Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Old-School Essentials Fantasy RPG Box Sets - Kickstarter

I've been sidelined by real-life lately, but I had an alarm set for this Kickstarter project. This one is the Old-School Essentials Fantasy RPG Box Set. I missed it the first time around a few years back but managed to score just one book from one of my favorite local gaming stores, Iron Buffalo Games. 



As much as I wanted to go all-in on this Kickstarter project, I had to limit myself to the $100 level. If this set is anything like the last set, it's going to be excellent! 


I love the digest size of these books. They have a nice solid feel with a good text size for my aging eyes. Having picked up some of the PDFs, I knew that a physical book would frame the artwork better than any home-printed copy. 

This post reminds me, I must review the OSE Rule Tome, Iron Buffalo Games, and my new HP Printer. I'll be looking to post on those in the near future, as real-life permits. 

Saturday, November 27, 2021

New Books From Todd Leback to Review

Author's Note: Sometimes, life kicks you in the balls. Sometimes it just doesn't stop. If you don't laugh some or all of it off, you'll go nuts. This post is in that laughing spirit. 

It pokes fun at my situation, skewers my reviews and pays homage to a spammer that used my 52 Weeks of Magic series to promote a consignment shop by implying items sold were possibly magical. It also promotes a pair of titles by Todd Leback.  

This morning, I found a package on my porch. I also noticed that it was snowing, which is odd weather before December. This is Buffalo, NY, so we are no strangers to snow, but snow before December is unusual. Typically, we get all 47 feet on one day and it stays no longer than January 2nd. 

Since it was unusually cool today, I knew this package contained a new book from Todd Leback. How do I know that? All of Todd Leback's books are magical. 

In defiance of all FTC rules, I told all of my readers Todd Leback's books are magically protected from fire. In all seriousness, it's totally true that one of his titles, Into the Wild survived a housefire. So clearly, there is some unknown physics happening here, if not out and out magic. 

Snow this early in Buffalo New York is so unusual, I find it hard to believe that a single book could possibly cause it before December. 

Well, it turns out that is correct. 

In order for me to cause it to snow so early in the year, I had to order two books from Todd Leback. I ordered both A Guide to Thieves Guilds and Basilisk Hills Ultimate Hexcrawl. This order was placed back on November 11th and arrived the morning of November 27. I know DriveThruRPG is urging people to order early to allow time for Christmas delivery, so I might have just been lucky. 

Or it was magic. You decide. 




Saturday, April 24, 2021

To Traveller or Not to Traveller

I've got my hands full. A moment ago, I had a gift card. Now I have a reading list.


I've shared both Rick Wayne's series before and Mike and Shell "Presto" DeBaggio's books before. Probably a couple of times. Generally, I have a plan. 

What do these two series have to do with one another? 

My winter posting series will be about superhero games, Marvel Superheroes to be exact. I'll be reviewing all three series of books as they have inspired me to select this topic for my winter post series.  

Today, I'd like to talk about H. M. Hoover's books. Helen Mary Hoover (1935 to 2018) was an American children's writer. 

Or was she? 

I'm not a child and I enjoy these books. The Delkon is my favorite. They are slightly more mature than C. S. Lewis or Tolkien. And many of them are science fiction themed. It occurs to me that many would make a excellent setting for the Traveller ruleset. 

Why? 

Because as "children books" they don't have much violence. The potential is there but it never seems to get that bad. Which is great when you're using Traveller rules. 

Gunfire is deadly... very deadly. I think this is my hangup with the ruleset and since I would like to learn to play, I need to learn "To Violence Or Not To Violence". I didn't think of that, I totally stole it from SAFCOcast. Episode 23 to exact. I've listened to this one episode like 3 times and the more I listen, the more I think H. M. Hoover's settings would be perfect for the Traveller game system. 

The tech is there. The potentiality of a quick and final end when violencing is there. The not so obvious or completely obvious solution is there. It's built into the atmosphere of the setting. Ms, Hoover does an excellent job of hiding whether or not the solution is going to be the tricky one or the obvious one.  

