Wednesday, January 30, 2008

7 Random Things

I wasn't very good at Tag in elementary school - too slow & Brookhaven Elementary didn't have many good hiding places.

But this is the Information Age, so Tag has gone digital & I've been hit by
Once you are tagged, link back to the person who tagged you. Post the rules on your blog. Post 7 random or weird facts about yourself on your blog. Tag 7 people and link to them. Comment on their blog to let them know they have been tagged.
And, away we go:
  1. I played keyboards in a rock-n-roll band. (Not well, mind you, but we had gigs. OK, 3 gigs.)
  2. I bought my wife's engagement ring by selling off part of my comic book collection.
  3. When I went to Baylor University, I thought that the western shirts (complete with pearl-covered snaps on the pockets) that I wore in L.A. would finally be cool. (Yes, I went to the Land of Prep with western shirts... sigh.)
  4. I actually considered converting to Catholicism at one point in my life. (Yes, there was a girl involved. No, I never really seriously pursued it.)
  5. You meet the most interesting people in boardgaming: I know the president of a major airline, a weatherman from The Weather Channel, a Disney Imagineer, and the guy who wrote the script for "The Last Action Hero."
  6. Still more interesting boardgamers: a direct descendant of the Nauvoo, IL, part of the LDS church, a state insurance commissioner, a ballroom dance instructor who used to ice-dance at the national level, and a guy who won big bucks on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?
  7. I've actually designed one boardgame: Ted Goes To Gulf Games. My friend, Ted Cheatham, owns the only printed copy.

OK, I'll tag ZionRed... and... well... that pretty much does it. (Yep, I stink at chain letters - which I consider a good thing.) I will say that Paul's answers to this ought to be really interesting, though.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Mental Poohsticks

Let's just throw some stuff off the bridge (my brain) and see what comes out first:
  • I saw U23D last night (with Aaron & Margaret and Tim & Sarah - why, yes, I did feel like a 5th wheel, thanks for asking.) I have one complaint about the movie - it was too short. At roughly 90 minutes, I wanted at least a 1/2 hour more of music. The 3D effects were, for the most part, pretty subtle - of course, Bono is never terribly subtle, but that goes with the territory if you're a fan of U2. It's a pretty amazing concert film - coming from a band with a history for amazing concert films.
  • For the record, I don't mind Bono's Coexist headband - the one using the Muslim crescent, the Jewish six-pointed star, and the Christian cross. I think we should coexist. I do think his chant in the film, "Mohammed, Jesus, Jew, all true..." betrays either an overblown sense of the theatrical (likely - it's Bono!) or an appalling lack of knowledge about the individual truth claims of each religion - who have decidedly different views about the nature of Jesus. (I did find a blog entry from Paul Myers that suggests what Bono says is "it's true... all sons of Abraham," - which makes more sense. If you want to see a picture of what I'm talking about, head over to his blog.)
  • Speaking of Christianity & Islam, you need to read Barack Obama's interview over at Christianity Today. And if you're reading this and have been sending e-mails about his involvement w/Islam, you seriously need to repent & and send retractions. Come on, people, I'm not telling you to vote for the man, but for the love of all that is holy, don't lie about him!
  • Thanks to Church Marketing Sucks, I found a really interesting post on church marketing from Seth Godin (who is NOT a church marketing guy). Anyone interested in church life needs to take a look at what he has to say.
  • Brian Bankler's The Tao of Gaming won Best Blog in the 2007 Board Game Internet awards... check him (and the other winners) out. (I mention this because I actually nominated Brian...)
  • Shari & I played a real blast from the past last night - Rail Baron. (My copy has root beer stains on it from 30 years ago, thanks to many late night games with Jim & Tom Trerise.) It actually moves pretty nicely w/two players, though it does still have the problem of a lull in the middle of the game. (With 4+ players, I've previously reviewed this classic rail game as "30-45 minutes of fun at the beginning & end of the game... with 2 hours of tedium in between.") We played where you ran free on your own lines, $1000 on bank lines... and the upgrade from Express to Superchief is free (but takes a buying turn). Oh, yeah, Shari won... but it was close!
  • Hopefully, fans of Chuck didn't miss the "Chuck Sandwich" Thursday night - the final two episodes of Chuck that were finished before the writer's strike. Hee & double hee... what a delicious mix of nerd/geek humor & over-the-top spy antics. Think if you mixed Alias and, oh, Freaks & Geeks, I guess.

Friday, January 25, 2008

tc@hh'ers - where are you?!

My post from last night (10 Years) gives a capsule history of the church @ hickory hollow... if you'd like to know more, you can check out the following posts. Amy's already checked in over at the 10 Years post - but I'd love for everyone who was a part of tc@hh (and reading this blog) to check in right here. Let us know (in the comments section) where you are, what you're doing... and so on. We miss you guys!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

10 Years

I will never forget the look on their faces when I promised them I would either lead us to impact the city or - in the effort - close our doors. I was a very young believer at the time and only in my twenties, but I was sure that there was no promise in the Bible that insured survival. Once survival has become our supreme goal, we have lost our way.

