Shabbat gaming

Over Shabbat Ken hosted a game session with him, his son Oren, Rosalynn and me. We played Puerto Rico and Smallworld: Underground.

Puerto Rico was new to Rosalynn. I told her just to do everything I instructed her to do and she would be fine. The smart lady ignored me. She picked up the game very quickly and built up a good score; more than respectable for a first outing. Ken and Oren fought it out for the win, with Ken just getting the decision. I was in last place, but claimed a moral victory for causing the game end before the margin of defeat got worse!

I got my revenge in Smallworld: Underground. (Hee, hee!) I had played the original Smallworld (once) so had an understanding of the rules. However, the races and powers are all different so it wasn’t much of an advantage. (Damn!)  Rosalynn suffered by holding on too long to her first creature race. Ken and Oren had done well, but hadn’t scored well enough in the early rounds to trouble me. But Oren did very well, and I dare say he and Ken will relish a return match.

Thanks for hosting, Ken.

Chain story

Susan gets the credit for this, as she spotted it in Tel Aviv.


Sometime ago, somebody wrapped a chain round the tree. Well, the tree couldn’t wait and grew around (and through) the chain which is now embedded in it. Cool.

Friday fressing

I went in to Tel Aviv last Friday morning, by train. On my way to my first destination, I passed through some of the areas of the city that are not on any tourist trail. Every city has them. Unfortunately, in Tel Aviv, these problem areas are girded with political challenges because many of the residents (though I am unsure if that is the right word) are illegal immigrants. And returning such people, or deporting such people, is no easy task – physically, practically, or morally. I don’t have a settled opinion about the issue, and I certainly have no easy solution. But I do wish there were one.

My first stop was Probook which claims to have “Israel’s largest in-stock English book selection.”  The selection was enormous, though mostly non-fiction; the fiction part was more impressive than most of the local chain stores, but chaotically displayed. I bought three books, all non-fiction, and enjoyed browsing there. I am certain to go back, but it’s unlikely to be in the near future as it will take me some time to make my way through the ‘to be read’ pile. (Never mind what is on my Kindle…)

My second stop, to meet Susan and Lori, was Dizi. This is a vegetarian cafe with a difference.

Here be food...

Here be food…

Inside the cafe is a laundry. (The web site mentions DVDs, but I did not notice these.)

Here be clean clothes...

Here be clean clothes…

Susan and Lori had the Mexican breakfast which looked and tasted not too bad at all. I had the shakshuka. It was also ok, but nowhere near the best of that dish I have experienced in Israel. (I think my favorite is at Borochov 88.)

And then it was time to head for home.



I don’t know why, but one of the Israeli experiences I enjoy is getting stopped at a railway level crossing and seeing the train go by. And, lucky me, it happens that there is a level crossing in Herzliya on the road we took back on our last bike ride.

And, even luckier, the barriers came down ahead of us, and a train sped through. Cue a rush for my iPhone. (Too fast and dark for a decent picture, but the snap gives you a reasonable impression of the rush of the train going past.)

That was the highlight. The lowlights were the puncture I had, and the two punctures one of the other riders picked up. Maybe we need to slow down?

In Country


Also newly arrived is Strategy & Tactics #281, complete with the game In Country, a look at the Vietnam War. It’s another Joseph Miranda design, with two maps, two countersheets, and a slightly intimidating 32 pages of rules. The introduction says it offers 1965, 1968, 1970 scenarios and a campaign game. However, I could not see the 1970 version… Anyway, this is another game where Fog of War is key, but in comparison with Decision Iraq, the subject matter here is more interesting and it’s more likely I will try and play it; maybe even hunt down an opponent!

As well as a supporting article on that war, the magazine includes Christopher Perello’s look at whether the Rebels could have won at Gettysburg, Ray Starman’s feature on the bloody battle of Iwo Jima, and David Higgins’ description of the naval battle of Actium, touted as the end of the Roman Republic. There are short filler pieces as well.

However, what stands out for me is the general high quality of the graphical look and feel of the magazine. I don’t know what has been going on at Decision Games, but their output has seen some terrific improvements in that area. The layout is clean. There are plenty of good maps. The graphics are sharp and appropriate. It all looks good. Well done Decision. I will read the magazine from cover to cover, even if playing the game may have to wait for more leisure rich times!

Decision Iraq


Modern War #6 has arrived with the game Decision Iraq, designed by Joseph Miranda. It has one map, one countersheet and roughly 16 pages of rules, and deals with the counterinsurgency in that troubled country after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Joe has made a bit of niche for himself in tackling this type of unconventional warfare, and with the support material in the magazine there’s a good chance of getting some important lessons on the topic. Unfortunately, the game features Fog of War in a way that makes effective solitaire play too much like hard work.


Father Nadaf

On the assumption the Jerusalem Post‘s facts are correct, their editorial about Father Nadaf in today’s paper, is a shocker:

The persecution of Greek Orthodox priest Father Gabriel Nadaf has escalated to a new crescendo, as the Jerusalem Patriarchate threatens to sack the Nazareth-resident and deprive him of his livelihood.

And why might that be happening?

Nadaf’s sin is his open activism on behalf of integration by Arab Christians – or Arab-speaking Christian Israelis, as Nadaf prefers to call himself and his followers – into Israel’s mainstream.

He openly and bravely supports, though does not necessarily encourage, the growing number of young Christians who are interested in enlistment in the IDF. He also supports those interested in performing national service in their own communities. This sufficed to put him on the hit list of radical Arab MKs – including the only Greek Orthodox Arab MK, Basel Ghattas (Balad) – and to create inordinate pressure on the Jerusalem Patriarchate to dissociate itself from Nadaf and to punish him. The Palestinian Authority is also reportedly leaning on the patriarchate.

