Tuesday, December 19, 2017

One ping only

I watched this recently with the Kinchlets and very good it was too.  John McTiernan’s submarine thriller is taut and well served by its cast.  Basil Poledouris's score is a joy and I really didn't find Connery's Scottish accent off putting, which I know some viewers did.   Alec Baldwin does a good turn as an unlikely action hero and the supporting cast are uniformly excellent.

All in all recommended.

The Kinchlets wriggled enthusiastically to the music which is also a plus.  But they just seem to like anything that's loud.

An Atlantic Convoy laid out on the board

My pal, Dr. Creaner, has a copy of "The Hunt for Red October" board game released by TSR many moons ago.  I haven't played many naval games, but this one seemed to strike the right balance for me - proceeding at a decent clip, but also presenting some genuine tactical problems.

For those who are unaware - The Hunt for Red October board game is superficially a board game of the book/film.  There are eight scenarios in the box, one of which involves chasing the rogue Soviet submarine across the Atlantic.  Having read it, I'm not sure how much fun it would be.

The other seven scenarios are devoted to naval engagements during a Cold War turned hot. Game play is very simple, the pieces are designed to allow the players to see where an enemy is, but nothing more.  Pieces are rated by type (surface vessel, sub, aircraft, etc), attack value and detection value.

Detection is everything, if you can spot your enemy before he spots you, it is likely going to end very badly for him. There is an old saying, which I am probably misremembering but it goes something like this, "Blessed is he whose cause is just, but three times blessed is he who gets his blow in first." No where is that more true than in submarine combat.

Soviet subs attempting to harass a NATO convoy

We managed to play three games in a very leisurely evening, while learning the rules and I hope that we'll be able to give this another go in the near future.  In our first game, I managed to swarm the USN and RN around Iceland and while my Foxtrots and Alfas were sent to the bottom, the exchange rate in Trafalgars and Los Angele's was equal which was very bad news for NATO.

Admiral Creaner considering his Anti-Sub screen

Sydney and Admiral Creaner played a convoy game which didn't go so well for the Soviets. Penetrating a convoys anti submarine piquet is no joke and we worked out that it was far more useful to work out where the convoy needed to be and then lie in wait for them.  This is slightly complicated by the fact that while the US convoy is slow moving and fairly predictable, they do have Los Angeles class subs attempting to disrupt the Soviet attacks - so a Soviet player who is too cautious could find himself being counter ambushed.

An enjoyable game and at a sufficient level of complexity - actually I think it might be fairer to say - of sufficient simplicity  - to keep my interest while still reflecting some of the problems of naval engagements.  Actually, I came across an interesting idea recently in the work of a Canadian academic called Jordan Peterson, which was the idea of the "low resolution representation".  The idea is that people have cognitive structures that they use to deal with problems - essentially stories that they tell themselves. These stories vary in complexity, but what matters is if they are true enough for the purpose they are put to.  A hydrologist might have a higher resolution mental model of currents and movements of water than a fisherman, but that might not matter to the fisherman who will have to make more decisions much more quickly than the hydrologist.  The fisherman's "rules of thumb" might be inaccurate in some cases, but so long as they as mostly true, most of the time, they serve their purpose.

A good game might need to be sufficiently high resolution to capture some sense of the thing that it is representing, while being of a sufficiently low resolution to be playable in a reasonable amount of time. The appropriate level of resolution will depend on what your goal is. 

My father in law put this together while we were all dying of the lurgy. It's solid, the cover is screwed to the timber underneath and then again to the floor. It's on legs so that Arthur Kinch cannot repeat his trick of building a ramp of cushions against it. Something similar was tried by the Romans at the Siege of Jerusalem I believe. 

Unfortunately the Kinch household is just a riot of chest infections, coughs, spluttering, paracetemol and anti-biotics, so we've had to batten down the hatches. Arthur and Gordon have borne it with remarkable stoicism for babies their age, something I wish I could say about their parents. 

Unfortunately, we somewhat underestimated Arthur's ingenuity.  Within twelve hours, he'd managed to pile cushions against the window and wedge himself against the wall in such a way that he could get up to swipe the little wooden bandsmen that went around the tree. 

Arthur Kinch will be getting this for Christmas.  I may have made a terrible mistake. 

Gordon is getting far more sensible LEGO, which she really enjoys (having played with a friends), but which doesn't make a noise.