Thursday, September 30, 2010

#88: Zoff in Buffalo

Zoff in Buffalo
  • designer: Christwart Conrad
  • publisher: FX Schmid
  • date: 1998
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 1912/6.40
  • position on my top 100 in 2005: 92nd
  • age: 12+
  • # of players: 2-5
  • print status: very, very OOP
  • cost: there's a copy in Very Good condition available on the Geek for $150! (sorry!)

Christwart Conrad created this pleasant little bluffing/placement game... then, a few years later, overinflated it into Vino ("the game of the rolling grape pieces" - yep, spherical game bits... ab-so-lutely brilliant...). The original is much better... and I'm very, very good at it. :-)

Stuff Christians Like #867: Desiring Chick-fil-A more on Sunday than any other day of the week.

Thank you, Jon Acuff...
Could you buy some Chikc-fil-A on a Saturday and then eat it on a Sunday? Would that work or would that be like when the Israelites tried to gather up double portions of manna? Didn’t that work for them on Sunday? Are you really comparing Chick-fil-A to manna? Yes, yes you are and that feels about right.
Read the whole post on Jon's blog, Stuff Christians Like.

#89: Tales of the Arabian Nights

Tales of the Arabian Nights
  • designer: Eric Goldberg, Anthony J. Galella, Kevin Maroney & Zev Schlasinger
  • publisher: Z-Man
  • date: 2009
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 148/7.38
  • position on my top 100 in 2005: did not appear
  • age: 12+
  • # of players: 1-6
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $35.97 (Boards & Bits)

So, how do you decide what makes a great game? Is it intricately designed mechanics? Or perhaps it is fidelity to theme? Maybe it is the quality of the production - the artwork & the components? Or is it simply how much fun you have playing it?

In the case of Tales of the Arabian Nights, the primary reason it made it into my top 100 is pure & unadulterated fun. With the right crew of people, this is a delightful 2 hour romp through Arabian fairy tales - with you as the featured protagonist.

Tales of the Arabian Nights is what we gamer types call an "experience game" - meaning while there are a number of decisions to make, the game plays you as much as you play the game. If going along for a wild & capricious ride (based on the game system) doesn't appeal to you, you should avoid this at all costs.

OTOH, if you enjoy storytelling & a bit of roleplaying, this is a delightful way to pass a couple of hours. (Those of you who've played the game are getting ready to sue me for false advertising every time I type the words "couple of hours" - I promise I'll explain myself in a minute.)

If you remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books from the late 70s/early 80s (ah, there I go dating myself again), you're going to be familiar with the engine that drives this game - a HUGE book full of paragraphs, many with choices that lead to other paragraphs (and possible fortuitous or calamitous results). Add a board for movement, a card deck & dice to randomize the process and you're whisked back into the magical milieu of the Arabian Nights.

Now, I do put some pretty serious constraints on how I play the game:

  • No more than 4 players (and I prefer three, as that keeps everyone involved in the game)
  • Players must have a sense of humor
  • Players must have the ability to read well/dramatically (so much of the game is taken up with RPG-lite descriptions of the situations you face... it's a shame to play it with someone who isn't going to "get into character")

So, with 3 players, you can easily play a "full" game in 2 hours... and with 4 players, you simply adjust the winning score down by 3-4 points to get the game to fit into that time frame.

Book Review: Sun Stand Still

Before I start this review, I need to tell you that I was a big fan of Steven Furtick before he put a single word down on paper. I first heard him speak last September on The Nines, an online conference put on by Leadership Network...

Now, I realize that he may or may not be your cup of tea - he's definitely got a "grew up in the South & around church" vibe - but that video cut through a morass of self-pity & frustration in my ministry & life. He blends "inside baseball" humor (well, "inside ministry life" humor) with great expository teaching & incredible encouragement. (BTW, his video from the 2010 event is not available but I did locate this bonus video he posted.)

In November of 2009, I was given a free ticket to the National Outreach Convention in San Diego... and Steven was the final speaker. You can read one of the points of his message in his blog post, Give Me My Rocks... but there was more to what he said. This gawky 29 year old kid (yes, the fact that he would have been in one of my youth groups makes me a little crazy) challenged & encouraged a group of convention-weary pastors/leaders with humor, passion & capital "T" truth.

A bit ashamed of myself for groupie-like behavior, I went up after the convention was done to meet him & tell him how much his video on The Nines had meant to me. And here's why I'm not sure I can give his book a completely objective review - Steven hugged me (was NOT expecting that) and prayed for me, right there in the middle of a crowd of well-wishers. I don't remember much of what he said (still stunned from the bear hug) but his humility & exuberance won me over... in part because it's all too easy for me to live/minister out of pride & duty. Some days, it seems like my passion for Christ & for people has been boiled down to simply getting the job done.

