Well, it’s another dark, gloomy-looking, rainy, and eventually stormy day here in Lithia, Florida on Saturday, September 10, 2022. It has been raining off and on since I woke up around 7:30 AM Eastern Daylight Time, and now it is so dark in my room that I had to turn on my bedside lamp. Apparently, a strong line of storms is making its way across the central part of Florida from the Gulf of Mexico, and as I wrote in yesterday’s post, Hillsborough County is under a flood alert until 4 AM tomorrow.
Since a line of thunderstorms is making its presence felt – it’s almost nighttime dark in my room, and the view from the Florida room’s sliding glass door is one of the grey-black clouds and strong breezes stirring up the vegetation out in the backyard – I must make this a brief post.
For those of you who are following the continuing saga of my Amazon order of Star Trek – The Original Motion Picture 6-Movie Collection (a 15-disc set that includes all six of Paramount Pictures’ 1979-1991 Star Trek theatrical films starring the cast from Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-1969).
Star Trek – The Original Motion Picture 6-Movie Collection is a 15-disc set (seven 4K UHD discs, including the brand-new release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture – The Director’s Edition, which presumably is presented in a separate 4K UHD disc from the original theatrical version, and eight 2K HD discs, which also includes a separate Blu-ray for The Director’s Edition of the first Star Trek film, as well as a bonus disc with extras).
Obviously, the discs of the first four features are the same ones Paramount released last September both to commemorate Star Trek’s 55th (Emerald) Anniversary and to gauge consumer interest in the newly-released Star Trek – The Original Motion Picture 6-Movie Collection, so I am not expecting any surprises from the reissued discs.
I am looking forward to watching The Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which is making its HD (and UHD) debut 21 years after Paramount released the standard definition-only DVD in its first of 10 Special Collector’s Edition two-disc sets. A passion project for the late director Robert Wise (who is perhaps best known as the co-director of West Side Story’s first film adaptation, as well as the sole director of such diverse films as The Day the Earth Stood Still, Run Silent, Run Deep, The Sound of Music, and The Sand Pebbles), Star Trek: The Motion Picture – The Director’s Edition features a few judicious edits that address some of the movie’s problematic pacing issues, as well as a few special effects sequences that were restored/reimagined by a team led by Daren Dochterman and David C. Fein using CGI effects that were designed to blend in with the 1979 film’s original miniature effects.
I don’t have a lot of time to get into why The Director’s Edition didn’t get a Blu-ray release in either 2K or 4K resolution until 2022; the short version is that the 2001 DVD’s effects were done in standard definition, and for some reason – financial, I am willing to bet – Paramount bided its time until the suits decided they wanted to add The Director’s Edition as an offering on the Paramount+ streamer.
Anyway, my box set arrived in Jacksonville, Florida before dawn on Thursday, September 8, and left for Lakeland – which is just 19 miles away from Lithia – at 3:15 AM today. The last scan of my package shows it arrived at a UPS facility in Lakeland at 9 AM.
Even though the box with my Star Trek movies is tantalizingly near, UPS and Amazon still have a Wednesday, September 14 delivery estimate. I assume that this is because at some point in the process UPS will transfer custody of my package to the U.S. Postal Service, either in Lakeland or at the Post Office in Lithia for “last mile delivery.” There is no other logical explanation for such a long delay between Star Trek – The Original Motion Picture 6-Movie Collection’s arrival in Lakeland this morning and a scheduled delivery on Wednesday.
Hey, but at least I know my long-awaited box set is in the same state as I am.
As Friday morning transitions into Friday midday and afternoon on September 9, 2022, once again it is a steamy and rainy day in the Tampa Bay area.
In fact, as I write this, it is raining on and off outside, and even though I can feel the heat making its way through the walls in my room – I am, as always, in my stocking feet since I normally avoid wearing shoes when I’m in writing mode – I can also feel little ripples of colder air mixing with the “always at 74 degrees” air coming into my bedroom/writing study/mancave through the air conditioning grate up above and behind me.
And even though grey-tinted sunlight is trying its damnedest to pass through the closed blinds and partly drawn curtains behind my Lenovo all-in-one PC, soon it will be so dark that I’ll have to turn on my lamp so I can see the keyboard while I type or – if we get socked by thunderstorms later – go to my futon and read from one of the many books on my TBR list.
As I type this shortly before noon, things don’t look that bad weather-wise. There is a pesky rain shower somewhere near the Lithia/Bloomingdale area of Hillsborough County, but the really nasty stuff is still over the Gulf of Mexico.
Later – perhaps by the time I post this, given that I am not the world’s fastest typist – we might not be so lucky. It’s hot outside (the heat index is currently 94°F/35°C) and there’s a lot of humidity in the air, which means conditions are ripe for the formation of rain clouds and thunderstorm cells. In fact, a flood watch is in effect from 7 AM today till 4 AM on Sunday, September 11.
I’ve lived in Florida for 53 of my 59 years, the past 50 consecutively, so this is nothing new to me. It was surprising to me when Mom, my older half-sister Vicky, and I returned to the States in 1972 after living in Colombia for a while (Mom and I left Miami early in 1966; Vicky was in a Catholic all-girls school in Parkersburg, WV until she graduated in Spring 1969, so she did not live with in Bogota till then), but I eventually – and grudgingly – accepted that hot mornings and rainy afternoons are a natural part of life in the Sunshine State.
Still, just because I know why we only really have two seasons here in the subtropics – the dry and wet seasons – doesn’t mean I like it when thunderstorms are nearby, and I have to turn off all my electronics that draw power from the wall sockets. (In theory, I could use a laptop on battery power, but I only do that if I absolutely can’t find a good book to read or have the irresistible urge to check my social media accounts just to feel some remote connection to other people.)
And speaking of good books….
My September TBR List
Because I have been playing Regiments so much lately – the same thing happened in 2020 when I bought Cold Waters from Steam – I have not made much progress with the To Be Read (TBR) list of books I began to tackle in late summer.
