Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Kindle Fire

Well, I finally broke down and got an ebook device. For Christmas and my birthday, my wife and daughter have bought me a Kindle Fire. I was mainly looking for a reader so the tablet features it does possess are a bonus. I think if people buy with the idea that it is a cheap iPad then they will probably be disappointed, but if they accept it for what it is they will enjoy using it. I have been using mine non-stop since I brought it home this past weekend.

I have never used a regular Kindle before, so I have no idea how much I would prefer the regular Kindle's eInk display over the display in the fire for reading purposes. I just finished my first book on the Fire, and it was surprising how quickly I adjusted to reading on the device, and now possibly prefer it to physical books.

For regular reading the Fire is great, but I do have a minor annoyance with the ways maps are handled in history books. You can click on the map image and bring up a larger image, but it is the image you clicked on scaled to a larger size, and will be very pixelated and not be easier to read. I think it would be better if the publishers, or Amazon modified the format if this isn't possible, used a larger image that they scaled down for the normal view so you could click it and bring up a nice image to look at. I did buy an atlas of the Gettysburg campaign to see how it would look, and in this case it actually looks nice. I have also looked at a couple of programming books and it varies between books as to how nice the code formatting looks. I would tend to use the programming books through the kindle app on the pc instead of the kindle itself though so it isn't an issue for me. PDFs seem to render pretty well. I have copied over a bunch of manuals for my pc wargames to the kindle so I can consult them while playing the games.

The app store isn't nearly as populated as iTunes, but there are some useful apps available.

For web browsing once I find what I want to read, I find it nicer to turn the fire sideways and read in landscape mode which allows the page to be zoomed in more. The silk browser seems to function well enough and is fairly responsive so far.

I haven't spent much time with audio or video, but they seem to function adequately.

The battery life would certainly be better on the older kindle, but the fire seems to hold a charge long enough to use it throughout the day, and charge it at night. For multimedia use it probably wouldn't last as long.

Overall I would say it is a good purchase for me. My wife had the iPad2 and enjoys it immensely, but the fire probably does all I need a device to do, and actually the smaller form factor probably means it will get more use from me than if I had bought an iPad or ASUS eePad.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Defense of Jisr Al-Doreaa

The Defense of Jisr al-Doreaa: With E. D. Swinton's The Defense of Jisr al-Doreaa: With E. D. Swinton's "The Defence of Duffer's Drift" by Michael L. Burgoyne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I stumbled across this book while looking to replace my copy of Swinton's The Defence of Duffer's Drift which I appeared to have misplaced over the years. The Defense of Jisr Al-Doreaa is very similar to Swinton's work, but set in the modern counter-insurgency setting of Iraq. The 2nd half of the book contains Swinton's work. Both are a joy to read, and impart good tactical lessons.



Now to read McDonough's The Defense of Hill 781 which is similar, but set at the National Training Center in California.



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Sunday, August 21, 2011

World of Tanks

So lately I have been spending a lot of time playing World of Tanks. The best way to probably describe the essence of the game is Call of Duty, but you are a World War II tank instead of a person running around. The main game is comprised of 15 minute rounds where 2 15-man teams duke it out. There are 3 different tech trees that you can progress through: USA, Germany, and USSR. There also are different classes of vehicles: light tanks, medium tanks, heavy tanks, tank destroyers, and self propelled guns. Each round you play you get experience to spend researching in the tech trees and credits with which you buy vehicles, crew, ammo, equipment, and such things as well as pay for vehicle repairs. The match maker can be a bit wonky, but doesn't do too bad a job of finding appropriate battles for whichever tier your tank is in.

I think the round length hits just the right spot. You typically won't last that long, but you can stay in a battle after dying and spectate from your teams pov. You can also exit and go jump in another one of your tanks and head into another battle. In less than a month of playing mostly at night with the exceptions maybe of weekends I have participated in over 900 battles. It is a free to play game so you can pay money to have a premium account which accelerates how much xp and credits you can earn, or you can buy premium addons for tanks such as ammo and consumables, or buy a premium tank. Premium tanks are not the best tanks in their tier, but they are good vehicles which gain xp and credits at an accelerated rate. The game doesn't require you to pay anything though in order to be enjoyable.

Overall it is a fun game whether you are looking to just waste a few minutes, or to spend a whole evening gaming. Highly recommended.

