The Tiers of Fighters/Opponents

So, boxing (and to a lesser degree mixed martial arts, though that is an inherently higher-variance sport) has developed a sort of tier system for its numerous fighters. Title Bout Boxing, through its auto-scheduler enabling you to run numerous simulated matches, is good for determining just how good fighters in one tier can fare against those in another. What I’ve found is that cheap thriller opponents can also fit into these categories.

  • Tomato Cans. The bottom of the barrel. They’re set up in deliberate squash matches, most often for the purpose of artificially inflating a fighter’s record. Or providing a spectacle. Tomato cans are always ranked as “0” in Title Bout Boxing, and the only way they can defeat any kind of significant fighter is through an injury/cut/occasional fluke knockout.
  • Journeymen. The middle of the pack. These are the low-tier filler fighters which everyone has to pass through, and which define the median that people diverge from. In Title Bout, they’re ranked 0-2, and aren’t quite as hapless as tomato cans against clearly superior opponents.
  • Gatekeepers/Trial Horses. These are fighters intended to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. Barring the above lucky moments, they aren’t expected to credibly challenge for a title themselves. But they can determine if a prospect is all that or not. In Title Bout, they’re typically ranked 2-4.
  • Fringe Contender. This is where the lines start to blur. In-game, they’re a 5-7 ranked fighter who can occasionally win against superior opponents “legitimately” (I’ve found that being able to win via decision is a mark of legitimacy, as are knockouts/TKOs that aren’t due to cuts). Often they’re genuine champions by national/regional standards.
  • Contender. 7+ ranked fighters in-game who can consistently win legitimately, even at low percentage chances overall, against other contenders. I chose the game’s 7 rating as the line because that’s the in-game rating of Ingemar Johanssen, widely considered one the weakest world champions ever.

As always, perspective is important. Even tomato cans are better at punching than any normal person, and the difference is simply a matter of degree. Someone good by lower standards can still be the equivalent of a tomato can against an all time legend.

Review: Black Skies

Black Skies

The third book in the Dan Morgan thriller series (albeit the second one I’ve actually read), Black Skies is a cheap thriller that I expected to be a simply decent one like the first installment. Instead, I found it to be like a cross between someone’s silly Mary Sue self-insert fantasy and Jon Land.

The former comes from the fact that its author claims to be a Black Ops (capital!) veteran, and someone who did so much Super Secret Special Stuff that it’s all secret, you know. The Nigerian prince scammers tell a more credible story. The child who looks at you with crumbs on his face and the cookie jar empty and says “it was the cat” tells a more credible story. This is so obviously a wish fulfillment ridiculous action fantasy.

(Note: I do not consider a wish fulfillment ridiculous action fantasy a bad thing)

The Jon Land part comes from it being one of the few other thrillers that really approach his sense of buildup. I believe it’s a coincidence from both being in a shared genre, but I saw a lot of similarities. There was a good sense of buildup, without really that many stumbles. There were convoluted double and triple crosses. The MacGuffin and antagonist weren’t as gonzo as they would be in an actual Land book, but I’ll take what I can get. Since I love Jon Land thrillers, seeing one in a similar style was quite a treat.

Of course, this also shares some of Jon Land’s flaws. Namely, the rushed disposal of some of the antagonists when it’s clear that the book is running short, and a rather “questionable” depiction of firearms. I saw a “Glock .22” (which implied a small .22LR cartridge, when the author meant a real Glock 22 without the dot) and someone important using a cheapo Kel-Tec gun. Though in a thriller you already know is goofy, the inaccuracies are just part of the fun.

This is not a “good” book by any means. But it is a fun book. And that’s what matters.

Review: Inside The Ropes

Inside The Ropes

Charles E. Van Loan’s Inside The Ropes is a 1913 collection of stories involving boxing. While this is quite different from the original fare I was expecting to review on Fuldapocalypse, so is, well, almost everything else covered on this blog. Eleven stories cover all kinds of boxers.

The stories are well written and frequently humorous, although they obviously contain anachronistic 1910s language. And, unfortunately but unsurprisingly, 1910s views on race. But what really struck me was how many of his descriptions of boxing and the culture around it still ring true today. And I’m not talking about the rules being still mostly similar, or how boxing is still ultimately about people punching each other.

I’m talking about the “loss stigma” in boxing that simply does not appear in any other sport, including mixed martial arts, to nearly the same degree. Nobody hates Babe Ruth just for losing three World Series. Nobody hates Tom Brady just because he lost three Super Bowls. But lose three matches in boxing, and your status drops dramatically. Lose one match and it drops. I’m also talking about a delightful observation, and one that is applicable to other sports, about how people always claim to want to see advanced technical fighters but really only shell out the money for those who demonstrate raw physical strength.

For people who like boxing and/or sports stories in general and don’t mind the old-timey language and writing style, I highly recommend this book. It’s also available in digital form here as it’s a public domain work due to its age and obscurity.

Weird Wargaming: From The Periphery to the Centfront

The force deployments of the Cold War Central Front have been one of the most obsessively studied and analyzed of all time. Yet some surprising curveballs can still emerge. One of them I recently found was unadopted suggestions to move either Turkish or Italian forces to permanent bases in West Germany. The Turkish force I heard was two divisions. The Italian one was undefined.

The biggest (purely military and not political) risk I felt was that a significant portion of these nation’s heavy formations (the only viable ones for a conventional Fuldapocalypse) would have to be moved. Thus they would need to be either reequiped with cheaper and less capable superpower surplus, beefed up expensively, or have fewer mechanized units on their own territory.

