Sunday, December 28, 2008

Five & Dime: 2008

It's coming... start compiling those lists.

And if you don't know what I'm talking about, check out some of the previous Five & Dime stuff.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Giant Sucking Noise Is The Detroit Lions...

...and you can play Pizza Box Football & attempt to save them from complete & utter defeat.
The Detroit Lions are on the verge of making history as the first team to ever go 0-16 in an NFL season. (In 1976, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were 0-14.) The Lions play the Green Bay Packers this Sunday at Lambeau Field. The creators of the board game Pizza Box Football are giving fans a chance to see if they can rescue the Lions from a spot in the record books that no one wants to occupy. They have released new free team cards (PDF files) for both Green Bay and Detroit. A copy of Pizza Box Football is required to use the cards.
Thanks to Erik Arneson & & Card Games for posting this story.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Crackpipe Remote - December 2008 Edition

And here we go:
  • The Amazing Race was more enjoyable than the past couple of outings... gotta say, watching Dan of the "Frat Boys" try to march was a treat all by itself.
  • I'm pleased that Chuck got a full season order... and has managed to avoid the dreaded "Curse of Ed", in which shows with whimsy & character lose that character and become stupid & annoying in their 2nd season.
  • Heroes has had some great moments - more than the much-maligned 2nd season - but there have been some real Idiot Plotting and a couple of outright oopidstay twists (Hiro as a 10 yr old?!). Of course, much of that was redeemed by last week's episode.
  • 24:Redemption was a decent segue back into the world of Jack Bauer - but I'm still a little iffy about Zombie Almeda (back from the dead?!) coupled with the return of Spawn (Kim Bauer).
  • A fond farewell to Pushing Daisies... you died way too soon.
  • I know some people haven't liked it, but I really enjoyed Survivor: Gabon... and was pleasantly surprised that I would have been happy for 3 of the final 4 contestants to win. (And my favorite did win... I think Bob & Yau & Earl would be a blast to hang out with.)
  • I watch Life in spurts, thanks to - it's inventive & I don't always know where it's going, which is fun. It's not perfect - the freeze-dried corpse episode, for example - but actually has a lead character whose beliefs affect his actions.

Bonus Remote Comment:

  • I watched Independence Day while playing Race for the Galaxy solitaire last night - I was waiting for the Survivor finale to finish taping. I discovered the reason the movie works - it certainly isn't the script. It's the acting chops of a number of the participants who manage to invest a lot of heart & character into an SFX-driven popcorn-fest.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

the violent burning - divine

Free Christmas music from an odd & wonderful band... the violet burning's divine.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

#34: Break The Safe

Break the Safe
  • designer: Forrest-Pruzan Creative
  • publisher: Mattel
  • date: 2003
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 1839/6.17
  • age: 8+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: OOP
  • cost: the cheapest copy I found was $125.00, which is ridiculous... keep an open for it in remainder bins & at places like Tuesday Morning (or watch for it on eBay)
This is probably the worst cover art of the entire Kid Games 100 - ugly computer-generated stuff that screams "Hi, we're Mattel & we decided to go cheap on the packaging!" at the top of its lungs. Which is sad, because hidden under the weak packaging is a very good cooperative game that uses an electronic timer to create truckloads of tension.

Players are the good guys, trying to steal the Key To Unbelievable Badness & Evil (well, actually, I don't remember what you're trying to steal - but trust me, it's for the good of mankind.) You set the timer depending on the level of difficulty you want... and away you go.

On your turn, you roll the die, which gives you movement points to run from room to room - but also can trigger the guard or the guard dog to start on a pre-programmed route around the complex. If the guard can see you (straight line of sight) or the dog can smell you (6 spaces but even around corners), your secret agent gets thrown into a holding cell, which means that your team has to break you out, as they can't win & leave you behind.

Meanwhile, the purpose of your visit is to find the four keys that unlock the safe & allow you to steal the WhateverItIs. Each room has a plastic piece (which could be a key, a blank, a secret passage or a trap) and an obstacle on top of it. In order to get the item, you must defeat the obstacle.

You do that by using the right tools - which are distributed (on cards) at the beginning of the game. The majority of the tools work against the traps - there's a mirror contraption, for example, that defuses the laser trap. The other tools help to either evade the guard & dog... or even get them to stop their appointed rounds!

