Monday, July 31, 2006

Gulf Games 18: Thursday

I didn't get a huge chunk of sleep... but sleep is never really an issue for me at Gulf Games. (I figured I'd make up for it at the end of the weekend - more about that in a few days.) So, I rousted out of bed bright & early.

The hotel layout (as Dale Yu said in his column over on Boardgame News) was absolutely perfect for Gulf Games. And the room I shared with Ted Cheatham (thanks again, Ted!) was centrally located - on the 3rd floor, just a hop/skip/jump to the stairs down to the second floor. Directly across from the stair door was the breakfast room (continental breakfast each morning). Down the hall was a Mexican restaraunt (which was OK enough for me to eat there 3 times) and a sitting area. Make a hard left and go down another long hall and you've reached the gaming area. Total time from room to games: usually less than a minute. Sweet.

Alan Moon (yes, the Alan Moon, designer of personal favorites Union Pacific & Mush, not to mention his Spiel des Jahres winning games Ticket to Ride and Elfenland) was plopped down in an easy chair in the sitting area when I came down. Both of us thought the doors to the game room were locked (where was Greg?!), so we proceeded to talk about... life. I think a game or two got mentioned, but mostly it was about his wife & her schooling & spending time with his folks - normal people conversation. Which, frankly, is one of the beautiful things about Gulf Games... a conversation about the intricacies of Memoir '44 can coexist peacefully with sharing stuff about family life and/or schooling and/or knitting. (Hi, Anye!)

Of course, Greg arrived and let us know that the door was open. (Whoops...) So in we went, and the gaming quickly got underway.

Ted taught four of us Rum & Pirates... OK, I've sat here for a couple of minutes trying to come up with a short description of the game that does it justice and I'm stumped. I'll start with the easy part - I liked the game enough to make it my first prize table pick on Saturday night. Here's some things I like about it:
  • It's a a sophisticated push-your-luck game with a plethora of scoring options.
  • The design of the game is splendid - from the variable board to the tile holder complete with cover.
  • The phrase I used on my BGG comment was "It's light without being lightweight."
  • Played at a nice clip, it's delightful. (However, I can imagine the torture of playing this game with someone slow & ponderous - sigh.)
Ted managed to win over Tim Watson, Michelle Corbin & I (our scores were tightly packed some 15 points behind him)... while Earl evidently lost his dice hand in some sort of pirate accident.

Allison Vander Ark had spotted me earlier, demanding a game - so we jumped into Au Backe next with the assistance of Dale Yu & James Miller. I really like Au Backe (it's a memory game with great Doris M. art - we even have large size reproductions of some of the cards up in Collin's room) but this is the first time I've played it where the game evidenced a kingmaker problem. James & I both had one card left, Dale had 4 cards - and Allison managed to turn over both poops. (Yes, the game has poop cards. Sue me.) That required her to draw four cards from her opponents - meaning that she could hand the game to any of us. We finally did "pick a number" to determine the winner, but even though I won, it was a hollow victory.

I think Jay Bloodworth was the only experienced player in our game of Cleopatra & the Society of Architects... so he taught us the game. As usual, the Days of Wonder production is spectacular - molded plastic bits, easy-to-use reference cards, etc. For lack of a better description, it's a cross between Ticket to Ride (the drawing of cards) and Settlers of Catan (the building of stuff)... with the scoring mechanic from High Society (the person with the most corruption automatically loses) thrown in for good measure. I know that the reviews of this game have been lukewarm, but I think there is more game in the box than people realize. Even with my big win (I was 23 points ahead of Jay), I was just coming to understand more of the things I could do to affect the outcome as we were finishing up: how I positioned the cards for the market, when to buy something out from under another player by watching what they were collecting, taking too many cards so I could pay a single corruption to get rid of high corruption cards, etc.

My next adventure was a particularly Gulf Games experience - playing Ticket To Ride with 4 teenage girls. Kayla Berg (daughter of Invisible Craig), Amanda Tullis (daughter of Scott "sorry I monkeyed up your last name as your e-mail address" Tullis), Ariel Douds (daughter of Ty/Talon Douds, designer of the trick-taking brain-burner Victory & Honor) and Emma LaBranche (daughter of Michael & Shauna) joined me in playing the Spiel des Jahres winner. Kayla pursued what I call "the Southern Pacific" strategy - she managed to create a line from Miami to Portland - while the rest of us fought over Middle America. The results were predictable... Kayla won by 30+ points. Even so, it was fun to get in a game with this group of funny & delightful young ladies.

Somewhere around this time I ate lunch. But I'm not sure. You probably don't care.

Next up: a couple of children's games from the collection of Dale Yu - first was Geistertreppe, which won the SdJ for Kinderspiel (children's games) a year or two back. It's a pretty standard memory game with very nice bits (the wooden ghosts with magnets inside them is nice) but it's not a hoot & holler experience (like Pyramidos, which saw a good bit of play at Gulf Games). Jeanette Vander Ark (aka Little Miss Friendly) beat James Miller, Elaine Lohroff & I at tracking where her ghost child was hidden.

The same crew joined me for the children's game "find" of Gulf Games (for me, at least): Selecta's Gira Gallopo. Appropriately enough (for the GG theme), it's a horse-racing game. Players choose their wooden jockeys and their horse (which are mix'n'match for imaginative play) and a set of 6 numbered cards (1-6). Each turn, players simaltaneously lay down a card & then reveal it. The lowest number player moves 1st, followed by the next lowest... and so on. (Ties are broken by which horse & jockey are farther behind.) If you land on another player, you send them back to the next empty space. If you land on an obstacle, you don't get to move. What ensues is a pretty vicious kid's game - lots of knocking each other around - tempered by the tactical decisions you need to make in order to dodge the 8 obstacles in the game. (5 of those are pieces which are set by the players each game - giving it some nice variablity.) Like I said, this was the niftiest of the new kid's games I played - and, appropriately, it was nominated for the SdJ Kinderspiel this year. (Jeannette won this game as well - so I stopped playing with her. He... not really.)

I've long been a fan of Diceball!, so it didn't surprise me at all when I fell in love with Pizza Box Football - so much so that it was my 2nd pick off the prize table. (Now I've got to order the expansion pack - and track down the rumors of the 2nd expansion pack with 2005-6 teams!) It has the same clunky wonderfulness as Diceball! - too much dice rolling that translates into a pretty realistic sports game. Warren Madden (no relation to John, I assume?) was partnered with me against Hans und Franz (aka Craig Berg & Chris Lohroff) in a four player game. (To make this two player game work with four players, we simply alternated playing defensive & offensive coordinator... the team member not playing helped keep track of downs, time & yardage. It works like a charm, btw!)

