Take care with that Fidel Castro coverage

Fidel Castro. Source: Wikimedia/Antonio Milena - ABr

Fidel Castro. Source: Wikimedia/Antonio Milena – ABr

As you will have heard, Fidel Castro has died. If you read the information at the Guardian and the BBC, you might get the impression he was some kind of sainted hero. Other views should be considered. For example, as Guido Fawkes points out:

Nothing however beats the BBC’s coverage. They are reporting Castro death more favourably than Thatcher’s. No ‘controversial’. No mention of the thousands summarily executed after the revolution. No mention that he demanded the USSR nuke the USA. No mention of the decades of impoverishment and human rights abuse. No mention of his secret police rounding up homosexuals and putting them in concentration camps. Castro gets a free pass on democratic norms – “his critics accused him of being a dictator”. Does the BBC think that is only an allegation? Particular congratulations to the BBC News Channel, who interviewed “Cuba expert” Richard Gott, without mentioning he was a KGB agent of influence. Slow clap.

In other words, he was a classical, brutal, dictator. Except, that’s not the case for the BBC and the Guardian. For example, here’s what the Guardian has as its token concession to truth:

Critics liked to argue that “General” Castro was no different in essence from any other Latin America dictator, yet such criticism was hard to sustain.

Eh? Liked to argue?  Hard to sustain? The only thing that’s hard to sustain here is the idea that this piece was an attempt at an objectiver obituary. It’s hagiography, pure and simple.

If that type of coverage doesn’t tell you that real journalism has gone nuts, nothing will.

Embarrassment of the week

Time to look away from the world of politics. Let’s look at the world of hi-tech business. How embarrassing is this:

Twitter bans own CEO Jack Dorsey from Twitter

Twitter briefly suspended the Twitter account of Twitter cofounder and CEO Jack Dorsey today. It sparked some fears the big boss had been unceremoniously booted out of the troubled biz or had fallen foul of his own anti-abuse complaints system. But it was probably a bug or something mundane like that.

The Register has the story here.

Count the money!


This week, Susan and I were joined by Azriel, Nechamiah, Peleg, and newcomer Yair.

Yair was a latecomer (by arrangement) so the first five of us settled down for a quick game of Ticket to Ride: Europe. Peleg won this, but it was a close, close game, with everyone within one or two scores of one another. Great stuff.

Yair joined us, Susan departed, and we tackled Acquire. Peleg and I had played it before, so I explained the rules and off we went. It didn’t take long for players to understand what was going on, though by then most had lost track of who bought what shares.

I had a reasonable idea that I was doing well, especially when I secured the biggest shareholding in the biggest chain. When it came to the final counting of the cash, Nechamiah was closest. Then he recounted and discovered he had more money, so he was the winner. (Yes, I recounted my own money too, but my pile did not grow!)

We finished with a session of Codenames that we called after one round apiece to the respective teams.

Thanks to all who came for another good night of gaming.


Tabletop Happenings

I have taken MBT off the table after reaching the point of being reasonably happy that I had the rules well enough absorbed, and my own house rule experimentation – for command and control and morale – was stuck in a bit of a rut. I much prefer my own systems, but they are not working completely to my satisfaction. So, I will let the challenge simmer away in the background, and if I return to the game again, a fresh perspective may solve the issue.

First replacement on the table was Panzer Battles from MultiMan Publishing. It is one of their Standard Combat Series games, designed by Dean Essig, featuring the 11th Panzer Divisions’s battles near the Chir River in 1942. It’s a classic, well studied campaign of mobile defense and counter attack. The game’s special rules tack on a chit pull activation, but apart from that it is similar to Day of Days and It Never Snows in its scale and slightly tweaked combat processes (artillery in the main).

The game is very playable solitaire, and cracks along at a decent pace. Given the chit pull mechanism, the replayability and tension are both high, though I wonder if the possibility of a blowout – for either side – may be a touch too high. I played through the main scenario once, and it was fun. I seemed to be doing a better job with the Soviets, so probably need to practice a bit more if the contest is to be more even. Good fun.