There's a robot (I call him "Fetch") that can be used to send the appropriate tool to the player facing an obstacle - good management of "Fetch" is vital to winning the game. (There's one obstacle - the Ring of Fire - that only the Robot can defeat, but it destroys him.)

There's a little more to it than that, but not much... what makes the game "work" is the tension brought on by the timer, particularly if you have trouble and need to break a couple of people out of the lock-up.

As you can probably guess, the whole Mission Impossible/spy theme is golden with young boys - and kids who can read (the cards have text on them with a small picture) are ready to play.

Monday, December 08, 2008

DLR in a Day: Afternoon

This is actually Part Two of a trip report about our day at the Disneyland Resort... Part One is entitled DLR in a Day: Morning. (Go read it now & come back here for more!)

Space Mountain - Following lunch, Collin wanted to try the "other Star Wars ride" (as he calls it). Braeden rode this with Shari last year and we had a tough time convincing him to give it a second chance. Once again, he was brave & gave it a shot... and once again, it's not the ride itself that bothers him but the visuals. (I'm not sure if I was like this as a kid - I know he & I both have vivid imaginations - I'll have to ask Mom when she visits at Christmas.)

I love all of the new effects, the smoother ride, the cool soundtrack (by the same guy who wrote The Incredibles music), the profound darkness (you can't see the track anymore)... they took a great ride & made it amazing. Of course, it's pretty overwhelming, esp. for 3.5 year old kids. Collin wasn't freaked out but he was stunned by it.

And with that, we decided to park-hop over to California Adventure for a major chunk of the afternoon.

Monsters, Inc: Mike & Sully to the Rescue - Our first stop was not a new ride, but it was new to us. (Last year, this was closed for rehab the week we were at DLR.) It's about the same quality level as the Pooh ride, which is to say that it's a sophisticated version of the Fantasyland "dark" rides with a cute sense of humor & some nifty effects. The door warehouse is the coolest - of course, I'm hoping that the "blue sky" plans for a door warehouse rollercoaster for Disney Studios (in FL) comes through.

Soarin' Over California - The boys & I went on Soarin' together while Shari went to see the High School Musical show (moving seats + moving pictures = sick Shari Jo). This was Collin's first flight and he loved it. I continue to be amazed at what a huge effect the ride has on my emotions... it makes me all gooey inside, which makes me sound like a big ol' girl.

HSM3 Show - We got back to Shari just as the HSM3 show was finishing... and we ended up following the stage/float past Grizzly Peak & A Bug's Land on the way to Paradise Pier. I am VERY impressed with the physical conditioning of the performers... they kept going almost the entire way just after doing a 15 minute show at one side of the park - and knowing they were going to repeat the show at the other end of the park! (BTW, Shari said the show was cheesy but good.)

Toy Story Midway Mania - This is the newest addition to DCA... and the best short description of it is "Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin + 3D". That's not entirely fair, of course - the cars spin around in some fun ways, a number of the higher point targets generate effects (the first time I broke the 1000 pt plate & it shot a virtual ball at me, I ducked), and the games are fun to play. Shari & Braeden & I all really enjoyed it - Collin thought it was fun but since he couldn't really operate the pull-string gun very well, he didn't get the full experience.

This was, btw, the longest line we stood in all day - about 25 minutes.

Orange Stinger - Last year, Braeden talked me onto this glorified version of a standard carnival ride which I ought to know better than to strap myself into... but I did. (In my defense, I'd read that this particular version is a "cream of the crop" version, with plenty of "chop" - that's where it feels like your feet are going to hit something - and the neat orange smell & the buzzing.) I ended up green around the gills.

So this time, we encouraged Braeden to ride alone... I walked up & waited in line with him, then walked through to the exit where I took this picture. (He's the kid in the black shirt in the center of the picture with a big grin on his face.) He liked it... but he did say that it made his stomach feel weird.

According to the Blue Sky Cellar displays (more on the Blue Sky Cellar later), this ride is slated for a major thematic overhaul to bring it in line with the rest of the pier... it'll be themed after the classic Mickey Mouse cartoon,
"The Band Concert."

Jumpin' Jellyfish - Braeden told me that he heard someone describe this as "the kiddie version of the Tower of Terror", which is true insofar as it goes up & down at some height. The boys enjoyed it but it's not worth your time unless the line is tiny - which it was.

Mulholland Madness - It looks like this will be re-themed as well... not that the current theme is overwhelming, mind you. It's a pretty standard little coaster with nice cars & a mountain road theme, which works. Braeden loves it - and Collin would as well, but he's one inch too short to ride it.

