More Fields of Fire

Hogging the table for a good few weeks, Fields of Fire 2. It’s a solitaire game – second in the series – where you command a company of USA troops (in this case, from the 5th Marines) and work your way through campaigns consisting of several consecutive missions. There are campaigns for WW2, Korea, and Vietnam. (I have played the first in the series.)

I have been focusing on the WW2 campaign which is against the Japanese forces on Peleliu.

The missions are, in general, tough. (If it were too easy, that would be no fun and no achievement to win.) You constantly have to think about force conservation – which is a good thing – instead of simply satisfying the victory conditions for the current mission.

The game is very different from typical wargames: the map is a display of cards, troops need orders to do anything, and the different technical aspects of weapons are restricted to only a few categories, with a few more tweaks for vehicles. Troop quality is important. Your soldiers die all too easily, and green replacements often don’t last long. Grittily realistic is how I would describe it. It’s also engrossing, though sometimes frustrating as the system can kick you when you are down. But what do you do except try again.

The major strike against the game is the completeness of the rules. The second edition rules are an improvement, but still – apparently – managed to retain some errata. More important is that the rules are not comprehensive enough. There are too many situations that are not explicitly covered. And in some instances, as I found out thanks to some feedback on BoardGameGeek, essential information is hidden away in highlighted notes.

I should stress that the game is playable as it stands, but there are several events that may arise which are not covered and you have to use your own judgement. For example, in a couple of the Peleliu missions, the table that determines where enemy units appear in a certain row of the ‘map’ will never produce usable results. The table doesn’t take account of the fact that there is no other beyond which enemy units can be located. So, I had to make up my own table.

What makes the whole situation more annoying is that GMT appear to be ignoring any and all rules queries. They have stopped supporting the game. This is most unlike them.

I’m going to continue to play the game and use that old fashioned system of resolution known as ‘making it up’ as and when required. But I do hope that at some point GMT will return to the game system and give us the rulebook we need. And deserve.

UPDATE: In last week’s GMT news email, they announced a new development team for the game and a new module. It’s not been explicitly said that there will be an improved rulebook, but we can live in hope.

Responsibility

As you may have heard, Israel’s Mediterranean beaches have been devastated by a crude oil spill. The environmental damage is severe, the beaches closed, and there’s a ban imposed on seafood from the Med. In short, it’s a disaster.

Who is responsible? Well, as I type this there are several tankers under suspicion and presumably at some point we’ll be told the culprit who leaked the oil. But it turns out there is another culprit closer to home.

The Times of Israel reports (here):

“Way back in 2008, the government decided to formulate a National Plan for Preparedness and Response to Marine Oil Pollution Incidents. A cabinet decision, made in June 2008 when Ehud Olmert was prime minister, ordered that within three to five years from January 1, 2009, the ministry would fill staff positions and acquire all the equipment and sailing vessels it needed to prevent oil contaminations at sea.”

You can guess what’s coming, can’t you?

“The ministry was instructed to discuss with the Treasury any funding needs it could not meet on its own, in the run-up to the 2009 budget. And the environmental protection minister at the time (Gideon Ezra of the now-defunct Kadima party) was ordered to ensure that the plan was enshrined in law, along with the requirements of the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation, to which Israel is a signatory.

That sounded positive, didn’t it?

Unfortunately:

But the plan never made it into the law books. And the Finance Ministry effectively blocked the transfer of additional funds.

So, there was a plan, but it was never put into action. I’m sure we’ll get some waffle, but the simple truth is that our government failed us. Whether they were lazy, incompetent, or didn’t care about the issue is unknown. But the result is. A quick trip down to the beach – but be careful you don’t breathe in too many of the fumes – is all that’s needed.

According to Wikipedia, these are the responsible ministers:

I anticipate each will have a reason for public consumption as to why the plan couldn’t be executed. Perhaps the reason will include (other than for Gila Gamliel) the excuse that they were just about to take action when their term in power ended. Right…

But in the time we’ve had six or seven Ministers of Environmental Protection, we’ve had one Prime Minister.

One man, in power all this time, who surely could have enacted the plan, who could have put it into force. But Bibi didn’t. It’s almost as if the most important thing on Bibi’s mind was staying in power rather than doing the best for the country and its people.

If Bibi were a responsible adult, he would resign. This incident alone should shame him into falling on his sword. It won’t. He has to go.

The Soldier – Neal Asher

First of the series Rise of the Jain, this is a hardcore science fiction novel set in the author’s Polity universe.

For reasons that are unclear – at least to me – there is a chunk of outer space where ancient but powerful Jain technology is trapped and guarded to keep the rest of the universe safe.

Chief jailer is a half human, half artificial intelligence, Orlandine. The Dragon – an alien intelligence with some quirky human characteristics – is also on guard. The par of them don’t trust one another. The situation is not helped by the plan Orlandine is working on to destroy the Jain technology.

The prador (alien, crab-like race) and human authorities are keeping watch from a distance.

The entrapped alien technology stirs into more active life, and somewhere out there a rogue trader delivers a package that is about to stir the pot, big time.

This is super-charged space opera, with mind boggling technology and awesome death and destruction thrown about like confetti. The plot is slippery, but it’s there and full of twists if you can keep up with the competing interests and factions. The author pours his heart and soul into describing this universe, with relentless detail that may sometimes overwhelm. In short, it can be a slog. The question for the reader is whether the effort is worth making. Sadly, for me it’s not. The characters don’t engage me quite enough, and the complexity of the narrative doesn’t quite work. I wish it were otherwise, as I could do with a chunky science-fiction series to dig into.

Once upon a time, twice upon a time…

This is the large poster outside a new building development in Ra’anana.

The Hebrew text on the right side translates to:

“Launch of the second boutique building in the heart of Raanana”

My inquisitive nature wants to know where the first is. I guess it’s already built and fully sold.

Meantime, did you notice the glorious strapline (or motto) in (sort of) English:

I suppose I should wonder what happened to “Time one live.” Is it a band? Is it a motto? No, it’s some silly bugger who thinks he knows English.

Really? In a city overflowing with native English speakers, a commercial undertaking doesn’t have the ability to get a simple three word motto right? It’s awful. But it’s far from unusual. By way of protesting, I’m refusing to even look at the show flat. (Ha!)

The Seventh Sacrament – David Hewson

This is fifth of the Nic Costa series of crime thrillers set in Rome. It’s been a while since I read the previous novel, and I’m really not sure why I stopped. Well, this was a cracking episode that means it probably won’t be too long before I continue with the next in order.

The central focus this time is about an academic, obsessed with Mithraism, also known as the Mithraic mysteries, a Roman cult or religion centered that was snuffed out when the emperor Constantine accepted Christianity in the early 4th century. Giorgio Bramante, the academic, lost his son in the underground tunnels and caverns beneath the city that host many altars to that old religion. At the time of the disappearance, the son was with a group of Bramante’s students, but when they turned up they claimed to have no knowledge of the boy’s whereabouts. Bramante kills one of the students and is imprisoned for murder. Fast forward to his release from jail, and enter Nic Costa and his crew because something bad is about to happen.

First, it’s notable that Costa’s role in this is not as predominant as you might expect.

Second, the other characters are a good mix and the interaction is entertaining and engrossing.

Third, the city backdrop and the Mithraic details are well executed. So far as I can tell, the material is firmly rooted in fact even if propping up a work of fiction.

Fourth, the tension builds up very nicely, with just enough twists in the closing quarter of the book to keep you guessing.

In short, highly recommended. But to get the best out of it, do yourself a favor and work your way through the series, starting with A Season for the Dead.