Adventures in Arizona – Monday

Part of setup materials from Grognard Simulations' game called Incredible Courage: Waterloo

Part of setup materials from Grognard Simulations’ game called Incredible Courage: Waterloo

Day two of the Incredible Courage: Waterloo game saw some surprising developments.

The French had clearly decided they were going to take their time so far as Hougomont was concerned, and were content to nibble away at the defenses, hex by hex. However, in the center, bursting through their won artillery batteries, came the Old Guard. These legendary fighters plowed right through the first line of Allied defenders, only to be beaten back by a combination of top quality British Guard Infantry and heavy cavalry. Normally, the Guard are retained for later in the day. But Napoleon in our game was throwing caution to the wind.

On the Allied front, we thought that repulse would force the French to stop and think. Instead, the Guard licked their wounds and came back for more. And, at the same time, were supported by major offenses on either side of them. Suddenly the whole Allied line of defense east of La Haye Sainte was crumbling. Wellington and company raced to try and reform a cohesive line.

The Prussians, meantime, had arrived. Unfortunately for Wellington, the early arrivals are not the best of troops and Napoleon had sent out a considerable high quality force to keep them from doing any mischief while the rest of the French forces battered the Allied defenders. It rather looked as if the Prussians were going to be forced to wait for more troops to arrive before they can even attempt a serious thrust to help Wellington.

That’s where we are at the end of play today, for which the following picture hopefully gives you some further idea.



Adventures in Arizona – Sunday


And so, to battle. My game to start the con is Grognard Simulations’ Incredible Courage: Waterloo. It is a game done with 100 yard hexes, 10 minute turns, and company/battalion and squadron/regiment sized units.

On the Allied side, Chris Fasulo (left flank), Vinnie Fasulo (Prussians) and me (right flank). On the French side, John Foy (right flank) and Clark Daggs (left flank).

The first action consisted of the French hastily sending out couriers to cancel the orders to assault Hougomont. They wanted to take a different approach. Then they sent out a couple of cavalry divisions towards the Allied left flank (and the entry zone for the Prussians). The French First Corps joined the action with a drive at Smohain, then northwards. In addition, the French formed a huge artillery mass south of La Haye Sainte. They cleared that outpost with a deadly fire, and kept the Allied guns quiet.


The Allied response was to shift some cavalry to the left flank, but not to engage, while pulling the main infantry line of defense off the ridge and away from the deadly French artillery. At the same time, the French reignited their desire to take Hougomont, and so it looks like we (the Allies) will be facing a three pronged assault.

Time is on our side, but we will need the Prussians to make an impact pretty much as soon as they arrive.

The game is easy to play, even if the mechanisms are a little unusual. The main practical handicap was that Chris forgot to bring the Order of Battle charts, so it took a bit longer to separate out the troops. I’m having a ball.


Adventures in Arizona – Shabbat


Although Consimworld Expo was not due to officially start until Sunday, organizer John Kranz arranged for an early setup day (today) and it has clearly been very popular. By lunchtime on Shabbat, the place was buzzing and I had already met and spoken to several gaming acquaintances. These included Chris Fasulo, owner of Grognard Simulations and host of the Waterloo game I plan on starting the week with. So, there was a fair bit of chat about games, games, and more games.

One of the joys – and it lasts throughout the con – is walking around, looking at the huge variety of games people play. I will try and get some pictures taken and posted.


Adventures in Arizona – Friday

[Background: I have traveled to Arizona for the forthcoming ConsimWorld Expo, a gathering of gamers. The plan is for me to blog about the games, of course, but also little snippets of my general experiences here. Well, that’s the plan.]

I spent Thursday travelling. I left the house at 5.00 AM and, subjectively, got to my hotel in Scottsdale Arizona about 4.00 AM Friday, having gone first to Heathrow, then Phoenix.

The flight was remarkably easy, and I managed a decent amount of sleep. The kosher food served was even edible, apart from the meat in the main course. (If the IDF is ever looking for a new supplier of boot leather, tell them to get in touch.)  There was so much food, however, I did not go hungry.

I had a very pleasant surprise during the stopover at Heathrow; after passport control and before security, in the transfer area, I bumped into Yan Tiefenbrun en route home from the Paris Air Show. I was in another world, trying to tune out the general hassle, and it was Yan who spotted me. It was so good to see him (and his colleague, Michael) and spend time before they caught the flight to Glasgow. (No, I was not tempted to join them.)

