Dangerous writing, and the variety of variables

From an interview with writer Guy Gavriel Kay in the May edition of Locus magazine:

“It’s very dangerous to talk to any writer, any artist, and believe them if they lay out a thematic, systemic explanation of their trajectory. No man or woman doing the arts can be trusted when they explain that they knew exactly what they were doing, and this is why and how it happened. We’re winging it, book by book, and we are at the mercy of a random variety of variables that will kick in as to whether something succeeds or doesn’t.”

The whole interview is worth reading. Locus magazine’s website is here. (If you are a science fiction or fantasy reader, Locus is a pretty good investment.)


On our way to Timbuktu


After a gap because of my UK trip, we finally had a home game session, with Azriel, Peleg, Roslynn, and Sheer joining me.

Peleg was first and so we did a quick two player game of Hey that’s my fish. Then Azriel and Roslynn arrived and we did a four player game of it.

Finally Sheer turned up, and we moved on to the main event of the night: Timbuktu.  I was the only one who had played it before, so first up was the rules explanation.

In this game, you start with a number of camels loaded with goods. Each round – one per player – thieves steal some of the goods. Each player knows where one of the thieves will strike, and during the round gets to know where two more will be. Also, all players know the potential combinations of where the thieves will be. So, you have to move your camels – with imperfect knowledge – and hope to get to the end of the rout with the most valuable cargo. Your moves are limited, but you can expand your Each good (there are five types) is worth as many points as lost and stolen goods of that type.

Roslynn seemed to get things sorted out the best, and right up until the last round was well ahead. Unfortunately for her, the last round went wrong, and Peleg turned out to be the winner. Tough luck on Roslynn, but well played Peleg. Azriel and I were well behind, and Sheer was neck and neck with Roslynn.

We finished with R-Eco, and Azriel pretty well cleaned our clocks.

Thanks to all who came for contributing to another fine night of gaming entertainment.



Gaming catchup


When in the UK, I managed to get some gaming in.

Steven Gladstone and I played Camel Up. It’s a racing and betting game, with a decent mix of luck and decision making. By the time we had finished the first round, I was ten points behind, so I was never going to win. But I did narrow the gap at the end down to three or four, and it was great fun. It’s not for those who hate the effects of luck, because the random element is substantial. But it’s a good antidote to analysis heavy gaming.

Later in the trip, Steven, Richard, Liam and I played Hey that’s my fish. This is a light filler game involving penguins on a diminishing ice floe. As you move your penguin, you grab fish and damage the ice floe. Cool game. Steven won that one.

Then, Steven and I played the interesting Flip City. It is a deck building game for two, with a twist, or rather, a flip. You upgrade your cards by turning them over to the other side. The theme is about city building, and it works quite well. It is a good two player game, and I am keen to try it again, as I am sure (despite winning) I have only scratched the surface of its potential.


Biking catchup


On 20 May 2016, Susan and I took part in the Jerusalem biking event. Thousands of people of all ages and sizes joined in the fun. There were multiple distances, and we opted for the 40 km route because we though the 50 km would be too long for us, and the 40 km matched our training route length (from the house to Tel Aviv namal). This was the third time I had taken part, and Susan’s second. Shosh couldn’t be there this year, but we are hoping next year we will all be back together again. Both Susan and I managed much improved performances, making the complete run with no stops, and in much faster time. To say that we were flying high afterwards would be a bit of an understatement! The highlight of the biking year.

The next week we flew to the UK, and managed two Sunday morning sessions of mountain biking at Peaslake. It’s a rural area south of London, with one village shop, and one bike shop for rentals, essential purchases, and so on. The first Sunday we went with Richard, and the second with Liam. We rode the routes Yoghurt Pots, Telegraph Line, and Barry Knows Best, all of which reminded Susan and I of our Glentress riding experiences. The setting was exquisite, and the riding was fun. There are many other routes there and thereabouts. Highly recommended. But Glentress is still tops.

Now we are back home, I have managed one run out to the namal, and we both did a crappy spin class. It’s a bit tricky because of the heat, but hopefully over the next few weeks and months we will get some more biking in before the wedding. (And that’s all I am going to mention about the wedding for now.)


Typo of the week

From the Ynet article about Fox Sports journalist Emily Austen, who was fired from her job as a sideline reporter last weekend after telling some stories – including one about “stingy Jews” – to Barstool Sports:

The writer [Austen], who covered the Orlando Magic and Tampa Bay Rays, finally added her anti-Semitic comments about “stingy Jews,” saying “I just didn’t care about the way I spoke to Jews in Boca (Raton, Florida),” she said, describing her time as a waitress.

