Monday, April 28, 2008

Three Books I've Read Recently...

...and what I thought of them: Yep, all history books. I'm on a kick of sorts. Earlier this year it was reading all the way through the graphic novel series Fables. Who knows what will come next?

The Fabulous Comic Stylings of Collin Blake Jackson

Here, courtesy of my lovely wife, Shari, is some of Collin's most recent pearls of wisdom:

1) Collin slammed his finger in the sliding glass door (this is not the funny part). He caught it in between where the two glasses meet. It was quite traumatic for him. We put a big band-aid on it and have had to keep one on due to the damaged skin. Yesterday at church he showed his boo-boo to a mommy(hi, Lydia!) She asked how he got the boo-boo and he said "My mommy slammed the door on my finger."

2) Collin has two little girls in his Sunday school class that he is with every time the doors open. Their names are Sophia and Eve. On the way to church last night, Collin said: "Sophia isn't very nice at church." I asked "Are you nice at church?" He responded "Yes. I'm not nice at home."

3) A while ago I was changing his diaper and clothes. I saw a toy on the floor that goes with other toys. I told him to put that toy with the others so it does not get lost. He said: "I need to hold this toy so I can talk to God."

4) While I was typing he came into the room. I asked him to sing me a song. He hopped on the bed and started singing "mommy is great , mommy is great, etc." I suppose he is a keeper.

I'll add one from just a few minutes ago - Shari had to replace his band-aid and he began crying that he needed an owie on his other hand. When Shari told him that would hurt & make him cry, he declared that he would laugh at this one.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Some Movies I've Seen Recently...

...and what I thought about 'em.
  • Horton Hears A Hoo - the boys really enjoyed this... and I wasn't running screaming from the theater (like I want to during the Shrek films), but it just felt a little, well, plastic. And while there were inspired moments (mostly during the Hoo-ville scenes), it's not particularly Seussian. Sigh. (Better than Mike Myers in the Hat or the Jim Carrey That Stole Christmas by a mile, though.)
  • Michael Clayton - The acting is solid, the direction is well-done, the cinematography is very good... but it just doesn't add up to all that much. "Lawyer who lost his way ethically finds it again" - to see this plot line done right, watch Paul Newman in The Verdict.
  • Dan in Real Life - This was a sweet, understated film with some real heart in it. It probably didn't do well because both Steve Carrell & Dane Cook play real people rather than their normal "anything for a laugh" kind of characters - but if you like stories about families & love & pain & hope, this is the movie for you.
  • Once - I fell in love with the song first - "Falling Slowly" is an amazing piece of music & totally deserved the Oscar it received - but I was surprised to find how much I liked the film. I hesitate to tell you much about it - some of the joy of the film is in discovering the story for yourself - and I esp. encourage you to avoid looking up the music video/trailer of "Falling Slowly", as it gives away way too much of the plot. Just see the film. (One warning: the film is rated "R" for harsh language... if that's a problem for you, don't see the film. Most of you know I'm pretty cautious about nudity/sex in a film - that is NOT a problem here.)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Stuff I'm Looking Forward To...

1. the results of the Springtime Math Trade

You may well ask yourself, "What's a math trade?" The short answer is that it's a type of trading that maximizes your chances of making a trade. Everyone submits 1 (or more) items they're willing to trade... and when the submission period is over, each trader has a few days to submit want lists - what items they're willing to accept in trade. All this info is fed into a computer which spits out a series of trades to make it happen.

Here's a (simple) example: I send Candyland to Bob, who sends Sorry! to Eldon, who sends Trivial Pursuit to Joe, who sends Risk to me. (Yes, it's a board/card game math trade... only with much cooler games.)

I've got pretty high hopes for this trade... I've got 6 lots in the trade & a lot of possible "wants". I'm guessing I'll make 4 out of the 6 trades. (We'll know Sunday night!)