The next replacement was, and is, Ben Hull‘s Fields of Fire from GMT Games This is a solitaire game where you command an infantry company of the 9th US Infantry (Regiment). There are individual missions in each of three campaigns (WW2, Korea, and Vietnam) where your progression depends on mission success, and building up the experience and expertise of your forces. Part of the challenge is dealing with replacements (who tend to be green troops) and keeping casualties down (and recovering them from the battlefield) so as not to be operating below strength.

The game uses a deck of cards for terrain (one for each campaign), and another deck to resolve all game action. No dice! Units are HQs and squads with individual weapons teams and vehicles.

It is not an easy game to win, but otherwise it would be boring. You have to plan, measure your risks, and rise your luck. Planning, for example, involves deciding what signals will be allocated to the various colored smoke you have at your disposal.

The down side is that the game’s original production was botched, with incomplete rules. There is a second edition which is much improved, but there are still some gaps. A third edition – by all accounts much improved – is due to be released next year with a second edition printing. The fact that it is being reprinted, despite those rules issues, tells you that this game is worth persevering with. It can be frustrating, and the systems are a touch on the clunky side, but it can also be very rewarding. It’s a different experience from the up close and personal action of ASL, but it is nonetheless engrossing and absorbing.

The points in Spain


Last week’s session saw me joined by Azriel, Nechamiah, Rosalynn, and Sheer. We decided to opt for a longer, meatier game, and eventually chose the classic El Grande. Both Sheer and I had played the game before, so I explained the rules as best I could, and Sheer filled in the bits I left out. Certainly after the first round – as usual – everyone had a good idea of what was going on. Also after the first round – certainly not as usual – I was in the lead.

The game officially has nine rounds broken up by three scoring rounds. I have always found that to be way too long, so play six rounds instead of nine. Even still, it took us over 2 hours, primarily because one or two of our number suffered an episode or two of the dreaded ‘analysis paralysis’. I was glad we were not doing the whole nine turns.

One of the challenges of this type of game – with open scoring – is that there can be a tendency to gang up on the leader. So, there was some of that, but not as much as there could have been. (I certainly saw ways the other players could have done me more harm! Perhaps the analysis paralysis came to my rescue?) Anyway, while there was a bloody battle going on behind me, I managed to keep on scoring and in the lead all the way to the end. Regrettably, I cannot remember who was after me, though I believe Azriel really slumped in the last round, and Sheer and Nechamiah were rapidly gaining on me. Rosalynn probably had the best of the last scoring rounds, but wasn’t in a position to threaten my win.

I hope we will get to try it again with players having that experience under their belts, as that should be even more fun, and hopefully a wee bit faster!

Thanks to all who came and once again made for a great night’s gaming.

Friends of the Earth or Enemies of the Jews?

Friends of the Earth‘s Mission and Vision statement begins:

Mission and vision

Our vision is of a peaceful and sustainable world based on societies living in harmony with nature.

We envision a society of interdependent people living in dignity, wholeness and fulfilment in which equity and human and peoples’ rights are realized.

This will be a society built upon peoples’ sovereignty and participation. It will be founded on social, economic, gender and environmental justice and be free from all forms of domination and exploitation, such as neoliberalism, corporate globalization, neo-colonialism and militarism.

Your antennae may start twitching on reading those last few trendy buzzwords. Well, the following, as reported by Guido Fawkes, may make those antennae stand on end:

Asad Rehman is a senior spokesman for Friends of the Earth and is leading their delegation at the next UN Climate Change conference. As you can see above, Asad has worked out who are the real baddies when it comes to climate change: those pesky Zionists. He says Netanyahu and Israel are “best pals” with ISIS and advocates banning “Zionist organisations” from climate change events.

Inside the happy, clappy, environmentally focused group there is a poisonous pit of hate and bigotry.

Will Friends of the Earth clean it out, or are they happy to host such thinly disguised antisemitism?

Extra, Extra, Read All About It!

And, by way of a bonus, here’s another Fawkes expose piece – Jet Set Lifestyle of WWF Climate Campaigner – also about an environmental group. This one exposes an awful case of hypocrisy. Perhaps we should be grateful it’s hypocrisy and not hate?

The Villa of Mysteries – David Hewson

This is the second in the author’s Detective Nic Costa series (my review of the first is here). Set in Rome, it is a fairly standard police procedural, though it was fresh for a couple of reasons.