I mean, I do read at least a little bit on a daily basis. Reading is practically hardwired into my DNA; most of my relatives on my mother’s side are bibliophiles, as were our parents and grandparents. My mom used to tell people that my grandmother – her mother – had taught me the alphabet with ABC blocks (do toddlers still play with those in the 21st Century?) and that my father, who died shortly before my second birthday, was astonished when he saw me reading from a newspaper while he was still alive.
I think I may have mentioned this before, but most of my offline, non-Internet reading usually happens in the morning – when I’m perusing the current issue of Time magazine while I have my de rigueur café con leche at the kitchenette table. On rare occasions, I will read from one of the books on my TBR list instead, but 90% of the time I’ll read my issue of Time, even though it’s no substitute for reading the daily newspaper – something that is, weirdly, verboten in this house.
I also have a habit – one that I’ve had since I was a wee lad of six – of taking a book with me to the bathroom when I know I will be on the porcelain “throne” for a bit. Even if I know I will not be in the bathroom long enough to get numb legs from sitting on the toilet for a long time, I will take a book with me and read while I “do my business.” It beats staring at the towels hanging from a rack on the opposite side of the bathroom, and it allows me to focus on my reading – and escape from my reality, even if it’s for a few minutes.
Since I have not bought any new books in September, my TBR list – or stack, if you prefer, is unchanged from the one I was reading in August:
Who Can Hold the Sea: The U.S. Navy in the Cold War, 1945-1960, James D. Hornfischer
The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle: Stories and Tips from Thirteen Years with a Leonberger, Thomas Wikman
Star Wars: Brotherhood, Mike Chen
Fire & Steel: The End of World War Two in the West, Peter Caddick-Adams
Well, Dear Reader, I need to wrap this up and publish it on WordPress; the light levels in my room are considerably lower than they were when I began writing at 11:45 AM (it’s now a bit past one in the afternoon; told you I’m a slow typist, did I not?), and the thunderstorms that were predicted to pass through the area are, indeed, nearby. (I can hear the low, dull booms of thunder out there!)
So, until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the not-so-stormy side of things.
 Whether this story is true or not, I don’t know. Mom was not, unlike my half-sister, in the habit of making up stories out of whole cloth, but she was a human being and was, therefore, not infallible when it came to remembering details from our experiences as a family. I do know that even though my grandmother was – in my child’s mind, anyway – a bit too strict and more than a little difficult to live with, she was also a brilliant, loving, and well-intentioned abuela. She was the one who insisted, during one of my grandparents’ visits to our house in Coral Estates Park, that I, at 11 years old, could and should learn how to make scrambled eggs. It was also my grandmother who, during my first of two trips back to Bogota after 1972, taught me how to tie my shoes (I was also 11 then, so the scrambled eggs thing happened a few months before my visit in the summer of 1974).
So if my grandmother was capable of teaching me how to tie my shoes – a feat that not even the occupational therapists at Tropical Elementary achieved – and how to get over my fear of cooking by having me make scrambled eggs, it is entirely plausible that she also taught me how to read. The open question is whether Dad, who died when I was so little that I don’t really remember him, ever saw or heard me reading from a newspaper like my mother claimed I did.
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…
Well, here we are at midweek on Wednesday, September 7, 2022, one week into meteorological fall – the more traditional astronomical fall doesn’t start till Thursday, September 22 – and it’s still hellishly hot here in Lithia, Florida. It’s not even midday – as I write this, anyway – and although the actual temperature is 85°F/30°C, the heat index (or “feels-like temperature”) is 92°F/34°C.
It’s bright, sunny, and scorching hot outside – I can tell by the amount of light that “bleeds” through the closed blinds and drawn drapes in my room – and I can feel waves of heat seeping through the wall and onto the hardwood floor underneath my stocking feet. So even though we are nearing the fall equinox and the dry season is just around the corner, summer is hanging on tenaciously like one of those pesky Soviet motor rifle platoons in Regiments.
Ah, well. It’s not like I must go outside, not even to take a trash bag out to the garbage can like I did at my old Miami townhouse from 1978 to 2016. Here, we keep the garbage and recycling bins in the garage till Pickup Days – Tuesdays for trash, Saturdays for trash and recycling – so the few times that I’ve taken bagged trash from my wastebasket to the trash bin outdoors have been when the “kids” – who are all in their 20s now – “forget” to retrieve the tall plastic gray-black bin after Pickup Day and just leave it out in front of the garage. Thus, because they’d done this a few times over the summer, I have had a taste of how torrid the summer heat is beyond the confines of my air-conditioned digs.
Anyway, yeah…we are still stuck in a typical “summer weather” pattern – hot, sunny mornings, steamy middays, and afternoons punctuated by the presence of rain showers and/or thunderstorms. I do not envy anyone who must work outside in this hot, humid, and exhausting climate!
Closely Watched Packages – The Never-Ending Saga
Last night I received two emails – one from Amazon, the other from UPS – informing me that the package with my pre-order of Star Trek – The Original Motion Picture 6-Movie Collection shipped yesterday at 2 PM Mountain Standard Time from Tucson, Arizona via UPS SurePost, which means UPS will hand the box (which is a 15-disc set) to the U.S. Postal Service for “last mile delivery.”
This also means that since there isn’t just one delivery service but two, my pre-order is scheduled to arrive on Tuesday, September 13, one day ahead of the original Amazon estimate and one week after Star Trek – The Original Motion Picture 6-Movie Collection’s “drop date,” which, of course, was yesterday.
Well, I was prepared for a far longer wait, considering the delays I experienced with pre-orders, all of which involved titles released by Paramount Home Media Distribution, in 2021. This includes the three-week lag between the street date and delivery day for the 40th Anniversary 4K UHD box set with the first four Indiana Jones movies, the Ragtime Blu-ray, and the predecessor to the box set I’m waiting to receive now, Star Trek – The Original 4-Movie Collection. If I recall correctly, some of those pre-orders from ’21 arrived three weeks after their day of release.
In this case, I think I am less worried about the lag because (a) I anticipated it and prepared mentally for it, and (b) – perhaps more relevantly – I have previously released (if slightly different) versions of the movies in the Star Trek – The Original Motion Picture 6-Movie Collection set.
