Monday, June 30, 2008

It's A Good Thing... natural "coolness" compensates for the fact that I'm posting the results of this silliness on my blog. says I'm a Cool Nerd King.  What are you?  Click here!

What?! You say I don't possess natural coolness?!

Ah, heck... you're probably right.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

I Guess I Shouldn't Be Surprised...

...but what kind of moronic nutball do you have to be to give the Origins Award for best card game of the year to Zombie Fluxx instead of Tom Lehmann's brilliant Race for the Galaxy?!

Look, I'm not saying that people don't enjoy Zombie Fluxx - heck, I like Sequence, which is almost as random. It's just that years from now a new zombie-fied reprint of an 11 year old card game is going to look like a pretty silly choice. (There are now, btw, 7 different versions of Fluxx, not counting the expansion sets.)

OK, it's not "years from now" and it looks like a pretty silly choice. Sigh. Hard to expect better from the folks who thought Stephensons' Rocket was a sci-fi game.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

#78: Das Störrische Muli

Das Storrisches Muli
  • designer: Hartmutt Kommerell
  • publisher: Klee
  • date: 1999
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/6.3
  • age: 8+
  • # of players: 3-5
  • print status: OOP
  • cost: I could not find a copy of this for sale online from a trusted source... sorry.
The two dashing gentlemen in the picture are Ted Cheatham (designer of Silk Road & Gumball Rally) and Greg Schloesser (head of the IGA & well-known gaming figure)... and it was taken in my game room in Nashville, TN, about 7 years ago. This was our late night silliness - and "The Intractable Mules" (that's how the title translates) was perfect.

What I've found out over the years is that DSM (I'm not typing that name again - no way) works just as well with kids as it does with adults. I'm not sure where Klee (the manufacturer) came up with age 8+ recommendation... I've had kids as young as 5 play it and play well.

The game itself is simple - each player is a mule with a blanket that matches one side of a color die. Any missing colors are filled in by neutral mule driver tokens. On your turn, you roll the 2 dice & move the respective pieces one space forward. (If you roll doubles, that piece moves 1 space backwards.) Then you pass the dice to the next player. They may choose to "hold" one of the dice (keeping it on the same face/color without rolling it) but they must roll at least one die. When the first piece (mule or mule driver) reaches the end of the path, Ted shouts something unprintable (OK, that's only when you're playing with Ted) and all of the pieces are turned around and begin racing back towards the ranch (start place).

You win in one of two ways:
  1. If you're the first mule to arrive at the ranch, you win IF the last piece remaining on the board is a mule driver.
  2. If your mule is the last piece on the board, you win.
So, at some point in the game, you have to decide what your "strategy" (and I use the term loosely) will be:
  • pushing all the other mules & drivers toward the ranch in order to be the last mule standing OR
  • racing to the finish while pushing the other mules forward & leaving the drivers alone OR
  • just rolling the dice & hoping for the best (this happens more often than you'd think)
With the silly mules & fast play, it generates a lot of fun in a short time... and works well with groups of kids (w/an adult to referee), mixed groups of adults & kids, and (as you can see from the picture) is a great closer for game groups.

Interestingly, the game was re-published in 2002 with some small tweaks as Trampelfanten. The theme now is stampeding elephants, the pieces are wooden rather than cardboard, and the only rule change I could see is that players who are finish second or worst can still roll even though they're off the board. (In DSM, only the first mule home & mules still on the board can roll - which I think prevents kingmaking.) Sadly, it's also out of print & hard to find.

I'm Your Television Evangelist

My buddy Zion Red (hi, Paul) and I don't always agree on politics, but we both are horrified at the garbage that floods cable channels and radio waves that masquerades as biblical Christianity. He's made a couple of posts recently that are worth your examination: the crisis in christianity & money, its a gas (with the requisite shout-out to Pink Floyd).

His posts reminded me of an amazing rap/dance piece I saw at Mosaic last year - and so I hunted it down on YouTube for y'all. (BTW, as cool as it is here, it was stunning live.)

And, because one thing always reminds me of something else... some extra special Steve Taylor wonderfulness - Cash Cow: A Rock Opera In Three Acts. (Best line ever: "The golden cash cow had a body like the great cows of ancient Egypt And a face like the face of Robert Tilton ...without the horns.")

Wall*E is... wow.

I'll write more on this later - but for now, get up off your duff and go see Wall*E on a big screen. Not only is the animation amazing, but the story is intriguing & beautiful & thought-provoking. (And ignore the hyper-conservative whining about "political undertones" - sheesh. Go find something real to blog about already.)

From the review at Robert Wilonsky:
Many will attempt to describe WALL-E with a one-liner. It’s R2-D2 in love. 2001: A Space Odyssey starring The Little Tramp. An Inconvenient Truth meets Idiocracy on its way to Toy Story. But none of these do justice to a film that’s both breathtakingly majestic and heartbreakingly intimate—and, for a good long while, absolutely bereft of dialogue save the squeals, beeps, and chirps of a sweet, lonely robot who, aside from his cockroach pet, is the closest thing to the last living being on earth.

Friday, June 27, 2008

#79: Mein Lieber Biber

Mein Lieber Biber
  • designer: Heinz Meister
  • publisher: Goldsieber
  • date: 2000
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/5.0
  • age: 6+
  • # of players: 2-6
  • print status: OOP
  • cost: EUR 9,95 (, approx. $14.00)
Take a dash of Bambeleo (the tilting board), add some card-based movement of common pieces (in other words, every player can move every piece) and give it a whimsical theme (beavers taking apart a raft in order to build a dam)... and you've got Mein Lieber Biber. (BTW, that literally translates "My Lovely Beaver" - but the idiom is better translated as "My Friendly Beavers".)

On your turn, you play one of your color-coded cards to move one of the beavers along a series of life rings - if you manage to land one on a life ring that matches his color, you get a "log" (brown Settlers road). If, as happens once in a while, you manage to get a beaver off the raft, you get a log as well.

Of course, you don't want to make the raft capsize - if moving the piece you've chosen cause one or more beavers to go sliding off, the round ends & you lose all your logs. (BTW, this is usually how a round ends when playing with kids.) Play three rounds & find out who has the most logs.

