Link to my prior Civ VI post.  Instead of a Civ hiatus I decided to give it a go at the Deity level.

I’m experimented with the game set up for domination victory only because the AI will quickly get science, cultural, and religious wins plus I won’t be ready to go on the offensive by the time a points victory comes around.

My first two attempts had neighboring civilizations find my capital and overwhelm me early in the game.  This time, I decided to play Aztecs as Montezuma because their early game Jaguar units start with bonuses. It turns out the bonuses were never a factor but survived by building archers to overwhelm a Greek city and keeping good relations with Brazil to the north.  I’m surviving so far by being insignificant and taking advantage of the fact that AI players will eventually get around to attacking but if the human player can hold them off, their opinion of the human’s civilization improves.

Three cities, that’s it. Probably the main reason for my survival so far.  I finally sent a settler east but the Greeks beat em to the site at Pergamon. I sent the settlers to the east coast and fought a long war for control of the middle valley.


A warning that may save new players many hours at the end of the next page…

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See the source imageSo I have lots and lots and lots of ideas (I’ve been meaning to do a write-up on “Hunter x Hunter” for a loooooong time)but am also quite busy. So here’s a great, relaxing, feel-good anime suggestion for you: “Silver Spoon”.

Normally this is not the type of show I’d even consider watching in a million years. Literally nothing about the premise appeals to me. “Silver Spoon” is the story of Hachiken, a Japanese city boy and terrific student who is paralyzed by choices when it gets time to pick a high school. So he accepts the advice of a counselor to try out an agricultural school, so he can experience a different side of life and use the new perspective to reevaluate his options.

It sounds boring, doesn’t it? It does to me anyway. Slice of life was never my thing, and the few I like are hybrids with other genres.

I gave it a shot for one and only one reason: The creator of the manga it was based on was Hiromu Arakawa.

Hiromu Arakawa! The creator of “Fullmetal Alchemist”! The person behind my favorite anime ever!

Worth the shot.

And man, was it worth the shot.

“Silver Spoon” is for my money the perfect feel-good show. Read More

Authors (Rich Horton): Roger Zelazny would have been 82 today, but, dammit, he died way too young in 1995. I loved his short fiction but I haven’t written a lot about it, so instead I’ve taken four rather short bits, capsules, really, that I did of four of his novels, for my SFF Net newsgroup a while ago, and in once case for Black Gate retro-review of an issue of Galaxy.


Tolkien (Eldritch Paths): I have a confession to make. Up until last year, I hadn’t actually read The Lord of the Rings. I know, I know. I say I read fantasy and I haven’t read what’s considered one of the greatest pieces of fantasy ever written. To be quite honest, I was a bit reluctant to read the trilogy. The complaints I’ve heard about Tolkien being “boring”, middle-earth as a setting being cliche, and that the novels having way too much description put me off. Eventually, I hunkered down and bit the bullet. To my surprise, I was blown away.


Science Fiction (Tellers of Weird Tales): A long time ago, I wrote about Fritz Leiber, Jr., and the problem of the weird tale. The problem was and is this: How do we write convincingly about the supernatural, the rural, and the irrational in a thoroughly materialist, urbanized, and (supposedly) rational age?

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A reader of both the history of firearms, history, and science fiction generally leads to a collision of all three. I have discussed how many governments chose not to make changes in small arms. Light machine guns were seized upon with enthusiasm but not self-loading rifles. You start to think of “what ifs?”

The Third Reich wins World War 2 is a favorite of speculation. What if the Wehrmacht decided to go with Heinrich Vollmer’s ideas on an assault rifle in the middle 1930s? Could the Wehrmacht been able to take Moscow in 1941, thereby disrupting the Soviet Unions rail lines? Rail lines were like spokes from Moscow. Take Moscow and movement of supplies becomes far harder for the Soviets.

What if the French had gone with something like the self-loading MAS 49 instead of the clunky bolt action MAS36? You might have seen the German army casualties climb precipitously in the Battle of France. Perhaps enough to slow down the Germans and give France a breathing space.

John Pedersen attempted to sell the idea of his self-loading rifle using .276 caliber cartridges to Vickers in late 1920s. The image came to my mind of Anglo-Indian troops piling up dead Japanese Imperial Army troopers at the Jitra Line in Malaya in December 1941.