2. the release of Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm

Race for the Galaxy is my most played game this year - it's a science fiction card game where you're developing your empire & technology through a series of complex interactions... and yet it only takes 30 or so minutes to play. It's got a pretty hefty learning curve - I'd suggest you commit to playing 2 games in a row the first time you play so you can get the hang of it - but it's a blast once you get past that point.

The first of two promised expansions releases in May/June... adding new types of cards & rules to flesh out some strategies & create new paths to victory. I can't wait!

3. opening night for Iron Man & Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Both of these movies look like they're RIGHT in my sweet spot... and both look like they'll be "don't miss these on a big screen" kind of films.

4. the arrival of my pre-ordered copy of Agricola

This was THE buzz game from Essen 2007 (Essen, for the uninitiated, is the biggest board game event in the Western world)... only it had 300 cards in German. Z-Man Games is reprinting it in English & the pre-order I made back in late December (thanks to Doug Garrett) is going to ship here in the next few weeks. Yippee!

5. vacationing with the family

Braeden has been saying he "wants to go live in a hotel again"... I'm with him. The current plans to tie Gulf Games & vacation may fall through (primarily due to airfare costs) but we'll find somewhere to go & enjoy. Other possibilities: San Diego (Legoland & Aunt Nancy and Uncle Richard), Portland (OMSI, my folks), the Bay area (all sorts of stuff).

6. my fifth anniversary as pastor of NewLife Community Church

July 25th will be five years here in Easton... which will be the longest I've served a single church. (We'll actually pass that mark in late May, if you don't count the unpaid prep time for tc@hh.) It's fun to realize how much God has allowed me to do & how much fun I've had... and, as well, how good these folks have been to me & my family.

As well, the 5 year anniversary is where I go from 3 weeks to 4 weeks of vacation - yowsa.

7. my summer job

This summer, I'll be the camp pastor for our association's Children's/Middle School camp. I'm excited & scared, all at the same time - this is the first time I've done something like this. (You can be praying, both for me & for the kids.) BTW, Southern Baptist churches are organized (voluntarily) into local associations... and each individual church also chooses whether or not to affiliate with the state convention & the Southern Baptist Convention. (For those of you used to hierarchical church structure, this probably feels pretty loosey-goosey.) There - now you've had your church polity lesson for the day.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Story Worth Telling

I like stories - whether it's a good murder mystery or a swashbuckling adventure... or even something as wonderful & simple as a camping trip disaster story shared among friends. (I heard a good one last night about sinking a boat because the guy telling the story forgot to put the plug in... and he came back to the dock to find his grandfather-in-law still holding the rope while the rest of the boat was underwater.)

I like to tell stories, too - part of the enjoyment of blogging is storytelling. If you've followed my blog & my Grapevine articles over the last three years, you've heard stories about me getting stuck in two different airports (O'Hare & DFW), about my friends managing to get me thrown out of Disneyland, and about God confronting me about my addiction to pornography.

Yesterday, Aaron (our worship/youth pastor) & I got to hear Donald Miller speak at Fresno Pacific about ministry & storytelling & following God. His premise (which is evidently the premise of his upcoming book) is that each of us are storytellers. Some stories we tell around the campfire or watercooler or whatever... but the most important stories are the ones we tell with our lives.

Donald Miller quoted Robert McKee, a screenwriting legend & expert on the nature and structure of story, in trying to make his point. McKee believes (even though he's not a follower of Christ) that stories set & adjust our moral compass. Good stories have the power to inspire us to live wisely & generously or to warn us when we are headed for destruction.

Miller suggested that in our "me first" culture, we tend to want things that end up telling dumb stories... when the focus of our life, our efforts, our everything is the acquisition of a new car or a bigger house, what story are we telling? When our energies & hopes are devoted towards getting someone to like us enough to date and/or sleep with us, is that a big enough story to inspire someone to change the direction of their life?

Of course, he said it a lot better than I did... and with a lot more humor & wisdom. (That's why he's writing books & I'm blogging.) But he did get me thinking... what story am I living? Are the things I want to do/be heroic and/or self-focused? 

Is my life a story worth telling?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Collin is 3... and a cowboy!