The game as published is not quite tippy enough... you have to get the beavers scattered way across the board to see any real tilt. After trying a number of different ways to fix it, I finally discovered a simple & inexpensive way to make the game work like a charm - put a small piece of felt underneath the wooden pivot piece... the added cushion gives it a little more tippiness without making the game too difficult.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

#80: Monte Rolla

Monte Rolla
  • designer: Manfred Knapp & Ulrike Gattermayer-Knapp
  • publisher: Selecta
  • date: 2003
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/6.6
  • age: 4+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $29.75 (
Monte Rolla is an object lesson in how to take the same basic elements as a supposedly "classic" game (Chutes & Ladders) and turn them into a game people (esp. kids) enjoy playing. You've got your dice rolling, your pieces moving forward or backwards due to the design of the board, and it's basically a race to the finish.

But Monte Rolla gives you two men (marbles) rather than one - so every turn you can decide which piece is the best for you to move. Roll a "6" and you get to roll again and add the rolls together, speeding up the game a bit.

The real act of design brilliance, though, is the thick board which is elevated in the middle, making river paths that take the pieces backwards (in the first & third sections of the race) and forwards (in the second & final sections of the race). Every kid I've played this with has been utterly fascinated by the process of letting their marble go cascading down the river - even when it hurt them! There's a couple of places in the first section where your marble getting knocked downstream can even knock other marbles back.

The first player to get BOTH of their marbles to the sea (finish line) wins... which leaves you with an interesting problem. If you finish one marble quickly in order to keep it safe, you are now at the mercy of the die roll - while the players who balance their marbles' movement always have options.

I know it doesn't sound like much - I can hear some of you shaking your virtual heads at this one. But it is one of the games that's consistently requested by kids who've played it at our house... and that counts for a bunch in my book.

When I Went To Santa Clarita...

...which, btw, wasn't this last week. (I know some of you are wondering what happened to the blog - I was posting at least once a day from early June and then suddenly, poof, no posts. For some of of you, it was like your local Starbucks refused to put caffeine in your coffee.)

Anyway, when I went to Santa Clarita (in January of 2007, I think), I took the train - and, as often happens on the route south out of Fresno, we got shuttled to a siding as a bigger train went by.

That's roughly what happened to the blog this last week - my mom & dad & sister all came to visit, which was wonderful but not conducive to blogging. At the same time, we were finishing up our Vacation Bible School here at NewLife, which is also wonderful (lots of kids expressing an interest in knowing more about being followers of Christ) but also a giant time sink.

So, the blog has been on a siding. I realize that I need to play "catch-up" on the Kid Games 100 (my intention was to be to #70 by the end of June) and there's been some great questions in the comments (Jeff & Jon, I'm talking about you) regarding the Framing The Conversation series that need meaningful answers... plus family is giving me a hard time about not putting up more pictures of the boys.

So, I'll work over the next few days to get off my virtual duff & put my nose to the grindstone (aka fingers to the keyboard). Meanwhile, a quote about postmodernism from a book about physics & social scientists I've been reading:
Nowhere is this more evident than in the perversely influential "postmodernist" school of thought, which insists that there isn't actually a real world "out there" with objective properties that we can try to understand. Instead, truth is completely arbitrary and "constructed" in a social manner by tacit agreement. Another common assertion is that because our thinking & communication are so intimately linked with language, everything can be viewed as a text, and social theory becomes more or less equivalent with literary criticism. Nothing that anyone has ever written has a fixed or true meaning; readers make up the meaning as they go.

The British historian Geoffrey Elton referred to the postmodernist trend as "the intellectual equivalent of crack" for its seductive, anything-goes style of theorizing that essentially frees the author from any responsibility to think coherently. (Mark Buchanan, The Social Atom: Why the Rich Get Richer, Cheaters Get Caught, and Your Neighbor Usually Looks Like You)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Don't Abandon the Cookie Agenda!

For the record, I'm pro-cookie. Especially those cookies Anna Campbell makes...

Thanks to Jason Bennett for pointing this out over on Facebook...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

#81: Powerpuff Girls: Saving the World Before Bedtime

  • designer: Craig Van Ness
  • publisher: Milton Bradley
  • date: 2000
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 2866/6.0
  • age: 8+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: OOP
  • cost: $6.94 or more (
There aren't a lot of TV/movie tie-in games on this list... though if you go to Wal-Mart or Target or Toys'R'Us, you could easily be fooled into thinking that this is the main source of new kid games. Thankfully, the Powerpuff license inspired some really nice design work from Craig Van Ness, one of the gurus behind the development of Heroscape.

The three super heroines zip about the city (game board) at the player's direction - and that direction is provided by cards which specify which piece (or pieces) is moved. Players choose their cards simultaneously and reveal them. The order of play is determined by a time stamp on each of the cards - a nifty design element that gives this game a bit of kick.

When they encounter a villain, the player rolls the appropriate dice (one for each girl present) and sees if they got enough "hits" to vanquish their foe. Defeat enough evildoers & you win the game.

There are re-roll cards as well as traps (which knock out the girls who land in the space for the rest of the turn)... and the card deck has ways to move the girls en masse and to block another player's card. As befits a game about superheroes fighting villains, it jumps along at a very nice pace - a lesson that should have been taken by the guys who designed the Marvel Heroes game.

Although my son & I don't know the Powerpuff Girls TV show, the humor on the cards is cute. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my lack of knowledge about the show didn't diminish my enjoyment of the game one bit.

Proof of Predestination?

Two of my favorite online authors, Linda (Things What Things?) and Jon (Stuff Christians Like) both published blog articles about couches... and not just any couches, but ones they don't like. For those of you Calvinists in the blog audience, you know this wasn't a coincidence.

Linda: Death of a Couch
Furthermore, this couch has been the bane of my moving-related existence for quite some time. I don’t like it that much, it really wasn’t chosen (in 1997) for any reason other than low price, and it has absolutely zero appeal other than functionality. So I decided, as I sat on my couch in my otherwise unpacked apartment on that first day, “I am not moving that couch again.” I thought, “That couch is going out of here in pieces.”

Big talk, of course. That couch was built like a TRUCK. It had a HIDE-A-BED. It weighed about ten thousand pounds (approximately). Heavy, heavy thing, and never a whisper of an interruption in its structural integrity. It was one of those couches where you think, “After nuclear war, it will be just cockroaches and this couch.”
Jon: #303 - Donating Junk To The Church
I'm not sure if satan makes furniture, but if he does, I've met one of his couches. I found it when I was living in Birmingham. I was fresh out of college, working at a Christian advertising agency and I had roughly $40 to my name. Fortunately that is about what the couch I found in the paper cost. Back before Craigslist and Ebay, you didn't get to see 22 photos online for the couch you were going to buy. You read two sentences in the paper and then showed up an an old lady's house that may or may not have had a full size grocery cart in the kitchen.