I had not been able to get a room at the convention hotel for Thursday night, so took the opportunity of booking a room in Scottsdale so as to do a bit of looking around at a different part of the Phoenix area. Old Scottsdale, in particular, is very touristy – in a nice sort of way.


  • I stayed in the Hyatt Place in Old Scottsdale. The room was big, clean, fresh, comfortable, and had all I needed. The staff were pleasant and helpful.  (No, this is not a paid endorsement; it was a nice play to stay, and I wanted to give them a mention.)
  • Everything of interest was in walking distance. If you feel suicidal. It was so hot, that walking was not really practical.
  • I took a cab to Scottsdale Fashion Square, a huge modern mall with lots and lots of shops. To my inexperienced, 99% were chain stores of one type or another.
  • There’s a free bus service round the Scottsdale area, so I used that to head to my next stops which were within a short enough distance of each other so as to allow perambulation.
  • Guidon Books is a wonderful store specializing in American Civil War and Western history. I picked up David Powell’s book on the Chickamauga campaign.
  • Poisoned Pen is another wonderful store, this one specializing in crime. I had to hold back here, but did manage some purchases for reading over Shabbat.

Although I enjoy reading on my tablet, and love the convenience of being able to get books electronically, instantly, I still very much enjoy browsing and buying in real bookshops. And, of course, there is still nothing quite like reading a (physical) book.

I could have spent hours in these shops, but time was against me, as I needed to get to the convention hotel in time to get set for Shabbat.

I now realize I did not take a single picture; I was too busy trying to take in the sights and sounds, and clearly was not in camera mode. A shame, because there are parts of Scottsdale that I wish I had more time to explore and photograph. For example, there’s an interesting waterfront development. Next time! It is more important I get pictures of the games at ConsimWorld Expo.


Blood on Snow – Jo Nesbo

First, a consumer warning: this is a short book, more properly described as a novella than a novel.

Second, you are likely to read it in one sitting, but that’s not (only) because it is short; it’s because it is a great read.

Now, what are we talking about?

This is a 1970’s set crime story, told mainly from the first person perspective of a fixer (aka a killer) who is somewhat unusual. I won’t spoil any of the experience to be gained by discovering the character for yourself. Suffice it to say, there are some interesting aspects and ideas touched on.

This character has a love interest that he has never properly pursued: a girl he saved from the fallout of her relationship with a doomed junkie.

But there’s about to be a shock to the killer’s world, as the relationship with his sole employer is tested.

The writing style is somewhat different from Nesbo’s other books, and draws you well into the world view of the protagonist. But do not be deceived by the gentle narrative, for it is laced with a a surprise or two, and the odd morale challenge. And the proverbial dilemma of how much the reader should trust a subjective narrative is nicely handled here.

In short (ahem) this is a fine piece of character driven crime fiction, that is well worthy of your time. Up and coming or potential writers would do well to study it carefully, for there are many treasures within its simple facade.


President Rivlin and President Obama

First, some background.

To most objective observers, Arutz Sheva is on the right of the political spectrum in Israel. The far right to some. It is not mainstream, and so far as I can tell from anecdotal evidence, has a somewhat restricted audience.

It occasionally publishes worthwhile material, but such as with the venomous Guardian, you need to wade through a lot of dross.

And in that regard, it is important to note that so often as is practically possible, I try not to ‘shoot the messenger.’ In other words, I want to look at the story, check the facts, and think about it for myself, before I reject something just because it has been written by a particular person, or published in a particular place.

Now down to business.

President Rivlin has some tough shoes to fill. Peres seemed to be able to step between the cracks most nimbly. Rivlin has made a decent start, but with one or two cracks very definitely stood on. For example, his encounter with the Conservative religious movement was not handled well. On the other hand, I thought he was statesmanlike with the issue of discrimination against the Ethiopians.

Rivlin won’t cowtow to Bibi, and on several occasions has said things that put hime in direct conflict with the Prime Minister. So Bibi’s supporters are not always Rivlin supporters.

Arutz Sheva has an article about Rivlin’s marking of Jordanian Independence Day:


If you read the article, you will get the flavor of Arutz Sheva’s dislike of Rivlin or the Jordanians or both. Some of the points made are valid. But it is not fair to criticize Rivlin for being a diplomat and avoiding controversy. There was no need for Rivlin to create a storm by rubbing the Jordanians’ noses in it. However, I do hope that in private sessions, Rivlin will make clear how Israel views some of the nonsense Jordan has been getting up to.

