Friday, October 31, 2014

#77: The Magic Labyrinth (Mark's 100 - 2014)


The Magic Labyrinth

Mark's Ranking
  • 2014: 77th
  • 2012: did not appear
  • 2010: did not appear
  • 2005: prior to publication
  • rank: 592
  • rating: 6.96
Print Status
  • in print... I think
Why It's On The List
  • Second. Best. Memory. Game. Ever... but the over-the-top production means it gets requested more often - and therefore ended slightly higher on the list than Hallo Dachs!
Tips & Tricks:
    • Do not mistake this for the unexplicably popular A-Mazing Labyrinth (or the spin-off games in that series). This is closer to an old favorite that it "fires" - Magical Maze.
    • While the game works great with 2, 3 or 4 players, it is probably best with four players. By watching more players explore the (hidden) maze, it's easier to figure out a safe route to your destination.
    • The expansion - only published in Germany as far as I know - is very, very good. It adds one-way walls as well as three special one-time abilities: a felt wizard's hat (cause another player to miss a turn), a wooden vial of potion (move until you reach your destination or hit a wall), and a wooden magic wand (get rid of your destination chit & draw a new one).
    Extras

    Thursday, October 30, 2014

    Wrong Anthem, By Gum (Classic)

    A company selling Wrigley's gum wanted music for a commercial in Russia. It went to an English company, and bought a catchy tune. The commercials aired in Moscow, until the Chinese embassy called to ask why the Chinese national anthem was used to sell gum. The company calls it a "misunderstanding."NPR's Morning Edition, January 16, 2007
    Whoops.

    When I heard this story, I laughed... then I started thinking. (Yes, thinking. I occasionally do that.) How often do we in the Christian church do exactly what Wrigley's did?

    You can go two ways with this:
    1. Churches have a tendency to go buy the latest program/curriculum/40 Day experience/whatever, expecting since it worked for Churches X, Y, & Z that it will work for them.
    2. Churches have a tendency to be completely tone-deaf when it comes to reaching the community around them. We have lived so long in our "Christian bubble" that we don't realize what we sound like to people on the outside.

    Either way, it's worth spending some time mulling this one over. First, the church applications:
    1. Is my church spending time, energy & cash looking for the "next big thing" that will make us grow & "be cool"... or are we asking God "what's next"?
    2. Is my church really listening to our friends in our community who don't go to church & trying to hear what they hear when they listen to Christians?

    And then, the personal applications:
    1. Am I looking for "the next big thing" to fix my problems, my ills, my hurts? Do I want a "magic bullet" to make all my garbage go "poof"... or do I want Jesus? (These are NOT the same thing.)
    2. Am I really listening to the people around me who don't know Jesus... or am I simply reciting the lines I learned in Sunday School? Am I having real conversations about truth & grace & life... or am I simply trying to get them to sign on the dotted line?

    Maybe I shouldn't listen to NPR so much - it makes me ask too many questions.

    Another classic Grapevine article that was written back in early 2007... slightly edited for my readership.

    #78: Fortress America (Mark's 100 - 2014)


    Fortress America

    Mark's Ranking
    • 2014: 78th
    • 2012: did not appear
    • 2010: did not appear
    • 2005: prior to publication
    • rank: 1468
    • rating: 7.10
    Print Status
    • in print (the current Fantasy Flight version)
    Why It's On The List
    • Kevin Wilson "re-mixed" this classic Milton Bradley Gamemaster game... and the combination of nostalgia and just plain fun makes it a winner.
    Tips & Tricks:
      • I played the original 1986 version of this game a bunch of times with my best friend from college (and best man at my wedding) Tim Formby. He was pretty much unbeatable as the US of A. I do know that part of the charm/joy of playing Fortress America is that backdrop of memories.
      • However, designer Kevin Wilson made some excellent changes to the game - he rejiggered the map, moved combat resolution from a CRT to custom dice, and added "invader decks" to increase variety.
      • Winning is about not getting involved in battles that sap your strength without a decent payoff - and about avoiding taking cities you can't hold.
      Extras

      Wednesday, October 29, 2014

      #79: Toledo (Mark's 100 - 2014)


      Toledo

      Mark's Ranking
      • 2014: 79th
      • 2012: did not appear
      • 2010: did not appear
      • 2005: prior to publication
      • rank: 1551
      • rating: 6.30
      Print Status
      • OOP (but very easy to find a copy at a decent price)
      Why It's On The List
      • A hand-management & push-your-luck game that moves at a nice clip - especially for a Martin Wallace design. 
      Tips & Tricks:
        • I personally don't chase the horsemanship chit - the potential downside isn't worth the positives. Others feel differently.
        • Toledo is one of those games where the "speed" of the game can completely change your game plan. If someone is pushing the game end timer, you must change gears and maximize points - or cooperate with other players to slow them down.
        • The theme is not exactly pasted-on... but it isn't deeply integrated, either. What this game is (for me) is fun.
        Extras

        #80: Hallo Dachs! (Mark's 100 - 2014)


        Hallo Dachs!

