Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Braeden & His Mighty Men of Syracuse

Our first game of Command & Colors: Ancients - we're both getting used to the new rules (to us!) of "evade" and the wise use of leaders... and the ease of battle back! Yikes. (Honestly, I made some dumb flanking attacks that he batted back - and then he made a really wise pursuit on my left flank that took me out of the game.)

Scenario: Akragas

  • Carthage: 4 (me)
  • Syracuse: 5 (Braeden)

This Could SO Easily Be Me

from, no surprise, the Dilbert site...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Heroscape Update

As I reported a couple of weeks ago, Braeden & I have been fighting the mother of all Heroscape battles. Well, this afternoon, the fighting finally ended when Braeden's last Marro Drudge, high atop the castle tower, surrendered to the remains of my once mighty force: some Knights, a couple of Minutemen, and a couple of Omicron Snipers. (It was a good decision on his part - the Minutemen & Snipers both have longer range than the Drudge and could have picked him off.)

BTW, here's how we did a 2 player battle with two HUGE (1400+ point) armies... each one of us used two sets of order markers. You could choose which of your "1" markers (for example) you wanted to use first. The flexibility made for some interesting choices in placing orders - and the extra markers meant that you could move most of your large army if you spread the orders out. I don't know that I'd play this big a scenario very often - but it sure was a lot of fun!

In other Heroscape news, we finally found Wave 7 at one of our local Target stores... so our next project is a Soulborg v. Undead battle, utilizing a number of the new figures. I'll keep y'all posted.

The picture is from Erik Arneson's About Board Games site, which probably has the best Heroscape coverage out there of the "normal" gaming sites. It's a pile of Marro from inside the playtest room at Hasbro!

Three Albums/Three Bloggers

I wasn't actually tagged by Steve McCoy with this meme... I just jumped in because:
  1. I haven't posted in the last couple of days.
  2. I haven't written about music in a LONG time.
  3. It was actually kind of interesting.
So, here's the questions:
  • three albums that I recommend you buy if you don’t already have them and
  • three bloggers I’m tagging so that they’ll blog what three albums they recommend and the three bloggers they’ll tag and so forth...

First, the three albums:

  • Soweto Gospel Choir: Voices From Heaven... yes, they have two other albums, but the first album is an absolute burst of rhythmic joy. I discovered this one in the same way I discovered David Wilcox so many years ago - thanks to my daily dose of "left wing radio" (hee!), NPR's All Things Considered.
  • Iona: Open Sky... there is no such thing as a bad Iona album, but this has become my favorite. The sweeping Celtic harmonies & imagery combine with amazing musicianship & classic rock sensibilities to take you to another place & time. (If you really like the "orchestra meets Celtic rock band" vibe, you can check out their album Woven Cord.)
  • Derek Webb: I See Things Upside Down... I've touted D. Webb a good bit on the blog, which is as it should be. His searing lyrics are married with his folk & rock roots and make for amazing listening. This is his 2nd album - and his best. The later albums have become more political - nothing wrong with that, except they aren't as likely to draw me in.

And three bloggers:

  • Zion Red's Head (I'd be stunned if Paul doesn't hold you at gunpoint until you buy a King's X album.)
  • The Game Ranch (Susan & Ed don't write about their musical tastes - so I'll take a wild guess & say Eagles.)
  • Nashbabe's World (Will the owner of the green Honda please move it out of the white zone? The white zone is for loading & unloading only. Oh, yeah - and Lorell will be pushing some Dave Crowder on you.)

Those of you without blogs can participate right here in the comments section.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Lessons From the Underground

Alex McManus is one smart cookie...
In my experience, those whose spiritual formation includes “the quiet” are not prone to a solitary life. They tend to be party animals who love screaming lead lines, booming drum and bass, and crowds going wild. [Or wine, cheese, jazz and conversation.] They like being around others. They like recognition. They enjoy Sunday services. They appreciate youth groups. Etc…They just don’t need them. Christ, his mission and their co-conspirators give them everything they need... You may never know their names. They’re OK with that. They’re anonymous.
Read the whole thing: Lessons from the Underground: Begin with the M in mind.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Bit of Essen Begging

I'm not sure if anyone out there reading this blog is attending Essen 2007 (which is, for the uninitiated, the largest boardgame convention on the planet)... but if they are, I would really like to get my hot little hands on a copy of the free giveaway from Spielen in Österreich (the Catan scenarios) and the Die Siedler von Hessen scenario (cost: 2 Euros) available at the Kosmos booth. I'll cover any mailing expenses or costs via Paypal.