Trek On, Trek On!
The only title in the new 15-disc set that I’ll watch right away will be the 4K remastered version of 2001’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture – The Director’s Edition, which itself is a Paramount-sanctioned revision of the 1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture supervised by director Robert Wise.
The story of why Wise was keen on revisiting Star Trek: The Motion Picture and working with a team of digital effects specialists and editors to create the 2001 Director’s Edition is long and complicated, but it boils down to these facts:
Star Trek: The Motion Picture was originally conceived as the two-hour premiere of a projected second Star Trek TV series intended to be the “flagship series” of a fourth TV network owned by Paramount
Paramount’s TV network – which was planned to start in time for the 1977 fall season, – did not materialize
Star Wars’ success at the box office in that same year (1977) prompted Paramount to quickly greenlight a Star Trek movie produced by the series’ creator, Gene Roddenberry
The transition from TV pilot movie to theatrical run feature film was longer, more complicated, and more chaotic than Paramount expected, and because the studio had a locked-in premiere date, Bob Wise did not have time to fix many of the issues he knew Star Trek: The Motion Picture had – most of them due to the studio’s insistence that the movie showed off the expensive special effects that Paramount had paid a lot of money for
Paramount was keen on letting Wise tinker with Star Trek: The Motion Picture partly to appease Star Trek fans who love TMP’s basic concept but knew the movie’s pacing was, shall we say, problematic and would prefer Wise’s version to the original 1979 one. The other factor was that Paramount’s TV network project had finally come to fruition in 1994 with the creation of United Paramount Network (UPN), and 2001 marked the premiere of UPN’s second Star Trek TV series, the prequel originally titled Enterprise.
What better way, the studio’s marketing geniuses thought, to promote the new series and launch a Collector’s Series of DVD sets of the Star Trek feature films (there were nine in existence in 2001, and the 10th in production) than by offering Trekkies a new and improved Star Trek: The Motion Picture?
Now, even though the new effects created by a team of digital artists and video/audio restoration experts that included Daren Dochterman, Sherry Hitch, David C. Fein, Adam Lebowitz, Michael Matessino, Stephen W. Pugh, Lee Stringer, and Ron Thornton are great and brought Star Trek: The Motion Picture closer to what director Wise wanted to achieve in 1979, the Director’s Edition could not be offered on high-definition Blu-ray until late 2021.
Why? Because the Director’s Edition project was made at a time when DVD was still a maturing format and Blu-rays were still in the process of being, well, invented, the CGI effects created by the team led by Dochterman and Fein were done in standard definition, and upscaling them to Blu-ray HD standards was not only difficult but expensive. Thus, it wasn’t until Paramount Global (the former ViacomCBS) launched its Paramount+ streaming service that it not only decided to release all of the Star Trek features in 4K UHD, but to pay Fein and Dochterman’s team enough money to redo the digital effects for the Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Since I have only seen the Director’s Edition on standard definition DVD, I am, as Spock would say, most curious to see what the Wise-supervised version of Star Trek: The Motion Picture looks like either on Blu-ray or its upscale younger sibling, 4K UHD Blu-ray.
Alas, unless UPS SurePost and the Post Office can put my package with the movie set that includes the Director’s Edition aboard the Starship Enterprise, I have to wait till Tuesday of next week to see it.
Ciao, For Now
Well, Dear Reader, it is now almost 12:30 PM – fast typist, I am not – and I do need to wrap this post up, so I’ll take my leave of you. Have a wonderful Hump Day, and as always, stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.
Regiments – More Lessons Learned in the Battles for Grasleben
“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
At ease, ladies and gentlemen. Please take your seats; the briefing will start in a moment.
I am still on my self-imposed break from Regiments, the real-time tactical game from Bird’s Eye Games that was published by MicroProse on August 16, but I feel compelled to share a few more of the lessons I’ve learned while playing the Attack scenario set near the West German town of Grasleben during an alternate version of 1989 where tensions between East and West rose and the Cold War went hot.
Not only have I learned to tweak the settings so a Skirmish (the Regiments term for a single engagement) to extend a scenario’s time limit and speed up the deployment process of Task Forces a bit, but I’ve acquired more practical knowledge about modern land combat, as well as refining some of the savvy I’ve acquired when playing similar games, including Armored Brigade, Wargame: AirLand Battle, and even the original MicroProse’s 1989 M1 Tank Platoon.
Victory Through Superior Firepower
One of the toughest things to learn in Regiments is how to assemble a force that is strong enough to attack an enemy position that is divided into various sections called Objective Zones (OZs for short), especially since Bird’s Eye Games, taking its cues from Eugen Games’ Steel Division and Wargames series, designed Regiments so that you don’t have your entire unit – be it a battalion, regiment, or brigade, depending on your nationality or type of division – available when the Skirmish starts.
Instead, Regiments provides a core group of units (scouts, tanks, mechanized infantry, mortars, and mobile anti-aircraft guns) that you can “buy” using Deployment Points (DPs). DPs are a sort of “currency” that the game gives you, and even though you can run out of them when you’re buying your first units, Regiments slowly replenishes them while the mission clock is running. Eventually, if you are patient enough to wait, your “bank account” will have enough DPs not just to purchase your core task force’s platoons and attached specialized units, but also more platoons from the three additional Task Forces the game will permit you to call in during the battle.
The main takeaways to this are:
You cannot deploy every single Task Force you see on the Task Force selection screen during the three opportunities the game gives you during a Skirmish. Therefore, you must strike a balance between the units which offer the most firepower and Tactical Aids (aka TacAids) and the necessary manpower, aka “boots on the ground” to grab and hold the eight OZs in the Graslaben scenario (or, really, any other Skirmish in Regiments)
Choose Task Forces that give you air support or artillery TacAids. I prefer those that allow you to call in several types of A-10 air strikes, although the ones that give Artillery support from Division Artillery do come in handy. If you choose the NATO unit 1st Brigade/U.S. 3rd Armored Division, use your DPs to acquire the Task Force – call sign “Rattlesnake” – with the OH-58D Kiowa scout helicopter and its deadly counterpart, the AH-64A Apache gunship
Attack, Attack, and Keep Attacking (At Least, in the ‘Attack’ Skirmishes)
Regiments has three distinct types of Skirmish to represent various elements of modern land combat as it would have been fought had the balloon gone up in 1989 West Germany and World War III had started – Attack, Mobile Defense, and Meeting Engagement. Each one requires different tactics and mindsets.