Here is a video of a round played in a German tank destroyer, the tier 4 Hetzer. Tank destroyers are best used as snipers that look for targets of opportunity to attack.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Coup de main at Sinel’nikovo

Tonight I played through the getting started scenario for John Tiller’s Kharkov ‘43 game from his Panzer Campaign series. It is a short 9 turn scenario that gets you acquainted with the game. The manual walks you through the first turn to explain things and get you on your way. Below is the scenario description:
Getting Started - Feb 18th to Feb 19th, 1943.    Gen. Buschenhagen's 15th Infantry Division had just travelled from France for 10 days where it had spent the winter rebuilding after sustaining heavy casualties at Yelnya. With no time to spare, Grenadier Regiment 81 did not disembark at Dnepropetrovsk as planned but continued forward by rail to the outskirts of Sinel'nikovo where Russian troops were reported to be in residence. Riding almost to the outskirts of the town the regiment stormed into the town and quickly pulled off a coup de main by seizing it from the march.  (Size, Small)   The player should select the axis side to play for this getting started scenario.

A bunch of your units start embarked on trains in the nw corner of the map, and have to make their way to the town by rail. You do start with a couple recon companies, a tank destroyer company, a infantry battalion, and some artillery just outside of the town to begin.

sinelnikovo-start

My plan is to scout around the southern edge of the town with one recon company, and push to the north side of town with the other recon company and the tank destroyers. The infantry battalion is going to attack the soviet infantry that our recon has spotted. I want to get the rest of my units up as quickly as possible, disembark and get my other infantry battalions, and another artillery battery into action.

One thing that you have to make sure you keep on top of is what mode the units are moving in. You want them out of travel mode before they make contact, and artillery needs to be out of travel mode in order to set up. So it will take a couple of turns to get everyone assembled. Then the infantry will push towards the objective in the city with the support of the 2 artillery batteries, plus occasional stuka sorties.

In the end we were able to push the Soviets out of the town and secure the objective for a major victory.

sinelnikovo-finish


Score:

sinelnikovo-victory

Next scenario, I will take screenshots as a go, and put together an actual AAR.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Farnborough FC

Well we have made it to the end of September and are in 1st place in Blue Square South. We had a run of 6 unbeaten games, but that was brought to an end by the team that is turning into our nemesis, Basingstoke.

Basingstoke is the only team to notch a win against us in the league so far, and they just knocked us out of the FA Cup in the 3rd qualifying round. Both times with a score of 1-0.

The club is losing money, and I am over budget on salaries by about $500 a week. I tried to go the route of mutual termination with a couple of different players to free up the money, but they refused and now I have 2 upset midfielders on my team. Releasing them on a free would cost me as much as keeping them on the team, so I might as well keep the bodies around. I have given one of them some playing time since then to try and cheer him up.

We have had some injuries, but no crisis other than 2 out of 3 goal keepers being injured at one time. Luckily our local youth talent GK did an adequate job in goal while our starter recovered from a cut to his hand.

1st place will guarantee us promotion, while finishing 2nd-5th gets us into a tournament to fight for the other promotion spot. We have only gotten through about 1/4 of the season so far, so a lot can change between now and the end of the season, but it looks like we will at least achieve the board's goal of a mid-table finish.

The fans seem to be happy with 2 of the 3 players I signed and are happy with our results so far, so I shouldn't have to worry about losing my job this season.

Friday, April 15, 2011

More explorations of primes

So I decided to add a little more to detail to the statistics generation for my c++ implementation of the Sieve of Eratosthenes. I added code to tally the occurrences of twin primes, prime triplets, and prime quadruplets.

Twin primes are defined as the set p, p+2 . Prime triplets are defined as either the set p, p+2, p+6 or p, p+4, p+6. Prime quadruplets are defined as the set p, p+2, p+6, p+8.

I also modified the implementation to use the bit being cleared as being a prime and a bit being set a composite. This allowed me to remove the O(n) code that initialized the bit array to a set state.

Here are the results of a run for 1 billion:


snits@jsni-linux:~/proj/cxx=>time ./tps2 1000000000
50847534 primes between 2 and 1000000000, 3424506 twin primes,
759256 prime triplets, and 28388 prime quadruplets.
The greatest prime is 999999937

real    2m27.192s
user    2m27.041s
sys     0m0.117s


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Primes and the Sieve of Eratosthenes

My nephew was working on finding how many primes are below a certain upper bound, so I was playing with this some today as well. Initially, since he was working in perl I threw together a quick perl program that built a list of primes below a certain upper bound. I also wrote a routine to determine the prime factorization of a number. The perl program would get bogged down after a while though between the algorithm implementation and just the speed of perl.

To speed things up I moved to c++ and implemented the same algorithm, and played around with using vectors to store the list of primes. That sped it up some, but it would still eventually get bogged down by the algorithm.