Braeden & I rode with a young woman & her daughter (about the same age as Braeden). We talked to them about the ride while we were waiting in line... and then I asked the daughter as we left the station if she was going to scream in my ear. At the end of the ride, the daughter asked, "Mom, can we ride this again!?" Mom answered, "Only if your dad or this nice man in front will ride it with you."

Heimlich's Chew-Chew Train - At this point, we cut across the park to A Bug's Land, which is truly a land of Disney magic. Standard carnival rides (twisters, little trains, bumper cars, etc.) are transformed by being dipped in Pixar pixie dust. Heimlich is the best example of this: it's just a little train ride, but the narration (provided by Heimlich) is delightful & funny - and you get sprayed with water (from the watermelon) and doused with fresh cookie smell (in the cookie box). When we took Braeden back in 2003, we rode this 11 times in 3 days.

Tuck & Roll - Nothing real notable here - it's bumper cars, ahem, bugs. The big deal is that Braeden is now old enough to drive his own car!

Flik's Flyers - Now THIS is a spinning ride I can enjoy... it doesn't go too fast & it's over quickly. The boys love it, of course.

I managed to get Braeden to agree not to ride Frances' (a weird figure-8 spinning ride) that made me seriously ill last year in exchange for riding the Mad Tea Party with the two of them when we went back to Disneyland. More on that in a minute.

Christmas Pictures - A Bug's Land is supposed to make you bug-sized - so there are some giant Christmas ornaments... we took the opportunity to take our pictures in front of them. Here they are!

If you haven't guessed, it's tough to get a straight picture of Braeden - he's always mugging for the camera. (I wonder which parent he inherits this trait from?!) He may grow out of it; he may not. I certainly didn't.

Blue Sky Cellar - The wine-tasting cellar has been converted into a new much cooler version of the old Disney preview gallery. (I have strong & fond memories of looking at Discovery Bay concept art there back in the early 80's.) At this point, it's all about the DCA renovations - and much of the art you've seen online if you're a Disney fan. They're going to revamp the entrance area, add a Walt Disney interactive walkthrough, fix up some of the cheesy facades (particularly in the Hollywood area), create a new evening show (the Wonderful World of Color) in the lagoon - which was dry so they could start putting in equipment while we were there, build a Little Mermaid ride where Golden Dreams used to be, spruce up & re-theme chunks of Paradise Pier to make it more Disney... and, most importantly, build Radiator Springs ("Cars Land") in what is now the Timon parking lot.

There was footage of them testing the Luigi tire ride (very cool!), some great scale models of Paradise Pier, and artwork of Radiator Springs that had me salivating - the race ride (slated to combine the sophistication of the Indiana Jones ride with the speed of Test Track at EPCOT) is huge. Anyway, it's supposed to open in 2012.

I'll be back in a day or two with our return in late afternoon to Disneyland...

Saturday, December 06, 2008

DLR in a Day: Morning

We managed to surprise the boys with a one-day visit to the Disneyland Resort - for more on how that worked (and some spiritual ruminations on it from yours truly), you can check out my post Surprise! at the NewLife Community Church website.

This post will be a trip report (of sorts) of our day at DLR... if things work out like I want them to, I'll get the boys to help me fill out these comments in a second post so you can get a kids-eye perspective of the experience. But for now, you're stuck with me.

Parking - I'm still blown away by the Mickey & Friends parking structure... even though we got there early enough (8:15 am) that we actually parked in the open lot next to the tram stop (Pinocchio).

Stroller Rentals - In the past, we've always brought our own "umbrella" stroller because we've been walking back to the hotel or the shuttle. This time, since we were only going to be in the parks for the day, we "rented" a DLR stroller. (I put quotes around "rented" because one of the perks of a Disney Visa is free stroller rentals.) The stroller was comfortable, sturdy, easy to handle (even on the tracks down Main Street), and best of all we didn't have to re-rent a stroller at California Adventure... we just drove it over to the other park! The stroller gave us a great place to park coats, drinks, snacks & an extra change of clothes for Collin... and gave Collin enough breaks that he had the "juice" to make it through 11 hours of DLR.

No Meltdowns - Let me just stop right here to note that neither Collin nor Braeden (our 7 year old) had any kind of major in-park meltdowns... they were WONDERFUL.

