Real gaming report

[This guest post is by Steven G. Thanks for sharing, Steven.]

Saturday afternoon, Ra’ananna, Israel.

3 players: Peleg a 16 year old player who takes no prisoners, Ellis and me. And do you know what else. Silence and concentration. Can you imagine that. Silence while games are being played! And not a phone in sight!!! I will repeat silence and concentration. Who ever heard of that?

Game 1. Dominion. Ellis won. I lost

Game 2. Dominion. Ellis lost and a dead heat between the 16 year old mature beyond his years and me.

More games to follow.

And what’s more, today [Sunday] in Jerusalem, we saw a shop selling nataK which is a Hebrew version of Catan…

To our Glasgow gaming readership: count me in next week.

So long from the sunshine.

Bedlam – Christopher Brookmyre

This is a science fiction book which draws on a number of computer games for background and in-jokes. So, if you like science fiction and have any interest in computer gaming, this book is for you. For example, the lead character wakes up inside a video game he recognizes. How cool is that? But he wants to get back to the real world, and the story is about his adventures amidst the conflict in the new worlds he occupies. He faces numerous challenges, tricks, and traps, gets killed a few times – how cool is that? – and simultaneously tries to navigate a dangerous political environment.  Should he be working with the Rebels? Who are Integrity? Where are the Originals? And is there a double agent? From the start, it’s intense and involving.

The central character Ross – is Scottish, smarmy, smart, and has an acidic turn of phrase, backed up by sharp powers of observation. In fact, I suspect, a lot like Christopher Brookmyre. So I also suspect Mr B was either reliving some of his memories, or indulging in his fantasies; regardless, he was enjoying himself while writing this, and most readers who have an interest in the mentioned themes will do so as well.

For those not interested in science fiction, or turned off by computer games, despite the innovative and inventive approach the author takes, there will not be as many fans.

Now a confession: if Brookmyre had not written this, I doubt I would have been interested. But this author is a talented guy who can take dangerously hackneyed themes and inject vitality and freshness the way few others can. I was not disappointed here.

Score: 8/10.

Syria, the nun, and the media

From Cranmer:

Mother Agnes Mariam el-Salib is a Melkite Catholic nun who has lived and worked in Syria for 20 years. She is Mother Superior of St James’ Monastery in Qara, and has compiled a comprehensive, compelling and persuasive report into the photographs and videos coming out of Syria being used by President Obama, David Cameron and François Hollande to justify punitive action against President Assad and his forces for the alleged use of chemical weapons.

Read the report for yourself, and make up your own mind: what follows here is mere summary. She evidences photographs and video footage which are being circulated as proof that the Syrian President used sarin gas on his own people. No one doubts that a lot of children died, yet only Mother Agnes appears to have asked why there are only piles of dead children. Where are all their parents? And why do the same bodies in the same clothes keep on cropping up in different locations?

There is more:

But leave aside the politicking and powerplay, and listen to the nun, for she is concerned only with the truth. As Assad continues to deny – quite vehemently – that his regime was responsible for the gas attack, Mother Agnes highlights the hypocrisy, deception and double standards among Western governments and the Western media. On August 5th, for example, Western-backed insurgents went on a murderous rampage in several Alawite villages, killing more than 500 innocent civilians. Western governments pretended it did not happen, and the MSM obliged their governments in a conspiracy of silence.

I warn you, it does not make easy reading. But still, do read the whole thing, here.



On Shabbat, Peleg and I played a game of Nightfighter. This is another Lee Brimmicombe-Wood design, also published by GMT, using his phenomenal knowledge of WW2 aerial combat.

It uses a single-blind system, meaning the umpire knows everything – and he controls (in the main) the bomber stream. Meanwhile, the player – controlling the nightfighters – has to find, tally, and shoot down the bombers.

The rules are straightforward and layered in a programmed instruction format. So, you read a few rules and play scenario 1. You read a few more, and play scenario 2, and so on. Very thoughtfully, the designer provides several variants for each scenario, so if you cannot be bothered reading more rules, there is still a ton of playability.