As for where to put them, there were a few options. One was the obvious use of them to shore up the always vital and always vulnerable NORTHAG. Another was to put them in Southern Germany and/or other areas with good defensible terrain (such as the Harz Mountains) to free up Bundeswehr troops to go elsewhere.

However they were equipped and wherever they went, having these alternate deployments seems like it would make for an interesting wargame scenario.

The Wheeze Kids Approach

The advent of free agency in North American sports brought about one particular form of win-now team building. Namely, grab a bunch of older veteran players with (theoretical) capability, and hope for the best. I’ve dubbed it the “Wheeze Kids” approach, after the nickname given to the 1983 Phillies. Built around a 42 year old Pete Rose, a 39 year old Joe Morgan, and a 41-year old Tony Perez, they made it to the World Series (only to lose to a young Cal Ripken’s Orioles).

Sometimes the Wheeze Kids approach succeeds. More often it serves as an expensive failure, albeit one that the players and their agents aren’t exactly too worked up about thanks to the paychecks. Whatever its worth in the actual world, I love assembling teams of “wheeze kids” in simulations, to see just how viable aging players remain.

Review: Sword of the Caliphate

Sword of the Caliphate

Reading Dodgebomb, I was faced with the very un-Fuldapocalyptic sight of a somber, sedate, historically accurate historical war novel. With Clay Martin’s Sword of the Caliphate, I return to the same place in a much trashier tale. And it’s a self-proclaimed World War III to boot. How could I resist?

The protagonist is an ex-soldier turned contractor guarding a fuel site in Iraq when a super-bioweapon that only affects non-Arabs is released on the world by a terror caliphate. With nuclear retaliation inevitable, he and his compatriots have to try and escape. A premise that’s basically “The Anabasis after an event triggered by Hideo Kojima levels of biology understanding” is not exactly the worst a cheap thriller could do.

This book has everything that I normally dislike about cheap thrillers. It’s written in first person, and the narrator is snooty to boot). It has the “have your cake and eat it too” where the protagonist does awesome things in a nominally “realistic” manner (basically, it’s the equivalent of immediately following Saburo Sakai’s long flight back after being shot in the head with Vesna Vuckovic’s long parachute-less fall, and following that with Jack Burke and Andy Bowen’s seven hour boxing match). It has the frequent “look how much I know” infodumps. The writing prose is very blocky.

And yet all this was present in such great quantities that it actually came full circle from “annoying” to “fun”. When I saw the first instance of my normally loathed “this isn’t the movies, now watch me do this amazing thing”, I actually went “YES!” and did a small fist pump. It’s been a while since I read a book that just teetered on the edge of “amazingly stupid” and “stupidly amazing”.

This novel is tasteless, crass, contrived, ridiculous, bizarre. It’s also fun. And it’s so much more audacious than just a run of the mill “shoot the terrorist” book. I enjoyed it, and that’s what counts.

Announcing My Newest WIP Novel: The Sure Bet King

What have I been at work on the past couple of months? The answer is a novel in progress, and one devoted to something that’s totally different from the typical scope of Fuldapocalypse. I’m making a mostly nonviolent “pop epic” (the greatest inspiration I can see is Sidney Sheldon) about a sports betting “tout”. Touts are basically people who sell picks/betting advice. It is not a profession with a good track record or reputation, to put it mildly.

I can’t give a formal arrival date for the novel yet as it’s still far from complete even in rough draft form, but rest assured that I’ve been hard at work on it. It’s a very exciting experience-this novel has been very fun to research and very fun to write.

Review: Dodgebomb

Dodgebomb

Darrin Pepple’s Dodgebomb is a historical fiction novel about the Iraq War. I will freely admit that plain historical military fiction, as opposed to alternate/never was conflicts, just isn’t my favorite (sub)genre. Nonetheless, this is a very good book.

The work of a veteran, it shows. Everything rings true, and it’s overall a well-written piece. Occasionally there are overly clunky paragraphs and/or descents to Herman Melville levels of detail, but those are small nitpicks. This is an excellent novel and I highly recommend it. Often it’s hard to describe how I like something as opposed to how I didn’t like it, but trust me-I liked this book.

Review: The Triple Frontier

The Triple Frontier

Marc Cameron’s The Triple Frontier is the ideal appetizer for his Jericho Quinn thrillers. A nice 51% snack that’s short, inexpensive, and takes place in a great setting (you can do some much with the Paraguay/Brazil/Argentina border area), it was the book in the series I read first. I wanted to get a taste of it in a short novella format before I moved on to the full thrillers.

That I have moved on to said full thrillers speaks a lot about the quality I found. It’s not perfect or the best cheap thriller out there. But it is a good cheap thriller.

The Style of Camouflage

Camouflage uniforms have sometimes been issued in limited amounts, especially during the World Wars. In some cases, they were chosen for practical reasons. Recon troops and others who needed legitimately better concealment were given them. One interesting case is the US only really deploying camouflage uniforms in the Pacific theater in WWII, as the Germans loved camo, and thus using them in Europe caused too much confusion. Another one is how a lot of armies that previously used the classic M81 Woodland have updated their uniforms, since the ubiquity of that pattern has made it very easy for enemies to make disguises.

But there have also been cultural reasons, for lack of a better term. And not just bandwagoning like the infamous American “every service stomps into a digital camo pattern” experience in the 2000s. I’ve heard that the postwar Bundeswehr was slow to adopt camouflage uniforms because of their association with the Third Reich. And in places like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, camouflage has been reserved for elite units as a sort of status symbol. There’s also police forces adopting blue and/or gray pseudo-camouflage to show a sort of “military power”.

This aspect of camouflage uniforms is both ironic (something intended to blend in is chosen because of its looks) and interesting to me. As is the reputation that seemingly neutral camo patterns develop based on who uses them.