ASL Israel Event 2015

In short, it’s done, I’m back, and I survived.

I played a decent mix of scenarios (so as to vary the way in which I could lose) and, as usual, learned a lot. Great fun.

I can confirm that at least one of the scenarios from the newly arrived Hakkaa Paalle was played, twice. I won’t say who it was (no, it wasn’t me), but the first play ended on the first movement phase: a certain gamer drove a certain tank onto a certain frozen lake and a certain dice roll sent it to the bottom of the lake. Oh dear. Cue much hilarity, and a restart.

Thanks to the locals who made it possible (Daniel, Josh, and Ran) and visitors David and John for coming along.

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Five for Friday

This week we said goodbye to Yehuda, who is returning to Jerusalem from Ra’anana. We wish him well in his new home and new job. We will miss him, especially when it somes to the games group and his explanation of game rules. I reassured Yehuda we would keep in contact: I did suggest I might call him on the phone from time to time, and get him to explain the rules to a game over the phone!

So farewell, and on we must go. But first, our usual weekly stop, and a selection of links for you.

Shabbat Shalom!

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Honest Avi

“I have a feeling (I did not count, I admit, but every Israeli journalist is quite familiar with this gloomy state of affairs) that the large majority of the journalists is of Ashkenazi background, resides in Tel Aviv and lives in a left-wing bubble. We like to listen to the same radio programs that nobody in the periphery listens to, watch cool current events programs that have next to no viewers, and read the so-called “thinking people’s” newspaper (Haaretz) even though all relationship between it and the State of Israel is purely coincidental. We will sit in a cafe in downtown Tel Aviv and go on and on about Bibi and his wife without realizing that most of the country admires them.

Maybe that is because we are cut off from the State of Israel and tuned in to the State of Tel Aviv. We have no clue what is happening in Bat Yam, Holon or Ashdod, not to mention Netivot, Sderot or Kiryat Shmona.

To Likud’s joy, Labor and Meretz also have barely a clue what is happening there.”

All credit to Avi Issacharoff for his honesty, for it is his post at the Times of Israel (here) from which the above quote is taken. It’s a piece offering another explanation about why Bibi won. I think it’s a highly important piece of information that helps understand, not only why Bibi won, but the dynamic within Israeli society – or at least one of them.

We have, in the main, a media that is disconnected from the population. Sound familiar?

Foreign media, in the main, connects with Haaretz. That’s the only media establishment in town. (I suppose the UK equivalent would be the Guardian.) No wonder Israel gets a crap deal at the hand of these people.

So far as our own media is concerned, maybe that’s why they are so hateful of Israel HaYom and its pro Bibi stance? It’s a mile away from the Tel Aviv perspective.

I’d like to pretend that I can work out what this will mean in the future, but I don’t know. I suspect that the so called Yedioth Achranot (Ynet) law – effectively banning free newspapers like Israel Hayom – is dead and buried. I happen to think that’s a good thing. But what else will be impacted? I wonder how these coalition negotiations are progressing…

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March’s parking masterclass

It’s been a while, and I have tried so hard to refrain from snapping pictures of Israel’s world class parking practitioners, but this one simply demanded that I record it.

Here’s the background.

I am in Ra’anana, having parked my car in a car park. The car park has all that you would expect from a no frills car park: parking spaces with white line markers, and a ticket machine. The car park is not busy. There is plenty of space.

While I am on the phone, a driver brings their car into the car park and abandons it. The driver gets out, and walks away.

This is how it was:

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It maybe doesn’t look so bad from the back, but this next view gives you a better appreciation of the quality of this parking.

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Truly in a class of its own.

In summary: let’s take up more than one parking space, and let’s not bother about partly blocking the flow of cars around the car park. If you look closely at the background of the second photo, you can see that our practitioner of the black art was inspired by an earlier demonstration of the art.

No excuse, but great inspiration!

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A timely win

For this week’s session, I was initially joined by Amiram, John, and Roy.

We began with El Grande, an old and venerable classic game of area control.

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I ran through a quick rules explanation – Amiram had not played it before – and off we went. After a couple of rounds, John went into the lead and never looked back. He would have to look long and hard over his shoulder, as he was in front by quite a margin. For most of the game, Roy was something of a challenger, and Amiram and I were fighting it out to avoid last place! Great fun, and it fairly moves along. Well done on the win, John.

Laurie joined us late and we switched to Metro.

metro

This is a nifty tile laying game where you get points for connecting your stations to destinations. The longer the track, the more points. I explained the rules to all the other players, and play got underway.

Early scoring was bitty and conservative, as people took their time to get to grips with the game play. However, by the time we reached the mid game, everyone was keen to offer advice on tile placement so as to stab people in the back – mostly me! – and crush their spirit keep their score down.