Hey, it doesn't hurt to try, right?!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Susan Hates Me

Yeah, thanks, Ms. Rozmiarek... all I needed was another solitaire dice game to eat up my "free" (ha!) time. (So far, I'm 1-0.)

Monopoly Express

This is all your fault, Game Ranch Girl!

Just Announced: Revampomania

I know some of you couldn't give two hoots for planned changes at Disney's California Adventure, but as a long-time fan of the Disney theme parks, I'm majorly excited. You can read all the basics over on MousePlanet, but I just want to share a few highlights.

A new area - Cars Land, which will be themed around Radiator Springs and contain an E-ticket racing ride as well as two other family rides.

A new Little Mermaid ride-through.

A new interactive Walt Disney Story set in the model of the theater that Snow White opened in.

A new end of the night show (a la Fantasmic) called Disney's World of Color.

Like I said, there's lots more... and Collin will probably be 8-9 years old before it's all finished, but that won't stop me from looking forward to it.

All images are copyrighted by Disney.

Monkeys At The Zoo

I have got to clean house

gotta make my bed

gotta clear my head

It's gettin' kinda stuffy in here

smells sorta funky too

like monkeys at the zoo;

and I have been a-whorin' after things

cause I wanna get everything right

that's a big fat lie

no amount of green, gold or silver

the perfect body

another hot toddy

work for the Lord

fame and power

power and sex

a seat at the table

at the Belle Meade country club

Here's the rub

Nothin' will ever take the place of the peace of God

Charlie Peacock, "Monkeys At The Zoo" (from his album FULL CIRCLE)

I haven't even had the CD player on this morning... and still this song is running through my head. Not a bad thing, mind you - just weird. Jesus, how do I enjoy the stuff of earth without turning it into "a hundred little gods on a gilded wheel"? How do I finish well when I'm carrying this 3 piece set of matching emotional luggage?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Defeating the Marro Invaders

Braeden & I have been talking about a Marro vs. the world "battle royale" since we first picked up the new Heroscape set, Swarm of the Marro... and we finally got to make that a reality this weekend. The pictures you see here are our layout for a massive 1400+ point per army battle between every Marro "hero" & squad we own & a hand-picked army, all from Jandar.

The castle is the objective (more about that in a minute)... you can see the bone dragon & the Marro giant perched on the bridges in front of the castle.

The shelves in the background are my Heroscape shelves, where the figures go when they're not involved in battle. (Yes, these pics are taken in my game room - man, I love having a room where I can set all this stuff up and not worry about it.)

The view to your left is an overhead shot looking into the castle, where the Marro Hive has broken through the floor. There's a 6 level high "cavern beneath the castle with multiple entrances. The Marro want to hold the castle & destroy Jandar's army; Jandar wants to destroy the Marro Hive.

This Marro Striker is high above the battlefield, waiting to reign death down on the invading forces.

Current game situation: Braeden (the Marro) has lost his dragon, his giant & what we call "the spider wizard". I have lost my dragon & am having to use Kelda to keep Sgt. Drake alive. I haven't been able to get a foothold of any kind around the castle yet, though.

I'll update you as the situation changes.


Back in 2005, Stephen Colbert, head of the satirical news program The Colbert Report (on Comedy Central), came up with a word to describe a phenomena he was observing in public discourse: truthiness. I'll let him explain it:

It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that's not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything... What is important? What you want to be true, or what is true?...

Truthiness is 'What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true.' It's not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true. There's not only an emotional quality, but there's a selfish quality.

I'll discuss truthiness more at a later date (suffice it to say that while our politics may or may not agree, I think Mr. Colbert has hit the nail on the head about a major issue for the way we view life & our decisions)... but all of this froo-froo about Comedy Central is really just introduction to what feels like another made-up word: missional.

Last Friday night at the NewLife Family Dinner, I used this word to set out a vision for the kind of church I believe God means for us to become. And, because it's become kind of a buzz word in church leadership circles, I tried to define it as clearly as I could in "real live people" terms, rather than "look at our hip lingo" terms.