        Mark's Ranking
        • 2014: 80th
        • 2012: did not appear
        • 2010: did not appear
        • 2005: did not appear
        • rank: 5521
        • rating: 6.25
        Print Status
        • OOP (though there was talk of Mayfair republishing it...)
        Why It's On The List
        • Best. Memory. Game. Ever.
        Tips & Tricks:
          • There are only six bugs to remember - but you have to remember where multiples of those bugs are hidden... and your badger's dietary preferences are dictated by a die roll. This is not for the faint of heart.
          • Hallo Dachs! also contains some real board play elements - both racing players to particularly point-rich spots as well as being careful about not wasting turns by eating your way into a dead end.
          • The only reason this hasn't been on the countdown before is the simple fact that it's a "kid game" - I consider this another example of the design genius of Klaus "yes, I can do more than Catan" Teuber.
          Extras

          Tuesday, October 28, 2014

          #81: Arctic Scavengers (Mark's 100 - 2014)


          Arctic Scavengers

          Mark's Ranking
          • 2014: 81st
          • 2012: prior to publication
          • 2010: prior to publication
          • 2005: prior to publication
          • rank: 707
          • rating: 7.07
          Print Status
          • in print? (see below)
          Why It's On The List
          • This was the first game to take the deck-building mechanic from Dominion and create a game with a thematic arc... too bad it wasn't released by a major publisher for nearly 3 years.
          Tips & Tricks:
            • Arctic Scavengers has experienced somewhat of a resurgence in the last year, thanks to some very positive video reviews and fans campaigning for the expansion to be published. (That's why I'm not sure about the 'in print' status.)
            • Deciding when to fight is key - there is a definite memory element to the game which can get tricky when playing with four players.
            • There are multiple expansion levels in the box as published - they add some interesting twists. I'm not sure the Building stuff is entirely successful, but it does flesh out the theme really well - and theme is one of the strong points of this very enjoyable design.
            Extras

            Words + Music

            As a pastor, I got an earful about the music we chose to use each week in worship. It was:
            • too loud
            • too fast
            • too slow
            • not enough hymns
            • too many hymns
            • hymns - but not the way I know them
            Those of you who lead worship know exactly what I'm talking about.

            What I'm about to do here may or may not help you - but it was a major issue for some of the older folks in one of my former congregations, so I did some research and put together a presentation to explain why obsessing about a particular arrangement of a hymn as the "right" way to do it wasn't necessarily true.

            A number of what we've come to consider the "great hymns" of Southern Baptist life were first conceived simply as lyrics - and to which a variety of musical settings were applied. In some cases, there was a substantial gap between the writing of those lyrics and the writing of the music that we've come to accept as the "right" melody for the hymn.
            • Amazing Grace
              • words: 1779
              • music: 1835
              • 56 years difference
            • When I Survey the Wonderous Cross
              • words: 1707
              • music: 1824
              • 117 years difference
            • Rock of Ages
              • words: 1776
              • music: 1830
              • 54 years difference
            • Holy Holy Holy
              • words: 1826
              • music: 1861
              • 35 years difference
            • What A Friend We Have in Jesus
              • words: 1855
              • music: 1868
              • 13 years difference
            The gaps don't make the pairing of lyric & music invalid - I find it particularly heartening to my view of God's sovereignty that Isaac Watts (the lyricist of "When I Survey...") died 44 years before Lowell Mason (the musician behind the tune "Hamburg") was born.

            But it does suggest that our attachment to specific tunes and/or arrangements may say more about the kind of church we grew up in or the cultural styles with which we are comfortable than they do about "playing them the right way."

            Note: Please don't use this post to beat up folks with your musical knowledge or suggest that they are "standing in the way of progress". We are called to use "speech seasoned with grace" - not arguments seasoned with facts appropriated from some yahoo's blog post.