Traveller has a very different science fiction atmosphere than what I am used to participating in. It seems to live in that space between tricky and obvious, with violence leading to just one of many obvious solutions. Other obvious solutions is tailoring responses to skills and talents of the players. It places far more emphasis on all of the skills available rather than just the ones that give immediate results. 

As I amble my way down to Traveller way, I'm gonna read a few books before I give it another try. 
Books by H. M. Hoover on AbeBooks.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Good Finds for the Gaming Garden

I had epic luck today. I found a bunch of things for my gaming garden. 

First up, solar lights. 

The flower shaped ones are from the Dollar Store. The really bright ones are from Ollies. I paid about $21 for 13 of them. I have no intention of leaving them in the raised bed, I'll probably arrange them around the hot tub and along the back of the garden. 

The raised bed is almost complete, I need to put up a center rail and some screens or chicken wire to protect the cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, basil and thyme from the bunnies. The goal is canning pickles and gardenia all from my own garden. 

I should have done cauliflower, onions and hot peppers, but I am out of space. This bed is 4 feet by 8 and everything that can go on trellises will. The problem is, I have 52 seedlings ready to go. 

That is where the garden hooks and random pots come in. I want the herbs to come inside at the end of the growing season, so I'll need to put them in pots. That covers about 12 plants. I figure I can squeeze 24 plants into the raised bed. I want to grow some under the arrowwood tree, which will be another 2. I need to find space for 14 more plants. 

I went a little crazy. 

In other news, I picked up a great book for a dollar. Swords' Masters is an omnibus by Fritz Leiber including three novels: 

Swords Against Wizardry (1968),
The Swords of Lankhmar (1968),
and Swords and Ice Magic (1968).

He is one of my favorite writers and I can't believe what a great deal I got on this hardcover. The cover is a bit... 80s? I don't know. The stories are better than the cover art, so I'll ignore it. I guess you now know what are the next three books I review will be. 

My final find was a length of rope. What adventurer doesn't have some rope? This one is in blue so I don't hit it with the lawnmower. The dog was very excited when I cobbed together a lead for her out of it. She loves being outside and will probably be a part of game night in the garden. 



Thursday, April 8, 2021

Books by Mike and Shell Dibaggio

For the longest time, I have run a side panel ad for Dibaggio's book, The Ascension Epoch series. I'm doing a refresh of the blog and moving them here. Very shortly, I will be running reviews as many of them as I can. So moved but not forgotten. 

As of this moment, I'm spending a lot of time trying to get the garden complete so reviews are momentarily on hold. I can't wait for this brief burst of lawn activity to be done so I can get back to reading and blogging. 

Be sure to check out these and all of the other great titles by Mike and Shell Dibaggio at your favorite retailer.

Books by Rick Wayne

For the longest time, I have run a side panel ad for Rick's books, The Minus Faction and Feast of Shadow series. I'm doing a refresh of the blog and moving them here.

Very shortly, I will be running reviews of all 8 of them.  So moved but not forgotten. 

As of this moment, I'm spending a lot of time trying to get the garden complete so reviews are momentarily on hold. I can't wait for this brief burst of lawn activity to be done so I can get back to reading and blogging. 

Be sure to check out these and all of the other great titles by Rick Wayne at your favorite book store.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

#TBT - Campaign Helper - A Dictionary of Classical Antiquities

This a throwback post. This entry was originally posted on November 28th, 2019. 

As a social studies teacher, I like to tell people that I know everything... just not all at once. :)

The fact is, while I can't know everything, I have complied a list of resources so I can get an overview of a vast variety of subjects rather easily. Today, I found a new resource:


From the desk of Dr. Oskar Seyffert. this 1895 illustrated dictionary runs from Abacus to Zosimus. I'm sure it's horribly dated, but you have to love a dictionary that ends with a Greek historian and an Index. The first seems perfect to me, but the second is most definitively wrong in my internet addled brain.