When Shari & I went to WDW back in 1996, we made up a game while waiting for the parade to start of finding families/individuals who fit various descriptions: "family with twins," "family where the parents are more exhausted than the kids," "family who didn't check the weather before coming to the park today," etc. For years, we've joked about the category "couple most likely to get a divorce before they reach the end of Main Street"... the only real meltdown of the day was in the World of Disney store after the park closed trying to find souvenirs - and that was me. Luckily, we'd already gone past Main Street.

Rope Drop - While we learned that WDW almost always drops the rope early (anywhere from 5-20 minutes early, depending on the anticipated crowd), I've yet to see that happen at Disneyland or California Adventure. They wait right until opening time (9 am on Wednesday) before letting people past the end of Main Street. Of course, this might be because I haven't been to Disneyland on a "busy" day since sometime in the '80's.

Finding Nemo Submarines - I wasn't sure if I wanted to split the family up first thing... but Shari (wonderful wife) reminded me how much Collin (our 3 year old) had loved it last year. So he & I took off in the mad dash for Nemo when the rope dropped - last year, the wait had been 30+ minutes if you reached the line within a minute or two of the park opening. This year, we managed to get on the first sub (evidently, the demand has eased a little bit).

It's a great ride - the effects are wonderful, esp. the angler fish & the jellyfish. I caught the throwaway homage line to the old ride finally, when one crewman asks another if they should log anything they've seen: "No, they'll just expect us to see mermaids & sea serpents next time."

Buzz Lightyear - The Space Ranger Spin was probably the favorite ride of the boys last year - it's a cross between a video game & a Disney ride and it proved good enough this year for two runs - one early in the day & one shortly before we left. (Part of the attraction of the attraction is that the line moves at light speed, thanks to the continuous loading... there's never a long wait.)

Star Tours - Collin is now 41 inches tall, which means he was able to ride a number of rides that he couldn't a year ago. His first request was to ride "the Star Wars ride" - Star Tours. Braeden is Star Wars-obsessed (we just re-watched Episodes 4-6 a few weeks ago) and Collin is catching the obsession from his close proximity to his brother.

Shari doesn't ride bouncy movie rides - the old CircleVision movies (which still exist down at EPCOT) make her greener than a St. Patrick's day beer. So it was a boys-only trip to Endor via a Star-Speeder. The loading area bothered Collin a little bit - in fact, this was the only place I saw him edge towards balking about a ride, but Braeden & I talked him into going on.

We sat in the front (important safety tip: if you don't like the bounce/bump part of Star Tours, sit in the front row, it's much calmer) which gave the boys an unobstructed view... and once Cpt. Rex (the robot) appeared, Collin was fine. All three of us came out with big grins... and Collin was even singing along with the Star Wars theme playing in the exit area. (Watching Collin "direct" the orchestra when the theme from Star Wars is played is a real treat, btw.)

Autopia - I realized that I've been riding & driving in these cars for forty years... weird. Braeden is old enough now to drive on his own, but he enjoyed being my chauffeur. There was some major traffic jams this time (it felt JUST LIKE L.A.) but that actually gave the kind lady in the car next to us a chance to take our picture. (not like L.A., unless you replace the camera with a loaded weapon.) I still think the combining of the two old autopias to make one long road was a brilliant idea.

Matterhorn Bobsleds - Collin's next request was to ride the Matterhorn so he could "go scare the monster." (He was remembering the technique we used last year to help Braeden deal with his fear of the Yeti - we suggested he "growl at the monster & scare him" - Collin evidently thought this was a great idea.) Braeden had a bit of trouble with this one - it's not the turns & drops that bother him but the monster... but he was brave & went for it. We rode the Tomorrowland side which I believe is slightly faster than the Fantasyland side... and a better ride.

Collin was telling church friends on Thursday night that he saw the white monster & the black monster in the Matterhorn - it took me a minute to realize that he thought that the first time you see the monster (glowing red eyes in the dark) that the monster was black. Smart kid.

And with that, it was time for lunch at Redd Rocket's Pizza Port... I didn't go into any detail about Shari & Braeden riding Peter Pan or the Astro-Orbitor, or about Shari's trip to Honey, I Shrunk the Audience (which she believes needs to be retired), but that gives you a good picture of our morning... lots more to come!

Friday, December 05, 2008

This is for my mom...

...who has loved this ride as long as I can remember. (Not bad for a handheld shot, eh?!) BTW, Small World is quite lovely with everything repainted & fixed up (including the sound system) and the new boats.