First, the feel and the characters were different from the first. Here, Costa is in the story for sure, but the previously peripheral characters are more involved. Second, the narrative doesn’t pull many punches, and although the quality of the writing dips periodically, the overall sensation is of ever rising tension. In the first book, there was a manhunt theme. In this book, there’s more of a central mystery: what is going on, and who is responsible?

The action starts with the discovery of the body of a murdered young girl. This drags up past history involving Emilio Neri, the local mafia boss (who is having problems controlling his son) and Vergil Wallis, an allegedly retired American gangster, and an ancient rite cum orgy that may be about to be repeated.

The characterization is good, the setting is interesting, and the plot is tight, and skillfully revealed.

One thing that stands out now, is the change in the quality of the author’s writing. This book is good, but it has its rough edges. (And yes, I wish I could produce something half as good.) However, the more recent books of Hewson’s that I have read have not had such a lack of finish. In a good way, I am learning some craft as I go, so reading this material is a win-win for me.

On reflection, I enjoyed it. I want to see how the characters and the writing develop, so will be getting hold of more of the Nic Costa books.

Secret Service Agents!

This week’s session started off with Azriel, Nechamiah, Rosalynn, and Sheer joining me. While Peleg fought the Tel Aviv traffic, I introduced everyone to the excellent filler game Coloretto. It’s a light game with more luck than skill, though that should not take anything away from Nechamiah’s fine win.

With Peleg finally in the house, we played 7 Wonders with the Leaders expansion. It took a while to set up while everyone tried to get familiar with the new cards and options. Rosalynn went for a military strategy, but her neighbor Peleg had a nasty power that made him immune from the worst effects of that. Sheer’s was a science strategy, as he tried to gobble up the decent green cards. I went for blue cards, having snagged a leader that reduced their building cost. Nechamiah and Azriel seemed to be trying to spread their scoring options.

About halfway through, Rosalynn expressed some frustration with her progress, claiming not to understand what was going on. With a very short timeout for a fresh explanation, she returned to the fray as play resumed. Then, surprise, surprise, when it came to totaling the victory points, Rosalynn was the winner! That military strategy had been put to good use. However, it was a dandy set of guild cards that gave her a hefty contribution to her winning score. She got those combinations just right. Peleg and I were in the bottom end of the scoring, with Azriel, Nechamiah, and Sheer just a little bit behind Rosalynn. Well done, Rosalynn!

There was time left for a team game: Codenames. We split into two teams of three, and had a three round run at this fun word game. It has a simple, but brilliant, core mechanism, tacked on to a theme of trying to identify secret agents from a pool of agents, civilians, and a deadly assassin. A great way to finish the night.

Thanks to all who came to help make the night such fun.

Expert at what precisely?

Expert. What does it mean? When it comes to USA presidential election predictions, it appears to mean clueless, or wrong. Dead wrong.


Will the media stop and take stock, and try and understand how they (nearly) all got it so gloriously wrong? Shades of the Brexit experience for sure.



Last week was the return to my regular euro gaming session, and I was joined by Azriel, Nechamiah, Rosalynn, and Sheer. After some chat catching up on the last few months, we then spent some time deciding what to play before opting for Race for the Galaxy. Sheer and I had played it before, but not Azriel, Nechamiah, or Rosalynn.

Mechanically, Race for the Galaxy is easy to play. It’s a sort of turbo charged San Juan, with some added twists. But it is one of the hardest games to understand at first playing. There are several reasons for that. The main one is that a lot of the mechanics are on the cards as symbols, and the symbols are challenging to understand and get used to. Once you have played your first complete game, and have seen how the various symbols work, and how the effects interact, it becomes much easier. But, regrettably, that first game is tough.

Inevitably – because I am a really bad player of this game, though I quite like it – Sheer won quite comfortably. Rosalynn and Nechamiah were getting in to the swing of things well by the final rounds. However, poor Azriel suffered the worst, and was struggling even at the end. I don’t think he will ever want to play that game again! Nevertheless, it was great to get the group back together again, and get some gaming in.

Thanks to those who came for making it another fun night.