Stuff Christians Like

I wish I could say that I discover things like this all by myself (as if I was some kind of trekker of the backwoods of the Web, digging up sites like some kind of virtual Indiana Jones)... but I don't. This time around, I owe a big "thank you" to Church Marketing Sucks.

And the thing that they pointed me to is a deliciously funny, snarky, and occasionally deep blog called Stuff Christians Like. For those of us who have lived "inside the churchified walls," it's alternately "spew beverage of your choice onto your monitor" hilarious and "find yourself thinking about it all day, even when preparing a sermon" thought-provoking. Hopefully it will provide some of you who aren't drowning in church culture a wry & honest glimpse at both our goofiness & what it means to follow Jesus.

A couple of samples:

#147: Trust Falls

Remember that time Jesus and all the disciples did trust falls on the banks of the Red Sea? Right at the last second they didn't catch Jesus when it was his turn but he floated because he was the son of God, so it was all good. OK, that didn't happen, but to this day, the trust fall is a staple of most youth groups...

It's a simple concept: One person stands on the top of a ladder or a stump and falls backward into the waiting hands of two rows of people. At the end of the whole experience you're really close and play DC Talk songs and walk through the ups and downs of adolescence together with your face against the winds of change that swirl across us all with challenges and opportunities, hopes and fears, dreams and decisions. Cue One Tree Hill music...

#109: Baby Crack & Veggie Tales

Before I write a short love letter to Veggie Tales let me share 3 things you need to know about children's television:

  1. Baby Einstein is the equivalent of baby crack. Seriously, turn on one and your screaming kid will become comatose as colorful shapes spin and bears dance and toys shimmer across the screen to Mozart. The only issue is that if you're ever out and about and your kid hears classical music, they'll start jonesin' for a fix.
  2. The show Caillou will make your kid afraid of everything on the planet. This is the only cartoon character I have ever wanted to punch. He whines and cries and whimpers his way through the entire program. Avoid at all costs.
  3. No one knows what the Doodlebops are but trust me, they are terrifying. Their ears are kind of tucked into a flap of skin, they are ungodly good at playing instruments and breakdancing on buses and one of them can shrink his body down into impossibly small spaces.There, I feel worlds better.

But honestly, I love Veggie Tales. It's creative, imaginative and has enough adult humor to keep me engaged. The best song is the cheeseburger song, there can be no debate on this point, but all of their stuff is good.

My one issue is that when we went to the "Pirates the Don't Do Anything" movie in the theater, they didn't start the movie with their theme song. It was like going to see U2 and Bono refusing to do "One" or "Where the Streets Have No Name." My two year old daughter leaned over to me and immediately said, "Not this veggies." That's toddler for, "What a poor branding decision. That theme song is an audio trigger that lets me know it's time to enjoy some Veggie Tales programming. To leave that song out was a foolish, foolish decision on the Director's part."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Klutz & Konsulting

So, I came home for lunch Wednesday to hang out with Shari & our worship/youth pastor's wife, Margaret - and to "impart Disney wisdom" to her, as they are getting ready to go see the Mouse in a couple of weeks. (Yes, I realize I haven't finished my series on our visit to DLR... of course, I'll get right on it... no, I wouldn't hold your breath.) Meanwhile, Collin & Margaret's daughter, Eve, were busy dumping out all the toys they could find.

After we picked up the messterpiece they'd created, Margaret & Eve headed home - but Margaret noticed an oddly shaped box waiting at our front gate - from Klutz Press. I gleefully opened it and beheld 6 copies of The 15 Greatest Boardgames in the World.

But how did I end up getting six copies of a brand-spankin' new book? That, my friends, is the story that brings us together today...


Back in January of 2007, I got an e-mail from my friend, Scott Alden (known better to the boardgaming world as Aldie, the head honcho & chief bottle washer for - which, btw, is a site you should know if you have any interest in board or card games). He'd been approached by an editor at Klutz Press who was looking for someone who could take on a consultant role as they were updating The Book of Classic Board Games.

