Rocket Man

This morning’s targeted killing of Islamic Jihad‘s loose cannon, Baha Abu al-Ata, generated not only the inevitable rocket barrage response, but a flurry of social media funnies.

One wit shared a mock announcement from Tel Aviv Council that the public bomb shelters would be open, with a 20 shekel charge for the first hour, then 7 shekels for every further 15 minutes…

Another asked that since schools and businesses were already closed, wouldn’t it be a good idea to have the next election today?

And then the Times of Israel delivered this journalistic jape:

Sometimes, you just have to laugh!

Moravian Sun

Moravian Sun, designed by Enrico Acerbi and produced by Acies, is a wargame about the battle of Austerlitz, the decisive encounter of the Third Coalition in the Napoleonic Wars. The scales are hourly turns, brigade sized units, and hexes of 450-500 meters.

The system is a step above the basic – or classic – wargame standard, though it does use odds based combat and traditional zones of control. The command system elevates it, though not as far as I would like. Essentially, each formation (a corps, with provision for creating smaller detachments) gets an order, and that order determines what units can and must do.

For example, the Advance order obliges at least three units to move at least one hex closer to the enemy. The Attack order obliges all units to move at least one hex closer to the enemy, and so on. There are exceptions, but the rules are supported by a good table summary, and do a fair job of imposing some form of command and control realism.

This is helped by adding a priority system. Each side must prioritize its formations – order of activation – though there are separate priorities for the main and the support orders. When your side goes, you have to activate the next formation in priority order, but you can choose between those with main and support orders. One of the support orders is a neat Pursue option which allows (so far as I can tell) that formation to immediately react to an enemy retreat. Cool idea!

Orders can be issued and changed, though fate can intervene which is just the ticket for some true battlefield chaos and winning opportunities.

The part that it’s missing, for me, is the lack of a destination. In other words, I as the player can advance closer to the enemy to my front. But, if I decide the chaps off to the left are a better target, I can simply change the direction of movement. (The Eagles of France series designed by Walter Vejdovsky and published by Hexasim includes a destination hex as part of its orders system.) It’s simple enough to add a geographical restriction, and that produces good results for a modest overhead.

But don’t let that minor carp get in the way of seeing this for the interesting game it is as it stands. The graphics are good, the rules are OK considering their non-native English speaker origin – and supported with living rules – and the thing is playable. Eminently so. For my tastes, there is a decent amount of chrome – cavalry charges, squares, march columns, and weather – but not too much. And with one map and less than 500 counters, about half of which are markers, it’s a relatively compact game.

I have played through several turns of the battle scenario (you get that plus a campaign scenario starting on the previous day) twice to a reasonable conclusion with one victory apiece. I worry that the orders give the Allies more flexibility to counter Napoleon, but have certainly not played the game extensively enough to offer an authoritative opinion. I have enjoyed having this game on the table.

Fiction – October 2019

Crusty Norwegian private detective Varg Veum suddenly discovers he has a half sister. His newly discovered relative has a job for him: to find her young god-daughter who has disappeared without a trace. The police are not interested. Veum takes the case and his investigation, slowly but surely, starts to get to the bottom of things.

This is a well paced novel with a great central character, a decent enough supporting cast, and a finely told tale. You can read this one (of the series) on its own without harming your enjoyment. Pretty good.

Doug Brock is a policeman who lets the job get to him. He focuses on nailing Nicholas Bennett so much that he loses control of his life, eventually ending up on suspension. That doesn’t stop Brock who keeps investigating until, in the midst of making a call to his former police partner, Brock is shot and in a bad way. Brock recovers but with one change: he has lost his memory of the last few years of his life.

Brock’s attempt to get back his life and his memory, find out who shot him, and finally nail Bennett, are the core of the book. It’s an interesting premise and perspective and the tale fairly rattles along. While the writing is occasionally rough around the edges,  the increasing tension carries you through those patches up to a satisfactory conclusion. Not bad at all.

DCI Banks investigates the apparent suicide of a young girl and the death of man in his sixties whose body was found at the bottom of a gully. The girl’s body was found in car that had been abandoned after an accident. How did her body end up there? The man was a well dressed individual, very much out of place on the moorland. How did he get there, and did he jump or was he pushed?

These two puzzles are the spark for a somewhat formulaic novel, infused with the trademark descriptions of jazz, food, and driving around the Yorkshire countryside. It’s a decent enough novel, but it lacks a certain fire. It’s almost as if the author were writing because he had to, not because he wanted to. Or, to put it another way, going through the motions. Essentially, it’s disappointing from such a well established author. If this were a newcomer it would be promising. So, maybe the author’s fame is being held against him.

I liked this much better than The Ipcress File. Snappy dialog, crisp writing, and a hero trying to navigate his way through choppy and dangerous waters involving Nazi submarines, Nazi war criminals, counterfeit currency, drug trafficking, blackmail, and revolutionaries.  The atmosphere is brilliantly evocative of the times, and the dark shadow of the forces of evil – and the forces of good doing evil – is ever present. In short what you have here is a witty, well written spy thriller. I liked it.

 

Reports, what reports?

I don’t know why, but I find it difficult to write up gaming reports. This is especially true of my ASL games. But the important thing is that I am actually playing – and loving – the game. (This despite my woeful record.) ASL delivers the most intense gaming experience. I can sit at the game table for hours at end, engrossed, totally enthralled. The closest similar experiences have come from my monster gaming sessions at the various ConsimWorld gatherings in Tempe, Arizona. ASL thrills. But you’ll have to exercise your imagination until I figure out how to motivate myself to write some reports!

No excuse for racism. Not even for Bibi.

Last week, the Elder of Ziyon posted an article: How to explain “racist” Netanyahu’s unprecedented support of Arabs?

The story claims (probably correctly) that Netanyahu governments have given substantial preferential treatment by way of aid to Israel’s Arab minority. And done without claiming credit or publicity.

Why? The Elder dismisses other explanations and offers the following:

Which brings us to the real answer.

Netanyahu has a vision for Israel’s strength and security for the next century. That is, and has been, his paramount goal. He cannot accomplish that goal without winning elections – the opposition parties simply do not share his strategic vision, if they have one at all.

To win elections, Bibi has to sometimes appeal to the less liberal elements of his party and of Israeli society. If he doesn’t win, in his mind, Israel loses.

Bibi’s supposed “racism” is public – he doesn’t give a damn if people think he is racist because if he doesn’t win, nothing can be done to help Israel in his mind. His true attitudes towards Arabs are revealed by what he does behind the scenes, and the anecdote that the article begins with shows that he has done far more to help Arab society in Israel than any previous prime minister from any party.

Do you buy that? I don’t.

Read the whole thing to make sure I am not misrepresenting the position.

The Elder’s position appears to be that it’s OK for Netanyahu to be racist – which he undoubtedly was – because, in the long term, the end (Bibi’s rule) justifies the means. That is irresponsible and dangerous. Die hard Bibi fans like the Elder can try and excuse his dreadful behavior, but ultimately they must fail because there is never an excuse for it. Never. It’s plain wrong. Would we excuse antisemitic behavior from anyone?

As a separate issue, Bibi’s achievements are not all they are cracked up to be, and his failings are many. I do not fall into the camp that demonizes Bibi, but this almost deification is way off base.

On this point, the Elder and I see things very differently.