Archive.org has 10 different files and 19 different ways to download this book for free. Check it out, it could be a great campaign helper for you game.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

#TBT review - Dunromin University Press' SM00 A Traveller's Atlas of Dunromin and the Land of the Young Review

I just picked up a copy of SM00 A Traveller's Atlas of Dunromin and the Land of the Young and it is my new favorite item.

Title:  SM00 A Traveller's Atlas of Dunromin and the Land of the Young
Author: Dunromin University Press (Simon Miles)
Rule Set: OSRIC
Year: 2018
Pages: 28
Number of Players: N/A
Rating: ★★★★★

This is supposed to be a full color map folio of the Free City of Dunromin, but the work goes so much further. In addition to the beautifully drawn Free City, Mr. Miles killed it with amazing details of the surrounding area, political and physical maps of the Land of the Young, barony maps, maps of the continent and of the world.

The artwork is incredible, a great addition to any old school gaming campaign. Being a set of maps designed for OSRIC, it is generic enough to fit into any fantasy game system.

I just can't get over the art. The cover and some other images are wholly digital, but others look hand drawn. It's a near thing, I can usually tell the difference, but not in this product. Many of the pages are on a graph, but I can't tell if it's pencil on graphpaper, or digital work meant to look old school. There are a few pages where I think I can see blowthrough, like a scanner picked up information from a page behind the scanned page, but I can't be certain it isn't photoshopped to look like that.

I probably won't use this in my campaign, but I am already looking to see which pages I will print and frame. Simply put, it's awesome!

Priced a pay what you want, you can't go wrong with this title. I can't wait to check out the rest of the series.

If you need a Christmas gift and you have a nice printer and paper, this is perfect.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Exciting 2020 Blogs - THAC0 and Red Dice Diaries

I was going to make this post about a lot of blogs, but I only have time for the one I am really excited for: Red Dice Diaries. John is working on a campaign for Colonial Time Period B/X game.

Over on THAC0's facebook page, someone was just asking about guns in D&D, which sort of fits John's idea. However, my question is, how does magic slide into a Colonial Setting?

Go check out the Red Dice Diaries here. And friend THAC0 on Facebook here at this link. THAC0 also has an associate blog page which is a wonderful read if you like anything about D&D.

If I were to suggest a resource or two for John's campaign, I would pick the book "Everyday Life In Early America". I've always meant to do a review of this book as it paints a highly detailed picture of common things the colonist would have done or encountered in a day. I totally use this for my D&D campaigns to get the brain juices flowing.

Red Dice Diaries also has a link to an excellent resource called "30 Days of Worldbuilding: An Author's Step-by-Step Guide to Building Fictional Worlds" by A Trevena. He will be using this book to build his campaign, so now is a great time to either follow his blog or add the podcast to your podcatching software.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

It should be no surprise...

A couple of months ago, Wendy's launched thier game Feast of Legends. And I wasn't totally surprised. Some lost memory tugged at me, but I wasn't able to put my finger on it until this morning. This little tug of memory had me categorizing a burger joint's RPG as "normal!".

While cleaning up for a game session this morning (already underway), a chance find refreshed my memory. I stumbled across a chapter book of the Spiderwick Chronicles. My daughter told me that it was part of set given away by Wendy's with their kids meals. 

Ah, innovation and creative has always been a part of the Wendy's brand. Those are strange attributes for a burger chain. But what better prize is there than reading? I love to read to my kids, and Wendy's was right there with me. My son tells me that McDonalds also jumped in on the bandwagon with Big Nate books. 

I feel funny singing the praises of fat food companies, but I do want to share that the things you give and read to your children have a massive impact on them. So read on to those kiddos. 

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Book Review - Population of Loss

Title: Population of Loss
Author: Michael DiBaggio and  Shell "Presto" DiBaggio
Illustrator: Shell "Presto" DiBaggio
Year: 2014
Pages: 46
Rating: 5 of 5 stars. 

I hate big screen or small screen characters render in novel form. It's always horrible, little better than the second Star Wars book, Splinter in the Minds Eye. I want to tell future readers that this is a mashup of comic book characters set in the science fiction worlds of 1880s and 90s.

