Saturday, 31 August 2013

Essen 2013 watch out list inaugurated

I´ve put up my list of games to watch out for in Essen at

Serious gaming: playing King of Tokyo in bed
I have started with Pete Ruth's excellent report on GenCon and will add games from Eric Martin's preview list later.  I'm also adding opinions and reviews from some people who've played the games in the run up to Essen, so you might want to check back once in a while. Your suggestions are also more than welcome!

I will be tweeting from the show as @jurdj on the Thursday and Friday and post a few pics if time allows. And Saturday on the way home we will play a few of the games we bought. In the run up and afterwards I will also post here at Rear Guard Action.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Oh no! Essen is just 2 months away!

Summer is done, time to think about Essen. But I'm not psyched yet. I have not picked up any buzz around an Essen release. It seems some good stuff was shown at GenCon. See the extensive but great report from Superfly Circus.

Phil Ecklund explaining the rules to Pax Porfiriana at Essen 2012

I'm interested in the Mice & Mystics expansion. The Wreck Age minis look good, but I'm at least going to wait till it's affordable. The Pathfinder coop RPG sounds great. And then there's the Firefly game (although I never saw the show), the Blackwater Gulch western shoot out miniatures and Bioshock: Infinite, yes a boardgame of the videogame.

Democracy, one of the few kickstarters present at Essen 2012
made its funding goal and seems to get published soon
What I fear is that this year Essen will  have more kickstarter/indiegogo stands, and fewer games in real development. That would change the atmosphere of the show. Anyway, not having a huge to-do list might actually make me more relaxed, even more so in the week after the show.

Of course, I'm on my honour to play every game I bought last year at least once and although I've managed Slavika and Kolejka once, and King of Tokyo and Gauntlet of Fools half a dozen times, Camp Roskilde has not been played since Essen. It leaves me with two games to play in the next two months:

Signum Mortis: now complete

and the

Expansion for Lupin the 3rd

The trouble in both cases is that I need to invest in reading the rules.

Last year I went full on with this list of interests at boardgamegeek. I followed up that list with a bunch of blog posts before and after the show.

Oh no... not another game!

Given that I am short of time I am thinking of not spending so much time this year on Essen reporting and of not committing myself to an Essen 2013 project (either by not buying games, or not forcing myself to actually play them. In which case: why bother buying them?). This all depends on big plans for writing books.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

More thoughts on miniatures rules and the future

Yesterday´s post was about some favourite miniature rule sets, but later that night I also had a discussion about rule sets at the birthday of Michel with Hans and Ed.

Hans is working on a fantasy rule set (For Reign or Ruin, see him testing it here) and very interested in what happens before the battle and how that affects the battle. Delays in the arrival of troops or in their deployment would offer their enemies opportunities for pre-emptive attacks or send an battle plan into disarray. Pre-battle speeches could lift the hearts of the troops.

Ed is thinking not so much of a rule set, but more a scenario generator because he feels that in many rule sets there is no context to the battle and organising and above all keeping campaigns going is hard work.

Maurice, by Sam Mustafa
This made me think of Maurice, the 18th century European battles rule set by Sam Mustafa. It works with a card deck for special personalities, national characteristics and special events before and during the battle. Obviously, Maurice is in the direction of what Ed looks for, but not the final answer.

Another example of a new direction in wargaming is Dux Britanniarum, another Too Fat Lardies set about the struggle between Arthurian British and Anglo-Saxon invaders. The rules focus on the main characters in the war band as it raids or defends the frontier over several years. With rudimentary character generation like in an RPG and with opportunities to rise through the hierarchy and expand your force, the simple campaign rules offer a structure to each battle.

Dux Britanniarum by Too Fat Lardies
What I have noticed is, that as with other great games (like boardgames War of the Ring and Battlestar Galactica), immersion is so strong that the game generates and unprecedented literary effort as players write their battle reports as first-person stories in a long saga or even medieval ballads. I think that speak volumes of the appeal of this rule set.

