Battle for Tcherbevan: Crisis Point III

Tcherbevan city centre

Tcherbevan city centre

Recently, I played in Crisis Point III, a large, weekend-long wargame set in Tcherbevan, capital of the fictional ex-Soviet republic of Andreivia. I had been intending to play Russian naval infantry, but after some last-minute cancellations, I was asked to play Andreivian Turks instead. The Turks are fighting for an independent Andreivian Turkish state, and have a long tradition of enmity with the Andreivian Armenians.

NATO armoured car destroyed by an Andreivian Turk T-55

NATO armoured car destroyed by an Andreivian Turk T-55

Saturday didn’t go particularly well. As the NATO peacekeeping force approached from the south, the Andreivian Turks became paranoid, and their T-55 destroyed the French armoured car that was leading the NATO force. Perhaps not surprisingly, this drew return fire from the French, and the T-55′s commander, who had opened his hatch to get a better view of the situation, was shot and killed. Seeing their commander dead, the rest of the T-55 crew decided that discretion is the better part of valour, and left the field of battle. The Turkish quarter of Tcherbevan was attacked by Andreivian government troops (supported by NATO) and Andreivian Armenians.

Andreivian Turk air support in action

Andreivian Turk air support in action

As government Type 61 tanks approached the Turkish quarter, Turkish air support was called in. This duly arrived, in the form of a WWII-era Henschel Hs 126 spotter plane. Since the aircraft is unarmed, a brave Andreivian Turk armed with an RPG-7 sat in the rear seat, ready to rain destruction down on enemy armour. Unfortunately, the Henschel turned out to be an unstable platform, and the gunner missed his target.

Government tanks being beaten off by Andreivian Turk infantry

Government tanks being beaten off by Andreivian Turk infantry

The government Type 61s rather foolishly left their infantry behind as they charged into the Turkish quarter. The ever-gracious Turks gave the government a lesson in urban tactics, demonstrating why armour always needs infantry support in built-up areas, as they immobilised one tank and neutralised a second. As the crew of the first tank bailed out, RPG-7 rounds flew at the second tank, but its crew evidently lead a charmed life, and it survived.

Although things hadn’t gone well for the Andreivian Turks, a band of Mujahideen that had travelled to Andreivia to help had fared much better. As the Armenians fought the government, the Mujahideen took over a couple of Armenian buildings without suffering any casualties.

Andreivian Turk reinforcements

Andreivian Turk reinforcements

Reinforcements, in the shape of a Gendarmerie squad and a “technical” armed with an AGS-17 grenade launcher, arrived on the second day. NATO, clearly prejudiced against the Turks, brokered a cease-fire between the government and the Armenians, allowing both to concentrate on attacking the Turks. The government Type 61s attacked once again, but this time wisely stood off and fired HE into the buildings, while their infantry attacked. Although the tanks caused some casualties, all the infantry attacks were repulsed.

In the Armenian quarter, a vicious fight over the English church raged between the Mujahideen and the Armenians. Government JS-IIIs lent their considerable firepower to the Armenians, causing several casualties amongst the Mujahideen.

A Russian tank meets Bubi Three, Andreivia's entry to the Eurovision Song Contest

Bubi Three, Andreivia’s entry to the Eurovision Song Contest, flee the city

Ultimately, the Andreivian Turks didn’t fare very well. With NATO brokering cease fires that allowed the other factions to attack them without fear of attack from other quarters, they suffered accordingly. None the less, they put up a hard fight, and conceded little territory. No doubt when Turkey hears how the French were so obviously prejudiced against the Turks, they will start asking serious questions in both NATO and the UN.

I may not have done very well, but I had a great time. The game was good fun, with as friendly a bunch of players as you could wish to meet. All extra money, as well as the proceeds from an auction, will go to Combat Stress, the veterans’ mental health charity. We don’t have a final total yet, but initial estimates are around £50-£60. My thanks to Richard Crawley for all his work in setting up and organising the weekend.

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Improvements To UK Copyright Law

I was pleased to discover recently that, from 1 June, format-shifting will be legal in the UK. The change has generally been reported in terms of music – it’s now legal to rip a CD so that you can listen to it on your MP3 player. People have been doing this for as long as MP3 players have been available, of course. Before the advent of MP3 players, it was common practice to copy CDs and albums onto tape to listen to them on personal stereos or in the car.