So, with all that background/biographical information, now I'll attempt to review Steven's first book, Sun Stand Still: What Happens When You Dare To Ask God For The Impossible.

Early on, Steven declares his purpose for writing this book on faith:

This book is not a Snuggie. The words on these pages will not go down like Ambien. I'm not writing to calm or coddle you.

With God's help, I intend to incite a riot in your mind. Trip your breakers & turn out the lights in your favorite hiding places of insecurity & fear. Then flip the switch back on so that God's truth can illuminate the divine destiny that may have been lying dormant inside you for years. In short, I'm out to activate your audacious faith. To inspire you to ask God for the impossible. And in the process, to reconnect you with your God-sized purpose & potential.

I figure the best way for me to review a book by an author that I'm rooting for is to try & judge the book by this simple question: does he accomplish what he set out to do?

The short answer, at least for me, is "Yes."

The book is based on the passage in Joshua 10 where God causes the sun to stand still in order that the Israelites can complete the victory that He has promised them. We can all debate the possibility of miracles some other time. (Furtick doesn't even bother here in the book - he simply makes the same assumption that I do: we're dealing with the same God who resurrected Jesus from the grave... if He can intervene there, He can easily do so here.)

From there, the author takes us along on his personal journey as the pastor/church planter of
Elevation Church... and shares multiple stories of people whose lives have been changed by audacious faith.

One of the things I really liked about the book is Steven Furtick's willingness to rewind a bit & make sure that the reader is understanding the terms/words as he is using them... and even to deal with some faith issues that often get ignored in this type of book. What do I mean by "this type of book?" Well, due to my past experience with Christian publishers, lots of books on faith are simply "rah-rah, believe more & get more, name it & claim it" (and so on) and gloss over areas of difficulty that Furtick plunges into head first:
  • how can I have a big vision when I'm just an "ordinary" follower of Jesus (aka "not a pastor")?
  • is this simply a "baptized" way to perform prayer rituals to get God to do your bidding
  • what happens when God doesn't answer your audacious & faithful prayers?
With his characteristic humor & solid Biblical foundation, Steven has written a book that manages to encourage followers of Jesus to passionately ask God to move on our behalf for His glory... and to do so without using false guilt to motivate people to pursue faith.

Note: this is not a book that's going to appeal to those who are struggling with the reality of God... it is written to a Christian audience. For those who are growing closer to God - whether they've crossed the line of faith or not - I think this is an inspiring look at real "rubber hits the road" faith & prayer can be.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Funny Conversations With Sales Clerks

Scott Roberts started a thread about clueless salespeople over on Boardgamegeek... I just wanted to share some highlights (or lowlights, depending on how you look at it) with you. (After a while, they also started adding clueless customer stories.)


  • Scott: Do you have the boardgame Risk: Halo Edition?
  • Worker: What is that?
  • Scott: It is a boardgame.
  • Worker: Boardgame? Is that a shirt?
  • Scott: No. Do you know what boardgames are?
  • Worker: No.
  • Scott: As in toys and games. Do you know what games are?
  • Worker: Yes.
  • Scott: It is like Monopoly. Monopoly is a boardgame.
  • Worker: Oh, Monopoloy. I think we had some of those. Let me go check.
  • Scott: No, I am not looking for Monopoly. I am looking for a game called Risk: Halo Edition.
  • Worker: (sounding uncertain) Ok, let me go check.
  • [leaves and comes back]
  • Worker: I am sorry, sir, we are out of Monopoly.


  • "How many corn do you have there?"
  • "A dozen."
  • * blank stare *
  • "A dozen."
  • * blank stare *
  • "Twelve...."
  • "Thank you."


Several years ago, I moved from my native Canada to New Jersey. One day I went to the DMV to get a driver's licence. The rule was you had to relinquish your out-of-state licence, UNLESS it was from a different country; then you could keep it.

I passed the test and filled out the paperwork and the clerk handed me my new licence. There followed this exchange:

  • Me: Can I have my old licence back, please.
  • Clerk: Oh, you don't get that back.
  • Me: I think I do because it's from a different country.
  • Clerk: What?
  • Me: It's a Canadian driver's licence. I get to keep it.
  • Clerk: Canada's not a different country.
  • Me: Um...yes, it is.
  • Clerk: No, it's not.
  • Me: Yes. It is.
  • Clerk: No, it's not.
  • Me: Canada is a different country!
  • Clerk: Well, maybe, but it's not really a different country. It's not like India.
  • Me: Yes! Yes! It's exactly like India! It's a different country!

She eventually, reluctantly gave me my old licence back, but I could tell she didn't believe me.