Framing the Conversation: Elaine & Puddy

The following quote is from Dan Kimball's blog... he was NOT talking about same-sex marriage or even homosexuality. This is from a blog post on preaching about the reality of hell.
I started the sermon giving some examples from pop culture of how we generally portray or think about hell today - from Far Side cartoons with a red devil and pitchfork, to AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" song and then showed a clip from an episode of Seinfeld which is the one where Puddy (Elaine's boyfriend) becomes a "Christian" and listens to Christian music on the radio but then he emotionlessly makes comments to Elaine how she is going to hell and he isn't. He then asks her to steal his neighbors newspaper and he says something like "you're the one going to hell not me, so you might as well steal it". And then she explodes and starts whacking him with the newspaper and says:

"If I am going to hell, you should care that I'm going to hell."

I addressed that when we talk about "hell" it should not be done out of Christian trivia interest or curiosity - but as Elaine stated - if we believe in "hell" then we should be caring about people as why we study this. I specifically stated that only God knows people's eternal destinies and that we cannot say who is or isn't going to hell. It is not a subject to treat lightly or something to ignore. The subject of hell and judgment is written in many places in the New Testament, so I really don't see how we can be skipping it or ignoring the exploration of what these Scriptures and teachings mean. I am not sure how pastors or churches can't address the topic of hell and judgment because of its frequency of being mentioned in the New Testament. I feel odd blogging about hell. But if we do believe in hell, and we believe that people are created in God's image who would then be experiencing judgment and hell - it should make us grieve, and hurt, be in great concern, care, praying, and doing whatever possible we can to be on the mission of Jesus living out and communicating the gospel to people.
Here's the deal... the reason I'm still writing about same-sex marriage is the same reason Dan was writing about hell. If I truly believe that any kind of sexual behavior outside of one man/one woman marriage is sinful & destructive, then if I love people, I'm going to speak up about it.

You may not like what I have to say - you may disagree violently. Heck, you may agree with me but wish I hadn't brought it up because you don't want to think about it or deal with it. But you need to understand that the motivation behind this is NOT hating homosexuals but loving people (hopefully with Christ's love) and wanting them to have the best possible shot at holiness, happiness & wholeness.

I want to paraphrase Dan as a challenge to those folks who are campaigning for the Protect Marriage amendment: if we do believe in marriage, and we believe that people are created in God's image who would then be experiencing judgment and hell because of the choices they make regarding sex & marriage - it should make us grieve, and hurt, be in great concern, care, praying, and doing whatever possible we can to be on the mission of Jesus living out and communicating the gospel to people.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

#82: Steinbeisser

  • designer: Hajo Bucken
  • publisher: Schmidt Spiele
  • date: 1999
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/5.5
  • age: 7+
  • # of players: 2-6
  • print status: OOP
  • cost: EUR 12,50 (, approx. $16.00)

Have you ever seen The Never-Ending Story? (I haven't - but I know about the movie.) The great stone creatures from the film are the featured players in this very odd game of moving rocks (represented by wooden discs) around the woods.

Players take turns rolling a die & moving one of their rocks (discs) around the board - then one of the StoneBiters (that's the literal translation of the name of the game) moves one space on the stone track, eating up any rocks adjacent to their position.

But the StoneBiter not only eats those rocks - he also lumbers into the grass pathway of the players and waits for other rocks to drop into his jaws. (A new StoneBiter is placed on the stone pathway to replace him.) Of course, there's more to the game than that - there's a color die (that determines which StoneBiter will move) that sometimes allows you to shift a StoneBiter on the grass pathway & enables you to free the rocks that he's eaten.

The game ends when one player runs out of rocks or when all of the StoneBiters are on the grass pathway. You win by having the most stones left - in other words, not in the StoneBiters' bellies.

It's really an abstract game of risk management - but it's hard to see that when the nifty plastic sculpted StoneBiters sit in the center of the board. (BTW, this is one of the few games on the Kid Games 100 that the suggested age really is pretty darn appropriate.)

Framing the Conversation: NPR Says It Better Than Me

I know that many of you who read this blog - esp. those of you who are bothered by my stance on same-sex marriage - are sure that I've been watching too much Fox News & on re-broadcasts of Focus on the Family.

Please read the following story, Gay Rights, Religious Liberties: A Three-Act Story, at
The defendants' attorney, Jordan Lorence at ADF, says that of course a Christian widget-maker cannot fire an employee because he's gay. But it's different when the company or a religious charity is being forced to endorse something they don't believe, he says.

"It's a very different situation when we're talking about promoting a message," Lorence says. "When it's 'We want to punish you for not helping us promote our message that same-sex marriage is OK,' that for me is a very different deal. It's compelled speech. You're using the arm of the government for punishing people for disagreeing with you."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

#83: Sorry! - Pokémon

Sorry! - Pokemon
  • designer: uncredited
  • publisher: Hasbro
  • date: 2000
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/4.0
  • age: 6+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: OOP?
  • cost: $15.40 (Amazon)
Sorry! is one of those games it has become "cool" to crack on... and one of the comments you hear that drives me nuts is "Winning is purely the luck of the draw." I'm sorry (intentional pun!) but that's just not true - it's kind of like people saying that backgammon is all about getting good rolls. There are decisions to be made - decisions that affect your ability to play... and, if you roll that way, you can do a bit of card counting to assess the probabilities.

But that isn't why Sorry! - Pokemon is popular at our house... it's the special power cards for each of the colors that add some extra randomness to the game while also speeding it up. The cards work as "normal" number cards unless the correctly colored player draws them - and then they help that player move their pieces faster or even teleport a piece into the finish area.

Now, you may wonder why I'd think that more chaos is better - while I'm known for loving fluffy games, I'm not a big fan of chaotic games. In this case, the increased game speed from the special power cards make the game accessible to a wider number of kids & family members... which is a good thing.

Framing the Conversation: How To Get Yourself Fired From An Ultra-Traditional SBC Church

I'd originally titled my first draft of this as "This Is The Post Your Mother Warned You About"... then I realized that I would write with more clarity & grace if I broke that monster into smaller bite-sized pieces. Mind you, this is not my author-ish equivalent of cutting up your steak for you. This is the author-ish equivalent of me deciding I didn't want to try and stuff a 10 oz porterhouse in my mouth all at one time.

And now that we're all longing for some A-1 and a baked potato, here's the first in a series of posts to discuss same-sex marriage I'm calling "Framing the Conversation." I don't intend them to be the Last Word on the subject - but I do hope they will help direct the dialogue into some new territory.