It was the Seattle Seahawks (boo!) against the Tennessee Titans (yeah!)... and while the Titans went out to an early lead (10-7 at the end of the 1st quarter, any good Titans fan knows what happened next. That's right, absolutely nothing. Hans & Franze went on to score 30 unanswered points to leave Warren & I in the dust, 37-10. Sigh. (Still, I had a great time.)

My next game was the Essen 2005 release Big Kini - which has an odd theme (in fact, I'm not sure I could explain it thematically) and only so-so gameplay. I did OK at it (just 4 points out of 1st place) but the game was notable primarily for the company (Sheldon & Regina Smith, Greg Schloesser & David Vander Ark) rather than the game itself. Sheldon won, btw.

Somewhere in here I went to dinner at the Mexican place down the hall... after making my only excursion outside of the hotel building until Sunday afternoon. (A large group of us went over to Rocky's to eat dinner - then, told we'd have to wait 45 minutes, split into two groups.)

An hour plus of fine conversation later, I began playing games again - this time, it was Knizia's Through The Desert, which is not my favorite game. (Still, I haven't managed to trade my Kosmos copy away yet - it's right on the keep/trade line for me.) Peter McCarthey smoked us with professional level camel-herding, leaving his wife Kim, Leon Hembee & Tessa Samuelson in the dust.

Another game of Gira Gallopo followed, this time with Sarah Lohroff, Kyle Berg, Warren Madden & his wife Sharon... and me. Experience did not prove to be helpful - Warren took off & won big.

Warren then really took off (taking Sharon with him), leaving Kyle & Sarah & I to join Elaine for another Selecta bit-happy children's game: Piratissimo. The production is gorgeous - ships with plastic sails, a wicker basket for the gold pieces, great artwork. Too bad there isn't much of a game here. While it was fun for a short period of time, it overstayed its' welcome by about 10 minutes (which can be an eternity in kid's games.) Look, I'm not just moaning about a loss, either - I won this thing by getting my pirate gold first.

Over the weeks prior to Gulf Games, a group of us had chatted over e-mail about a Memoir '44 rematch... in New Orleans last summer, my Young Guns (Timothy, Paul Cortazzo & my nephew, William) were beaten at the Battle of the Bulge (the Ardennes scenario) by Hans, Franz, and their cousin Heinrich (Craig, Chris & Eddie Bonet). Their commander was Ed Rozmiarek. I asked for (and received) their blessings to recruit a more experienced group of generals - and what I ended up with was Sheldon Smith, David Vander Ark & Alan Moon. (What with Eddie going AWOL, James Miller joined the Axis side.)

Not to talk bad about any of them - because we stomped the Axis menace into the sandy shores of the Sword Beach scenario. (The final score, 10-6, makes it sound closer than it was.) My vindication about my superior field command skills was tempered a bit by the unbelievable hand of cards I had... we managed to jump off the beaches with two Assault & one Attack card, followed by another similar round, followed by "Their Finest Hour". (One of the key issues in any Memoir landing scenario is to get into firing position quickly - with that accomplished, the rest was a piece of cake.) The German far left held (under the leadership of Herr Miller) but there was a gap between each German commander that allowed us to begin exiting units for the win.

I roped Timothy McCarthy into trying one of my newest acquisitions - the beautiful & odd Du Balai from Asmodee Games. It's a dice-rolling/memory/real-time/action card mishmash where sorcerers race around the board attempting to win first place in the race while doing hot dog manuevers. While I have questions about the scoring (it seems to break down in a 2 player game), the idea of the game is wonderful. And it comes packaged in a book-shaped box that is actually a part of the game - nifty.

Warren, having discovered a kindred spirit when it comes to sports gaming, grabbed me again late in the evening & taught me how to play Dynasty League Baseball. Like I said earlier, I like Diceball!... which is a pretty abstract baseball game. Dynasty League, OTOH, is a detailed sports sim - each player has his own card chockful of ratings & percentages based on his actual stats for a particular year. The level of detail even extends to the weather, the size of the ballpark, and the umpire crew.

With games like this, it's helpful to play with someone experienced who can quickly reference the appropriate charts & rulings... heck, it's darn vital for your first playing. IMHO, Warren (or at least his clone, so Sharon wouldn't be lonely) should come packaged in every box - not only would it be easier to play... but you also wouldn't have to worry about finding an opponent!

It was in the 60's - unseasonably cold weather for a July night game at Pico Rivera. Oral Herschieser started on the mound for the Dodgers (my team!) and John Smoltz started for Atlanta (Warren's team). Both pitchers were sent to the showers after the run-fest that was the second inning (7-6), so both teams went through a procession of relief pitchers. The Atlanta bullpen turned out to be walk-happy (7 walks) and late game surge by the Dodger bats sealed the game for the good guys, 18-8.

And with that, I was off to bed. Man, what an excellent day.

The Boardgaming Roundtable

Well, I guess that's what we're calling it... thanks to the hard work of Doug Garrett & the kind support of Aldie (of BGG fame), we've starting recording a monthly roundtable discussion about games & gaming. (The first of these was actually recorded back in March - you can read more about it here.)

This time around, the four of us (Doug & his lovely wife, Shelley + Ward Batty + me!) discuss Carcassonne. Amidst some spirited interaction about the relative values of the expansions & stand-alone games is some good stuff... and I actually manage to get through the podcast with only one goofy Baptist reference to potlucks as a religious experience. (We were actually able to record this together at Gulf Games on Saturday morning, which was nice.)

If you'd like to listen to it, you can find it at
Garret's Games & Geekiness... and soon at BoardGameSpeak (a part of BoardGameGeek). You can also subscribe to either of these podcasts at iTunes.

The plan is for us to record (via the magic of
Skype) one of these each month... and that Derk & Aldie will be involved in some way on a semi-regular basis. Of course, we're open to topic suggestions, comments, criticisms, and blatant attempts at payola. (OK, the last one is not true.)


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Gulf Games 18: Wednesday

Morning came VERY early on Wednesday, as the first flight in my three-leg journey left Fresno at 5:30 am. Thanks to Dave Zener, I had a ride at 4:10 am... you see, Dave's a grape farmer and already used to being up at that insane hour. (Dave gets his hair cut at Phil's Clip Joint, which is regularly open at 5:30-6:00 am in the morning to accommodate the local farmers - can you tell I live in a semi-rural area?!)

Everything went smooth as silk getting to San Francisco. Once I arrived I found my next departure gate, toodled off to the bakery for a cinnamon roll, and returned just a few minutes before my good friend, Joe Huber, arrived.

Joe lives in Boston (well, outside Boston - he explained exactly where, but pesky details from last week are gone now) but was working in Santa Clara this week. So, we were amazed to discover that we had exactly the same flights to Louisville for Gulf Games - and the folks at the United Customer Service counter were nice enough to book us together for the rest of our flights. (Note: this will be the last nice thing I say about United Customer Service for a while.)