  • Customer: Can you help me find a book?
  • Staff: Sure. What are you looking for?
  • Customer: Well I think it was yellow.
  • Staff: You mean the title was "Yellow"?
  • Customer: No, the cover was yellow. Or it might have been orange. Do you have that book?

Fast Food

McDonald's used to sell Bagel Breakfast sandwiches. They had Bacon, Egg and Cheese Bagels and Ham, Egg and Cheese Bagels.

At some point they discontinued the Ham, Egg and Cheese Bagels, but that's the one I liked. Here's my drive through conversation every time I ordered breakfast there until they discontinued bagels altogether:

  • Me: I'd like a Ham, Egg and Cheese Bagel, please.
  • Clerk: I'm sorry we discontinued the Ham, Egg and Cheese Bagel.
  • Me: OK, can I get a Bacon, Egg and Cheese Bagel?
  • Clerk: Yes.
  • Me: Can you remove the Bacon?
  • Clerk: Sure.
  • Me: And can I add Ham to that?
  • Clerk: You got it.
  • Me: Thank you.

A final word from aka pastor guy...

As a former employee of a Christian bookstore who was tasked by one customer to find a "Baptist Bible" for her (there isn't one, btw) and who had a customer cuss us out for selling her the wrong Bible (evidently she didn't read it), I am sure this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Religion, Journalism, and the New American Orthodoxy

Regardless of your religious or political beliefs, this address to the Religion Newswriters Association by Charles J. Chaput is worth your time to read.
We now commonly see religion coverage that’s illiterate about the subject matter, or narrows the scope of facts or sources to fit an unfriendly narrative—especially when it comes to the Christian faith and its traditional content. Coverage of Islam tends to be equally ill-informed and confused on matters of history; but also more respectful and even sympathetic, as in the recent New York mosque controversy.

In contrast, the Christian story now told in mainstream media often seems to be a narrative of decline or fundamentalism, or houses divided against themselves along predictable lines of sex and authority. It’s a narrative of institutions and individuals that—insofar as they stay true to their historic beliefs—act as a backward social force and a menace to the liberty of their fellow citizens.

Freedom of the press clearly includes the right to question the actions and motives of religious figures and institutions. Our constitutional safeguards for the press developed partly in response to efforts by Puritans like Cotton Mather to have editors and publishers tossed into jail for satirizing local pastors and mocking Christian beliefs in their pages.

But freedom doesn’t excuse prejudice or poor handling of serious material, especially people’s religious convictions. What’s new today is the seeming collusion—or at least an active sympathy—between some media organizations and journalists, and political and sexual agendas hostile to traditional Christian beliefs.

When this happens, the results are bad for everybody.

Read the entire piece on (And thanks once again to for pointing this out.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mummy's Treasure: Variant

I just reviewed Haba's Mummy's Treasure yesterday (two thumb up, BTW!) and ended that review by mentioning that my son Braeden & I had created a variant to ratchet up the tension in the 2 and 3 player versions of the game.

Here's the problem: the game comes with enough pieces for a four-player game... but with that many tiles in play, you never run out of tiles of a particular type. The game, while very enjoyable, is just a solo race to see who can finish first.

When we've played with four players, you have to consider if & when a particular shaped tile (most often the square or the T) is going to run out, putting you in the position of taking more turns to grab smaller tiles to fill the same space.

The solution wasn't difficult - we simply inventoried the tiles & figured out how many are needed to make for a tight game with less players... and now we're sharing this information with you!

In a four player game, there are:
  • six 4 space T's (24 squares)
  • six 4 space squares (24 squares)
  • six 3 space lines (18 squares)
  • six 3 space corners (18 squares)
  • twelve 2 space rectangles (24 squares)
  • twelve 1 space squares (12 squares)
That means there are 80 spaces on the boards (20 squares each) and 120 tile squares.

So, in a three player game, you should have:
  • four 4 space T's (16 squares)
  • four 4 space squares (16 squares)
  • five 3 space lines (15 squares)
  • five 3 space corners (15 squares)
  • nine 2 space rectangles (18 squares)
  • nine 1 space squares (9 squares)
That means there are 60 spaces on the boards (20 squares each) and 89 tile squares.

And a two player game should have:
  • three 4 space T's (12 squares)
  • three 4 space squares (12 squares)
  • three 3 space lines (9 squares)
  • three 3 space corners (9 squares)
  • six 2 space rectangles (12 squares)
  • six 1 space squares (6 squares)
That means there are 40 spaces on the boards (20 squares each) and 60 tile squares.

Let's make it simple, shall we?