The Idea Camp

Stuff like this always scares me - since I have the pride/sin problem of wanting to be the smartest/most creative guy in the room - but if I'm going to learn/grow/mature, I need to expose myself to more stuff like this. (I also need to use less slashes, but I'm guessing that won't happen any time soon.)

So, in the interest of personal development/spiritual growth (yep, the slashes are still here), I'll be going WAY outside of my comfort zone & connecting with this community of innovation.
The Idea Camp is a FREE, open source hybrid conference designed to help people move from the realm of ideas to implementation.

We are gathering some of the most innovative and creative leaders from around the country (this means YOU!) to share ideas, intentionally network, and move collaboratively into idea-making. Whether your passion is church leadership, non-profit work, social entrepreneurialism, technology, media, creativity, culture making, church planting, spiritual formation, compassionate justice, etc., this is the conference for YOU.
Check out the website... spread the word... plan to join us in February in the thriving metropolis of Irvine, CA (registration is free!).
All we ask is that you come with the following posture:
  • Be Open & Listen to Others
  • Be Communal & Share What You Know
  • Be Intentional & Collaboratively Invest in Each Other
  • Be Optimistic & Don’t Be a Jerk ☺
The Idea Camp

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Braeden is Mastering His Cup-Fu

He hasn't got it nailed down yet, but yesterday when we got to have a special surprise day at the Disneyland Resort, Braeden got the cup spinning on his own. Not good for Dad, who does the spinning rides with the boys because they make him less sick than they do Shari Jo.

More details on trip later...

BoardGameGeek World Record Holder

It's no surprise to any regular reader of this blog that I deeply enjoy board & cards games... in fact, some of you probably consider the depth of my interest a "sickness" or an "obsession". I'm not gonna lie - you're probably right.

And now, for those of you wanting proof of how deep the madness goes, I bring you the latest honorific I've received - I'm the BGG World Record Holder in 2008 for Most Different Games With Logged Plays. (BTW, if you're interested, that 1501 different games which I've played & logged onto the BGG database.)

I'm also the runner-up for Most Games Rated (some 30 or so behind the leader with 1737 games rated). I do not, by a great amount, hold the record for most games owned - I have 985 games in my collection and the winner for that has 3158 games. (I also know of one couple in Colorado whose collection is over 20,000 games... but they haven't listed it on BGG.)

BGG =, which is the 900 lb elephant of the boardgaming community online - their database has over 36,000 board & card games & they receive over 800,000 unique visitors each month. To be singled out for my obsessive note-taking over that many people is either (a) a high honor, (b) possible evidence of OCD-like behavior, or (c) all of the above.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Board Game Gift Suggestions

This is an article I wrote for our local homeschool group newsletter...

Many of you know that I'm not just a homeschooling dad & pastor - I'm also a board game collector. So it's not surprising that I recommend that families play board games together... and that they purchase some as gifts! (Board games, btw, do an excellent job of teaching logical thinking, reinforce math practice, and develop interpersonal skills... all wrapped in a lot of fun.)


Here's are three suggestions for the Christmas of 2008 for games your family might enjoy:

Sorry! Sliders - This is a dexterity game with pawns with small marbles in the bottom & a variety of boards & targets. Players score using Sorry!-like boards and smaller pawns. Children age 6+ have a blast with it - esp. since they can change the way the boards are set up to make 4 different games. And adults like it, too - at my last games club, we ended up playing 5-6 games of it AFTER the kids were gone. (This is available pretty much anywhere right now - the best price I've seen locally is Target - $15.)

Gulo Gulo - As homeschoolers, we're often looking for games that work with mixed age groups: parents, teens, kids & even the preschoolers in the family. Gulo Gulo is possibly the best fit I've seen for a number of reasons. First, this dexterity game (you're plucking wooden eggs from a "nest") rewards the tiny fingers of small children - and makes life difficult for those of us adults with "fat" fingers! Second, while you can be sent backward in the game, it's pretty easy to catch back up with the pack, which means less hurt feelings. Finally, the components are gorgeous. (This may require more work to find - one of my favorite online stores is run by homeschoolers - Game Surplus!)