It is, but it really isn't. The prose reminds me of the classic adventure of The War of the Worlds, which it should because it is implicitly set with in that world. Each of the four short stories captures that time period perfectly, no accidental or intentional anachronistic parts at all. The Signalman does remind me of Iron Man, but he is not remotely a superhero in that vein. In fact, I know that he should be a comic book character because that is what he was designed to be, but somehow, he isn't. Nor are any of the other characters.

Its hard to describe what the Celestial Paladin is, but I can tell you where these characters came from. There are hints of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien fused with H. G. Wells. The story "In Hoc Signo" starts in Well's world of Tripod invaders and ends with a taste of Lewis's Out of a Silent Planet. The writing is more than strong, it is powerful. Reading older works is often difficult due to the changing of styles. But Mr. and Mrs. DiBaggio do not struggle with this. They capture the flavor of these works, but also give it a style all their own. The easy comparison is to the past, but the authors manage to infuse this style with a more modern frantic-ness, in the vein of Dagberto Glib ("Love in L.A.") or Louise Erdrich ("The Red Convertible"). Perhaps it is the vignette style of these 4 short pieces that capture a tiny bit of introspection by the authors, which echos through each piece.

Regarding the illustrations, they are from a very different artist from the Shell "Presto" DiBaggio, who engages with her audience on social media. They have tiny reflection of the work of Kahlil Gibran. What is most interesting about the images of the Signalman and The Cyclone Ranger, is that they show an evolution of style over 2 years. The second is more like Mrs. DiBaggio's current artwork, but still reflecting the style of that old era. Like the writing, the illustrations have a touch of modern, frantic energy, while still embodying the works of arts from the past. Instead of being caught in between eras, they are great enhancements to the stories told. They fit perfectly.

I was only vaguely aware that the book contained artwork, and I would suggest to the reader that they obtain a paper copy as paper will always render the artwork closest to what the artist intended. It is an inherent flaw in all ebook technology.

I will give this book one more read, maybe two before purchasing the next title. It was an excellent primer for the world of Ascension Epoch.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Unreview - The Gardens of Ynn

When I found this title, I fell in love with the concept of a procedurally produced adventure. I meant to write a review of The Gardens, but I never could capture the core idea. What struck me most was the author's (Emmy Allen) desire to break out of her writer's block. Wow. That was an amazing idea and the end result is spectacular.

Anyway, I have collected up 3 reviews of The Gardens of Ynn and added a bit of commentary on each review.

The Gauntlet Blog, called the book "evocative" and praises the use of all five senses in the area descriptions. (Edit - You can also read part 2 here.) The Gauntlet takes the point of view of White Hack players, which is a step removed from typical D&D. This perspective enhances the review as it leaves the typical D&D archetypes out. While I don't play White Hack, Fraser Simons' review of The Gardens makes me wonder if I should.  

Bryce over at Ten Foot Pole, stress the Gothic Horror aspect while digging right into the mechanics of how to use this setting. Bryce is right that this is a setting book as opposed to an adventure, which something that the reader could overlook, something that Emmy Allen took a moment to confirm in Ten Foot Pole's comment section.

d4caltrops calls The Garden "elegant". d4 praises the binary aspect of "go deeper/go back" to control where the adventurers go in The Garden. Even better, he suggests easy ways to use this book as a means of transport for your characters. Talk about taking a great idea and making it better.

I was surprised to see that no one commented on the artwork of this piece, which I totally enjoyed. Its Gothic simplicity is wonderful. I love this style of art.

You can pick up The Gardens at DriveThruRPG for just a couple of bucks. You can also go and add the three blogs above for free. Why not do both?

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Latest Update

This has been a hectic week. What should be updated hasn't. What didn't need updating was. Let me take a moment to explain what is happening. 

First and most importantly, my kids are off for the summer at the exact same time the school where I work has kicked off it's summer school program. Work-life balance is out of wack, but in an entirely pleasant and wonderful way. I work with special needs students and we kicked our program into high gear. Not only are teachers getting ready to accept new students come the fall, we are doing some of the greatest outings and STEM stuff in and out of the classroom. We do it all, from building roller coasters out of tubing to taking the entire school to an amusement park. And there is even better stuff in the works. 

This is the finest "job" I've had and confirms that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. 

Speaking of loving what you do, all this makes my kids at home jealous as hell, so my wife and I are stepping up our game. 

To that end, I don't have time to produce new books or maintain 4 websites. From here on out, I will be focusing everything on These Old Games by pulling in everything of value from the other three sites. Much of it will be tabbed along the top of the page, so as to be unobtrusive as possible. I'm sure my readers will understand that I am both a D&D nut and amusement park fiend with a thing for technology. Its weird. We're all a little weird. 

And now the third and final use of the word love. I love writing campaign setting information. So what products can you expect from These Old Games? Let's start with what's already available: 

Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners. A set of rules to create both NPC characters with professional skills which can be resused to flesh out D&D and AD&D characters with non-heroic skills. 
Character Sheet for Use with Unearthed Arcana. This is exactly as it says on the tin, its a scan of character sheet created on Mac 512K back in 1987. Why? Because I don't like hosting my own files. 
The Compass Rose Inn Minisetting. A set of maps created in Worldographer of the Compass Rose Inn, the associated shrine and premade characters. The three maps, historical description and characters are ruleset agnostic. 

Coming in the first week of August is the Expanded Compass Rose Inn Setting for D&D and AD&D. This is a set of maps for all 5 floors of the Inn, several outbuildings, and detailed sheets for every character for use in your campaign. This will retail for $4.99. 

My next goal is to release a mini map of the Lake Forge, a mysterious business venture across the lake from the Compass Rose Inn. Like the Inn, it will have multiple levels and buildings visualized in Worldographer, plus new characters and more history of the Peninsula of Plenty game setting. It will be released in the same format as the Inn, first a PWYW ruleset agnostic version with a suggested price of $1.99 and a more complete version tuned to AD&D and D&D which will have fixed price of $4.99. 

Each and every thing I have published should be small potatoes in the grand scheme of gaming, but I cannot tell you how excited I get when I see one more person has taken the time to download one of my products. I hope that they add quality and wonder to your campaigns. 

As I roll through this year, I'll be looking at added two mapsets a month. I am also investigating creating a podcasts and perhaps a Patreon account. 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The "Bookshelf" shot

I wanted to do a bookshelf shot, but then realized I needed to reorganize my shelves to look presentable. 

This is the result. The shelf is full from just a few things from DriveThruRPG in binders. No room for my "real" AD&D books or all of the palladium products. I only pulled out one module and the old D&D Basic Sets.  No more room on this shelf. 

As I look over at the old shelf, I see over a dozen modules, a Call of Cthulhu game, BattleTech, Star Frontiers, Interceptor, Traveller, Striker, Starfleet Battles, Car Wars and a few others I can't read.  

More than a new bookshelf, I need to make a pledge to play all of these games again. 


In the image below, you can see my Illustrated World War II Encyclopedia and The New Junior Classics set. These are some of my favorite books for brainstorming gaming ideas.

Well, off to clean up again.

Monday, November 12, 2018

I Just Can't Stop...

I just can't stop.

While organizing my desk, I happened upon a book by Robert Pearce. It is an incredible set of ship plans for Traveller. Sure, it says "Traveller", but it could be used for any game system. The detail and scope is amazing. It is campaign fuel for sure.

 Why not take a look yourself.

I know I will be pouring over this book for days to come. For some odd reason, it isn't even for sale. It's free.

Damn. A mighty big thanks to you Mr. Pearce, you made my day.

Taking Stock Part 2

Having established myself on MeWe.com and Pluspora.com, I started to clean my desk to get ready for more work. The first thing that stood out were all the books I download and printed from DriveThruRPG. I had purchased a number of ring binders and neatly hole punched them and added them to my shelf.