What I like about the rules is that they are aimed on a small period of time (you know, just a century or two) and move away from the generic setting so common in ancient and medieval wargaming (why is there no rule set just for the Pelopponesian War?). The other side of the coin is that it offers only a relatively small sales volume at reasonably low costs for the designer.

I think there are opportunities for new products by combining card decks a la Maurice with limited ancients/medieval settings like Dux Britanniarum. The card sets build a mini campaign or act as a scenario builder, compatible with whatever rules people use to fight their battles. You could link it to new miniatures ranges, but I think there are also advantages in offering players new ways to use armies that they already have.

The upside is that creating a deck is not expensive. You can sell the decks themselves or offer them via print on demand services. It requires some research to include the kind of events and characters and the dynamics of a particular conflict or campaign. There are a lot of ancient and medieval wars and campaigns so this adds up.

A possible solution to that challenge is to provide a much larger set of cards that players can use to build decks for particular campaigns or wars themselves. It is a good way to engage players with the product.  If you allow them to publish their decks on a forum it will build a community or when they publish in magazines they advertise for you.

What do you think? Is this something you are looking for? Do you think it is viable?

Monday, 26 August 2013

The best miniature wargame rules (according to a non-representative selection of wargamers)

A couple of weeks ago I met Jasper and Jan-Willem and we discussed our favourite and not-so favourite miniature rule sets. This set me thinking.

G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. by Buck Surdu and 
De Bellis Multitudinis by Wargames Research Group

Jan-Willems favourite ruleset is G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. It is straightforward and fast. The game allows for storytelling and is easily adaptable for different settings, something Jan-Willem has done for several participation games.

But he really dislikes De Bellis Multitudinis, often known as DBM. It was a totally regressive development of the ancients ruleset De Bellis Antiquitatis, which was quite innovative. It introduced the now widely accepted PIPs and defined only a dozen troop types based on their role on the battlefield, assuming that weaponry and armour were less important. DBM however, recomplicated the game and reintroduced differences in armour etc, thus negating much that was good about DBA. It also did so in an excruciatingly bad writing style but most of all it was a bad ruleset and no fun.

Note; also check out the excellent fantasy rules Hordes of the Things, which keeps the spirit of DBA and in my humble opinion, makes it even better!

Black Powder by Warlord Games

The newish Black Powder ruleset is Jasper´s favourite. It fast and simple. Rather than focussed on tournament battles it aims at scenarios. Jasper likes that it works well as a toolbox for more specific supplements, thus reflecting the character of the period.

 Stonewall Jackson's Shenandoah Valley Campaign by Real Time Wargames 

My favourite is Stonewall Jackson's Shenandoah Valley Campaign. The rules for battles are really simple but try to reflect the main elements of American Civil War combat. But the brilliance of this set is the campaign system in which all players are Union commanders fighting againt the brilliant Jackson. In fact their main objective is not to win battles but to gain the most political capital out of the campaign which can be done by sending off troops to other armies, politicking in Washington and and avoiding being attacked by Jackson. Just reading the rules brings a smile to your face.

Bag the Hun and Algernon Pulls it Off by Too Fat Lardies

Another favourite ruleset of mine is Bag the Hun / Algernon Pulls It Off, Too Fat Lardies' WW2 and WW1 Staffel level air combat rules. Lots of focus on experience of pilots, maneouvres and formations, not so much on the technical aspects of the planes. As you play with named pilots, seeing them shot down doesn't feel well. Too bad they added more rules in later editions.

Muskets & Tomahawks by Studio Tomahawk

Jasper and I are also impressed with Muskets & Tomahawks. These are 18th century skirmish rules for North America with the emphasis on scenarios and storytelling. The rules are fast and simple (yes, you're spotting a pattern here).

We all agreed that we liked rule sets which paid more attention to the game and historical feel than historical detail and complexity. Easy to pick up and hard to master, but more importantly: fun and with room for story. There are of course people with other preferences, like tournament players and historical buffs who would probably come up with other favourites.