My third suggestion isn't one game - it's a company - Haba. You may or may not have seen their stuff before (they make wooden toys & delightful furniture)... but once you get to play with their games, you'll understand why I'm so happy to recommend their stuff. We personally own over 35 different Haba games at the Jackson house. The best place to find Haba in the U.S. is (Disclaimer: I have a reviewers relationship with Haba USA & maukilo - they send me games to review & I send people their way. Their prices are as good as other online retailers so I don't feel cheesy in doing so!) maukilo has a number of their games on sale right now - here's some that we'd recommend to you!
  • Coolympics ($8.93) - a dexterity/race game with wooden Eskimos, seals & polar bears
  • Keep It Steady Mini ($4.75) - a nifty pick-up-stix variation in a tiny container
  • Marrakesh ($12.83) - a camel racing game that works great for younger (age 3-4) kids... a Jackson family favorite that is (sadly) going out of print
  • Robby Robber ($13.30) - we know this game as Corsaro... but this is a more recent edition with a different theme. Either way, it's a cooperative dice game that I liked enough to help get included in the game book I worked on.
There are other great Haba games that aren't on sale:
  • Bountiful Beetle ($18 - a dice game for small kids, esp. girls, due to the ladybug hand puppet)
  • Castle Knights ($33 - a cooperative dexterity game)
  • Dancing Eggs ($18 - a wild party game in an egg carton w/rubber eggs!)
  • Kayanak ($33 - my #1 game on my Kid Games 100 list - see below - it's an ice-fishing game that is fun for kids & "big people")


OK, a couple of more links for you to follow about board games:
  1. Like I mentioned above, I was a consultant on the new Klutz Press board game book, The 15 Greatest Board Games In The World. It's on sale ($12.65) at Amazon. You can read more about my involvement with the book in a blog post I wrote entitled Klutz & Konsulting.
  2. My blog, aka pastor guy, has a lot of different stuff on it - one of my recent series of posts is the Kid Games 100, where I'm counting down my favorite games for kids age 8 & under. Some of them are out of print & difficult to find but all of them are worth tracking down.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Random Vacation Thoughts

Shari & I were able to go to FamilyLife's A Weekend To Remember in Monterey, CA... followed by 2 days in the Bay Area (a gift from the church) while Anna Campbell & the Edgar family took care of our boys. What follows is a mish-mash of thoughts & observations while I'm getting my writing chops back (and digging out from under the "to do" pile in my office):
  • the Hyatt in Monterey is very nice...
  • Alan Hlavka is an amazing speaker/teacher - the other guy was OK but a bit "lounge-singer-ish" for me
  • the conference was very good - Shari & I had (and have) a lot to talk about and work on in our marriage - but I'm VERY glad we had a couple of days after it was done to process & relax. I can't imagine jumping back into "reality" 2-3 hours after finishing such an emotional experience
  • on roughly the same topic - experiences like that (hearing about ways in which marriage can go sadly wrong) make me appreciate my bride even more - I love you, Shari Jo!
  • the macademia-encrusted halibut with tropical salsa at The Fish Hopper (on Cannery Row) was, as always, delicious
  • Gordon Biersch (in downtown San Jose) had great food & lousy service
  • I was in three different game stores during the trip - and didn't buy anything... I think the Web has pretty much killed finding nifty treasures in stores (both because of cost & because stuff is easier to find)
  • That said, Game Kastle in Santa Clara (barely... it's just the other side of 880 from San Jose Airport) has really great (and current!) stock - I ooh'd & aah'd over a 20th Anniversary Axis & Allies copy as well as looked at Zooloretto XXL and the St. Petersburg expansion. The lady in the store (Susan?) was very nice and showed me their large game room... if I lived in the south Bay Area, I'd be over there on a regular basis
  • Our trip was a little like our lives pre-kids... we ate in nice places without leaving a mess, we had deep discussions without being interrupted, we even went & played Ms Pac-Man and pinball...
  • That said, we missed our boys ferociously and were very glad to get home & see them

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Assignment: America

The CBS Evening News has a regular feature entitled "Assignment: America" - I liked the title so I stole for it this little blip of an article.

Here's our assignment, American Christians:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 2:1-4, ESV)
Regardless of who you voted for, regardless of how you see the political/economic glass, regardless of whether you favor donkeys or elephants... if you claim to love Jesus, this is your job. Pray for our leaders, esp. our President-elect, in order that people can know the Truth & the Truth, Jesus Himself, can set them free.

The Wrong Glass

We all know the old saying, right?!

"Optimists see the glass as half full; pessimists see the glass as half empty."