So finally I decided to implement the Sieve of Eratosthenes using a bit array. Now that got things going quickly. It is a fast algorithm that is pretty much bound by the amount of memory you have. On my home system it did the following for an upper bound of 1 billion:

snits@perelman:~/proj/cpp=>time ./se 1000000000
50847534 primes between 2 and 1000000000. Greatest prime is 999999937

real 1m58.563s
user 1m58.352s
sys 0m0.101s


I bumped the upper bound up to 40 billion, which would take a fair chunk of my RAM for the bit array, and it had the following results:


snits@perelman:~/proj/cpp=>time ./se 40000000000
1711955433 primes between 2 and 40000000000. Greatest prime is 39999999979

real 90m48.631s
user 90m40.850s
sys 0m3.589s

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Mathematician's Lament

A Mathematician's Lament: How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating and Imaginative Art FormA Mathematician's Lament: How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating and Imaginative Art Form by Paul Lockhart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A rather passionate argument about what is wrong with math education in our society. The book is based on an earlier article written by the author. The 1st part of the book is a repeat of the article, "A Mathematician's Lament", while the 2nd part is the author trying to show what is wonderful and beautiful about mathematical discovery through the use of some simple examples.



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Books read this year: 10

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Euclid's Window

Euclid's Window : The Story of Geometry from Parallel Lines to HyperspaceEuclid's Window : The Story of Geometry from Parallel Lines to Hyperspace by Leonard Mlodinow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Interesting discussion of history of geometry from the time of the ancient Greeks through geometry's role today in String Theory and M-Theory. It covers what it considers to be the major events of the history of geometry, starting with Euclid's organizing Greek knowledge of geometry into the Elements, Descartes bringing the coordinate system to geometry, Gauss and Riemann moving geometry beyond Euclidean space, Einstein with his theory of relativity, and finally Ed Witten and his contributions to String and M-Theory. I felt like the book might have been a little rushed at the end, but that is probably because String theory and M-theory are both still young and in the process of being developed.



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Books read this year: 9

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Graham's Number

Someone asked a question on the Physics Forums asking for an explanation of the largeness of this number, so doing some research this is what I came up with:


It is a number that is impossible to comprehend. Going by the articles on wikipedia covering Graham's number, Knuth's up-arrow notation, Conway's chained arrow notation, and tetration(power tower),

\[\begin{align*}G = g_{64} &= 3 \rightarrow 3 \rightarrow g_{63} \\ ... \\ g_{2} &= 3 \rightarrow 3 \rightarrow g_{1} \\ g_{1} &= 3 \rightarrow 3 \rightarrow 4 \end{align*}\]

\(g_{1}\) is already insanely huge number.

\[\begin{align*} g_{1} &= 3 \uparrow\uparrow\uparrow\uparrow 3 \\ &= 3 \uparrow\uparrow\uparrow 3 \uparrow\uparrow\uparrow 3 \\ &= 3 \uparrow\uparrow\uparrow (3 \uparrow\uparrow 3 \uparrow\uparrow 3) \\ &= 3 \uparrow\uparrow\uparrow (3 \uparrow\uparrow (3 \uparrow 3 \uparrow 3)) \\ &= 3 \uparrow\uparrow\uparrow (3 \uparrow\uparrow (3 \uparrow 27)) \end{align*}\]

\(3 \uparrow 27 = 7625597484987\), so \(3 \uparrow\uparrow (3 \uparrow 27)\) is 3 exponentiated by itself 7625597484987 times. Another way to write that is \(^{7625597484987}3\). That still doesn't come close to giving us the value of \(g_{1}\).

We still have to compute \(3 \uparrow\uparrow\uparrow (^{7625597484987}3)\), and all we will have accomplished is to have determined the number of \(\uparrow\) for \(g_{2}\). Considering how impossibly large \(g_{1}\) seems to be when it's Knuth up-arrow notation had a measly 4 \(\uparrow\), then imagine how \(g_{2}\) must dwarf \(g_{1}\) since it's Knuth up-arrow notation will have \(g_{1} \uparrow\). Then that continues on, each step from \(g_{2}\) to \(g_{64}\) being unbelievably larger than the previous step.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Proof by Induction

This is mostly a test to see how well the latex script stuff from watchmath.com works in blogger. This came up on the Physics Forums and the problem was stated as:


Prove for \(n \ge 2\) that \(\sum_{k=1}^n \frac{1}{k^2} < 1 - \frac{1}{n}\)

The above is false because \(\sum_{k=1}^n \frac{1}{k^2}\) will always be greater than 1. What I believe was meant was:


Prove for \(n \ge 2\) that \(\sum_{k=2}^n \frac{1}{k^2} < 1 - \frac{1}{n}\)

First, we prove it for the most simple case, \(n=2\).



\[\begin{aligned}\sum_{k=2}^2 \frac{1}{k^2} &< 1 - \frac{1}{2}\\ \frac{1}{2^2} &< \frac{1}{2}\\ \frac{1}{4} &< \frac{1}{2}\end{aligned}\]

Now let's assume that \(\sum_{k=2}^m \frac{1}{k^2}\) is true. Then \(\sum_{k=2}^m \frac{1}{k^2} < 1 - \frac{1}{m}\) .

Now prove that \(\sum_{k=2}^{m+1} \frac{1}{k^2} < 1 - \frac{1}{m+1}\) is true.