            #82: Traumfabrik (Mark's 100 - 2014)


            Traumfabrik (Dream Factory)

            Mark's Ranking
            • 2014: 83rd
            • 2012: did not appear
            • 2010: did not appear
            • 2005: did not appear
            • rank: 325
            • rating: 7.13
            Print Status
            • in print (but OOP in my favorite version)
            Why It's On The List
            • Over time, this has become my favorite Knizia auction game - partly because of a sweet "zero sum" mechanic & partly because of the theme (in the original version of the game).
            Tips & Tricks:
              • Some of the charm of the game has been lost from the original version (yes, I sound like a broken record). The real 1930s/40s era actors combined with the real movie names was a delightful theme to play with...
              • I like to get one or two "stars" early so I can have a decent pick at the parties.
              • Finishing one movie quickly can be worth a great deal - but so can making a BIG name film. The important thing is to zig when the other players zag.
              • The current in print version (Dream Factory) is OK - but avoid the ugly Hollywood Blockbuster version.
              Extras
              • This is the only game on my top 100 this time around that I don't own. If someone had a copy of Traumfabrik or Fabrik der Traume (the German versions with the real actors & films) they are interested in selling, please let me know!

              Monday, October 27, 2014

              #83: Wyatt Earp (Mark's 100 - 2014)


              Wyatt Earp

              Mark's Ranking
              • 2014: 83rd
              • 2012: did not appear
              • 2010: did not appear
              • 2005: did not appear
              • rank: 550
              • rating: 6.85
              Print Status
              • OOP
              Why It's On The List
              • Mike Fitzgerald's "Mystery Rummy" system gets some interesting polish courtesy of veteran designer Richard Borg - and ends up with a Western-themed game that plays quickly and with a great deal of style.
              Tips & Tricks:
                • I think that Wyatt Earp is at it's best with 3 players.
                • Some folks complain about the "gunshot" mechanic - but it's a probability issue that the "rummy" nature of the game actually makes easier to figure out. The more cards that have been played to the table, the less likely a "gunshot" action is going to work.
                • We always use the optional "play a Photo for free when someone else melds an outlaw" rule.
                Extras
                • I've written about the Mystery Rummy series before... but never about Wyatt Earp. My apologies, Mike - it's a great game that is finally getting some Mark's 100 love.

                #84: Goldland (Mark's 100 - 2014)


                Goldland

                Mark's Ranking
                • 2014: 84th
                • 2012: 62nd
                • 2010: 68th
                • 2005: 49th
                • appeared on all four lists
                • rank: 1019
                • rating: 6.70
                Print Status
                • OOP
                Why It's On The List
                • An interesting mix of exploration game & puzzle game (how do I convert resources & moves into points?) with lovely old-school Goldsieber production.
                Tips & Tricks:
                  • Do not play this with 5 players - ever. Many of the bad attitudes about this game exist courtesy of playing with 5. (It's best with 3... though 2 or 4 work just fine.)
                  • You can win without ever reaching the temple... but the more players there are in the game, the less well this works.
                  • My younger son picked up on this really well... he and his brother think that Goldland and Agricola are "kind of like Minecraft board games". 
                  Extras

                  Friday, October 24, 2014

                  #85: Roll Through the Ages - The Bronze Age (Mark's 100 - 2014)


                  Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age

                  Mark's Ranking
                  • 2014: 85th
                  • 2012: 50th
                  • 2010: 51st
                  • 2005: prior to publication
                  • rank: 350
                  • rating: 6.98
                  Print Status
                  • in print
                  Why It's On The List
                  • Civilization Yahtzee - 6+ hours = Roll Through the Ages. And besides that, it's fun.
                  Tips & Tricks:
                    • It's easy to get locked into a single strategy - but you MUST pay attention to what the other players are doing so you can act and react appropriately.
                    • The solitaire game is actually pretty enjoyable.
                    Extras
                    • There's a very nice iPhone app of Roll Through the Ages..
                    • The print-n-play expansion, The Late Bronze Age, is an excellent addition to the game - and can be had for the cost of printing the files for your own use.
                    • With the Essen 2014 release of Roll Through the Ages - The Iron Age, I now have to be more specific about the name. 
                    • [cool information about upcoming stuff redacted for security reasons]

                    Serial

                    I've always enjoyed the radio show This American Life - but I seldom get to listen to it due to when it airs on our local NPR station.

                    Note: this is the part where I admit I'm an idiot for not considering that This American Life would also be in podcast form until about 3 months ago. All those years, wasted. Sigh.


                    Anyway, I now listen to This American Life each Monday on the way to & from work, thanks to the magic of iTunes. Also, I'm enough of a fanboy to think it was cool that Ira Glass & the staff were in the Veronica Mars movie.

                    So when they started teasing that they had a new podcast-only show coming called Serial, I was curious. And when they took an entire TAL episode to give us the first episode of Serial...

                    ...I was hooked.