I've actually been fired from a ministry position. OK, that's not the way the Personnel Committee phrased it - they favored the weenie dodge of "we're eliminating your youth minister position in three months for financial reasons" which had the equivalent effect. Either way, I don't have a job & you guys just spent the last 45 minutes telling me about all the mistakes I've been making as youth minister while my senior pastor sits there like a bump on a log. (Table ready for Bitter, party of one... we can seat you right now.)

One of those "mistakes" (if you want to hear more of the story, you can check out
How The Heck Did I End Up Here?) was some teaching I'd done about sexual sin. I'd explained to the youth that adultery (a husband or wife engaging in a sexual relationship outside their marriage) and homosexuality (a man or woman engaging in a sexual relationship with someone of their own sex) were both sins - and that one wasn't more or less sinful than the other. BTW, the "mistake" wasn't the content what I taught - it was that the teaching itself cut a little too close to the bone for one of the committee members.

But that teaching is at the heart of anything else that I write about same sex attraction & marriage. I really do believe that:
  • pornography
  • heterosexual sex between two unmarried people (fornication)
  • prostitution
  • heterosexual sex between a married person & someone who is not their spouse (adultery)
  • polygamy
  • group sex
  • homosexual sex
...are all sexual sin of equivalent weight, regardless of the orientation and/or inclinations of the person(s) involved. They may have different consequences in a temporal sense - what effect they have during our lives on this earth - but they all have the same spiritual consequence. A quick example to clarify: someone who downloads pornographic pictures is less likely - at least at the early stages of the behavior - to have less emotional & physical health consequences than a prostitute. But both the streetwalker & the upstanding businessman with a hard drive full of downloaded videos are in the same boat spiritually - they've sinned.

Sin, btw, is not simply "doing bad stuff" or "doing stuff Mark doesn't like" or "doing stuff that is distasteful to someone/thing who has set themselves up as a moral authority." Man, I wish it was that easy - we could just change authority figures & get a new set of rules to live by.

According to Ephesians 2:1, you were "dead in your trespasses & sins." The two Greek words are paraptoma (trespasses) and hamartia (sins). The definition of paraptoma means "to go off the path, to wander," while hamartia means to "miss the mark or target." The implication is that sin is failing to be the people we were designed to be - people of purity & honor & integrity.

I'll get into this in more detail in another post, but God created man & woman and the marriage relationship not only for our pleasure & for procreation, but also to act as a picture of His love for us... and same-sex marriage warps that picture just as surely as adultery does. We've missed the mark... we are, as the old hymn writer put it, "prone to wander."

This means that we have to approach the conversation in a different way - this is NOT about "homosexuality vs heterosexuality." It is about marriage between a man & a woman vs a plethora of lesser & more destructive options - one of those being same-sex marriage.

Monday, June 16, 2008

#84: Snap - The Interlocking Dragon-Making Game

Snap: The Interlocking Dragon-Making Game
  • designer: P. Joseph Shumaker
  • publisher: Gamewright
  • date: 2002
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 3776/5.4
  • age: 6+
  • # of players: 1-4
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $8.44 (
Snap is not a single game - it's a "game system" that allows for solitaire play as well as 3 other games of varying difficulty. It looks like dominoes... but with only four possible connections.

What makes the game work for younger kids (5+) is that the pieces lock together - and each color of dragon will only lock (puzzle-style) with another piece with the same color dragon. (Blank sides can also lock to each other.)

I'm not sure I understand the low rating on the Geek, except that the games work better with 2-3 players because downtime increases with each player. (This is one of the curses of connection games - the bigger the board, the more possiblities you have to play... and the more possibilities you have to play, the more potential for "analysis paralysis.") I'd suggest trying the game with 2 players first.

18 Years Ago Today

On this day back in 1990, Shari Jo Becknal walked down the aisle of Shady Oaks Baptist Church in Hurst, TX, and pledged her love & life to me... and I pledged the same to her.

I've never regretted it.

Happy Anniversary, baby!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Collin Made Mommy Another Card

This time it "read":

Dear Mommy,

I'm depressed. I did not obey God.

#85: Sandwürmchen

  • designer: Peter Lew
  • publisher: Drei Magier Spiele
  • date: 2004
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/6.1
  • age: 6+
  • # of players: 2-6
  • print status: OOP?
  • cost: $13.98 ( - this is a clearance price!)
Six baby sand worms have hidden themselves in their native habitat - sand. The folks at Drei Magier Spiele were kind enough to put it in the box - a lot of it! - so that the baby sand worms would feel right at home. Your job is to find them & remember where they have hidden themselves.

Yes, it's a pretty standard memory game (remember where the worms are hidden) but with some nice little twists. First, there's the sand. While some of it inevitably ends up on the table & on the players (it's very fine sand), it's really cool to dig with your finger for the worm, looking for a bit of color that says "I was right!" Second, there's the two-sectioned structure of the game:
  • In the first part (the majority of the game), players flip over cards that tell them which worm to search for... if they're wrong, they leave the worm they've found on the surface & the next player gets to search. If they're right, they claim the card, re-bury the worms, and then have the opportunity to turn the game box in order to confuse the other players.
  • The second part of the game occurs when all the cards have been distributed... the final six cards (one of each worm) are given to players in order (starting with the player with the least cards) - they place it next to the spot in the sand where they think that particular worm is hiding. When all the players have placed cards, the answers are revealed - and players who are correct get both the card & the worm!
The final score is the number of cards (1 point each) + the number of worms (2 points each)... and there's a tiebreaker, but I don't remember what it is. (Buy the game & read it yourself.)

As you've probably guessed, this is an "adult supervision" game... the combination of a box full of fine sand & small children is a recipe for disaster. (The rules suggest placing a towel beneath the box so it doesn't grind sand into the table surface when it's being turned.) Don't let that scare you away, however. My three-year-old begs to play this game - he loves digging up the worms & actually can play it pretty well.

#86: Floß geht's!

Floß geht's!
  • designer: Susanne Armbruster & Helga Nyncke
  • publisher: Haba
  • date: 2002
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/6.8
  • age: 4+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: OOP?
  • cost: EUR 9,50 (, approx. $14)
Today, we all decided to go rafting down the river, just like that American icon, Huckleberry Finn. We even borrowed the design of his raft. Though I'm pretty sure that Huck didn't use a big colored die to provide motive power to his craft.

And yet, that's exactly what you do in Floß geht's (literally "raft goes" in German)...
on your turn, you move your raft down the river (made of out of beautifully illustrated puzzle pieces) to the next symbol that matches the one on your die.

