A grand desert


This week’s regular gaming session saw Susan and I hosting Amir, Laurie and Yehuda.

First up was El Grande which only Amir hadn’t played before. Susan was a bit out of practice, but caught on as the game progressed. We played a shortened seven turn game (instead of the full 9) as the full version drags a bit, and is probably the game’s only serious weak point. The early special action cards cleared out a lot of the pieces from the board, so scores were lower than usual, and the play quite focused on a couple of key areas.

Laurie was the early leader, pursued by Yehuda and I. However, Yehuda did an excellent job of hauling Laurie back, and going in to the final couple of turns, it was quite close up front. Behind us, Amir was hanging in there with Susan, but neither looked a threat. How wrong I was.

In the final scoring, Yehuda managed to overtake Laurie. I fell behind, with Amir getting close to me. And Susan achieved a quite remarkable win, coming – apparently – out of nowhere to first place by a decent margin. Well done Susan!

We had time left to move on to the Reiner Knizia game Through the Desert. This is a game that looks more complex than it is, and also looks to take longer than it actually does. And as with many of these games, timing is crucial. If you can time your placements with good regard to when the game ends, you maximize your score. For reasons that I cannot fully explain, in this game I got it right and was the winner ahead of a reasonably close pack. It was fast, fun, and challenging. Good stuff.

Thanks to all who came, for a good night of gaming.

The missing part of the Lou Reed obituary

As not seen at the BBC or the Guardian:

Perhaps even more than other American-Jewish rock stars such as Billy Joel and Bob Dylan, Lou Reed was fiercely proud of being Jewish — and included lyrics on behalf of Israel and against anti-Semitism in some of his songs.

I mention Reed’s Jewishness because not a single obituary I have read of him in the mainstream press mentions it, when for Reed it was an important factor.

Reed, who died yesterday of liver failure at the age of 71, was born Lewis Allan Reed to a Jewish family in Brooklyn. He said that while “he had no god apart from rock ‘n’ roll” his Jewish roots and standing up for Israel meant a lot to him. He was a frequent visitor to the country, last performing in Tel Aviv in 2008, and his aunt and many cousins live in Haifa and other Israeli towns.

Reed even had an Israeli spider named after him to thank him for his support for the country.

Read the whole thing, here.

Rockets and prisoners

From the Times of Israel:

After long weeks of quiet between Gaza and Israel, today was the day that Grad missiles were fired at Ashkelon, just a few hours after the Netanyahu government approved the release of another 26 prisoners. One can already hear Jewish Home MK Orit Strock crowing that this is proof that releasing prisoners fans the flames of terror.

The truth is there isn’t necessarily a connection between the two. But if there is one, it seems the missile launchers weren’t inspired by the release of the prisoners but rather the opposite: They want to damage what is perceived among the Palestinian public as another achievement for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who has succeeded once again in getting Israel to release prisoners by just negotiating — not through kidnappings, not through murders, not with a second Gilad Shalit or a prisoner swap.

This formula, that the release of prisoners within the framework of negotiations strengthens Abbas’s position, is known to the Israeli government — even to the ministers of the right-wing Jewish Home, which has cried foul over the release.

In fact, all the noise heard from the Jewish Home in the last months is nothing but media spin.


In any case, the release of veteran prisoners doesn’t encourage terror. Just the opposite: it encourages negotiations. True, these prisoners are murderers, but they carried out their attacks before the Oslo Accords and are now returning to their homes not through violence or terror but within the framework of diplomatic talks.

Their release — and this is important for Jewish Home — attests to the fact that something in the negotiations continues to move forward. Despite the waves of pessimism and the endless eulogies for the talks, some progress has been registered; otherwise, the releases would not happen.

Meetings between the negotiation teams are held all the time, some below the media radar, and neither side is in a hurry to scupper the talks. That is troubling Hamas, and it apparently troubles many in Israel, including in Jewish Home

Interesting. Read it all, here.

Mayhem Monday

I decided I wanted to try and get some regular ftf wargaming on the go. So, once a month, I am hosting such a session. This week was the inaugural Mayhem Monday. How was it? Superb!

The real meaning of fourex

The real meaning of fourex

Peleg and Roy joined me and we went for a three player game of Space Empires. We chose the 2 v1 option, with Roy joining me in an uneasy alliance against Peleg.


Although we did not finish, we had a blast; sometimes literally. After building up our economies by settling colonies, we built up our respective fleets by developing technology and sending them out to hunt down the enemy.

Peleg and Roy had a couple of biggish encounters after some initial skirmishing, with Peleg probably just ahead.

I eventually got into battle, but was seriously outgunned by Peleg’s forces. My attempt to sneak a raid deep into enemy territory was badly stalled.