“They would complain about everything. I gave one guy a bear, and he complained that there was too much head on it. I knew that he was crazy stingy, and that he wouldn’t leave me a tip,” she said.

I’m not quite sure what I would do if a waiter gave me a bear, with or without a head…

The whole piece is here.


UNHRC calling?

From the Jerusalem Post article about the address by Eviatar Manor, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, speaking to the Human Rights Council on day two of its 32nd session:

In a short, but highly charged speech he accused the UNHRC of overly focusing on Israel’s actions against the Palestinians at the expense of other more serious human rights situations in the Middle East.

“Politicized debates, biased resolutions, preposterous reports, discriminatory conduct and unfounded accusations characterize the attitude of this Council and of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights towards Israel,” Manor said.

The Israeli Ambassador took particular issue with a UNHRC mandate that alleged Israeli human rights violations must be addressed at every session under Agenda Item 7. Israel is the only country that is singled out in this way. All other human rights issues around the world are addressed under Agenda Item 4.

“This Council’s priorities are wide off the mark,” said Manor.

How is it, that it has “an agenda item specifically dedicated to my country when the tragedies of Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, to name but a few, are unfolding and producing a tsunami of refugees about to engulf Europe?” Manor said.

“And you expect us to take you seriously?,” he asked.

On target!

Note the cracking sting in the tail:

He ended with a few lines of attack against the council charging that it “has never cared for the human rights of Israelis.”

Manor further charged that the UNHRC “needs a moral compass” and that it “does not and will not contribute to peace in our region.”

He urged the UNHRC members to weigh his words.

“Think about it, and call me if you change your minds. You can find me at +972 -77-430-4703,” Manor said.

UNHRC calling? I doubt it.

Read it all here.


Five for Friday

Tel Aviv skyline in reflection - March 2010

Tel Aviv skyline in reflection – March 2010

It’ may seem difficult to avoid the feeling that the dreadful terror attack in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night threatens to overwhelm the ordinary day-to-day joy of life in Israel. Difficult, but not impossible. Difficult, but the people of Israel have done it before, and may have to do it again. So we defeat the terror by going on with our lives as normal, and the terrorists can go to hell. We fight the good fight, peacefully. And we celebrate Shabbat (and on Saturday evening we will celebrate Shavuoth) and birthdays, and anniversaries, and births, and weddings, and engagements, and whatever. We always have done, and we always will.  And, all the time, we keep a small silent space in our hearts (and our collective memory) for the victims and their loved ones. May they be spared sorrow for many years to come.

I didn’t enjoy writing that paragraph. Reading it was no less painful. But it had to be done before I would be able to return to the regular beat. And that means, the regular weekly selection of links. Here they are:


This is one of my favorite youtube videos, and a cracking Shabbat melody to enjoy. Have a good one.

Shabbat Shalom!



Blogging has been light because I was away abroad (Glasgow and London) for a couple of weeks. We were catching up with family who are unable to travel to the wedding, did a cemetery visit, and some shopping. OK, a lot of shopping. Basically, having lost a lot of weight, I had a whole wardrobe of clothes that were way too big for me. So, some local charities benefited from the clear out, and some UK shops benefited from the restock. We also did some great biking. I will try and do a separate post about that over the next wee while. Thanks to Richard & Sarah for hospitality and more. And thanks to Susan for organizing a great trip, and being such a patient clothes counselor.

Meantime, it’s good to be back HOME, and in something of a routine.


Back to 1973

Trouble at Suez

Trouble at Suez

This is not so much On the Table, as Been on the Table a While, and now it’s coming off. It is John Prados‘s game on the Sinai front of the Yom Kippur War, published by GMT Games back in 1995. Only recently have I got past reading the rules, finally managing to play to completion a couple of the scenarios (of the five, plus campaign game, provided).

The physical components are not bad, the highlight being the excellent map by Joe Youst, scaled at 2.5 miles per hex. The 700+ counters are half inch, double sided, and color coded for side and formation. Unit sizes vary from company to brigade, with a good spread of unit types and differentiation. The game aids are reasonably clear, and the rulebook and playbook are above average. That’s not to say the rules are trouble free – they are not – but you can get a handle on the way the game is supposed to play, leaving only some annoying little details to figure out. Game turns are two per 24 hours, with no air activity in the night part.

The sequence of play is lengthy, but straightforward. It starts with a Political Step (for the campaign) to take care of aspects such as intervention, and ceasefire. Daylight turns then have a Maintenance Step, mostly having the players deal with their air units – there is an extensive air system – as well as SAM repair and replacement. The Israeli player will cry as he sees some badly needed air units mandated for service on the Golan front.

