Monday, January 29, 2007

Nickel, Dimes & Games

It's January... which is always a big gaming month for me, even with no conventions and/or gatherings (capitalized or otherwise) to attend. I'm guessing it has something to do with the weather (cold & dreary), the post-Christmas gaming glut of games that need playing, and my general difficultly in getting back into any kind of real groove at work following the holidays. So, I've played over 100 games since the Rose Parade. Sheesh. Because of and/or in spite of this, I'm posting some more quick hits about Mark & gaming & the blog:
  • I picked up a nearly new copy of Tumblin' Dice at the AmVet Thrift Store last week for $5.00... it was marked $10 but it was 1/2 price day for blue-tagged items! Shari has fallen in love with this dexterity/dice game... so it may well be my first "dime" of the new year. (The first nickel is Balloon Lagoon, which Braeden got for Christmas.)
  • Speaking of nickels & dimes, I am still in the process of compiling my annual Five & Dime list. If you want to know more about what in the world I'm talking about, start with my introduction from last year. If you want to submit your own 5 & 10 list for 2006, e-mail me at Deadline is supposed to be Wednesday, but I'll probably still be processing the responses through the weekend.
  • I had a great trade recently with gamer-stu through the BGG Marketplace... I sent him the ASL module Yanks for his Starfarers of Catan set (complete with expansion & alien figures & a rulebook signed by Klaus Teuber). Only I screwed up and didn't do a decent piece count of Yanks... so I'd sent him an incomplete copy. He reacted with grace & kindness - and so I'm sending him my incomplete copy of ASL: Beyond Valor to help begin an ASL parts trading "emporium". I can not say enough nice things about gamer-stu (who's real name is Chris); he was a gentleman in every sense of the word.
  • And Starfarers is already a hit at my house... with a little help from BGG, I tweaked the rules a little bit to make it playable with Braeden (my 5 1/2 year old gamer son). Since Braeden reads at a 2nd grade (or better!) level, the encounter cards weren't a problem... he takes particular glee in reading bad outcomes to his dad! We played 2 player to 15 points, using the 5/6 player expansion. Set-up was 1 spaceport/1 colony. Each player was limited to one colony per set of planets, both at start-up & during the game. Galactic Relief was 2 cards per turn. We played with open card hands (so I could help him make decisions). After all of that, he beat me 15-14, winning by dropping a final colony a couple of turns before I could take away one of his alien friends.
  • I'm slowly but surely moving all my "games played" statistics onto BoardgameGeek... I've kept a detailed spreadsheet for a number of years (since July of 1998) but the computer that it lives on is ready for the computer equivlaent of a mobile home park in Florida. (It's a Mac Powerbook that doesn't even come with a built-in modem... now, that's old.) My profile name there is gamemark, if you're interested. (I'm only to the "F"'s so far... a long way to go.)
  • The good part about moving all those stats... I'm getting to revise my ratings & comments on a number of games, as well as add some oddball games to the database.

Top Ten Kids Games You've Probably Never Played

Since I've already podcasted about this (on The Dice Tower) and then created a Geeklist on BGG, I'll refrain from further comment here. Just follow the links & enjoy.

Coming in March to a blog near you: my Top 50 Kids Games. (Hint: Chutes & Ladders didn't make the cut. Heck, it barely makes the cut as kindling or cat box liner.)

UPDATE: On the following Dice Tower podcast, Moritz corrected most of my German pronounciation (at least I got Bis Bald im Wald right).

Monday, January 22, 2007

Five Streams

I read a number of different blogs about the emerging church... but I've always had a great deal of trouble explaining what the heck I'm talking about to folks with more traditional church backgrounds. (Heck, I even tried to explain a bit about this on my NewLife @ Night blog with only marginal success.)

So when I read recommendations by three different bloggers (
Tall Skinny Kiwi, Vintage Faith, and Reformissionary) that I trust & enjoy urging me to read Scot McKnight's Christianity Today article, "Five Streams of the Emerging Church", I virtually hot-footed over & printed myself a copy.

And now I want to recommend it to you, my faithful readers, in the strongest possible terms. Dr. McKnight manages to capture both my excitement & my fears about emerging church, clearly & thoughtfully skewering stereotypes and delineating the real nature of this movement inside the Christian church. Simply put, he does a better job of explaining "emergent" than I've ever managed to do.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Not That I Plan On Getting a Nose Ring Or Anything Like That

I just finished reading Andrew Beaujon's Body Piercing Saved My Life... wow. My atheist gamer buddy, Jonathan Degann, has often said:

When I read a newspaper article about a subject I know nothing about, I think: "hey, this is interesting; I learned something." When I read an article in the same newspaper about a subject I know a lot about, I think: "This article is filled with lies and misconceptions, and the reporter doesn't know what he's talking about."