I chose to start learning to play Regiments via Attack because the mission is straightforward if not necessarily simple. In this type of mission, the objective is clear: take and hold the various Objective Zones until the mission clock runs out.
The first few times that I played Regiments in August, I usually attacked the nearest enemy-occupied OZ – usually either Alfa or Bravo, depending on their layout and/or proximity to my entry/supply zone near Grasleben – with my core group, before the game’s “Bitching Betty”chimes in with a “New task force available” aural prompt.
I got lucky during my first Skirmish, but because I lacked the patience to wait until I had assembled a large enough aggregation of task forces to capture more than five OZs in one 30-minute battle, that first victory proved Pyrrhic; I won the Skirmish solely because I managed to kill just enough of the East German/Soviet force near Grasleben to eke out a Minor Victory.
After that first Attack mission, the game’s artificial intelligence (AI) commander denied me even minor wins for about three days. Oh, I always grabbed three or four enemy OZs and inflicted heavy casualties on the Warsaw Pact with my NATO units, but because of Regiments’ exacting scoring system that measures not just the number of men, vehicles, and aircraft lost, but also the Kill/Death Value Ratio (or Kill Death Ratio in similar wargames, such as Combat Arms).
Kill Death Ratio, or more commonly referred to as KDR, is a player statistic in online ranks and other ranking. It shows how many enemy (friendly kills do not count) players the player kills (on average) before dying. The higher the player’s KDR, the deadlier they tend/appear to be.
So, during my days as a noob playing Regiments, the AI units tended to have better KDRs than I did, and even if I “won” based on the number of enemy troops killed, wounded, or missing, the AI would still force a Draw or, worse, win by holding enough OZs to gain a decisive victory.
I have since learned that the best way to win a victory involves whittling away at the fringes of the enemy’s defensive perimeter with my initial force during what I call the “buildup” stage, i.e., choosing my three Task Forces, then, once I have a strong enough force and at least two firepower-heavy TacAids on hand, attack one or two of the enemy’s OZs, then keep up an offensive tempo, even if I have to execute the occasional tactical retreat to preserve platoons or attached specialist sections that suffer casualties in battle.
Or, in other words, once you capture your first OZs, only take brief pauses and keep moving on to the next objectives. Husband your TacAids and use them wisely – TacAid points take longer to replenish than Deployment Points; don’t waste them on air attacks or artillery strikes on seemingly unoccupied OZs.
Yeah, the enemy might have units that you have not detected on those “empty” OZs, but what if your helicopters or M3 Cavalry Fighting Vehicles (or their equivalent in other NATO armies) spot an enemy unit and you can’t call in the A-10s or Divisional Artillery for an air strike/fire mission because you don’t have enough TacAid points available?
So, always use TacAids to either find the enemy (there is one that doesn’t require points, the Tactical Reconnaissance aid, but you need to have the Task Force that provides it) or call in artillery or air strikes against units you can see on the battlefield.
Additionally, use at least one Task Force with helicopters to seek out and destroy enemy armor from long ranges. I prefer to use the OH-58D/AH-64A combination, but in a pinch, a force equipped with two 2-helicopter sections of AH-1F Cobras will suffice. Be advised: helicopters pack a powerful punch, but:
They are vulnerable to enemy air defense units and man-portable surface-to-air missiles (SAMs)
They have a limited payload of anti-tank TOW (Tube-launched, Optical Wire-guided) missiles (Cobras) or Hellfire fire-and-forget anti-tank missiles (Apaches). You have to send them back to the entry zone/supply depot, where they can rearm, repair any damage, and refuel
There are more lessons I have learned from playing the Grasleben attack scenario in Skirmish mode, but that is all for today.
Thank you for your attention; you are now dismissed.
 The original company co-founded by Sid Meier and William Stealey was in Hunt Valley, MD until, after a series of mergers and acquisitions, its operations ceased circa 2004 and its headquarters was closed. The new MicroProse, which was revived in 2017 by its new CEO David Lagettie and original co-founder “Wild Bill” Stealey, is now based in Taylors Beach, New South Wales, Australia.
 Bitching Betty is the nickname given by U.S. pilots to the pre-recorded caution messages they hear when something goes wrong with their aircraft. These messages are spoken by a feminine voice rather than a male voice; researchers in the 1970s discovered that combat pilots – who were all men at the time – tuned out the caution warnings recorded by male speakers but were more attentive if the same warnings were spoken by a low, calm woman’s voice. Thus, the name, “Bitching Betty.”
Last night, while I was doing my weekly look at the AdSense account of the Blogger precursor to this blog, I noticed that after 11 years and 1,404 blog posts, I finally reached the $100 payment threshold necessary for Google to pay me the ad revenue generated by my content on the original A Certain Point of View.
According to my AdSense account, my current balance – as of September 6, 2022 – is $104.47, which reflects ad-generated revenue up to August 31 of this year.
I am, of course, quite happy about this. I linked my blog to AdSense several years ago – I was still living in Miami and taking on the role of caregiver for my sick mother at the time – with the intention of making at least a little extra money from my writing. And even though I couldn’t devote much time to A Certain Point of View until after my mom died in July of 2015, I never lost hope that someday, somehow, I’d reach the $100 payment threshold.
I was a bit surprised by the modest but steady increase in pageviews (and AdSense earnings) on A Certain Point of View. Yes, it’s been active for 11 years and until March of 2020 it was my only blog, and at one point before some Trump supporters managed to get Facebook to ban it as “spammy” or because I “hurt their feelings” with some of my politically themed posts, it was getting a lot of visitors.
