Baptism by Fire

On the table, as it has been for a few weeks, Baptism by Fire: MMP’s game of the Battle of Kasserine in February 1943, using Dean Essig’s Battalion Combat Series.

I am playing the campaign game solo, and having a blast.

The game system is different – very different. Although it started as a lower scale version of the designer’s lauded Operational Combat System, it is very far removed from that.

BCS is formation based, with each formation activating and acting individually. Each side alternates activations. Each formation can then use its (generally) battalion sized units to achieve its goals. There are no written orders, but command and control is well imposed, forcing you to plan ahead. In addition, formations accumulate fatigue, so pacing your troops, and giving them some rest also takes thought.

In addition, supply and areas of operation are catered for. Formations which become mixed reduce the chances of effective activation. And woe betide the formation which has its HQ thrown back or its supply line overrun.

Armor has its own niche here, engaging enemy armor and anti-tank units, while offering up the potential for shock attacks and support for common or garden assaults.

The game is not complex, but there are lots of fiddly details, and it takes time to master.

This particular battle is a good one to learn the system, as there are not as many units as the huge Last Blitzkrieg (Battle of the Bulge).

The action starts with the Axis forces rushing on to the map and cutting through woeful Allied defenses. From there, it’s a scramble for the Allies to put up a defense line, or at least delay, while the Axis hunts down units and victory point hexes. One of the twists here is that not all VP hexes count, and the Axis player only finds out which after a few turns. So, both sides have their challenges.

I haven’t been able to lay my hands on a decent book about the battle. That apart, this has been a terrific gaming experience.

The Liar – Steve Cavanagh

This is the third of the novels about con-man turned lawyer Eddie Flynn. To cut to the chase, it’s very good, though of all of them, this is my least favorite.

Flynn, whose own daughter was once kidnapped, is recruited by Leonard Howell after Howell’s daughter is kidnapped. Howell doesn’t trust the police, and he wants Eddie to help get his daughter back.

There are plenty of challenges for Flynn in another cracking tale, with a wonderfully constructed plot, and pretty near constant tension as the story is told. Slowly, but surely, the details of what lies behind the kidnap emerge. But even then, all is not what it seems.

Recommended. But read the books in order.

[Reviews: first, second, fourth.]

The Plea – Steve Cavanagh

This is the second of the novels about con-man turned lawyer Eddie Flynn. (You can see my review of the first, here.) There is a novella (The Cross) which I have not read.

Eddie is asked by the FBI to have David Child, client of a firm of New York lawyers, to testify against the firm, helping convict them of corrupt practices. There are several challenges. Flynn is not Child’s lawyer. Child is charged with murder and the FBI say he is guilty. Eddie think’s otherwise. Oh, and if Eddie won’t play ball, the evidence they have against Eddie’s wife might make him think differently.

In this complex scenario, Cavanagh pulls off the unlikely result of telling a gripping tale that is just about believable. There are twists and turns, of course, but these would be nothing without the pile driver of a narrative that keeps you on the edge of your reading seat.

Flynn remains the central character, and the one with most depth. But while the supporting characters – especially Child and Flynn’s wife – are not as well drawn, they neither qualify as mere cardboard fillers.

The writing is good, with nary a passage of purple prose. Instead, you get something that is very readable, and hugely entertaining.

Recommended

Something missing…

I’ll give you one guess what’s missing from this report.

Click the image to view the story. It’s not pretty. It’s not complete.

OK, I’ll tell you. It’s the parts of the tirade the woman gave that referred to her work for the Palestinians and the BDS movement. (See here, for example.)

No need to tarnish those noble (ahem) causes with the drunken insults of this lout, is there?

No need to do anything to interfere with the Guardian world view which says – in effect – the Palestinians and their supporters are perfect.

What a crew of bastards they are!

ASL Catchup

Gaming goodness!

So, I have this problem with ASL. I keep losing. And yet, there’s another problem. I somehow lose the will to write up the games. They are intense, and at the end of each one I am mentally frazzled – buzzing with the adrenaline of the game, but worn out from such a session of sharp focus. (Not too sharp, as I keep making mistakes, but that is another story.) Anyway, I finally made it to the keyboard after a game, and it’s time to catch up a wee bit.

I have played three of the scenarios of the excellent Hatten in Flames. I lost two and tied one. And one of the losses went down to the wire, so not too bad.

I have just finished Canicatti, scenario J51, featuring my Germans defending a mountainous position against josh’s advancing Americans in Sicily 1943. That one also went down to the wire. On the last turn, to win I needed to pass a morale check: seven or less I win, eight or more I lose. I rolled eight. Cue gnashing of teeth.

That last game featured Josh’s American forces spending three or four turns on the rampage. He completely ran through me. Then, out of nowhere, just as I was about to give up, up popped one of my two hidden anti-tank guns, and it nearly won the game on its own, felling two tanks. A melee killed off another USA tank, and I only needed to kill one more, or to have a surviving unit on the hill at the end. I failed with both, but it was close, and great fun. Six hours of gaming goodness. It does not get better than this. OK, that last bit is a lie. A win would be better…