                    Let's start with the "official" description of what Serial is...
                    Serial is a new podcast from the creators of This American Life, hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial will follow one story - a true story - over the course of a whole season. We'll follow the plot and characters wherever they take us and we won’t know what happens at the end of the story until we get there, not long before you get there with us. Each week we'll bring you the latest chapter, so it's important to listen in order, starting with Episode 1.
                    Which, I'll admit, sounds a little dry. Until you realize that the first story they're exploring is this:
                    On January 13, 1999, a girl named Hae Min Lee, a senior at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County, Maryland, disappeared. A month later, her body turned up in a city park. She'd been strangled. Her 17-year-old ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was arrested for the crime, and within a year, he was convicted and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. The case against him was largely based on the story of one witness, Adnan’s friend Jay, who testified that he helped Adnan bury Hae's body. But Adnan has always maintained he had nothing to do with Hae’s death. Some people believe he’s telling the truth. Many others don’t. 
                    Sarah Koenig, who hosts Serial, first learned about this case more than a year ago. In the months since, she's been sorting through box after box (after box) of legal documents and investigators' notes, listening to trial testimony and police interrogations, and talking to everyone she can find who remembers what happened between Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee fifteen years ago. What she realized is that the trial covered up a far more complicated story, which neither the jury nor the public got to hear. The high school scene, the shifting statements to police, the prejudices, the sketchy alibis, the scant forensic evidence - all of it leads back to the most basic questions: How can you know a person’s character? How can you tell what they’re capable of? In Season One of Serial, she looks for answers.

                    It's a real-life murder mystery - with all the confusing turns, dead-ends, questions & a-ha moments that make it both fascinating & frustrating... and absolutely riveting listening. I can't recommend it highly enough.

                    You can download episodes each Thursday on iTunes... and you should start from the beginning. (Episode 5 released yesterday.) Other information (maps, photos, letters, etc.) related to the story are available on the Serial website.

                    Note: the language & subject matter is occasionally non-family-friendly, as befits a murder mystery.

                    #86: Flowerpower (Mark's 100 - 2014)



                    Flowerpower

                    Mark's Ranking
                    • 2014: 86th
                    • 2012: 27th
                    • 2010: 17th
                    • 2005: 78th
                    • appeared on all four lists
                    • rank: 1541
                    • rating: 6.59
                    Print Status
                    • way out of print
                    Why It's On The List
                    • Despite an off-putting box cover, this is a tremendous two-player game of building gardens that can be played "friendly" or "cutthroat"... and enjoyed both ways.
                    Tips & Tricks:
                    • You must use the "community garden" area wisely - ignoring it will simply allow your opponent more space to plant with.
                    • Wait to use your "weeds" (you only have three of them) until your opponent has filled up enough of his side of the board to make them painful.
                    • Pay attention to how much space you'll need to get a flower bed to the next point level - there's no use making a bed of five flowers when they're worth the same as a bed of three flowers.
                    Extras
                    • This is a game that begs for a reprint!
                    • Here's what I wrote about Flowerpower for Game Central Station (my old website)

                    Thursday, October 23, 2014

                    #87: Machi Koro (Mark's 100 - 2014)


                    Machi Koro

                    Mark's Ranking
                    • 2014: 87th
                    • 2012: prior to publication
                    • 2010: prior to publication
                    • 2005: prior to publication
                    • rank: 562
                    • rating: 7.10
                    Print Status
                    • in print
                    Why It's On The List
                    • an unbelievably simple city-building game with a variety of tactical options and lightning fast play
                    Tips & Tricks:
                    • The value of various cards changes with the number of players in the game - most noticeably the red (restaurant) cards. Play accordingly!
                    • You don't have time to get distracted into building the "monster" play - you just need to build your landmarks.
                    • You don't have to build your landmarks in order - in fact, there is a viable strategy where you NEVER roll both dice, so you don't need to bother with your cheapest landmark until the end of the game.
                    Extras

                    #88: Forbidden Desert (Mark's 100 - 2014)


                    Forbidden Desert

                    Mark's Ranking
                    • 2014: 88th
                    • 2012: prior to publication
                    • 2010: prior to publication
                    • 2005: prior to publication
                    • rank: 145
                    • rating: 7.50
                    Print Status
                    • in print
                    Why It's On The List
                    • while thematically a cousin to Matt Leacock's Forbidden Island and mechanically related to Pandemic (both of which will appear on this countdown), this beautifully produced game is somewhere between the two in difficulty & family-friendliness.
                    Tips & Tricks:
                    • The average amount of sand deposited on the board is roughly 1.3 sand per card - which means you MUST watch your pool of sand tokens carefully.
                    • Water supplies can be a distraction - or your doom. The first & most important trick to beating the game is getting the balance right.
                    Extras