First we know that \(\sum_{k=2}^{m+1} = \frac{1}{{(m+1)}^2} + \sum_{k=2}^m\), so prove that \(\frac{1}{{(m+1)}^2} + 1 - \frac{1}{m} \le 1 - \frac{1}{(m+1)}\).


\[\begin{aligned}\frac{1}{{(m+1)}^2} + 1 - \frac{1}{m} &\le 1 - \frac{1}{(m+1)}\\ \frac{m}{m(m+1)^2} + \frac{m(m+1)^2}{m(m+1)^2} - \frac{(m+1)^2}{m(m+1)^2} &\le \frac{m}{(m+1)}\\ \frac{m+m(m+1)^2-(m+1)^2}{m(m+1)^2} &\le \frac{m}{m+1}\\ \frac{m+(m-1)(m+1)^2}{m(m+1)} &\le m\\ m+(m-1)(m+1)^2 &\le m^2(m+1)\\ m+(m-1)(m^2+2m+1) &\le m^3+m^2\\ m+m^3+2m^2+m-m^2-2m-1 &\le m^3+m^2\\ m^3+m^2-1 &\le m^3+m^2 \end{aligned}\]


\(\therefore\sum_{k=2}^n \frac{1}{k^2} < 1 - \frac{1}{n}\) is true.

Note: This could quite possibly be wrong since it has been about 14 years since I have done any of this stuff.


Edit: Here is a picture illustrating this, using Maxima and Gnuplot.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review: Russian Silhouettes

Russian SilhouettesRussian Silhouettes by Genna Sosonko

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Very interesting collection of essays by Genna Sosonko about chess personalities from the Soviet period.



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Books read this year: 8

Monday, March 28, 2011

Absolution Gap

I finally got around to finishing Reynold’s Revelation Space Trilogy this evening. I had started on the final book a long time ago, but had set it aside. Overall I enjoyed the series, but the final book was disappointing, with the story with the Inhibitors being wrapped up in about 4 pages at the end. Seeing as this is a hard science fiction series I imagine many people were wanting a lot more detail about what took place. The Amazon reviews would seem to support that view. Still I would say the series was worth reading.

Books read this year: 7

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Poincare’s Prize

Tonight I finished reading this book about the solution of Poincare’s Conjecture. It discussed the life of Poincare, the history of attempts to solve the conjecture, and finally discusses the solving of the conjecture by Grisha Perelman. Szpiro does a fine job of making this interesting story accessible to the layperson.

 

Books read this year: 6

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Battle Leadership


I had this book brought to my attention by Lind's Maneuver Warfare Handbook. The book relates Capt. von Schell's experiences as a small unit commander in World War I and the lessons learned from those experiences. It is very similar to Rommel's better known title Attacks.

It is a quick and easy read at 94 pages, but contains a lot of interesting information. Lind's recommendation of the book was well deserved.

Books read this year: 5

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Maneuver Warfare Handbook

 

This evening I just finished reading William Lind’s primer on maneuver warfare. It was written in the 80s when there was a movement afoot to get the USMC sold on the tenets of maneuver warfare.

The book consists of 2 parts. The first part is written by Lind and discusses the ideas behind maneuver warfare. The 2nd part is a series of lectures that were given at the Amphibious Warfare School by Col. Wyly. The lectures are intended to teach the basics of maneuver warfare, and have exercises included to check whether you understood the concepts or not. In addition there is a nicely annotated bibliography to give readers a list of additional texts to read to further their knowledge and understanding. It would be nice if there were a whole book of exercises, basically tactical decision games I guess, that would give the reader more practice in applying the knowledge. I also would have liked it to cover maneuver warfare in the defense in a more thorough manner.

It is a fairly quick read, and I am sure I will go back and study it again many times to try and absorb more info from it. I would recommend the book to anyone with interest in the subject or interested in military history that would like a new lens through which to evaluate what they read.

Books read this year: 4

Monday, March 7, 2011

Counter Ambush

 

I recently picked up the 2nd generation of Combat Mission games, both the Shock Force series, and Combat Mission: Afghanistan. I decided to fire up CM:A and play a battle.

Briefing: Enemy forces were recently spotted in the vicinity of the road. There will be an important convoy coming along this route in the near future so the area must be secured.

Mission: Insert to LZ, and then move north along the road looking for and defeating enemy forces, in particular on the hills overlooking the road. Move from PL Alpha to PL Bravo.

Time to complete mission: 1 hour

I was commanding a company of airborne infantry. 3 infantry platoons, a weapons platoon, and the HQ platoon. I didn’t capture any screenshots during the game so all I have is a zoomed out screenshot of the battlefield at the beginning of the battle, where the company has just been inserted to their LZ.

