A Thousand Words: WMMA5

WMMA5

Grey Dog Software’s World of Mixed Martial Arts 5 is an excellent mixed martial arts simulator/tycoon game. It’s best to keep your game worlds small as loading times are still an issue, but that’s the only (small) sour note in a very sweet game. As a tycoon, you can participate in building your own MMA empire, and learn the hard way that trying to do right by either your fighters or your fans has financial consequences.

Or you can just smash the figures together in the game’s Quick Fight mode, which is where I spend most of my time with it. The character editor means you can create anything from all-rounders to monomanical specialists who can’t strike or can’t grapple (or both!) As MMA has even more “moving parts” than boxing, making a proper sim is tough. Thankfully, this delivers.

Review: Invasion Downfall

Invasion: Downfall

DC Alden’s Invasion series is infamous. After reading Downfall, the first installment in the series, I soon found that this infamy is completely deserved. First, the obvious part: This is a book about an Islamic superstate invading the UK. And it has the politics you’d expect from such an invasion novel. Yes, there’s a lot objectionable about it, including the “traitorous fifth column in waiting” trope taken to extremes even by the standards of the genre.

Of course, I found something else objectionable, which is that it started off in a conference room. And we see a lot of those, and not in a well-handled way. At least the “setup phase” isn’t too long, even if what’s going to happen is completely obvious.

When push finally comes to shove, the military action is not exactly a rival to Larry Bond. The enemy uses a surprisingly bland array of mostly western equipment (not helped by later editions trying to make it “contemporary” by erratically changing names), and there are iffy set pieces like an E-3 letting itself get in range of a short-range missile. The infamous “strong but weak” trend that I was already on thin ice about picks up. “The horrible hordes can easily overrun England-but they can lose multiple strategic aircraft in one battle with named characters.” Like a slightly less intense version of Joly’s Silent Night, nearly all of the British military is incapacitated by irregulars before the conventional forces land.

Just a little bit more research and/or imagination would have made the battles a lot better. As would having the opponents actually earn their victory in Operation أسد البحر. The actual book is a “get the conference rooms right, but not the battles” mediocrity.

Review: The Soviet/Russian Aircraft Carriers

The Soviet/Russian Aircraft Carriers

It’s time to ring in the new year with…. another history book. This one is Simon Beerbaum’s book on Soviet and Russian aircraft carriers. It’s not just about the Kiev and Kuznetsov classes, which I feared it might have been. On the contrary, it has everything from pre-WWI czarist proposals to post-revolution plans for converting surplus ships (with limited technology/resources, it would have been easier to finish a large warship as a carrier rather than an armored, big-gun battleship) to never-weres like the Ulyanovsk and Project 11780 Kherson “Ivan Tarava” helicopter amphib based on the Kiev.

This is an amateur enthusiast project, so it has issues with formatting and inconsistent quality in the line drawings. Those are small issues, and if I had a bigger gripe, it’d be that far too little attention is given to the actual air wings of those carriers-the entire reason they’re built. It’s vague, especially when there’s no shortage of equally fascinating never-were carrier planes as well (from the Yak-141 to navalized MiG-23s to other exotics).

Still, this book does what it sets out to do. For a country whose carriers have arguably all been prestige peacocks, a lot of designs were made. If you want an intro to these flattops, you could do a lot worse than this book.

Fuldapocalypse Year In Review

While 2020 was a bad year for everyone, my 2021 was excellent. I made and released my first full-length novel, The Sure Bet King. It was the most fun I’ve had writing a book-ever. Really, it was a great experience. I got to write in a genre I knew nothing about when I started the blog, and know I could do a 100,000 word book.

Writing it was so smooth and fun that I actually thought I could just go right in to making the next book, which didn’t quite click (yet). But one full-length novel is better than none, and that it was a “pop epic” inspired by the likes of Sidney Sheldon (an author I didn’t know about when I started the blog) and about sports betting (A topic I didn’t know nearly as much about when I started the blog) made it all the sweeter. It really showed how the blog’s diversification paid off.

I actually found that in many ways, writing a big-scale book that took place over a long period of time was actually easier than a shorter, narrower-scope one. I could add varied scenes without having them feel like just padding. Of course, now I have the desire to make a more conventional action thriller…

Review: Small Unit Tactics

Small Unit Tactics

Because of a desire to write action scenes that are at least slightly more maybe, kinda-a-little more realistic than “hand cannons and elbow drops”, and because I’m a sucker for instruction books, I’ve been dipping into visual tactical guides. These are the kind of things the infamous Paladin Press would publish, and aim to translate from field-manualese to English (a more charitable interpretation is that they’re aimed at genuine military personnel and try to make legitimately important stuff clearer). One of them is Matthew Luke’s Small Unit Tactics. How is it?

This book focuses almost entirely on the ambush. Because I actually enjoy reading field manuals for fun, there wasn’t a lot I didn’t already know. But this is a clear example, and it talked about ambushes in a way different from how I’d previously read about them. Maybe because I had read so much about irregular forces, the type most firmly in my mind was “fire, do as much damage as you can, and then immediately try to escape”. The book talks about a further close assault, and labels that kind a mere “harassing ambush”, used mainly for deterring patrols/reaction forces.

This is a good resource for fiction writers and/or armchair generals. The pictures and photos (mostly of military exercises practicing the type of actions written in the book) are well-done, the text is well done, and it can be applied to almost any type of formation. Yes, the classic OPFOR has the simplest foot infantry tactics (unitary squads deploying in lines), but those unitary squads are still capable of launching an ambush. It’s not the be-all-end-all of research, but it’s still a very good component.