The New Testament word for "witness" is the same as for "martyr." We have come to know martyrs as those who have died for the faith. They didn't survive, but they died facing the right direction. Around the world, Christian families, tribes, & communities have been persecuted and brutally killed for their faith. They didn't survive. Yet they left a witness. The purpose of the church cannot be to survive or even to thrive but to serve. And sometimes servants die in the serving.
Erwin McManus, An Unstoppable Force: Daring to Become the Church God Had In Mind
I won't ever forget reading that passage for the first time - it was early in 2002 and it was becoming increasingly clear that the church I had dreamed about, planted & led was on life support. I don't remember where I was - by that time I studied mainly at home or in my car, as we'd gotten out of the office space to save money - but I do remember tears rolling down my cheeks. I didn't want to read something like that...

Nearly six years later, Erwin's words still have the power to pierce my heart - both because they're so incredibly Biblical & jaw-droppingly painful at the same time.

And that's especially true this weekend, which is the 10th anniversary of the "launch" of the church @ hickory hollow. On January 25, 1998, seven of us set up chairs & a sound system & a coffee table in an elementary school assembly area... and so officially began tc@hh (which was our short-hand way of writing out the name of the church). Of course, we set up a lot of other stuff, too: the rug that's still underneath my chair in my office here at NewLife, a supremely ugly bar stool that had escaped from the 70's which our worship leader used while he sat & played guitar... and, of course, tons of black curtains we used to create "atmosphere." (Of course, not exactly what we were hoping for: one visitor the first Sunday said it "looked like a coven" with the black drapes & the candles.)

Most importantly, though, we brought with us a deep desire to "do church" in a way that was attractive to those embittered by traditional church or separate from any kind of church background. We did anything we could to make sure the message of Christ was translated into the context of contemporary culture. One Easter, we projected the Prince song, "The Cross", on one screen while showing clips of the crucifixion from The Jesus Film on the other. We had an entire worship service where the message (about small groups) was shared by a small group in a living room setting we'd put up on our "stage." When Shari & I suffered our first miscarriage, we ditched the original worship design and I talked about grief & pain - my grief - and about the God who loved us in the middle of it.

We tried different ways to make people aware of who we were - we did a couple of mass mailings that were reasonably successful... and one $3000 experiment with movie slides (the things they used to show before the previews) that was a complete bust. (Well, not exactly - we had ONE person we know of who came because of the movie slide - for one Sunday. Sigh.)

If you've seen an episode of M*A*S*H, you have a pretty good picture of what tc@hh ended up as: a triage unit. Although our dream was draw in people who were completely unchurched, that just didn't happen. Instead, we attracted people who had been burned in a variety of more traditional churches and used our church as a re-entry point into the church life. And because we were targeting 20- & 30-somethings, many of our devoted folks ended up moving because of jobs or life issues that kept us in a constant state of flux. Just like a triage unit, we didn't get to keep anyone very long - we just patched 'em up and sent them on somewhere else.
Hopefully the years have sucked my personal bitterness over our role in the body of Christ - it's awesome to see the continued healing & growth in the lives of so many of the folks who attended tc@hh.

In the end, what was once a church of 70 folks had become a small embattled crew of 20 folks who loved Jesus & each other dearly. (An excellent indication of that: the last year of the church we had services on Saturday nights so we could use our sponsor church's building - almost every Saturday night, the majority of the folks attending the service ended up at Paul & Amy's house to eat, hang out, watch TV & play games.) And that's where Erwin's quote came to bear - we had become a group of people focuses on the survival of a church we loved rather than dreaming & working to change the community we lived in. It was time to close the doors.

But, you ask (and well you should), what does this have to do with NewLife? Good question.

Last Sunday night, as 15+ of us sat sharing & brainstorming about the re-launch of NewLife @ Night, I was reminded of the same pioneering spirit that fueled the church @ hickory hollow. More importantly, I was reminded that both have more in common than the desire to culturally relevant & Biblically solid - they are both empowered & directed by the Spirit of the Living God. What we're doing on Sunday nights is not an attempt to recreate tc@hh (to start with, most of you would need Southern accents) or Veritas (the service Aaron led in Portland) but instead wells up out of the desire of so many folks here at NewLife long before Aaron or I arrived on the scene.

That desire is to make a God-sized dent in Easton & the surrounding communities, particularly with folks who don't attend church. That desire is for a worship gathering with rock'n'roll music and inspired teaching that connects with youth & young adults as well as those who've passed "the top of the hill" (like me!) That desire is for that gathering to act as a springboard for healthy small groups & classes that draw folks into community with God & with each other. That desire is to not simply attract more people but to see people's lives transformed by the power & grace of Jesus Christ.