To play with 3 players, randomly discard:
  • two 4 space T's
  • two 4 space squares
  • one 3 space lines
  • one 3 space corners
  • three 2 space rectangles
  • three 1 space squares
To play with 2 players, randomly discard:
  • three 4 space T's
  • three 4 space squares
  • three 3 space lines
  • three 3 space corners
  • six 2 space rectangles
  • six 1 space squares
Let us know how you like it!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Kid Game Review: Mummy's Treasure

Mummy's Treasure
  • designer: Marco Teubner
  • publisher: Haba
  • date: 2009
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/6.64
  • age: 5+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $12.00 (
Mummy's Treasure is a simple yet very enjoyable dice game with an Egyptian theme... it's structured like Yahtzee but the "scoring" is pure Tetris.

Players take turns rolling the five special dice - just like Yahtzee but without all the bookkeeping! - and collecting Egyptian symbols in an attempt to claim the top piece of one of the scoring tile stacks. Match the symbols on the piece & you get to place it on your board.

Of course, as the game builds (quickly!) to the conclusion, you have less & less space to work with - and players find themselves forced to aim for particular tiles in order to complete their board/mosaic. (As in most spatial games, playing a time or two will give you a better idea of what shape spaces you need to leave yourself in the end game for the quickest win.) The first player to finish their board wins; if no player can finish their board, the player with the least empty spaces wins.

The concepts are simple enough for a five year old to join in (roll dice, match symbols, place tiles) but you can also play this is a nice filler with gamers. Game length is dependent on the number of players (it's about 5-10 min. per player) with our 4 player games clocking in at about 20 minutes once everyone understands the game. I enjoy this with or without kids at the table... but it's easy enough for kids to play without adult supervision.

My son & I worked out a system to "gamer-ize" the 2 & 3 player versions of the game, which have less tension than the 4 player game. Read about it here!

#90: Settlers of Catan Card Game

Settlers of Catan Card Game
  • designer: Klaus Teuber
  • publisher: Mayfair
  • date: 1996
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 260/6.97
  • position on my top 100 in 2005: 81st
  • age: 10+
  • # of players: 2
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $16.00 (GameSurplus)
Five years ago, I debated between including putting this game or Starship Catan - both games I love - on the list, but Starship is very similar to Anno 1503 (which appeared farther down the line), so I went with Settlers Card Game. My pull quote: "I like the way the game develops, even if it takes a bit too long."

Five years later, I've made the same decision for similar reasons - as much as I like Starship, I think Anno 1503 is more fun (and it's even been outdone by Anno 1701: Das Brettspiel). But for the full-on sprawling "build your kingdom" experience, nothing performs like the Settlers of Catan Card Game. I've been playing this since the original German release - I bought my copy in 1997. (yep - my first 10-15 plays were with a German deck & a cheat sheet to translate the cards into English.)

The game went through a revision back in 2003... primarily (I think) to better integrate the expansion cards into the game without making for some game-breaking combinations (and to correct some printing errors.)

It's about to go through a major reboot later this year as The Princes of Catan... evidently Teuber has worked to simplify learning the game & shorten game time a bit, but I haven't actually seen a copy yet.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Soft Corinthian Leather?

I think you'd have to be sealed in a glass box for the last month or so in order to avoid the screaming & hollering about the Cordoba House, an Islamic community center that is planned to be built very near Ground Zero, the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

Of course, I'm the right age to hear the word "Cordoba" and flash on a much younger pre-Wrath of Khan Ricardo Montablan purring about "Corinthian leather."

For those of you not old enough for that, just laugh politely at the old fogey writing his blog... and keep reading.

I don't think I'm qualified to argue the details of the entire situation - but I wanted to just put some things out there for you to think about.

What's In A Name?

It's not called Cordoba House any longer... it's the Park51 Project. That doesn't end discussion on the historical origins of the original name, but it does indicate some level of sensitivity on the part of those who are attempting to build this community center that will contain a mosque.

We Were Not Attacked By A Religion

The terrorists who attacked the United States on 9/11/01 were Muslims... but that does not mean that their particular set of beliefs (including those that justify terrorism & suicide bombing) are representative of all Islamic religion.

I'm a Christian - but I don't want to lumped in with the "anything goes/who cares what the Bible says" branch of the American Episcopal church (best represented by Bishop Spong) or with the "God hates everyone but us... and esp. homosexuals" rantings from the Westboro Baptist crowd. I can certainly imagine Muslims who feel the same way about the pole-dancing Muslim beauty queen and the 9/11 terrorists.

Just Because You Have the Right To Do Something Doesn't Make It Wise...

