It’s late afternoon here in Lithia, Florida, on Thursday, September 8, 2022, and the weather outside is awful.
It’s dark. It’s rainy. Thunderstorms are not yet overhead, but they are on their way. It was oppressively hot earlier, but now there’s a mix of cold and damp air leaking into my room through the walls.
This is not my favorite meteorological condition.
As the 1971 song by The Carpenters says,
Rainy days and Mondays get me down.
Well, it is not Monday, but it is a rainy day.
Which is soon going to be a stormy day.
The only upside – you must look for upsides, otherwise, you’d go nuts with only a negative outlook – is that at least these are just thunderstorms coming and not, say, a tropical storm or, worse, a hurricane.
Oh, yeah. And thunderstorms eventually go away from the area, pushed away by the same air currents that bring them in the first place.
So, there’s that.
Queen Elizabeth II Died Today
A little while ago I learned via a “breaking news” email from my former hometown newspaper, The Miami Herald – for which I once aspired to write – that Queen Elizabeth II, who was the constitutional monarch and head of state not just of the United Kingdom but also of Canada, Australia, the Bahamas, and various other countries that were part of the British Empire – died earlier today at the age of 96 in Balmoral, Scotland.
Elizabeth became Queen at age 25 after her father, King George VI, died unexpectedly in February 1952. Her reign of 70 years and 214 days is the longest of any British monarch and the second longest of any sovereign in recorded history.
For many people in Britain and the 14 other countries where she was the official head of state, Elizabeth II was the only monarch they’d known. Only people in the 70-90 age group are old enough to remember the reign of her father, who came into the throne after his brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated in December of 1936 after the British government said he could not marry Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American, and make her the queen consort of Great Britain and the British Empire.
I am not a dedicated Royal-watcher, and I don’t follow too closely the shenanigans of the late Queen’s family – although I did have a crush (briefly) on Princess Diana when I was in high school – so I can only say this about Elizabeth II:
- She may not have shaped history the way that, say, Henry VIII or her own great-grandmother, Queen Victoria did, but she sure lived through a lot of history
- She was the epitome of quiet resolve and devotion to duty. Say what you will about the British Royal Family, starting with Elizabeth’s own sister, Princess Margaret and down to the sometimes-scandalous behavior of her sons Prince Charles and Prince Andrew. She may not have been a perfect monarch, especially in her relationships with her daughters in law, but Elizabeth II always put her duty as the symbol of Britain – even a vastly diminished one after World War II – before anything else
- She reigned for so long that 14 men were in the White House as President of the United States during her long reign, starting with “lame-duck” Harry S. Truman in 1952 all the way to current President Joe Biden
- The Beatles, the James Bond film series, the Rolling Stones, the Harry Potter book-and-movie franchise, Dr. Who, Are You Being Served?, Monty Python, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy were all British cultural exports created during Elizabeth II’s reign – although, to be fair, so were the Page 3 girls in the British tabloid The Sun (which is owned by Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch)
Regiments – The Hiatus Ends
Well, that didn’t last long, did it?
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that on August 16 I purchased Regiments, a real-time tactics game that depicts armored warfare in a fictional Third World War in the divided Germany in 1989. It is one of the first new games published by the reincarnation of the legendary MicroProse, a company co-founded by Sid Meier and Lt. Col. William “Wild Bill” Stealey, USAF (Ret.) in 1982 and, for over a decade, the source of many hit video games and simulations, including Silent Service I & II, F-15 Strike Eagle, Red Storm Rising, M1 Tank Platoon, and Civilization.
Steam and GOG.com offer many of MicroProse’s older games – reissued by the companies that own the intellectual property (IP) of the original game company – but Regiments is the first of several long-in-development new games developed by small studios in Australia and Europe. I’m (obviously) a fan of the MicroProse brand, and since I’m an armchair commander of sorts, I put Regiments on my Steam wish list as long ago as 2020 and bought it on the first day of release.
Whenever I get a new game that I can play and play relatively well – my Steam library is replete with titles that intrigued me, but don’t play often because they’re incredibly difficult to play, especially since I don’t have the greatest dexterity, which one needs to play games that require a lot of mouse-issued commands – I latch on to them for long periods of time, sometimes to the detriment of other activities or even my health. (I suspect that part of my Labor Day weekend insomnia attack, at least the one on Friday night, was brought on by the adrenaline rush I was getting from Regiments.)