There then follows the usual movement and combat, with extra phases for air strikes, bombardment, reserve movement, and exploitation.

The historical campaign featured an Egyptian attack that surprised the Israeli defenders, and established a secure foothold on the east bank of the Suez. Israeli attempts to use overrun style tactics from their 1967 success were bloodily repulsed due to the surprising resilience of the Egyptian soldiers, and their anti-tank missiles and other defenses. The Israeli air force found itself up against an effective SAM umbrella. Over time, with new tactics based on the experience of the early encounters, and with the benefit of USA supplies and rearmament – especially TOW anti-tank missiles – the Israelis managed an effective counterattack, pouncing on a break in the line to cross to the western side of the Suez Canal, and ultimately threaten to eliminate an entire Egyptian Army.

So far as I can tell, based on solitaire plays of a couple of the scenarios, the game system does a good job of portraying these factors (and others) in a playable format. However, some of the rules are clunky, with too many exceptions, and the details can threaten to overwhelm the player. (or at least, this player!) That is why it has taken me so long to actually muster up the courage to play the  game.

I played the Across Suez scenario (the opening attack on 6-7 October) and that ended in a huge Egyptian victory. Then I played The Battle of Chinese Farm (15-17 October) and that ended in a draw.

Overall I had a good time. Here are some likes and dislikes.


  • Seeing the action on the map gives you a good sense of the situation; for example, at the start of the campaign, the Israeli forces are minuscule. The game shows how thin the margin was between defeat and victory.
  • The system highlights the vulnerability of tanks, and shows the impact of changes in weaponry (TOW) and tactics (combined arms stacks, instead of tank only ones).
  • The crossing of the canal, complete with bridging operations,is detailed enough to be interesting, without being unnecessarily complex.
  • The SAM umbrellas are there in all their glory.
  • There are rules for tank recovery from eliminated tank steps that add something extra, easily.
  • Artillery is important; vulnerable, but important.
  • The scenarios look to give a view across the whole campaign, without having to tackle it all. But if you want to, it’s there.
  • The campaign game starts with the Egyptian player having the initiative, but allows the Israeli player to take the initiative dependent on certain events.
  • The political rules are not overwhelming, but seem fit to deliver a more enthralling experience. For example, players may be faced with tough decisions about breaching a ceasefire to try and secure a bigger win.
  • The notes in the playbook – developer’s, historical commentary, and tactical – are a rich source of material to help you get more out of the game.


  • The Israeli superiority in leadership is reflected by giving them more leaders, rather than better leaders. That seems a bit clunky to me. Maybe it would be a waste to have lots of zero rated Egyptian leaders, though.
  • The rules for hasty attacks are fiddly with too many exceptions.
  • The rules could have been sharper. The errata is essential.
  • There are some counter errors; fairly easily sorted, but annoying.
  • No bibliography.


  • Command and control rules work, but have a fair number of exceptions.
  • Ground combat has a SNAFU system that allows things to go wrong. It works, OK, but could have been streamlined.
  • Ground combat is mandatory between adjacent units. I am unsure about this.
  • The air game is detailed, demanding, and tricky. I would have preferred an easier system.


I would have liked to see the same, or a similar system, deal with the Golan front. That will never happen now. But given the paucity of games on the subject, perhaps it might not be too much to dream about an updated version – improved counter graphics, some streamlining of the more clunky rules, perhaps an optional simplified air system, and cleaner rules.


Free speech of the week


On a whim, I bought this week’s print edition of the Economist. As usual, it is full of well written, well edited, informative and interesting material from across the world. In general, its opinion pieces are solid and well argued. Although its Israeli coverage has become too much of a Guardian imitator, it remains the best quality print journalism I have read.

This week’s edition leads on free speech and censorship. The opinion piece Under attack includes this gem:

One strongman who has enjoyed tweaking the West for hypocrisy is Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of Turkey. At home, he will tolerate no insults to his person, faith or policies. Abroad, he demands the same courtesy – and in Germany he has found it. In March a German comedian recited a satirical poem about him “shagging goats and oppressing minorities” (only the more serious charge is true). Mr Erdogan invoked an old, neglected German law against insulting foreign heads of state. Amazingly, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has let the prosecution proceed. Even more amazingly, nine other European countries still have similar laws, and 13 bar insults against their own head of state.

Think about the highlighted text. It’s a clever swipe at Erdogan; one that will have his political opponents smirking, and the man himself fuming. And, at the same time, it adds to the points being made about freedom of speech. Well done to the Economist.