You can see the problem, I am sure.

What is in each binder? Might as roll 1d100 to see what I get when I grab one. I decided to print labels for them using Google Docs. Well, there is a horizontal but no vertical ruler.

Annoying.

In an effort to fix this, I made a template with an image of a ruler on each axis of the page. I trimmed the image down to read from 1/4 of an inch to 10 1/2 inches. On the other one, I ended at 8 1/4. It roughly takes into account a quarter inch margin all around and a 48 pt font.

It worked nicely and now I know what books I have.

You can download the template on Drive.

Speaking of books on DriveThruRPG, you could download my book: Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners. It's pay-what-you-want and compatible with many OSR D&D type games. It contains over 50 commoner character classes, rules for using the commoner class as a professional skill for PCs and many other game ideas.

While you are there, why don't you leave a review. Feedback is always appreciated.



Friday, June 15, 2018

Review of Lakota Noon by Gregory F. Michno

     Lakota Noon is the second book review in a series for Professor Carson's Class at the University of Buffalo. Typically, I edit these documents down into a suitable review for my website. In doing so, I remove much of my original paper's intent so as not to provide a vehicle for student plagiarism. However, I was so fascinated by this book and Dr. Carson's class, I felt that I should leave the entire document as a whole. The conversations that this reading sparked was amazing. I hope to revisit this class and take more courses with Dr. Carson.

      If you have the chance take one of Dr. Carson's classes, do it. I've taken at least 3 of them. Each one was better than the last. 


