Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Kid Game Review: Robin Hound

Robin Hound
  • designer: Eugene Wyss
  • publisher: Haba
  • date: 2010
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/6.33
  • olayers: 2-5
  • ages: 6+
  • playing time: 20 minutes
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $10.79 (
It appears we've been sold a bill of goods when it comes to the legend of Robin Hood. Evidently, he is not a human (as portrayed brilliantly by Errol Flynn & much less brilliantly by Kevin Costner) nor is he a fox (as the Walt Disney Company tried to convince us)... he's a dog. A hound - Robin Hound.

And if he's going to loot the castle at Nottingham, he's going to need to gather a band of merry, um, animals. Or, in the case of the game, you're going to have to gather five of them with the help of your fellow players.

The "board" is actually a layout of tiles - a circle of forest tiles with a larger castle tile as the start space/goal. Players place their hound markers on the space, the card deck (with 6 different kinds of animals) is shuffled and two cards are dealt face up in the center of the table.

In turn, players pick up one of the two face-up cards and either
  • keep it in their own hand (if it doesn't match anything they already have) OR
  • give it to another player

A number of the cards have shields on them which denotes that they can only be given to another player.

If you give a card to an opponent that doesn't match any of his cards, you get to move your hound through the forest as many spaces as he has cards in his hand. If, however, you give a card to an opponent that matches one of his cards, the card is discarded and you get nothing.

When a player's hound passes the castle on the forest track OR a player collects a set of five different merry animals, they immediately draw a treasure chest card - which has one, two or three bags of gold on it. The first player to either (a) collect five treasure chests or (b) get 10 bags of gold wins the game.

This is the part of the review where I strongly recommend that you skip to the "professional rules" with all but the youngest players, which are:

  1. There is a penalty for giving another player a duplicate animal - they get to move their hound!
  2. You can choose to discard a card rather than giving it to another player.

Both of these rules make for a more interesting game by giving you choices... and giving your choices a consequence.

This is a light, fast game of memory with a nice blending of cooperative & competitive elements. The art is very cute, the box size is perfect for making it a stocking stuffer, and all the members of our family (ages 6 to 47) have had a good time playing it. It's not going to take the board gaming world by storm like Animal Upon Animal or Maus nach Haus (both Haba games that have very positive feedback from gamers) - it's a solid & very enjoyable game for kids & families.

The box says Robin Hound plays with 2-5 players... and I was skeptical about the lower end of those numbers when I read the rules. However, my 6 year old son & I played two-handed and had a great time, so I was forced to rethink my objections. While I like the game better with more players, it also works well as "just the two of us" parent & child game.

Finally, because there are 6 different suits of merry animals, you could increase the difficulty (and length!) of the game by requiring players to get all six cards in order to grab a treasure chest. (Note: we haven't tried this yet.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Merry Holidays? Happy Christmas?

We all get "those emails" - you know, the ones where you are instructed to either pass the message on or forward it to five friends or whatever. (I've sounded off on this before here on the blog - go back & read my post Forward, Christian Soldiers.)

And I got another one today.
I will be making a conscious effort to wish everyone a Merry Christmas this year ...

My way of saying that I am celebrating the birth Of Jesus Christ.

So I am asking my email buddies, if you agree with me, to please do the same.

And if you'll pass this on to your email buddies, and so on...

maybe we can prevent one more American tradition from being lost in the sea of "Political Correctness".
You may sit now, as I did, for a moment of stunned silence at this bit of ridiculousness.

OK, silent time is over.

Elton Trueblood once said:
“There are those places in ministry and theology that you must draw the line and fight and die; just don’t draw the lines in stupid places!”
Here are three reasons that the above email (and the philosophy behind it) are clearly one of those stupid places:
  1. Please, please, please... any time you are tempted to use the phrases "celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ" and "American tradition" in the same sentence, you should use some of that cutesy holiday-themed scotch tape to shut your mouth. The celebration of Christ's birth is NOT an American tradition - it's a Christian tradition... and being an American doesn't make you a Christian, any more than walking into McDonald's makes you a hamburger. (Credit to Keith Green for that analogy.)
  2. "Happy Holidays" is not a frontal attack on Christianity... it's an attempt by people (and businesses) to be inoffensive in a season in which there are two major religious holidays (one Christian & one Jewish), one cultural holiday (Kwanzaa), and New Years Day as well.
  3. A methodological problem: email forwards tend to go to people who already agree with you - meaning you've created feedback loop of people who become belligerent about the way they wish people "Merry Christmas" because they're sure that everyone who doesn't do the same is opposed to all that is good & right in the world.