But this is NOT a simple "roll'n'move." (For those of you who aren't steeped in gaming hobby lingo, "roll'n'move" is a derisive term for games that boil down to rolling the dice & moving that number of spaces - Chutes & Ladders, for example, is an infamous roll'n'move game.) At the start of your turn, you may roll the die of ANY player... thus slowing down a leader (if their die has a particularly good match) or helping yourself (if you're just drifting along). The die has 4 symbols that are found along the river... as well as a sun (a wild card symbol) and an anchor (which means your raft can't move).

Two caveats - though the game as outlined in the rules (go from one end of the river to another) works fine with the younger set, the game is more fun for the 6+ crowd if you race up & down the river. (This is a variant rule listed in the rulebook.) Also, although the game "works" with 2 players, it's much more fun with 3 or 4.

As usual, the Haba production on this game is splendid - nifty little rafts (complete with felt flags), chunky wooden dice, and the puzzle river/board, which my youngest son likes to play with even though he's not old enough to play the game "for real."

A Post That Isn't About Diagramming Sentences

Since the readership of my blog has risen up en masse to protest my blogging habits (well, not really, but I like to think that some of you care enough about my ramblings to be maybe a teensy bit irked), I feel a need to issue this apology:
  • I'm sorry I missed posting a game yesterday to the Kid Games 100. It will probably happen again.
Thank you. That is all.

Long Knives & Buried Alive

I warned y'all that I was going to write something controversial in the next few days... well, this isn't it.

Now, you may or may not be one of those people who believe in hell... I'm not going to fight with you about it today. (Interestingly enough, a Barna survey from 2003 says that roughly 76% of Americans believe in a heaven & 71% believe in a hell - that is, of course, separate of trying to define those terms.) But I do want to give you a couple of things to think about - courtesy of a hippie guy who teaches people how to play...
You know the Jewish story about the difference between heaven and hell? The Rabbi goes down to Hell, and what does he see? The damned, standing in front of a great banquet table, each standing with a fork in one hand and a knife in the other and their arms tied to a long stick so they can't bend them enough to get the food to their mouths. "This is a helluva place" thinks the Rabbi. So he goes to heaven. And what does he see? The saved, standing in front of a great banquet table, each standing with a fork in one hand and a knife in the other and their arms tied to a long stick so they can't bend them enough to get the food to their mouths, feeding each other. (
...and another from the prolific pen of a scholar of medieval literature.
About Hell. All I have ever said is that the New Testament plainly implies the possibility of some being finally left in "the outer darkness." Whether this means (horror of horror) being left to a purely mental existence, left with nothing at all but one's evny, prurience, resentment, loneliness & self conceit, or whether there is still some sort of environment, something you could call a world or a reality, I would never pretend to know. But I wouldn't put the question in the form "do I believe in an actual Hell." One's own mind is actual enough. If it doesn't seem fully actual now that is because you can always escape from it a bit into the physical world - look out of the window, smoke a cigarette, go to sleep. But when there is nothing for you but your own mind (no body to go to sleep, no books or landscape, nor sounds, no drugs) it will be as actual as - as - well, as a coffin is actual to a man buried alive. (The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves)
Heck, I like Clive Staples so much (did any of the rest of my blog readers spot the Lost character named for him this season?!), I'll give him the last word.
I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside. (The Problem of Pain)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Framing the Conversation: Sushi & Molotov Cocktails

In the next few days, I plan to write about some pretty heavy-duty stuff that co-mingles theology, politics & sex... which means I might as well make a sign that says "Flame War - Y'All Jump Right In" in neon letters for the front page of the blog.

So, in order to preempt some of the potential problems I'm about to create, I want to go a couple of quick rounds with a dictionary to make sure we all are using one word correctly.

The word "tolerance" is defined in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary as:
  • a: sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own
  • b: the act of allowing something
That means that I can express an opinion about behaviors or beliefs that conflict with someone else's opinion... that's a disagreement, not intolerance. Intolerance would be me finding ways to silence another person before they could speak about those beliefs... or punishing them for doing so.

In real world terms, it's the difference between me thinking that people who eat sushi are nutballs on a chopsick for eating uncooked fish & me censoring any mention of California Rolls or throwing molotov cocktails into sushi bars...

There, that's taken care of...

#87: Biesti Boys

Biesti Boys
  • designer: Howard Kamentsky
  • publisher: Amigo Spiele
  • date: 2002
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/6.2
  • age: 6+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: OOP
  • cost: EUR 14,14 (, $4.99 (ebay - Elevator Eddie - used)
See, there's this hotel full of monsters - well, friendly monsters. And they all need to use the elevator - right now! So, we try to get the elevators to move up & down as quickly as possible by playing cards that are one more or one less than the number on the previous card... and we all play cards at the same time!

Yes, campers, this is a Speed/Espresso/Dutch Blitz variant that's simplified & streamlined to make for a really enjoyable gaming experience. In addition to the numbered cards (there are 8 floors to the hotel), there are STOP and GO. You can play a STOP at any time... which is kind of like having a kid monster on the elevator who pulls the emergency button. The only way to get it going again is with - wait for it! - a GO card. Anyone can then immediately play any number card on top of the GO card & get the elevator running again. You have a limited hand (2 cards, if I remember correctly), meaning you are playing & drawing cards as fast as your hand-eye coordination skills will allow to move.

As in all speed discarding games, it's easy for things to get confused, so we occasionally call a "time out" to straighten the piles. The game actually anticipates "freezes" - if everyone is stuck & can't play, the current set of elevators (and the cards on them) are discarded & a new elevator set put in the center of the table.

There's one more odd thing about Biesti Boys - it was also published in English as Elevator Eddie... but with different rules! As far as I can tell (I've never seen an actual copy of Elevator Eddie), the basic game is the same as Biesti Boys, except that you take turns. (Take turns?! Yawn.) There's also a "educational" set of rules, where you have two piles & add/subtract the numbers to come up with the answer. Double yawn.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Kid Games 100 GeekList

For those who've found their way here to the Land of Aka Pastor Guy from BoardGameGeek, the whole concept of a GeekList is familiar. For those of you who hale from other parts of the worldwide web (do we even call it the "Worldwide Web" anymore?) - say, BaptistsWithASenseOfHumorVille or FamilyOfPastorGuy, a GeekList may sound like the scrap of paper that a video game designer takes to the grocery store with him:
  • 24 pack of Coke
  • 2 family size boxes of Cocoa Pebbles
  • 1 mega-size vat of Red Vines
  • toilet paper
In this case, it's actually a listing of the game on the Kids Game 100... but, thanks to the wonders of technology, they're listed in BGG ratings order rather than my rather arbitrary personal way of ordering them. (This allows you to compare & contrast - can you tell I was an English major? Next thing you know I'll be diagramming sentences & complaining about people ending their sentences with prepositions.)