According to the Statistics page on Blogger, my page views reached past the 74,000-views mark twice in 2019; first on September 30, then again on November 30.
And if I had not been forced by that stupid, arbitrary, and unfair ban from Facebook, I would not have created this WordPress blog, and most of the posts you’ve read here would have appeared on the original A Certain Point of View. (There is, after all, a reason why I named this blog A Certain Point of View, Too).
What surprises me about the “passed the $100 payment threshold” thing is that even though I planned to find a way to write on both blogs regularly – one scheme I had involved writing on one blog on alternate days of the week. You know, like posting on Blogger on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and on WordPress on Tuesday, Thursday, and on weekends.
Alas, I am not that good at setting schedules or keeping to them, and because I actually have more reader interactions here than on Blogger, I ended up writing on WordPress every day, thus switching the roles of the two blogs. So, despite the “this is a subsidiary blog” vibe of the title A Certain Point of View,Too, this blog became my main one, whilst the older Blogger edition took on the lesser status of being the “auxiliary blog.”
I still publish content on A Certain Point of View to keep it on life support, as it were, and maybe if I had more than 24 followers and 74 valid comments on Blogger, I’d be more inclined to post a bit more frequently than once or twice a month.
Heck, if Meta – Facebook’s parent company – had a better and fairer appeals system and I could get the ban on A Certain Point of View lifted, I’d go ahead and make it my main blog again. But that’s not going to happen; if I can’t get the appeal board to rescind a simple issue of a removed post because a bot – a bot! – thinks I violated Facebook’s nebulous “community standards,” I can’t get it to reverse the far more serious step of blocking my Blogger site from “the Social Network.”
(The Facebook ban is so total that were I to link anything from A Certain Point of View here so you could go there from WordPress, this post would be blocked. That’s how restrictive the ban is. And all because a few Trump supporters – especially one in particular that some people who know him from Epinions gave him the nickname “Papa Smurf” – couldn’t handle some inconvenient truths about their beloved Dear Leader in a few fact-based posts.)
So, even if I’m paying WordPress more per year to host this blog than I am making through the ads on my posts, you, Dear Reader, are stuck with me for a long time. I’m used to the process of publishing, and like I said, I have more followers and get more comments here than I do on Blogger.
And, who knows? Maybe someday I’ll make enough money through WordPress ads to at least pay for the hosting fees!
“Morning is wonderful. Its only drawback is that it comes at such an inconvenient time of day.” ― Glen Cook, Sweet Silver Blues
Well, that’s more like it.
After two consecutive nights – Friday and Saturday – marred by bouts of sleeplessness and a not-so-great weekend, last night I fell asleep at a reasonable time (11:30 PM EDT). And even though I woke up just a tad later than my usual “between 6 and 7 AM” rise-and-shine time, at least slept soundly.
Now I’m sitting at my spot at the kitchenette table, writing this post on the laptop I bought last year to replace my trusty but ancient Compaq laptop, which “died” at the advanced age – for a computer – of just under 12 years. It’s a more open and sunnier part of the house than my room, and since everyone is either sleeping or altogether absent, I figured I’d come out here and write just to have a bit of variety in my life.
True to my word, I stayed away from Regiments and other computer games and chose instead to watch TV out in the common room. I was in the mood for historically-themed stories, so I logged on to my Amazon Prime Video account and watched a so-so drama, The Assassination at Sarajevo (1975) about the killing of Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie on June 28, 1914 – the incident that sparked World War I. It was made in the former Yugoslavia, and although I think it was fairly accurate, it was a bit too sympathetic to 19-year-old Bosnian Serb gunman Gavrilo Princip and omitted the last words uttered by both of his victims.
(Apparently, according to the original movie trailer below, I watched an English-language dubbed version rather than one with the original audio track. Oh, well. Que sera, sera….)
It was still early when The Assassination at Sarajevo ended, so I watched Benedict Arnold: Hero Betrayed, a 2021 documentary that delves into the complex series of events in the life of one of the best American generals in the Revolutionary war that transformed a committed and brave patriot into a resentful and perhaps desperate man who switched sides and swore allegiance to the British Crown.
I have read a few books about the American Revolution, including the first volume in a new trilogy by one of my favorite historians, Rick Atkinson. And although initially I had an impression that the filmmakers were a bit too sympathetic to Arnold, the more I remembered from what I’ve read, I realized that Benedict Arnold: Hero Betrayed was a fair-and-balanced telling of a fascinating chapter in the early history of the U.S. and had a narrative worthy of a Greek tragedy.
After that, I went to my room and started watching yet another documentary, but by then I was tired and dozed off a few times during the first episode. I managed to take off my glasses and turn off the TV before – at long last – laying my head on my pillow and getting eight hours’ worth of sleep.
Closely Watched Packages: The Adventure (of Online Shopping) Continues….
Star Trek speaks to some basic human needs: that there is a tomorrow — it’s not all going to be over with a big flash and a bomb; that the human race is improving; that we have things to be proud of as humans. No, ancient astronauts did not build the pyramids — human beings built them, because they’re clever and they work hard. And Star Trek is about those things. — Gene Roddenberry
You probably don’t remember, but back in July I pre-ordered Paramount Home Media Distribution’s Star Trek: The Original Motion Picture Six-Movie Collection, a 15-disc multi-format box set with the six Star Trek features that star the cast (William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, and Walter Koenig) from the original 1966-1969 TV series.
The official “street date”/”drop date” for Star Trek: The Original Motion Picture Six-Movie Collection is tomorrow – Tuesday, September 6– but some consumers who pre-ordered their sets from Deep Discount or Movies Unlimited have either already received their orders or have received confirmation from the retailers that their packages have been shipped.
According to the product specification page on Blu-ray.com, this set (which is Paramount’s more complete follow-up to last year’s Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection) features six films and nine cuts, including the long-awaited 4K UHD/2K HD physical media release of 2001’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture – The Director’s Edition and two versions of 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
Alas, I can’t report similar happy tidings.
