15 Books, Pramas Variant

The original meme: Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.

In my variant I’m dividing the list into three parts. Five books I read from ages 10-19, then five I read from 20-29, and finally five I read from 30-39. It wouldn’t be fair to do one for the next decade since I’ve been 40 for less than two weeks and the only book I’ve read in that period is Halting State by Charles Stross. I enjoyed it once I got past the wall of tech babble Stross seems so fond of, but I don’t think it’ll stay with me forever (but Githyanki will, so you’re safe there, Charlie!). In any case, on to my list.

1. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.
2. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman.
3. Black Company by Glen Cook.
4. Living My Life by Emma Goldman.
5. 1988: The New Wave Punk Rock Explosion by Caroline Coon.
6. L’Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory.
7. The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer.
8. Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain.
9. God’s Chinese Son by Jonathan Spence.
10. Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln.
11. Stalingrad by Antony Beevor.
12. American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 1857 by Sally Denton.
13. A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara W. Tuchman.
14. Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azerrad.
15. Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain.

One Ring to Rule Them All

I’ve had a chance to play a couple of games of the War of the Ring miniatures game by GW and I have to say I’m really enjoying it. It’s late so just a few points:

* The game plays quickly, in big part because you can you resolve an attack with one roll. While in Warhammer, you have to roll to hit, roll to wound, and then the enemy gets an armor save, here you roll to hit vs. the enemy’s Defense and that’s it. Skill gives can you more dice to throw but one roll resolves it.

* I like the hierarchy of melee attacks; monsters go first, then cavalry, then infantry. This really makes cavalry feel right, with crashing charges and sweeping advances. It also makes monsters fearsome despite them generally having fewer attacks.

* Movement by company makes it much easier to get your troops where you want them without a lot of mucking about with ranks, files, turning, and wheeling.

* I like that the rules for having allies in your army are generous. That fits the spirit of Middle Earth (Battle of Five Armies, Last Alliance of Men and Elves, etc.).

* You really have to be on the ball when using your heroes and their Might Points. Picking the right time for heroic actions is key and the game rewards good tactics in this regard.* I find it strange that longbows have the same Strength 2 as normal bows. Crossbows have a Strength of 4, so it seems like it’d make sense to give longbows a 3.

* It is also a little strange that the game has a “decree of rarity” to balance common and rare units, but allows you take as many legendary units as you want. Perhaps this is meant to encourage use of characters from the books.

I’ve dusted off old elf figures for the past couple of games but once I like a game it’s almost inevitable that I get more minis for it. I am beefing up the Easterlings and the Riders of Rohan I had collected for the skirmish game, taking advantage of nice sets of plastic minis. I would love to do a Dol Amroth army but those figs are only available in pewter and thus too pricey for the numbers I’d need.

You may be wondering, why Dol Amroth? It’s a good question and one I’ve been thinking about as I read through the army lists of War of the Ring. There are several secondary characters in Lord of the Rings that I thought were cool when I was a teenager. They don’t have many lines and they don’t do nearly as much as other characters, but for some reason I developed a fondness for guys like Elfhelm, Erkenbrand, and Prince Imrahil. The fact that I can field all those guys in War of the Ring is a nice touch and I find the idea of a huge wedge of Swan Knights of Dol Amroth quite appealing.

Party Like It’s 1969

I’m turning 40 in two days but Monday is no good for a party so Nicole threw me one today. Friends came in from San Francisco and Vancouver, BC and my evil friend Jim found a unique way to make his presence felt from Edmonton. Many great folk and tons of tasty food from Nicole. If friends were a measure of wealth, I’d be a rich man indeed. Thanks to everyone who came; I had a blast. Extra kudos to my awesome wife for putting together a memorable shindig.

Snapshots of New York

Manhattanhenge: I happened to be in New York during the biannual occurrence of Manhattanhenge. Basically, the setting sun aligns with the east-west grid of Manhattan’s streets. My friend Chesley and I had just finished a lovely dinner at a vegetarian teahouse on Park Avenue and we caught the event on 34th street. It was pretty cool watching the sun set between the buildings and shine right down 34th. People were in the streets checking it out and taking pictures and the drivers did not like that. Ches was trying to get a picture of us while a bus barreled towards us. It did not slow down, so she snapped a pic and we jumped aside.

Duck on the Beach: I took the B train out to Brighton Beach one day and spent some time walking around “Little Russia by the Sea.” Then I stopped for lunch at a place called Tatiana, which was right on the boardwalk. I got pelmeni and duck with a cherry-wine sauce, which was delicious. I sat outside, enjoying my meal while a cool breeze came off the water. I could have stayed there for hours.

Meet the Author: At Book Expo they have this big area for book signings. Authors come in for an hour apiece promoting a new book. If you are willing to stand in line, you can get the book for a $1 donation. I’m not one for collecting autographs, but I noticed that Bryan Mark Rigg was signing Lives of Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers. I had just read about this book and was interested to check it out, so I went to his line. When I approached the table, he looked at me and said very confidently, “I know you!” I was pretty sure he didn’t, but I asked, “Do you perhaps play roleplaying games?” He didn’t so I couldn’t say why he thought he knew me. I gave him a card in case he figured it out. I’m reading the book now and it’s quite interesting.

Dinner Music: My last night in the city I went to the Spotted Pig, a gastropub I’ve heard a lot about. It’s open until 2 am, so I thought I’d go late so I could just walk in and get a table. No such luck. I got there at 11:15 and all the tables were full and both bars were packed. The staff found me a stool by a window and that’s where I ate. It was busy and it was loud, but I didn’t care once I was eating marjoram potatoes fried in duck fat. Then over the noise I heard a song come on: “I Love Livin’ in the City” by Fear. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect and I thought, “Goddamn, I do love living in the city.”

Where I Get It From: My folks came down from Boston to see me while I was on the East Coast. We had several meals together, the last a breakfast at Junior’s. I show them copies of my game stuff from time to time so they can see what I’m up to, but they are not gamers. I thought they might appreciate Hobby Games: The 100 Best though, as it’s a book of essays. So I brought a copy and gave to them at breakfast. My dad looked at it and said, “Hobby Games, what am supposed to do with this?” I said, “You could read it.” He looked at it again and then asked if it was one of my books. I had mentioned that when I pulled it out but he has two hearing aids and I think he missed it. “Yes, I published it and wrote one of the essays,” I confirmed. “Oh,” he said dryly, “then I’ll treasure it.”

I’ll try to write more about my week in NYC when I have a chance. I squeezed a lot into my time there and I can’t do it justice in one post.