It's not like I'm really into the flow of my story (or anything close to it), so let's take a time-out to notice whose name is on the cover of the 1991 book: Sid Sackson. For those of you who aren't in the gaming community, the name may not mean much to you, but he was the grand old man of designer gaming here in the U.S. - his classic game, Acquire, was the inspiration for a number games (and game ideas). The idea of consulting on a reboot of something he had touched was both intriguing & intimidating.

But that initial e-mail said they were looking for someone who could evaluate games for kids age 7-10 and could suggest other games for the book - so I told Aldie to let 'em know I was interested.

About a week later, Pat Murphy (the editor), e-mailed me and offered me the job. (Etiquette keeps me from revealing the actual sum I was paid - but the total payment for my work on the book went a long way to making our Disneyland vacation possible.)

So, what does a consultant do? This wasn't my first consulting job - I worked for Tennessee Baptist Convention back in 2002-2003, helping them connect with "innovative" churches. (I did a chunk of data crunching & web surfing that time around.) But in this case, most of the work consisted of e-mailing Pat with ideas & opinions... and spending some pretty major chunks of time on the phone with her, explaining various gaming ideas & concepts.

And, although we never met, the other consultant on this project was the editor of Games Magazine, Wayne Schmittberger. He'd consulted on the earlier book and brought a lot to the table in regards to abstract games (which I have less interest/experience with.)

I don't want to go into details about our conversations - that seems unfair both to Pat & Wayne to share their thoughts without their O.K. - but the whole process of choosing the games was a lot of fun. I think one of my strongest suggestions was for us to think in gaming categories as we chose games:
  • race games
  • co-operative games
  • dexterity games
  • think-y (abstract) games
  • pick up & deliver games
  • collecting games
  • bluffing games
  • and so on...
At one point in the process, we asked for input from the BGG users (you can read what they had to say on this thread.) Their suggestions were helpful... and I need to make a special mention of Jonathan N. (BGG: quozl) who suggested China Moon - which actually ended up in the book!

In fact, we did approach a number of designers about either designing a game for the book (with little success) or licensing one of their previous games for the book (more success here). Bruno Faidutti & Wolfgang Kramer both contributed OOP games - China Moon & Corsaro.

Part of the process was suggesting games - and Braeden (my son) and I suggested a lot of oddball little games that didn't make the cut... along with some other good ideas that just didn't work out:
  • Igel Argern (which Pat thought enough of my description to purchase, but really probably didn't have a chance, what with needing 24 pieces that could stack.)
  • Choice (this Sid Sackson dice game is a solitaire favorite - but it's a little complicated for what we were doing - if you'd like to play it online, you can do so right here.)
  • Kangi Cup (this really is an oddball suggestion... it's a press your luck/race game featuring kangaroos... and also some of the crappiest production in a German game by a semi-major publisher. I'm still glad I own it - it's fun with 3 or 4 players - but don't knock yourself out trying to find a copy. I am, btw, the only person on the Geek who is willing to admit they own it. Having a custom die - complete with boomerang symbol - is one of the things that kept it out of the book.)
  • Ticket to Ride/Transamerica (I tried to figure out - in vain - how to do "trial versions" of each of these games for the book. Ah, well. If you haven't played 'em, you should. There are a couple of connection games in the book - Surround & The Game of Y - but not in the same family as these.)
  • Barricade/Malefiz (we did a lot of research, trying to figure out who did/didn't hold some kind of claim on this game... and Pat decided in the end that it wasn't worth it.)
The one suggestion Braeden & I made that "made it through" was Kramer's Corsaro - Irrfahrt im Piratenmeer (English translation: Corsaro - Stranded in Pirate Waters). It won the Kinderspiel des Jahres (game of the year for children in Germany) in 1991. I really like the game, so it's exciting to see it available to a whole new generation.

