The case of the missing editor

The following headline is from an article published online by the Jerusalem Post on 27 April, 2020.

Click the headline to view the article

The charge against the Jerusalem Post is that it doesn’t edit articles properly before publication. You be the judge.

  • Excerpt one for the prosecution:

  • Excerpt two for the prosecution:

  • Excerpt three for the prosecution:

  • Excerpt four for the prosecution:

It’s a slam dunk, methinks. Absolutely shocking output from a supposedly professional news organization.

Fiction – March 2020

For some unknown reason, the switch to home working and being in lockdown mode has also resulted in me reading less fiction. My non-fiction reading has increased though I have resisted the urge to bone up on things related to coronavirus.

Second in the (excellent) Challis & Destry police procedural series set, largely, in the Mornington Peninsula area in Australia,

This outing for the police has them dealing with several weird incidents: there’s the dead body fished out of the ocean, sprees of stolen cars and burned letter boxes, someone attacking courting couples in their car, and the attempted ramming of  a plane by a car. Quite a handful.

The author does a great job of tying the strands together to bring the reader a believable picture of life in that part of the world, with interesting characters and their various brushes with danger.

Highly recommended.

 

This is a terrific crime caper with twist after twist featuring intrepid investigative journalist Jack Parlabane. He is asked by a dead man’s sister to look into his death in a car crash on a deserted road that occurred within months of his whirlwind romance with Diana Jager, a surgeon and blogger whose anonymity was ripped away from her, sending her in to medical Coventry.  Parlabane’s inquiries inevitably start a chain of events that will keep you on your toes and guessing till the very end.

Terrific.

 

Number three in the Challis and Destry series. Janine McQuarrie, a young wife and mother, is shot to death. and killed. Did the murder have anything to do with the wife swapping party she recently attended at the behest of her husband? And why does her father-in-law, Superintendent McQuarrie, seem to be so obstructive in Challis’s investigation? Again, the author delivers a well drawn scene and populates with interesting characters and intriguing interaction. This is in the top rank of police procedural novels.

 

Number four in the Challis and Destry series. Inspector Hal Challis returns to his hometown in the Australian Outback. His father is dying and his sister, whose husband disappeared years before, is doing her best to care for the man. Challis splits his time between helping with his father and looking into his brother-in-law’s disappearance. In the course of his investigation, he duly stirs up a hornet’s nest.

Meantime, Sergeant Ellen Destry, his potential love interest, is trying to prove she is good enough to run the Crime Investigation Unit on her own. Unfortunately, in a less than friendly environment, she also has the horrendous task of trying to find a little girl who has disappeared amidst all the consequent media attention and pressure.

The two strands mean there’s a bit of to and fro for the reader to cope with, but the inconvenience is modest and the payoff is another good read.

 

Quatre Bras

On the table, Quatre Bras 1815, one of the Eagles series games designed by Walter Vejdovsky and published by Hexasim. Turns are 1 hour, hexes are about 200m, and units are regiment sized with each strength point representing 100 combatants. This is the famous encounter between Ney and Wellington on the road to Waterloo, when the no show by the French forces of D’Erlon materially contributed to the French not winning the battle. Continue reading

Matzah Time!

Source: WikiMedia

This has to rank as the strangest Pesach ever. We are locked down and under curfew. Coronavirus is out and about, but we are not. We’ll still have our Seder night, albeit smaller, quieter, and probably shorter. Plenty of time for reflection and recharging the spiritual batteries in these challenging times.

Several online commentators have pointed out the connection between this festival – marking ten plagues and the liberation from Egypt – and our current plague ridden confinement. It strikes me that it would be good timing if the end of Pesach were to be the time when the people were let go and the lockdown removed. Unfortunately, that’s unlikely to happen. So, I’ll just hope and pray that everyone stays healthy and safe from the virus.

Yes, folks; be safe, be well.

(And enjoy your matzah!)

Typhoon on the Table

Now this is a little cracker. It’s about the Soviet winter offensive of 1942 with nine game turns to determine the winner by killing enemy units or grabbing victory point objectives. (There’s also a sudden death victory which seems unlikely for either side.) The German units are divisions, the Soviets are corps and divisions. The situation is that the Soviet steamroller is about to start, and the onus of attacking is on them. The Germans have to trade territory and try to avoid being encircled, focusing on delay, delay, and more delay.

First and foremost, this game is very easy to play. The eight page rulebook – yes, eight! – has only five pages of rules. Amazing! And yet in that content the designer and developer have manged to produce enough variety and tweaking to make this a breath of fresh air.

It’s “I go, you go” with a twist. Each turn, each side gets a number of Activation Points (AP). You have to use an AP to move a formation. You have to use an AP to fight with a formation. (German Panzer units get to fight for free. Whether they will is another matter!) And you never have enough AP!  Part of the challenge is deciding whether to spend AP in the current turn or save them. It’s a terrific mechanism, neatly showing the limited capabilities of real life campaigns: it’s not possible to keep every unit moving and fighting all the time.

Watch those flanks!

The system has sticky zones of control (ZOC) and a combat results table that means if you want to kill the enemy, you have to surround them with ZOCs and get them to retreat to their death. Old school, and effective.

The twist here is that the attacker does all the retreats. A nice touch. (And it makes for easier play using Vassal.)

Supply is straightforward and surprisingly of limited effect. If the defender is isolated from supply, the attacker gets a bonus. That’s it.

The dead pile at an early stage in the proceedings.

The Soviets have a Shock Army – a massive 20 combat strength unit – that they should withdraw at the end of turn four. They can put off that withdrawal at a cost in VPs.

