is automatically guilty.

It reminds me of my time working as a defense lawyer in the criminal justice system in Scotland. Sometimes the police lied in evidence. Privately they would admit it. When asked why, the most popular response was something like:

“Well, he probably did it anyway. And even if he didn’t, he did do other stuff. So he deserves to be found guilty.”

That sounds awfully like the media’s bull headed and wrong headed attitude towards Israel. The question is: why?

I’m going to stop there before I post something I will regret later. Meantime, you can think what your own answer might be.

A society of liars

The other observation is that, once again, we see that Palestinian Society has no real values in this area. They lie, lie, and lie again. They lie without remorse, restraint, or fear of the consequences, though they surely know it’s a lie.

There is a poison at the core of Palestinian society, and stories like this prove its existence. Why should anybody trust a society that can collectively promote lying?

The elephant has disappeared

The final point is one you won’t see raised in the western media. Gaza has a problem with winter rain. There are regular floods. Why don’t they do something about it? Wouldn’t it be better for the people of Gaza, for Hamas to build drainage and civilian infrastructure, instead of terror tunnels? Why is nobody outside of Israel asking these questions? Why are the UN, UNWRA, and the so called human rights organizations, silent on this? They are all a disgrace.