Friday, 19 September 2014

Boardgame Invasion

Well I was supposed to get rid of games rather than acquire new ones, but I had time stacked against me. Yesterday I received Won By The Sword, a GMT game on the southern German campaigns of the 30 Years War. 

I had pre-ordered it so long ago I had actually forgotten about it until I got a note saying my credit card had been charged. No disappointment really, because what I've seen of it so far bodes well. The game is of medium difficulty so I could get it played reasonably easily. And I'm looking at it from the point of playing double blind. Perhaps...

Also, earlier this month I got my share of the inheritance of Frank van den Bergh, who died almost two years ago. His books and games were auctioned to raise money for a charity of his choice. So last year I bid with a good conscience and I don't count them towards my non new games limit.

S&T Austro-Prussian War (1994)
S&T Byzantium (1996)
S&T Khan: The Rise of the Mongols
Air Assault On Crete/Invasion of Malta: 1942 (1977)
1809: Napoleon's Danube Campaign (1984)
Risorgimento (1997)
Risorgimento 1859 (2000)
Cactus Throne: The Mexican War of 1862-1867 (2005)
Guerra a Muerte (2008)
Chinese Civil War (1979)
Barons' War (2004)
Napoleon at Bay: The Campaign in France (1978)
Napoleon at the Crossroads (2006)
The Struggle of Nations (1982)
Balkan Wars (1993)
The Egyptian Campaign (2008)
Ataturk! (2003)
Montebello: First Step to Freedom (2003)
Solferino 1859 (2004)
Pour Dieu et Pour le Roy (2005)
Les deux Bretagne (2007)
Libertadores 1810-1824 (2003)
Car Wars Expansion Set #4, Armadillo Autoduel Arena (1983)
Car Wars (1981)

A good moment to remind you all that if you have a large collection of miniatures, books and games, it might be helpful to have it sorted out and catalogued before you die. I've seen several cases over the last few years where the execution of wargamers' inheritance became a task involving months of work for remaining friends (also see Chris Stoesen's and Bob Cordery's experience ). On the other hand, it will make sure you'll be remembered, if not always positively.

Of course, knowing that this was coming up made it easier for me to be strict on the No-New-Games-This-Year (except Essen) resolution.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Review: Het boekenparadijs. De opkomst en ondergang van de grootste boekhandelsketen in Nederland

Het boekenparadijs. De opkomst en ondergang van de grootste boekhandelsketen in Nederland
Het boekenparadijs. De opkomst en ondergang van de grootste boekhandelsketen in Nederland by Hanneke Chin-A-Fo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fascinerend boek over de ondergang van boekenketen Polare, opvolger van Selexyz en De Slegte. Dat was een schok omdat de keten illustere boekhandels als Kooyker in Leiden, Broese in Utrecht en Scheltema in Amsterdam onder de hoede had. Voor boekenliefhebbers als ik zijn dat, en De Slegte, zaken waar ik urenlang met veel plezier heb staan snuffelen.

Uit het boek doemt het beeld op dat niemand in de boekenbranche na de eeuwwisseling een antwoord had op de opkomst van internet, en dat men te optimistisch is geweest over de lange termijnperspectieven van fysieke boekwinkels. Toen men doorhad wat kon betekenen was het al te laat.

Bij de overname door ProCures in 2012 lagen Selexyz en De Slegte al op hun gat. De doorstart naar Polare was vooral een afschrijving van de schulden, er werd niet geïnvesteerd. ProCures dacht bij de oplossing in financiële termen. De lange termijnstrategie was gelegen in het verkrijgen van gunstiger voorwaarden van de leveranciers, met name het verschuiven van het verkooprisico. Hier liepen de uitgevers en het Centraal Boekenhuis (waarin ook de concurrenten zijn vertegenwoordigd) uiteraard niet warm voor.

Op korte termijn hoopte men de schuld af te kunnen lossen door nieuwe huurders voor overtollige panden te vinden en daar ‘sleutelgeld’ voor te innen. Dit stuitte op weerstand bij de verhuurders, de familie De Slegte. Het vertragen van de verkoop van het Amsterdamse pand in januari 2014 was de aanleiding tot de betalingsachterstand die leidde tot het faillissement.

Kortom, de Polare-overname in 2012 was sowieso een riskante onderneming, maar de voorgestelde koers botste met de mores en belangen in de boekenwereld.

Belangrijke uitkomst van het boek is wat mij betreft ook nog dat in tegenstelling tot de beeldvorming de mannen van ProCures Polare niet hebben leeg getrokken via bonussen of winstuitkeringen.

Leerzaam voor iedereen die iets met boeken te maken heeft!

View all my reviews

Friday, 12 September 2014

Essen nearing

And with Essen nearing, I've made my first draft of the list of games to look at.

Some interesting stuff like 15 Dias, which is about my old friend the Conde-Duque de Olivares, or a game looking at the logistics of the Normandy Breakout. New stuff from Martin Wallace and Phil Eklund, a rondel microgame, more Polish military history.

And one game that sounds just to strange to be true. The Walled City: Londonderry & Borderlands has you populate villages 'with loyal peasants and nobles who share your view of this new city'. This means: Protestant settlers in Northern Ireland in the 17th century, so a highly contentious part of historyThis might not go down will with (Northern) Irish catholics who understand Londonderry as a Protestant colony. Let's see if the game shows that sensitivity.