I'm not telling you to stop saying "Merry Christmas" - in the words of Reggie McNeal, "Don't hear what I'm not saying." Go right ahead & wish people "Merry Christmas"... you are celebrating the birth of Christ in this season. The sincere hope of those who are followers of Jesus is that more people would discover that for themselves.

However, I do want to give you a few tips in how to fulfill the command of Scripture while you're spreading holiday cheer:

  1. Stop correcting salespeople who are obligated - in order to keep their job! - to say "Happy Holidays". It's not their fault. And arguing with them or chiding them is not going to bring anyone closer to embracing the true meaning of Christmas.
  2. When you say "Merry Christmas", make sure you sound like Bob Crachit rather than Ebenezer Scrooge. Seriously, there are some folks out there who spit the traditional greeting at people like it's a bullet aimed straight at their pitiful heathen hearts. If you can't wish someone "Merry Christmas" with a heart filled with Christlike love, then don't say anything at all.
  3. Remember that the (gosh, I hate this cliche) "reason for the season" is Jesus Christ... not the preservation of tradition or winning the "War on Christmas". The Incarnation is about God clearly & completely expressing His love for us - Immanuel means "God with us". When we are just working to accomplish a cultural agenda, we are communicating the exact opposite message... what we're saying is "if you don't accept my particular way of celebration & the theological beliefs that go along with it, I'll simply stuff it down your throat."

And, since I'm a pastor, a Scripture to prove my point:

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossian 4:5-6, NIV)

BTW, Merry Christmas!

Game Preview: Memoir '44 Campaign Book Volume 2

I love movie previews, so much so that I refuse to buy a ticket to a film unless I know I'm going to get to see the trailers before it starts. And that's my function here today, to act as a movie trailer for the upcoming release of Memoir '44: Campaign Book Volume Two from Days of Wonder.

Previews have targeted audiences, one excellent current example being the differences between the first American trailer for
The Adventures of Tintin (which pretty much keeps Tintin hidden throughout) and the European trailer for the same film, which both has a different name (The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, which sounds like a typical Tintin graphic novel) and manages to highlight Snowy, Archibald Haddock and Dupont & Dumond (all classic Tintin characters). The people promoting the film know their jobs...

...and I know mine. Obviously, the audience for a preview of an expansion for a game system with the words "Campaign Book" and "Volume Two" in the title is going to be limited to those who already own
Memoir '44 (and some or all of the numerous expansions) – or, hopefully, some of you who are wondering whether it's worth jumping in based on this addition to the franchise.

Let's answer some questions you might have:

What is a campaign?

The Campaign Books (along with the additional web-released campaigns, The Vercors Campaign and Audie Murphy's Campaign) offer a way to chain Memoir '44 scenarios together in order to experience a series of battles or, well, a campaign. Two added game mechanisms – Reserves and Victory Rolls – combine with scenario and campaign specific effects to give a unique feel to each series of battles and reward the victor with some "spoils of war" to enhance his chances in the next battle.

Campaigns vary in length, usually consisting of 4-6 battles, but Grand Campaigns exist as well, tying together multiple campaigns to cover larger sections of World War II.

Which expansions do I need to use this book?

Obviously, you need a copy of the Memoir '44 base game. Beyond that:
  • The Island Hoppers Grand Campaign (which consists of four campaigns: Guadalcanal, Marshall Islands, Marianas & Palau Islands and Home Islands) requires a copy of the Pacific Theater expansion.
  • The Bicycle Blitzkrieg & Fall of Poland campaigns require tiles from the Terrain Pack expansion (although you could do without those in a pinch).
  • The Breakthrough Normandy Grand Campaign requires the Breakthrough map boards (which could also be the paper Breakthrough map from the Campaign Bag) as well as tiles from the Terrain Pack (in such quantity that faking your way through would be tough). Though not required, it would also be great to have a copy of the Winter Wars expansion for the Breakthrough command card deck; the extra fluidity of movement makes the Breakthrough scenarios flow better.
  • The Air Aces campaign requires the Air Pack expansion.
Wait a minute, I thought Air Pack was out of print. Why did Days of Wonder include a campaign in a new book for something that's difficult to acquire?!