What with the recent roller coaster ride our economy has taken with the international markets and the election of a president whose policies will substantially different than the administration that preceded him, it would be easy to begin anticipating doom & gloom for our country.

On the other hand, many people see the election of President-elect Obama as an indication of racial healing in America - a much needed marker in the march towards a country where people will not "be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." They see hope in this change of leadership. (A few of us even think that the TN Titans 9-0 is a good sign, but that's not really what we're talking about, is it?)

But what if we're looking at the wrong glass? What if we're all staring at politics & economic policies & the future of our nation, trying to predict and/or guess whether this is good or bad... and we're focused on the wrong thing? Perhaps, just maybe, we need to be thinking "outside the glass":

If individuals live only seventy years, then a state, or a nation, or a civilisation, which may last for a thousand years, is more important than an individual. But if Christianity is true, then the individual is not only more important but incomparably more important, for he is everlasting and the life of a state or a civilisation, compared with his, is only a moment. (C.S.Lewis, Mere Christianity)

So, those of you who are devastated by this election, take hope. A Democratic president is not the end of the world - in fact, if we really take the Bible seriously, it's just another government in a long line of governments that have had to contend with the power of God.

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? (Psalm 2:1, ESV)

And those of you who believe this election will usher in a new era of peace & prosperity, remember that kings & presidents are subject to Christ, whether they acknowledge him (as does President-elect Obama) or not.

The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. (Psalm 33:10-11, NIV)

It might be a good idea if you checked which glass you're looking at...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

We Remember

Veterans Day Memorial Originally uploaded by six_austins

...and I am thankful for the service & sacrifice that give me the freedom to write, to teach, to preach & to enjoy "life. liberty and the pursuit of happiness".

#35: Castle Keep

Castle Keep
  • designer: Richard D. Reese
  • publisher: Gamewright
  • date: 2005
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 2325/6.07
  • age: 8+
  • # of players: 1-4
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $8.95 (FairPlay Games)
The age range is wrong - my son was playing this as a five year old & doing reasonably well. As a 7 year old, he razes my castle like a professional siege expert.

And that's the point - this simple card game (yeah, I know they use cool chunky tiles, but it's really a card game) is all about building your castle and/or destroying your opponent. Both paths to victory can work.

Each turn, you draw 2 tiles, play as many as you want to... then discard down to four tiles. You have four kinds of plays you can make:
  • you can play walls - they come in three colors & three shape patterns and must match the tower they are placed next to in shape or color
  • you can play towers - just like walls, they come in three colors & three shape patterns & must match the walls they are placed next to in one of those elements
  • you can play a keep - they come in three colors & must match one other tile present in the castle... these are the center pieces of your castle
  • you can attack one other player with an exact match tile (which destroys the tile & any other wall/tower tiles connected to it that are the same color) or even their keep, though you'll need 2 identical keeps to blow it away

There is, of course, one exception - when your opponent is down to just his keep, 1 identical tile can put him out of his misery.

The first player to destroy another player OR build his full 9-tile castle wins the game. That's it.

Here's why this ends up on the Kid Games 100:

  • it plays quickly & cleanly
  • the components are top-notch & kid-friendly
  • the dual victory conditions teach kids tactical planning & defense
  • there are a variety of variants (including a solitaire variant) included in the rules
  • it's fun

One warning - 3 & 4 player games can drag a bit if players aren't playing quickly. Especially with 4 players, you can end up playing "King of the Mountain" as the other three players work to pull down the leader's castle. However, the game has a built-in way to slow this behavior with the "destroy one castle" victory condition - it doesn't make sense to weaken an opponent too much if another player can then eliminate them & win.

Monday, November 10, 2008

#36: Marrakesh

  • designer: Manfred Ludwig
  • publisher: Haba
  • date: 2002
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 1979/6.55
  • age: 6+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: OOP
  • cost: $12.25 (
I have very clear memories of my disappointment when I got this game. I was in my "buy games because someday my 1 year old will want to play them" mode... and I kept picking up Haba games from Germany because they were tough to find over here. (That, thanks to Haba USA and, among others, is no longer the case!)

So, I open the box, look at the great pieces (wooden camels & chunky tiles with a draw bag), and then begin pulling out the pieces that make up the board... and I realize that I already own this game. It was published some years back by Ravensburger as Up the River - not a bad game, mind you, but not something I figured I'd be playing a lot. Having a second copy with a different theme originally seemed like a mistake.