Scoring was relatively close, with the lead switching between several of the players. However, Roy’s last connection was the top score and shot him into the winning position. Well done, Roy!

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The modern cloakroom

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Susan and I were at a lovely Sheva Brachot last night. When it was time to sit down and eat, some of the guests deposited their cellphones in the hall, rather than take them to the table. Very polite. Very nice.

Looking at the assembled phones, I was struck by the idea that this was the 21st century version of the cloakroom.

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[Many thanks to Sharon and Avi for their hospitality. And for spicing up the chicken wings!]

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Backs against the river

The  famous struggle for LW1 and LW2!

The famous struggle for LW1 and LW2 at Friedland!

On the table is the game Friedland by Joseph Miranda, about the 1807 victory of Napoleon over Bennigsen. It was touted as part of the Napoleonic Battles System, but it appears the series never progressed beyond this one game.

The game was published with Strategy & Tactics #151 (May 1992 is the cover date) which, for reasons I have never fully understood, also included Vance von BorriesVittoria – another Napoleonic battle with a completely separate (folio like) game system.

I have been trying to reorganize my S&T collection, as well as fill in the gaps, and replace some of the games that have become casualties for one reason or another. In the midst of one such reorganization session, I saw the Friedland issue and was reminded about a recent Consimworld discussion about realism in Napoleonic games. That sparked me to have a closer look at the game, as I didn’t bother to play this one the first time around.

Friedland uses half a standard sized map (the other half in the package is for Vittoria) and around 100 standard half-inch counters. Turns are an hour. There is no ground scale given. It looks to be between 500-700 yards per hex, but it would be good to know for sure.

The map and counters are nothing special, and at least do not get in the way of playing the game. The rules are, maddeningly, split into basic and advanced. Worse, they are bound in with the Vittoria rules and tables. I made a separate copy of each relevant page and assembled my own, properly ordered set.

Friedland has a top down “I go, you go” command system layered on to a divisional level view of battle.

Each side has its own turn to do command, movement, and combat. In your turn, you roll for command, starting with the army leader. If he succeeds, he is in command, and all the troops and leaders (and their subordinate troops) in his command range, act according to your wishes. You repeat the process with corps commanders out of command range of the army leader, and then for combat units out of command range of their corps commander.

Leaders can fail the command check (it’s a 1d10 roll versus leadership rating) thus rendering their troops immobile. However, there are two chaotic elements worth noting.

First, some failure results force units to be impetuous (instead of immobile) and try to move forward and attack enemy units. That can throw a bit of a spanner in the works.

Second, in the opposing side’s turn, there is a (recommended) advanced rule called reaction.  Reaction (which, optionally, can be mandatory and so even more chaotic) may also spur your units into an impetuous advance towards the enemy, or to deliver a fearsome artillery barrage to break up an attack.

There are some (expected) loose ends, such as the fact these command rules apply to artillery. Given the potential death dealing nature of artillery, and the lack of a move and fire restriction, this makes these units somewhat of a cross between foolhardy cavalry and tank spearheads.

Combat is interesting, but complex.

Part of the complexity is because there are different types of combat for each unit type. For example, infantry may attack using a linear or column combat results table (CRT), and suitably rated infantry may also use the skirmish CRT. Cavalry has a probe and a charge CRT, and artillery a plain old bombard CRT. Interestingly, none of this is odds based; it depends on the strength of the attacking unit and the relevant terrain. One nice touch is that the terrain you attack out of can have an effect. No more attacking out of rough terrain as if instantly and optimally deployed for battle.

The other part of the complexity is that the range of type combat results is wide. From the CRTs, you get results like ab, adW, d, H, P, [PC], Td, TE, TZ, W, X. No DEs on show!

The range is because the designer is trying to convey the gradual wearing down of units, the fluidity of the combat – so, for example, there are several counterattack results – and the lack of control. You get enforced advances, cavalry needing to check for restraint, and so on. However, the individual results can be hard to assimilate because you need to remember which ones depend on the presence of infantry in good order, the effect on disordered units, and so on. It works (or seems to). But it is also hard work.

And when I say it works, I mean in the context of a game because both sides are trying to master the same CRT interaction. As a simulation, I think it’s a bold try but comes up short. Primarily this is because it is possible for units to enter combat, become disordered, retire, recover, and return to the fray exactly as before.  But it is also because sometimes you can see an entire division eliminated in a single turn. (Though using an advanced rule, it is possible for an eliminated division to be returned to action.)