This is an edited version of an article that appeared in the 1/27/08 edition of the Grapevine, the newsletter of NewLife Community Church.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Pride (in the name of love)

Thank you to all who gave of themselves - their financial security, their personal safety, their status in their community, even their own lives - to stand for what is right & true & Biblical...
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28 (NIV)
We live in a better world because of your sacrifice.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Martin Luther King, Jr.
If you have not had the opportunity to visit the National Civil Rights Museum, make it happen. This is an important chapter in our history & the ways that we have and have not dealt with racism reflect not only on our national culture but also on our willingness to live & love like Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Game Central Station: Linie 1/Streetcar

The Big Difference Between Linie 1 & Streetcar

This information is from Lou (formerly with Mayfair Games). It refers to their decision to publish Streetcar without the "halte" die that appeared in Linie 1.

"I spoke with Stefan Dorra (the designer of Linie 1) when I was at Nurnberg. We were discussing options as to the use of the die in Linie 1 because Mayfair is releasing the game as Streetcar later this summer. We did not like the way the die worked. Stefan suggested that we use his original design and not the one that Goldsieber put into the game. We like it and it will be the way Streetcar plays. His rule is:

The first player to move moves one space. Each time a player moves after that (the same or a different player), he may move up to one greater than the previous player moved. A trolley MUST ALWAYS stop at the halts and may move less than the allowed amount, both reducing the next player's move. That is the next player may only move up to one greater than the previous player actually moved, regardless of how far that player was allowed to move."

As promised, this rule was incorporated into the Mayfair edition of the game.

Scoring Variants

Ted Cheatham, designer of Silk Road & Gumball Rally... and an all-around nice guy, created his own variant:

Once someone is finished, the other players have two turns and then you count the squares of your track adding 2 for each stop sign you go by. High score wins.

According to Richard Irving, however, "The problem (with the Streetcar method) is that there aren't too many situations where this can pay off. It has to force him to end his turn just before a trolley stop. And you can't have any that seriously block you." He adds a variant to Ted's variant:

I like the counting idea to speed things up, but was there a penalty for not finishing your track after the first player.

-After 1 player completes his track and the first turn he skips = 1

--After 1 skipped turn for 1st finisher = 3

---After 2 skipped turns for 1st finisher = 6

----After 3 skipped turns for the first finisher = 10.


This somewhat accounts for the extra spaces the first finisher will get before you have a chance to move.

Mark Engelberg throws his two cents in:

"I was intrigued by the Cheatham endgame variant for Streetcar, but I don't like the fact that the winner is resolved by a formula. However, I admit that the race as presented in either Linie 1 or Streetcar is dissatisfying." So, as Ted & Richard before him, Mark adds yet another variant way to finish the game.

During the race phase, on each turn, the streetcar moves to the next stop sign.

In formulaic terms, the winner is the person who minimizes: # of turns to complete track + # of stop signs on track.

Jonathan Degann found many of the above variants too dry and offered his own:

You can put a little less luck into the end by using a common roll for all players.
(We here at Game Central Station have to admit this one sounds intriguing.)

Finally, Paul.Mazumdar came up with a variant quite similar to our own solution here at Game Central Station:

I've started using an "average die minus one" (i.e. numbered 1,2,2,3,3,4) to resolve the races, along with a rule saying that you must stop at all Halt signs. This removes both the 'kingmaker' aspect of the Streetcar race and some of the worse excesses of the Linie 1 dice while still benefitting routes that go through fewer Halt signs.

A Word From Our Sponsor

Frankly, we haven't tried any of the other variants here at Game Central Station, even though Ted's a personal friend and Richard, Mark, & Jonathan are wise & venerable figures in boardgaming world. (Paul sounds like a nice guy, too!) It's just that we still like the cheesy "roll the halte die" version that Gold Sieber put on Linie 1 despite Steffan Dorra's feelings to the contrary. At some point, we'll sit down and play out a couple of games and score with each of the variants, but we haven't got that bored yet!

But, since everyone is making suggestions, I'll give mine. I still think the die itself is the only part of the game that needs redesigning. It currently has the number 1-4 on it + 2 "halte" signs, which allow you to move to the next halte sign.

My humble proposal is that the dice should have 1, 2, 2, 3, 4, halte... thus reducing the chance of a player shooting to victory solely on the strength of rolling halte signs. It would still pay to minizmize stops, but it wouldn't act like you threw nitro on the trolley's engine (ok, I know it's electric... allow me my mixed metaphor) every time you turn around.

Still, this is a great game... especially to introduce non-gamers to German gaming.

And For Something Completely Different...

Mike Mayer got majorly creative and posted a plethora of variants to the newsgroup. We haven't tried any of them out yet, but we just admire the heck out of Mike for doing the deed.

Complete Circuit Variant (no dice):

Lay tiles as normal until someone connects their terminals by a legal route and announces that they have done so (they must immediately announce it when it happens). The tiles need not be connected to the given player's secret locations and the player should not say so if there are.

The second phase of the game begins; beginning with the player who first connected his terminals, all players now receive 4 actions per turn, an action being either a tile placement or one space of movement of their train. As usual, trains must end movements at Stops and move no further that turn, but otherwise players can play up to 4 tiles, move up to 4 spaces, or a combination of both. In this variant, trains DO block each other if they meet. Blocked trains may spend 4 actions to turn 180 degrees so they can go the other way. Or blocked trains may wait until a tile placement frees them up. You need not use all your actions per turn, but they may not be saved up from turn to turn.