Joe & I played Rosenkonig in the terminal before boarding our flight - Joe's been a longtime fan of this placement game (going back to the original version, Texas), and his enthusiasm is what finally got me interested in buying a copy of the game for myself. What intrigues me is how a game with "perfect" information (all cards are visible) can still move along at such a nice clip. I managed to win this one going away.

Once on the plane, our conversation ranged from the Gathering to game design to stories of our kids to who knows what else. We stopped every once in a while to watch Skrat scenes from Ice Age 2 (which was the inflight movie) - those being the best part of the film. (Note: I'll reference Skrat's eternal quest for an acorn later in this post - watch for it.)

And, of course, we played games. This was Joe's first opportunity to play
Mystery Rummy 4: Al Capone - and he took me to school. (Sigh - I used to be good at this one.) It's a personal favorite of mine and it was nice to see Joe respond to it so well.

We also played Crazy Chicken (more recently released in a stunningly overproduced & overpriced edition as Drive by Simply Fun). At the end of the game, Joe suggested that the optimal way to play the game is to put down singles and/or small groups early - that the game devolves the longer you play. I'm not sure I understand or agree with this - but it did get me thinking. (Joe, if you'd like to explain yourself, the comments section is open to you!)

The last game on our flight to the Windy City was Streetsoccer - which I won 3-1 after the dreaded "bad dice" grabbed hold of Joe & wouldn't let go. (Interesting playing Streetsoccer on two airplane tray tables - every bit of turbulence made the players move around like we were playing Electric Football.)

And then the "fun" began... our flight was a bit late, so we knew we'd have to move fast to get to our next gate. But the flight attendant hadn't read our gate off in her list of connections - so where were we supposed to go? No gate agent met the flight... and then, to our surprise, the Louisville flight wasn't listed on the monitors. We hoofed it down concourse C to Customer Service, where the gentlemen helping out in the line basically asked "Have you looked at the monitors?" Joe stayed there and waited... and waited... and waited... while I ran to a courtesy phone to get a straight answer - but all I got was a busy signal. I commenced running up and down the concourse, looking for gate agents, finally finding one who was able to let me know that we were flying out of F12.

For those of you who've been to Chicago O'Hare, you'll quickly realize that the marathon sprint from Concourse C to Concourse F involves not only great distance but any number of odd turns & twists... as well as trying to get past huge throngs of people. Joe & I - neither one of us in our athletic prime, to say the least - gave it our best shot, but to no avail.

She re-booked my ticket for the 6:30 pm flight... and Joe was put on stand-by. We then spent a fruitless half hour standing in yet another customer service line to try & make sure our baggage would arrive in Louisville if we rented a car. (Which, in the long run, turned out to be more of a hassle than waiting for our flight - but just barely.) Finally tired of the runaround, we adjourned to a Chili's for a meal & some time to relax.

After dinner, of course, it was time for more games! After the earlier success of MR4, I brought out Mystery Rummy 3: Jekyll & Hyde. It's probably the least impressive game of the series, but that didn't stop Joe from winning it.

It was about this point that we found out that our plane was delayed - so out came The Game Of Life Card Game. This is actually a very nice little card game with some fun decisions... so my Scientist spent lots of time doing good & racking up points while Joe's Police Officer had a record 8 children. (I won... Joe actually had negative Time for a chunk of the game.)

More delays - so we played Zwergen Ziehen - a funky tug-of-war card game of garden gnomes & squirrels. (The theme is that they are actually conducting a tug-of-war under the fence with a garden hose.) This is another game Joe had recommended that I've thoroughly enjoyed - and another game where Joe beat me handily.

And finally, we were on the plane. Joe's stand-by ticket came through, and we wedged ourselves into our seats... only to taxi around almost all of the terminals at O'Hare. Really. It was 75 minutes from the point we left the gate until the time we left the ground. (There is a certain level of miserable that occurs when you're stuck in a plane with a lot of other people and the air conditioning is, to say the least, inadequate. I seriously thought about jamming my face up into the tiny air vent above me.)

It was at this moment that I realized that we (Joe & I) were Skrat - and that Louisville was our acorn. Somehow, this was much funnier on Wednesday night in the midst of the horror than it is now - but you understand where I'm coming from, right?!

While we taxied, Joe & I played another game of MR4... picking it up when it looked like we might take off, then returning it to the tray tables when it became obvious we weren't leaving the ground. This game, sadly, was never finished - we probably had one more hand as the score was close (both of us 150+).

Once airborne, the flight to Louisville was easy. The airport shuttle picked us up almost as soon as we had our luggage - so we finally stumbled into the game room at 1 am EST. No more games for us that night - unless you count waking up Doug Cheatham so I could get into the room a game. (Sorry again, Doug!)

All in all, a very long day - I can not express how much of a God-gift it was to have Joe along through all the trials & tribulations.

I'd also like to say "thank you" to United Customer Service - not for the debacle at O'Hare, but for the way they handled it yesterday when I called their customer service line.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Gulf Games 18: Louisville

Over the next week or so, I'll be blogging my way through my Gulf Games experience on a day by day (inadvertent Godspell reference) & game by game basis. For now, let me just fill you in on the highlights:
  • Gulf Games started early for Joe Huber & I as we winged our way across the U.S. playing 2 player games
  • some less-than-stellar behavior by ground personnel at Chicago O'Hare added substantially to our travel time
  • Ted doesn't snore nearly as bad as he thinks he does (thanks again to Ted for allowing me to be his roomie)
  • I got to play a lot of new (or, at least, new to me) games (sample: Thurn & Taxis, the SdJ winner for 2006)
  • I got to play a lot of games I really like (sample: Around the World In 80 Days)
  • I got to play games with a lot of people (78 - enough for me to win the Mr. Friendly contest again)
  • then there were the "special" events, like the Allied revenge for last year's drubbing by the Axis in Memoir '44: Overlord... or the great game of Descent: Journeys in the Dark we played on Friday morning with Lug (Kevin R), The Old Man (Greg S), The Human Bomb (Kyle B) and "You Go First!" (Alan Moon)
  • and the nightly sports gaming, courtesy of The Weather Channel's Warren Madden: two games of Pizza Box Football (I lost both of those) and two games of Dynasty League Baseball (1-1)
  • I made the finals of the Liar's Dice tourney... again. (Have I won? Did I win this time? Read the blog, people!)
  • I enjoyed officiating my Dice Box of Mystery competition... congrats to David Vander Ark, who walked away with the win over the two other finalists, Craig Berg & Ed "I Can Do Hand Motions But I Can't Remember the Game" Rozmiarek
  • speaking of the Rozmiarek clan, enjoying them (and John Palaygi) after everyone else had departed
Man, there's so much more than that... stay tuned for all the details!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