Pedersen Rifle

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Light novels have been a frequent topic in pulp fantasy, combining the evolution of the pulp magazine with Japanese pop culture to various degrees of success. In the 1970s, Japanese publishers combined pulp magazines with anime-inspired illustrations aimed at teens and young adults. Since then, the market for these short, pulpy and fannish novels (about 50,000 words or so, like the hero pulp novels), has exploded in Japan and abroad, with recent English publisher J-Novel Club releasing over 200 translated volumes in two years.

Success has changed light novels from their pulp origins. Rather than an episodic series like the Shadow or Doc Savage, the average light novel has returned to dime novel serialization, with many light novels amassing a dozen volumes of story and more. And, to fill the demand, publishers have been offering contracts to newer writers and web novel writers. So the polish expected of the pulps has started to rub away. But enthusiasm, novelty, and an editor’s not-so-gentle prodding have carried many a light novel writer to success despite the deficiencies of technique. Currently, just as in American Young adult, the medium has been following their readers as they grow older. But the heart still remains–mystery, action, and a heavier leavening of the spicy than even Martin Goodman would consider wise.

Like in any medium that has been around for longer than a fortnight, writers have chased various trends. Currently, isekai portal fantasy and harem romance have been the rage, influencing Russian litRPG and the recent glut of American harem fantasies, to the point that many readers are searching for their next novelty fix. Prior to that, the fad of the day included, at various times, “devil” stories, sword and sorcery, space opera, magical battle academies, and high school secret histories.

Over the next few weekends, I’ll take a closer look at these admittedly broad categories and make recommendations in each, based on what is currently available, starting with my personal favorite category, the secret worlds.  Read More

This week’s science fiction new releases have unearthed derelict ships, genetically-engineered heroes, an armored fist of mecha tales, and sleeping threats best left undisturbed.

Children of Ruin – Adrian Tchaikovsky

The astonishing sequel to Children of Time, the award-winning novel of humanity’s battle for survival on a terraformed planet.

Thousands of years ago, Earth’s terraforming program took to the stars. On the world they called Nod, scientists discovered alien life – but it was their mission to overwrite it with the memory of Earth. Then humanity’s great empire fell, and the program’s decisions were lost to time.

Aeons later, humanity and its new spider allies detected fragmentary radio signals between the stars. They dispatched an exploration vessel, hoping to find cousins from old Earth.

But those ancient terraformers woke something on Nod better left undisturbed.

Mech – Isaac Hooke

An alien-infested colony. A trapped platoon. The one man who will stop at nothing to lead his unit to safety.

Rade Galaal and his team of special operators are deployed to a colony under attack by a strange new alien race. Their mission: find the extraterrestrial base and destroy it.

The operation should be easy, given that his men pilot Brigand mechs: massive, 25-foot-tall war machines armed to the teeth with electrolasers, rockets, incendiary throwers, and more.

But it’s not easy. Rade and his team soon find themselves in over their heads.

Surrounded by an entire world of enraged aliens, they must rely on their wits, their training, and their mechs to survive.

Because their only way out is each other.

Mecha – presented by Cannon Publishing

Feedback from the slight pressure of a hand closing sends a powerful mechanical arm smashing into an opponent. A neural link hurls blustering plasma fire from your suit’s shoulder mounted cannon. Your reactor levels scream with overload as return fire smashes into your armor, and damage alarms wail while you hurl your twenty ton body sideways for cover.

You’re a Mecha, a mechanical fighting machine with a human pilot. The guy that the infantry curse at in training and pray for in combat. The machine that the last hopes of your people ride on. The construct that strikes fear deep into alien hearts as they hear your turbines power up. The one able to pass through hell and come out the other side victorious, or die trying.

Cannon Publishing brings you ten stories from current masters of military science fiction that will take you from the magic of a Medieval village to the edges of the galaxy to fight inhuman foes.

Nanotime – Bart Kosko

In the year 2030—when the world has doubled in population and no one can escape the prying eyes of the State—John Grant wants to save the Earth from its oil addiction, and get rich in the process.