Trains must make a complete circuit from their starting terminal, to their 'ending' terminal, and back to their starting terminal. They must visit one of their secret locations on the way down and the other location on the way back. Players do not reveal their secret locations until they stop at them. The player with the train that makes a complete circuit first, wins.

Note: a train may stop at both secret locations on the way down and/or on the way back, but only one of the locations counts for victory until he hits it again on the return route. Players don't have to announce a location as being one of his secret ones until he actually counts it for his victory conditions.

Turnstile Variant:

Before the game starts, place all four "<>" tiles (the ones with four exits connected by inward pressing curves; the ones that look like 4-pointed stars) in the center four squares on the board. All track must by built from these tiles or from track extending from these tiles.

Exchange Variant:

Players may "pass" and trade in any number of tiles for new ones.

Handicap Variant:

Give less experienced or younger players more tiles to hold in their hands.

Central Bank Variant:

Players draw all their tiles from a central bank of 8 face up tiles that are re-filled back to 8 after each turn.


Here's a trio of reviews of Linie 1/Streetcar.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Religion & Politics: The Sound of Crickets

We've all seen it - the way that TV shows & movies indicate to us that a performer is bombing... the sound of chirping crickets. It's sound effects shorthand for "you should realize that so many people are not applauding that you can hear small insects."

Well, when I'm asked the questions during this election season, "Who do you endorse?" or "Should I vote for _________ even though they are a ___________?", you're going to need to cue the sound guys to run the cricket noises. I will choose to remain silent.

It's Not Because...

  • I'm scared of the government hounding me. I'm allowed to endorse candidates as a private individual as long as I don't use my position in order to obtain a greater hearing for my views WITHOUT messing up the church's tax status.
  • I'm afraid of offending someone. As those of you who've read the Grapevine and/or my blog over the past few years know, I'm not shy about expressing my opinion.

It's Because...

  • My life purpose is not to get a particular candidate elected; it is to fulfill Jesus' command to "Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19-20, The Message) If something gets in the way of me getting to do that - for example, endorsing a particular political candidate - it's not worth doing.
  • When people talk about me (and about our church) - and let's be real, people, they do - I really don't want the main topic of the conversation to be who I chose to back in the 2008 election. I (and by extension, NewLife) should be known for our love of Jesus that leads us to love other people and by the graceful way we serve & give - all of which should lead people to a relationship with Christ, not to determine which party they'll support.

It's Not Like I'm Wiring My Jaws Shut

If you want to talk about political views, the religious beliefs of the candidates, the relative merits of their various plans & proposals, and the like with me, I'm open to it. It's important that we who are followers of Christ vote in a thoughtful & informed manner.

It's just not important that I put a bumper sticker on my car or a campaign sign in my yard.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Game Central Station: Filthy Rich

In some ways, what you're about to read is me acknowledging that I've given up. In other ways, it's a victory of sorts - thanks to the kindness of Rick Heli (whose gaming website, Spotlight On Games, has some nifty stuff on it which you ought to check out), I've been able to unearth the HTML code for the pages from the original Game Central Station site & I'm going to be working to make them available once again.

The "giving up" part is that I'm finally done with battling FTP & the web software I was using to try & update the newest incarnation of Game Central Station. There's lots of good stuff up there - thanks to the kind folks at Game Surplus - so I won't take it down... but I don't plan on putting more new stuff there.

Wizards of the Coast may have perpetrated the CCG addiction on us via Magic & Pokemon (Karl, the grand poobah of Nashville's best game store, calls it "cardboard crack"), but once in a while they get things right.

Sort of.

Filthy Rich is a wonderful little game with an innovative multi-layered "board" (actually a notebook with four CCG card pages in it)... but it's got some problems. The system is innovative & enjoyable enough, however, that a number of folks have put their gamer brains to work and come up with some solutions. Read on and enjoy!

You Must Use This Variant to Enjoy This Game (This is not a Joke)

The venerable game designer Alan Newman is the one who taught me this variant (albeit, via e-mail). In my humble opinion, it's VITAL to playing enjoyable games of Filthy Rich.

Count only the first "tax" die roll. The other "tax" rolls, if any, are ignored. In other words, if you roll more than one "tax" result, only count one.

Since there can only be one tax per turn, asset and business cards that pay off on tax die rolls pay off only once.

Playing With 2-3 Players

In smaller games of Filthy Rich, there is a tendency towards runaway victories. James Campbell suggests the following fix:

Before a 2 or 3 player game, remove the $6 and $8 Luxuries from the Luxury deck. This usually prevents a lucky break from deciding the entire game in the first 3 rounds.

Another suggestion, courtesy of Matthew Hubbard, to reduce runaway wins is the removal of the "No Money Down" asset card.

One more alternative from Mr. Hubbard: remove, at random, seven luxuries (two player) or four luxuries (three player). This leaves six or nine luxuries, enough for each player to purchase two, have one sitting under the "No Money Down" asset, and still have the winning luxury available for purchase. It also changes purchasing strategies each game, based on how many low-cost luxuries there are available. (Here at Game Central Station, we've tried this last one with great success.)

