The Schlieffen Plan

On the table just now, The Schlieffen Plan. Dave Schroeder is the designer, releasing it under his SPW brand, though it is sold and distributed by Decision Games.


As you should expect, it’s about the WW1 campaign in the West in 1914. The game features division level units, 20 km hexes, and 7 turns to a calendar month.

It is part of a complete series dealing with the whole WW1 campaign in Europe and the Middle East. (Apparently there is a WW2 version in the works.) I have this part, and the Tannenberg and Galicia one.

The map for all the games of the series has a unique terrain analysis, essentially rating each hexside separately for its movement effects. It’s weird at first, but is not difficult.

The counters are clean, simple, and do their job.

The game system is simple enough at the core – “I go, you go” – but tacks on some interesting twists. Armies get supply from their HQ units, and spend the precious points for attack and counterattack in differing amounts by nationality. The defender has a big advantage, so blunt force tactics will rapidly produce a big pile of dead units. The combat system allows for every point of attacker and defender to count – no ratios to figure out – and the bloody combat results show all too well the degradation of forces.

The rules are not long, and not difficult, but there are some exceptions in the flow of things that can trip you up. For example, artillery is more effective against fortifications if there are not enough defending infantry. You cannot freely choose which units advance after combat, as you must let those who took the casualties lead. And artillery units do not pay ZOC costs moving into a friendly occupied hex. But these details are nothing to complain about; you just have to pay attention to the rules.

The major sticking point for some people may be the size of the stacks. However, if you buy the later reissues of the game – as The Western Front – you get Corps markers which allow you to stack stuff off map and make a major difference. Or you could make your own. I suspect if you are iun to this period of history, the stacking will neither be a surprise nor a burden.

The game came out in 1997 I think. I played it a couple of times at least, but not recently until a chance comment in a ConsimWorld folder prompted me to get it on the table again.

I’m having fun. What else matters, for now?


The President has left

And who knows what long lasting impact his visit will have. I am going to reserve judgement, though the general perception towards him now is certainly more favorable.

At least he got in the Pesach swing of things:


To those who celebrate Pesach: Chag Sameach!  [To those who don’t, you might find this link helpful in explaining the picture.]

May we all have a good, healthy, and safe week ahead.


Sea of haircuts

In shul on Friday night, I looked around the packed rows of worshippers, and saw a sea of haircuts*. Pesach is definitely on its way!

Shavuah Tov! And Chag Sameach.

[*It is a common custom not to have a haircut and not to shave from Pesach (starts evening of 25th March) until Shavuos (evening of 14th May). Fortunately, there are leniencies available…]


Just another supermarket

And just another supermarket shelf:

Anyone need a kipa?

Anyone need a kipa?

Susan has been hard at work preparing for Pesach. (It starts on Monday night.) On Wednesday night I made a modest contribution by acting as driver, trolley assistant, bodyguard, and schlepper, as we went on an excursion to a supermarket to do some Pesach shopping.

When I say “excursion”, that is slightly misleading. Continue reading


Trackers – Deon Meyer

Set in modern South Africa, this book is a collection of different stories which the author crafts into one very different novel. Each story gives a new perspective on the country and its many challenges, wound around a strong thriller like core. However, it does not seem that way until you get to the end, so the structure may put some readers off. Because of the quality of the writing, and the enthralling stories on offer, it was a real page turner for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Characters? Plenty! There’s the downtrodden suburban housewife who suddenly rebels;   the hard nosed bodyguard who accepts the job of helping to smuggle a rhinoceros, to save it from slaughter; the local criminal gang, flexing its muscles, every way it can; an Al Qaeda group planning something big; a government spy agency fighting the country’s enemies and its own war for survival inside the bureaucracy; and the former policeman freshly minted as a private detective. The book is full of good characters. Some are from the author’s earlier books, but you do not need to have read them first. (But you should read them!)

Meyer’s portrait of South Africa comes across as authentic. As I have commented previously, he paints it – warts and all – with a clear eye for detail, atmosphere, and love of the place. He knows it is not perfect, but it is his. The beauty, the tragedy, the violence, and the modern history of the country are sympathetically, but realistically, packaged. In short, the setting is a fine pillar of the novel.

The only caveat on offer, is that if you have not read a Deon Meyer book before, do not start here. The structure is so unique, that it would be a shame to put you off, just because of that. He is an excellent writer, and this book is a good reflection of his ability. However, I fear the structure limits the impact, and that’s why I would not recommend it above all his other material I have read. It is good. It is also different – too different for some tastes.

Score: 8/10



Alternate reality

Is it just me who finds this sort of Guardian nonsense offensive:


Check out the subtitle:

“Israeli police says rockets fired at Sderot”

What does that mean? Do the Guardian not trust the Israeli police? Does it mean the rockets do not exist in the world of the Guardian – even though Abbas condemned the rocket fire? Is it intended to be offensive for the sake of it? If there had been – heaven forbid! -a Guardian journalist in Sderot, wounded in such rocket fire, would that still have been the headline?

It’s a small example of a big problem. These guys live in another reality – except it is not real.


The ‘Arab Spring’ and tolerance…

…may be incompatible. Check out this Times of Israel headline:


You can read the whole thing, here.

While this type of event is the norm throughout the Middle East, and largely goes unreported – or if reported is deemed unremarkable – the prospects of progress in any peace talks are not good. Not good at all. When will the West ‘get’ this?


Nobody home?

There does not appear to be anybody home at Harry’s Place; the  web site has been offline for about a day. Going to produces this result:


They had been forced offline at least once before by a deliberate attack on their system, after which they had hoped to have beefed up their network security. Alas, something appears to have gone wrong.

It seems that there are people out there who do not value free speech; or not the type that contradicts their belief system. Whoever could it be this time?

Here’s hoping the HP people are back home, sooner rather than later.