Not only have I not received a similar email from Amazon letting me know that my package is on its way, but a quick look at my order now says that I should not expect to receive my order until September 15.
All right, so yeah. I am a bit disappointed.
Not in a major way, of course. After all, I do have the 2021 55th Anniversary four-film set (but that one does not include the Director’s Cut of Star Trek: The Motion Picture), and I also have the 2009 Star Trek: The Original Motion Picture Collection which marked the Blu-ray debut of the same six films (without the Director’s Cuts of Star Trek I and Star Trek VI). So, it’s not a soul-crushing, gnashing of teeth kind of disappointment. It’s not like I can’t have a Star Trek movie “fix” at all, right?
Nevertheless, I did have a slim hope that my order would ship today and get here on the 8th – Amazon’s original estimated delivery date – and not, as what happened with the 2021 four-film set, a week or two later.
Oh, well. This, too, shall pass.
I don’t have much else to share, and even though I did get some rest last night, I’m still a bit tired from an exhausting weekend, so I’ll close this out here. Until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.
 Chosen, like last year’s drop date for the four-film set, because the anniversary of Star Trek: The Original Series’ premiere on NBC falls on September 8. This year is the 56th since TV viewers first heard James T. Kirk (William Shatner) reciting the famous “Space: the final frontier….” Intro when NBC aired The Man Trap, the eighth filmed episode but the first selected by the network as the series’ premiere.
“O sleep, O gentle sleep, Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frightened thee. That thou no more will weigh my eyelids down, And steep my senses in forgetfulness?” ― William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 2
Oh, no. Not again.
Not another seemingly endless, sleepless, and exhausting night in Lithia, Florida where insomnia apparently is the master of my early autumn nights.
And, yet, Dear Reader, I must report that, yes, for the second night in a row, I stayed up late – this time it was a bit past four in the morning when I finally went to my futon and got about five hours’ worth of sleep.
“I knew this feeling, the 2 a.m. loneliness that I’d practically invented.” ― Sarah Dessen, This Lullaby
The last time I experienced an extended period of sleepless nights was in mid-July of 2015, starting on the night of July 17/18 (the eve of my mother’s death) and ending on July 20th (the day after Mom died and the night of her open casket viewing at the Caballero Rivero Westchester funeral home in Miami). Back then, I was so exhausted that I took one of Mom’s remaining doses of Xanax so I could get at least one night’s rest.
“Sleep comes more easily than it returns.” ― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
I had hoped that my Saturday night would be different from the night before, so I planned on taking a break from Regiments – and gaming in general – thinking that since yesterday was the birthday of the Caregiver’s oldest son – the young man you have come to know as Gamer Boy – we would at least have a short and sweet family gathering (with cake and hors d’oeuvres, and maybe with the Caregiver’s new beau in attendance), which is what we’ve sometimes done.
Like some wines our love could neither mature nor travel.” ― Graham Greene, The Comedians
But no. There was no family gathering for my twenty-something housemate’s birthday; his mother left the house shortly after I woke up yesterday morning – I only got to exchange a hurried greeting with my ex-girlfriend as she headed to the front door and went to her SUV – and his two half-siblings both worked yesterday, so the only living soul who spent time with me for most of the day was Sandy, our miniature schnauzer.
Boredom. Anxiety. Loneliness. The Dark Side are they, as Star Wars’ Master Yoda might say.
I had planned an entirely different agenda for my Saturday night – no more gaming after 7 PM; watching a movie out in the family room rather than staying cooped up in my room, and going to bed no later than midnight.
That, Dear Reader, was my intention.
The reality, though, is another matter altogether.
The “no Regiments” self-imposed one-night moratorium? That was the first thing that I changed my stance, although I resisted the urge to play until after 10 PM, partly because I couldn’t decide which movie I wanted to watch after dinner, mostly because I was thinking about re-reading Tom Clancy’s Armored Cav: A Guided Tour of an Armored Cavalry Regiment so I can review it here in the near future.
And that, Dear Reader, proved to be my undoing. Not only did I feel compelled to take my copy of the book – which I’ve owned since Berkley Books published it in 1994 – down from my IKEA Billy bookshelf, but I then started thinking about new ways to fight the Battle of Grasleben in Regiments, and sure enough, despite my original plan to take a break from playing the game, there I was, at my computer desk, issuing orders to digital representations of tank and mech infantry platoons, calling in air strikes, and capturing Soviet-held Objective Zones in a version of 1989 that never happened.
“Play stupid games, win stupid prizes,” as common wisdom goes.
Well, I wouldn’t call Regiments a stupid game, and winning another Total Victory gave me a temporary rush and a sense of accomplishment.
“People never forget two things, their first love and the money they wasted watching a bad movie.” ― Amit Kalantri
Still, I might have had a better Saturday night had I been able to stick to my original plan. A movie is a more passive pastime than playing a game – military-themed or otherwise – and I do relax more when I lose myself in a story told by someone else. It doesn’t matter if I’m watching Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Pink Panther, Valkyrie, Casablanca, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, or Schindler’s List, but I usually feel less tense and more content when I’m watching a movie.
The trick is, though, being in a mindset where I know what movie I want to watch, and I think that sometimes my mind is…I don’t want to say troubled, but I think that’s the best word to describe my emotional state…and I can’t make up my mind about which of over 500 Blu-ray titles I own to watch.
So, yeah. The Dark Side of the Force, as it were, sent its ripples of disturbed emotions and affected my decision-making.
The result? Now I’m tired, more than a bit cranky, and need rest, recreation, and relaxation.
And, of course, I’m hoping that I can get a good night’s sleep tonight. I surely need it!
 When I first moved in here back in April of 2016, Gamer Boy was living with his girlfriend in an apartment in nearby Brandon. We celebrated his birthday at a restaurant – I think it was called Ford’s Garage – that time. When the girlfriend left Gamer Boy and he could not afford to live in the apartment on his own (they apparently shared the expenses), he moved back here, which prompted a most unwelcome shuffling of rooms, since the Caregiver’s youngest, who was still in high school, had to give up her bedroom because this room (my present bedroom/study/mancave) was too small for Gamer Boy. His half-sister needs a big-enough space for a bed, student desk, shelves, and a dresser, and the most appropriate room for her was the room that the Caregiver set aside for me when I first arrived in ’16. And because I slept with my then-girlfriend in the master bedroom, giving up my original mancave/writing room was no big deal for me.