I've got less than 24 hours until I leave for Gulf Games, so my brain is completely, utterly, totally & in all other ways fried. I still have to pack & spend time with my family & finish up stuff here at the church. But before I do any of that, a final pre-Gulf Games post... a scattershot of thoughts, ideas & whatnot.
  • I "talked" (thanks to G-chat) to Joe Huber yesterday... and it turns out that he & I are on the same flights from San Francisco - O'Hare - Louisville tomorrow. Which means that Gulf Games will start earlier than planned - and my whole "I'll sleep on the plane" plan is pretty much toasted. (I'm looking forward to time with Joe - he's not only a savvy game designer, what with Scream Machine & Ice Cream published - but he's also a good friend.)
  • "[Pastors must be careful to] run as fast as our character is deepening and not as fast as our talent is expanding... Run as fast as your character goes deep and not as a fast as your talent goes wide." (Erwin McManus on the Catalyst podcast)
  • Just finished reading the Astro City: Local Heroes trade paperback... once again, if you have any background in reading super-hero comics, you should not miss out on the incredible world Kurt Busiek has created - these stories are possibly the best comics has to offer right now.
  • "The cavalry is here. Of course the cavalry is a scared guy with a rock." (Xander from Buffy The Vampire Slayer)
  • Sometime in the next couple of weeks, I'm going to start a new series of posts here on the blog - I want to write about the music that's been the "soundtrack of my life."
  • Had a great time playing games yesterday with Braeden & his best buddy, Canaan. They managed to knock me around at Mouse Trap, Jurassic Park: Lost World, Hisss & Toy Story: Toys Away! Yes, I understand it's not Caylus, Goa or Die Macher - but you really can't beat having a good time with your son... even with a "meaty" game.
  • "I wanted to play 'Mousetrap.' You roll your dice, you move your mice. Nobody gets hurt." (Bob the Tomato from The Toy That Saved Christmas)
See you next week!

Monday, July 17, 2006

48 Hours

By this time Wednesday, I'll be winging my way across the U.S. enroute to Gulf Games 18. (Maybe that's not the best choice of words - "winging" implies some kind of speed, and due to the vagaries of air travel out of Fresno & into Louisville, I will actually be forced to fly in the wrong direction to start my 10 hour journey.)

Of course, once I arrive in Louisville, the 3 hour time difference will mean that my body/brain will think it's three hours earlier than local time - thus fooling me into staying up way too late playing games. If I'm not smart about this (and history has shown that "being smart about health" and "opportunities to play board games" are pretty much mutually exclusive categories in my life), I will end up with one hefty weird case of jet lag by the time I fly back home on Monday.

So, here's my plan:
  • sleep a lot on the three different flights I'll "enjoy" on Wednesday (Fresno - San Francisco - Chicago O'Hare - Louisville)
  • go to bed by 2 am on Wednesday night
  • pace myself so that I'm not a complete wreck by Saturday afternoon ("Pace? What is this pace you speak of? I am not familiar with the concept of, how you say, pace?")
  • sleep a lot on the three different flights I'll "enjoy" on Monday (Louisville - Chicago O'Hare - Los Angeles - Fresno)
A lot of the folks attending Gulf Games are planning on side trips to Kentucky Kingdom or the Louisville Slugger factory... which implies that they plan to leave the hotel at some point. I'm with Ted Cheatham - following one of the early Gulf Games (that was actually in a hotel on the Gulf of Mexico, hence the name!), Ted was asked about whether or not he enjoyed the beach (right outside the hotel). He replied, "Beach? What beach?" I mean, why go outside into the miserable/hot/humid joy that is Kentucky in July when there are good friends to talk with & great games to play?

I may be able to get a post or two off before I leave... but I don't plan on blogging from Wednesday - Monday. When I return, though, I'll kick into high gear & blog my Gulf Games experiences.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Collin's First "Game"

Which, OK, really wasn't a game in that

A. it's Snail's Pace Race by Ravensburger, which is barely a game even when you play it by the rules, and

B. with a 15 month old, rules are kind of a foreign concept (as is "don't put that in your mouth" and "please stop throwing your food to indicate that you have finished eating.")

Still, it was really fun to set out a game and have both of my boys join me at the table. I'm looking forward to this being a regular thing for the three of us.

Later in the morning, Braeden & I ended up playing my newest trade acquisition (thanks to the Bazaar at BGG), Jurassic Park: The Lost World Game. (More on that in another post!) While we played, Collin sat in his high chair & played with "his" dice. Yes, my Secret Plan For Creating A Third Gamer In My Family is working out just fine.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Games Cafe

Wow. I was doing bloggish house-cleaning this morning & found this post - originally written the first week of January. Whoops - sorry I didn't remember to post this earlier.

It was Jimbo's idea. (Yes, his name is Jimbo - actually, Jim Christiansen. But we all call him "Jimbo" - in fact, so much that one of Braeden's buddies, Canaan, corrected someone and made sure they knew that he was "Mr. Bo.") Cordon off an area at the Tsunami Youth Conference where teenagers & youth leaders could hang out and learn some new board games.

And I went for it... not only do I enjoy board gaming (surprise, surprise) but I love being able to make a difference at an event aimed at helping youth see Jesus in a fresh way.

So, last Wednesday & Thursday, we took over 12 round tables in Exhibit Hall A of the San Jose Convention Center and taught "designer" games for roughly 6 hours each day. And when I see "we", I refer to my incredible crew of game "leaders": Crystal Enochs, Josh Bussell & Aaron Croteau. All love to play games and do so on a regular basis in our Wednesday night small group - but it's going "above & beyond" to teach teenagers, many of whom had never seen this kind of stuff before. They deserve more than the small stipend we were able to pay them.

My best guess is that we had roughly 400 different folks through our area in two days (the event has roughly 4000 attendees). It's hard to put an exact figure on this: we had a number of folks (kids & adults) who returned each time the Cafe was open to play a game they liked or to teach it to someone new. At "high points" in the crowd, we had 9-10 tables busy, with 40-60 people in the area.

Almost none of the folks who visited the Cafe had ever heard of these games... and yet, given a person who could explain the rules and get them started, they took to most of the games like ducks to water. What follows is a list of games that we brought/taught, along with some notes on the response to them.

