Saturday, March 29, 2008

Take Me Out to the (Ball) Game

I started this post on Tuesday... which explains the oddball "Opening Day" reference.

Today is Opening Day... which, frankly, elicits a "so what?" from me, as I don't follow baseball. (I have, however, seen professional games in 6 different parks - baseball live is fun, baseball on TV is sleep-inducing.)

However, Erik Arneson reviewed Harry's Grand Slam Baseball yesterday on his website & that got me in a baseball boardgame kind of mood. Since I'm not a baseball fan, you may want to see what someone else has to say about the subject - you can check out:

OTOH, you can take my suggestions.


Braeden & Collin's favorite baseball game is Sure Shot Baseball... which isn't so much a board game as an excercise in manual dexterity. The board is a molded plastic and has a scoop-shaped back wall. The pitching team drops a ball down the chute (which can be aimed a little bit) toward the bat, which the hitting teams "swings" using a knob. Hits only count if they go over the wall - and depending on where they cross the wall, they count as a single, double, triple or home run. The defense can get an out, however, by catching the ball in mid-air! A swing & a miss is an out, so innings are quick.

And that's it. Not a great game, but fun to play with the kids.


Harry's Grand Slam Baseball is a quick-playing card game that manages to "feel" like a baseball game without having the tempo of the average baseball game. If you don't go into extra innings, a game is easily over in 15 minutes.

Interestingly, even with such a short playing time, the game includes stealing bases, balks, double plays, pinch hitting, relief pitching, and even the sacrifice fly. That's a lot to pack into a simple card game - and yet Grand Slam Baseball does it with class.

I'm a big fan - it makes a great "waiting for folks to show up for game night" filler. It would also be a nice game to play while watching a baseball game on TV.


Diceball! is, I'm sad to say, long OOP (out of print) and a bit difficult to find. That said, it's a really enjoyable dice-heavy baseball game that can (but doesn't have to) generate stats for a very realistic baseball game. But whether you're into the stats or not, the gameplay itself is a lot of fun, esp. using the advanced rules which allow for some oddball offensive plays (like the suicide squeeze and the hit & run). The teams are generic (blue & yellow, if my memory serves me correctly) but that doesn't stop the game from creating a story each time.

A short note about baseball & statistics: most of you are probably aware that many baseball junkies are obsessed with statistics. (All you need to do to figure this out is to listen to the color commentary on your average baseball game, where they drop stuff like "this is his second single on his first at bat in the last 12 games facing left-handed starting pitchers here at Wrigley Field." Sigh.) Baseball boardgamers tend toward this as well, which is why APBA & Dynasty League Baseball are the most beloved of baseball "simulations."

Home Run

My aside about stats brings us right to the best of the games I've listed: Dynasty League Baseball. This is truly the Holy Grail for those of you who want to replay seasons with truckloads of statistical accuracy & loads of "color" - the system goes so far as to take weather & time of year into account (as they affect, ever so slightly, the distance a ball carries after being hit.)

I was introduced to Dynasty League through the good graces of Warren Madden, who is a fan & did a spectacular job of keeping the game moving. I haven't been able to justify the price tag of the game (yet!) - but if my eldest son continues to enjoy baseball, it may find a place in my collection.

Pinch Hitter

I haven't yet played Pizza Box Baseball... but reports from folks who've seen a copy/played the game (including the Fresno Gamers own Hobiecat, Mike) have lots of nice things to say about it. I'll be giving it a try in the next couple of weeks & I'll let you know what I think.

Two Games Into the Season...

Well, not actually any season... but on Opening Day, I actually managed to play two of these games. Braeden & Collin beat me at Sure Shot Baseball (sigh) and I managed 11-10 bottom of the 9th win over Mike in Harry's Grand Slam.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

May the Yolk Be With You

Nothing says "we're celebrating the birth of the risen Christ" like a Darth Vader easter egg.

Smoke & Mirrors?

Now, let me ask you something profound yet troubling. If you became believers because you trusted the proclamation that Christ is alive, risen from the dead, how can you let people say that there is no such thing as a resurrection? If there's no resurrection, there's no living Christ. And face it—if there's no resurrection for Christ, everything we've told you is smoke and mirrors, and everything you've staked your life on is smoke and mirrors. Not only that, but we would be guilty of telling a string of barefaced lies about God, all these affidavits we passed on to you verifying that God raised up Christ—sheer fabrications, if there's no resurrection.

If corpses can't be raised, then Christ wasn't, because he was indeed dead. And if Christ weren't raised, then all you're doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever. It's even worse for those who died hoping in Christ and resurrection, because they're already in their graves. If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we're a pretty sorry lot. But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries...

If there's no chance of resurrection for a corpse, if God's power stops at the cemetery gates, why do we keep doing things that suggest he's going to clean the place out someday, pulling everyone up on their feet alive?