Jeff Goldsmith ( thinks that a two-player game should be played to four luxuries rather than three.

Finally, Aaron Bass recommends removing Tic-Toc Floating Craps game from 2 player games, because "whoever gets the Tic-Toc Floating Craps business early has an unbalancing advantage. In a game with more players, the second business card comes up faster and it then becomes two players splitting control of that business."

Playing With 6 Players

Brooks Hanes & Bryan Dunlap have talked their wives and other friends into playing Filthy Rich... a lot! (One could say they're addicted. Then again, one could look at my 850+ game collection and take a couple of shots at me, so let's not go there.) Anyway, they often find themselves with 6 players. In order to play with six players, they add a $10 luxury with one tax marker on it. (Create your own... come up with something appropriate... perhaps "Huge Boardgame Collection"!) They found that the game could potentially stalemate without one extra luxury. (Warning: playing with 6 players can considerably lengthen game time.)

A Variant to Tighten Up the Game A Bit

Courtesy of Stephanie Kethers... they reduce the number of luxuries available to (players * 2) + 2. Draw randomly to see which luxuries are in play. This forces players out of a waiting game as luxuries may not be available at reasonable prices.

Variants to Offer More Control During the Game

--Better Page Control--

Boyd Bottoroff recommends the following variant for determining the "go to" page number: roll two dice and allow the next player his choice of page.

Dave Arnott suggests a different way to do this... when you roll the d6 to change pages, 1-4 - goes to that page number, 5 - stays on the same page, and a 6 - allows the roller to choose which page they want to go to! (This is the one I've used.)

--Dealing With Tic Toc's $ Printing Factory--

Jeff Goldsmith makes the excellent suggestion that if Tic-Toc's Floating Craps Game is hit twice, it only pays once before boomeranging back into the owner's hand.


Jeff Goldsmith also suggests that players be allowed to declare bankruptcy in place of their normal turn. "As the sole action in a turn, allow any player to declare bankruptcy, getting a new hand, $10, and discarding everything they already have. Luxuries are auctioned. The card Declare Bankruptcy isn't useless; it allows you to take an action (e.g. Mayor's Birthday Party) before declaring."

Alternate Start-Up Variant

Thanks to Matthew Hubbard, here's a different way to begin the game that allows for a more equitable distribution of businesses.

Take one deed from every company and go around the table Settlers-style, one clockwise, then counterclockwise starting from the last player, letting every player draft two companies. Then shuffle the unclaimed deeds in with the rest of the deck and deal three more cards to everybody, and you're ready to begin.

Business Deck Variant

Richard Hutnick wondered whether separating the business deeds into a separate pile would make Filthy Rich better? If so, you would include the rule where a player can either draw two cards from the non business pile, or one card from the non-business pile and one card from the business pile.

A Radical Variant (Remove All Business Cards From the Deck)

Richard Heli posted the following suggested variant at his Spotlight On Games website.

  • The businesses should all be removed from the deck and laid out in the open.
  • Reduce the hand size to three
  • On your turn you get 2 actions, which can be any combination of the following except that you may only launch 1 business per turn:

1. Launch a Business:

- You may launch any business that you like so long as it isn't already in use.

2. Play a card.

3. Collect $1.

- After your turn, draw cards to restore your hand to 3 cards.

Rules Clarifications

Selling Businesses:

The rules say that one can sell businesses at any time during one's turn before the dice are rolled. It's not clear if this ought to be allowed before luxuries are purchased. We play that you can NOT sell businesses before buying luxuries.

Action Card Clarifications

Post-Holiday Sale:

Other cards can be used to affect this roll, for example, Unfortunate Fire. Moreover, those cards also affect the other rolls during the turn.

Business Card Clarifications

Stern, Smith & Bubba's:

If Bubba's is hit multiple times during a turn, the owner can choose what to do with each hit successively. He may add a marker then take the new, increased, production.

No Rabbits Here:

A player owning No Rabbits Here does not have to pay taxes on his luxuries even if cards instruct him to.

Shorty's and Swan Song :

The larger production number only occurs if both hits occur during the same roll of the dice. For example, if a Post-Holiday Sale occurs and Shorty's gets hit, then it gets hit again later in the regular roll, each hit is worth $0.

Squat 'N Gobble:

If the Squat 'N Gobble is hit for the fourth time, one may not sell its sign, even if one has to pay taxes; it provides its income and is removed before taxes.

Asset Card Clarifications

Blue-Chip Stock:

This produces $1 at the beginning of the action phase, after luxuries, but before anything else. That is, the dollar can't be used for luxuries.

No Money Down:

This card does NOT allow you to buy two luxuries in one turn. You must pay off No Money Down during the luxury buying phase, which counts as your luxury purchase.