Standing Ovation
  • Carabande was insanely popular... I set up a track with 2 basic sets & 1 action set. (Aaron then spent a half hour "tuning" it... using slips of paper as shims to smooth out the surface.) There was never more than a 5 minute lull at the Carabande table... it was played the entire two days.
  • Diamant was also a hit... invariably, we would teach/play a game with a group of kids, who would promptly ask if they could play it again. We left Diamant out on the table both days and it saw regular play. (I also participated in my first game of Diamant in which we RAN OUT of diamonds... talk about your big money games!) [Note: Diamant, which has been overpriced in the original German edition, will be released here in America as Inca Gold later this year. The $15.00 MSRP is much more reasonable!]
  • The third game that saw nearly constant play was Blokus... a bit of a surprise, considering that it's best with 4 players and a bit slower in speed. Of course, the primary Blokus players were adults.
  • Jungle Speed also went over well. It wasn't played constantly, but it was easy to get a game started. (I also witnessed the most physical game of Arriba/Jungle Speed I've ever seen... they played that the stick was "live" even when it went off the table. So when it bounced under the table, there went three football player-looking guys after it. Yikes!)
  • Pickomino was the favorite of another group... even when they played with a full complement of 7 players! (For the record, I think the game is best with 4-5 players.)

Sustained Applause

  • We had good success with Igloo Pop, though the level of noise in the convention area made hearing the rattle a bit difficult.
  • Circus Flohcati was another game that I enjoyed teaching to several groups - and one junior high kid fell in love with it and taught all of his friends.
  • There was one youth leader that somehow sat through the rules explanation to Saboteur - then gathered his youth group & taught it to them. Success... though a surprise to me. (It's a very "gamer-y" filler game.)
  • I tried to avoid OOP games (OK, I did bring Carabande), but I knew from long experience that Tohu Wabohu works like a charm with students. It didn't fail me this time - the group I taught it to played 3 times in a row.
  • I also brought two of my Christmas gift games from my wife, Ice Cream & Fjords. Both went over well with the groups we taught them to. (Fjords was actually taught to a pair of guys during a very slow period on the 2nd evening.)

Thunderous Silence

  • Take 6 (well, Category 5) didn't work well at all - which surprised me to no end. I've always found this game easy to grasp & teach. But I think the combination of inexperienced non-gamers & convention hall background distractions kept this one from clicking.
  • Villa Paletti was also a bust - I just didn't take into account how long it takes to grok the rules to this one. Yes, it looks cool, but it's too easy to treat it like Jenga, when it's actually a very different kind of game. (The cool look did come in handy when I was setting up my session room.)

As well, I used Halli Galli, Tohu Wabohu & Bongo during my "hot topic" sessions - I got to speak about using board games to further youth ministry 3 different times. Thanks to Knucklebones for the giveaway magazines... and to GameSurplus for arranging a special discount for folks who came to my classes.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

DW, Bill Cosby & Evercrack

You don't want to get me started on Dungeons & Dragons and Satan; or D&D as a corrosive element in modern youth; or D&D as an addictive force that generates slack-jawed losers who, as they age, become increasingly inept at social activities that don't focus on hit points, class, alignment or leveling up.

Back when I used to sell street bikes for a living, during the very early days of my game store, I was asked by a friend who hated motorcycles if I had any ethical considerations about selling 100 horsepower bikes to 19 year old kids suffering from adrenaline overload. All I could say was, Hey! I own a game store. I sell D&D. If I'm burning in hell someday it isn't going to be because of a biker kid who overcooks it into a corner and gets introduced to a logging truck. It'll be because despite what TSR and industry PR-Schmoes say, D&D really is a force of evil on the planet. from Game Store Confidential: Dumb Gamers by DWTripp on the blog Gone Gaming

Folks in the gaming world are not going to mistake me for DWTripp. (Let's just say that DW is, well, colorful - and that color is often a bright & lurid shade of blue.) Don't get me wrong - I enjoy (most of the time) reading Game Store Confidential... DW's a funny & insightful guy when it comes to games & the business of games. Still, there's not much chance of us being twins separated at birth.

And then, some months back, I read his comment about Dungeons & Dragons (abbreviated for the rest of this post as D&D). I laughed, not just because it's funny... but because I'm a former D&D player & Dungeon Master (hereby abbreviated as DM) - and he's partly right.

However, this wasn't a conclusion I came to until much later in life. Here's the primary reasons I think that D&D is a "corrosive element" (if not a "force of evil on the planet."):

The Bill Cosby Factor

To explain my reasoning, I need to quote noted philosopher Bill Cosby from his film Bill Cosby Himself:

I said to a guy, "Tell me, what is it about cocaine that makes it so wonderful?" and he said, "Because it intensifies your personality." I said, "Yes, but what if you're an a*****e?"

It's my humble opinion that D&D works in a similar way: it intensifies your personality. In most board & card games, whatever mess you've got going in your own life doesn't tend to surface at the table. (There are, of course, exceptions - usually negotiation games.) But in D&D, you are pouring your heart & soul into a character which you create not just for an evening of play but for extended periods of time. (In the words of Eeyore, "weeks, months, years... who knows?")

With that kind of identification over time, the game can easily become a place to act out unresolved issues from your "real life." For example, one of the guys I use to roleplay with was the youngest brother in a family of macho brothers... and was mercilessly picked on, both emotionally & physically. When we played D&D, he treated the rest of the party and the NPC's with the same kind of disdain that he received from his brothers. (It was a "safe" environment... if challenged on his buttheadness, he could - and did! - rationalize that he was "just playing his character.")

Now, if you're playing with mostly healthy individuals, this probably isn't a big deal. But my personal experience as a pastor and gamer lead me to believe that if we drew a Venn diagram of the subsets "emotionally healthy individuals" and "rabid D&D players", the overlap would not be, shall we say, large.

Of course, the Bill Cosby Factor implies that this is true of role-playing in general, not just D&D. I'm not sure that's the best way to read my theory. The anecdotal evidence from my own life is conflicting:
  • Many of the same guys in my D&D group also played Traveller, with much less frustration, stupidity & rudeness. Was it the system... or was it the way I ran the two games differently?
  • OTOH, when I ran a boardgaming club in Nashville, we shared our in-store night with two RPG groups... one who played D&D with the store owner DMing (which was as "normal" as those kind of things go) and one that played a variety of RPG systems - and managed to get in rules fights & personality clashes on a regular basis. It didn't matter what system these guys played... there was a better than even chance of these guys getting ticked off at each other, spewing venom & anger on themselves and everyone around them.
"So, what's the problem?," you ask. "OK, I'll buy that D&D allows more borderline personality types to act out than, say, El Grande, but that just means that the chances of you having a bad personal experience with the game is enhanced." True, which leads us to...

The EverCrack Factor

I thought I had seen addiction at its worst during the height of the Magic: the Gathering craze. It's a little scary to watch people plunk down hard earned cash for a tiny foil packet, rip it open, sort quickly through the cards... and then grab another pack from the display and fish for their wallet again. And again. (Granted, this was wonderful for your average brick & mortar game store - the CCG addicts paid a lot of light bills - but it still is disconcertingly like watching a junkie scrounging around a toilet for the fix he dropped.)