By summer, the game list had been finalized and we spent the next couple of months checking rules & artwork. I consider one of the wisest things to come out of my mouth was my diatribe on spinners & children's games:
  1. Spinners are, in general, a way to generate a fight - did you spin hard enough? did you lean on it to get to go one way or the other? is it on the line or not?
  2. If you are going to use a spinner, get the graphics guy to make the lines between the areas as THIN as possible, thus lessening the chance of a liner.
  3. Big areas are preferable to small areas - easier to see & less likely to cause "liner" problems.
  4. If there's another way to do it, it's almost always more elegant.
So, while a spinner was considered to play The Royal Game of Ur (which originally used 4 odd-shaped rocks to generate a number from 0-4), the final version simply has players tossing 4 coins in the air & counting heads... which actually feels more like the original Sumerian game.

And then, in late August, the final pages started coming across my e-mail. While I've been published before in magazines & journals (yes, I have a copy of each one, thank you) and even in one book (without credits - I wrote the teaching materials for one of Jay Strack's books), this is the first time I'd seen my name in an actual book... and it's in there twice! The second time, Pat was kind enough to call Wayne & myself "Game Gurus" in the credits - which my wife has found very, very funny. Sigh.


Which brings us, some months later, back to the box of books, which was part of my contract.

It was a great experience all the way around - Pat was wonderful to work with/for & I'd be happy to do stuff for Klutz again (hint, hint!). I'm pretty positive about the book (I'll review it in a separate blog post) and it was really a lot of fun to sit down with Braeden & play some of the games. I'm still a bit nervous that some of the hardcore "abstract" fans will be less pleased with the games that were chosen... or that Sid Sackson fans will be irritated at us re-doing his work - but I'll attempt to explain those choices (from MY perspective) in my review.

But all in all, a very good thing.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Yes, Master... I Hear & Obey

"I will go & see all of these movies, as if you had zombie-like control over me & my children..."

Well, actually, we probably will. And they sorta do.

Here's the slate of Disney/Pixar films for the next four years (yes, some of this is subject to change... and thanks to Jeffrey Overstreet for sending me to
cinematical to find this.) I haven't seen any of them (yet!)... so the ratings you see are based on my anticipation level:
  • intense
  • high
  • medium
  • mild
  • non-existent
  • WALL*E (June 27th) - My personal anticipation is set on intense for this one... what's not to like when Pixar does sci-fi with a robot hero who watches "Hello, Dolly" to discover what love is?!
  • BOLT (November 26th) This "dog journey" movie crossed with a "actor who believes he's really his character" movie only rates a medium... but that's pretty much the way I felt about ENCHANTED which I ended up really enjoying. This also marks the beginning of all Disney/Pixar films being released in Disney 3D.
  • UP (May 29th) Pixar brings us an adventure story with a 78 year old hero & his 8 year old sidekick. Anticipation level is high... both because it's from Pixar and because it's cool that an animated film is going to let a character with some age on 'em have a leading role.
  • TOY STORY in 3-D (October 2nd) The original TOY STORY re-released in Disney 3D. I have the film memorized... but I'll be there to see it in 3D. Anticipation level: medium.
  • THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG (Christmas) Traditional animation... an African-American heroine, Randy Newman writing the tunes... and the promise of a singing alligator? Anticipation level is high.
  • TOY STORY 2 in 3-D (February 12th) I cry literally every time I see Jesse being left behind in the donation box. Really... every time. I can't imagine seeing this in 3D will make me any less teary. Anticipation level is high.
  • TOY STORY 3 (June 18th) And here's the reason for updating Toy Story 1 & 2... the third film will come out in June of 2010 with the original voice cast... and Ned Beatty. (No idea what role he'll be playing... or what story they'll be telling.) Color me intensely interested in this one.
  • RAPUNZEL (Christmas) Not of lot of details... but this one will be all CGI. My interest is only medium until we know some more about it.
  • NEWT (Summer) Now this sounds... interesting? "The last two blue-footed newts on the planet are forced together by science to save the species... and they can't stand each other?" For those of you who know Dave Arnott, it sounds vaguely like his film, The Last Man. I'm intrigued but wondering how they can (a) keep a G rating with this subject matter and (b) make it work at at all. I'm interested but this is the first time I'm only set on medium for a Pixar release.
  • THE BEAR AND THE BOW (Christmas) Also Pixar (two in one year?!) this is a hero(ine) tale set in Scotland - could be interesting. Anticipation level: high.
  • CARS 2 (Summer) The press release has something about Mater & Lightning "needing their passports", so I guess they're going to race Formula One... or some kind of race around the world or whatever... I'm nervous that they'll screw up the delicate & wonderful balance of exciting races & delightful small town life that made the first film such a success in my book. But the guy who produced RATATOUILLE is directing... which is a very good sign. The release of this film is linked to the opening of Cars Land at Disney's California Adventure, where they're planning to build what could be Disney Park's most elaborate thrill ride - described by some Disney insiders as "... Test Track meets Indiana Jones Adventure meets Pixar." Yes, my anticipation level is intense, both for the ride & the movie.
  • KING OF THE ELVES (Christmas) Elves & trolls in the Mississippi Delta? Color me curious and highly interested.