My definition is culled from a lot of study... but mainly influenced by Ed Stetzer. I believe, as Ed says, that missional is the adjective form of the noun, missionary. In other words, if a church is missional, it is choosing to do things like missionaries would. The people of the church see themselves as missionaries, called to a particular place & people.

When you hear me use the word "missonal" (and you will), I'm not talking about sending money to the Cooperative Program to support missionaries overseas. That's a very good thing, by the way. I'm all for that - but the heartbeat of a missional church is not supporting missionaries, it is being missionaries.

So what do missionaries do?
  • They get to know the culture, language, & history of the area & people they're called to.
  • They live amongst the people, not set apart in some kind of protective bubble.
  • They communicate in ways that those people can understand.
  • They go out & live the truth of Jesus Christ in the middle of everyday routine, rather than simply wait for folks to show up on Sunday morning at 11 am.
  • They are not as concerned about their comfort & preference as they are about what will help people cross the line of faith.
I can not tell you how much I long for the heart of our church to be missional in nature. When that happens - watch out! We'll have the wonderful opportunities to make a God-sized dent in Easton & in the surrounding communities.

The question facing each of us today is: "What's the next step that will make me more like a missionary & less like a spectator?" So - what is it?

Honestly, there's a lot more to the missional discussion than I can (or want to!) cover in this short article. If you'd like to know more, check out

I also know that some of you who read this blog are quickly offended by the word "missionary" - because some people who claimed Christianity & operated under that title were primarily interested in converting native peoples to their economic way of life & European social structure. That is not what I or my denomination (Southern Baptists) believe or practice. The dream is, overseas as in the U.S., for indigenous churches that teach & live out the gospel in their cultural context. As always, I'd welcome more conversation on this subject.

A version of this article originally appeared in the October 16, 2007 issue of The Grapevine, the newsletter of NewLife Community Church.

Monday, October 15, 2007

And You Think I'm Obsessed?!

Yes, I do like Battlelore... enough that I've managed to purchase all the current expansions.

But I've got NOTHING (I repeat, nothing) on this guy... see his video over at YouTube.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pig Pile: The LARP

Seen this week at the Big Fresno Fair... with apologies to Richard Borg and R&R Games.

Which Church Father Are You?

This isn't exactly what I expected... but it works for me. (All except the "martyr" part.)

You’re St. Justin Martyr!

You have a positive and hopeful attitude toward the world. You think that nature, history, and even the pagan philosophers were often guided by God in preparation for the Advent of the Christ. You find “seeds of the Word” in unexpected places. You’re patient and willing to explain the faith to unbelievers.

Find out which Church Father you are at The Way of the Fathers!

Thanks to Scott's Retrieving the Christian Tradition blog for pointing this out.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

"Honest" Monopoly Board

What with me doing a sermon using Monopoly as the anchoring image this weekend, I was amused to find a link to the following bit on my e-mail this morning. (Thanks, Marc!)

Please note: what you see is edited for family viewing - the original post is at least PG-13 rated and on a site that is not for the easily offended. (I do not recommend the site.)

Parker Brothers recently released an all new "honest" Monopoly board. This new version cuts through all the @#$%&^* of the regular board and allows players to experience the game the way it was meant to be played.

Update: I left this one off... which is almost funnier than the two I did put on the original post.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Open Mic: The Question Nobody Asked

So, why did you & Shari choose to homeschool?

I'm still surprised that no one has asked us about this...

...but I think it's worth answering.

Before I do, however, let's do a quick mental check. Close your eyes (yes, I realize it's difficult to read the blog post with your eyes closed - I trust you can figure it out) and take a close look at the picture in your head of a "homeschooling family." There's a good chance it is a potent mix of survivalist & religious fundamentalist, mixed in with the fashion sense of Betty Suarez & a severe paranoia about any cultural expression that didn't come from Thomas Kinkade or the local Christian bookstore.

Far be it from me to point fingers at you for that picture... the first homeschooling families I ran into as a youth minister nearly 20 years ago pretty accurately matched that description. But I do want to challenge you to take a second look at what you think about homeschooling & homeschoolers.