CMA-Feb2011

My plan was to first establish some OPs on the ridge in front of us so I could have eyes on the other 2 hills. I was going to need to clear the hill on the right before tackling the other hill otherwise I would be exposed to fire from there while attacking the northern hill. I moved 2 infantry platoons over towards the road, using the 3rd as a reserve and to establish the OPs. I moved the weapons platoon over by the OP watching the hill on the right so I could set up a base of fire once we spotted something.

The plan then was to have the 2 infantry platoons move across the road and then move in bounding overwatch up the hill and secure it. We have some mortar support to call in so I was going to call that in to try and hit just before the 2 platoons reached the top of the hill. Once they secured the 1st hill, I was then going to move my weapons platoon to set up a base of fire to support attacking the 2nd hill. Once again the 2 platoons would move in bounding overwatch attacking the 2nd hill. I also decided to swing the 3rd platoon around from the other side to hit the 2nd hill from multiple directions, but leaving me without a reserve if I truly needed one. Once the 2nd hill was secured the weapons, and HQ platoons would meet up with the infantry at an assembly area between the 2nd hill and the road and proceed on to PL Bravo. One the map the red marking denote phase 1 of the plan, blue markings phase 2, and green markings phase 3.

In the end we lost 4 soldiers in a squad to a minefield on the 1st hill, with no other casualties. We killed 22 insurgents, and wounded 19 more securing a victory for the battle. Apparently we didn’t kill enough though as it was not a major victory. Not bad for the 1st time out though.

Farnborough FC gets off to good start

 

I have been a fan of this game back to when it was still called Championship Manager. I was looking for a team to manage in one of the conference leagues, and noticed Farnborough being listed in Blue Square South. My knowledge of Farnborough was pretty much limited to the fact that there is a huge airshow there every year. In the late 80s a Mig-29 crashed there during a demonstration.

This was mostly started as a test run to playing with the latest edition of Football Manager. I didn’t know anything about the club, so I jumped right in. Finances are such that I couldn’t really do anything with the squad so I just tried to get familiar with the players during our friendlies. I did pick up a couple young players though to try and bolster the squad, grabbing a striker, a midfielder, and a center back.

Our pre-season friendlies went horribly with the boys only salvaging 1 point in 7 games. It was looking like the board’s decision to hire me was going to be a mistake and my stint as manager was going to be short.

We opened the season away at Braintree. Braintree jumped to an early lead, but we leveled a few minutes later. We then managed to score the winning goal early in the 2nd half and hold on for an opening day victory.

farnborough-braintree

A few days later we opened at home against Ebbsfleet. In this game we were taking a lot more shots, and opened the scoring in the 20th minute. Ebbsfleet leveled in the 76th minute, but Dean McDonald saved the day for Farnborough scoring in the 90th minute to grab the 3 points.

ebbsfleet-farnborough

We finished the week off with a home fixture against Dartford. It was a pretty tame affair with the only goal coming in the 76th minute from Kezie Ibe.

farnborough-dartford

So we are sitting atop the table at the moment with Eastleigh and Maidenhead with a full 9 points after 3 games. Our goal is to finish mid-table so this is a pleasant beginning to the season for the club.

Next up we travel to Weston-super-Mare.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Weathering the Storm MP - AAR

 

I just finished my first game on the Squad Battles ladder at theblitz.org. I controlled the American side in the ‘Weathering the Storm’ scenario, which covers the battle of Wanat in Afghanistan. There is an earlier post on here where I played this against the CPU.

My plan this time was to eject him from the entrance of the outpost, retrieve the rifle squad that was on patrol outside the outpost and get them back in the wire, and pin/disrupt Taliban elements until the 2 AH-64s en route arrive.

I think the Taliban player can’t afford to be timid in this scenario. He really needs to work over the US side before the AH-64s arrive on station. I imagine about the only way that is going to be possible is through the use of fanatical charge, which I’m not sure my opponent knew about. If he did he never used it.

At first he focused on the main outpost, but I was able to do a decent job on keeping his units pinned or disrupted so his attack stalled there. I was able to eliminate the insurgents at the entrance of the outpost and was able to collect the squad that was outside the wire, rally them, and get them back in the outpost. I lost 1 HMMWV to enemy fire, but the rest were active the entire game. After a while, he started to focus on the observation post to the east, but once my AH-64s arrived they quickly moved to disrupt that attack.

I hit one of his stacks with a 500lb bomb from a B1-B, but I don’t know how effective the strike was casualty wise. I had called in an A-10, but accidently cancelled it, and couldn’t get them on station before the game ended.

Here is what the battle looked like at the end:

wanat-mp

I did a much better job this game utilizing my leaders to rally units. I also made use of the ability to drop and pick up items, to have the last 3 soldiers at the OP all pick up the squad’s support weapons in place of their rifles to lay down heavier fire on the 2 formations attacking them. I used it to keep up the SAW in another squad as well.