Under the present law, all these cases, as well as converting an ebook from one format to another, are illegal in the UK. The law is set to change on 1 June, at which time converting an ebook from one format to another (from ePub to Mobi, for example, to read it on a Kindle) will become legal. In my opinion, this is long overdue. Many people have been doing it for years, assuming that it was legal, as it has been in the US for many years. As long ago as 2006, the Gowers Review, commissioned by the government, recommended similar changes to the law, but the recommendations were ignored. In 2011, the Hargreaves Review (also commissioned by the government) made similar recommendations, which were accepted by the government, but it’s taken three years for them to be enacted.

Not surprisingly, the new law will only allow copies to be made for personal use. It won’t be legal to make copies for friends and family. There is another important caveat: all of the above applies to ebooks that don’t have DRM, but many do. The UK Intellectual Property Office website states that, where DRM is used to prevent copying, the copyright owner “may have the right to take action against a person who gets round” the DRM. So it would appear that format-shifting DRM’d books will still be illegal, since it isn’t possible to convert them without first removing the DRM. Wherever possible, I don’t use DRM, because it causes problems for legitimate consumers (like making it difficult for them to convert formats) while doing nothing to stop, or even hinder, those who wish to make illegal copies.

The UK Intellectual Property Office has more information on the changes. The “Exceptions to copyright: Guidance for consumers” document (PDF) is particularly recommended.

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Armed Forces Corporate Covenant

Corporate Covenant logo
The company that my wife works for has recently signed the Armed Forces Corporate Covenant. The covenant is a public pledge, made by a company or charity, to support the armed forces community.

The commitments made are not fixed, but the covenant always includes a core statement of commitment to two key principles:

  • No member of the armed forces community should face disadvantage in the provision of public and commercial services compared to any other citizen
  • In some circumstances special treatment may be appropriate, especially for the injured or bereaved

Beyond the core statement, there are a number of options that the signing company can commit to. The intention is that the company will offer support in a way that is appropriate to their situation and circumstances. They can also add commitments that are not part of the template.

As part of the changes introduced with the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the reserve forces are playing an increasing role in the UK’s defence commitments. Given that, it’s entirely sensible to ensure that they are not disadvantaged. Personally, I find it odd to think that anyone serving in the services (whether full time or part time) might find themselves disadvantaged in some way.

In my ideal world, we wouldn’t need the armed forces. In the real world, however, the armed forces are sometimes called upon to resolve issues. Sometimes I disagree with the decision to deploy forces, but my disagreement is with the politicians, not the servicemen and women that risk life and limb. They shouldn’t be disadvantaged because they are willing to take those risks, and if they need special treatment, they should have easy access to it. Anything less is an insult.

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Getting Friendly with the National Archives

National Archives logo
I’m a huge fan of the National Archives. It’s a wonderful resource for research. Last time I was there, I put my money where my mouth is, and joined the Friends of The National Archives. My membership card arrived in the post yesterday. As a Friend, I get several benefits (discounts at the shop and online book shop, discounts on events, exclusive events, magazine, etc). The magazine is interesting (I was able to see the latest copy while I was at the Archive), and I’m looking forward to the next issue.

Frankly, though, my primary reason for joining was simply to help the National Archives continue their work. I benefit from that work, after all, and I want to ensure that they are able to keep on doing it. If you’d like to do the same, you can get a membership form here. Alternatively, you can raise money when you shop online, without any extra cost to yourself.

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Digital Reinforcements: Free Ebooks

Digital Reinforcements logo
Ever since I bought my first Kindle in 2010, I’ve found that I prefer ebooks to paper. I’m not blind to the advantages of paper books, however, and I know that many people prefer paper. Whichever format you prefer, most people would admit that both have advantages. I’m sure many people would like to have books in both paper and ebook formats, but don’t want to pay twice for every book.

My publishing company, Shilka Publishing, has a solution. From now on, every Shilka paper book will have a coupon code in the back. By simply entering that code at the checkout on the Shilka website, the reader can download the ebook version for free. You can now read my books as both paper and ebook, taking full advantage of both formats, at no extra cost.

The free ebook can be downloaded in several formats, so that it can be read on any device: Mobi (for Kindle devices & apps), ePub (for other ereaders & ereader apps), and PDF (for reading on a computer). Ereader apps are available for all computers, tablets and smartphones.

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