Fighting in France, 1940

On the table, probably one of the most gorgeous looking games I have ever seen, La Bataille de France, 1940, designed by Juan Carlos Cebrian and Nicolas Eskubi, and produced by Compass Games.

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It’s a platoon level game, with hexes representing 150-200 meters, and turns of 12-15 minutes of real time.

If you cannot work out the topic, I humbly suggest wargaming is not for you…

It uses alternating activations, with leaders and associated formations, giving you a good mix of units, situations, and scenario sizes.

I may try and do a more detailed post later, so for now will just say I am having a good time with this, trying to get used to the system, and to crack the tactical problems presented in the couple of scenarios I have played so far.

If you want to know more, meantime, go here.

Finally, it’s worth emphasizing the great support given in Consimworld so far as answering rules questions, queries, and the like.

 

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The String Diaries – Stephen Lloyd Jones

This is a horror type thriller about a shapeshifter hunting down his enemies, through the generations. That’s not what you get when you start reading, but that is where you end up. So, first off, plus points for the change in direction from the (well done) opening passages straight out of a regular thriller that describe Hannah Wilde’s desperate attempts to get to refuge in Snowdonia before her husband dies from his wounds.

From then one, we get alternating threads of the story. There’s a thread set in the 1970s about Professor Charles Meredith and the strange French girl who takes his favorite place in the library, annoys, and intrigues him. Then, the thread about the Hosszu Eletek, and the background of the man who will become Jakab, the bigass baddie.

The back story and emergence of Jakab are not bad at all, but from too early on he becomes something of a caricature. His mania is beyond belief, and is not sustainable because his character development stops dead in its tracks (if you will excuse the metaphor) and he is there as an off scene element.

It’s a similar case with the other characters, who start off well enough, but become somewhat annoying. Hannah is good as she rushes to beat the clock and save her husband. Then she turns into a vehicle for screams and terror, rather than a telling of the story.

As for the string diaries of the title, they were a big disappointment.

And that’s what the book left me with: a sense of disappointment. The cliff hanging chapter endings – though sometimes overdone – were exciting and got me involved in the story. But there was not enough to maintain the interest. The initial disclosure of the ideas was good, but I just did not feel that the author had got the most out of them. It also dragged a bit at the end, and badly missed more spark in the final scenes.

All in all, a missed opportunity.

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Elliot’s funeral

You got quite a crowd, Elliot. And a fair few shedding tears for your passing. There were a lot of hespedim (eulogies) – more than I had experienced before – but they were a blessing. The hespedim shone a light on the range of your good characteristics, good deeds, and fine examples, and brought back happy memories of your life, of your vibrant, infectious, happy spirit. I am grateful that I came to know you, and shared some moments of Torah and baseball. You were one of a kind, and you’ll be missed.

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Five for Friday

Because of Shavuoth (Sunday) this was a short work week, making it seem like an even faster sprint to the weekend. And it was also the week of Susan’s birthday which we celebrated with a night out at Sarah-Lee & Tomer’s cinema. We saw The Judge, a feisty little film about family, law, loyalty, and death. Unfortunately, the death part has been a bit of a theme this week, with some all too early tragic losses occurring. May those families be spared sorrow for many years to come.

Whatever happens, as we quickly learn, life goes on. The world does not stop. So, I won’t try and resist that tide. As usual, I offer the following mix of links to mark the arrival of the weekend. Have a good one.

Shabbat Shalom!

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It’s a plot!

As you may have heard, the USA authorities are pursuing corruption allegations against FIFA.

As Harry’s Place highlights, some in the anti-Israel brigade see this is a conspiracy, given the current moves by the Palestinians to get Israel thrown out of FIFA:

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I have not linked to the Stopper website.

Meantime, in the world of twitter, there is plenty conspiratorial material (being polite) inspired by the situation:

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Really? There’s worse:

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Hasbara?

And we all know what Zionist is a code word for.

The state of the world today.

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Long haul

This week’s session was an intense encounter with Terra Mystica by John, Sheer, and me.

It was just as well there were only three of us; the box says playing time is 30 minutes per player, but in our case it proved to be 60 minutes per player, making for a long game. However, it was our first session with this meaty, meaty game, and in subsequent plays we should be able to cut it down to 55 minutes per player. And no, that’s not a joke.

terramystica

Terra Mystica is a resource management and worker placement game, with several straightforward enough mechanics knitted together to make for a challenging whole. There is a lot to it – for example, the rules explanation including setup was close to an hour – but, as usual, once you have a couple of turns under your belt, it’s much more accessible.

The game is played in six rounds. In each round there is a scoring bonus for doing certain actions (like creating a particular building type) and a cult bonus (for having influence in a particular one of the four cults). On the main board, you are trying to develop your settlement. You are one of 14 races, each with its own special quirk. For example, I was the Witches, and on building a certain structure, that enabled me to freely settle one new space each turn. I think John was the Nomads and Sheer was the Alchemists.

There are eight actions (plus bonuses) available, and you need to gather in and combine power, money, workers, and priests as resources, and use them for these actions. You need to settle the land (which has different types, only one of which suits your tribe) using spades, another resource that you can acquire in certain circumstances.

Each round, you take an action in turn, and keep taking actions as long as you want to. When you drop out, you hand in your old mini bonus tile and pick up a new one. The first player to drop out gets to be the new first player in the next round.