So, when someone decides to take on a subject which I've essentially LIVED IN since I was in my mid-teens (for those of you playing along at home, that's at little more than 25 years), I'm always a bit scared that the writer will screw it up royally.

Imagine my shock when a non-Christian rock critic for Spin magazine managed to write an entire book on Christian rock & get it pretty much right. I'm still trying to scrape my jaw off the floor. He even interviews my personal Christian rock hero, Steve Taylor, and allows him (and other figures in the industry) to speak candidly about their music, their faith & the business of CCM.

And what really blows me away is that he does all of this without overdoing the whole rock critic vibe - you know, "Look at me, I'm a world-weary guy who's seen & heard it all... and if you don't fit into my narrow definition of cool, I'm going to dismiss you with pop-culture-reference-laced sarcasm." (Which is fun in small doses, but would absolutely wear you out if you had to read a whole book full of it.)

Here's a quote from late in the book:

When I started this book, [my wife] was concerned that I was going to become a Christian. That didn't happen. But I have become a fan, not just of the music, but of Christians, and of Jesus himself. To me, the message of the Gospel is love one another, look out for the less fortunate, and try to walk gently on the earth. And I love that.

And I need to say "thanks" to Andrew Beaujon for turning me onto Mute Math, a band I'd heard of but never listened to before reading about them in his book. Yowsa - I like their sound!

Hey, he's even got a blog, if you want to get a flavor of his writing & viewpoint.

This is News?

Heck, this happened to me back in 2000... thanks to my good friend, Chris Herndon, and his "evil minions."

Woman finds 37 Christmas trees near pool

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - When Carol Lopez let her Labrador retriever out for the morning the dog had an unusual number of tree trunks to attend to. Surrounding her aboveground backyard pool Lopez found 37 used Christmas trees.

"I had just woke up and boom, they're there and that's it," Lopez said Thursday.

Whoever put the trees there apparently took their time, neatly organizing and standing the trees upright.

Lopez said she called Allentown police, and an officer told her to call the city to have the trees removed. A city employee told her husband to drag the trees out of the backyard and they would be picked up free of charge, she said.

Lopez said she didn't know how someone climbed a tall wooden fence surrounding the yard, or got all the trees over it.

"People just don't have anything better to do," Lopez said. "That's someone who had time on their hands."

I think the count in front of my house was 39... and they not only laid them all over my front lawn, but also leaned them up against my garage.

How did I discover this? When, at about 3 am (after watching some late night TV) I opened the garage door to take out the trash... and all the trees fell into my garage. (Yes, I said a word that is NOT on the "Approved Word List For SBC Pastors"... and then I immediately took Chris's name in vain.)

I'm still not getting how this prank - which Chris & his gang of underage hooligans-in-training had been pulling LONG before I showed up - rates top exposure on Yahoo.

And this wasn't even as spectacular a prank as the time that they sweet-talked the church janitor into giving them a key to my office so they could move EVERYTHING in it into the foyer of the church. Yes, everything - desk, books, trash, whatever - and then set it up EXACTLY as it was in my office. Happy 30th birthday - right.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Random Gaming Thoughts

I'm not sure I'm really allowed to call these "random" - as they're all about gaming, which would indicate some kind of non-randomness - but I couldn't think of a better title for the post "on the fly", so we're stuck with it.

Or, well, you're stuck with it.
  • My gaming group here in Fresno (aptly named - wait for it - The Fresno Gamers) is growing again. After some attrition over the last year or so (due to real life interfering with gaming - sigh), we've added four new folks in two months. (Want to join us? Check out our group site.)
  • With new folks added, that means - oddly enough - OLD games. We've been playing some of the "classics" lately, which is just fine with me. (Any night I get to play Big City & Fast Food Franchise is primo gaming time for me - and a Battlelore scenario was just a cherry on top of that.)
  • Thanks to a sale at JC Penney ($9 for Pizza Box Football as they're remaindering out the extras for Christmas), it looks like we may form a mini-league here as well. Hopefully, my streak of bad luck (I'm 0-4 against Richard) will come to end in league play... but probably not.
  • I have BIG questions about the new system for moderating posts & threads at the Geek... it's one of those "in a perfect world, this would be a great idea" kind of things. However, we don't live in a perfect world, and allowing the masses to vote "thumbs up or down" smacks a bit of the Roman gladiator arenas. (Look, I think Aldie & Derk are some of the coolest guys on the planet, and I'm a longtime supporter of BoardGameGeek- I just don't like what's going on with this particular element.)
  • I did a Top Ten list for The Dice Tower podcast... but managed to have such immense uploading problems (e-mail crashed, FTP sites that wouldn't work, etc.) that I didn't get it in to Tom in time. However, once the deadline was past (of course!), FTP worked just fine. (Sigh.) So, listen for the "Top Ten Kid's Games You've Probably Never Played" coming soon!

Preaching Against Someone's House?