But CCG addiction was minor compared to the effect of EverCrack aka Everquest. This online role-playing game had some guys in our group refusing to come play boardgames... or do anything else for that matter. A typical day for these guys was:
  • wake up
  • play Everquest while eating breakfast
  • go to work
  • think about Everquest while working
  • come home
  • play Everquest while eating dinner... and then well into the night
  • fall asleep and dream about Everquest
  • lather... rinse... repeat... (of course, by using this metaphor for doing the same thing over & over, I am not implying that those who were addicted to EverCrack remembered to shower...)

Look, I know that any game system can be involving - even in the Euro gaming community:

  • those groups that refuse to play anything but Settlers of Catan
  • the Puerto Rico snobs who openly ridicule "substandard" opening moves
  • the Heroscape addicts who pester store managers on a near-daily basis to see if the latest expansion has arrived (admission: I've never actually pestered a store manager, but I've sure thought about it)

But there is a special quality to games that create an ongoing "virtual" world that is seductive & interesting... and can lead to some seriously obsessive behaviors. Like refusing to have a real life because your "virtual" life is so much better.

So, combine intense identification (sometimes to the point of transference) with obsessive/addictive behavior... and you've got DW's "corrosive influence." D&D has the potential for bringing out great creativity in those who play it - while at the same time talking some folks "over the edge" into a "virtual world" where they attempt to hid from their real world issues behind stacks of manuals, graph paper & polyhedral dice.

I am not saying that "D&D turns everything it touches to crap." Many folks involved in roleplaying live normal adult lives. They are able to have a conversation without bringing up their character and his latest adventures. They have relationships that center around feelings & responsibilities, instead of trying to get their girlfriend to wear a chainmail bikini and planning their employment around their gaming sessions.

I'm just saying that it has the potential for harm... handle with care.

You'll notice that I didn't list "Christianity vs the occult" as my reason for agreeing with DW. (Man, I can tell I have two young children... every time I type DW, I think about Arthur & Buster.) If I'd chosen to do that, we would have had to title this post DW, Black Oak Arkansas & World of Warcraft.

I'm not saying that this isn't a questionable area. I've had friends who found D&D to be a stepping stone into so-called "white magic" and a passle of other activities which are clearly forbidden in the Bible. It just wasn't the primary reason I found compelling in my own life.

For some of you, that's bothering you... a lot. In my role as a pastor, I should be thundering down the Mountain of Truth, riding my noble steed, Zeal, (armed with a double-edged "sword") as I tear into these godless pagans who would actually be involved in "fantasy." Sorry - that's not gonna happen. (I'll talk about the positive use of fantasy in another post.)

OTOH, some of you need to stop snickering behind your hands at Christians who take a strong & consistent stance on cultural issues. You may or may not agree that avoiding the works of J.K. Rowling & J.R.R. Tolkien is an intelligent decision, but you need to acknowledge their right in a free society to do such a thing - and their courage to forego "fitting in" to stand by their convictions.

Note to both sides: that's what tolerance REALLY is: letting people believe other things without verbally and/or physically attacking them for doing so. You don't have to agree with them... goodness knows I think Al Franken's a funny man who should stop trying to be political and that Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer who was the first to figure out that nobody was catering to the political views of 50% of Americans. Either way, they both have the right to speak - and toleration means I don't try to shut them up via legal or illegal means. (I just turn the dial back to Jack 105.9 and/or slip in some David Crowder Band.)

And, in a final parting shot, what tolerance is NOT: making sure everyone expresses thoughts that everyone can agree with, or at least pretend to agree with.)

Not Exactly Summer Reading Material

After a day or two to think about it, I realize that a sum total of none of you (that would be zero, zip, zilch) will ever read Niebuhr's Christ & Culture. I'm betting no one clicked on the link, either. (OK, maybe my friend Scott did, but he's a church history doctoral student, so he doesn't count.)

I'd chide all of you about your intellectual laziness (obviously brought on by watching too many reality TV shows & playing too many board games), but I'm busy googling information about the new season of The Amazing Race & loading my suitcases to go to Gulf Games to bother with the lecture.

Instead, I want to suggest some books to you that helped shape my thinking on the whole subject of Christians & their interaction with culture. Reading even one of them could help redefine how you view the world - read more than one & see what happens! (The links for the books that follow are for - with the exception of Turn Back The Night, which is OOP & difficult to locate. The links for the authors lead to their websites or websites about their various ministries.)

Is Rescuing Right? (Randy Alcorn)

Put aside the pro-life focus of this book... Randy Alcorn does an amazing job of speaking logically & Biblically about Christian involvement in political change, particularly by using civil disobedience. He is not a fire-breathing hate-monger... instead, he's an insightful guy who shares about his own journey to his stance on these issues. (Randy is also a fiction writer - I esp. like
Deadline - and his book Heaven is flat-out the best book on the subject I've ever read.)

Roaring Lambs (Bob Briner)

It doesn't seem quite as radical now, but when Bob Briner first began speaking & writing about his "roaring lambs" concept - that Christians should be involved in the "secular" culture as salt & light - we were still caught in the throes of castigating writers, musicians & actors for "crossing over & selling out." Bob wrote a number of books - another one I like is Lambs Among Wolves, which tells the stories of some folks who are living "roaring lamb" kind of lives.

The Radical Reformission: reaching out without selling out (Mark Driscoll)

Mark is always colorful, incredibly deep and occasionally WAY over the top... but he's never dull and he does one of the best things a writer/pastor can do - he forces you to think. His is the most recent book on cultural engagement I've read - the chapter "going to seminary in the grocery store" hits the nail right on the head.

Serious Times: Making Your Life Matter In An Urgent Day (James Emery White)

Lots of people write about opposing worldviews... but few write so eloquently about worldview changes AND how we as followers of Christ should work to impact the culture around us. (He has written two "follow-up" books - so far - to the principles he advanced in Serious Times: A Mind For God and The Prayer God Longs For.)

True Believers Don't Ask Why (John Fischer)

This book is a collection of essays of varying quality, but "The Adventures of Reefer" should be required reading for every person mired in the Christian subculture. Fischer has also written a number of other good books on Christians interacting wisely & graciously with culture... as well as releasing a number of albums in 70's & 80's.

Turn Back the Night: a Christian response to popular culture (Stephen Lawhead)

Stephen Lawhead is one of my favorite fiction authors... I absolutely adore his Pendragon cycle (a series of 5 books - or 6, if you count Avalon - about the Arthurian legends) and his most recent completed series The Celtic Chronicles, which used the Crusades as a backdrop for great adventure & even greater spiritual truths. But way back when (over 20 years ago), what I knew Stephen Lawhead for was his thoughtful book on how to lovingly deal with cultural issues. (I've mentioned it before on my blog, in a post entitled Enter Pastor Man... I take a stroll down memory lane through my musical history, and then use Lawhead's "grid" to help explain how to think about art & truth. Go read it - I'll wait right here for you.)