Review: Once an Eagle

Once an Eagle

A fairly long time ago, I received Anton Myrer’s Once an Eagle as a gift, because I liked books on military fiction. This book is a classic of its genre and is very highly spoken of. The only issue is, well, I didn’t like it very much. Granted, my first impression of it was clouded simply by a mismatch of tastes. To me (esp. at the time), “military fiction” meant Dale Brown-style thrillers. This book is a sweeping pop epic that just happens to have the American military as its setting, the way my own The Sure Bet King has the underground sports betting industry or Susan Howatch’s Sins of the Fathers has the New York banking industry.

However, even accepting that it’s an orange rather than an apple, I still don’t think it’s a very good orange. Main character Sam Damon is an obvious and massive Mary Sue, and the Manichean nature of the book doesn’t really suit a horrifically complex subject. Maybe if Myrer’s writing fundamentals were really good, they could have saved the book. They aren’t.

You could definitely do (and people undoubtedly have done) a gigantic, excellent pop epic on a long military career. But this is not it.

A Thousand Words: People Playground

People Playground

When I was young, one of my favorite games was the Rube Goldberg generator known as The Incredible Machine. Now I’ve been delighted to announce that I’ve found a spiritual successor, People Playground. You can make all sorts of contraptions there in a physics sandbox-that mostly have the end goal of killing people. Or monsters. Or robots. For someone with as frequently twisted a sense of humor as me, I’ve loved it.

Yes, you can manually spawn a weapon and just kill your test subjects, but where’s the fun in that? One example of the breadth of this game is my most satisfying creation. One victim was strapped to a chair while another had an incandescent light bulb wired to him. The light bulb was switched on and given a heat transfer, causing the first victim to burn to death. A heat pipe was then attached to the second victim’s head, leading it to light up like a candle, before the whole body followed suit.

There’s a real sense of satisfaction in making an elaborate deathtrap that finally, actually works, and it’s for that reason that I recommend this game for people who like messing around in sandboxes. It’s very fun.

Soviet-Romanian War: Background

I’ve talked before about a Soviet-Romanian War that’s a kind of “Soviet Gulf War“. There have been many obstacles to me actually writing such a thing, ranging from “what do I do with it” to “it’s a little eerie seeing Russia’s OTL buildup and interventions, including currently off Ukraine…”. But I figure I might as well get the rivet-counting parts of it down now while they’re fresh in my mind.

The Setting

It is the year 199X. The USSR is still intact. The reason isn’t because, as in Northern Fury, the August Coup succeeded. Here, it never happened, and the result is a “Union of Soviet Sovereign Republics” ( Союз Советских Суверенных Республик ), which allows for the continued use of the “USSR”, “Soviet Union”, and “CCCP” abreviations. The resulting semi-decommunized USSR has varying degrees of freedom and business openness, and is best symbolized by a flag: Still red, but with the hammer and sickle replaced with a light green vertical stripe on the left and a darker blue one on the right (to symbolize Central Asia and the Western Slavic republics).

Its economy has also been better improved from the historical collapse, but it retains its gigantic spending on the military. Having a bigger pie and more access to the Asian tech industry helps a lot. The result is that one of my favorite OPFOR models, the “Mobile Forces“, can finally be put into practice.

Meanwhile, to its west, the renegade Romania has clung on. But the time has finally come to eliminate it…

(Yes, I haven’t thought of the casus belli yet. Oh well.)

The Combatants

The USSR is able to deploy the Dniester and Danube Fronts. The Dniester Front is to the north and is composed mainly of national-level deployment forces and local ones in the Ukrainian and Moldovan military areas. The Danube Front stages out of Bulgaria (the most docile Warsaw Pact ally), and consists mainly of Bulgarian units with a smattering of Soviet ones, often in support roles. The only other foreign ally participating in a major role is a by-now-fairly-stabilized Afghanistan, contributing a motor rifle division and various mountain/commando units to the Dniester Front.

Investment has paid off, as the new pride and joy of the Red Army, its “mobile corps” are ready and set to participate in the invasion. A new generation of equipment has entered service. Many of the local participants are less well-equipped (in Bulgaria’s case, sometimes severely less so). The force contains thousands of tanks, artillery pieces, and aircraft, many of them new.

Opposing it is a force long considered the bottom of the Warsaw Pact barrel. Romania has had time to introduce some external and indigenous weapons systems. It has also semi-openly planned for a conventional delaying action followed by irregular resistance since the Ceausescu/Soviet split. But it remains hopelessly outclassed.

The Plan

The Dniester Front will do the bulk of the heavy lifting, sweeping through Romania. The Danube Front’s main goal is to cut off Bucharest and the Yugoslav border to head off reinforcement or escape in that direction. The biggest airborne and special operations since World War II will be conducted to aid the advance, secure the western side of the Carpathian Mountains, and interfere with the Yugoslav crossing.

Romania’s plan is to simply hold off long enough to set up a guerilla oppositions. In addition to all their other problems, an insistence on holding down the more Hungarian northwest, if only with security troops, lingers. (Hungary proper cares little for either side and has almost no intervention ability).

The Outcome and the Story

Ah, now that’s what I want to write about. I have many vignettes in my mind as of now but less of a coherent narrative. Still, I think I’ll have fun trying.