With that little exercise out of the way, let's move on to my reasons for homeschooling. (I used the word "my" on purpose in the last sentence - Shari & I have some different reasons for homeschooling... and when we do agree, we don't always agree on their priority.)

I realize as I begin this list that some of you will take these points to be an attack on public schooling - which I do not intend. Shari & I both went to public schools and received good to excellent educations. Shari taught 7th/8th grade math in public school for four years & was recognized for her success in teaching students. I have long said that the kids in my youth ministries who were most well-equipped to deal with the world at large were public school kids. (Don't get me started on private Christian schools... or, if you do, someone pull up a soapbox for me to stand on.) So, we didn't approach the decision to homeschool with an anti-public school perspective.
  1. Schedule: As a senior pastor of a church, my schedule is (to say the least) wacky. Meetings at night, counseling sessions at odd hours, being "on call" round the clock, funerals monkeying with my carefully planned (ha!) activities... and then there's the whole "Sunday is a work day" thing. So, I was very aware that if my boys went to public or private school, the times that were easiest for me to flex with would be the times they were in school... and their free time would often be my work time. Homeschooling allows me to spend lots of time with them, both helping teach school & (of course) playing boardgames!
  2. Educational Quality: Simply put, the chances of our sons getting a high quality education are better at home (where the teacher:student ratio is 2:1) than in a public school (where the teacher:student ratio is 1:20+). Our ability to choose curriculum to fit particular learning styles & needs is substantially higher than a public or private school. We can also use travel in ways that public schools can not to further supplement our boys' education.
  3. Spiritual Training: While I long for both of my boys to be well-read, intelligent young men, the most important role I have as a parent is to give them the best possible opportunity to follow Jesus Christ. It's easier for that to happen when Shari & I can spend time with them... and that's easier when we homeschool.
  4. Flexibility: I don't think a lot of folks realize that good quality homeschooling doesn't take 8 hours a day - if Braeden is concentrating & working hard, he can do most of his work in 90-120 minutes. (Just think about how much time in school is spent moving people from one place to another, taking attendance, listening to announcements, etc.) That extra 5-6 hours per day allows him lots of time to read, to play outside, to go with me to run errands... and that doesn't even figure in our family's flexibility to travel during the off-season, when prices are cheaper & crowds are less. As well, it allows us to deal with difficult life circumstances without sacrificing education.
  5. Values: This is not just about kids - people pick up values from their enviroment, not from what they're taught. (Does any school teach that cheating is OK? No. Does that stop kids from cheating? No. The culture is stronger than the information... and even the chance of punishment.) By homeschooling, we're spending our boys' formative years with them in an enviroment where they are swimming in our value choices. According to research from The Barna Group, most individuals don't radically change their values & beliefs after age 13 - which means that the elementary school years are key!
  6. Being Kids: Shari read a book earlier this year entitled Stop Dressing Your 6-Year-Old Like A Skank: and Other Delicate Words of Southern Wisdom by Celia Rivenbark... which made us profoundly grateful that we're raising little boys & not little girls. (The book, btw, is very funny but occasionally off-color.) The pressure from popular culture is for kids to grow up so quickly now - to become little adults in the manner & content of what they consume. Shari & I really want our boys to be kids as long as humanly possible - they will have plenty of time to be adults later.
  7. Enjoying Family: Here's something weird & wonderful about homeschooling. Relatively healthy homeschooling families (there are unhealthy ones) seem to enjoy being together more than other families, up into & including their teenage years. I like that.

By now, some of you are wondering about what I'll call "The Two S's"...

  • Socialization: A suggestion for conversational safety: do NOT ask a homeschooling parent about the socialization of their children unless you want to get an earful. I'll try to keep the volume down in my response (grin). I think there's a difference between social skills (the ability to hold a conversation, manners, "plays well with others", etc.) and socialization (knowledge of pop culture, how to fit in, finding your cliche, etc.). As well, I believe that lifelong social skills are not as easily developed in the rarified atmosphere of graded schools where you primarily interact with people your own age. Instead, I think that a wide variety of social interaction (church, friends, family, sports teams, gaming, etc.) is at least equally good at preparing kids for life.
  • Sheltered: Yes, our boys will be sheltered. You say that like it's a bad thing. And, if it our existence was some kind of locked-down Christian bubble that taught Braeden & Collin that life is a tiptoe through the tulips as long as they go to church every time the doors are open & stay away from anyone who doesn't listen to Christian radio & name-drop inspirational authors, you'd be right. But, as you can probably guess, that's not what we're doing. What we are trying to do is to introduce the difficulties of life & faith at a pace that they can handle, rather than throw them in the pool & see if they can swim.