(thanks to Bryan Dunlap, Jeff Goldsmith, Brooks Hanes & Claudia Schlee for their input for the clarifications... none of these are official, as WOTC hasn't seen fit to publish anything official about the game!)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Garrett's Games & Geekiness #95

What follows are "addendum notes" to my appearance on Doug Garrett's excellent podcast, Garrett's Games & Geekiness. If you want to listen to it, you can check it out at Garrett's Games & Geekiness. This was recorded on December 28th, 2007, and was intended to be broadcast on December 30th (which explains some of my references during the interview.)

Race for the Galaxy

I've played 7 games now (4 with four players, 1 with three players & 2 with two players)... and my opinion of it is only going up. I would not be surprised if this joins my Top Ten games in the next few months. I'm also becoming aware of what Brian Bankler calls "pioneering" & "leeching" strategies.

I realized another reason that Puerto Rico has a slightly less steep learning curve is that everything is visible - you can ask questions about the powers of a particular building without revealing part of your hand. That's not true in Race for the Galaxy.

BTW, Rio Grande Games has announced the publication of the 1st expansion, Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm in the 2nd quarter of 2008. Yippee!

Some helpful links: Agricola

Doug did manage to convince me to pre-order Agricola. It wasn't a terribly hard sell... I'm a big fan of Uwe Rosenberg's designs (most of which are card games) and I like well-themed building games. I'll let you know more after I've actually had the opportunity to play it.


Nothing really new to say except that I'm happy to play again... and it's done a lot better in the Five & Dime tabulation than I thought it would.


Just a rule quote to which give a real nice sense of how "heavy" the game is/isn't:

If you roll that number or higher then you remove the other person's piece, giving it back to them, and then you place the Mordred man in the space and gloat.

Pirates on the High Seas

Braeden & I made up a new version of the basic game - you have to get 6 different chips (there are 7 possible in the basic game) and return to your port. It makes the game a bit longer, which isn't a bad thing if you enjoy shooting stuff.

Here's a picture, btw, from BGG (nice shot, metamorpha)...

Days of Wonder

Dear Eric & Mark (the guys who own/run the game company, Days of Wonder):

I promise I won't steal stuff if you let me come visit the offices. But I may be sorely tempted...

Sincerely, mark jackson (aka fluff daddy)

Five & Dime Lists

I was NOT taking over the show... OK, maybe for a minute.

Surprisingly, I got Steve's name right: Steve Zanini.

The results are really interesting this year - and you still have time to get your entry in - the deadline is January 20th, 2008. You can find more information about it here... or here.

Command & Colors System

  1. BEST: Memoir '44... the perfect balance between bit-o-licious-ness & playability coupled with wonderful support
  2. AWFULLY GOOD: Battlelore... the gorgeous bits get in the way of making the game easy to set up, but it's still very, very good.
  3. WELL DONE: Command & Colors:Ancients... the rules & scenarios are great, but I still like minis better than blocks.
  4. FIRST GIRLFRIEND STATUS: Battle Cry... it's probably the weakest of the games - the least official support, the odd holes in the rules, the lack of expansions... but it's like your first girlfriend. You may not be dating her anymore, but you remember her fondly.
Settlers Whining

I've already written a post about this - Missing the Land of Catan... now I just need to ACTUALLY play the game. Sheesh.

Geek Supporter Badges

They made the 2nd goal (2007 supporters)... I like to blame us even though this didn't air until after the deadline. (He he he...)

Color Me Curious

First, a big "howdy-hi" to Rebecca Barrett, who used this blog post to track down her ex-boyfriend. (This was, thankfully, a good thing.) Here's another picture of him (and me!) circa 1985. Man, we were... well...

Second, I performed a wedding ceremony (congrats on 1 year, Pete & Kelly!) for a graduate of Esperanza High - who not only knew where Top of the World was (for those of you not from north Orange County, think "Lovers Lane" or "Inspiration Point") but also had family connections to my high school choir director.

Which brings up another question: how many of you reading this thing are from my DISTANT past (in other words, pre-marriage)? If you knew me prior to 1990, leave some kind of pithy message in the comments section.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Quips, Quotes & I Can't Think of Anything Else That Starts With "Q" and Fits Into This Title

I don't watch 30 Rock - but this quote from the show (found in Entertainment Weekly's year-end issue) tickles my funny bone.

You are my heroine. And by "heroine," I mean lady hero. I don't want to inject you and listen to jazz.

I've been studying Ruth (for my morning service sermon series) and Romans (for the Winter Bible Study I'm teaching)... and, yes, I realize that if I studied Revelation as well it would make for a trifecta of Bible books starting with "R" - which would make my church begin to feel vaguely like a theological version of Sesame Street...hmm.

"Propitiation - you're the one. You make salvation lots of fun. Propitiation, I'm awfully fond of you." OK, maybe not.

Now, where was I? Oh, yeah, I found these quotes while during that study time. The first is from C.S. Lewis.

To love at all is to be vulnerable... The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers... of love is Hell.

This one is from Blaise Pascal - yep, he's the guy they named the programming language after.

We make an idol of truth itself, for truth apart from charity is not God by his image. It is an idol we must not love or worship for its own sake. Still less must we worship its opposite, which is falsehood.