But the revolutionary new molecule he has patented—an astonishing advance that can split water and produce a virtually limitless supply of cheap fuel hydrogen—has marked him as a traitor to his country and as a target.

Sufi mystic, genius mathematician and master terrorist Hamid Tabriz wants Grant’s patent and his mind. Now both goals are within Tabriz’s reach, thanks to a chip he has perfected which enables him to place his own mind in another’s head.

An increasingly chaotic world is racing toward annihilation. And John Grant will have to defend it—and himself—from a disembodied place far beyond the confines of space and time: in Nanotime. Read More

This week had me slammed, but we promise that next week, we’ll have a review up for Emmett McDowell’s Sword of Fire!

The time spent playing the Civilization series of games is second only to my favorite Campaign Series.  I have been able to secure consistent wins at the Immortal level but only if I remove the Technology and Points victory conditions.

My style of play is to stay on the defensive until I have developed weapons systems that can quickly subjugate a city. If I’m lucky, crossbowmen can do the job but usually, I have to wait until my forces field long range artillery (safe from the city or fortification defenses with the aid of observation balloons) and once I develop strategic bombers, I’m well on my way to a Domination victory.

A Technology victory over the AI at the Immortal level may be possible but I’m not interested in pursing it. Lot’s of other things to do with my time and I’m not interested in a set up like the ones available on YouTube in which the means to victory is to create a quick death match on a small island against one AI player.

I played my most recent game as Frederick as I wanted to explore the Hansa League feature ( industrial zones get more production under certain conditions) along with Frederick’s extra specialty zone available each city.  Luck plays a role in any Immortal level game and I benefited from the French attacking me early when I had an advantage in archers.  Normal expansion is very slow for a human player on Immortal so I declined Catherine’s attempts to negotiate peace and soon took all her cities.

The defeat of France drove Spain to launch a series of wars in which I stayed on the defensive, holding out to gain a Spanish city in peace negotiations.  I was feeling confident but a few years later, the Spanish launched the third Spanish-German War and surprised me with bombards accompanied by modern infantry!  In comparison my infantry was still equipped with muskets and my most powerful units were crossbowmen. Almost immediately after the Spanish declaration of war, a lack of amenities in my civilization caused those that kept the spirit of French civilization alive through generations under German rule to revolt in Paris. I survived by targeting and eliminating the Spanish bombards before they could break down my fortifications.

A screen shot of the map on the next page.

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Reading (Rawle Nyanzi): By now it is well-known that reading in the US has declined across all demographic indicators. Whether it’s caused by television, the internet, video games, or boring literature classes, the drop-off in reading time is plain and obvious to see. Some even claim that we are entering a “post-literate” period where the written word is actively rejected in favor of images and sounds conveyed by electronic media.


Art (DMR Books): In the process of finding art for my new Gene Wolfe post, I noticed that the artist, Bruce Pennington, turns seventy-five years young today. Bruce has been a fixture on the UK fantasy/scifi scene since the late ‘60s. Check the link here to see what Bruce has been up to for the last five decades.


Science Fiction Pulp (Pulpfest): The first issue of SCIENCE WONDER STORIES hit the newsstands ninety years ago, on May 3, 1929. Behind the dramatic Frank R. Paul cover were included five short stories, the beginning of a serialized novel — “The Reign of the Ray” by Fletcher Pratt and Irvin Lester — a science quiz (with the answers in the issue’s stories), an essay contest, and “Science News of the Month.” SCIENCE WONDER STORIES ran for twelve issues dated June 1929 through May 1930. David Lasser was managing editor and Hugo Gernsback was publisher and editor-in-chief.  Each issue had a fantastic Frank R. Paul cover. Read More

World War 2 had shown that small infantry units could do more with increased firepower. The German Sturmgewehr 44 pointed the direction to the future with select fire capability and a less powerful cartridge.

The bolt action rifle still had some life in it. The first Arab-Israeli War fought in 1948 mainly with bolt action rifles with Mausers vs. Lee-Enfields yet again. The Portuguese were still using Mausers in Africa in the late 1950s.

The Swedes had developed a self-loading rifle, the AG-42 (Ljungman) in 1942. 30,000 were produced, so the Swedish Army was never fully outfitted with a self-loading rifle.