But I digress. Since Gamer Boy moved back in, we’ve only celebrated his birthday a few times as a “family group.” Not because no one cares, but mostly because his two half-siblings both work now (the boy, J, works at a restaurant when he’s not attending classes at the local community college, and S. works at Target when she’s not at the University of South Florida).
And, of course, now that the Caregiver has found a new man less than a month after the death of the guy she dated after me, she is hardly ever home. So even though she bought a cake and placed the “Birthday Balloon” in honor of her firstborn child on the kitchen island to mark the occasion, she is not here. And Gamer Boy himself woke up way later than I did yesterday and made a brief trip to the kitchen to get something to eat before going out to meet with friends. I spoke to him briefly and, of course, wished him a “Happy Birthday.”
 Any movie would have done, except for Maid in Sweden. The Caregiver is, shall we say, squeamish about movies with a lot of nudity or adult situations, and even though Maid in Sweden is not a hardcore porn flick, it was made to show off Christina Lindberg’s admittedly gorgeous body to 1971 moviegoers. And since I didn’t know that my ex-girlfriend would be gone overnight, I didn’t want to be disrespectful of her feelings or incur her wrath (which can be formidable if she gets mad at someone). So movies like Maid in Sweden and Boogie Nights don’t get watched out in the common room out of respect for the homeowner.
I am not the world’s slowest writer; for a hunt-and-peck man, I can tap-tap-tap on a keyboard at a fairly quick clip. And if I am in the oh-so-desirable-but-often-elusive “Writer’s Zone” and the phrases are flowing from my brain to the keyboard and ultimately onto the computer screen, I can write at a decent speed.
I started writing today’s first post sometime around midnight. By one in the morning, I had reached the halfway point and thought that I would finish around two once I’d chosen screengrabs from the game Regiments, proofread my copy, and made necessary revisions before hitting the Publish button.
Boy was I ever overly optimistic!
By the time I’d selected cool graphics – including the only screenshot I took from the Regiments gameplay session I wrote about in my 1000th post – wrote the captions, and was satisfied with my handiwork enough to publish it, the time on my computer’s clock was…5:03 AM Eastern Daylight Time.
And since I did not go to bed right away – I dawdled on WordPress just long enough to comment on a friend’s blog post, then shared Post #1000 on various social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter. LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Pinterest. So even though I did not note the time that I logged off, it must have been around 5:30 AM when I finally laid myself down on my futon, placed my head on my pillow, and fell asleep.
I didn’t sleep for more than four hours, so even though I’ve had a late breakfast of Quaker Instant Oatmeal, a croissant, and two cups of coffee that I brewed, I’m tired, a bit scraggly-looking, and in need of a shower and fresh change of clothes.
(To be honest, what I also need is a nice vacation in a venue that is far from Tampa. Preferably with a cute, intelligent, sex-positive woman who likes writers and movies, but that’s as unlikely as getting all six numbers on a winning Lotto ticket.)
So, in addition to being tired, scruffy-looking, and needing to take a nice hot shower and get into clean clothes, I’m also a bit wistful and more than a tad cranky.
But, on the other hand, I’m still jazzed that I earned a Total Victory in Regiments last night.
Oh, I know that this is not an earthshaking accomplishment worthy of a report on CNN or TIME magazine, but, fuck, it cheers me up.
Not as much as, um, certain other activities would brighten my spirits and lighten my mood, but I’ll take my little bits of happiness when I can get them.
Anyhow, I doubt that I’ll play anything more challenging than Microsoft Solitaire today; just thinking about picking a new scenario from the list of Skirmish options and then going through the various phases of battle on Regiments seems overwhelming, so I will take a short hiatus from that game.
And since I’m running out of witty things to write, I’ll just close this post so I can at least take that shower and get dressed, even though I will not be going anywhere later.
So, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.
 The closest I ever came to winning the big jackpot was shortly after New Year’s 2016, when I still lived in Miami and bought an occasional Lotto ticket in memory of my mother, who bought a weekly pair of tickets until she got sick. I used to live near a strip mall with a Winn-Dixie supermarket as its “anchor” store, and since I was buying groceries every two weeks, I sometimes bought one Lotto ticket.
On one occasion, when the Caregiver was still “the Girlfriend” and traveled to Miami to spend time with me every other week, it just happened that I was on my own a few days after January 1, 2016. My now ex-girlfriend was here in Lithia, taking care of stuff in the house and spending time with her three kids before getting ready to visit me in Miami again. So, basically, I was alone on the night that I added a Lotto ticket to the small bag of groceries I’d bought to tide me over for a while.
To make a long story short, I ended up winning $3,000 from that Lotto ticket; I’d gotten 5-of-6 numbers, which was one number more than my mom ever matched with the winning numbers: 4-of-6.
“The fight isn’t over until you win.” ― Robin Hobb, Royal Assassin
Last night, while refighting the Battle of Grasleben for – I think – the 10th time since I purchased Regiments (Bird’s Eye Games/MicroProse, 2022) on August 16, I earned my first Total Victory as the Blue force (American) commander against a Warsaw Pact joint force of East German and Soviet forces.
For those of you who are new to this space – hi! – or missed earlier posts in this Old Gamers Never Die series, Regiments is a real-time tactical game that depicts combined arms warfare in a conventional conflict between the U.S.-led NATO alliance and the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact in West Germany in an alternate history 1989. Apparently, Gorbachev’s efforts to reform the Soviet Union failed, and discontent in East Germany over the continued rule by the Communist Party bubbles over into a mutiny by a division of the National People’s Army.