Two other points, and then I'm done. Well, not really done, as I'm very open to your questions & comments about our choice to homeschool... but you get my drift, right?!

  • Should everyone homeschool?: That would be a resounding NO. Not only do life circumstances make it difficult and/or impossible for some folks to homeschool... but in some cases, temperment & personality make homeschooling a complete mess. (We had one family who chose to homeschool in our lives some years back - all of them nifty people, but, shall we say, organizationally challenged. The year they spent homeschooling was almost wasted as they were constantly putting off work.) Any decision to homeschool should be prayerfully undertaken, factoring in family situation and a host of other factors. (In other words, don't do it just because "pastor guy" is doing it!)
  • What curriculum do you use?: We use Sonlight Curriculum, which uses a variety of spiritual & "secular" books. (For example, Braeden is currently reading Mr. Popper's Penguins, From Akebu to Zapotec, The Usborne Book of World History, and Leading Little Ones to God.) If you want to see the article that absolutely sold me on Sonlight, check out 27 Reasons NOT To Buy Sonlight on their website. (We also use RightStart Math.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Baptists Predestined To Forget Spellchecking

I'm really glad we're having this kind of theological dialogue in the denomination. But... well, check it out for yourself. (A tip of the blogging hat to Ed Stetzer, who pointed this out.)

Certified 100% Grade-A Fanboy

Here's the moment when I realized that I am possibly one of the dorkiest guys on the planet... Shari & I were watching the latest episode of Chuck last night (thank you, VCR) when this exchange occurred between two characters (recap courtesy of TWOP):
Morgan is convinced that Chuck is just a fragile little gelding unprepared for the world. Elie snorts and asks, "Do you know what a gelding is?" Morgan smirks, "Yeah, it's that weird creature from The Dark Crystal." Nice! It is so hard to find a good Dark Crystal reference these days!
Not only did I recognize the reference, I knew that the correct word is "gelfling."

Some of you are thinking: "It took
this for you to wake up & smell the coffee? You mean, the fact that you have an entire room dedicated to board games wasn't a big enough clue?!"

I see your point.

Monday, October 08, 2007

1492/Ocean Blue

Here in the good ol' US of A, it's Columbus Day, which for a number of years has been a great excuse to celebrate the life & accomplishments of a man who didn't actually manage to set foot on any part of American territory (unless you count protectorates). It's worth your time to read the extensive chapter on the mythology that's developed around Christopher Columbus in the excellent book, Lies My Teacher Told Me (by James W. Loewen).

Personally, I think Columbus has become a pawn for a variety of communities - an icon of immigrant pride on one hand and an effigy to burn for those who (rightly) deplore the way Native Americans were treated by those who colonized the Americas on the other. But that's a political discussion for another day.

1992 was the 400th anniversary of Columbus' first voyage... and an occasion for a lot of themed merchandising. Even the German game industry got on board: there were at least two "Columbus" games from Essen 1991.

The first (and better-known) is Wolfgang Kramer's Columbus... and if you want to know more about it, you'll have to follow the link. See, I haven't ever played it. I'm not even sure I've seen a copy of the game.

The second is Marius Meyer's Columbus (yes, the games have the same name), which is the subject of this review.

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 (loss 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 above from BGG).

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

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Easy Rider

Collin has "fallen" off his bike (aka Scuttlebug) and had an "accident." In the background, Dad & Braeden are taking the training wheels off Braeden's bike - his idea! Since "Bubba" (Collin's name for Braeden) got air in his tires, we have to put air in Collin's tires as well. And... this is it for learning to ride. Shari's lucky she got the picture - I only held onto the seat for about 3 seconds before he was up & going on his own!

DC meets Marvel

The pictures say it all... without ever having seen the inside of any comic books, watched any of the myriad animated shows and/or viewed any of the movies, both my sons are ready to be superheroes.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

10 Question For Everyone

This is what passes for a meme on BGG... so, for you non-gamer types who read the blog, we'll call this one "10 Questions for Gaming Nerds". (And I are one, so here's my answers as well.)