The actual list is called (oddly enough) The Kid Games 100. I will be adding games to it as I blog about them here.

#88: Blackrock Castle

Blackrock Castle
  • designer: Gunter Baars
  • publisher: Schmidt Spiele
  • date: 2001
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/5.5
  • age: 8+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: OOP
  • cost: $16.50 (
There's a theme - of sorts - about knights venturing into a haunted castle to retrieve paintings of their ancestors while trying to avoid the traps. But it's really a memory game - as you can see, each set of four spaces has one corner that "collapses" when a pawn is placed on it. If you move across that space, your turn is over & you are returned to the previous space.

With that basic mechanism (move one of your three knights, determined by a die roll, until you fall into trap), you have a couple of wrinkles. First, you can't move through other players, so you have to use one of your precious (you get three) grappling hooks to get past particularly tight spots. As well, there are ways (I won't get into them here) for you to steal the paintings you need in order to pair them up & take them to the treasure chamber in the center of the board. The first player to get all three knights there wins.

The game is difficult enough using the regular rules - there are advanced rules where you turn the box (game board) every time you roll a circle on the dice (50%). Also, it works best with 3 players, which balances the speed of play (too slow with 4 players) and having extra knights to get in each others' way (doesn't happen much with 2 players.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

#89: Der Kleine Riese Kasimir

Der Kleine Riese Kasimir
  • designer: Rudiger Dorn
  • publisher: Goldsieber
  • date: 1998
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/6.4
  • age: 7+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: OOP
  • cost: EUR 11,50 (
Designer Rudiger Dorn is best known in the boardgaming community for his meaty games like Goa, Traders of Genoa & Louis XIV. Since I'm not a fan of any of these games, it's a bit surprising that one of his kid game designs ended up here on my Kid Games 100 list. (To his credit, I do like Emerald, Arkadia, and Gargon.)

The story behind Der Kleine Riese Kasimir (which is translated as "The Little Giant Kasimir") is a benevolent version of Gulliver & the Lilliputians. Kasimir has found some toys to play with - which turn out to be the actual vehicles of the little people. After he takes a nap & awakens to find himself tied to the ground, Kasimir begins to cry because he won't get home in time for supper. So the players (in the role of the Little People) race to untie him so he can get home to his mommy & daddy.

The board (shown in the picture above) has a post in each area (a small chip). Players move their Little People around the board via an unusual system - each player has five wooden markers in the various colors of the board which they've drawn from the bag - they can use these markers to move to adjacent areas - and when they stop moving, they replenish from the bag.

Posts (chips) are worth various numbers of points - there are even a few chips which allow you to steal points from other players. Finally, there are three "timer" chips - when the third one is drawn, the game is over.

Now, that would be a nice little game if that was all there was... but there's one more wrinkle. When you pick up a chip, you must flip over another chip on a space of the same color. (And, yes, you can use this to hide a previously face-up chip.) This allows players to make some plans & calculate risks... and takes the game up a notch.

My first impressions of Der Kleine Riese Kasimir were so-so... but as I've played the game, I realized that there are some subtleties that aren't immediately obvious here - esp. when playing with younger children. This is one of those times when the age range recommendation makes a lot of sense to me.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Swingtown, White Guilt & Splitsville

For a long time, I've told people that when God speaks to me, He assumes that I have the listening skills of a three-year-old child.

For those of you in the audience who've never tried to give instructions to a 3 year old, let me make something perfectly clear. Saying it once is not enough. Saying it twice is not enough. Saying it three times, changing tone each time, is not enough. There is something in their maniacal little minds that requires you to repeat yourself over & over as if you were trying out to sing a new version of the Who's "I Can See For Miles"
I can see for miles and miles... I can see for miles and miles... I can see for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles... And miles and miles and miles and miles...

Way to drive your point into the ground, Pete Townsend.

Anyway, I was talking about three year olds... well, talking about talking to three year olds - and somehow ended up quoting lyrics from The Who, which is pretty much par for the course when dealing with a small child. Suffice it to say that repitition truly is the power of learning, and never moreso than when going mano a mano with a toddler.

Which brings us back around to how God speaks to me - which really isn't even the topic of this post, except by way of introduction. I figure that when a subject keeps coming up, over & over, from a variety of disconnected sources, it's one of the better signs that God is trying to get my attention.

So, when CBS decided to debut a show about "the swingin' 70's" entitled, with props to the space cowboy stylings of the Steve Miller Band, Swingtown, it triggered something in my brain. "Mark," my brain said to me, "Mark, does it make any sense to celebrate a decade in which the primary markers for dolce vita were recreational sex & substance abuse?" And I, being the guy with the crackpipe remote in his hand, replied, "Well, it's network TV... which means they're going to pull a Cecil B. DeMille that somehow justifies episode after episode of popping 'Ludes & wife-swapping with a very special ABC Afterschool Special that shows just how unfulfilling all the hot, sweaty sex is."

Let's take a break for a second (btw, did I warn you that this particular post was going to be pretty free-form in structure? If not, the last sentence should do the trick.) and comment on a couple of references I made in the last paragraph:

  • "Cecil B. DeMille" - the director of The Ten Commandments (both the talkie that you've seen and the silent version that I'm willing to bet you haven't) was known for making movies filled with sex & sinful situations that was "redeemed" in the last 1/2 reel of the film by overwhelming consequences. In other words, you can show whatever the heck you want if the person has to pay for all their "fun" in the end.
  • "wife-swapping" - does this bother anyone else... that the best way folks in the 70's could come up with to express their wild new sexual freedom was to trade wives like Pokemon cards? And what about the implicit male dominance in such an arrangement - why not husband-swapping? Look, as a recovering porn addict, I known what objectivizing women looks & smells like - and this one reeks of it.

About the same time as the ads for the show (complete with a guy sporting a porn-stauche & people doing the Hustle) started showing every 15 minutes on CBS, I began reading a book about racial politics in the U.S. - Shelby Steele's White Guilt: How Blacks & Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era. (I won't get into his argument right now - but it's worth reading even if you disagree with him. He has some very interesting things to say that will be particularly pertinent during a presidential campaign in which the race of the candidates WILL be a factor.)

