Goodbye 2012

sunsetLet’s hope that the new day and the new year will bring in a time of peace, quiet, wellbeing, and prosperity for everyone*. I wish you all a great 2013.

[*For a list of excluded parties, apply in writing to…]

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A cunning plan?

I’m not going to vote for Naftali Bennett and his Jewish Home party, but I do admire the way he has kicked up a merry old fuss among the old political establishment here. One way he is driving a wedge into supporters of the traditional parties, is that he has actually put together a plan for the future of Israel and its security. I’m not sure if you would call it a peace plan. Judge for yourselves with this English language version:

From one perspective, it’s bold. From another, it’s rash. Given the condemnation Israel received for building a few houses, there is likely to be a firestorm if this becomes official policy. But, what if the Palestinians offered citizenship took it up? We know, behind the headlines, Palestinians want nothing to do with failed Arab states, and have close to no confidence in the state building skills of their own leadership. Interesting.

The other major disadvantages are security related. It would create, effectively, a new border needing very tight security to avoid terrorist infiltration. And what does Israel do if there are rockets smuggled into the Palestinian parts, and launched? That’s a real challenge.

It’s unlikely – but not impossible – Jewish Home will be in a position to turn this into policy. But in the absence of a competing plan – as opposed to the “let’s do nothing” camp – Bennett is entitled to argue this is the only way for Israel to take charge of its own destiny.

[A tip of the hat and a special, belated, ‘thank you’ to Leah for this.]

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Think of a Number – John Verdon

Dave Gurney is a retired NYPD homicide detective of some fame for his serial killer catching exploits. He is enjoying a quiet life in rural upstate New York, when a former college acquaintance – certainly not a friend – contacts him out of the blue, and presents him with the troubling puzzle of some strange communications. Gurney is intrigued, and although his wife is less than keen that he gets involved, there’s an itch that needs to be scratched. As matters progress, Gurney tells the man to go to the police, and leaves him to his fate. Continue reading

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Gaming catchup

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Two quickies:

First, last week’s session report from the Ra’anana Boardgames Group is up and available here.

Second, over Shabbat, Susan and I played a couple of games of Dominion. I would not have thought it a contender for a two player game, but Elad suggested we give it a try. It’s fast, easy, and we both know it well enough to have a competitive game. And it wasn’t half bad as a two player game.

We played the Size Distortion and Village Square collections from the base set rulebook. Susan clobbered me when we played Size Distortion; by the time I was getting ready to strip my deck down to the bare essentials and become super effective, Susan had cleaned out the Duchy victory point deck! I got a small measure of revenge with the Village Square, managing a win by just 3 points. Both games took less than half an hour, and were good fun.

[Incidentally, I have the Dominion Intrigue set, but cannot quite get up the enthusiasm to try it out. It looks to be a more chaotic game, with some tricky mechanics. Others speak highly of it, though. ]

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Anzio: Operation Shingle

This is the game that came with Paper Wars 77 by Compass Games. The designer is Dave Murray, and the topic is the WW2 battle for Anzio and environs from the landings in January 1944, up to March 1944.

Each turn is one day, each hex is “3.5 miles square”, and units are battalions, regiments, and brigades.

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The graphics presentation is good. I liked the double width combat counters and the large hexes on the map. The rules and support materials are good – there are separate player aid charts in the center of the rules, bound into the magazine. I did have one or two queries, but nothing that stopped me from playing the game and having a few runs through of the first scenario to teach me the basics. If I have a problem with the rules and the game system, it’s the Editorial Approach. I will come back to that. Continue reading

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Paper Wars

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Although the magazine has been going for a while, this is the first issue (77) of Paper Wars I have seen. I am not a fan of game review magazines generally, because the quality of the reviews often disappoints. (It is not a trivial task to write a good review – something that goes beyond a list of game contents.) Recently relaunched by Compass Games, I decided to take the plunge because the publishers were adding a game, and curiosity got the better of me. Continue reading

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A Christmas query

Another reason why it’s not a good idea to trust the mainstream media completely; another reason why people in Israel are rightly dismissive about much of the criticism directed at the Jewish State: a certain blind spot. To put it another way, a certain unwillingness to face up to the forces of darkness, repression, and – frankly – evil; a chilling disregard for the assault on Christianity. (But, hey, keep blaming the Jews. Nobody cares.)

In short, another Elder of Ziyon cracker:

Somehow, zillions of reporters in Bethlehem missed this story

What story? The Elder, reprints this piece from Holy Land Missions:

Pressure from the local community is forcing the hands of the Bethlehem municipality to take down a large Christmas billboard sign that has Jesus on it.