And, because I looked up Pascal (to make sure he wasn't Rene Descartes, the guy who said, "I think, therefore I am" and thereby singlehandedly created the market for faux-witty posters about drinking to sell to college guys), I found this quote as well.

People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.

I'm reading a book right now that really is retooling my thought processed about how the Christian faith is perceived by outsiders (entitled unChristian) and just wanted to share a bit from it to get you to pick up the book & read it yourself.

When they see Christians not acting like Jesus, they quickly conclude that the group deserves an unChristian label. Like a corrupted computer file or a bad photocopy, Christianity, they say, is no longer in pure form, and so they reject it. One-quarter of outsiders say that their foremost perception of Christianity is that the faith has changed for the worse. It has gotten off track and is not what Christ intended. Modern-day Christianity no longer seems Christian...

(These) perception are not formed in a vacuum or based on limited exposure. Most Mosaics (born 1984-2002) & Busters in America (born 1965-1983) have an enormous amount of firsthand experience with Christians and the Christian faith. The vast majority of outsiders within the Mosaic & Buster generations have been to churches before; most have attended at least one church for several months; and nearly nine out of every ten say they know Christians personally, having about five friends who are believers...

One outsider put it this way: "Most people I meet assume that Christian means very conservative, entrenched in their thinking, antigay, antichoice, angry, violent, illogical, empire builders; they want to convert everyone, and they generally cannot live peacefully with anyone who doesn't believe what they believe."

Strong stuff, eh? Probably a good time to bring up one of my favorite passages from Scripture (1 Corinthians 9:19-23, The Message)...

Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn't just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!

And finally, because no collection of quotes from me would be complete without them, a trio of quotes from (in order) The Princess Bride, The Muppet Movie & the (sadly) defunct TV series, Sports Night.

Prince Humperdinck: Surrender.

Westley: You mean you wish to surrender to me? Very well, I accept.

Rizzo: It's some kind of a blind fiend.

Gonzo: I believe they prefer visually challenged fiend.

Casey: There is a perception in the press, never more clear than in this article, that I'm not cool. Now where do you suppose that perception comes from?

Dana: I think it comes from reality.

This article appeared in the January 8, 2008 edition of The Grapevine, the newsletter of NewLife Community Church.

Operation: Rescue Kit

Braeden got the newest version of Operation for Christmas - Operation: Rescue Kit. (Thanks, Aunt Liz & Uncle Dan!) Unlike some of the themed versions of the game (which are basically the same game as the original one we all played when we were kids only without the escapee from Mad Magazine to operated upon), this uses a computer chip to make the game, well, better.

There are now four different ways to play (all of which involve a timer):
  • the easiest game does not stop your turn when you "nick" the patient - instead, the computer simply docks you some points
  • the next game does lock you out after you "nick" your patient - and if you take too long, you'll have to spend some your precious time giving him oxygen
  • the third game times players on how fast they can remove ALL of the offending organs
  • and the final game randomly chooses a 2nd player as a "specialist" to take over that particular bit of surgery if the active player nicks the patient

Another nice touch - the entire game is packaged in a folding case that looks like a medical kit & is about half the size of the original game.

As well, there are new organs to remove - oops, excuse me. The game calls them "Funatomy." (I had my gall bladder removed last year - and at NO POINT would I call it "funatomy.") Anyhoo - we now have "texters thumb" and "video controller wrist" and a particularly insidious/difficult piece called "belly button fluff." The only classic piece that's gone is the rubber band - instead, you've now got a "twisted knee" piece that must be manipulated down a winding track to a place large enough to remove (near the foot). This is good, as my friends were always having to hunt down a new rubber band for their game.

I've rated this a "6" on Boardgamegeek- though it might well be a "7". It plays cleanly, quickly & the computer chip even keeps score for you. All in all, this is a lesson in how to take an old classic (that wasn't all that classic in terms of game play) and turn it into a very enjoyable little game.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Religion & Politics: Oil & Water

I'm writing this post on January 3rd, the morning before the Iowa caucuses. (Yes, I had to look up how to spell caucuses. And, yes, I had spelled it wrong.) These "town meeting"-like events mark the official start of the shortest primary season on record - and over the next few weeks, folks all across the USA will be subject to a barrage of campaign ads, brochures, phone calls, polls, text messages, e-mails, etc., in an attempt to get votes.

For those of us here in California, it's just over a month until the primary election (February 5th). For some of you who read the Grapevine, it'll happen even quicker than that. (I'm not sure if anyone in Iowa reads this thing... but just in case, you need to go to a caucus tonight - and not just because I looked the word up so I could spell it correctly.)

As a follower of Jesus and as a minister, I've been warned numerous times that "religion & politics don't mix" - and they've been variously compared to oil & water or Michigan & Ohio State football fans. (OK, nobody's ever said the football fan thing to me - I've just been thinking about how great the Capital One Bowl was on Tuesday.) I'm going to argue a bit with that premise, so hang on to your proverbial hats.