I don’t know about you, Dear Reader, but when I suffer from sleep deprivation, I have a hard time concentrating and making decisions quickly, plus I feel tired all the time. I am no longer in my 20s or 30s…not even my 40s, so I can’t pull all-nighters with anything anymore, be it watching movies after midnight, reading books, or staying online all night until I finally get too sleepy to type or see anything clearly on my monitor.
So, yeah. I had to take a break from Regiments, at least for a few days. I was beginning to dream I was really in the Battle of Grasleben 33 years ago, and that the ghosts of all the men I lost under my command were 21st Century descendants of Banquo from Macbeth.
So, until midday today – after starting and discarding several different drafts of this blog post – I decided to play a session of Regiments before the thunderstorms rolled in and forced me to log off from the computer.
To shake things up a bit and not fight another Battle of Grasleben, I selected the Skirmish titled Runway this time around. I still chose the Attack mission type, but this time – purely by accident – I upped the ante and chose the Medium difficulty level instead of Easy.
Again, I played as a NATO commander, choosing the tried-and-true 1st Brigade of the 3rd Armored Division. This was a real U.S. Army division that was first activated in 1941 and, as the “Spearhead Division” assigned to the European Theater of Operations (ETO) served in various campaigns against Nazi Germany, including Normandy, Northern France, the Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe.
Interestingly, in my infrequent readings of Fire & Steel, a non-fiction book about the final months of World War II in the West, I recently read an account of how Maj. Gen. Maurice Rose, one of the few Jewish generals in the U.S. Army and the commander of the 3rd Armored during the campaign in Northwest Europe, was shot and killed by a German tanker after he and some of his aides ran afoul of an enemy panzer unit while scouting ahead of the division during the Allied invasion of Germany in the spring of 1945.
At the time, many people jumped to the conclusion that the German tanker had deliberately shot Rose because of the general’s Jewish faith. Still, Peter Caddick Adams, the author of Fire & Steel says the evidence points to a simple explanation of a tired, nervous, and heavily armed soldier reacting to a sudden move by a would-be prisoner in an already tense situation.
But I digress.
Runway is, as I might have observed in a previous Regiments-related post, a mission in which you must capture as many Objective Zones (OZs) as you can around an enemy-held airfield. I have tried this Skirmish before, but I get my ass handed back to me by the AI-controlled Warsaw Pact troops around the airbase constantly.
And that is when the difficulty setting is on Easy.
When I realized I had accidentally chosen the Medium difficulty level for this engagement, I considered quitting and starting a new session. But since the weather was deteriorating and I didn’t think I’d have time to set up another game, I went ahead and hit the Go to Battle button on the game menu.
I started the mission with a mindset of, “Okay, I might get my ass kicked by the AI on this level, but I will do my best to at the very least inflict as many casualties on the enemy as possible, and maybe take three or four OZs while I’m at it.”
Of course, at first I was somewhat tentative in my initial moves, an attempt to capture OZ Alfa and nibble away at the Red Force through attritional warfare. My initial plan was to seek some of the enemy forward outposts, eliminate them, then drive for Alfa and provoke the Red AI commander to commit forces into a counterattack.
I hoped that by doing that, I could lure the Soviet-East German units out of their positions and into kill zones where I could use my Abrams tanks’ long-range cannon and my TOW anti-tank guided missile-equipped units (including Bradley M2/M3 vehicles, Improved TOW Vehicle, and my AH-1F and AH-64A attack helicopters).
I hoped for, but did not expect, any type of victory, at least not my first Skirmish set on Medium difficulty. I used all the knowledge I have acquired in Regiments and similar games to do as much damage to the enemy without ever thinking, “This is going to be a cakewalk!”
It wasn’t a cakewalk, that’s for sure. The Red force was crafty in its dispositions, proved more resilient under suppressing fire than on Easy mode, and launched several vicious counterattacks that, had I not played Regiments before, would have overwhelmed my Blue team from the 1st/3rd.
At the same time, the Runway battle did not end in an ignominious defeat for me, either.
In fact, even though I did not capture all of the Red force’s OZs or have total domination of the airbase (one of my scout units reached one end of the runway, but that was it), I eked out…
….a Decisive Victory.
On Medium difficulty.
In a Skirmish where I lose more often than I win.
How about that, folks?