Nothing like defeat to make you change your ways. The French adopted the MAS 49 which fired a 7.5 mm cartridge. It had a 10 round detachable magazine and weighed 8.6 lbs. It saw service in Indochina, Algeria up through the 1970s.

MAS 49

Fabrique Nationale in Belgium had been working on a self-loading rifle design before World War 2. The result ws the FN Model 49. It had a 10 round detachable magazine and fired the Mauser 8 mm, .30-06, and Nato 7.62 x 51 mm cartridge. Initial sales were to Venezuela, Colombia, Egypt. There was a battalion of Belgians in the Korean War who used the FN Model 49. Someone told me of footage of French troops at Dien Bien Phu armed with Model 49s. It earned a good reputation in Korea. As good a rifle as it was, it would be eclipsed by the FN FAL. More on that in a little bit. Read More

You can now preorder David the Good’s latest in the Good Guide to Gardening series, Free Plants for Everyone, from Amazon.

Do you want to grow apples from seed? Or learn to graft? Or germinate seeds from that awesome old honey locust tree in your Grandpa’s backyard?

In Free Plants for Everyone, you will learn tried and true methods of plant propagation that will allow you to grow pretty much anything you like without giving your hard-earned money to plant nurseries. Gardening expert David The Good takes the mystery out of plant propagation and shares propagation secrets from the nursery business as well from his many years of experience.

Whether you’re interested in starting a plant nursery, saving money on gardening, saving old fruit tree varieties or simply want lots of plants to give away, this book is for you. Start plants from cuttings, seeds, division and more. Includes information on propagating and saving seeds from 101 different species, as well as pen and ink illustrations by the author.

Dragons, dragon knights, time travelers and vigilante soldiers rampage through this week’s roundup of the newest releases in fantasy and adventure.

Berserk: The Flame Dragon Knight – Kentaro Miura and Makoto Fukami

The first Berserk novel, conceived by series creator Kentaro Miura and written by Makoto Fukami, novelist and screenwriter for the Berserk anime, Psycho-Pass and Resident Evil: Vendetta. The Flame Dragon Knight also presents ten full-page illustrations by Kentaro Miura.

The Flame Dragon Knight traces the rise of the warhammer-wielding warrior Grunbeld from humble beginnings to become the all-powerful Apostle who will one day face Guts in mortal combat! Featuring all the grisly supernatural action and sinister courtly intrigue Berserk readers have come to expect.

Dragon Umbra (Malison #3) – Jonathan Moeller

The Empire struggles for its survival against the dark elven hordes, and a new ally might mean victory or destruction.

When the umbral elves offer to side with the Empire, Sir Tyrcamber Rigamond is sent to the Imperial Free City of Falconberg to help guard the Emperor’s ambassador.

But in the corrupt city of Falconberg, the treacherous politics of the merchant-lords might be more dangerous than the umbral elves themselves.

And an ancient enemy might rise from the dust of the past…

Linear Shift – Paul B. Kohler

A man’s life in ruin.

An unexpected mission back in time.

When Peter Cooper has a strange encounter with a desperate Army general, he’s suddenly catapulted to the year 1942—World War II is in full swing. Peter is tasked with changing a single moment in time. If he fails, his own legacy could be shattered. If he succeeds, he may very well alter the outcome of the war. However, a secret society emerges and threatens to destroy everything, and ruin any chance of Peter returning to the life he once knew.

With his own fate—and the future of the entire world—in his hands, Peter must be willing to stop at nothing to succeed. Is the once broken man up to the task?

Mark My Words (Mason Dixon Thrillers #3) – Nick Thacker

He’s been through hell and back, and all he has to show for it is a bar in a backwater town.

Now, they’re coming for that, too.

Mason Dixon just wanted to retire. To make classy drinks for classy people.

Now, a banker and his police officer brother are on the run, and they’ve come to Mason for protection. An organized crime boss in Charleston wants Billy dead, and he’ll take out anyone and anything in his way to accomplish that task.

Including Mason and his bar.

Join Mason, Joey, Shalice, and some old friends as they prepare the bar for a final last stand. They know the stakes are high: to lose means death. Read More