DoW's Eric Hautemont explains what's going on in the Memoir '44 forums on the Days of Wonder website:
No, we have no plans to reprint the Air Pack (in this form or any other), as the costs to do so would be prohibitive.

The reason we went ahead and included this (small) Air Aces campaign at the end of Volume 2 is because the other campaigns in the book ran longer than initially planned, so we had to increase the page count in this volume from 112 pages to 128 pages (due to the way pages are bound, the page count in a book like this go up in 16 pages increments).

The Air Aces campaign was short enough to fit in the few remaining pages we had, so we added it in as a bonus for people that own the Air Pack.

For those of you that were not able to acquire the Air Pack while in print, we will post a free PDF of the Air Rules on our web site at the same time the Campaign Book Volume 2 ships.

Do I need Campaign Book Volume One in order to use this one?

Nope – the Campaign and Grand Campaign rules work the same way in both books. What you're getting is 46 new scenarios tied together into eleven different campaigns.

So, what do you think?

I'll be writing a full review for The Opinionated Gamers in the next couple of weeks, but so far we've played the first three Breakthrough Normandy scenarios – a hint based on my son's mistakes: the 82nd & 101st Airborne need to secure the area before attempting to grab objectives – and the first two Bicycle Blitzkrieg scenarios (where my younger son is trampling over my pathetic British defenses), and we're having a great time!

The scenarios are all top-notch, I love the variety of theaters of operation, and I especially appreciate the suggestions in the rules for "making do" if you don't have a particular expansion. (Example: The paratroop drop scenarios both use the Night rules, but offer an alternate way to have the same effect if you don't own the Night rules board.)

A review copy was provided by Days of Wonder to this reviewer. This preview originally appeared on BGG as a BGN article.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

I Had A Dream

And boy oh boy, was it a weird one.

Somehow, a bunch of us had decided that the only way to do [some important thing that was extremely fuzzy in my dream] was to travel across the United States on foot through a long set of cavern-like tunnels. We were staying in a hotel somewhere in [another fuzzy part] and I was packing my backpack full of food for the trip, worrying about the batteries in my head lamp. The entrance to the tunnels was in the sub-basement of the hotel... and every time I went near the opening, I could feel the weight of the earth pressing down on me.

The crowd of people in the dream was a wild mix: gamer friends (both local & far away), folks from my church, and even a couple of teams from the current season of the Amazing Race. Shari was there as well... though she wasn't going to be traveling with us.

As the time for our departure grew nearer, I began to think about how long it would take us to walk to New Mexico - evidently Albuquerque was an exit point from the tunnel system. I worried about how much food we were carrying. I wondered if we could pull roller luggage with us or if the ground would be too rough. I continued to feel like the caves would collapse and leave me buried choking for air, dying beneath the deserts of Arizona.

And then I woke up.

This morning, while I was shaving, a thought popped into my head: "Why were we going through the tunnels? Why didn't we just rent a car or take a plane?" (Obviously, this level of clarity is not always available to you in dreams.)

From there, it was only a short mental hop/skip/jump to an actual meaningful insight: how often do we decide to "walk across America underground" because it was the first idea that came to us? Regardless of resources & common sense, we plow ahead... unwilling to examine our decision or explore the alternatives.
  • in our personal lives, where we hang onto dating relationships that are clearly bad for us spiritually & emotionally rather than risk being alone
  • in our business lives, where we follow a strategic plan that has been eclipsed by changes in the economy
  • in our family lives, where we plod along on autopilot, doing marriage & parenting just like our parents did without heeding the consequences to ourselves or our kids
  • in our church lives, where we're unwilling to try something different because "we've never done it that way before"

So the question I'm asking myself today is this: "What decision needs to be remade? What in my life smells dangerously of musty caverns?"

Because I know some of you will be interested, possible sources for some of the elements in my dream:

  • cave tunnels - too much D&D as a teenager
  • head lamp - Amazing Race + last week was "Black-Out Nite" at Awana and a bunch of the kids had head lamps
  • hotel - looking forward to a vacation in a week or so
  • Amazing Race - well, we watch it each week
  • Albuquerque as tunnel exit - Bugs Bunny... "should have taken the left turn at Albuquerque"
  • cave collapse - this last week's episode of Hawaii 5-0, which had kids being buried alive in a panel truck