My opponent ended up offering surrender at his 14th turn and I accepted. This is what the victory dialog looked like at the time:

wanat-mp-victory

The question marks are because the game isn’t technically over. So there were 120-130 casualties for the Taliban side, to the 23 for the US.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Origins of the World War

 

I finally buckled down and finished reading the last 200 pages of Sidney Fay’s Origins of the World War Volume 1: Before Sarajevo this week. I had been reading it intermittently over the span a probably 2 years, restarting it at some point when I had left it alone for too long. The book discusses the diplomatic maneuvering that takes place in Europe from the times of the Franco-Prussian war up until the assassination in Sarajevo in 1914. The book came to my attention because of Alan Calhammer. Calhammer is the person who designed the game Diplomacy, which is about the politics of Europe prior to the First World War. He has stated that both this book was an inspiration for designing the game, as well as a class he took at Harvard that was taught by Sidney Fay.

The main thing that comes out of the book, which is considered normal now, but was new when the book was originally published in the 30s is that Germany wasn’t the main party responsible for the war even though at the end of the war she was assigned all the blame. If you want to understand how the situation in Europe got to a point where the assassination would cause such a horrific war, this book is a good place to start.

Books read this year: 3

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Terror at Borisov – Lessons Learned

 

I just finished my last turn in my first PBEM game on the Campaign Series ladder at theblitz.org . I was playing the German side against another player’s Russians. The scenario was Terror at Borisov. It is a meeting engagement between a Soviet MRD with T-34, KV-1, and KV-2 support against a Panzer Regiment with a mix of PzIIs, PzIIIs, and PzIVs. All the victory locations showed Russian control initially, so I pressed for to take the 2 villages in the center, and lower center sections of the map. My initial, rather superficial plan was to grab those locations and then probe and engage his tanks. I knew from the scenario description he would have T-34s and KVs with him, but no idea of the strength. I had sent my motorcycle units to recon to the east and try to get eyes on his troop movements.

A couple of initial lessons:

1. Come up with a more thought out plan, including objectives, who the main effort is, who will be in reserve.

2. In addition to mission analysis (looking at objectives of the scenario and such) spend some time on terrain analysis and looking at what is visible from where to get a better idea for sighting.

3. If you have some idea of what kinds of units to expect do some analysis and research in the manuals to see how units compare.

I knew that he was going to have some tough tanks with him, but I didn’t realize they could outrange my guns. So in order to defeat his T-34s I would have to close in, taking opp fire, and engage. In our initial engagement I tried to handle his opp fire by offering PzIIs up for sacrifice. Once his opp fire was expended on them I would then move up my other tanks to try and engage. I was still engaging from too far away. I needed to see the white of their eyes before firing if I wanted to get good kills.

We had a good battle in the south, but I deviated from my plan and started reacting to his KVs instead of focusing on the victory requirements of the mission. So I detailed 2 Pz coys to head north and meet his KVs when they came out of the woods and took them out of the picture of helping secure my hold of the center of the map and pushing further east to possibly capture the other 2 victory locations. I could have detailed a platoon to screen the north while the rest of my force concentrated in the middle to meet his main thrust. Instead he was able to defeat my counterattacks in the center in turn instead having them hit him at the same time.

More lessons learned:

4. Another lesson was related to the game interface. You can control the opp fire of your units, setting what they will fire on and at what range. This will stop your tanks from wasting shots on infantry when you want them to shoot at other armor. I wondered about it, but didn’t figure out how it was done until the game was effectively over.

5. Leaders only effect units that are subordinate to them, so check to make sure leaders are in the right place.

6. Study up in the manual on HQs and supply and how they work. I’m not sure I utilized them properly.

7. Be careful with stacking. I tended to move my units as company size elements, with the occasional platoon venturing out on its own to draw opp fire. There were some times where I lost a large number of tanks in single attacks because of that.

Overall, even though it ended in defeat for my regiment with them straggling back west towards Borisov it was a very fun game, and I am looking forward to playing more and learning. My main objectives this round were to get some experience in, and learn some of the interface.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Magicka

 

Another game that is generating a lot of noise on the QT3 forums is a little game called Magicka. Published by Paradox Interactive, Magicka is the work Arrowhead Game Studios and is their first release.

In the game you play a wizard. The meat of the game is the very nicely done spell system. You combine different elements such as water, earth, lightning, nature, arcane, fire, cold, and shield to create different spells which can be cast on yourself, cast as aoe, or cast at other targets. Friendly fire is a part of the game, and the hilarity resulting from such accidents due to the spell system are a great part of the charm of the game. It is definitely meant to be played co-op, but can be played solo.