In the midst of Steele's book, as he wonders about how Bill Clinton managed to get away with his own personalized version of Swingtown (thanks to redefining the words "is" and "sexual relations", with a nice assist from Senator Clinton playing the role of Tammy Wynette), he says this:

And then, simmering away behind all this from as far back as the fifties, was the idea that America, with its greedy "military-industrial complex," was essentially a "repressed" nation. Here a little bastardized Freud was mixed with Marx to make a rather neat formula: a sexually repressed society was necessarily a bigoted & oppressive society. Thus, the underside of postwar America's "gray flannel" conformity was social evil. But this pairing of sexual repression & social evil also had an especially appealing upside: it linked sexual openness to social virtue. The idea that a lack of sexual inhibition signified a deeper & more compassionate humanity became one of the more fabled ideas of the counterculture. Here casting aside one's sexual inhibitions was a way of opening up to one's deeper humanity and, thus, separating oneself from the dark human impulses to racism, sexism, and militarism that plagued the repressed, bourgeois world of one's parents.
And the two pieces clicked for me - one of the "trickle down" effects of the late 60's counterculture was the swinging 70's, where the whole thread of rebellion & rewriting history got lost and simply became an excuse to indulge in casual sex & dudes wearing too many gold chains.

Now, I realize I'm sounding like a prude with a capital "P" - so it's important to note at this point that:
  1. I like sex. (Shari and I will be married 18 years a week from today!)
  2. God likes sex. (He invented it, right?!)
  3. I wasn't actually "swinging" in the 70's - heck, I'm not sure I managed to kiss anyone in the 70's (unless you count Spin the Bottle, and that, thank you very much for asking, still counts as one of the most deeply mortifying moments in my life).

Back to the topic - let's recap:

  • God talks to Mark like he should be playing primarily with Fisher-Price toys
  • Pete Townsend was smokin' a lotta dope when he wrote "Miles & Miles"
  • Swingtown is a TV show
  • wife-swapping sounds kinda sexist & way better for the dudes than for the ladies
  • somehow, traditional sexual values got confused with racism & sexism
  • what started as rebellion against the system (even if it involved getting naked) turned into a culture that pretty much glorified getting busy wid'it

Which brings me to the final "tap on the shoulder" from God to Mark "He Doesn't Always Pay Attention So I Have To Use A Metaphorical Megaphone" Jackson... an article in Newsweek magazine entitled "The Divorce Generation Grows Up". The author interviewed a number of folks who graduated with him from a suburban L.A. high school in 1982.

Reading the article was one of those "someone's walking on my grave" kind of experiences... as I also graduated from a suburban L.A. high school (well, Orange County, but it's the same kind of deal) in 1982. Hearing the stories of families falling apart and the ripple effect in the lives of those kids (well, if you can call 43 year old folks "kids" anymore) sounded all too familiar, even to me - whose parents are still together.

Although I grew up a few blocks from the "Brady Bunch" house, the similarity between that TV family's tract-rancher and the ones where my friends and I lived pretty much ended at the front door. In the real Valley of the 1970s, families weren't coming together. They were coming apart. We were the "Divorce Generation," latchkey kids raised with after-school specials about broken families and "Kramer vs. Kramer," the 1979 best-picture winner that left kids worrying that their parents would be the next to divorce. Our parents couldn't seem to make marriage stick, and neither could our pop icons: Sonny and Cher, Farrah Fawcett and Lee Majors, the saccharine Swedes from Abba, all splitsville.

The change had begun in the '60s as the myth of the nuclear family exploded, and my generation was caught in the fallout. The women's rights movement had opened workplace doors to our mothers—more than half of all American women were employed in the late '70s, compared with just 38 percent in 1960—and that, in turn, made divorce a viable option for many wives who would have stayed in lousy marriages for economic reasons. Then in 1969, the year I entered kindergarten, Gov. Ronald Reagan signed California's "no fault" divorce law, allowing couples to unilaterally end a marriage by simply declaring "irreconcilable differences."

Not since Henry VIII's breakup with the pope has divorce received such a boost: by the time my friends and I entered our senior year at Ulysses S. Grant High School, divorce rates had soared to their highest level ever, with 5.3 per 1,000 people getting divorced each year, more than double the rate in the 1950s. Just as we were old enough to wed, experts were predicting that nearly one in two marriages would end in divorce.

It's been more than a quarter century since the Grant High class of '82 donned tuxes and taffeta and danced to Styx's "Come Sail Away" at the senior prom, and nearly four decades have passed since no-fault divorce laws began spreading across the country. In our parents' generation, marriage was still the most powerful social force. In ours, it was divorce.

And then, the third piece fell into place - a counterculture that viewed sexual freedom as the equivalent of protest again "the Man" dribbled over into a period of casual sexual behavior inside & outside of marriage that became one of the causes that led to the pain of divorce.

Now, I'm not an idiot. I realize this is NOT a perfect line of causation - there are literally hundreds of other factors involved in the social & ethical upheavals that have happened in my lifetime. Still, just because something isn't the ONLY cause doesn't mean it isn't a cause.

So, why is God broaching the subject with me? I mean, it's not like I never deal with divorce in my job. As I've thought about it, I've come up with three things I think Jesus is trying to poke me with:

  1. don't take your wife/life for granted - the fact that I have a good marriage is a tremendous & wonderful gift
  2. pray for folks who are stuck in these situations - whether it's happening right now or happened 25 years ago... its' so easy to forget that, in the words of The Brain, "This is a pain that will linger."
  3. write about it - which I'm doing

Today, I'm thinking about Jill... and wondering what happened to her. I still remember the two of us leaving a drama rehearsal one afternoon and asking her what she was doing that night.

"I'm going on a date... and so's my mom."

"Really?" I said. "That's cool that your mom & dad still go out on dates."

"No," she said, looking at me like I was a simpleton. "They're divorced."

An incredible sadness washed over me as we parted ways... I can still feel it lapping at the edge of my soul 30 years later. Here's a prayer going out to you & your mom, Jill, wherever you are.

Music Monday

One of the blogs I particularly admire (Steve McCoy's Reformissionary) has a regular feature called "Music Monday" in which Steve, being hipper than I could ever pretend to be, shares clips & info about cutting edge artists.

A long time ago, I started a series of posts on music called Soundtrack of My Life... and I've managed to finish a grand total of ONE. That's right... one measly post. Heck, I've written more about stuff I'm not even really interested in (Pat Robertson, for example) than I have about music.

So, consider the odd links & musical thoughts today to be my penance for making you wait so long for me to write about ELO, Talking Heads & Charlie Peacock.