I draw your particular attention to this:

Orchestrating Nadaf’s ostracism are Balad MKs Haneen Zoabi and Ghattas, along with Hadash MK Muhammad Barakei. They incite against Nadaf with impunity.

These individuals appear to be conforming to the description of “the enemy within.” What hypocrites. [I was in polite mode.]

More background:

Last week, Christian Arab pro-Israel activists held a rally in Yafia, where Nadaf leads a congregation, and reported that this year 94 Christian Arabs signed up for military duty. In the whole of 2010, the comparable number was merely 30.

In their Facebook page the new recruits refer to themselves as “Arabic-speaking Israeli Christians.”

They say they live in a democratic Jewish state, see themselves as integrally part of it (Christians pre-date Muslims by centuries) and will not desist from saying so – especially in view of the bitter lot of their co-religionists in Syria, Iraq, the PA and Gaza. Their ambition, they stress, is status of the sort enjoyed by the Druse and Circassians.

But no sooner was the rally held, then the PA demanded Nadaf be fired. The threats against him were ramped up.

Welcome to pro Palestinian – aka anti-Christian – politics in Israel.

You can read the whole thing, here.

Hail! Hail! The Tribune’s here!

[Crossposted from the Ra’anana Boardgames Group blog, here.]

A faction! A faction! A faction!

A faction! A faction! A faction!

Guess what game we played this week? Yes, Tribune, a worker placement game Yehuda referred to as suffering because it came out at the same time as the legendary Agricola. Well, Agricola has always seemed like too much work for me to even try it, so something a little less involved was attractive. Besides, if Yehuda has it in his collection and offers to play, that’s a good recommendation. And so it proved.

So the theme is Rome. The key mechanic is, as mentioned above, worker placement. The neat twist here is that worker placement gives you different ways to get cards (of different types). And the cards are a way to get the various victory conditions. For example, you control a faction by having the best cards for that faction on the board. One of the victory conditions is to control 5 factions. This reflects another cool part of the game: depending on the number of players, there are a different number of victory conditions you need to claim the win. Therefore, you as a player can choose which ones to go after and which to ignore. But, be warned. In Tribune you must have 30 coins to claim a win. I know this because even though I had mentioned it, I forgot it. Ooops.

[Yehuda says: “Small correction: The game comes with several victory condition cards, and each card defines different victory conditions for three, four, or five players (some of the victory condition cards are only for three or four players, and some only for four or five players). There are at least two victory condition cards for each of “easy”, “medium”, and “hard”. Only the specific victory condition card that I chose for our game had 30 coins as a mandatory condition. Other cards list other conditions as mandatory, or none at all.”]

Although the rules explanation Yehuda gave made it (uncharacteristically) sound complicated, after one round, it was sorted, and we all got stuck in to working out our strategy.

The brave chariot protecting my cowardly senators

The brave chariot protecting my cowardly senators

I tried to build up money and use it well. I got that half right. I tried to build up a reserve of cards and use them well. I got that half right too. Hmm. In short, this is a game where timing is important, and I did not get it right.

However, one satisfaction from my play was that I seemed to be clobbering poor Yehuda, with us competing for the same faction cards and me doing better than him. In fairness, the game does have a luck element, and managing that is part of the challenge. Given different cards, Yehuda may have done better, but he was certainly held back.

[Yehuda says: “Even though you were blocking me, I was still pretty close to victory. It was my fault for not bidding higher on the last round to ensure that I could take your faction.” Me: Yeah, right!]

Peleg got his timing right. He claimed the win and so this triggered the last round. If nobody else could claim satisfaction of the victory conditions, the win was his. But, with some finely timed moves of her own, hostess Laurie got to the finishing line and also claimed a win. That triggered a tie breaker of counting points.

Good game support play aids

Good game support play aids

It was very close, and right up until the last category was a tie. The last category was an award of points for being first to claim the win. So, Peleg – just – claimed the real, final win. It was a great display by the youngster. Well done Peleg. Tough luck on poor Laurie, who had done 99% of what she needed, but just lost out.

Thanks also to Yehuda for introducing this game. I enjoyed it and will definitely play it again if offered.

Finally, thanks to Laurie for hosting (and organizing food to break the fast with).

Tearing off a strip

It seems the Economist is – so far as the topic of Israel is concerned – treading the same path as the Guardian and the BBC. The latest not so subtle clue is in the current edition, which features a review of Louisa Waugh’s Meet Me in Gaza: Uncommon Stories of the Life Inside the Strip. (Available here, though behind a paywall.)

The author is no friend of Israel, and the book doesn’t appear to veer from that perspective in presenting the people living inside the Gaza Strip. Fair enough.

However, that’s no excuse for the Economist’s article; it’s not so much a review by the Economist, more a puff piece. It’s like an advert for intellectuals, albeit intellectuals who are lazy enough to read without stopping to challenge the veracity of the world view being presented. In a nutshell, it’s all Israel’s fault. Words like “siege”, “shell”, and “devastating three-week assault” are followed by the inevitable mention of the casualties. But accuracy no longer seems to be important, because Egypt gets a free pass, and there’s sod all by way of context. Rockets? What rockets? See those people in the bomb shelter over there, economist person? Did you forget them? It seems that only the residents of the Gaza Strip are entitled to peace and quiet.

Hamas does get a mention, but only at the end as a kind of afterthought:

“…though increasingly under the sombre shadow of Hamas, the Islamist party that governs the strip.”

That’s a lot like doing a piece about the people of Syria and talking about “the sombre shadow of Bashar Assad, whose Baathist party governs the country.”

Part of my university education firmed up the importance of being a critical reader. Material like this gives me plenty of practice.