The Soviets also have partisan units – that pop up in rear areas – and one parachute capable reinforcement.

I have played it solitaire several times. There are no real obstacles to solitaire play, though face to face games may well show other strategies.  So far, it’s been Soviet wins. That’s not to suggest the game is unbalanced. It’s probably that my defensive play and sense of timing is less than stellar. Knowing when to withdraw is crucial to success for the Germans. German play is likely to feature few attacks; it’s all about maintaining a coherent defense and avoiding being flanked. Oh, and trying to hold on to VP objectives.

The single (standard sized) map is gorgeous. Joe Youst does great work. The rules are great. There was only one clarification required and no errata so far as I know. (The clarification is that friendly units do not negate enemy ZOCs for the purpose of retreats.) The 200 half-inch sized counters are clear, crisp, and present no challenges to use. There is one cavalry unit with an infantry logo, but that’s scarcely noticeable and of no effect.

The game was originally published in Japan. It was designed by Shigeru Hirano and developed by Roger Miller for release by Revolution.

If you want an easy to play, fun, challenging wargame, this is it. Highly recommended.

 

Truth in Advertising

This is the Twitter motif of activist group IfNotNow:

And this is how it would look were there to be a truth in advertising law:

If anyone’s looking for source material to back up the above, I suggest taking a look here. (The Elder of Ziyon shows how every point made by the group in a Twitter feed about Gaza, the Palestinians, and coronavirus is a lie. Quite some achievement.)

I’m inclined to agree with the description of IfNotNow as a hate group. It’s the only rational explanation.

 

Solitary Enjoyment

So, four years (what!?) after my original post, I am finally getting round to playing some more of this game and adding the information here.

One of the reasons for the passage of time is the combat system. When I first played it, I fairly quickly became disenchanted by how combats are resolved. (By way of reminder, there is no combat results table. You draw chits from a random pool and, depending on whether they match the situation, they inflict hits. For example, a chit might say that at 4:1 odds, the defender suffers two hits and the attacker suffers one. Another chit might say that if the attacker has artillery, the defender suffers one hit, and so on.) What seemed to happen to me was that in too many combats, despite often overwhelming odds, nothing happened. So, I gave up on the game and put it away.

In the current lockdown situation, where we are to stay at home, I decided that I would put a solitaire game on the table. In the intervening years, almost every comment I have seen about the game has been favorable. (And I generally adore John Butterfield’s work.) So, I chose this game and went for the German solo version. I play the Germans, and the system handles the Allies.

I played through the first couple of days and reset because I was making too many mistakes. Now I am having another shot.

In no particular order, here are my comments:

  • I still don’t like the combat system. Let’s say I am enduring it.
  • The solitaire activation system for the Allies is excellent. It’s well crafted, deep, fairly straightforward to implement, and is a real challenge to the opposing live player. It’s not fast, however.
  • Considering the complexity of the processes, the rulebook is pretty damn good. Yes, there is errata, but it’s more than within acceptable limits.
  • As well as a clever solitaire system, the system the active player uses is equally sharp. Essentially you have a set of cards – each, in general, with several options to choose from – and you decide how to use them. You may have to give up a juicy combat tactic for the sake of activating a formation, or bringing in reinforcements. Decisions! Decisions!
  • The downside of all this high level of decision making is that it can cause paralysis analysis. Playing solo, that’s probably to be expected anyway. Just be aware that this is not a beer and pretzels fast blast through the Ardennes.
  • The play aids are excellent.
  • Because of the card activation – on both sides – there’s a lot of replayability.

The game comes with several scenarios. I’m aiming to properly play through the short (three-day) scenario twice to try and become more immersed in the game. Yes, I’ll have to grit my teeth and endure combat resolution. But it should be worth it. Besides, there’s another in the series due out this year, this time set in the Eastern Front. Kharkov. I think. Should be good.

 

Headline Failure

Guess who the Guardian blames for Gaza’s Covid-19 challenges?

The correct headline for this article would be:

“Can Gaza cope with Covid-19 after years of wasting money on rockets instead of investing in its civilian infrastructure?”

But there’s no chance of the Guardian printing the truth. Not when it comes to Israel.

If only the Gazans loved their own people more than they hated the Jews.

Quatre Batailles en Espagne

I finally got to play this game, one of the series by Didier Rouy of Napoleonic battles. In this box you get Ocana, Salamanca, Vitoria, and Sauren.

I have played through Ocana to a resolution a few times, and am now on my umpteenth attempt at Salamanca.

The strength of the series is that you get good maps (though the absence of hex numbers is a pain), good looking counters, and a system that at its core, works. The main drawback is that to get historical results, you need to use the command and control rules. And these are not presented as a package, but us a menu of options. Without them, for example, the superior manpower (not quality) of the anti-French forces in Ocana, means the French are unlikely to repeat their historical success. However, the command rules don’t give you the starting orders for each side meaning you have to do some legwork before you can start playing – unless you want to just line them up and let them have it.

I managed to get Ocana to work (I think).

With Salamanca, I went down a different route. I said elsewhere that I really liked the Gamers’ Napoleonic Battles Series system. The scales are similar, but NBS is much faster to play because it does away with infantry fire other than for skirmishers. In particular, NBS allows the quality of the troops to have a real impact on close combat. In this system, numbers give you the edge. So, I have been trying to fit the close combat stuff from NBS into these battles, starting with Salamanca. Let’s just say, it’s not easy. But it is fun. I have been inspired to do more reading up on the subject, and each time come back to the table with something new to try out. It’s probably a case of me enjoying the journey, because I’ll probably never get to a decent finish.

It does also make me curious about how others play these games. But that’s a post for another time.