In the birthplace of Christianity, we have seen over the years that the Christmas holiday has been reduced to snowmen and bells,” said Pastor Steven Khoury of Holy Land Missions; the ministry behind putting the 1200 square foot sign up. He added, “The essential message of the holiday season has been taken away for fear of what the dominant factors in Bethlehem would say.”

Vandals had cut the electric cable surrounding the sign to ensure that it would not be lit up during the night. Barraged with phone calls from the local community, the municipality informed Pastor Khoury that many are campaigning asking us to take down the sign. …The billboard sign is located at Manger Square with the slogan “Jesus born to die and rose again. Invite him into your heart so you might live – Merry Christmas”€ has caused some people to come out of their cars and take pictures.

Out of fear of repercussions, no one is willing to sell electricity access to the billboard. So Pastor Khoury has been going out with a portable generator and several high beam spotlights and lighting the sign up himself. Anticipating that the sign might be coming down any time, Khoury quickly did one last film next to the billboard sign.

The Elder’s commentary is something certain factions (eg, the Guardian and the BBC) should read and then hang their heads in shame:

How did every single reporter in Bethlehem miss a story about a pastor who was trying to put up a billboard with a Christian message?

It has an attractive protagonist, who speaks English well. It is an underdog story. It is about freedom of religion. It has the irony of Jesus being absent from Bethlehem. This story is made for TV and print media.

There must be a reason why the reporters ignored this story. Perhaps because of the types of people who are against the sign? Pastor Khoury doesn’t identify them, so it is unclear who they are. All we know is that they are dominant in Bethlehem (so they can’t be Christians), that they are from the local community (so they can’t be Jews) that they are threatening those who support the message with violence (so they can’t be Quakers,) and that reporters are reluctant to report when these people are acting against freedom of religion and freedom of expression.

This is a tough one.

I fell like I am back in school, now: “Please sir…I know the answer…”

Do you?

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Is there an Economist in the house?

I enjoy the Economist. I like the high standard of writing, the generally high standard of its editorial and arguments, its breadth of coverage, and its occasional quirkiness. The latter comes to the fore, once a year, in its twin festive – Special Christmas Double Issue – edition. It’s newly arrived here:

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As well as the usual coverage of world politics, business, science, and the arts, the festive edition is overflowing with off beat articles to allow its serious readers (ahem) to let loose a little, and enjoy themselves. (You can see some of the titles on the front cover.) I can confidently say, I have some good reading ahead.

Aside: can you see the cartoon hang glider pilots of Bibi and Hamas? What do you think? Legitimate acidic comment, or obscene moral equivalence? There are also unpleasant suggestions about other world figures, but none so obviously matched. Is that fair? I wonder if the first issue of 2013, or the online community will discuss or ignore it. I’m betting on the latter.

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New intelligence

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The other new arrival is GMT‘s C3i magazine. Saying ‘magazine’ is a bit of an understatement, because the bundle comes stuffed to the rim with lots and lots of goodies.

To start with, there’s a complete mini-game: Objective Kiev, from Frank Chadwick. The game support materials includes extras for 1914, Andean Abyss, Commands & Colors, No Retreat!, Combat Commander, and SPQR. As well as these scenarios and add-ons, the magazine – exquisitely laid out in full color – has pieces about Red Winter (a superb game), Labyrinth, 1805, and For the People.

There is also an interesting article about designers and developers, some other profiles, and a well timed interview with John Butterfield, one of my favorite designers. The saddest parts are the S. Craig Taylor obituary, and the dedication to Joe Kubert.

This ‘magazine’ adds real value to my GMT games, and is a continuing example of the high standards set by that company. Well done GMT. And thanks.

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Against the odds

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Newly arrived are a couple of magazine plus game packages from Against the Odds.

The back issue is Buffalo Wings, a game about air to air combat during WW2 over Finland. It’s a cut down version of J D Webster’s earlier WW2 air combat system, the attraction being that it is simpler, more accessible and compatible with the older games. (The earlier games are near the top of my ‘Wish I could play these with a live opponent’ List.) I am keen to at least work through the training scenarios to see if I can handle the system. A long, long, time ago, I played his Air Superiority game with David Hughes, several times. It was great fun, though I venture to suggest neither of us would have made real life ace pilots.

The current issue is Guns of the Askari, about von Lettow-Vorbeck’s guerrilla campaign in East Africa during WW1. It’s a campaign I know nothing about, so there will be a steep learning curve. The game is by John Gorkowski, who has made some interesting designs on WW1 topics, and seems to have avoided too much complexity. This probably means it’s more likely I will, eventually, play it. Unfortunately, there are so many games ahead in the queue.

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