Roy and I were paying 50% more for our technology and our ship builds, so although we were two against one, Peleg was able to build more, better, faster!


What’s the game like? It requires record keeping, but nobody found the burden too much. What can sometimes be a bit tricky is working out what extra technology your ships have. But it does get easier.

The fog of war – units are kept face down until combat – is easy. (Only once did I make a mistake and wrongly move a space base…)

The excitement level is good, even before you clash with the enemy. Why? Well, for one reason, exploration is of the unknown – you flip chits as you explore space. The results can be good. The results can be bad. You can take a risky approach, or await better technology to improve your exploration.

I am impressed with the design. It is not for everyone, but even the basic game is full of neat twists. I think the advanced rules will be well worth the extra playing time, and that’s the only area that it falls short.

Oh it is way shorter than most games of that type, but still a touch too long for a 3-4 hour evening session.

The production values are great. GMT and Jim Krohn are to be congratulated.

I was so wired after the guys had gone home, I did not sleep well. But I cannot wait for next month! The challenge, however, is going to be finding games we can finish in an evening.

Thanks to Peleg and Roy for making my night.

Turning the other cheek too far

Based alone on what Malcolm Lowe wrote at the Gatestone Institute, if I were a Christian, I’d be ashamed:

The World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva claims to represent and serve 345 churches worldwide. What has it done to help the persecuted churches in Iraq, Syria and Egypt? Or the flood of Syrian refugees into Jordan and Lebanon? Answer: it has devoted the whole of 2013 to promoting a World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel (September 22-28). That is, it has poured its Swiss francs into stirring up the one corner of the area that is currently almost calm.

Why is this happening?

The excuse for this absurd imbalance is that the WCC has maintained for decades, and insists on maintaining against all evidence, that the churches of the Middle East have no other real problem than the Palestinian issue. Earlier this year (May 21-25), the WCC held a conference on “Christian Presence and Witness in the Middle East” near Beirut, Lebanon. Its closing statement proclaimed: “Palestine continues to be the central issue in the region. Resolving the conflict between Israel and Palestine in accordance with the UN resolutions and international law, will greatly help resolving the other conflicts in the region.”

It looks as if slamming Israel is more important than saving lives. The WCC, it appears, is also short for Without a Christian Conscience.

Read it all, here.

[First seen at CAMERA.]

One hundred women at the BBC

From the BBC:

100 Women: Who is taking part?

They hail from all over the world, and from walks of life. They do all kinds of things: they make music, save lives, raise children, run businesses, write, preach, act and tell jokes. They campaign for their causes and strive for a better world for themselves and their families.

On Friday 25 October they are coming together at the BBC’s London headquarters, Broadcasting House, for a unique day of debate and discussion.

We’ll ask them to tell us where they think the world’s women are today, and to set out their goals for the future. You’ll be able to follow every development on BBC TV, radio and online.

We’ll give more details of the schedule as we get nearer the day.

There then follows the list. (You can see it, here.)

The non UK countries represented – on the face of the list – include: Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Cambodia, Kenya, Myanmar, Russia, Switzerland, Colombia, Italy, Egypt, Finland, India, Malawi, China, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Hungary, Iceland, Lebanon, Cameroon, Spain, Syria, Netherlands, Indonesia, Jamaica, Bangladesh, South Africa, Iran, Afghanistan, Uganda, USA, Tunisia, Bolivia, Guatemala, France, Sierra Leone, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan.

Why do I get a bad feeling about this event?

Smile, please; you’re in the picture.

Calling all Israeli residents: read the following (from the Herald) and weep:

One camera responsible for quarter of bus lane fines in Glasgow

A SINGLE traffic camera in Glasgow has been responsible for almost one-quarter of all penalty notices issued to motorists in the city since a crackdown on driving in bus lanes was launched last year.

The Glassford Street camera has been producing 340 tickets a day on average to motorists who stray into its bus lane and has so far brought in £1.2million.

The device, which is one of 11 located in and around the city centre, has been responsible for one in four £60 fines handed out to errant motorists.

Some of the points worth making:

  1. This is what happens when you have traffic cameras that work. (I have not seen a single working traffic camera in Israel. According to legend, there is one. Yes, one.)
  2. That single camera, at an average of 340 tickets – at  £60 – a day, produces revenue of £20,400 a day.  Assuming a 5 day working week, that’s £102,000 a week, and £408,000 in a 4 week month. A staggering £4,896,000 for a full year. How much good could responsible leadership achieve with that money?
  3. This is what happens when a crackdown is announced and followed through. Memo to Israeli politicians: the follow through matters!
  4. Perhaps bus lanes and traffic cameras are long overdue in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem?