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Subject: Countdown to GOTW #300- Your 290th Geek of the Week, Salo Sila!!! rss

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William Boykin
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I'll admit, I'm a selfish basterd.

I've been sitting in my little cave here in Austin, hunched over my computer, drafting little posts to attract the attention of someone, ANYONE, so I could be Geek of the Week-

For exactly this moment!

I wanted to know more about Salo Sila.

Salo posts a lot in the Wargaming forums, a forum where I lurk, but don't often get into the fray. And I don't know that much about him, but I've always been delighted by his erudition, his wit, his common courtesy, and the amazing historical perspectives that he always has.

So I'm being selfish- I want to know more about Salo. But I'm also generous, because I want the rest of Y'ALL to know more about Salo Silva.

I'm stepping down. The King is dead.

Long live the King!!!!

Let's hear a bit about our new King of Board Game Geek!!!

Quote:


First, let me thank Darilian for asking me to be Geek of the Week. It’s not something I ever expected, and I’m very flattered to be asked by someone who’s own contributions to BGG are so interesting.

I was brought up in Durham, in the North East of England, a picturesque university town famous for its Norman cathedral and binge drinking. Living near Hadrian’s Wall, most of our bank holidays etc. were spent visiting the remaining sections of the wall or Roman forts along it. As a result of that, and visits to the other stately homes and castles in the area, one of my lifelong interests has been history. Being shy and nerdy, I was also into all the typical pursuits of the shy and nerdy, including gaming: mostly Warhammer (this was the late 80s/early 90s and GW was in the process of establishing its almost monopolistic position over the British gaming scene) and role playing. At some point in my teens, my gaming mates and I got into Diplomacy, which became our major game while we were still at school. I was always interested in the very detailed looking games such as Empires in Arms, but despite a few attempts, couldn’t get anyone else to play them to the end.

At the age of 17 or so I discovered beer and girls (the latter didn’t discover me…) and therefore my interest in gaming declined. At university, I read history. I was a member of the DipSoc for a year, where I helped playtest the Heptarchy variant (based on Anglo-Saxon Britain). However, that was about the only real gaming I did between the early 1990s and mid 2000s (occasionally a friend of mine from Durham and I would set up The Rise and Decline of the Third Reich up after a night out at the pub; unsurprisingly, those weren’t the most successful gaming sessions…).

On completing university, I realised that everything I wanted to do required a language, and being a typical Brit I could only speak English. I therefore did a training course in teaching English as a foreign language and taught in Bremen for two years, learning German at the same time.

However, I never planned on remaining a language teacher, so I returned to Britain to do an MA in East European history at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES). I’d been interested in Eastern European nationalism ever since the first week of my BA when Jonathan Steinberg showed us a video of him and a tutee in order to teach us how to get the best out of one-to-one supervisions; they were comparing the levels of violence of the different nationalist movements in Austria-Hungary. At SSEES, I ended up doing a course on Ukrainian history because it had the fewest participants.

I liked Ukrainian history so much that I decided to write a PhD in the topic. I applied to do it in Germany because the German government was offering grants to foreign students, the international expert on my topic (the interwar Ukrainian emigration) was in Hamburg, and my girlfriend lived in Bremen (just down the road from Hamburg).

In 2006, I was coming to the end of my doctorate and was rapidly approaching the age of 30. I started getting extremely nostalgic for my youth, buying Britpop CDs (music I never actually listened to as teenager!) and looking up gaming related stuff on the internet, and via BGG and other sites learned about the game Triumph of Chaos. On a whim I ordered it, and after soloing it I was stunned how far game design had come since I last bought a game around 10-15 years before. This prompted a surge in game buying and, later, a search for opponents. On the whole, I like most types of game, with the exception of abstracts, but prefer medium-weight wargames, Ameritrash and conflict-oriented Euros.

Anyway, I finished the PhD, but have had no luck in finding an academic position. I worked mostly as a language teacher and translator. About 1 1/2 years ago, I moved down south to Regensburg to follow my girlfriend. Luckily, there was a good game group here with friendly people who have a similar taste in games to me. I still don’t have a regular wargaming opponent here, mind. I’m working as a translator and researching a post-doctoral project, but am almost reaching the point where I thinking of giving up on an academic career.

So, that’s me. Here’s my two truths and a lie:

1) I spent a night in a police cell after (drunkenly) stealing the ‘H’ from the sign of a British bank.
2) While his father taught at Durham university, Tony Blair and his family lived in the house I was later brought up in.
3) I helped topple an authoritarian government by taking part in a ‘colour revolution’.


My questions for you are these, Chris-

1). We're both fascinating by the 'darker' parts of human history, especially in the 20th Century. Do you find that the reason that Ukrainian History so fascinates you is because it helped you understand something about your own personal experience, or because by studying it, you're able to answer some other questions about human experience? Or did you stay in the field because there was a lovely Fraulein with long blonde hair, batting her eyes at you?

Enquiring minds need to know!!!! And pictures. Definitely pictures.

2). Have you ever wondered why 'wargamer history' (ie, non-traditional, non-academic history) is so completely out of step with the rest of the discipline as studied in the Academy?

3). I've met several historians who studied in Germany, but never a grad student. (Ie, they were already successful, and I was a prole.) What are the strengths of the German university system? What are the weaknesses?

4). You, like I, have been faced with the appalling realization that despite our highly trained minds, the world really doesn't NEED two more historians of the 21st Century- or at least, doesn't need them as much as they need other professions, like plumbers. (*Hey, don't knock plumbers. Do you know what they take home in the US?*) If you don't get a job in the near future, do you see yourself trying to take a stab at the non-academic, more 'popular' market? If so, what type of project would you be interested in?

5). You imply that you're not as big of a fan of the 'classic' wargames, in favor of the more recent games that have come out in what some call the 21st Century 'Golden Age of Wargaming'. What makes modern wargames so much 'better' in your eyes than Classic games?

6). What do you look for in a good wargame- or any type of game? What are the characteristics of a good game?

Enjoy your week!!!

Darilian
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Robert Wesley
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Re: Countdown to GOTW #300- Your 290'th Geek of the Week, Salo Sila!!!
GRATZ and the LIE is onion-slices upon BEEF liver sandwiches and "cake"! That 'revolution' was filmed in black & WHITE! surprise
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Re: Countdown to GOTW #300- Your 290'th Geek of the Week, Salo Sila!!!
Чебурашка, ты настоящий друг!
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Congrats!
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Robert Wesley
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Re: Countdown to GOTW #300- Your 290'th Geek of the Week, Salo Sila!!!
One or the other's of YOUR 2 flag fell over and even 'got' their colours mixed around there quite some! whistle
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Moshe Callen
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excellent choice and congrats.
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Svetlana
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Congratulations!



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Congrats!

1 What is your favourite colour when playing a boardgame?
2 Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter?
3 Do play an instrument? If yes, which one and for how long already?
4 Having fun?
5 What is your favourite snack?
6 What is your favourite non-alcoholic drink?
61 What is your favourite time of day?

Enjoy your week!

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Pete Belli
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A superb choice.
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Чебурашка, ты настоящий друг!
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Darilian wrote:
Salo posts a lot in the Wargaming forums, a forum where I lurk, but don't often get into the fray. And I don't know that much about him, but I've always been delighted by his erudition, his wit, his common courtesy, and the amazing historical perspectives that he always has.


You've made a short, bearded and bespectacled guy on the other side of the Atlantic blush!

(That's me, by the way).

You've asked some penetrating questions, so let me think about it a bit... I think I'm going to have to answer your questions in batches, as they raise so many issues, and they require quite a bit of thought and writing to answer.

Darilian wrote:
1). We're both fascinating by the 'darker' parts of human history, especially in the 20th Century. Do you find that the reason that Ukrainian History so fascinates you is because it helped you understand something about your own personal experience, or because by studying it, you're able to answer some other questions about human experience?


To be honest, for a long time I avoided history from the 1930s onwards because it was so dark. My guiding interest, which took me from German to Austro-Hungarian to Ukrainian history, had always been nationalism and its role in forming national identity. The Ukraine is particularly interesting in this respect because Ukrainians had so many options for what nation they could have become (Poles, Russians, Little Russians within a tripartite Russian nation, Ruthenians and, of course, Ukrainians; and that's not to mention regional identities such as the Lemkos). However, for a broader knowledge of Ukrainian history, it was necessary to examine the Ukrainian famine and, due to the Ukrainian collaboration in the Second World War, the Holocaust. That said, the question of how 'normal' people, who only lived a short time ago, or indeed are still alive, could commit such barbaric acts has always fascinated me, not because it has anything to do with my or my family's own experience, but rather despite it: growing up in the postwar prosperity of northern Europe, I never had to experience famine, war, want, social upheaval etc., and the fact that people who are only separated from me by a hair's width of time did go through these things means I want to understand it.

Darilian wrote:
Or did you stay in the field because there was a lovely Fraulein with long blonde hair, batting her eyes at you?

Enquiring minds need to know!!!! And pictures. Definitely pictures.


The Fraulein is a diewczyna (Polish!). Because she grew up in the Soviet Union--her family were originally from the west of the interwar Ukrainian SSR--a lot of the history I've studied is stuff which her family experienced. That was never exactly the reason for my interest in Ukrainian history--it really was a coincidence--but having someone to talk to in Russian and Ukrainian has certainly helped me acquire the languages I needed to do my research. (The memory of the KGB remains, so she is intensely paranoid about letting too much information about her get onto the internet; she'd probably castrate me for posting her picture online!).

Darilian wrote:
2). Have you ever wondered why 'wargamer history' (ie, non-traditional, non-academic history) is so completely out of step with the rest of the discipline as studied in the Academy?


Yes, definitely (indeed, I was going to ask you a similar question last week, but I was distracted and never got around to it, so I'd be interested to hear your own views).

I think there are several reasons. On the one hand, it's to do with the different audiences and their reasons for reading history. If you are not a professional historian, one of the reasons you read history is for pleasure (in addition, of course, to expanding your knowledge and understanding). This means, at least judging by the many discussions I've read, that for many wargamers good writing is an important category when choosing which books one reads. In contrast, while it's always nice when an academic monograph is written in an engaging way, it's never a factor in determining what an academic has to read: more important is the work's overall contribution to the field, whether it advances our knowledge etc.; the central categories in defining a 'good book' are therefore less to do with good writing and more with the quality of the sources chosen, the source criticism, the validity of the questions put to the sources, the theoretical approach and so on.

This brings me to a second point: it's difficult to make all those aspects exciting for a non-specialist, and they can often require training to appreciate (not that such training is always necessary); as a result, academic writing often comes across 'dry' to the non-specialist. Theory is a particularly thorny question. Appreciation of a book that employs discourse theory, for example, requires a background knowledge that often even many professional historians don't have (certainly, I don't). Thus, theory, as important as it can be, can drive a wedge between the professional historian and the interested reader. In addition, I wonder whether attempts to apply postmodernist approaches to history have done the subject a disservice with regard to a broader readership (but I admit, my knowledge of postmodernism is very limited, so I may well be totally distorting it here): one of the solutions to postmodernism's often relativist approach to history, which denies that the authority of one work can be 'privileged' over another, is to say that history is just an outlet for a particular group (particularly an oppressed one) to tell 'their own story' and thus deconstruct the grand narratives of nation, class, the advance towards democracy etc.; however, most people, me included, are interested in history because it tells us, albeit imperfectly, about something that really happened, not because it is just one group's story that is just as good as that of any other. But, as I said, I may well be giving a very simplified view of postmodernism here!

Another thing that really interests wargamers is alternative history because wargames are all about changing the course of history. However, despite Niall Ferguson's best efforts, 'virtual history' never caught on among academics (in my opinion, because in practice 'virtual history' doesn't look all that different to 'real' history).

I hope that doesn't come across as a stuck-up 'professional', which to be honest I don't yet see myself as, looking down on 'amateurs', as it's not how it was intended. Indeed, I envy many wargamers' breadth of knowledge, which--when I read the wargaming forums--really highlights the gaps in my education as a historian.

Well done, anyone who got to the end of that! Answers to questions 3-6 will follow…
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Чебурашка, ты настоящий друг!
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GROGnads wrote:
:D GRATZ and the LIE is onion-slices upon BEEF liver sandwiches and "cake"! That 'revolution' was filmed in black & WHITE! :surprise:


But surely, you've seen Pleasantville:

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Чебурашка, ты настоящий друг!
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LordT wrote:
Congrats!


whac3 wrote:
excellent choice and congrats.


pete belli wrote:
A superb choice.


Thank you!
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Чебурашка, ты настоящий друг!
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LanaDove wrote:
Congratulations!





Спасибо и дякую!
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Congratulations!

My usual questions:
- Ever played any RPG's?
- Have you ever visited the RPG side of the site?
- Will you congratulate you're RPGG and VGG counterpart?

Have fun this week and may you play many games.
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Чебурашка, ты настоящий друг!
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Narl wrote:
Congrats!


Thanks!

Narl wrote:
:d6-1: What is your favourite colour when playing a boardgame?

I'm never that bothered, but I prefer dark colours (black, purple).

Narl wrote:
:d6-2: Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter?


Spring: not too hot, not too cold.

Narl wrote:
:d6-3: Do play an instrument? If yes, which one and for how long already?

I used to play the trumpet, through which I met the people who are my best friends today. Unfortunately, I stopped going to lessons due to exams, my lip muscles went and I was never really able to get back into it.

Narl wrote:
:d6-4: Having fun?

Fun? What's that?

Narl wrote:
:d6-5: What is your favourite snack?

I'm more of a three-course-meal person. I like the dried fish that people in Eastern Europe eat as an accompaniment to beer, though.

Narl wrote:
:d6-6: What is your favourite non-alcoholic drink?

Coffee made with freshly ground beans.

Narl wrote:
:bd6-6::bd6-1: What is your favourite time of day?

The morning, when I'm getting my first caffeine rush.
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Чебурашка, ты настоящий друг!
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Barad_the_dwarf wrote:
- Ever played any RPG's?


Yes, I played a lot when I was at school: mainly AD&D (first and second editions) and Middle Earth Role Playing. However, somehow they always fell short of expectations. I think I really liked the mechanics aspects rather than the role playing part (I spent a lot of time just reading the books and drawing up characters).

Barad_the_dwarf wrote:
- Have you ever visited the RPG side of the site?


I created an account and recorded the RPGs and materials I own, even entering one or two into the database. Since then, I've barely visited it.

Barad_the_dwarf wrote:
- Will you congratulate you're RPGG and VGG counterpart?


*Blushes* I hadn't thought about it, but certainly will do now.
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Чебурашка, ты настоящий друг!
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Darilian wrote:
3). I've met several historians who studied in Germany, but never a grad student. (Ie, they were already successful, and I was a prole.) What are the strengths of the German university system? What are the weaknesses?


Anything I say about the German university system has to be taken with a pinch of salt, as I viewed it very much from the outside--but, then, that shows one of the problems right there: as a PhD student in Germany, you can be very much outside the university system and it can be difficult establishing contact to other PhD students. At the same time, your supervisor can have a very hands off approach to supervision, to put it politely; in order words, you can turn up, tell your supervisor what you are interested in doing and the supervisor replies "very interesting, I'll see you in three or four years" (OK, not literally, but that's what in effect can happen). This certainly isn't everybody's experience: if you write your doctorate as part of a larger project, then obviously you have more contact with other PhD students and your supervisor. That can also lead to the opposite problem, namely that the supervisor interferes too much with your research.

This is related to another thing I dislike: the system is very hierarchical. Professors are demigods whom you should disturb as little as possible; even once you've got your title as "Dr.", you remain a pleb below them, especially as you then have to write a second doctorate (Habilitation), which they oversee and (if they are of the interfering rather than hands off type) interfere with according to their whim. Moreover, although there have been some changes with the introduction of the post of junior professor, the only stable job is that of professor; most other positions are, by law, limited to six years.

On the good side, most students have a good command of foreign languages and the need to write a second doctorate means that most professors have a very broad range because they normally choose a subject unrelated to the first.

As you can see, though, I find it easier to think of the negative sides more than the positive.

EDIT: I've thought of another positive one: Germany doesn't have the Research Assessment Exercise.

EDIT 2: Actually, that said, I was very lucky with my own supervisor, as it turned out we had very similar ideas of how to go about writing history.
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CONGRATULATIONS

Enjoy your week in the spotlight!!! thumbsup

Question:

What is your most & least favorite game mechanic and why?

meeple
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Чебурашка, ты настоящий друг!
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Darilian wrote:
4). You, like I, have been faced with the appalling realization that despite our highly trained minds, the world really doesn't NEED two more historians of the 21st Century- or at least, doesn't need them as much as they need other professions, like plumbers. (*Hey, don't knock plumbers. Do you know what they take home in the US?*) If you don't get a job in the near future, do you see yourself trying to take a stab at the non-academic, more 'popular' market? If so, what type of project would you be interested in?


My current research project is one that would definitely appeal in some respects to the non-academic market: I'm investigating Ukrainian warlords during the Russian Civil War. On the one hand, this would involve a narrative account of their activity that looks at how they affected the course of the civil war in the Ukraine, especially the Bolshevik and nationalist attempts to build a state. On the other, it examines how they constructed their national and political identities (using their symbols, statements etc.), as well as their role in the pogroms of the period, their contact to the intelligentsia, the dynamics of command within their bands and their social background (in a prosopographical approach). In order to do that, I need money to go to the Ukrainian and Russian archives, so that project is really dependent on my current batch of applications. I think it would be impossible to do without funding.

I have thought about doing something that would not require travel, for example a summary of the secondary research on the Ukrainian revolution and civil war, 1917-21 (which amazingly doesn't yet exist) or a history of Ukrainian political thought, again based on secondary sources. However, if I do give up on academia, I will probably just abandon any idea of writing, at least for the next few decades, as I am at the age where I would like to earn enough to found a family, get a pension etc., and writing takes up too much time from that.

Non-academic jobs I've thought about have mainly involved the use of languages. However, I'm not that keen on working as a freelance translator (as I am now) due to the instability.
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Чебурашка, ты настоящий друг!
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Ashitaka wrote:
:C::O::N::G::R::A::T::U::L::A::T::I::O::N::S:

Enjoy your week in the spotlight!!! :thumbsup:

Question:

What is your most & least favorite game mechanic and why? :what:

:meeple:


Thanks! That's a difficult question. I don't think I've ever felt that there's one particular type of game I won't play because of a discrete mechanic. For example, I don't like Stone Age much, but I have nothing against worker placement per se, as I like it in Agricola. I don't like the way the cards work in Command and Colours or Combat Commander, but my favourite games are the We-the-People-style CDGs, and I like Manoeuvre a lot, which has (very broad) similarities to Command and Colours.

EDIT: I forgot about the "most"! I guess I like any mechanic that creates "threaded turns" where the each players takes a "mini-turn" before moving on to the next player; I dislike downtime a lot.
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Чебурашка, ты настоящий друг!
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Darilian wrote:
5). You imply that you're not as big of a fan of the 'classic' wargames, in favor of the more recent games that have come out in what some call the 21st Century 'Golden Age of Wargaming'. What makes modern wargames so much 'better' in your eyes than Classic games?

6). What do you look for in a good wargame- or any type of game? What are the characteristics of a good game?