Incidentally, the game includes a neat disintegration rule that does show the gradual wearing down of the army with losses and certain other combat results. So, I might be too harsh and the overall effect may be better than it appears to me at the moment. I am only going on the basis of a couple of incomplete solitaire play throughs so far.

The design includes a friction rule – essentially random events – and elan markers. The elan markers allow designated units to have special, tailored effects. For example, a British unit with an elan marker (obviously not present at Friedland!) gets a two column shift on the linear CRT. A French unit with an elan marker gets a one column shift on the column CRT and a two column shift on the skirmish CRT. And so on.

There are a lot of good ideas here – some of which, I think, surfaced in the designer’s Empires at War series – and it’s a shame there wasn’t any more effort put in to the system, as it may well have been worth it. It’s crying out for some form of orders restriction, and a reworking of the combat system. It may only need some fine tuning. I doubt I’ll have the time or persistence to do anything more with the system, primarily because I prefer Napoleonic games at the brigade or battalion, rather than division level. However, one never knows. I am certainly going to keep it on the table for a bit longer.

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The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This is a gentle comedy drama about the expansion plans of an Indian hotel owner, Sonny (Dev Patel) and his British partner Mrs Donnelly (Maggie Smith). The hotel is home to ex pat elderly Brits, played with vim and vigor by the classy cast (Judy Dench, Diana Hardcastle, Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy and Ronald Pickup).

The potential US investors in the expansion warn that they will send someone out to check the operation of the existing hotel. So, the arrival of two new guests into the normally quite and settled hotel environment – Richard Gere  & Tamsin Greig – inevitably sets off a chain of events. At the same time as this is happening, Sonny is about to get married.

The film covers, with varying degrees of seriousness and reflection, growing old, love, loyalty, and life. There are moments when it teeters on the edge of sickly sentimentality, but recovers just in time, rescued by a smart line, a gentle laugh, and a fresh push in a new direction. However, there are also some scenes that are straight up, serious, and thoughtful. That may be why, occasionally, the film drags. It’s not material, and it does not spoil the enjoyment, but it’s not a smooth, uninterrupted journey. In other words, not a master work, but a nice film with an uplifting message.

There are only a few instances when I was taken aback by the beauty of the scenery. This may have been a deliberate decision, for fear the wonders of the east may have outshone the acting. That would not have happened, as while the direction very occasionally stutters, the performances – across the board – are near perfect. In other words, it’s not only the stars who deliver. The less well known Indian actors are damn good, and Sonny’s fiancee (Tina Desai) deserves a meatier role.

This is not a film I would have chosen to see, but I am glad I did. I found it to be good old fashioned, crafted, intelligent, entertainment.

 

 

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The candy these NGOs throw around

A quote from the Elder of Ziyon:

“Moreover, it proves, yet again, how far out of their depth NGOs that criticize Israel are. Without knowing what goes into military decisions, they cannot begin to come to any conclusion about the legality of any specific incident; yet they sprinkle around “war crimes” accusations like candy. They know literally nothing about military matters yet they self-righteously proclaim that the IDF is violating international law – laws that were written deliberately to allow military leaders to make exactly these kinds of decisions based on the best information they have at the time without fearing to be labeled war criminals.”

Read it all, here. Then ponder on the dreadful and substantial contribution made to anti-Israel hate and antisemitism by the likes of Amnesty and UNRWA, and the media who unhesitatingly and unquestioningly broadcast these messages. They are vile villains who profess liberal values and interest in human rights while demonizing the Jewish State.

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The Sandman – Lars Kepler

Setting: Stockholm, Sweden. (Yes, Again.)

Story: There’s a very dangerous man – serial killer Jurek Walter – locked up, on his own, in a secure psychiatric facility. One of the people believed to have been a victim (but never found) suddenly appears after seven years. He has been drugged, is babbling, suffering from hypothermia, and Legionnaires’ disease. Where’s he been? Where is his sister, believed taken at the same time? Might there be other victims still alive? In a combined effort, the police reopen their old files and send an undercover policewoman in to the unit, disguised as a patient, to try and get more information from Jurek Walter. Detective Inspector Joona Linna leads the investigation in a desperate race against time.

Good Stuff: It’s a page turner. There are some terrifying moments. When it gets going, it truly hurtles along, and it gets going fairly early on. The back story and the unwinding of the plot are expertly done. The final twist is intriguing.

Not So Good Stuff: There’s a lot of mystery and threat in the idea of the Sandman silently taking away people in the night. However, there is no explanation ever given for how it is done. You just have to accept it. The character sketching is, er, sketchy. This may be because there are other earlier books in the series that fill in the details, but I would have liked to have seen a bit more character development, or time spent on the people rather than the action. Just a little…

Score: 7/10

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