I was afraid I would be a bit meh about Essen this year, having been out of the gaming loop so long, but going through the new crop has wet my appetite.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Review: Histoire de la campagne de France. La chute de Napoléon

Histoire de la campagne de France. La chute de Napoléon
Histoire de la campagne de France. La chute de Napoléon by Jean-Joël Bregeon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Possibly the best introduction on the 1814 campaign in France available. Combines:
1. a good overview of the political and military events of the campaign from the French and allied perspective
2. reading list which includes both the major scholarly works as well as the primary sources
3. short extracts from memoirs and letters to bring it all to life.

Because of its reading suggestions, it is also very useful for the whole late Napoleonic period as many books mentioned cover more than just the 1814 campaign.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Review: World War II Glider Assault Tactics

World War II Glider Assault Tactics
World War II Glider Assault Tactics by Gordon L. Rottman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one is about equipment, such as gliders and glider landed heavy weapons; the organization of glider borne units and pilots; and finally an overview of operations. Nothing on planning though and little on lessons learned.

If the Elite series is no longer about elites and the Tactics subseries is no longer about tactics (as Rottman confesses himself in this case), life becomes pretty confusing.

View all my reviews

Review: World War II River Assault Tactics

World War II River Assault Tactics
World War II River Assault Tactics by Gordon L. Rottman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Decent Osprey in the tactics series. First part handles the equipment and procedures for bridge building, from rope bridges and rafts to Baileys. Second part handles contested river crossings, both defensive and offensive.

The drawings and pictures are very useful as engineering equipment does not often get so much pictorial attention: it really helped me to see the Bedford folding boat lorry to understand what a bridging column must have looked like.

View all my reviews

Review: Operation Market-Garden 1944 (1): The American Airborne Missions

Operation Market-Garden 1944 (1): The American Airborne Missions
Operation Market-Garden 1944 (1): The American Airborne Missions by Steven J. Zaloga

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the better Ospreys I've read lately. Good narrative, maps used to full strength

A lot of stuff on the German side, which is often lacking in Market Garden books, but since [b:It Never Snows in September: The German View of Market-Garden and the Battle of Arnhem, September 1944|98349|It Never Snows in September The German View of Market-Garden and the Battle of Arnhem, September 1944|Robert Kershaw||94806] there is no longer any excuse.

Another great boon is the list of planned airborne operations in the summer of 1944.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Review: Quand les Belges se battaient pour Napoléon, 1813-1814

Quand les Belges se battaient pour Napoléon, 1813-1814
Quand les Belges se battaient pour Napoléon, 1813-1814 by Declercq, Jacques

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Although the subject is interesting, this book falls short of what I had hoped it would be: a view on Napoleonic warfare through the eyes of Flemish and Walloon soldiers.

In fact this book is mostly an account of the operations of the 5th Corps of La Grande Armée in 1813 and early 1814. The account even stops when the 5th Corps ceases to exist, while the regiments are incorporated into the 11th Corps in 1814.

There is too little in terms of personal accounts of those involved to really make this book stand out. As an operational study it is however interesting because it follows the corps throughout the 1813 campaign, while in most books on the campaign the focus shifts away every time Napoleon is away.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Tell Me: Should I Review For Osprey?

A few weeks ago, Osprey advertised they are seeking bloggers and reviewers that wish to receive Osprey books to review.

I guess I would be qualified (by their not too demanding standards) because I already read lots of Ospreys and have published over a dozen reviews on this blog and commented on a bunch more on Goodreads.  What makes it an extremely tempting offer is that the coming months will see quite a few interesting volumes, from Malplaquet to Quatre Bras and Waterloo (not a very great distance in Euclidian space).

There might be a point of being forced to read books that I wouldn't read otherwise, but I think I could get over that.

The biggest issue is of course whether I can maintain my independent opinion in the face of receiving free books. I would be open about which books I have received for free, of course. But warning your audience is not always enough.

I have been quite critical of some Osprey publications, especially its anglocentrism and I think I would continue to be, but it might dull my edge. In fact, my critical approach might also be a reason for Osprey not to send me any books, but that would be a telling decision on what it seeks to achieve. For that reason, it would be interesting just to try.

But I'd like to know what you think. How do you approach reviews where you know the author has received a free copy? Would it also affect what you think of reviews that were written about books I paid for? And do you think I should let myself in with this at all?

Monday, 16 June 2014

Review: Napoleon: A Political Life

Napoleon: A Political Life
Napoleon: A Political Life by Steven Englund

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Epic biography of Napoleon, focussing on his acts as a statesman and on his political philosophy. While acknowledging that his military exploits laid the foundations for Napoleon's fame and political power, Englund argues that his political feats were as impressive and much longer lasting than his military legacy.

Writing about Napoleon's motivations and ideas is extremely difficult as Napoleon has tried so hard to influence his historiography. It also implies judgments on whether Napoleon was a heart a cynical and opportunistic power player or somebody who tried to stick to certain principles. Or whether he changed from one into the other and in which period?

I think Englund has done a great job of separating the wheat from the chaff. This Napoleon is much more interesting than the Corsican Ogre and Napoleon le Grand. This is almost a human being. Even if it's a man of uncommon talent, intelligence and energy. There are weaknesses, errors of judgment, post hoc rationalisations and petty insults enough to balance the scales.

That doesn't mean that an interesting version of Napoleon is more true than other versions. It just rings more true to my vision of how people, even Great Persons, are. That, probably is the great attraction of Napoleon: everybody can find in him the man we long to see.

View all my reviews