For those of you who have been enjoying taking President Obama out behind the metaphorical woodshed for his support of the Park51 project, here's what he ACTUALLY said on August 13, 2010:
As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.
And the next day, speaking to reporters:
I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there... I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That's what our country is about.
For comparison purposes, Mike Huckabee's comments at about the same time:
Even if the Muslims have the right to build it, don’t they do more to serve the public interest by exercising the responsible judgment to not build it, given that it’s really offensive to most New Yorkers and Americans?
Which brings me (finally!) to my point - we must acknowledge that there is a distinct difference between the RIGHT to build this project and the WISDOM of doing so... and stop acting like the best thing we could do to stop this unwise project is limit religious freedom because it makes us angry, uncomfortable and/or offended. That kind of manipulation of our laws will end biting us (evangelicals!) in the hindquarters someday.

Hey, if President Obama & Mike Huckabee can both do this, why can't we?!

Just Because You Have the Right To Do Something Doesn't Make It Wise (Part 2)...

I hope it goes without saying that burning the holy book of another religion is an act of abject unchristlike stupidity.
  • Want a Biblical book-burning buddy? How about King Jehoiakim burning Jeremiah's prophecies?
  • Want a historical book-burning buddy? How about the Nazis?
'Nuff said.

This Will Be Important In A Minute

Here are the six countries in the world with the largest Muslim populations, according to the 2009 Pew Report:
  • Indonesia - 202,867,000
  • Pakistan - 174,082,000
  • India - 160,945,000
  • Bangladesh - 145,312,000
  • Egypt - 78,513,000
  • Nigeria - 78,056,000
Egypt is the only one of those countries which is considered to be part of the Middle East, while Pakistan, India & Bangladesh are all part of the Indian Subcontinent. Nigeria is considered to be Sub-Saharan Africa and Indonesia is in Oceania/Southeast Asia.

Also, please note the major drop off in population numbers from the Asian countries to other nations which we more typically think of as Muslim.

The "Take Our Toys & Go Home" Argument

Newt Gingrich (and numerous others) have advanced an argument against the Park51 Project that runs along these lines (the following is written by Mr. Gingrich):
There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia . The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.
I understand the appeal of this argument - why doesn't everyone play by the same rules? It's the same impulse that leads to church meetings with the little red book (not Mao - Robert's Rules of [dis]Order!), the replay challenge in NFL football & the griping/whining about soccer refereeing at the World Cup every four years.

At the same time, applying this kind of argument means that we as Americans are lowering ourselves to the religious freedom standards of a nation that has a history of religious oppression & persecution (even of various Muslim sects which are not in favor with those in power).

Worse yet, it borders on a nearly-racist correlation of Muslims & Arabs which is not supported by the actual population data. (Told you that list of countries would be important in a minute.)

I would suggest that this "tit for tat" logic does not become a nation founded on the principles of religious freedom - what Newt (and others) are saying is "We won't give you religious freedom if you won't give it to us." It sounds more like petulant children pouting in a sandbox than it does people who wish to be devoted to the better angels of our nature.

Permit me one final problem with the argument - asking any nation to permit the building of synagogues & churches assumes something about the religious makeup of the United States. We are not simply a nation of Jews & Christians... almost 18% of the U.S. claims a non-Judeo/Christian religion or lack of religious faith.

In Closing, Some Questions For Followers of Christ

  • Do our feelings of anger & grief at the tragic loss of life at the hands of terrorists outweigh our obligation to follow the Great Commission?
  • Have we, in our quest to honor those killed by criminals, become criminally negligent in how we present the Gospel to the Arab world and to the worldwide Muslim community?
  • Are we slamming doors of opportunity shut for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ by our politicized vitriol and grandstanding?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Can I Get A Witness?

This question is intended for evangelical Christians. If don't count yourself a member of that subculture, you're still welcome to read this - consider it a peek behind the curtain (a la Wizard of Oz).

What in the world makes us think that by attacking our political opponents that people will suddenly say, "Oh, wow - you know, I've never seriously considered the claims of Christianity... but hearing you trash the President I voted for has totally opened my eyes to my need for grace & forgiveness"?


#91: Nur Peanuts

Nur Peanuts
  • designer: Heinz Meister
  • publisher: Goldsieber
  • date: 2001
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 2853/6.05
  • position on my top 100 in 2005: did not appear
  • age: 8+
  • # of players: 2-6
  • print status: out of print
  • cost: I cannot find a copy for sale in the U.S. - but it's worth searching out!
About every 10th game of Nur Peanuts (which loosely translates as "Chump Change") flops (for no discernible reason) but the other 9 have enough pathos, risk-taking, hooting, hollering & general euphoria to make up for that. It's Monopoly reduced to the most basic element - cash & dice... and it's probably one of the best 6 player push-your-luck games out there.