So what are your favourites?  And why? Did we miss something? Or do you think these rules actually suck?

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Gomorrah in Hamburg

In the summer of 1943, RAF Bomber Command and the Eight USAAF took on the most important German port Hamburg, also a major industrial center. Over the space of a week in late July the American and British bombers alternatied day and night raids targeting industrial, but also civilian areas. It was called operation Gomorrah. I was faced with some of the remains during my trip to Hamburg last week.

Indestructible flak tower built 1942 in central Hamburg
By the RAF standards of the time, the initial raid was a success. This means that losses were light and over 40% of airplanes claimed to have dropped their load within 5 km of the target. Yes, let that last bit sink in. So the other 60%... indeed.

The low losses were due to the first time use of Window, small tin foil strips that messed up the German radar defenses so that the flak defenses were firing blind into the night sky. However, the Germans quickly recovered from the surprise and reorganised their air defenses accordingly.

Plaque commemorating the destruction of the previous
building in 1943 and the rebuilding in 1956
With the limited aiming techniques of the time, large parts of the urban area were hit, but more critically,a firestorm was caused as the heat of fires sucked in more oxygen. The fire raged for days as the exhausted fire brigades watched helplessly. This resulted in the destruction of 60 % of the city and the death of about 42,000 to 50,000 people, according to your source. Although the firestorm was unintentional, Bomber Command was impressed with the results and would later try to recreate the effect.

The success of the Hamburg raids for a few months gave the Allies the hope that they could bomb Germany out of the war, and even gave the Nazi and Luftwaffe leadership a great scare. However, the Allies didn´t pursue their advantage and the Luftwaffe quickly found counter measures and the balance swung back to favour the defenders.

The 1943 raids were not the first nor the last of the war.  Civilian morale recovered and fugitives returned. Within months most Hamburg factories were up and running again. So the RAF had to go back  By 1945 three quarters of the town had been flattened. Although as brutal as Dresden, the Hamburg bombings are not as notorious as the former, probably because they occurred with victory a distant prospect in 1943.

Friday, 23 August 2013

German bookshops, not like those at home

I went to Hamburg last week and was well intentioned to drop money on some books on the Befreiungskriege in 1813 as a context for the Waterloo campaign, the Prussian army of 1815 and how the remembrance of the Befreiungskriege and Leipzig in particular compare to that of Waterloo and the 100 Days Campaign. This is all the more interesting because Prussia (and some other German states) were the only ones involved in both battles.

Okay, five books on the Befreiungskriege is not all bad,
but the quality is mixed

The German brick & mortar book retail trade is dominated by the Thalia chain, which offers nice spacious stores with a reasonable general audience stock, including sizeable foreign language sections, and some local variance. However, their English language history section is as big as the German one.

The history sections of the independent book sellers I visited were comparable in size and scope, with the exception of the Heinrich Heine bookshop near Hamburg University, which was sadly renovating so it had only a small but interesting history selection on display. 

While the two big tomes are serious books for a broad audience, they differ in scope. Platthaus' a lively record of the actual battle, Krause's looking at the whole era of Prussian reform and ousting of French influence. Gabriele Hoffmann's book on the fate of Hamburg in 1813 and 1814 under the heel of Marshal Davout offers warm portraits of leading and not so leading participants through their private correspondence. Especially the contrast of Davout's harsh official commitment to the Napoleonic cause and his devoted but also business like relationship with his wife has struck me.

The two smaller books offer shorter introductions on the battle of Leipzig and Freiherr vom Stein. Von Stein was not only the reformer of Prussia after the 1806 defeat, but also the administrator of the areas 'liberated' by the allies in 1813. As such he had enormous influence on events behind the front in Germany, and the perspective of his regime will ahve influenced the choice of Dutch rebels against Napoleon in late 1813.