Question 1: Name your favorite theme(s).
  • That's game themes... and I'd have to say I'm quite partial to anything exploration-ish. This explains my enjoyment of Entdecker, Goldland, Lost Valley & Thebes.
  • With that said, there are very few themes that kill a game for me - except when they are total mismatch for the game.
Question 2: Name your favorite game mechanic(s).

  • A "game mechanic" is a particular way of accomplishing things in game terms... for example, "trading" and "set collecting" are both mechanics in Monopoly.
  • There's no real common thread in the mechanics I like... but I'm a huge fan of the Command & Colors system (Battle Cry, Memoir '44, Battlelore, etc.), so I'll go with that.

Question 3: Name your least favorite game mechanic(s) excluding roll-and-move.

  • That would be negotiation - particularly when it's used to "balance" the game by having players gang up on the leader. (This would be why The Traders of Genoa only lasted one play in my collection... that, and it's [a] too long, and [b] too repetitive. It is the poster child for "lather, rinse, repeat.")

Question 4: Name the most unique or novel game you own

  • There are a number of contenders for that title... it's my collection, right?!
  • Based on the ownership numbers on BGG, I'm the only person who has the following games: Bis bald im Wald (diabolically tough memory game), Find the Chicks (magnetic game - blech), Kangi Cup (weird racing kangaroo game w/puzzle cut board), Rettet die Dinos (dinosaur egg stacking game), Salvation! The Game of Saints & Sinners (theologically messed-up game that's a lousy game as well), Sure Shot Hockey (simplified stick hockey), Topsy Turtle (mechanical dexterity game), and Turbulento (Selecta dexterity/memory game that's quick & fun).
  • Based on sheer weirdness, I'd have to go with two different Zoch games: Froschkonig (Frog King) and Konig der Maulwurfel (King of the Dice Mouths). In Froschkonig, players attempt to stick out their frog's tongues to kiss the princess (huh?!) using a bag of wooden sticks. In Konig der Maulwurfel, players race around the table rolling dice off of sloped wooden platforms.

Question 5: Name a game in print or scheduled for release that you're most eager to own.

Question 6: Name a game not in print or scheduled for release that you are most eager to own.

  • Still in prototype form: Frank Branham's magnum opus, the wonderous space battle game, Battle Beyond Space. (Note: I am a playtester.)

Question 7: Name a game you own that you believe is underrated by BGG.

  • I don't even have to sweat to answer this one: Monopoly. It's "cool" to bash the game because it's popular & played with unwise house rules... instead of wondering why the same people win the game over & over.
  • Interestingly, Fast Food Franchise runs a close second. (And it's one of my personal "top ten" games.)

Question 8: Name your favorite gaming accessory.

  • I do like having lots of glass beads & chips around to act as extra tokens.
  • Of course, if someone wants to give me a dice tower from Vixentor Games, I'd be happy to take it.

Question 9: Describe Puerto Rico in 5 words or less.

  • Intriguing.
  • Excellent.
  • Over-analyzed.

Question 10: Name your favorite game with fewer than 30 ratings.

  • I give three games with less than 30 ratings on BGG an "8": Diceball! (imagine a baseball version of Pizza Box Football), Dschungelrennen (roll'n'move race that feels like a conga line) & Hallo Dachs (best memory game... ever). All are worthy additions to anyone's collection.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Thumbs Up 4 Chuck & Other Thoughts About TV

Veered dangerously close to an "upchuck" joke there... but I wouldn't stoop to that. No, not me - this blog is the classiest place on the internet.


Anyhoo... some more musings on the current state of television...


  • I've seen the pilot episode twice now (once by myself & once with my wife) and I've enjoyed myself both times.
  • Here's the best description I've been able to come up with: it's a cross between Alias & Ugly Betty.
  • Any show that can manage to hang a major plot point on Zork as well as hiring Adam Baldwin (Jaine from - collective sigh of regret - Firefly) is aces in my book.
  • It's incredibly implausible - seriously, it makes Prison Break look like a documentary - but it's a comedy with dramatic undertones rather than a drama with comic moments, so heap on the wild coincidences!
  • It also makes a really nice lead-in for Heroes.