We played the standard version of scenario 3 which pits a Ju88C-2 with an expert pilot against 3 Wellington Mk Ic bombers from 301 (Polish) Squadron of the Royal Air Force. I was the umpire and Peleg the nightfighter player. His radar got an early success and from there on it was unlikely the bombers would escape. I regret to report that Peleg shot down 1 and damaged 1 of the Poles. That gave him a win.  (Boo!)

Given that this is not the standard gaming fare, not every gamer will like it. As the umpire – to ensure fairness – you are restricted as to what you can do. Really you are running the game for the player who has the challenge – and the frustration, sometimes – of trying to work out where the enemy is. But, because game play is easily finished inside a short session, you can play a scenario and swap sides.

We both enjoyed it and intend playing some more. It’s not playable solitaire, but if you have a willing opponent, this may turn out to be one of your best gaming experiences.

Ignorance and evasion

This, from Norman Geras, is quite wonderful:

Unknown knowns in Iran

It’s been good to note the progress made by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as measured against his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the matter of Holocaust awareness. When it was put to Rouhani that Ahmadinejad had said the Holocaust was a myth, and how did he feel about this, his reply was: ‘I’m not a historian. I’m a politician.’ From this you might want to infer that non-historians in Iran, and the politicians among them in particular, don’t consider themselves able to say whether or not the institution of slavery ever existed in the United States of America, or whether there’s a monarchy in Britain, or whether chemical weapons were used against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, or whether indeed there was an Iran-Iraq war and whether Andy Murray won Wimbledon in 2013.

This represents not only progress from Holocaust-denial to the much more salubrious Holocaust-evasion but also a giant step towards national state-sponsored ignorance for the non-historian population of Iran, unable to know anything without doing first-hand historical research.

In other words, Rouhani – when cornered – bleated: “I know nothing!” I am prepared to take that at face value. Rouhani knows nothing about truth.

Battle Line


After the first night meal of Sukkot, Peleg and I were persuaded by Susan (she had to try so hard!) to give her peace in the kitchen by playing a game. In the time available, Battle Line (by Reiner Knizia and published by GMT) was a perfect fit.

This is one of my top two player games. It’s a good combination of luck, skill, and judgement, playable inside half an hour, and open to different strategies.

Essentially, you are competing to win the majority of 9 flags – or three in a row – using combinations of cards. You start with 7 cards, and must play and replace one card per turn. There is a separate deck of special power cards, but you can only ever play one more than your opponent, so they tend not to dominate the game.

Peleg was on fire in our game, and although I was winning by 4 flags to 3, he managed to get exactly what he needed to claim the winning 3 in a row. Well done, Peleg. But come the next game…

Does anybody here speak English?

I’ve commented before (and am sure to so again) about some of the disastrous attempts at written English you can see in Israel. For a country with so many native English speakers, it’s a disgrace. For so many of even the biggest companies, it’s worse than that – but they do not seem to care. So, in the interests of balance, when I saw this story about an illiterate web site – for a English law firm I just had to share it.


“…our clients are ensured that they get for what they pay for.”

“We are a Private Solicitors.”

Illiterate? That’s being kind. Well done, Bazeer & Co, for restoring my faith in the incompetence of UK legal education.

If this is not a joke, the responsible person should be taking a long walk off a short plank.

It’s a funny old car park

Here, many people build a sukkah for Sukkot. But not everyone has enough space. For example, in blocks of flats – especially those with small balconies – it is not unusual for there to be a communal sukkah.

We have enough space, but some of our neighbours are not so fortunate. Not for them the communal solution. Oh no.


Instead, they have taken the ‘let’s use the car park‘ approach. Interesting.

What the picture does not show you is the sign that the sukkah obscures. It’s a ‘No Parking‘ sign. Do you think it applies to a sukkah? Clearly the sukkah builders don’t think so!

I’ll try and sort out pictures of our own sukka, soon.