Also good on this subject:

There. That ought to keep your book bag full on your vacation to the beach.

This article originally appeared in the 7/12/06 issue of the Grapevine, the newsletter of NewLife Community Church.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Then There's A Pair of Us... But Hush!

Ever have one of those moments when you read something someone else wrote and it's like a flash bulb illuminated the dark corners of your own life? "That's me!" you cry. "I'm not alone!"

Well, with 700+ games in my game room & three different packages on the way, this blog post on Gone Gaming pinned me to the wall.

Does This Copy of Gettysburg Make Me Look Phat?

Pithy quote to wet your appetite:

My lovely wife from the 70's and 80's, Cinthia, the Sicilian one, used to ask me why I never got rid of any clothes. I usually didn't have an answer, but once, during a period where the Survivalists were all the rage and Red Dawn was a hit movie, I pointed out that when the Marxists conquered the weakened and greedy America, we'd have plenty of clothes. So she asked, "Does that goes for the 2,500 albums you have stacked to the rafters too? You want music to listen to between mortar rounds?"

Read & enjoy.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Pixar vs the World

OK, not the world... but at least a couple of the movies I've seen in the last few weeks.

Just a few days after I saw Cars, I watched Herbie: Fully Loaded on DVD. The animated races in Cars were exciting, visually interesting... and emotionally compelling. In contrast, the races in Herbie felt like CGI-manipulated versions of the Herbie races from the 60's & 70's. (Yes, I acknowledge that Herbie: Fully Loaded was intended as an homage to the past glory of the Love Bug... but it still felt like a Disney Channel original rather than a fully-fleshed out movie... like Cars!)

Friday night, Shari & I saw Superman Returns... after watching The Incredibles with Braeden that afternoon. As gorgeous as the Superman film is - incredible special effects! - it has very little heart. It's symbols & CGI & wirework... with very little magic and/or fire to the performances or the story. (Exception: Kevin Spacey is the world's greatest bad guy. Ever.) OTOH, The Incredibles were... well, incredible. By the end of the film, you have real feeling for the Parr family. Their adventures are amazing in their inventiveness & humor, while still maintaining a real sense of suspense & fear. (Look, I'd seen the movie before - and I still found myself drawn to the TV to watch it again. A couple of times during Superman Returns I wondered exactly how long the running time was... 'nuff said.)

My personal reactions make me deliriously happy that John Lasseter and the rest of the Pixar crew has been given the keys to the Magic Kingdom & Disney animation - yippee!

Richard Niebuhr, John Travolta & Martin Luther King

Last Sunday, I spoke about Daniel 1 and how Christians should interact with culture. Due to the way we had to put the message notes together this week, I ended up adding a lot of detail that may have just flown past you. (In other words, shame on me for not putting it up on the PowerPoint. Sigh.)

So, I'm here to remedy that!

Back in the 1950's, Richard Niebuhr wrote a classic book entitled Christ & Culture about how the church (and individual believers) interact with society: government, the arts, pop culture, social structures, etc. I had to read this book back in seminary and while it's an excellent study, it's not going to set the publishing world on fire with its' scintillating prose and/or page-turning storyline. It's a book of theology & philosophy that can, even for the best of scholars, function as a sleeping pill. (I am, of course, the perfect example of this. The falling asleep, that is... not the "best of scholars" part.)

Which is sad, because what Niebuhr has to say is important. So, in the interest of informing you while keeping you awake, I'm going to attempt to summarize some of his major points - the ways in which followers of Jesus can choose to interact with culture. (Note: this will obviously be filtered through my own perceptions & preconceived notions about such things, so don't blame Niebuhr for the stuff that doesn't make sense and/or isn't actually what he wrote.)

The Attack Dog Of Jesus

Niebuhr calls this "Christ Against Culture" - these are the folks who choose to tear up other people in the name of Jesus. It's "us versus them" as far as they are concerned - a godless, reckless & evil world against the church. It's this kind of viewpoint that spawns behavior like the folks from Westboro Baptist Church (not, btw, a Southern Baptist church) in Topeka, KS... picketing the funerals of the Sago Mine disaster victims and U.S. servicemen killed in Iraq, claiming that their deaths are America's punishment for allowing homosexual behavior.

The Church In A Plastic Bubble

Some of you are too young to remember John Travolta playing a young boy with an immune deficiency disease (this was the 70's, prior to AIDS) in a TV called "The Boy In The Plastic Bubble." That's OK - it's an apt metaphor for an alternate (and all too common) expression of "Christ Against Culture". Rather than rush to battle, these folks flee in retreat... hiding behind a wall of Christian books & CD's & films. While marginally "safer" from theologically difficult questions and/or difficult people, this ostrich-like behavior often ends up with us sheltered by Petra's "rose-colored stained glass windows" watching "while the world goes to hell in a shopping cart." (That lyrical quote is from a long-defunct band, Prodigal. And yes, I realize it is ironic for me to quote CCM bands when I'm castigating folks for living in the church bubble.)

Funhouse Mirrors

Niebuhr mentions another possible response - "Christ of Culture." This crew of folks reads the Bible (and thinks about Jesus) through the lens of particular cultural expressions... a devotion to the poor & downtrodden leads to interpreting every Biblical passage as if Jesus' primary mission was to end poverty. Political oppression suggests liberation theology (which I'll be happy to discuss with you some other time, but right now it'll just be "rabbit-chasing"); American materialism puts a funhouse mirror up to the Scriptures & ends up as prosperity theology (aka "name it & claim it", aka "health & wealth gospel".)

While the Bible is meant to be read in context of our particular situation, we can do great violence to the truth while dressing our paper doll Jesus in the clothes we've cut out of our cultural background. Bad idea, campers, bad idea.

Hollywood Stuntmen

I'm impressed when someone rides a horse... any horse. (I'm scared to death of them!) So when a stuntman manages to ride standing with his left leg on one horse & his right leg on a second horse, color me blown away. Of course, it's hard for me not to think about what might happen if the horses decided to go opposite directions. Ouch.

Which brings us to "Christ & Culture in Paradox" - Niebuhr's grouping for those who believe that culture (particularly government) and Christianity have separate but equally legitimate spheres of influence. Which, as far as it goes, is all fine & good. It helps make sense of Jesus' admonition for us to "render Caesar what is Caesar's" or Paul's teachings on obeying the government. But what happens when a government (or some cultural entity) campaigns for and/or mandates behavior that is evil?

In the "real world", far from the theoretical land of philosophy, this means we have to pick & choose. So when Martin Luther King decides to march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, what happens to a number of white clergymen who decided to join him? They lose their jobs. The spheres are not as separate as we'd like to think.

Salt & Light

Salt makes food taste better. Light shows you what's really going on. Excellent images for the final response we're going to look at: "Christ Transforming Culture."

