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Today marks the last day of 2011 and speaking for myself, its end and the arrival, now just hours away, of 2012 couldn't be more welcome. The year that is finally limping to a close has brought with it few, if any, real signs of economic improvement, either here in the US or abroad. And "wars and rumors of wars" continue, along with dire warnings of an impending worldwide financial Armageddon, to dominate the daily news cycle. Moreover, 2011 — thanks to a combination of computer and health woes — has truly been an "annus horrilibus" when it comes to my own attempts at writing. Nonetheless, I am hopeful that my personal problems are now largely behind me and I can at last look forward to a more productive and less challenging twelve months of blogging than those that are now ending. In any case, as the final hours of 2011 tick away, I want to extend my best wishes to all of my readers for a Happy and Prosperous New Year!
Now that 2011 is Finally Coming to a Close, It is Time to Look Forward to a Brand-New Year
From its start, this blog has concentrated on presenting highly-detailed game profiles and operational analysis of traditional, out-of-print, board-style war games. The reason for my focus on older titles is simple: there are already any number of excellent internet sources for timely game reviews, After Action Reports, and even in-depth profiles of recently published titles (e.g. boardgamegeek.com, grognard.com, or consimworld.com, just to name a few); for this reason, I have, with very few exceptions, preferred to avoid this contemporary, state-of-the-art area of hobby commentary. Instead, I have — with my many posts on out-of-print, oftentimes obscure titles — endeavored to serve as an information resource both for long-time players and collectors, and also for those enthusiasts who have entered the hobby more recently, but who, for whatever reason, have developed an interest in these older games.
The focus of "Map and Counters" on the the hobby's so-called "Golden Age" will continue in the coming year; however, I should also note that there probably will be, as there have been in the past, a few modest tweaks around the margins, when it comes to the site's content in 2012. Moreover, as regular visitors to this blog already know: in addition to my usual run of game-related posts, "Map and Counters" will — as it has almost from its beginning — continue to offer commentary on other tangential subjects such as movies and books, our national Holidays, hobby personalities, convention announcements and updates, and even a few posts to cover important (in my view, anyway) breaking hobby-related news. This basic format — like the primary emphasis of my blog — will not change appreciably with the advent of the New Year. On the other hand, whatever my own preferences, it nonetheless matters what types of offerings you, the gamers who actually visit my site, most want to see featured on the pages of "Map and Counters". And for that reason, I would like to invite you all — as I do every year at this time — to put forward your own suggestions about possible new topics for this blog. If there are any game-related subjects that I am not currently covering, but which you think would be of interest to other readers, please let me know via the comments section of this or any of my future posts. I cannot stress strongly enough that any comments (so long as they are, at least, barely civil) or suggestions about the future direction of this blog will always be welcome.
As I look towards 2012, it is my sincere hope that “Map and Counters” will continue to be a site worth visiting regularly in the coming weeks and months. That, at least, is my main goal. The year that is now ringing to a close has, for a variety of reasons, been a difficult one; let us all hope that 2012, unlike its predecessor, will at last usher in better times for us all!
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The First World War; by John Keegan; Vintage Press (May 2000); ISBN-13: 978-0375700453
Beginning with the first few pages of "The First World War," John Keegan makes it clear to his readers that, at least from the author's perspective, this book is intended to be more than a simple catalog of the various military campaigns that were fought on a myriad of different battlefields — from Flanders to the Baltic, from Galacia to the Italian Alps, from the Caucasus Mountains to the Middle East, and from Africa to the Far East — which, when woven together, combine to form the bloody historical tapestry that was then, and is today, still referred to by many as the "Great War". Certainly, providing such a chronicle of military events is one of Keegan's main objectives in writing "The First World War"; but, while it is obviously important, it is not the author's only purpose in creating this work. In point of fact, Keegan's historical narrative, both in form and in substance, is directly linked to his other more personal goal which, according to the author's own words, is to present an unsentimental, but deeply respectful account of the almost incomprehensible sacrifices that long ago were asked of, and usually willingly made, by the millions of soldiers who fought in this protracted and sordid orgy of industrialized slaughter. The attempt to seamlessly combine these two themes makes for a challenging project, and if the author, in spite of his considerable gifts as a story teller, does not always quite pull it off, his is a worthy effort, nonetheless.