You score points during the game and at the end. You can generally see what is going on, and I suspect that in some games there might be more of ‘kill the leader’ than we experienced.

In short, you are trying to do a lot, with never enough of what you need to do that, and all the time you want to do it better than the other players. In that regard, there is some player interaction – for example, in racing to get the special actions first, and in settling spaces that are attractive to others. However, the competitive elements are not overdone, and that aspect of the balance of the game quite appealed to me.

In our game, Sheer managed to get his pieces combining well ahead of the rest of us, and he was the eventual winner, though not by much. John and I were close behind.

So, after three hours of play, the general conclusion was that we would play it again, but not with a fourth. That would be too long. It suggests there might be a better, shorter game, stuck inside this one. But as a challenging game for three committed players, this was damn fine stuff.

Thanks to John and Sheer for coming along and making for a great session.

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We do things differently here

So it appears. For example, let’s talk about our new government. What does Haviv Rettig Gur, writing at the Times of Israel, have to say about the topic:

“And it is true that Israel’s new government, its 34th in 67 years, takes some explaining. The list of seemingly incoherent appointments is a long one. The minister of justice has no background in law, the minister of science none in science, the minister of tourism is also in charge of the police and prisons. There is a full minister in the Communications Ministry, but he’s not the communications minister; that title is reserved for the prime minister, who is also the minister of health (but promises not to act as such) and of foreign affairs, a portfolio effectively leaderless at a time of growing diplomatic tensions. The absorption minister is also the strategic affairs minister, while the transportation minister is also in charge of a newly christened “Intelligence Ministry.” And on and on.”

And if you think that’s bad, try this out:

“Billions of shekels are now promised to the Education Ministry and various welfare agencies — not because anyone sat down and worked out what exactly was needed in each place, but because ministers demanded it as a condition for taking their posts. Countless millions are now being promised to the police, if only Erdan [Likud’s number two, Gilad Erdan] agrees to join the government. If Erdan chooses to stay out, in a flagrant challenge to Netanyahu’s authority, then by the magical logic of coalition-building the Israel Police apparently no longer need the money.”

As we speak, presumably there are teams of consultants from the Israeli Police, camped outside Erdan’s office, giving him 1,001 reasons why he must – absolutely must – join the government.

The situation is not good. It does not make for good government, and it seems a miracle that anything is achieved in this chaotic environment. But stuff is achieved. Yes, we do things differently here.

Read it all, and wonder.

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The Stranger – Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben is a gifted writer who knows how to grab the reader by the balls, and grip harder and harder. Sometimes his plots are so far from believable, that you can escape the grip. But when Coben gets it right, it’s a near perfect experience. This book is a terrific example of Coben near the top of his form.

Take a successful suburban family man like Adam Price. He is happily married with two kids. No marriage nor money woes. No health issues. Perfect. Introduce a stranger who exposes a lie. Watch what happens.

Corben’s setup is perfect. The twists and turns – because you never go in the direction you are thinking about – are brilliantly crafted in the main, and the excitement builds up. This is a fine perfect example of a page turner. Partly, that overcomes the one or two rough patches in the book (small, but noticeable), though Coben’s observations on this type of American lifestyle also might grate. They somehow appear as spiteful rather than thoughtful. Perhaps to balance that, Coben introduces a couple of good characters that help out when Adam Price needs help most of all.

The characterization is mostly shallow, but the action draws you in so deeply you may not notice. You may have to suspend your disbelief at one or two plot devices, but you will be rewarded by experiencing a good, entertaining, read. Not Coben’s finest, but well worth reading. But don’t start it unless you have time to finish it…

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The Doll’s House – M J Arlidge

This is the third of a crime series featuring Detective Inspector Helen Grace, a female character of some complexity and depth, and for that alone we should be grateful.

In this book, Grace – while battling internal enemies and worrying herself sick about her missing nephew – tackles a serial killer who likes to kidnap and kill young girls. We are given a good insight to the character of the latest victim, and that is some of the strongest writing in the book.

The hunt for clues and the general progress of the police investigation did not come across so well, with some of the writing very much falling into the let me tell you what’s going on here, dear reader mode. The baddie’s portrayal is a bit lackluster, too. That having been said, the author does more than enough to build up the tension nicely.

The plot was passable, the pacing – as hinted above – was good, the characters a mixed bunch, and all in all this was an OK book, rather than a great read. I have this suspicion – completely untested – that a quality editor let loose on the manuscript could have really sharpened the impact. As it was, it came across as just another crime book, with only Helen Grace to make it rise above the masses.

I won’t be reading any of the earlier books, but will probably keep an eye open for newer outings to see if things improve.

 

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The Explorer – James Smythe

Cormac Easton is the journalist added on to a crew of astronauts sent on a mission into deep space. Very quickly, things go wrong. To tell much more than that would spoil the plot, but it’s maybe safe to say that Cormac faces some tough choices.

It’s not a space opera adventure, and neither is it a hard space puzzle or mystery; there is a puzzle though, and you must be patient to await the final disclosure. What it is, is a well written, easy to read, baffling tale. You must go all the way to get the maximum reward for your effort. And if you do go all the way, it may spark some thought and reflection.

In short, it’s a gentle, unsettling read that will not be to everyone’s taste.

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