Colonial, Weimar and the mobilised nation

As a secondary objective, I was looking for books on WWI which, although in torpor, is still a topic a fancy taking on at some point in the future. But even a year before the commemoration starts, bookshops are eerily silent. Yes, lots of stuff on WWII, the Holocaust. Also lots of stuff on Prussia (general history) and Frederick the Great in particular. But the 1800-1923 period almost seems not to have happened.

Guido Knopp's history of Germany's overseas empire gives an interesting and well illustrated overview of Germany's 'Places in the Sun' in Africa and the Pacific, while also venturing into those promoting colonial expansion in Germany. The small Reclam series of cheap editions of classic books offers a bargain, which I could not resist an in depth history of the ill-fated Weimar Republic, which combined chronologic with thematic chapters. Lastly, Lutz Raphael's book looks at the social and political consequences of national mobilisation in Europe in both world wars and in between. Refreshing to have such a broad spectrum book from a non-Anglo-Saxon perspective.

I finally picked up a nice essay on the nature of war by French  philosopher Myriam Reveault d'Allonnes and an intreaguing book on the Art of Capitulation. It looks at the structure of society and war aims and how they determine the ending of wars. Could prove an interesting counterpoint to James Whitman's The Verdict of Battle and Russell Weigly's The Age of Battles. I have my problems with the concept of decisive battles, and these books give me some perspective.

Sadly, too little time
And finally a recommendation if you get to Hamburg and you're a military history buff and like in depth stuff on German (WW2) tanks, aircraft and ships. At the Bernhardt second hand book store you should have a field day. There´s much more than just WW2, but you catch my drift. It´s at Johanniswall 3, within 5-10 minutes walk from the Hauptbahnhof. Sadly not enough time and not on my subjects so I left empty handed.

So I was a bit disappointed with what I could pick up on my preferred subjects, but I ended up with a nice stack anyway.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

John Terraine goes myth busting WWI

The Smoke and the Fire is a well witten and entertaining read with a clear intent. Terraine has no time for studies critical of British commander in chief Douglas Haig and other WWI generals such as The Donkeys by Alan Clark and Haig’s Command by Denis Winter. In that sense the book feels a lot like Corrigan’s later Mud, Blood and Poppycock that also sets out to bust the myths of incompetence and mass slaughter.

This means Terraine also has little sympathy for Lidell Hart and Fuller, the earliest criticasters of WWI generalship. One chapter dismisses Lidell Hart as a man traumatised by his battlefield experience and suggests that Fuller later rescinded on his earlier views. Of course, to Lidell Hart and Fuller, their criticism was not just a matter of history but also a way to advance their ideas of the future of the British army in the Interbellum.

Terraine defends the military leadership by arguing that contrary to the 'donkeys' caricature they did see the potential of modern weapons and quickly adopted many innovations like machine guns and tanks, but that the delays were in development and production. So the civilians were to blame, really.

Likewise, the maintenance of a sizeable cavalry force was not the result of pigheaded cavalry generals clinging to an outdated arm, but to the fact that cavalry was the only means of operational exploitation of a breakthrough. The technical limits of tanks meant that even by 1918 deep and sustained penetration was impossible. In the spring of 1918 the Germans sorely felt the lack of cavalry to achieve the final breakthrough.

While he acknowledges the cock up that the first day on the Somme was, Terraine argues that this was due to inexperience and too much faith in the effect of artillery. He points out that losses quickly fell and success increased in the following months. And it was the German insistence on counterattack that lent the battle its gruesome human toll. But according to Terraine, that is why it achieved its objective of distracting the Germans from Verdun and wearing the German army out.

Sadly, my copy of The Donkeys seems to have gone AWOL

The best point that Terraine makes is that you have to see WWI in the perspective of the American Civil War and WWII. These are wars in which the challenge was not just military but more so in mobilising a complex whole of economy and society towards victory on many battlefields. That also means the war won’t be won in a single battle. Attrition is part and parcel.