In our group, the cry "Trip around the board!" - first heard while playing this game - has become our short hand for "spending crazy money on the vain hope of a lucky payoff." BTW, that pretty much sums up the joy of this wonderful off-beat game.

It also, according to Stven Carlberg, could potentially never end - but he's never seen that happen. :-)

Sunday, September 05, 2010

#92: Batik

  • designer: Kris Burm
  • publisher: Gigamic
  • date: 1997
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 2517/6.03
  • position on my top 100 in 2005: did not appear
  • age: 6+
  • # of players: 2
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $24.00 (Boards & Bits)
This is my kind of abstract game - playable in a couple of minutes, gorgeous to look at, and focused on spatial relationships rather than thinking 4+ moves ahead. In fact, the game plays so quickly that we usually use the "tournament" rules... extending the game out to a whole ten minutes. :-)

Players have identical sets of wooden pieces which they take turns dropping into a vertical holder with clear plastic sides... when one of the pieces pokes over the top of the holder, the player loses. (In tournament rules, they lose that piece & the "winner" of the round starts the next round... first player to not be able to play a piece loses the tournament.)

It's a great filler game for two players... and is kid-friendly enough to be taught to kids as young as 5. In fact, Gigamic has produced a Batik Kid with pieces shaped like sea creatures.

BTW, though I'm not a big fan of abstract games, the designer of Batik has a great track record with abstracts for people who don't like abstracts: I think Zertz, Dvonn & Tamsk are all great games, though they don't appear in my top 100.

#93: Columbus

  • designer: Marius Mayer
  • publisher: Schmidt Spiele
  • date: 1991
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 4713/5.71
  • position on my top 100 in 2005: did not appear
  • age: 10+
  • # of players: 2-5
  • print status: out of print
  • cost: $45.00 (BGG Marketplace - there's currently one "like new" copy listed)
Historical accuracy is not the primary focus here - unless the Atlantic Ocean is full of reefs & rocky outcroppings, sailors can control the weather for malevolent purposes, and the worst thing that can happen to a ship is that it loses a single mast. Instead, the game is a delightful romp - a game that uses luck management (via the position you leave yourself in & the judicious use of provisions for re-rolls) and "take that" elements to fashion a fast-moving & truly "fluffy" game.

It's simple enough - players begin with their ships in Europe. Each turn, you roll 4 custom dice that generate both movement for your ships & some other special abilities (moving storms, strong winds, taking on provisions, and acquiring action cards). You can use provisions to reroll one or more of the dice.

Ships take damage (lose their main mast) in a variety of ways - running aground, colliding with another ship, being caught by a storm at sea. You can repair your ship by rolling a "sail" - or by using a particular action card.

You'll either be charmed or repulsed by this next bit - when you reach the western section of the mapboard, you use a small telescope to peer at discs to see if you've found inhabited land or not. Once you find this, of course, you must race back across the Atlantic to Europe to announce your discovery.

The game is not, by any stretch of the imagination, rocket science. A few simple tactical hints:
  • Make sure you have provisions.
  • Try not to stop where it's easy to run aground.
  • Try to stay away from the storms.
Like I said, this game isn't going to threaten Torres or Twilight Struggle for the title of "Think-y Boardgame." Heck, it barely threatens to eclipse the difficult decision-making (ha!) involved in Die Oster Insel or Project: CIA.

What it does have, by the barrel full, is fun. It moves fast enough that being targeted as a leader isn't terribly discouraging - you'd do the same thing if you were behind. The wild swings of luck (esp. when a hurricane blows every boat in the game into a reef!) make for big laughs - while a short playing time (20-40 minutes, depending on the number of players) keeps those laughs from turning into yawns of irritation. And there's the spectacular bits (see the picture here from

All in all, a worthy addition to my collection - and to yours, if you can scare up a copy. (It took me five years.)

#94: Ca$h'n'Gun$

  • designer: Ludovic Maublanc
  • publisher: Asmodee
  • date: 2005
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 357/6.80
  • position on my top 100 in 2005: did not appear
  • age: 10+
  • # of players: 4-6
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $28.99 (Gateplay)
Following the heist, the crooks gather in some seedy little bar to divide the loot... but all of them are armed & greedy, if not dangerous. Oddly enough, though, their weapons are made out of foam.

And that's the premise behind one of the more enjoyable "let's be the bad guys" games out there - players point foam handguns at each other that may or may not be loaded (denoted by playing cards) in an attempt to get other crooks to give up their share of the loot. There's bluffing, laughter, wild interaction of various special powers & a general good time if & only if you can get past the whole "threatening other people with fake weapons" vibe.

