Ender’s scenario

It isn’t an exaggeration to say that I am a highly skilled gamer. I have been playing a variety of strategy, arcade, console, and computer games for nearly five times longer than Malcom Gladwell claims it takes to become unusually skilled at something. Now, I’m not a freakish game savant like Big Chilly, who has blown away even the most hard-core gamers away by playing through console games that he’s never played before without losing a single man. (Note: by hard-core, I don’t mean guys who like to play the occasional PS3 game online, but junior high friends who happen to be long-time editors at the one of the game industry’s leading magazines.) But if you give a me a shot or two at any given game, I can usually figure out the basic mechanics and figure out how to make effective use of them.

A teenage friend of ours once challenged me to a game of Maddens. He was in high school, was better than all his friends, and was utterly convinced that he would have no problem at all pwning the old guy. Not even a gentle pre-game reminder that I’d been playing Maddens since the original Genesis game dented his confidence. A 63-7 loss, on the other hand, just about had him in tears. Score one for the Original Gaming Generation!

Anyhow, Advanced Squad Leader is the Game of Games in my opinion. It occupies six shelves in my office, and while I’m not a rulesmeister or a member of the tournament elite, I can more than hold my own. I started playing Squad Leader and Cross of Iron by myself when I was ten, and over the years I never lost a single scenario at the monthly TCASL meetings, was well on the way to victory playing the Red Barricades campaign game as the Germans when we had to stop playing, won my beach in the two-day Normandy landings in Geneva, and have a ROAR record over .800. I now have the pleasure to be introducing a young commander to the game, and it’s wonderful to see the combination of interest, wonder, and awe at the vast horizon of possibilities that the game system contains.

We’ve started out with the excellent ASL Starter kit that MMP put together. I have to admit that I’d been a little annoyed by the switch to custom starter kit boards, since the first scenario I’d ever designed had been accepted for publication when the kit was going to make use of the standard boards. (It was a unique setup that involved the use of the Japanese counters against the Germans in a simulation of the 442nd’s rescue of the Lost Battalion.) But it’s really well-done, the abridged rules make for relatively easy reading, and the bite-sized scenarios are perfect for beginners. We started with scenario S1 Retaking Vierville, as you do, and my young apprentice chose the defending Americans with my encouragement since it’s usually a little easier on defense.

The image above showed how it finished. He was too cautious, as beginners usually are, and I took advantage of that to quickly grab the victory condition building hex L3. I didn’t give him time to react to that, and even briefly managed to punch two squads with an 8-1 leader into a second VC building, M4, before being broken and driven back by point-blank fire from three elite squads of 7-4-7 paratroopers. The key tactic was sending my reserve of two Fallschirmjager squads with a 9-1 leader to ambush the incoming American reinforcements coming from the north. They bounced back quickly from breaking thanks to their 9-2 leader, but it delayed their attack on the western edge long enough that not even repeated charges from a pair of HoB-created fanatic squads managed to drive all my second-line Grenadiers from L3.

He wasn’t bothered by the loss, as I’d warned him beforehand that it’s possible to play for a long time before you chalk up your first win, particularly if your only opponent is a very good player. We went on to play S2 War of the Rats, and again I had the attacking Germans. I thought his setup was much too exposed to the initial German prep fire, and expected that my death star under the command of the 9-2 leader would quickly blow a hole in the heart of his defense and allow me to hit the remnants from both sides after I rolled over his two conscript squads in the east and took the key VC L6 building with the 9-1 platoon. Things went exactly as I expected, the bulk of his forces were broken and my eastern platoon had L6 open for the taking when I made the mistake of deviating from the plan and advancing into close combat in the hex marked with the yellow-bordered red star in order to finish off the one remaining squad.

That was when he hit on a 1 in 36 chance and eliminated all three of my squads and my leader… and I blew my kill roll. That left me with no troops on the eastern side, which would permit him to regain control of all the buildings I’d just taken and force me to grab those buildings before his shock group of three 5-2-7 squads under a 9-2 showed up as randomly determined reinforcements. It looked pretty good for me, as they didn’t show up in turn four and I was rapidly rolling up his forces until two of my squads got locked in melee in the hex marked with a white-bordered red star with a half-squad in the process of taking control of the last Russian-controlled hex of building L6. Despite reinforcing the melee, I just couldn’t kill that conscript half-squad, which slowed me down enough so that I only had one squad in position to shoot at the reinforcements as they moved up hexrow O to claim VC building O6. I finally killed the half-squad and brought all my forces to bear on the shock group. I forced them out of O6, but my need to focus on the reinforcements allowed his broken 7-0 to rally a broken conscript squad in M2 and move in behind my forces to reclaim L6 and win the game.