As such the war was a huge challenge to the generals involved: training, organising, supplying and leading mass armies in an environment of solidified defensive lines and a mass of new, unproven technology. But those technological advantages are few and short-lived as the enemy catches up.

This applies to WWII as well. Although the Germans can win early on against opponents that haven’t acquired an answer to their operational innovations, this then turns for the worse. Even the string of unprecedented victories in Russia in 1941 cost them more casualties than the battle of Verdun.

Which ties in with Terraine’s firm stance that the object of war is the defeat of the enemy main army. As long as that is in the field, any diversion only means dispersal of force. On this point he criticises both politicians like Lloyd George and Churchill who pursued campaigns in minor theatres as well as theorists like Lidell Hart who advocated an indirect approach.

Dispersal of British Imperial forces according to Terraine p 57
For Terraine there is no way around it and evasion of the showdown on the Western Front was just a lack of moral courage to face up to the truth and its ugly consequences.  Modern warfare, with its mass armies, will result in mass casualties. The search for a bloodless solution only lengthened the war and caused more casualties.

I think that whoever reads Terraine, like Corrigan, has to readjust their visor from the Lions Led By Donkeys school. But not all the way. Although Terraine often uses statistics and source material to support his point, he rarely goes into great depth, weighing both sides of the argument. It´s hard to find a point where Haig doesn´t come out clean and his detractors come out looking like fools.

Because of that, on a different level this book gave me the indefinable feeling that the lines on these issues in the first post war decades were linked to what faction of British history writers you belonged to. And that was probably related to which school you´d been to, the party you voted for and who published your books. This social dimension gave these discussions a shrill tone that also for example also pervades the post war discussion of generals like Montgomery. I can´t lay my finger on what the factions were though.

Thanks to Nick for giving me this books as a birthday present. The other was Tilt by Nicolas Shrady on the history of Pisa and its tower.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Evidence of Derrick's guilt turns up

I read the news today, oh boy...

Horst Tappert, the German actor famous for his role as inspector Derrick in the series with the same title never talked about his war record. Recently, it was revealed he'd been in the SS and now physical evidence has turned up.

Like in a good Krimi, good research gets the bad guy in the end.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Soviet sub in Hamburg

Made a quick snap of the U-434 in.Hamburg harbour. It's a former Soviet sub, built in 1976 and was used mainly for intelligence operations.
It's now a museum.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Hamburg honours Unification heroes

Cycled through a neighbourhood celebrating the German heroes of unification this morning. Others streets were named after Roon, Waldersee and Manstein.
This marked the neighbourhood as build probably somewhere around 1900. Nice houses, spacious streets.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Keegan's Waterloo

John Keegan´s Face of Battle was major influence on my thinking about warfare as it was for so many others. I read it in university as part of a military history course. I Can see more flaws in it now, but compared to the 'drum and trumpet history' that had gone before this was a significant step forward.

My well worn copy

At about the same time Geoffrey Parker's The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road was published. Together with several other historians, they formed the start of big changes in the study of military history. A turn from the view from above to the view from below, a turn towards primary sources, towards questions of 'how' and towards a more scientific approach instead of jingoism.