There are some problems with the game though. I haven’t tried it yet, but multiplayer which is the way the game is meant to be played has had a lot of problems. While the spell system is one of the best game design mechanics I have seen in quite a while, they coupled it with a horrid design decision by having one of the worst save game systems ever put into a game. You HAVE to complete a level for it to progress your save. There are checkpoints in a level that you will go back to if you die instead of the start of the level, but if you stop the game prior to completing the level those checkpoints do not matter and you will have to do the whole level over again the next time you play. The graphics are decent, but the engine seems to be very taxing (ie not well optimized or poorly coded) on systems for the quality of graphics that it does have.

Luckily the devs have been hard at work patching the game and hopefully the issues that have plagued release will be resolved and a sane save game system will be implemented. For $10 though it is worth taking a chance that they will solve it all and enjoy the hilarity that is Magicka.

As of now I would rate the game 5/10 due to the save game insanity and the fact that the multiplayer is broken and mp is the heart of this game. Fix those and this game is 10/10.

Din’s Curse

 

DinsCurse intro

Recently on the QT3 forums there has been a lot of talk about a game called Din’s Curse. It came out early last year, and currently there is work going on release an expansion to it called Demon War.

Din’s Curse is an action rpg with a procedurally generated world. So the game never plays exactly the same way twice. You are someone who was evil in their previous life, and you have been cursed by the God Din. In order to remove the curse and gain redemption you must travel to villages that are in danger and save them. This will mean travelling into dungeons which are situated under the towns and defeating those bringing evil to the town.

The dynamic generation of the content is one nice aspect of the game that makes the game have high replay value. The other is the character class system. There are set of predefined classes which you can choose, which are comprised of 3 different specialties, or you can choose to be a hybrid class and mix and match any 2 specialties together to make your character.

DinsCurse character creation

DinsCurse character creation 2

DinsCurse specialty selection

You will start out in your first village receiving some quests from Din, and also from the local villagers. That will set you on your way down in to the dungeon. You can only have 5 active quests at a time ( a bummer), so you will have to head back to the surface to turn them in and get more. You have to complete all the non-optional quests in a village before you are allowed to move on to the next.

The village can be attacked, so on occasion you will have to hurry back to the village to kill the raiders before they kill everyone in the village. If they kill the apothecary, the steward, and the warmaster (the 3 main quest givers), then you will lose the city. If only some of them are killed you will get quests to help locate new people for those positions.

The graphics and sound are nothing to write home about, but for a small studio/indie effort they do a serviceable job and don’t get in the way of enjoyment of the game.

DinsCurse village

DinsCurse dungeon 1

DinsCurse dungeon 2

For the fairly low price and with the high replay value due to class combinations and dynamic world generation this game seems to be well worth the price while waiting for the next incarnation of Diablo to arrive.

8.5/10

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Battle of Wanat

 

Wanat is a village in Afghanistan where a battle took place between a small outpost of US Army soldiers and a bunch of Taliban. There is a scenario covering the battle in John Tiller’s latest release Squad Battles: Modern War. Someone at the Blitz wargaming club picked this scenario for our pbem game. After playing my first turn tonight as the US, I decided to try my hand against the AI.

I am new to the Squad Battle series so there are a lot of interface quirks left for me to figure out. Weapons seem to lose effectiveness very quickly so I guess the point there is to choose your shots carefully. Air Support that gets called might have multiple weapons for you to choose from, but only one can be deployed. Perhaps that is modeling a choice made prior to takeoff. I need to make more efficient use of my leaders in rallying pinned and disrupted squads.

The battle started with one squad out of the base when the attack hit, plus one squad manning an observation post outside the perimeter. The insurgents advanced and we were trading fire, but then they attempted to breach the wire around the perimeter in multiple places and things got hairy. They had some support weapons located in the village, but I had a hard time silencing them. The TOW launcher on a hummer was ineffective as was a 500 lb bomb from a B1-B. The insurgents managed to take out 2 of the HMMWVs at the entrance to the outpost and managed to start working in to the post there. In other spots there were still stuck in the wire on the perimeter. For the most part they were ignoring the OP and the fire team that was stranded outside the base. They couldn’t do much because they were demoralized by a well placed mortar round. Finally a pair of AH-64s arrived to provide CAS and they started to break the morale of a lot of insurgent squads. It was still hairy with the perimeter broken in multiple places. Another turning point hit though when the 1st squad of 2nd plt C co along with their plt leader counterattacked some pinned insurgents elements wiping them out. That squad was then able to secure the points inside the perimeter as the rest of the remaining soldiers continued to try and pin down the insurgents while the AH-64s worked them over. In the end the game scored it a major defeat for the Taliban with their casualty total being 128 to 35 for the US. I am guessing that that includes wounded as well as dead. Either way a very bloody fight.

wanat

If you click on the picture you will see that the squad out at the OP was demoralized. That is because I made the decision to try and maneuver them into the fight since they were being ignored. Well, they got paid attention to very quickly and made their way back into the OP.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Village



This weekend I finally got around to finishing The Village by Bing West. I had started on it last year I think, but had gotten sidetracked. So I started over again Saturday night.