First, I'll agree that religion shouldn't mix with politics, if by "religion" what you mean is "religious observance" or "government support for a particular religion." While I don't want to do the whole "separation of church & state" debate here (except to say that the phrase, "separation of church & state", does not appear anywhere in the Constitution), I believe that the quest for governmental recognition or sanction almost always hurts the religions who receive it, whether they be Christian or Buddhist or Mormon or whatever. Short-term gains in temporal (earthly) power lead to compromises in belief & practice that wreak havoc in a religion for years to come.

On the other hand, I will argue that religion & politics SHOULD mix, if by "religion" what you mean is "belief" or "faithfulness to a set of beliefs." Every one of has ideas & practices that we cherish for a variety of reasons - whether we are followers of Jesus Christ or ardent atheists. To ask any candidate or political office holder to abandon their beliefs in order to govern well is a violation of their unique personhood - it's asking them to not be themselves. When we desire people of integrity to lead us, it seems foolhardy to request that they saw off one of their ethical/moral limbs in order to get elected.

In fact, I think we all are kidding ourselves if we think that what someone believes about the nature of the world and the existence of God can be turned on & off like a light switch. What someone believes will affect their decisions - their values will help (or hinder) them from certain courses of action. This is not to say that we are consistent in living out what we believe - far from it! But if our beliefs are deeply held, if they are more than darkening the doors of a church in order to appease a portion of the electorate, they will bubble up in what we say and do.

I want leaders in this country who believe in something more than getting elected or gaining power. I'm praying for it. And I don't want any of the candidates, whether I like 'em or not, pretending to be something that they're not.

So, I close this with two requests:

1. To the candidates (ha - like they're ever going to read this - still, I can dream, can't I?!): Tell us what you believe. I'd love to hear about your faith decisions - since so many of you claim an "important" relationship with your God, let us know what that means specifically. Stop trying to use "code words" to appeal to one faith segment or another and simply tell us the truth. Give us the opportunity to make an informed decision about who will be the next president of the United States.

2. To the rest of us: Stop pretending that religious faith doesn't matter in politics - it does. It's OK to be concerned or moved by a candidate's beliefs. By the same token, if it matters to the way the candidates conduct their campaigns & (eventually) lead as they hold office, then it also matters to each of us. We "Average Joe's" (or, in my case, "Average Mark's") have the same responsibility that they do - to live out our lives based on our beliefs - to attempt to live consistently & with integrity.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, that means I need to pray for the candidates - all of 'em, not just the ones I'd like to see on the ballot in November - and ask God to work in their lives and the lives of those around them. I need to participate in the political process in a way that brings honor to God (speech seasoned with grace, standing for truth). I need to use the brain God has given me (quote from my dad - "God didn't call you to be stupid.") as I decide who to support.

A version of this article originally appeared in the January 3, 2008 issue of The Grapevine, the newsletter of NewLife Community Church.

Religion & Politics: Just the Facts, Ma'am

I want to tread REAL carefully here, as I'm not interested in endorsing one candidate over another. But in an presidential campaign where all of the major candidates have religious ties, it's important for me to say something.

Please, make sure any information you share about the candidates and/or their beliefs is factually correct. As followers of Christ, we are obligated out of love for Christ not to gossip or slander - and no matter how much you dislike a particular candidate or their policies, it does not justify sinful behavior. (The article that that got me started on this is on Jeffrey Overstreet's Looking Closer blog, entitled ...and speaking of being judged.)

I'll be writing more about my (personal!) feelings about the link between spiritual beliefs & political leadership... but the starting point for any of this is Jesus' admonition that we should "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." And there's no exception clause because they're a public figure or a member of the "wrong" political party.

A version of this article originally appeared in the December 30, 2007 issue of The Grapevine, the newsletter of NewLife Community Church.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Blogging Resolutions for 2008

Just putting stuff like this in print is dangerous (as I've been known to blow through deadlines like the twister from The Wizard of Oz)... but I'm still going to give it a shot.
  1. Finish the 10th Anniversary Five & Dime Report by mid-February. (This, btw, is do-able, if I don't get bogged down with other stuff.)
  2. Write more reviews - particularly of games, but also of books, television & film. (While there is some great writing out there from an evangelical perspective on pop culture, the chances of most of the people who read this blog seeing it is pretty slim. If you're interested, check out Jeffery Overstreet's Looking Closer site & blog.)
  3. Write a post defining "evangelical" correctly... man, I get so irritated at political labeling.
  4. Finish the Soundtrack of My Life series of posts sometime this year... I've got one in the can (Steve Taylor) and one almost completed (Andrew Peterson), which only leaves 18 to go. (I wouldn't hold your breath on this one - these are fun to write but a lot of work.)
  5. Begin adding Catan stuff to the blog... like I promised to do two months ago. (Sigh.)
  6. Write up our Disneyland vacation (the Week of a Million Dreams)... this should happen in the next week or two, if the Five & Dime stuff doesn't eat up all my computing time.
Also by me (but not directly about aka pastor guy):
  1. finish up work on the 2006-7 version of The Apples Project
  2. start AND finish the 2007-8 version of The One Hundred (otherwise known as "The Official & Completely Authoritative 100 Best Games of All Time Ever Without Question"... so there!)