I picked up Keegan again recently for my research on Waterloo, and there's many valuable lessons in The Face of Battle, or at least things I will be looking at:
  • Each participant only sees a fraction of the whole. He sometimes hardly even sees the enemy. Smoke, terrain obstacles and friendly or enemy troops obscure his vision, and combined with the noise and smell of battle distracts him from anything further away. However, the appearance of general officers in the own or enemy lines is frequently noticed.
  • The effect of hunger, thirst, tiredness, rain and sun, corn fields and mud, alcohol and the experience of combat on a soldier's emotions
  • Formations are more open than we tend to assume and even more open than implied in the descriptions by the participants. Movement is also slower. Few cavalry charges are made at the gallop; obstacles and casualties can slow them down to a crawl.
  • The fate of those trying to surrender depends on the circumstances. Early in the battle there is room for capture, but rarely during the crisis. Distance always matters, because combat has a territorial quality, especially in and around buildings.
  • Flight is not just a matter of casualties: the Imperial Guard suffered fewer casualties than many of the regiments opposing them.
  • Also, flight seems to start at the rear of the unit (especially columns), rather than at the front. Even though Keegan can't really prove this (he only has accounts from British observers, not from French survivors) nor explain.
  • Looting was pervasive, and more profitable than soldiering. It could be a threat to the order of the formation, so officers tried to prevent it during battle.
  • The prospect of loot, personal honour, courage, alcohol, physical coercion might have been motivations for individuals to stand instead of run, but Keegan sees two factors as paramount: group solidarity and individual leadership.
  • The formation, especially the square, provided a sense of safety in numbers (false, as Keegan notes). The integrity of the formation was symbolised by the regimental colours and they were attacked and defended with great effort.
  • Officers were primarily motivated by their reputation among their peers.  Honour was highly individual, and less tied to the regiment than in later days. In a sense it was a professional code of conduct and stoic acceptance of risk was the measure of it. Getting wounded in the execution of duty and continuing in the field was the highest form of honour for officers to aspire to. 

I can see now that there are severe limitations to the Siborne files, with their disdain for and ignorance of the other participants in the battle. But in the early 1970s it was the easiest accessible corpus of eyewitness accounts on the battle. We're very privileged to have so many other accounts readily available now from Dutch, French and German participants.

This of course has changed the narrative of the battle as a whole (Keegan falls into the same traps as Wheeler and other people who just looked at British and the odd French accounts), but I think the parts on the nature of battle can stand the test of time much better and that of course was his main object with the book. To get an idea of what it was like.

Keegan's book may not have found all the answers, but it was the first to ask the questions.

This last point is one that I think is very important and actually goes against what Keegan says about the lack of loyalty in the new Dutch-Belgian army. The picture of the professional officer he paints is as valid for other armies as it is for the British. Officers were motivated by professional pride, and therefor served as well and as loyal in foreign armies as in that of their home country. Jomini, Clausewitz and the Prince of Orange are well known cases, but many French émigrees served abroad, Irish and Swiss served with credit in the French army. They took their professional alignment very seriously. In 1813-1814 Dutch officers didn't just walk out of the French army, but waited until released from their duty or formally gave up their commission.

This is proved to a large extent by their conduct in the 100 days campaign, where officers generally served their armies faithfully, as did Dutch, Belgian and German officers in French service. Of course we don't know what would have happened had Napoleon won at Waterloo, but I think the amount of officers changing sides would have been small.

The loyalty of the general officers and rank and file was another matter. For the former, loyalty was not to their duty but to their political masters: monarchs (or parliaments). Their relation to the regime could have significant impact on their carreers, especially if they also had political roles or ambitions. Ney's flip-flopping is a case in point (more about that some other time). Napoleon had many reasons to distrust his marshals.

For the rank and file, conscripts in most cases, there was little expectation of loyalty. National sentiments were not by any means as developed as a century later, and few could be expected to foster warm feelings for the ruling elite. Draft dodging was common, especially when the regime was unpopular or the chances of success were deemed low. And once conscripted, many went absent without leave. But as they were loyal to no one, they could also not be expected to rapidly enter the opposing army of their of free will. I think Napoleon would also be disappointed in the number of soldiers joining his eagles should he have proved triumphant.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Target Earth - very decent SciFi Ameritrash

On Friday, Andries brought in a game he bought at Essen two years ago that we hadn’t played yet. Good move! Target Earth was published by the Spanish guys Gen-X that also published the intreaguing but excruciatingly badly written Luna Llena. This, however, is a much better game and genuine Ameritrash. To those that remember the video game X-Com, the setting will be very familiar.

The gameboard with the countries marked (green for alien,
blue for allied) and Terschellinger pondkoek

The players together lead an alliance against an alien invasion of earth. Some of the countries of the world have joined the alliance, others stay neutral or have already succumbed to the alien threat. Worryingly, the aliens keep sending new and stronger waves later in the game.