Lakota Noon

     This book covers old ground in the retelling of the Battle of Little Bighorn. The previous review, Month of the Freezing Moon by Duane Schultz was also about conflict with natives as settlers moved westward. Michno is cut from a completely different cloth than Schultz. The two men use data to interpret historical events. Where Schultz attempted to insert the thoughts of the natives into his work by vignettes (Schultz), Michno takes a different tact. Michno uses the standard historical narrative and inserts information gathered from the survivors, meaning only the Lakota, to clarify. Michno laments that previous authors on this subject discounted native testimony as they were an “alien race” (Michno, p. ix-xiv). He quotes William A. Graham as saying the native witnesses, “contradicted each other so much to an extent that I found them irreconcilable” (Michno, p. x). Michno rejects that attitude, writing “we must use both white and Indian sources; further, we must realize that the Indian sources are more important and should take precedence whenever any apparent conflict arises between the two.” (Michno, p. ix-xiv). Theoretically, pragmatic, because the voices of the winners and those who held the field at the end was the only primary source besides forensic details.
     Michno statement of intent was that he was not interested in the study of warfare, morality, or cause. He wrote from a discontent of the framework and structure of descriptions of the Battle of Little Bighorn by others. He wished to build his own study of the Battle and from there, reassess his own thoughts and preconceptions. Michno desired an educational outcome, one that he found satisfying. Michno found the prior work on this topic short on details about the native defenders. In case studies from their perspective, their testimony to events watered down with secondary sources not of native hands. To address this concern in his work, he breaks the battle down into 10 minute segments to present the historical account of the soldiers, plus the discounted statements by Indians and follows both with a detailed analysis of events to correlate or highlight discrepancy between accounts. In this way he shapes an excellent description of the chain of events in the battle. Time studies and motion studies have long been a practice when reviewing this segment of history as these were the only source of information not derived from the Indians. While many of these works are spectacularly clear and clean cut, there is a certain amount of fear when history loses it’s fog of time. Michno takes advantage of both the fog of the past and the rational tradition of time studies to reframe the events of the Battle of Little Bighorn.
     “A Word to the Wise” was the introductory chapter from William A. Graham’s book and is quoted by Michno. It is useful regarding this title, also. Michno and artist Jennifer Hamelman, have created a curious, almost avant-garde book to recount Custer’s last days. The word “book” instead of “title” is used purposefully here. Physically, the book is like no other. The table of contents are broken down by timestamp and page, 13 figures a presented on a table followed by 25 “time-segment” maps. The author wrote a one paragraph acknowledgements page before a two page centerfold map, with key features superimposed on the current site of modern day I-90 for reference. The next page holds a legend labeled “Individual and Tribal Symbol Key”. Cheyenne, Oglala, Minneconjou, Hunkpapa, BrulĂ©, Arapaho and Two Kettle tribes appear on the key, each with their own characteristic shape. Divided by tribe, 58 names of Indians appear, each individual shares the symbol of his tribe but also has a unique two letter identifier. What these symbols are for is not explained until page xiii. Each entry of the narrative has a timestamp, a name and an sequence indicator. For example: “5:50-6:00, White Bull [last 5:40, next 6:10]”. The author explains that this indicates the reader has reached 5:50 to 6:00 in time, in the narrative of White Bull, his prior entry was at 5:40 and the next is at 6. Ingenious, but Michno takes this approach a step further. On page 315 begins a tribe by tribe breakdown of historical personages and at what time they appear in the narrative. Because the author has assigned a symbol to each tribe and person, it is possible to flip through the book and read a single tribe or person’s role in the book sequentially. While this style of reading is always possible using an index, Michno includes none and the endeavour is a visual experience as opposed to a test of hand-eye dexterity. This level of creativity in presentation may be off-putting, but the structure works very well.
     In Michno’s first chapter, he addresses two historical conundrums: the vast array of tipis (or teepees) reconnoitered by Reno and Custer’s desire to attack such a large force. The author abandons historical arguments as illogical. Custer was an able commander and very aware his enemy, if confronted by a vast superior force as the history maintains, any logical person would withdraw. What Michno did was a spacial analysis of how the tipis could have filled the valley in a tight arrangement (Michno, p.3-20). Using Wooden Leg’s description of the camp, it hugged the river and was entirely east of the I-90 (Michno, p.17). Comparing that statement to Captain Moylan’s description of only being 200-300 yards wide, 1,900 lodges would have fit within the space of a quarter square mile (Michno, p.18). This 1,900 lodge number was on the high side of estimates. Some are as low as 1000 lodges, which require far less space or a more sparse arrangement. What this meant for Custer was he was not using Reno’s force as an anvil to his hammer, his movements were meant to draw Indians away from Reno’s force, reducing the threat, not riding headlong into it (Michno, p.19). Strangely, adding the Indian side of the story established Custer as well reasoned as opposed to someone suffering from either myopia or delusions. The first chapter is a solid work of puzzling and reasoning which was of great importance to the following chapters.
     There is the idea that Custer walked into an ambush, a terrible end for a well regarded tactician. From the details of the various defenders, it was Custer who was ambushing them. Ill prepared for combat, forces drew out for battle with Custer’s men on the north side of the village (Michno, p.33). In one hour, by 4 in the afternoon, the Battle was not going well for Major Reno’s men (Michno, p.87). They had taken refuge in a wood and in an attempt to withdraw, suffered horrible casualties. One Bull, having seen the men retreat, ordered his men to let them go to tell the tale (Michno, p.84). Citation is designed for order and comprehension, Michno’s work does a fair bit to disorder this as Reno’s part appears after One Bull’s in the narrative. However, the effect of this style was very effective.
In the last three chapters, Michno returns the tradition of style of discussion and analysis. His analysis pushes away the idea of a single last stand. While Custer’s forces held the hill, some men fled into the gully. Michno notes dryly that “dead men don’t run”. Historical accounts must give way to reason. Beard, a Minneconjou, recounts that he desired to capture Custer but ultimately found him dead, still holding the reins of his horse. The battle was over.
     Why had it ended with Custer dead and his enemies victorious? Custer had done the unthinkable by dividing his forces. Well, yes. But there is one set of rules for strategy and one for tactics. Strategy dictates one should never divide one’s strength. However, as a purely practical matter, tactics are dictated by the environment. Separation was a requirement of the engagement (Michno, p. 294). Custer lead a cavalry regiment, not a phalanx.
     Michno’s account of the battle ranges from mathematical to bone chilling in its details. This title was an offbeat, yet wonderfully readable recount of the battle with a strong focus on all of the voices from the various tribes and companies. This book was designed for study, reading and rereading. The wonderful documentation in the form of footnotes, the photographs, charts, maps and symbols make this title an excellent addition for any history bookshelf.