The base game is every man for himself... but when you add in the Yakuzas expansion, the number of possible players expands (up to 9) as does the craziness, as you play in teams. (The expansion also adds a foam shotgun as well as foam swords & shuriken.) There's also a Europe-only Uzi expansion, but it's pretty expensive for a single foam gun & a card. (Yes, I own it... I'm a sad, sad expansion addict - expect to find me slumped against a building in your city with a tin cup & a hand-lettered sign that says "Will Work For Expansions.")

For larger groups, there's also a Ca$h'n'Gun$: Live card game - which is really more of a mini-LARP kind of event for 12-20 players. (I will say that the designers managed to get the feel of the original game packed into the card game... while making it easy enough to teach & learn for large groups.)

#95: Liar's Dice

Liar's Dice
  • designer: Richard Borg
  • publisher: Milton Bradley
  • date: 1986
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 227/7.02
  • position on my top 100 in 2005: 82nd
  • age: 8+
  • # of players: 2-6
  • print status: ?
  • cost: while the edition pictured is out of print, you can find a 4 player version from Front Porch Games for $15.95 (FairPlay Games) and a copy of Perudo, which is similar for $14.30 (FunAgain)
Liar's Dice has been published in a wild variety of editions - varying the rules, the number of players & the number of dice each player has. All of them share one basic characteristic - people describe them as a "bluffing game."

I've come to believe that Liar's Dice is not as much about bluffing as it is about deciding when to bluff... like Poker, the components of the game simply act as tools for you in your quest to read the other players - and then fool them by bluffing or by telling the truth.

I esp. like the Milton Bradley edition pictured... the board makes it much easier to teach the bidding rules. I'd probably rate it higher if I hadn't over-played the game during various phases of my gaming life - now I prefer it 2-3 times a year.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

#96: Thunder Road

Thunder Road
  • designer: Jim Keifer
  • publisher: Milton Bradley
  • date: 1986
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 1520/6.6
  • position on my top 100 in 2005: did not appear
  • age: 10+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: out of print
  • cost: used copies will be at least $20 and more likely $40-50... though I found mine in a thrift store for $2...
Milton Bradley was a little late in developing a game to cash in on the success of the Mad Max films... but when they finally managed to put it out, they did a wonderful job. Of course, by that time I was graduating from college & not paying very good attention to mass market games, so I missed out. I even missed out on the following commercial (sorry about the quality of the clip)...

Frankly, I'm not sure I would have paid attention to it at the time - I was too busy playing Axis & Allies and Fortress America to get distracted by a "kids game."

Thankfully, wisdom comes with age... and I've found Thunder Road to be one of the best 30 minute smash-em-up race games ever. (This from someone who used to play both Car Wars, Road Kill & Dark Future.) The rules are clean & easy to remember, the game plays quickly & there are a few opportunities to make tactical decisions - but since Mad Max is the inspiration, it's really about wrecking other cars, and you get to do plenty of that.

We usually play that ANY doubles roll allows you to flip a car up & keep moving, which makes the game last slightly longer... but, hey, we like it that way.

#97: Klunker

  • designer: Uwe Rosenberg
  • publisher: Rio Grande
  • date: 1999
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 1255/6.31
  • position on my top 100 in 2005: 95th
  • age: 10+
  • # of players: 3-5
  • print status: out of print
  • cost: a number of copies can be found on the BGG Marketplace for around $8...
I'm guessing that you probably haven't recently trundled down to your local game store thinking, "What I'd really like to find is a game about running a costume jewelry shop." Of course, that didn't stop Uwe Rosenberg from designing just that kind of game - and you, you non-costume-jewelry-loving-gamer, are the richer for it.

You see, Uwe is a genius - he possesses an innate ability to take the whole idea of "card game" and turn it inside out. (No surprise that you'll see Uwe's name on this list a number of times.) Klunker is a trading game with some serious hand management issues... and a whole lot of fun stuffed into a little box.

One warning: the game is pretty unforgiving the first time you play... you need to give it a couple of chances to really get a feel for how the shop window & safe work together to score you some dough/points.

If you're wondering about where the goofy name came from... or if there really is any strategy to this game (there is! there is!), check out my Game Central Station: Klunker article here on aka pastor guy.

#98: Tannhauser

  • designer: Didier Polli & William Grosselin (revised rules by Daniel Lovat Clark, William Grosselin, JR Godwin & Jeff Tidball)
  • publisher: Fantasy Flight
  • date: 2007
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 979/6.41
  • position on my top 100 in 2005: did not appear
  • age: 10+
  • # of players: 2-10
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $42.95 (Cardhaus)... but you'll also want the Revised rulebook - $7.95 (Cardhaus)
When it was released back in 2007, this shoot-em-up game of alternative history was gorgeous to look & filled with some neat ideas, but it just didn't come together into a cohesive & playable whole. (It probably didn't help that my first game was with 8 players... all of us newbies.) But it proved popular enough to warrant multiple expansions (one large box & 4 single figure boxes) even with the rules ambiguities & balance issues.