Personal objective card indicating that you score points if Japan is part of the alliance
at the end of the game, and if the US, China and India are neutral or alien

Prime objective is to learn enough about the alien technology while keeping the alliance more powerful than the aliens. The players all have secondary objectives as well, which determine the winner if (a big if) the humans achieve their prime objective. This adds a nice influence on the incentives for players.

The tiles to upgrade your base
The countries of the alliance produce income that can be used to either research new or alien technology, upgrade their bases or buy new units. There’s four types of units: infantry, tanks, shuttles and fighters. For each of your units, you need room in your base. You can also build laboratories (for research) and radars (to help interceptions). 

Two of my veteran infantry taking on low grade alien ground troops

During the game, players try to fend off the attacks on allied or neutral states, either by attacking the UFOs with fighters or the ground troops that spawn from them. Combat is dice based and unpredictable, with the aliens holding the edge in ties. There’s a few combat bonuses around in event cards but fundamentally you need to improve your technology to keep apace with new waves of aliens.

Examples of event cards, those with stars
are worth VP at the end of the game
In terms of strategy, we now feel that since researching alien technology holds no extra benefits, it should be left as late as possible, concentrating on combat tech first. In combat, playing it safe seems the best way to go about it because losing units is costly and income is limited. However, with dice you can’t avoid extreme results. Also, the ease with which the aliens can be held in phase one is deceptive. The problem is: when the alien invasion gathers pace, it’s too late to catch up. We had a hunch that it will be easier with four players.

My base early on in the game, 3 credits in the top left, diplomatic
bonus counters bottom left and extra units bottom right

All in all this game provides a tough but interesting challenge to veteran Ameritrash players. There's lot of dice rolling, and there are difficult decisions to be made. Because of that we gone from relief to agony and back many times in the game. I liked how the personal objectives add some spice to the cooperative goal of beating the aliens. There's no innovation in mechanisms that I could see. Although the rulebook is still not that easy to read and navigate, once you get playing the game ramblesalong fine. I bet we're going to give this one another try.

Andries, thanks for teaching us the game!

Friday, 9 August 2013

What Abba says about the memory of Waterloo

"My, my, at Waterloo Napoleon did surrender
Oh yeah, and I have met my destiny in quite a similar way
The history book on the shelf
 Is always repeating itself"

Okay, apart from the slight historical inaccuracy in the above lyrics, even in 1974 Waterloo was still very much in the public mind. Enough at least to help win a Eurovision song contest. Not only did Abba gain the coveted prize, it also became a hit record for them and the start of their international breakthrough.

Napoleon, as ever taking the credit for the work of others
In that year 17 countries competed, with 10 jurors from each participating country giving a point to their favourite song. Abba won with 24 points, among which a massive 5 from Finland and Switzerland. Former allies the Netherlands gifted 3 points, (West-)Germany 2 and Luxembourg 1, but Great Britain and Belgium refused their love. France didn't take part in the competition, because French president Pompidou had died a week before, so we don't know how French jurors would have reacted.

However, we have some information on the chart success of the song. According to wikipedia the record went to number 1 in Belgium, Great-Britain, Eire and (West)-Germany, but only reached number 2 in the Netherlands and 3 in France. While a certain restraint was to be expected from France, not exactly the star of the song, Dutch lukewarm reception is suspect. Especially as the song reached #1 in Denmark, the country whose contingent arrived to late in the Low Countries to take part in the campaign.

The song was originally called Honey Pie, but I can't imagine it winning the contest with that title. Bennie and Björn also showed good sense of the musical mood as they moved the musical arrangement closer to disco and of the fashion trends as they latched on to glitter. Sadly, the Eurovision song contest never moved on in both the fields.

But the real question is: why didn't Abba sing about the battle of Leipzig, a battle that they at least participated in?