True. I dislike games with many pieces as I find it difficult to keep track of them all and, as a perfectionist, I hate it when my what should have been a 3:1 attack is only a 2:1 attack because I forgot to move my one strength point of Bulgarian aircraft to the right airport the turn before. I find large stacks of units in a confined space fiddly and frustrating to play with.

I like CDGs a lot because they can include political events, which is what I'm interested in as a historian. I like games with few pieces, not only for the reasons I give above, but also because somehow the choices are more limited and therefore more nailbiting to make. I enjoy the way relatively simple games such as Hammer of the Scots are really competitive because you are always playing your opponent, rather than being involved in a contest alongside your opponent against the rulebook.

For me, a good wargame should be playable and competitive. I want it to represent some at least one core element of the conflict it depicts that sets that conflict apart from others, especially if it can show what specific problems the commanders faced in that particular situation. If it does that, then I'm prepared to accept quite a lot of abstraction. When it comes to the Russian Civil War, I'm more picky, as it’s the one war I know anything about. I'm especially interested in games with asymmetrical sides (such as HotS and Washington's War); I like to play the side that spends most of the game running away, but with a sting in its tail.

With other types of game, it depends on who I intend to play the game with. I enjoy Euros that are simple enough to play with my family or friends who are less into games but meaty enough for me to have fun (such as Dominion). Otherwise, with Euros, I definitely prefer the ones with direct conflict. I like all the stuff other people mention (different paths to victory, simple yet deep gameplay, balance between strategy and luck etc.), and I'll play almost any game once or even twice. I don't like abstract games at all, and will avoid them at all costs, and am less keen on economic games, but will play them.
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Wendell
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Congratulations - I enjoy your commentary here on BGG.

Please explain your user name, and what the text above your user-name says!

I think the Tony Blair thing and the colour revolution thing are likely true, so the night-in-jail thing must be the lie...
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Чебурашка, ты настоящий друг!
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wifwendell wrote:
Congratulations - I enjoy your commentary here on BGG.

Please explain your user name, and what the text above your user-name say


Thanks! Salo sila is the first half of the Russian slogan on a t-shirt I once saw: Salo sila, sport mogila, which means bacon/fat is strength, sport is the grave. As an accompaniment to vodka, salo--white cured pork fat--is pretty damn tasty.

The text above my user name is "Englishman or Englishman?", with the first Englishman in Russian and the second in Ukrainian. Basically, I found that on several occasions responses to my posts were quite negative because the person replying thought I was German. I therefore considered adding "I'm not bloody German!" above my username, but decided against it, partially because I didn't want to accommodate assessing someone's views on the basis of their supposed nationality. I still wanted to declare my nationality, but in a more oblique way.
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Wendell
United States
temporarily Arlington VA
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All the little chicks with crimson lips, go...
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Hey, get your stinking cursor off my face! I got nukes, you know.
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Thanks for the explanation! I can sound things out in the cyrillic alphabet (from my college Russian, extremely rusty) so I knew it was something to do with England, but wasn't sure what!
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Rob Robinson
England
Rotherham
South Yorkshire
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I fight lost wars, see light, fear sight
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I open my mind, need flesh, fear mine
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mb What's your favourite Dexterity game?


mb What's your favourite card game, played using themed cards?


mb What's your favourite card game, played using a regular/standard deck of cards?


mb What's your favourite Race game?


mb What's your favourite Memory game?


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Out of the BGG TOP 100:

1. ...How many games do you currently own?

2. ...What is the highest ranked game you own?

2b. ...What rating do you give it?

3. ...What is the lowest ranked game you own?

3b. ...What rating do you give it?

4. ...Which game would you choose to receive, if it were offered as a gift?

5. ...Which game did you play last?

6. ...Which is the highest rated game you have traded/sold?

7 ...Which is your most played game?

8. ...Which game would you like to purchase next?

...AND FINALLY

List page 1 of your BGG Quickbar.

Quickbar:
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L H
United States
Lehi
Utah
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Congratulations!

I loved to play Risk in my teenage years, but I have not played any other war games. Which one would be your reccomendation for me to branch out into war games?
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