For starters, the author, no doubt in an attempt to appear even-handed in his approach to his work, seems a bit over-generous in his treatment of General Erich Ludendorf. It is almost as if, impressed by the German general's military achievements during the first two years of the war, Keegan is inclined to skip over the clear evidence that, by 1918, the strain of command had pushed the ex-officio dictator of Germany to the edge of a mental breakdown. Curiously, the author is also strangely silent when it comes to the fact that, more than any other single individual, Ludendorf bears responsibility for the poisonous "stab in the back" military and political myth that emerged in Germany in the years immediately after the war.
Perhaps because I am an American, I was also more than a little nonplussed to see that some very important political actors are given astonishingly little consideration in "The First World War". Keegan's decision, for example, to largely ignore the significant (if often deleterious and confusing) effects of President Woodrow Wilson's diplomatic meddling on the sensitive negotiations between the Allies and Germany during the last months of the war seems odd, particularly given the amount of print that he devotes to the lead-up to the conflict. Such is also the case when it comes to Wilson's naive (and almost total) underestimation of the complex and Byzantine political dynamics that actually shaped the negotiations between the various Allied leaders at Versailles once hostilities had formally ended and much of the world's map was being redrawn. Moreover, the misguided and badly botched Allied military attempts to influence events in post-revolutionary Russia, and the toxic long-term political effects of these armed expeditions on post-war relations between the West and the Communist leaders of the newly-constituted Soviet Union are also passed over by the author with only the briefest of commentaries.
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This is my second attempt at a post on the subject of the 2011 Holiday Season. The first version, my wife gently but firmly explained to me, was both too dark and too depressing. This is not to say, by the way, that she took exception to my overall view that the current times are hard and — after three long years of economic stagnation and high unemployment — still pose very real, and sometimes even existential challenges to far too many American families. Instead, her central point, and the main reason for her criticism, was that for me to devote the bulk of my Holiday post to these troubling issues was to miss the real meaning and significance of the Christmas Season. She's probably right. Things could certainly be better for many of our fellow citizens, but they could also, I suppose, be much worse. And, although it is an easy thing to lose sight of during the hectic days of December, the true message of Christmas has very little, if anything, to do with decorated trees, Santa Claus, or even gift-giving; it does, however, have everything to do with the promise of spiritual redemption that came with the first "Christ's Mass", more than two millennia ago.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year; but Watch Yourself, it's a Jungle Out There!The days leading up to Christmas, my father once ruefully commented after a particularly gruelling day of holiday gift shopping with my mother, are just a bit like wartime, in that they bring out both the very worst and the very best in people. At the time he said this many years ago, I was still very young, and really had no idea what my father was talking about. Now, I do; and if the Christmas Season appears, on occasion, to bring about an increase in public displays of human frailty; it also — often with more frequency, but with less fanfare — gives expression to the "better angels' of our natures.
And, of course, no Christmas Season would be complete without the sad, but predictable spike in thievery that always seems to go hand-in-hand with the arrival of the holidays. This year is no different; in fact, the current batch of criminals somehow seems even worse than usual. Thus, we see that — from outdoor Christmas decorations to wheel chairs, from Salvation Army collection kettles to copper wire and tubing, from Church "poor boxes" to toys intended for sick children — this conscienceless band of light-fingered ne'er-do-wells has again shown up, like "Bad" Santa's delinquent helpers, to victimize anyone and everyone that they can.
If the long lines, jammed parking lots, pointless rudeness, and the various other bad behaviors that seem to proliferate during the holidays weren't enough, the mainly secular (and anti-religious) northeastern "chattering classes" also do their part to diminish the spiritual significance and joyousness of the Christmas Season. Year after year, starting around Thanksgiving, these pompous media "know-nothings" (and yes, Anderson and Shep, I mean over-paid twits like you and your friends) begin a month-long campaign devoted to recounting each and every incident of criminal activity, mob violence, or consumerism run amok that crosses their desks; their unstated message: it is these unfortunate events, more than anything else, that now define the real spirit of the season for most Americans. Given these carefully-picked examples, and others like them, it is probably no wonder that many in our society have come to see these Holiday "horror" stories as yet more proof of the coarsening of American culture and of the fraying of the country's social compact. And yet, along with this dreary collection of holiday tales showing societal anomie, there are also stories that vindicate the second, positive part of my father's wartime-holidays analogy.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to my readers both here and abroad, may you all have a joyous and safe Holiday.
