Predictions and Gaza

Background: When the disengagement from Gaza was first mooted, I wasn’t in favor. However, at the time I wasn’t yet an Israeli citizen, and as part of my general principal of not wanting to be an armchair Zionist who criticized Israel from the safety of the Diaspora, I said nothing.

Smart cookie that I am (cough, cough), when the proposal became a plan that was going to be implemented, I thought I could see the vision. I thought there might be an advantage: the disengagement would give the Palestinians a chance for self government. And if they were daft enough to try any silly business, the IDF would flatten them, and nobody can say they didn’t deserve it. That was my prediction. Wrong!

It doesn’t matter what Hamas does; Israel will always be condemned for its military response. (I think that’s a prediction, too. Oh dear.) If that’s correct, what conclusions might reasonably be drawn? Tricky.

Perhaps we should consider the disengagement a mistake, own up, and accept it. Perhaps.

For now, I am going to finish here with a simple hope that the carnage stops sooner rather than later without further bloodshed. My heart goes out to the communities riven by loss and dreadful disruption – they are living in a war zone – who have learned what we all truly knew: Bibi’s deterrent does not exist. The emperor has no clothes.

Enduring the fire

Axis forces attacking north of Sidi Abdallah

I finished my second play through of the campaign scenario of Baptism by Fire. I abandoned my first after a few turns because I realized I had screwed up some of the important rules about Combat Trains and Headquarters. If nothing else, that initial run meant I was more comfortable with the rules and fairly rattled through the turns. With low unit density and lots of space, this is a nice game to look at and play.

The initial turns were an Axis whirlwind as their forces cut the defending Allies to shreds. While this was followed by a lull for a few days – representing the confusion that actually occurred as the Axis decided what their campaign goals should be – most of the game involved wave after wave of Axis attack, punctuated by the occasional Allied counter attack to seal a hole in a line, or just to give the axis something to think about.

Qualitatively, the Axis forces are better. The challenge for the Allied player is to put up enough resistance so as to delay the Axis, without hanging on too long and being encircled. The Axis challenge is to keep pushing, just Enough to keep the Allies off balance and the victory point hexes in reach, but not too much for fear of suffering a nasty counter-attack.

At the end, it as an Allied victory because the Axis failed to take enough of the victory point hexes. The lesson learned? As the attacker, you have to push your forces harder than I was doing.

Some notes.

First, the scenario includes two possible victory conditions (VC), but the Axis doesn’t know what one is relevant at the start. After a few turns, a chit is drawn to determine the applicable VC. While it’s not the best for solo play, it’s a good twist and is A simple layer of realism since the Axis seem to have gone through the same uncertainty.

Second, this game in the Battalion Combat Series introduces a new rule: Screening. It’s used by recon forces to delay attackers. It’s quite handy, but the Allies only have one such unit on hand, so the application is likely to have more effect in other games in the series. Cool rule, though.

Third, I used one of the system’s optional rules: Unit Traffic. This means that units can only use the road rate if the road hex they move through is clear of other units. Since the Axis forces are leapfrogging attacking formations in a forward direction, and the Allies are leapfrogging defensive formations in a backwards direction, it had an extensive impact. It also slowed play. I like the historicity, but am less keen on the added time it took.

Closing

I like the system a lot. I like the mix of unit capabilities, the effects of fatigue, the chaos, the fortunes of war, and the simple supply rules which combine to give an entertaining and challenging gaming experience. (My post about the first game in the series is here.) The minor niggle about Baptism by Fire is that I wasn’t able to get hold of a decent book on the campaign.

The next in the series is Brazen Chariots (the Brevity, Battleaxe, and Crusader battles in North Africa during WW2) and I have ordered it even though the game’s three maps mean some of the scenarios will be too big for my game table. (There’s always Vassal.) I am reasonably knowledgeable about these battles, but will probably do a bit of top-up reading before I play it.

Now, what game to play next?

Never again, or always the same?

It’s Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) in Israel. Always a difficult day.

Here’s one perspective:

Israel HaYom, May 2, 2019

The article (from Israel HaYom ) connected to the pictures is entitled:

“Europe was anti-Semitic and will remain anti-Semitic – the answer is a strong State of Israel”

The text then goes on to add:

“The Europeans like to put the responsibility for the Holocaust on the Germans alone, and to [conveniently] forget how the rest of the “enlightened” continent cooperated enthusiastically with the Nazi extermination machine. They did not give up hatred of the Jews, but instead camouflage it as hatred of the State of Israel”

Or, to put it another way, anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.

The bottom article reports on President Rivlin’s speech last night. He commented about how Europe was haunted by the ghosts of the past.

And of course Bibi’s speech got a mention, too. He said that contrary to what happened in the Holocaust, this time around Israel is building alliances against a dangerous regime (Iran).

(In Bibi and Rivlin’s speeches, there were undercurrents and some give and take about Israel’s ties with some less than pleasant regimes, but that’s for another time.)

Bibi’s speech underlines why some (emphasis is on “some”) people see him as the only one who can defend Israel. The not so small irony is that the violence around Gaza escalated last night. First the peace loving residents of Gaza launched friendly firebombs into Israel (at least one destructive brush fire was started). The IDF responded with air attacks. Then the pacifists of Gaza upped the ante by launching a couple of rockets. It certainly doesn’t look like Bibi deserves his reputation on that score.

While we remember the victims of the Holocaust, contemporary events force us to look into the future and wonder if “never again” is a certainty, or a possibility. Has Europe got over its anti-Semitism? Will it ever?

Israel is strong, but the struggle is never-ending.

Body Count – Barbara Nadel

Another evocative murder mystery set in Istanbul, this decent crime novel mixes the hunt for a serial killer with the personal ponderings of Inspector Ikmen and Commissioner Ardic. Both are getting old and retirement is on the agenda. Their internal musings – occasionally verbalized to the supporting cast – are a strong part of the fine characterization on show. Both are rounded, interesting, and complex individuals who act as the author’s voice, delivering some nuanced (and some not so nuanced) observations on life in Turkey.

The plot involves a clash of old and new Turkey, with views of the underclasses and the downtrodden to remind us that outside the warm and hospitable homes of the heroes, there are many places a lot less friendly and pleasant. The gritty realism portrayed is matched by the no nonsense approach to the violent acts which interrupt the stalled investigation.

At times the book slows down too much and seems to lose its way. Just at the point where it starts to get annoying, the pace picks up again. I couldn’t decide if this was intentional or otherwise, and maybe reflected the need to make the narrative more realistic given real life police work is jam packed with long boring stretches of slogging. The writing is no slog, but the pacing means that you do have time to enjoy the view.

You could read this as a standalone novel and enjoy it. If you do, there are many more to read and also enjoy – perhaps even more than this one. If you are a serious reader, I recommend skipping this for now, and starting with

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…

The Bottom Line

It sure isn’t the top line. You don’t get the western media spelling this out. You just get – in the main – excuses for terrorism and demonization of Israel.

Notice, we are talking about looking from the perspective of their leaders. It’s not clear what the ordinary Palestinian wants.