But if you view the Arutz Sheva home page, you will see how somebody has decided to add a telling caption to the synopsis:


You may take it that “Our own Obama?” is not an indication of respect for either Obama or Rivlin. It is telling that people with this political viewpoint are trying to suggest Rivlin may be as bad as Obama. (And if the leaks from Michael Oren’s new book are half true, Obama has been bad, bad, bad towards Israel.) This little mark is a useful reminder of the issues that loom large in Israeli politics. Here there are also undercurrents of racism or Islamaphobia: Rivlin is like Obama because he is sympathetic, or not at war with Islam the religion. And in these quarters, that’s not a plus.

There’s nothing significant in the events reported on, but it is probably material that Rivlin can expect this type of comparison (and insult!) from the right. He won’t care, for now. But he will know these are the risks of being in his role. One veteran Israeli told me that Rivlin will do whatever he thinks is right (correct!) regardless of the criticism, and will make efforts to take the Israeli public with him. Clearly that includes the Arab citizens. So his remarks about Islam are not just window dressing.

Definitely a case of ‘watch this space’ for further developments.


Who’s on first?

Maybe it was only a matter of time. Hacking can be a risky venture, but with the potential of big rewards. And when there’s already big money at stake – like in the world of professional baseball – it makes sense that somebody would try to use technology to gain an edge. As the Washington Post reports:

St. Louis Cardinals under investigation by FBI in hack of Houston Astros

Some detail:

The FBI and Justice Department are investigating members of the front office of the St. Louis Cardinals to determine whether the organization hacked the computer network of the Houston Astros in order to steal player personnel information.

An investigation is “ongoing,” a federal law enforcement official told The Post’s Ellen Nakashima. There’s “a lot of work going into” the investigation, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the probe is underway.

Generally speaking, officials and experts say, the tools to hack someone else’s network are readily available online. “By itself, it doesn’t represent anything illegal,” the official said. But once a person intrudes into another person’s computer system without permission, “you’ve crossed the magical line,” the official said. Accessing someone’s computer without authorization is a federal crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

This is the first suspected case of corporate espionage in which a professional sports team has allegedly hacked the network of another team, according to the New York Times, which first reported the investigation.

And some context:

How serious is a cybersecurity breach in a sport with a rich history of stolen signs, illegal pitches and corked bats? An executive with another team, who asked to remain anonymous because of the ongoing investigation, told The Post that such a breach would be taken extremely seriously.

“There’s so much proprietary analysis, and the teams that do this sort of thing each have their own magic, secret formula for how they evaluate players, people, systems – all kinds of things,” the executive said. “For another team to have that, for whatever their purposes, is an unbelievable advantage for the other team.”

Fascinating. It does seem that many big businesses do not take cyber security seriously. Perhaps more stories like this will change that attitude.

[First seen at the BBC.]


Goodbye John


Bittersweet night as Amiram, Peleg, Sheer, and I said goodbye to John as he prepares to return to home back in the USA. He’s been terrific company, and we will miss his ever pleasant disposition. But we live in hope that he will return.

So far as the games are concerned, here’s what happened.


We started with No Thanks (aka Geschenkt) which is a handy light filler in which you try to avoid collecting cards by paying coins. Unfortunately, you only have a limited number of coins. John and Sheer struggled with the idea, first time around, and I won quite comfortably.


Then onto a favorite, Ticket to Ride: Europe. Sheer pulled off a surprise sudden ending of the game that smashed any chances Amiram, Peleg, and I had. However, John’s completion of an incredible ten tickets meant he was right up there. It was only the longest route bonus that edged Sheer ahead so he could claim the win.


Next up, Ivanhoe. This was new to everyone except me, but it is not a difficult game and play was soon well under way.  The highlight was seeing Peleg race ahead to three tokens. (Four are needed for the win.) Then, in a stroke of genius, John changed the color of the combat round so that Peleg’s fourth win was invalid because he already had the color. That stroke, however, allowed Sheer to win. Everyone – except me – was in with a chance, and there was a lot of laughter round the table as fortunes ebbed and swayed.

Finally, back to No Thanks. This time John managed to avoid buying too many cards and so won his final game in the group. Way to go, John. It’s been fun having you in the group.

And goodbye.