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In the last few years, Pearl Harbor Day has taken on increased significance to me personally, not just because my father and many of my uncles served in the armed forces during World War II, but also because most of the veterans of that war that I grew up knowing have passed from the scene. It was an extraordinary time: rendered more so by the fact that Pearl Harbor and the events that followed are as historically removed from the experiences of the present generation as the trauma of the Civil War was from those of my father's generation. That being said, I now view this day as a perfect excuse to invite my father and those of his surviving friends who lived through the often uncertain years of World War II to reminisce about their friends and experiences. Some of their stories I have heard over and over again, but some are surprisingly fresh and unexpected; this is why it strikes me as particularly poignant that before too much longer virtually all of these recollections — some funny, some touching, and some sad — will, like those who currently share them, be gone forever.
A Long Time Ago, on a Sunny Morning in Hawaii ...
As a direct result of these two Japanese attacks, eighteen U.S. ships including seven battleships were either sunk or so badly damaged that they would be out of action for months. In addition, of the nearly 400 military aircraft on the island, 188 were destroyed, and 159 were damaged. Total American casualties were 3,581, of which 2,403 were killed. The pillars of black smoke billowing up from the burning ships and airfields at Pearl Harbor after the Japanese air strikes bore witness to the stark fact that, although no formal declaration had yet been made by either nation, the United States and the Empire of Japan were now at war.
Remembering the "Day of Infamy" Seventy Years After
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Back on November 16th, I published a brief description of what I understood then to be the preliminary details of a soon-to-start PBeM STALINGRAD Tournament. At the time of my initial post, the final format and rules for this tournament were still being sorted out among those members of the Consimworld STALINGRAD Forum community who were most interested in seeing this project actually get off the ground. This is no longer the case: The final guidelines for the tournament have now all been agreed upon and cardboard combat for the STALINGRAD PBeM championship is set to begin in about two weeks. At present, there are more than a dozen confirmed tournament entrants; however, for those visitors to "Map and Counters" who might be interested in taking part in this unique PBeM event, TOURNAMENT REGISTRATION IS STILL OPEN. That being said, I invite anyone who would like to participate — whatever their experience level — to follow the link at the bottom of this post and to contact the tournament's Game Master, Joseph Angiolillo, about entering what has, somewhat belatedly, been rechristened The 50th Anniversary Tournament of STALINGRAD. And the best part of it all — given economic conditions here and overseas — is that there is no entry fee: tournament participation will be free to all comers!
THE 50th ANNIVERSARY 'STALINGRAD' TOURNAMENT KICKS OFF ON 15 DECEMBER, 2011
And now, for those of my readers who would like additional information, a few tournament particulars ...
Thanks to the yeoman efforts of Brian Britton and Joe Angiolillo (as well as many others), this "landmark" competitive event will officially start on 15 December. The early round "match pairings" will be organized according to a two-tiered (novices versus novices; experts versus experts) "Swiss" style tournament format. The advantage of this type of arrangement — for those who are unfamiliar with "Swiss" style competitions — is that, unlike "single-elimination" tournaments, in a "Swiss" tournament setting, a player can suffer a defeat during the early rounds of play and still battle back to win a berth in the final four. In addition, the "two-tiered" approach guarantees that players who are relatively new to the game will not be "over-faced" during their early match-ups. By starting out this way, it is hoped that newer players will have an opportunity to garner some valuable tournament experience before they have to go up against one of the more seasoned veterans in the later rounds.
Finally, to actually register for this "historic" wargaming event, prospective participants (both inside and outside the US) are encouraged to contact the Tournament Game Master, Joe Angiolillo, as soon as possible at the email address listed below; also, for those of my readers who are seriously considering participating in the tournament but who would like to obtain a copy of the "Official 50th Anniversary STALINGRAD Tournament Rules so that they can look them over before deciding, a ".PDF" link has been provided at the bottom of this post.
STALINGRAD PBeM Tournament Game Master's email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
To obtain a copy of the Official 50th Anniversary STALINGRAD PBeM Tournament Rules, please click on this ".PDF" link:
STALINGRAD PBeM Tournament Rules
Additional Related Posts'STALINGRAD' ANYONE?
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