Friday, April 04, 2008

91 Days of Gaming: The New Stuff

Some of the games that are new to me here in the first quarter of 2008 didn't end up in the 91 Days: Five & Dime... so I thought I'd comment on them in their own post.

3 times
  • Gumball Rally - what a sweet little racing game... one of the guys in my group compares it to Formula Motor Racing (which I also own but don't like nearly as much as this). Note: the designer, Ted Cheatham, is a very good friend, so I may be a bit biased. But the fact that it plays up to 8 players is a major plus for a filler game.
  • Risk Express - Yahtzee meets Risk in a very enjoyable little dice game. I still don't get why this isn't being released in the U.S.
  • Soccer Tactics World - Imagine if you took the much-loved StreetSoccer & complicated it slightly. Two things happen: (1) it takes longer to play, and (2) you end up with a much more soccer-like game. I like it so far.
2 times
  • Prophecy - this lies somewhere between Return of the Heroes (the most Euro-ish of the fantasy adventure games) and Talisman (the "old school" classic that is, despite being reprinted, starting to really show it's age)... which is not a bad place to be. We've been playing to 2 artifacts (meaning no final battle) which actually works very well. (BTW, I'm looking for a copy of the Z-Man edition to trade for... the copy Braeden & I have been playing belongs to Steve - hi, Steve! - and he's planning to trade it away.)
1 time
  • Alchemist - this is a kinda fiddly game of pushing cubes that was alright with my group but I could see turning into a nightmare with the wrong think-y kind of player. Nothing awful but nothing great.
  • Arkadia - my one play of this was very enjoyable... it's a thinker but didn't seem to lock up with AP (analysis paralysis). Of course, the fact that I got this for about $6 at the Barnes & Noble clearance didn't hurt my opinion of it, either.
  • Bobbin' Bumblebee - the generic reprint of Loopin' Louie you can find at which, surprisingly, is a pretty good little game. The physics works differently than LL, so you have to learn some new skills.
  • Container - some lousy art choices (what in the HECK is the island/blob thing?) and overly layered game play (you mean I have to offer something which sells then sells again then take it to the island to get points?) doom what could have been an interesting game. Once was enough, thanks.
  • Cranium Squawkbox: Lunch Munch - a better game than Pirate's Passage... but that's not saying much.
  • Cuba - This is another "build your economic/victory point" engine games... and though the laws mechanic is interesting, the game seems to go too quickly for you to really build up any head of steam. And, even as I say "it seems to go too quickly", it felt like the game ran too long. I'd rather be playing Princes of Florence.
  • Darjeeling - a tile picker-upper that's cute but fiddly. I don't need to own but I'd play it again.
  • Die Macher - I finally played this monster/classic... and now I understand what the fuss is all about. We set aside a night to play the game - and while there were only three of us, it was still a blast. (I can not imagine the chaos with 5 players - yikes!) Scott Nicholson's video review/rules explanation is required viewing before you play - the three of us were all newbies & with that intro, we managed to cruise right through the game without any major rules problems. I won a squeaker (11 pts separated the three of us at the end) by saving enough cash to control the polls in the later elections - we called it "push polling" and it was enough to keep the other two parties at bay. I'll gladly play again but it requires setting aside 1/2 a day to play.
  • Felix: The Cat in the Sack - great art & sneaky gameplay make this a nice 30 min. auction game that reminds me a bit of For Sale, but not really.
  • Kingsburg - the only problem with this nicely made dice game is the length. If it was an hour, I'd love it. At 90 min., it's long-ish.
  • Leonardo da Vinci - Aladdin's Dragons meets Princes of Florence... blech. I won the only game I played of this, but I really managed to luck into the win by hoarding goods & hoping for the right cards to come up. They did. Again, I'd rather be playing Princes of Florence.
  • Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel - this early Richard Borg shoot-em-up design came to me in a math trade... and now I need to set aside a day or two to get a crew involved in a full campaign. We played a couple of scenarios & realized we didn't fully get all the rules. But, I like the Space Hulk-y feel with shorter scenarios & the campaign structure.
  • Pandemic - possibly the best cooperative game since Lord of the Rings... and mercifully shorter (about 45 min.). Added bonus: NOT a fantasy game, which means it's easier to introduce to a wider crew of non-gamers.
  • Schildi Strandkröte - the small box cousin to Schildi Schrillkröte, it has hands down the best "game" of the two boxes in it. (Each game is actually the components to play 3-5 different games.) That game is Turtle Bowling, which is fun with a capital "F".
  • Tannhäuser - an innovative way of doing movement & line of sight for a combat game (using the board) is hampered a bit by what feels like unbalanced squads. I'd be willing to play again & see if I'm wrong.
  • Trampelfanten - this is Das Storrisches Muli with nicer pieces & a couple of rules changes. More PC (politically correct) than Muli & in a smaller box.
  • Zero! - this is the Pacific Theater version of the Down In Flames system... I only got to play one dogfight (which I won) but I'm looking forward to teaching this nifty card game to my group.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