Big Chilly plays ASL from time to time, so he knows how difficult it is to beat a more experienced player. He absolutely howled with laughter when he found out that my young apprentice not only wasn’t discouraged after playing his first two scenarios, but had actually beaten me without me pulling any punches. We discussed how his early decision to attack all three of my squads and leader at a 1-4 disadvantage instead of the more usual one-to-one attack had led to the timely snake-eyes looked like beginner’s luck, but concluded that it was actually the right decision to make given that 1 in 36 was probably better odds than you’d normally give a boy to beat a veteran ASL player.

“Did you give him the Balance?”

“No! I didn’t.”

“Good grief! He’s Ender!”

The next day, Ender and I set up S3 Simple Equation. Ender wanted to play the Americans despite being warned that it was a little more difficult being the attacker. And then he beat me again!

Mailvox: the implications of evolution

John C. Wright responds to the recent CNN report on religion, political tendencies, intelligence, and evolution that cited a 6-point average IQ advantage for liberal atheists:

I love how these ‘Just So’ stories always just so happen to flatter the person telling it. Just for the sake of contrast, I’d like to see an evolutionary sociobiologist
say something along the lines of: “Being an atheist, like being a sociopath, is a defective mutation of the genes human beings use to recognize meaning in life. Robbed of this basic faculty of human thought, atheists tend to retreat into paranoid fantasies of superiority, as if their inability to grasp reality were a result of greater, rather than lesser, intellectual activity.

“Consequently they tend to be bookish, and selfish, and to cut social ties to family and friends: but this crippling isolation and arrogance, ironically, allows some of them to score well on I.Q. tests, which do not, after all, measure those social skills that tribes of hunter-gatherers need to survive.

“The fact that no civilization and no tribe in the history of the world has been atheist, except for a very few malignant Twentieth Century regimes of unparalleled savagery and bloodshed, might indicate why atheism has had no positive influence on the philosophy, art, culture, law or advancement of civilization since the dawn of time. Natural selection culls this unfavorable mutation, and only in the
luxurious modern day, when science can keep alive even worthless and backward members of the bloodline, has it been possible to preserve a statistically significant moiety of this evolutionary dead end.

“Sufferers of what is now called ‘The Dawkins Syndrome’ are generally acknowledged to be harmless irritants in their host sociieties, but, as the cases of Russia and China make abundantly clear, when this dangerous ‘meme’ of self-centered defensive arrogance spreads to others, the result is genocidal levels of mass murder.”

There are several amusing aspects to this. First, I find it very funny indeed to see people whose IQs are more than thirty points lower than mine attempting to cite a six-point average IQ advantage as proof of their superior intelligence, and therefore, their belief systems as well. I’m impressed, to be sure, albeit not exactly in the way they intended. An appeal to authority is bad enough, but an appeal to average statistical advantage is insane.

Second, this appears to be confirmation of something I described in TIA. Atheists are going to be more intelligent than the average by literal self-definition. The ability to understand and identify with an abstract concept that departs from the norm requires some basic level of intelligence, which excludes many less intelligent and non-religious individuals who are by every meaningful definition atheists but do not self-identify as atheists. Libertarians, for example, would benefit from the same self-selecting mechanism. It is possible that the Kanagawa study corrected for this identification bias, but that is unlikely as I am unaware of any study of atheism and religion that has done so.

To me, the most interesting and counterintuitive discovery is the reported link between sexual exclusivity and male atheism. That surprised me, although I suppose it shouldn’t have if I had thought about it more. Now, one can’t read too much into this yet, since we don’t know what exactly what “sexual exclusivity” means, but it does tend to contradict what one would expect given the male atheist obsession with religious sexual restrictions. The hint is the divergence between male and female atheists, so my suspicion – and at this point it is nothing more than that – is that the Kanagawa report will provide some evidence of the link between atheism and social autism. The dichotomy between the theoretical sexual freedom of the male atheist provided by his belief system and his actual sexual limitations caused by his sub-standard attractiveness to women suggests that male atheists, on average, are more inclined to be gamma/omega males whose sexual options are more restricted than the norm. This hypothesis is supported by observing the consistently gamma behavior of male atheists on this site and around the Internet in general.