Honestly, this is what I believe we should be doing as followers of Christ. Rather than snarling at the world as if Jesus was holding our leash, or breathing the rarified air of our own alternative culture, we can make a difference, a Kingdom difference, in the world in which God placed us. It doesn't require us to reinterpret Jesus in light of whatever philosophy floats our boat, or to attempt to compartmentalize our lives in order to be "good Christians & good citizens."

What it does require of us is summarized nicely in Romans 12:1-2 (The Message):

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life-your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life-and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

As we are "changed from the inside out", we can make the same thing happen in the culture around us. Instead of picketing movies we don't like, we can influence the making of films that reflect Scriptural truth. Instead of slavishly buying anything from a Christian publisher/record label, we can reward quality music with our attention & our hard-earned dollars, regardless of who wrote it and/or performed it. Instead of attempting to wall off our beliefs from our politics or our work or our recreation, we can examine our lives & decisions in the light of Jesus Christ - and make sure that our highest loyalty is to Him.

And when we live that way - shot through with the grace & love that He modeled in His life, death & resurrection - we can see the world transforming as His power flows through us.

A couple of notes:
  1. I fully realize that Niebuhr had five "points" - but for my purposes, I'm only treating four of them. Look, this isn't a graduate seminar - if you want the details, go buy the book! :-)
  2. When I enthusiastically call for the transformation of culture ('cuz I think that's in the Bible), I'm not saying that I think mankind can create some kind of heaven on earth. Take a look at the history of utopian societies for a quick lesson in how lousy we are at the whole "perfect life" business. But, as followers of the One who created this earth & these people, I don't think we're supposed to sit around and fiddle while Rome burns, either.

This article originally appeared in the 7/10/06 issue of the Grapevine, the newsletter of NewLife Community Church.

Friday, July 07, 2006

50% of 2006: Five & Dime Report

Some of you have been reading this blog long enough to remember the Five & Dime reports - essentially, I ask a truckload of gamers "What games did you play 10 or more times this year (dimes)? What games did you play 5-9 times this years (nickels)?"

Well, I played 559 games (42 of them for the first time) in the first six months of 2006. (Yes, that is a lot of boardgaming... I'd like to thank the Fresno Gamers, my Wed. nite Under 30's group, and my eldest son, Braeden, for making my obsession possible.)

This is my five & dime list for the first six months of 2006... I'll comment on it after you get through looking at it.

  • Scene-It (both Disney & "vanilla")
  • Akaba
  • Chicken Cha Cha Cha
  • Diamant
  • Frechdachs
  • Funny Bunny
  • Hallo Dachs
  • Hisss
  • Kangi Cup
  • Kayanak
  • Loopin' Louie
  • Marrakesh
  • Max MauseSchreck
  • Monkey Mission
  • Oh, What A Mountain
  • Papua
  • Prizzincn Pimpernel
  • Return of the Heroes (w/expansion)
  • Tanz der Hornochsen
  • Treasure Falls
  • My First Uno

First, why Scene It? Braeden has fallen in love with Disney Scene It... and is actually quite good at it when he doesn't get questions about movies like Old Yeller and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes.

Second, notice that there are only four "adult" games on the list... and three of them are "lightweight." Sigh - lots of gaming time with my son & with a Bible study group who likes Papua very much, but not so much with heavy-duty gamer-y types.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Marriage Counseling As A Way To A Better Gulf Games Experience

No, Shari & I are not having marriage problems. (Of course, when I forget to take out the trash, that's another thing entirely, but we won't go there.)

It's just that I counsel engaged & married couples to be honest & open about their expectations. (A good bit of marital unhappiness is due to desiring a particular behavior in our spouses... and yet expecting them to be mindreaders and figure out exactly what they're supposed to do without any help from us.) *

So, I'm gonna do the same as I get to have my first "full-length" Gulf Games experience since Birmingham (spring 2003)!

Here's what I hope to have happen in less than three weeks:

  • I want my flights to go smoothly. (My last trip to Gulf Games included an interesting landing 10 minutes after takeoff, complete with emergency vehicles beside the runway. Let's not do that again, OK?)
  • I want to play a lot of games. I sorta don't even care if they're good games, though I really don't want 5 days of bad games. (See, the company is good enough to offset bad games - but no matter how much I love Greg Schloesser, I can't do 5 days straight of Wortelboer & Vox Populi.)
  • I want to play some new games... here in the backwater of Fresno, CA, I don't get to see/play much of the bleeding edge stuff. So, I haven't yet played Caylus (Mike Siggins: "Shun him!" **), Thurn & Taxis, Ticket to Ride: Marklin or even most of the new stuff from Haba. Sigh. (Oddly enough, those games aren't as high on my "must try" list as Big Kini, Deluxe Camping, Tempus, Hart an der Grenze, Rum & Pirates and The Great Space Race.
  • I want to spend at least one afternoon playing games with the kids... this is a great group of young people who - when they are not humiliating me at various board games - are a lot of fun to hang around.
  • I want to play Descent: Journeys in the Dark again... since I'm going to have Wednesday night - Sunday afternoon to play games (with time off for sleeping & eating), this is the perfect time to dig into a long game.
  • I want to avoid sunlight as much as possible. (For the record, I am not a vampire. It's just that sunlight implies that I'm not inside playing games, and if I'm gonna take vacation days & travel across the country, I want to pack as much gaming time as possible into my Gulf Games experience.)
  • I want to listen to Craig Berg tell stories until I laugh so hard that I shoot lemonade out my nose.
  • I want to be in competition for Mr. Friendly - I have a reputation to uphold.
  • I want Ted Cheatham to teach me at least one game... preferably with an accent.
  • I want to lead the prayer service on Sunday morning - always a highlight of my Gulf Games experience. (I still remember us meeting in the hotel bar with me sitting on the bar teaching - that was Birmingham. Very cool.)
  • I want to play odd stuff with Frank Branham... we are on odd couple (extra tall long-haired guy who decorates his home with skulls; shorter short-haired SBC pastor) but we have a blast playing games together. What will be this year's Konig der Maulwurfel, Frank?!
  • I want my family to have a great time even without me there... it's always a little tough to leave Shari & the boys behind.

* In suggesting that husbands & wives ought to share their expectations with one another, I don't want to imply that sharing an expectation requires the other party to fulfill the expectation. This open communication simply allows you to discuss the issues and work things out like adults... rather than cross your fingers and hope that your spouse should be working for Dionne Warwick's Psychic Hotline.

** If you aren't already, you need to be listening to Mark Johnson's Boardgames To Go podcast - this saracastic Mike Siggins quote comes from a very interesting show the two of them did on Essen a few months ago. (Mark Johnson admitted he had not played Caylus, causing Mike to gasp for air... priceless.)