And then, Fantasy Flight did something pretty amazing - they decided to revise the rules in major ways to make the game better... and they succeeded. Even more incredible - they managed to do it without requiring players to buy any new pieces - all you need is the revised rulebook (or the PDF of the same, available for $5 from their website.)

What we have now is a combat game that plays quickly & cleanly (thanks to the "Pathfinder" system that deals with LOS) set in an alternate history where WWI is still going in 1949 and the Reich is attempting to open portals to allow ultimate evil to enter our dimension... of course, it's the job of the Union (and the Matriarchy - the Russians) to stop them. It's like Hellboy, Harry Turtledove & Halo rolled into one. And, thanks to the revised rulebook, there are 6 different game "modes" - meaning you have a lot of variety stuffed into the system.

Four final thoughts:
  • They've recently published two more Troop expansions... these are "native" to the revised rules.
  • Not sure why the authors of the color text in the rulebook found it necessary to take God's name in vain...
  • I would love for Fantasy Flight to publish a deck of "pack" cards for the various characters to make set-up faster & easier... currently, I'm using some nice homebrews that were posted on BGG.
  • While the game works with multiple players (each person taking one or more characters), I think the best way to learn and/or play the game is one-on-one.

#99: Brawl

  • designer: James Earnest
  • publisher: Cheapa** (yes, that's their name - sigh)
  • date: 1999
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 1141/6.37
  • position on my top 100 in 2005: did not appear
  • age: 10+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: out of print
  • cost: $2.47 per deck (
Yes, it's overproduced - the original price for the game was $5/deck... and each player needed their own deck. But if you want a real-time game that rewards repeated play & actually paying attention to the composition of each deck, this is your game.

And it's QUICK. A best of 3 match (three fights) can usually be played in no more that 15 minutes. In fact, it can sometimes take longer to sort the cards when you're finished than it did to play them to the table.

A quick overview... players shuffle their deck & play cards simultaneously - as fast as they can onto 3 "base" cards in the middle of the table. When one player finishes his deck, the fight is over.

There are rules for playing with multiple players, but the game really shines one-on-one. (The confusion level with multiple players gets pretty intense unless everyone knows the game really well.)

And, if you can't get enough of real-time battle games, you can always move up to Fightball, another game my son & I really enjoy. Games are longer (20-30 min.) with 4 "quarters" of play & a lot more places to play cards.

Note: I am sure that the fact that I paid approx. $1/deck on clearance for my 12 decks has NO effect whatsoever on my opinion of this game... not. :-)

#100: Mississippi Queen

Mississippi Queen
  • designer: Werner Hodel
  • publisher: Rio Grande
  • date: 1997
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 765/6.44
  • position on my top 100 in 2005: 44th
  • age: 10+
  • # of players: 3-5 (2-6 w/the Black Rose expansion)
  • print status: out of print
  • cost: expect to pay $40+ for a used copy

Steamboat racing at it's best - this is a pretty simple game (once everyone figures out how to tell what order everyone moves) that is fun to play & nice to look at. Mississippi Queen is improved by the use of The Black Rose expansion - esp. if playing with 5-6 players. (Note: I wrote this paragraph back in '05... over time, I've come to believe that the expansion works best as seasoning - use the coaling station & the "evil islands" tile & the extra steamboats - but that the logs & sandbars simply slow the game down.)

I like this game enough that I've written about possible problems & variants before - you can read my Game Central Station: Mississippi Queen article here on aka pastor guy.

BTW, this won the Spiel des Jahres back in 1997, which has caused a good bit of griping over the years. Tigris & Euphrates, the gamer-y pick of the year, was not even nominated. (You'll notice that I do not include T&E in my top 100 - it's a game I respect but don't like to play.) However, five of the other nominees (Bohnanza, Settlers Card Game, Expedition, Showmanager & Lowenherz) all will appear later on this list. I'm not personally offended by the award - again, I really like the game.

Mark's Top 100 Games

Over five years ago, I was involved in creating a blog report on the 100 best games as picked by a group of gaming notables... you can read all about it at The One Hundred. After we finished posting those, I felt like I needed to post my own top 100 list... and so, in December of 2005, that's exactly what I did. (If you like to see my list, you can access some summary pages with this link.)

Well, I just sat down & made myself a new list... and over the next three months or so, I'll be blogging my way through my top 100 family & strategy games. (If you're interested in my top 100 kid games, you can check out my list & blog posts.)