And why do you think I keep risking my neck in this dangerous work? I look death in the face practically every day I live. Do you think I'd do this if I wasn't convinced of your resurrection and mine as guaranteed by the resurrected Messiah Jesus? Do you think I was just trying to act heroic when I fought the wild beasts at Ephesus, hoping it wouldn't be the end of me? Not on your life! It's resurrection, resurrection, always resurrection, that undergirds what I do and say, the way I live. If there's no resurrection, "We eat, we drink, the next day we die," and that's all there is to it. But don't fool yourselves. Don't let yourselves be poisoned by this anti-resurrection loose talk. 1 Corinthians 15:12-20, 29-33 (The Message)

It's Easter Sunday... and resurrection is at the very heart of the Christian faith. Paul said it best - if this is all a con job, the whole thing is as stable (and as useful) as a house of cards.

OTOH... if it's real - yowsa. Nothing will ever be the same again.

Maybe you're reading this & have some real doubts about the veracity of the resurrection: I'd recommend 3 books for you to study/read:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Collin's Prayer

"Thank you for Jesus & thank you for our food & thank you for playing games & thank you for watching movies. Amen."

Five & Dime 2007: Recap

I first began keeping track of the Five & Dime lists back in 1999... and here it is, 2008. Meaning I've been doing this for ten (10) years. Either I'm very thorough or completely anal. (You choose.)

Here's the all the links for the 2007 Five & Dime reports.
And here's the links for graphic 'over time' comparisons of the top games, which I call Wide Angle Lens:

Cereal & Holy Week

Here's some stuff for you to chew on...
  • Cinnamon Life is just about the best breakfast cereal/snack food in existence. I should know... I eat enough of it.
  • Silly Rabbit, Easter's Not For Kids is the title of a pithy & challenging post on the scandal of the Cross over at the The Resurgence blog.
  • My buddy, Steve "K-ban" Kurzban, asked me why Passover & Holy Week don't line up this year... I'm really ashamed to admit I don't know the answer to that one. So I found this article on Wikipedia.
  • I've written (well, quoted) some thoughtful stuff about Easter before... check out Deeper Magic and He Is Risen Indeed!.
More Easter stuff as the day approaches...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Green Beer?

That's the best we can come up with to celebrate the life of St. Patrick?! Sigh.

For a thoughtful musing about St. Patrick & the missional church, check out Dan Kimball's blog, Vintage Faith - in particular, this post.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Post #500: "Easton International Airport"

It's wonderful how much fun the boys can have with styrofoam planes from the dollar store & a bunch of stickers. (You can't see it very well in these pictures, but Collin's plane probably has a pound of animal stickers on it.)

And that's post Numero 500... wow, I've been blogging for almost three years & still having fun. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I couldn't get a better birthday present than this movie opening on my birthday. (Thanks to Looking Closer for pointing out the new trailer!)

Five & Dime 2007: Time After Time

There's always been a bit of discussion (in my less charitable moods, I'd call it "whining") about the emphasis that the Five & Dime lists put on shorter games, particularly fillers. (Of course, one person's filler game is another person's "main dish" game - filler is in the eye of the beholder.) But there's been a lot more of it this year.

So I finally caved... I used the same top 350 games (percentage of plays-wise) that I mentioned in the Decay post... the cut-off number ended up being an average of 2.0% or better over time. I then gave them each a playing time estimate in 15 min. increments. To get the "score" you see in the charts below, I multiplied the average percentage of plays by the number of minutes. The "average over time ranking" is their rank when not adjusted for time of play.
Gametime "score"average over time ranking
Puerto Rico34.662nd
Settlers of Catan 32.414th
Euphrat & Tigris26.1720th
Power Grid/Funkenschlag22.0625th
Notre Dame19.8912th
Ticket To Ride19.371st
Thurn and Taxis16.069th
Age of Steam15.4252nd
Union Pacific14.4155th
Princes of Florence12.2630th
St Petersburg11.9910th
Settlers of Catan Card Game11.7270th
Shadows Over Camelot11.7149th
Lost Cities 10.465th
San Juan10.436th
Ticket to Ride: Europe10.0629th
El Grande9.4790th
Lord of the Rings8.8681st
Liar's Dice/Bluff/Perudo8.797th
Twilight Struggle8.46119th
Taj Mahal8.2775th
Arkham Horror7.88174th
Through the Desert7.6628th
Formula De7.4386th
Blue Moon City7.4054th
Web of Power/China7.2832nd
Ticket to Ride - Märklin6.9459th
War of the Ring6.80227th
10 Days/Europa Tour6.5719th
Railroad Tycoon6.39143rd

Here's the missing top 50 games (average over time) and where they placed when adjusted for time.
Gametime "score"average over time rankingtime ranking
Wyatt Earp6.1741st52nd
Take 66.1021st55th
Race for the Galaxy5.5824th61st
Memoir '444.8033rd79th
Mamma Mia!/Sole Mio4.2838th89th
Diamant/Incan Gold3.9213th94th
To Court A King3.8650th97th
Can't Stop3.6515th104th
No Thanks/Geschenkt3.3316th116th
For Sale2.8123rd136th
Loopin' Louie2.3736th162nd
Zirkus Flohcati2.2236th170th
Take It Easy2.0044th184th