  • Also on Monday nights (after Heroes, naturally), the pilot was more interesting than I thought it would be.
  • Best description I can come up with: Quantum Leap + Early Edition, mixed with a nice, healthy dose of reality. (What would happen to your life if you time-traveled on a regular basis?)
  • Shari liked it, too, which is always nice.
  • I'm looking forward to the next episode.

Bionic Woman

  • Let me start out by saying that I was IN LOVE with Lindsay Wagner as a kid... one vacation we went through Ojai, CA (where Jamie Summers supposedly lived) and I wondered if we'd see her ranch house.
  • I'm also a reasonably large fan of the new version of Battlestar Galatica, which was produced/run by the same guy running the new Bionic Woman. You'd figure if anyone could make this work, he could.
  • Shari said it really well: "It's relentlessly dark & I don't understand what's going on." I think may understand a bit more than she did, but I watched X-Files religiously as well as collected comic books - secret govt. organizations are 2nd nature to me.
  • We've both decided it gets one more episode to see if they can pull it together before we give up on it.


  • It's your standard "cop w/a quirk" show - Columbo/Monk/Raines/etc. - but it's well-done.
  • The quirk is Zen Buddhism (plus some kind of conspiracy to frame him for murder).
  • Interesting trend for TV this year: overt spirituality. Whether it's Reaper (with a slacker whose parents sold his soul to the devil) or Amazing Grace (a messed-up cop who talks to an angel) or Life (with it's Zen Buddhist-quoting hero) or even Survivor (with both a Christian radio talk show host & a self-described "gay Mormon flight attendant"), God stuff is out front this year.

The Closer

  • I've now watched the first two seasons on DVD - out here in Podunktania (aka Easton) we don't get cable & I won't spring for dish when I can pick up network TV just fine with an antenna - and I'm sad I missed season 3 (which played this summer on TNT, I think.)
  • The combination of murder mystery, police procedural (esp. the interrogations), department politics & the personal life of the Deputy Chief is mixed almost perfectly.
  • The series can make me sick at the horrors not only of individual violent acts but also of the horrors of the imperfect system we have to catch & prosecute those people... and, within the same episode, smile & laugh & become intertwined in the lives of the Homicide Squad.

Not Always A Good Thing

I've been an adult for a long time now... if you count age 18 as adulthood, I've been working on this particular phase of my life for 25 years. Most of the time, I do a halfway decent job at playing my role - responsible, thoughtful, even-tempered, etc. Oh, yeah, the childish part of me pokes through in particular moments - usually having to do with me sulking about not getting my way (not a pretty picture) - but for the most part, I'm solidly adult in my thinking.

And what if that's not always a good thing?

You see, there's a different between childlike & childish... we've all dealt with so-called adults who needed to be put in time-out for their behavior. Chances are pretty good you've got one or two co-workers (warning: it might be you) who would get an unsmiley face on their report card for "plays well with others." That's what I'm referring to as "childish."

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11 (NLT)

On the other hand, there is another quality of childhood that we ought to crave... that ability to experience the world with wonder & joy. They aren't afraid to express their delight at a butterfly or their success with a difficult task or the return of a beloved parent.

You see glimpses of this in the lives of adults - for me, it's the feeling I get when walking down Disneyland's Main Street toward Sleeping Beauty's Castle... or when we drive through the Wawona Tunnel into Yosemite Valley and you can hear the thundering of the waterfalls as the valley comes sharply into focus. It's the delight I have at watching my two boys play & enjoy & use their imagination... and, every once in a while, it's the way I am overwhelmed by the presence of God in the midst of a worship service.

Then He called a child to Him and had him stand among them. " I assure you," He said, "unless you are converted and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child-this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:2-4 (HCSB)

Please don't misunderstand. I'm not suggesting that we chuck our responsibilities & all head down to Washington Colony School to play on the monkey bars & spray "cootie spray" on the opposite sex. But we are in danger (more than we'd like to admit) of viewing the world God created through eyes & hearts deadened by the perceived weight of our burdens.

Ask Jesus today to renew a childlike spirit in your heart - a readiness to experience & enjoy all the goodness of His creation & His grace. Ask Him for the ability to drink in the wonder of His love... like a child.

This article originally appeared in the September 30, 2007 issue of The Grapevine, the newsletter of NewLife Community Church.