It... Is... Alive!

With apologies to Yehuda, who has a published game with a VERY similar title to this post (It's Alive), this isn't really about gaming.

Instead, this is very good news on the church front - we FINALLY got a website up & running. You can check it out right here. (That's "" for those of you who want to type the whole thing in yourself.)

Two interesting "It's Alive" facts:
  • the original game was actually called "The Menorah Game"
  • it's supposed to be really good, but I haven't got to play it... yet!

91 Days of Gaming: Five & Dime

Well, if I'm going to be completely accurate, that's actually 84 days of gaming. (Thanks to BGG's tracking system, I can tell that I've only had 7 days in 2008 on which I haven't played a game.)

Here's the stuff I've been playing a lot of in the first three months of '08...

13 times
  • Race for the Galaxy - Once you get past the whole "what the heck do all these icons mean?!" phase of learning the game, this one hums along at top speed. The rest of my regular group is catching up and/or passing me in skill, so I'm no longer winning every game I play. Doesn't dampen my enthusiasm, though - there are a BUNCH of nifty card combinations to put together that I haven't managed to pull off yet!
10 times
  • Hüpf hüpf, Hurra! - This wonderful dexterity/luck game was a gift from one of the members of my congregation (who has a son serving in Germany)... and it's been a hit from the minute we cracked open the box. I had to translate the rules myself (well, with a bit of help - thanks, Henning!), but it's not that difficult to figure out. Essentially, it's the direct descendant of the old Tupperware game, Bounce-It-In... except with marbles & a cleverly slanted rim around the scoring area that allows for some fun "around the horn" kind of rolls. It's proved popular with kids, adults & kids playing with adults.
7 times
  • Burg-Ritter - this is a cooperative dexterity game from Haba which utilizes an old-fashioned girl's hair band (kind of like a super-strength rubber band) with four strings connected to it to make a medieval "crane" to maneuver tower pieces into place. My six year old enjoys it a lot, though we need to go with a shorter timer to make the game more challenging.
  • Dish It Up! - my youngest son has just discovered this memory variant which I consider to be an unrecognized gem. Rather than matching the tiles to each other, you match them to the items on your tickets - you're a waiter in a diner!
6 times
  • Battleship Express - Part of a series of dice games released by Hasbro in nifty plastic carrying cases, it's not as good as Risk Express (which, for no apparent reason, is not available in the U.S.) but it's still a decent little game. It probably works best with 3 players - 2 & 4 are, weirdly enough, too quick to be any fun. Three players allows for some time to balance out the fluky rolls of the dice.
  • Funny Bunny - an old standby here at the Jackson house... but now it's Collin who is requesting it rather than Braeden. (We bought it on our first mini-vacation here in CA, when we went to San Luis Obispo in September 2003.)
  • HeroScape - I discovered the Battles of Vahalla boards on, which put us back into HeroScape overdrive. 500 pt armies, small but well-designed boards so that you're fighting from the 2nd round on... and the rest is history. Braeden & I are currently planning a "Ice Dragon/Yetis" vs "Marvel Superheroe Duo" battle on an ice-heavy board.