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bits & Pieces

Things have been, well, hectic... we've had two major funerals at the church in the last 2 weeks, in addition to all of the "normal" insanity of church life. Shari left yesterday for Las Vegas to go hang out with her cousin for a few days, leaving the boys & I here to fend for ourselves. So, rather than a full-fledged blog post, here's some odds & ends from my travels through both the virtual & real worlds:
  • With Shari (my wife) and Kate (Steve's wife) both being gone this week, we've created a Fresno Gamers Mini-Con: five consecutive nights of gaming. To keep track of what we've played, you can check out the Mini-Con Geeklist.
  • Ah, the wonders of Wikipedia... I discovered earlier today that the Muppet classic, "Mah Na Mah Na", debuted (sans Muppets) in a Swedish soft-porn film.
  • Lots of bytes being used by homeschoolers concerned (and rightly so) about the ruling last week in Los Angeles. If you want to know more, here's a few links to check out: Christianity Today, HSLDA, and A couple of you have e-mailed me with concern for our personal situation - Shari & I have some unusual circumstances that will keep us from having much trouble - she's a credentialed K-12 teacher (in TN) and I have a masters degree in education (OK, religious education).
  • I'm on Facebook. If that has meaning for you, come & be my friend. If not, run the other way! You don't want to be sucked in to this incredible time-waster! Fly, you fools!
  • And finally, no day is complete without the Swedish Chef.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Five & Dime 2007: Decay Rates

This is a new way for me to analyze some of these numbers - I'm not sure my work here is statistically sound but it's interesting. (That's your cue to smile & grin knowingly.)

Anyway, what I did was to take the top 350 games (percentage of plays-wise) from the last ten years - the cut-off number ended up being an average of 2.0% or better over time. (You'll see this subset of games for the next 2 or 3 Five & Dime reports. It allows me to work with games that really registered statistically and lessens the workload at the same time.)

For this particular exercise in determining decay rates of games, I then set aside games with 4 or less years on the list... leaving me with 230 games. To do the decay calculation, I:
  1. Took the largest percentage played number from each game.
  2. Compared it to the current (2007) percentage played number for each game.
  3. Divided that amount by the number of years since it had first appeared on the Five & Dime Lists.

Only three games showed no rate of decay whatsoever - they have appeared on the list for 5+ years (weirdly enough, all three of them showed up 6 years ago) and their highest percentage played is in 2007:

  • Downfall of Pompeii
  • Hive
  • Uno

Now that's what I call "strange bedfellows". (Connect 4, btw, was very close to joining this illustrious group - 0.06% decay over time.)

Here's the chart with the rest of the top 20 games... that is, the games that showed the least decay over 5+ years time. (There's actually 22 games on this chart, as the final 3 games were very close in percentage.)

Gameyears on listpercentage decay
Cloud 98-0.20%
Gang of Four7-0.31%
Cafe Internationa9-0.34%
Midnight Party7-0.35%
Viva Pamplona9-0.47%
Amazing Labyrinth10-0.50%
Magic: The Gathering10-0.52%
Time's Up/Celebrities10-0.52%

And here's a chart with the 20 games who've shown the highest rates of decay. (Note - to show a high rate of decay, you have to start from a high position.)

Gameyears on listpercentage decay
Puerto Rico7-10.12%
Euphrat & Tigris10-6.30%
Balloon Cup7-6.23%
Mamma Mia!/Sole Mio8-5.55%
King's Breakfast7-5.55%
Lost Cities9-5.44%
Battle Cry (AH)8-5.13%
Settlers of Catan10-5.08%
Wyatt Earp7-5.05%
Through the Desert10-4.89%
Web of Power/China8-4.51%
Paris Paris7-4.41%

I'm not sure I'm really qualified to comment beyond the statistics... you need to know that the average decay rate of these games was 6.91% over their lifespan (1.94% per year) and that the average lifespan was just over 8 years. Make of that what you will.

A Couple More Quotes To Argue About...

...or, in my case, giggle about.

Here's Richard Dawkins, "an outspoken antireligionist, atheist, secular humanist & sceptic" (according to Wikipedia) from his 1998 book, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder:
By all means let's be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.
Here's Steve Taylor, "an American singer, songwriter, record producer & film director" (again, according to Wikipedia) who is a decidedly evangelical Christian, from his 1983 song "Whatcha Gonna Do (When Your Number's Up?)":
You're so open-minded that your brains leaked out
Things that make you go hmmmm...

Saturday, March 01, 2008

A Quote To Argue About

The ultimate goal of American Christianity should not be to make us good citizens, but to make us revolutionaries in the cause of Jesus Christ. Erwin McManus, The Origins Experience 2004