The revolt is quickly and ruthlessly quelled, but in the last moments of fighting, someone – presumably radicals among the mutineers – sets off chemical weapons near one of the contested towns in East Germany. Traces of the poisonous chemicals are detected in neighboring West Germany, and when Bonn secretly dispatches a small raiding party to investigate, it is met by an East German armored (panzer) division. Shots are exchanged, both sides suffer casualties, and with East-West tensions already at an all-time high, what started as a purely localized revolt behind the Iron Curtain spirals into World War III.
This is, of course, the fictional background to the story behind this Cold War-turns-hot game, which bears superficial similarities to Eugen Games’ Wargame and Steel Division series, but it has its own spin on the game mechanics, overall look and “feel,” and – unlike those multiplayer-focused games by Eugen – Regiments harkens back to the single-player wargames (M1 Tank Platoon, Gunship, Red Storm Rising) created by MicroProse in its 1980s-1990s heyday.
You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be… – Winston S. Churchill
The Many Battles of Grasleben
In Regiments, there are three types of missions that you can choose to play:
Tutorials, which teach you the basics of the game, starting with how to use your computer’s mouse and keyboard to move the camera around the battlefield, then progressing to teach you how to issue commands, what specific types of units can and can’t do, culminating in a combined-arms exercise in which you defend a position from the AI-controlled enemy with tanks, infantry, artillery, engineers, artillery, attack helicopters (helos), and close air support jets
Skirmishes are single battles in which you can play either as the Blue (NATO) force or the Red (Warsaw Pact/USSR) force. There are several location/situation based scenarios, including Grasleben, Steinbach, Ettenhousen, To Frankfurt, Runway Raw Power, Frontline, and Lakes,just to name a few. There are also different types of Skirmish, depending on whether you want to execute an Attack, try a Mobile Defense, or survive a Meeting Engagement. Each mission has its unique set of challenges and how to approach them
Operations are separate incidents, presented in linear fashion, that when played all the way through comprise Regiments’ “grand campaign.” Unlike most game designers, the team at Bird’s Eye Games chose to use a Rashomon-style narrative in which each battle is told from a different belligerent nation’s force’s perspective
Regiments is a new game – it was released on Steam a bit over two weeks ago – so I am as green a player as a new GI fresh out of advanced training recently assigned to V Corps in 1989 West Germany. So even though I own several similarly themed wargames – including those Eugen Games Wargame series installments – I decided to choose one scenario – Grasleben – and play it until I became proficient at it.
“Oh, but Alex,” I can hear you say, “you’re going to win many battles easily if you play the same scenario over and over. Won’t you know where the enemy-held Objective Zones (OZs) are and where the Red force will be deployed?”
Not true, Dear Reader. The game shuffles the OZs around each time to generate a Grasleben scenario. The geographic location of the town stays put, but the enemy OZs and your Entry Point/Supply Depot are placed differently every time you start a Skirmish. So even if you’re familiar with that digitally recreated of Germany because you’ve “fought” there in Regiments, you can’t expect the enemy to be in the same places he was in the last time you played Regiments.
The game can also be set to have Random weather/time of day conditions, so. Again, unless you manually choose Day 1 – Clear every time you play it, just the fact that you can’t predict what the weather will be like or how dark – or clear – visual conditions will be…all these variables make it impossible for the Battle of Grasleben to be predictable.
“A battle is won by the side that is absolutely determined to win. Why did we lose the battle of Austerlitz? Our casualties were about the same as those of the French, but we had told ourselves early in the day that the battle was lost, so it was lost.” ― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
The Thrill of Victory
Last night I chose – again – the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, partly because the last time I eked out a victory in Regiments was with the 1st Brigade, 3rd Armored Division and wanted to see how I’d do with another American unit, but mostly because I remembered I have a non-fiction book by the late Tom Clancy and his researcher/co-author, John D. Grisham titled Armored Cav: A Guided Tour of an Armored Cavalry Regiment. I bought it in Miami in the mid-1990s, and I promised myself that if I ever played a game like M1 Tank Platoon again (by that time, many older PC games didn’t run on computers with Windows 95/96, and M1 Tank Platoon and F-15 Strike Eagle III were among the ones I couldn’t play anymore when Berkley Books started publishing the Guided Tour series), I’d use the knowledge I acquired while reading Armored Cav.
Well, to be honest, I have not read Armored Cav since before my mom got sick in 2010 and never really got better, so I’ve probably forgotten much of the tactical savvy I’d gotten from the book. But I never forgot how cool I thought the concept of armored cavalry was at the same time, nor the fact that then-Lt. Col. H.R. McMaster, the Gulf War victor of the Battle of 73 Easting and future National Security Adviser to former President Donald Trump, is interviewed in one of Armored Cav’s chapters.
“To obtain victory by any means and with any weapon.” ― Chris Bradford, The Way of the Dragon
Since it’s early morning here in Lithia and I have not gone to bed yet, I won’t regale you with a “history” of another Battle of Grasleben. I will say that I set the clock for 40 minutes rather than 30, that I used the Retreat option quite a few times, although not always successfully, and this time I used the AH-64A Apache gunship and the OH-58 Kiowa helicopters in teams for the first time.
Also, a first: I captured all eight of the OZs (from Alfa to Hotel, although I was so overextended that at one point it looked like a Soviet recce unit with BRDMs would recapture OZ Charlie. Luckily, I had my AH-64 Apache gunship and a few tanks lurking nearby, so I destroyed those pesky Soviet scouts and held on to my hard-won bit of real estate.
I still suffered casualties, of course; my helicopters particularly were hard hit: I lost six of them before the battle was over. I did not lose any fixed-wing A-10s, and the Soviets lost one attack jet. But as bad as my casualties were, the enemy suffered more.
All in all, it was a good night to play Regiments.
This is the 1000th blog post and the 786th consecutive day of publishing content on this WordPress blog. Mind you, three of those posts are Press This shares from other WordPress bloggers, but it is #1,000 no matter how one chooses to define it. If I don’t break the streak, in three days’ time I’d have 1,000 posts written exclusively by Yours Truly. For now, though, I still have 1,000 posts on this blog, regardless of authorship!