  • Kiki Ricky - from the same Ravensburger series as Funny Bunny, this is basically King of the Mountain with a chicken who throws eggs at players. It's silly but fun.
  • Monopoly - Tropical Tycoon DVD Game - I'm working on a more extensive post, but this is not only the best Monopoly spin-off game, but it's also the best version of Monopoly period. More to come...
  • Scene It? - Disney - 50+ plays of this game has not dampened Collin & Braeden's enthusiasm for this game... and, yes, we have many of the clips & puzzles memorized. I'm trying to figure out if the 2nd edition has repeat clips from the 1st edition... if not, we'll probably get it for them for Christmas.
  • Tumblin-Dice - the size of this game (about 1/2 a coffee table) keeps it in the box for much of the year... but when it comes out, it gets a LOT of play. So far, it's been played both at Fresno Gamers & with my family.
  • Turbulento - a really odd Selecta game of dropping wooden balls onto curved disks (to flip them over) which turns into a memory game as you have to remember what animal is on the bottom of the disks. Collin is spectacularly good at the memory part & Braeden rocks at the flipping part... which means I don't win very often.
5 times
  • Duck, Duck, Bruce - This is a very cute game that reminded me a lot of Zirkus Flohcati... and then I realized it's actually a reprint of an older German game that pre-dates ZF. There's a bit more luck here (what with the Bruce die to steal cards) but it's also a bit friendlier (a duplicate card doesn't always keep you from taking cards).
  • Hisss - It's barely a game... but my youngest (Collin) really likes to play & it helps him with matching colors. Soon, we'll move on to better games & I can leave this one behind.
  • Memoir '44 - Richard Irving was in town, which accounted for a couple of plays... and Braeden really wanted to try out scenarios with airplanes. When things slow down a bit, we plan to play some more!
  • Zingo - Bingo that is actually enjoyable for 3 year old children... and adults, as long as you don't have to play it over & over.
  • Zooloretto - This game grows on me every time I play... which is odd, as I detest Coloretto. I think the combination of excellent theme & a greater number of choices makes it a winner in my book. An excellent choice for Spiel des Jahres last year, even if I still think Thebes got cheated. (We haven't done much with the expansions yet... just used the Petting Zoo, which was kind of neat without changing the rules much.)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Greatest Hits Redux

It's April 1st, more commonly celebrated as April Fool's Day... but here at aka pastor guy it's the 3rd anniversary of this blog! That's right - we've had three years of deep thoughts, random musings, adorable pictures of my two sons, and just a wee bit of discussion of games.

Those of you who follow this blog realize that I did a post very much like this last year... which, frankly, I copied & pasted to provide the meat of this post. However, I've added the last year of "highlight" posts down at the bottom of the list.

In honor of this momentous occasion, I've picked a post (or two or three) from each month that I think is a "highlight" (you are welcome to disagree - but you'll be wrong with a capital "Wr").