I read this earlier this week over on MMI - Ed Stetzer is one of the most thoughtful guys out there on the whole issue of speaking capital "T" Truth into every nook & cranny of the world.

The fight goes on. Like a giant tug of war, each side is pulling hard. The battle lines: Cultural relevance versus biblical faithfulness-a classic tyranny of the “OR.” Yes, cultural relevance can be confusing. On the one hand, the church can be so focused on cultural relevance that it loses its distinctive message. Don’t think it won’t happen-it has happened to countless churches and denominations. On the other hand, it can decide that culture does not matter. That leads to a church whose message is indiscernible and obscure to those who are “outside.” Let me propose an alternative: our churches need to be biblically faithful, culturally relevant, counter culture communities.

Not everyone buys into what I’ve just said. Whole ministries exist just to tell you not to pay attention to culture. To them, a virtuous church is one that is culturally irrelevant. In their view, a mark of holiness is not just being disconnected from sin but also being disconnected from sinners and the culture they share with us every day.

Preaching against culture is like preaching against someone’s house-it is just where they live. The house has good in it and bad in it. Overall, culture can be a mess-but (to mix metaphors) it is the water in which we swim and the lens through which we see the world. And the gospel needs to come, inhabit, and change that and every culture (or house).

Man, I long for the church I pastor to be insanely relevant - not "hip"... I think turning 40 may have killed most of my desire for coolness points off. But I don't want to preach & teach just so the faithful can nod & smile & pat me on the back.

OTOH, I don't want to be so comfortable with the culture around us that we back off of what we believe... that we find ourselves longing for the approval of people "on the outside" so much that we're willing to roll over & play dead on things we know to be True.

You can read the whole article at Catalyst.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Reading By the Glow of the Computer

Stuff I've read recently (thanks to a pile of books I received for Christmas!)... Just in case you think I've sold my soul to the television set, I need to also mention:
  • The Gospel According to Disney: Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust - an interesting if occasionally dry analysis of the theology & morality in the classic Disney films. To Mark Pinsky's credit, he gives both critics & defenders a fair hearing... and there's an entire chapter on the SBC boycott. (To no one's surprise, esp. mine, the Southern Baptist Convention does not come off looking good here. Remind me to post sometime about my personal feelings about the boycott and the "joys" of starting a SBC church plant when the Convention was spending their time sparring with Mickey & friends.)
And I'm currently about 1/2 way through Confessions of a Pastor: Adventures in Dropping the Pose & Getting Real with God (by Craig Groeschel), which I'm really enjoying. Of course, any book about being a pastor with chapter titles like "I can't stand a lot of Christians" and "I hate prayer meetings" has instantly got my attention.

Coming soon, I'll let you know how I feel about the treasure trove of novels I received: Showdown and Saint (by Ted Dekker), 24 Declassified: Trojan Horse (yes, from the TV series - the new season starts Sunday night!), and Hood: King Raven Trilogy Book 1 (by Stephen Lawhead).

Thursday, January 04, 2007

My Personal Nickels & Dimes

The following are games I played 10+ times in 2006 (dimes) or 5-9 times (nickels).

For those of you who've been reading the blog for a year or so, you'll remember that I compile these lists some interesting (well, they're interesting if you're obsessed with games) stats each year. You can read last year's right here.


  • Akaba
  • Daddy Cool
  • Scene It (Disney & Movie editions)
  • Sorry (primarily Pokemon Sorry)


  • Animal Olympics
  • Attacktix: Star Wars
  • Au Backe
  • Break the Safe
  • Captain Bone's Gold
  • Carabande
  • Chicken Cha Cha Cha
  • Dancing Dice
  • Das Geisterschloss
  • Diamant
  • Dino Math Tracks
  • Dish It Up!
  • Dschungelrennen
  • Dungeon Dice
  • Fireball Island
  • Floss Geht's
  • Frechdachs
  • Funny Bunny
  • Guess Who?
  • Hallo Dachs
  • Heroscape
  • Hisss
  • Ice Cream Immer Oben Auf!
  • Industrial Waste
  • Jurassic Park: The Lost World
  • Kangi Cup
  • Karambolage
  • Kayanak
  • Loopin' Louie (sessions)
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Lord of the Rings: Kids
  • Marrakesh
  • Maskenball der Kafer
  • Max MauseSchreck
  • Memoir '44
  • Monkey Mission
  • Monopoly, Jr. (lemonade edition)
  • Mut zur Muecke
  • Niagara
  • Oh, What A Mountain
  • Papua
  • Pizza Box Football
  • Princezzin Pimpernel
  • Ra
  • Return of the Heroes (w/Under the Shadow of the Dragon)
  • Scrabble
  • Secrets of the Deep
  • Sindbad
  • Tanz der Hornochsen
  • Treasure Falls
  • Uno (primarily My First Uno)
  • Viva Topo
  • Zwergen Ziehen