Citations:


Gregory F. Michno. Lakota Noon. Missoula: Mountain Press Publishing. 1997. Print.


Schultz, Duane. Month of the Freezing Moon: The Sand Creek Massacre, November 1864. New

York: Published by St. Martin’s Press. 1990. Print.


Review of Daniel K. Richter’s Ordeal of the Longhouse

     Daniel Richter did not set out to write a book about the Iroquois. In taking on the daunting task, he constructs a compelling history of people who “found themselves caught up by economic, political, and demographic forces over which they had little control”. Richter explains how the Iroquois met these challenges or ordeals, often with unique geographical and cultural advantages, with adaptation and changes unlike other people in the region. These were not unique advantages to the Iroquois. What set them apart from others was their ability to hold on to these advantages for so long.
     Richter treats the Iroquois as if they were newly come to North America, placing them on the same footing as Europeans. Additionally, he cautions the reader against reading the phrases “the Iroquois” or “the Five Nations” as a singular or uniform entity but as a leader or collective of leaders and persons working within their self-defined political authority. Richter’s premise was to re-envision the Iroquois’ creative adaptations to situations by highlighting what he calls “a double trio of geographical and cultural advantages”.
     By Richter’s own admission, the seventeenth and eighteenth century politics and policies of the Iroquois descended into a confusing array of system, people and points, all in flux. While he authored a survey of primary source materials, he sought to maintain the flavor of the thoughts and ideas of the Iroquois. Throughout, Richter stays true to making the voice of the Iroquois audible in his work.
To this end, this book is punctuated with 22 plates, 7 maps, methodological comments, 104 pages of notes and 26 pages of biographical information. At one point Richter labels his own work “slim” and “pedantic”. He could added “humble”. The Ordeal of the Longhouse is well paced, excellently reasoned and designed, while remaining accessible to the average reader.
     Richter's “slim” book is rich in detail, wonderful in exposition of the plight and firmness of the Iroquois culture against the wave of European forces arrayed against them. Richter weaves an excellent story of historical facts and apt observation and analysis.


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Book Review List

I am compiling a list of book reviews I plan to launch this summer. I am starting with a classic by Ritcher. Right now, I am editing the first review for publication on Friday. Check back for more updates.

Book Reviews
  1. Review of Daniel K. Richter’s Ordeal of the Longhouse
  2. Review of Lakota Moon by Gregory F. Michno
  3. Review of Duane Schultz’s Month of the Freezing Moon
  4. Review of Howard H. Peckham’s The Colonial Wars, 1689-1762
  5. Review of Leo Tolstoy’s Hadji Murat.
  6. Review of Richard M. Ketchum’s Saratoga: Turning Point of America's Revolutionary War,
  7. Review of Martin Bruegel’s Farm, Shop, Landing: The Rise of a Market Society in the Hudson Valley, 1780–1860
  8. Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad Paul Gwynne
  9. The Storm Before the Storm Mike Duncan
  10. The Delikon H.M. Hoover
  11. Workers Go Shopping in Argentina,
  12. Age of Youth in Argentina
  13. Children of Facundo
  14. SPQR Mary Beard
  15. The Legacy of Conquest
  16. Buying into the Regime
  17. The Country of Football
  18. Creating a Common Table
Movie reviews:

  1. Blessed by Blood.
  2. Battleship Potemkin

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Gracchi, Sulla and Mike

Mike Duncan is a popular podcaster turned author. His first offering is The Storm Before the Storm, The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic and it is amazing. You can hear Mike read the first chapter, "The Beasts of Italy" on his Revolutions podcast.

I read through 50 pages at a theme park, it is more engrossing than some roller coasters. And what a ride it is. I can't wait to finish it and give it a proper review.