The book is about the experience of a Combined Action Platoon in the village of Binh Nghia. The CAP program was an attempt to provide security in the villages by using a small mixed force of US personnel and Vietnamese. The book details the experience of one combined action platoon as they slowly but surely won over the local populace and pushed the VC out. The main thing I took away from it was the importance of always maintaining discipline, and the importance of having a strategy such as this integrated with the overall strategy. There was a lot of disconnect between the CAP units and the line units in the region. Reading about the 1st attempt by the NVA and VC to destroy the CAP in Binh Nghia was sad, but the CAP fortunately learned from the incident.

If you are interested in small unit actions, and a look at a strategy that might have proved much more successful if the US had pursued it more enthusiastically I recommend reading this book. It is a nice complement to McDonough's Platoon Leader, which describes a somewhat similar program except that the US forces were not integrated with Vietnamese forces or the village they were protecting.

Books read this year: 2

Friday, January 21, 2011

Losing is Fun!

That is the motto of the game Dwarf Fortress, and you will lose. Your goal is to build a thriving community of dwarves. You start with an expedition of 7 dwarves and some supplies. You can decide what professions they have and also decide what supplies they bring with. From that point on it is you against the world. You have to come up with food and other things, build a fortress, and try to survive. The game is the product of Tarn Adams, with some input from his brother Zach. It is one of the most detailed games ever, with some very interesting design ideas. Unfortunately it suffers from a rather steep learning curve, and the interface, in particular the map display, is not for the faint of heart. Below is a picture of the default ascii interface (click for original pic). Some people say after a while you will be like Cypher in the Matrix and be able to decypher the ascii characters subconsiously, but I think it is more work than it is worth.

DF_ascii

Fortunately people have come out with tile sets that make the display much easier to digest and comprehend. An example (pretty much same view as above) is below which is clickable as well.

DF_tileset

That lets you spend more time figuring out the interface and what you need to do so your dwarves can thrive. That will take some trial and error, but it is a fun experience watching your dwarves. It almost takes a dark sense of humor to watch the tragedies that can unfold, such as accidental flooding of your fortress; goblin forces invading and slaughtering your people who havent been adequately protected by you; dwarves going insane and killing fellow citizens.

Basically fortress mode is a combination of a SimCity style builder game with an Anno 1404 ecomony game. So you are building a fortress and managing resources and production chains. There also is combat and trade involved.

One very neat aspect of the game is that the world you generate is persistent. It develops a history, and you can play multiple games in that same world. You can even play another mode called adventure mode and go find old fortresses that have been abandoned and find out their history (developed through game events) via journals, artifacts, and engravings you find.

I think that even though it has a primitive graphics interface which can be a hindrance as described above, it is also a strength of the game. Like games from back in the times of the C-64 it causes the player to use their imagination to paint a picture in their mind of what they are seeing represented in the game. That tends to provide more powerful imagery than even modern day AAA titles can produce, and allows the developer to focus on the game design itself. That is one of the main strengths that pen and paper RPGs have always had.

So far in my 1st attempt at providing a happy home to my dwarves, I have had a dwarf go insane and go on a murdering rampage until I figured out the military interface, created a squad, and had them attack him (even though I think he died from dehydration after running all over killing thins). I also had the majority of my population slaughtered by a goblin raiding force. They cut down my basically unarmed squad with ranged weapons and proceeded to rampage through my fortress. That is something that will need to be focused on more in the next game.

If you can get past the initial stage of dealing with the interface it is a fun game to play and I recommend that people try it just to see what some people are capable of developing instead of the same rehashed games that major publishers put out these days.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Towers of Midnight


Friday night I finished reading the latest book in the Wheel of Time series. This series started in 1990 and is still going strong. I started reading it when introduced to it by a friend in 1999. Towers of Midnight is the 2nd to last book in this series (unless Sanderson can’t fit everything in to one last volume). This is Brandon Sanderson’s second title within the series and he has done a decent job of taking over for Robert Jordan. It seems like to work they did together prior to Jordan passing away really paid off.
A lot of things are starting to come together, but I still have a hard time seeing how they will be able to wrap everything up in one last book. I think some of it will seem hurried as they try to wrap up the rest of the plots in under 900 pages. That being said I have enjoyed the series as a whole, and this entry is no exception. Probably my only complaint would be the interweaving of plots with disregard to their chronological order. I think some of this has to do with the final 3 books originally being worked on by Robert Jordan as 1 volume. There are a couple of plots involving Tam al’Thor there are interweaved together in the book which leaves you wondering what is going on with him until he abruptly leaves in one of them to apparently head towards the start of the other which I think the beginning occurred in the previous book.

Books read this year: 1