Jesus Walks by Kayne West (post from Stuff Christians Like)
Then however, Rolling Stone offers one of the saddest and best put assessments of addiction I have ever read: “Over the next few hours, he hardly moves an inch. The strip-club environment seems to have tranquilized him. For someone who travels through life at hyperspeed and talks a mile a minute, West is unusually still and silent.”
T-Shirts (What We Should Be Know For) (music & lyrics by Derek Webb)
they'll know us by the t-shirts that we wear... they'll know us by the way we point and stare... at anyone whose sin looks worse than ours... who cannot hide the scars of this curse that we all bare
Jim Morrison's Grave (music & lyrics by Steve Taylor)
It was a manhole... Dug over at the edge of town... And a spray can scrawl... On the cemetery wall... Said, "You'd better behave"... Jim Morrison's grave

#90: Thing-a-ma-bots

  • designer: Bernie DeKoven
  • publisher: Gamewright
  • date: 2006
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/6.2
  • age: 6+
  • # of players: 2-6
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $5.95 (

Another favorite genre of kid game is the quick recognition game - flip a card over & see who can remember what to do or whose name to yell first. Thing-a-ma-bots takes that basic idea and goes it one better - the first time you turn over a particular robot, you get to name him/her. (For example, in the above picture, I could have well named them Brainiac 1000, WireHair, Catmogo, Horny, and FunnelCake.) So, when another card is flipped over, the first player to howl out their "given" name wins the stack of cards. If the robot matches the top of another scoring pile, yell out "Thing-a-ma-bot" and claim those cards.

What makes this one work is the combination of imagination & adrenaline - the silliness of the names blends really nicely with the excitement of trying to shout out the correct name.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

#91: Rumpel Ritter

Rumpel Ritter (Knuckling Knights)

  • designer: Gunter & Benjamin Burkhardt
  • publisher: Haba
  • date: 2004
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 3467/5.6
  • age: 4+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $13.50 (

Take one cardboard dice tower-like castle with a cardboard drawbridge (door)... add lots of little knights (pawns)... roll the dice & let the knights fall out onto a landscape with holes in it - and there you have Rumpel Ritter. If your child can count to three, they can play.

And while that may not sound like much, it's a lot of fun to play.

Sometimes, people argue that Candyland or Chutes & Ladders are good game for kids (shudder!) because they teach them basic skills: matching, taking turns, etc. Rumpel Ritter is proof positive that you can do those things (teach counting, taking turns, etc.) in a game that actually generates some excitement and heads toward a quick conclusion. (A "long" game of Rumpel Ritter is 15 minutes... and the only way that happens is if more than one player is in the running to win the game.)

My seven year old will still play this... but it was really popular with him when he was 3.5 to 4 years old. My younger son is just starting with this one & likes playing it.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

#92: Yahtzee Junior

Yahtzee Junior
  • designer: uncredited
  • publisher: Milton Bradley
  • date: 1991
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 4301/4.6
  • age: 4+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $7.99 (
There are about 100 variations of Yahtzee Junior (well, maybe not that many) themed to whatever license that Hasbro can come up with... I even saw an Avatar: The Last Airbender Yahtzee Junior. The one pictured here, Toy Story Yahtzee Junior, is the one we have at our house.

The basics of Yahtzee are still there - five six-sided dice, three rolls per player to attempt to get the best score, scoring of one type keeps you from scoring that type again in the game. However, there are some changes that make the game easier for kids - and quicker!

First, there's a limit to the number of turns - with 2 players, you each have five turns (less with 3 or 4 players). One side of the dice is wild (Woody, in the case of Toy Story Yahtzee Junior). Finally, you're simply trying to roll the largest possible set of the same die faces (Jessie, Rex, Ham, Buzz & Potato Head).

Scoring is just as simple - take the appropriate marker of your color & put it on the numbered spot on the grid. Interestingly, this locks any other player from making that identical score - which does offer some (small) tactical decision when you're deciding what dice to shoot for on your turn.

For too long, the best known dice game for kids has been Cootie. (Which, btw, is the one of the worst games ever published. The only cool part was the plastic parts to build the insects.) Yahtzee Junior is accessible even for younger (3+) kids and involves some simple decisions. It's a great "training wheels" game to teach some basic gaming skills: probability, planning ahead, and simple scoring decisions.

The game does have a "top-out" age - my 7 year old now only plays when the whole family is playing - but for the 3 years he did play it, it was one he enjoyed very much. (BTW, I think the BGG rating for this game is way too low - you have to judge the game for the intended audience, age 3-6.)

Friday, June 06, 2008

#93: Cariboo

  • designer: Forrest-Pruzan Creative
  • publisher: Cranium
  • date: 1998
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 1624/6.4
  • age: 3+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $14.99 (
More toy than game, Cariboo is a (mostly) sturdy piece of play equipment that manages to be both educational & fun. And, if you're willing to set your brain power on "dim", it's not a bad little cooperative game.

Players begin by "seeding" the balls into the board through the holes at the top... then take turns flipping over a card and finding a door with the matching element: color, shape, number or first letter. (More recent editions of the game have "advanced" sets of doors & cards, which would be nice. We don't have that.)

The player uses the "key" to pop open the door... and then checks to see if a ball is hiding beneath. If it is, the ball is removed (parent warning: kid fingers work better than adult fingers) and placed another hole to the side of the board. When all of the balls are found, the pressure from putting the last ball ends opens up the treasure chest... which, btw, both of my kids have loved. In fact, from about age 2 1/2 until age 4, this has been a favorite of both my boys.

You can play it "competitively" - in other words, whoever finds the last ball "wins" - but it's really a great game for a parent to play with a young child or for two kids to play together cooperatively.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

#94: Baggage Claim

Baggage Claim
  • designer: Alex Randolph
  • publisher: Ravensburger
  • date: 1987
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/5.9
  • age: 5+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: OOP
  • cost: $6.99 (ebay)
Ravensburger publishes a nice line of small box games for kids - most have simple components & easy rules. Sometimes they're pleasant if not spectacular... and other times, they pack a lot of punch into their small packages.

Such is the case with Alex Randolph's Baggage Claim, a memory game that involves flying your (plastic) plane from airport to airport (symbolized by piles of luggage tokens) attempting to claim all of your lost bags. (One fateful day on the way back to college, my luggage went to Aspen while I had to go to Waco... my luggage is more upwardly mobile than I am. Anyway, the theme makes perfect sense to me.)

You must find your luggage in numerical order - the bags are marked "1" through "10". Only one plane (player) can be at an airport at a time, so if you want to land at an occupied pile of tokens, you must first allow the other player a free flight to another airport where he can possibly pick up a token. Once per game, each player is allowed to refuse to move - saving this refusal for the right moment is a key tactical element in the game. (The "occupied airport" rules make the game more enjoyable with 3 or 4 players, but it works fine with 2.)

Here's why it ended up on the list: it's a speedy memory game with actual tactical play.