Mailvox: broken windows and the stimulus of WWII

CH asks about a common economic misconception:

I follow your columns so I thought you’d be able to answer this question for me, if you would. As you have stated, the Democrats are Keynesians and believe they can spend their way out of recession. Benanke cites the Great Depression as evidence of this. I know that FDR’s policies of spending didn’t lift us out of the Great Depression (they made it worse), but it is often noted that WWII did lift us out of said Depression. How can this be? How did that work? It seems to me that the militarization of our industries were funded by the Government. This put people to work and sent many to war equipped with the products of our industries and therefore operated as a large Government “stimulus”. I am trying to see Bernanke’s logic, if I am correct, that the spending the Government did to fund the war was what it took to get the economy going. This in effect is what the Dems are trying to reproduce by simply dumping money in the economy, putting people to work and creating a false demand, to bring us out of this recession. The war was true demand, sure, but wasn’t the war really a big fat stimulus? Government gave money to industries who put people to work, who paid taxes and spent money, allowing industry to produce more product, etc. I’m very confused how all this worked. Please set me straight!

First, let me note that it’s not only the Democrats who are Neo-Keynesians. Most Republican politicians are too; the monetarism of the Chicago School is little more than a Keynesian heresy that focuses on monetary policy and leaves fiscal policy out of the equation. Now, it is true that WWII helped lift the USA out of the Great Depression, but not for the reasons that the economically illiterate, historically clueless, and logically challenged usually cite. The stimulus involved in producing hundreds of thousands of ships, tanks, and airplanes and employing millions of men did not bring about the post-war economic recovery, it was the effective use of those men and materials in destroying the industrial infrastructure of Italy, Germany and Japan that did. While economists such as Henry Hazlitt and Thomas Sowell rightly cite Frederic Bastiat’s Broken Window fallacy and point out that there is nothing productive or wealth-generating about turning steel into a rusting hulk on the bottom of the ocean, they forget that destroying an economic competitor’s industrial infrastructure at no cost to your own, then providing consumer goods and the means of rebuilding that infrastructure is very productive and wealth-generating indeed.

Let us call it Vox’s Addendum to Bastiat’s Broken Window Fallacy. Or, if you prefer, the Broken Window Martial Motive. Bastiat’s parable goes thusly:

Have you ever witnessed the anger of the good shopkeeper, James Goodfellow, when his careless son happened to break a pane of glass? If you have been present at such a scene, you will most assuredly bear witness to the fact, that every one of the spectators, were there even thirty of them, by common consent apparently, offered the unfortunate owner this invariable consolation—”It is an ill wind that blows nobody good. Everybody must live, and what would become of the glaziers if panes of glass were never broken?”

Now, this form of condolence contains an entire theory, which it will be well to show up in this simple case, seeing that it is precisely the same as that which, unhappily, regulates the greater part of our economical institutions.

Suppose it cost six francs to repair the damage, and you say that the accident brings six francs to the glazier’s trade—that it encourages that trade to the amount of six francs—I grant it; I have not a word to say against it; you reason justly. The glazier comes, performs his task, receives his six francs, rubs his hands, and, in his heart, blesses the careless child. All this is that which is seen.

But if, on the other hand, you come to the conclusion, as is too often the case, that it is a good thing to break windows, that it causes money to circulate, and that the encouragement of industry in general will be the result of it, you will oblige me to call out, “Stop there! Your theory is confined to that which is seen; it takes no account of that which is not seen.”

It is not seen that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon one thing, he cannot spend them upon another. It is not seen that if he had not had a window to replace, he would, perhaps, have replaced his old shoes, or added another book to his library. In short, he would have employed his six francs in some way, which this accident has prevented.

If, however, the shopkeeper happens to live in the next town over, his window is broken, and the house belonging to his neighbor the second glazier is burned down with the second glazier inside it due to the vagaries of violent inter-village relations, the six francs the shopkeeper will spend on repairing his broken window will be six francs that did not previously circulate within the first town’s economy, and which the shopkeeper, living in the second town, was never going to spend on shoes or books produced in the first town. Therefore, it is a good thing to break windows, so long as the windows are broken in the neighboring town at a cost that is exceeded by the benefit to be gained from fixing them.

“In short, he would have employed his six francs in some way, which this accident has prevented, [unless the accident happens to take place in the neighboring town. – VD]”

This means that while most wars are economically destructive, wars that offer the likely prospect of destroying the industrial base of one or more advanced economies without putting the nation’s own industrial base at risk are economically beneficial. By way of statistical evidence in support of this conclusion, note how the annual rate of commercial bank loan growth was much higher immediately after WWII – 25% in 1947 and 21.5% in 1950 – than it ever has been since.