At closer examination, however, the games are not identical... and, much as I love Ravensburger, Haba did a better job developing & publishing this game.

Before I compare the games, though, you probably want to know the basics. They are both race games - roll the dice & move your camel/boat forward. At certain intervals (it depends on which version you're playing), the space farthest from the finish line is picked up & placed next to the finish line, thus lengthening the race path. It also means that pieces that stand still will eventually be knocked off the board. You score points based (sorta) on your order of finish... and that's it.

Well, that's not it, actually, because the two games vary in a number of interesting ways:
  • Marrakesh has more pieces packaged in less space than Up the River - you could fit 3 copies of the Haba game into one copy of the Ravensburger game
  • Marrakesh uses tiles drawn from a bag instead of dice... which means less streaky dice luck as well as making this game accessible to children as young as 3 (with adult help)
  • In Up the River, the river is moved each time the last player has a turn; in Marrakesh, there are four "sandstorm" tiles in the bag which trigger the movement of the desert pathway
  • Camels who fall off the edge of the board are worth 1 point each in Marrakesh; boats that fall off in Up the River are worth zero.
  • The final scoring in Up the River is linear: 1st place = 12 pts, 2nd place = 11 pts & so on. In Marrakesh, players choose from piles of scoring tokens (goods in the market) that have a variety of points on them.

So, why do I like Marrakesh better than Up the River?

  • Marrakesh is a bit more forgiving... between scoring for lost camels & slowing the pace of the board movement, this is a game that kids can jump into and have fun with from the get-go.
  • Marrakesh is substantially easier to lug around, thanks to the smaller box size.
  • The tile bag makes this game easy to play & teach with young kids & kids who don't play many games.

We've played LOTS of this at our house - and it's gone on a lot of trips with us. Some 6 years later, it may be one of my best "bang for the buck" kid game purchases.

#37: Operation Rescue Kit

Operation Rescue Kit
  • designer: uncreditd
  • publisher: Hasbro
  • date: 2007
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/6.33
  • age: 6+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $24.99 (Amazon)
I've written about this one before:
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.

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.
It's appropriate for kids age 5+ and works well with 2-4 players... but a bit pricey, yes, compared to the original game. Then again, the original game makes me want to start stabbing people with the metal operating tweezers, so this is a big step up.

#38: Corsaro - Irrfahrt im Piratenmeert

Corsaro - Irrfahrt im Piratenmeer
  • designer: Wolfgang Kramer
  • publisher: Herder Spiele
  • date: 1991
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/6.16
  • age: 5+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: OOP in the original edition; reprinted recently in The 15 Greatest Board Games In The World
  • cost: there are a couple of copies of the original game on the BGG Marketplace (both in Europe) - OTOH, you can find the aforementioned Klutz board game book from Amazon for $12.46 (Great price, btw!)
I need to start this mini-review with a disclaimer - I was a consultant for the Klutz board game book where this classic Spiel des Jahres Kinderspiel winning game was finally reprinted. (It's actually one of the highlights of my work on the book - I'm proud that I'm the one who brought this game to the editor's attention.)

That said, this is a great cooperative game, from a company (now long gone) that specialized in cooperative games. Prior to the publication of Knizia's Lord of the Rings, cooperative games didn't get a lot of love from gamers... "nobody wins!" was the common whine. But properly designed cooperative games are filled with tension... the "can we survive?" question looms over every move you make. Corsaro is a classic example of how 14 pieces (12 ships in 4 colors & 2 pirate ships), a handful of provision chips (in the original game, they're baskets of food) and a couple of dice can create magical gaming moments.

The story is simple: the players have escaped the volcanic explosion (which actually occurred in the companion game, Tabijana) and are now attempting to find safe harbor without being captured by pirates. In turn, each player rolls two dice and moves one of his ships the amount on one die & one of the two pirate ships the amount on the other. If the pirate passes or lands on a ship, they are captured.

There are a couple of spaces where you can free captive ships (at the cost of a provision) as well as two hiding tracks you can enter (also at the cost of a provision). So, you not only have to balance your die rolls, but you also need to shepherd your provisions wisely. In other words, you've got some tricky decisions ahead.

Of course, this isn't Pandemic or Space Alert - this is a game for kids! The original game contains rules for a simplified game for younger kids that worked great when my oldest was 5. The "regular" game (which is the version in the Klutz book) is a perfect fit for kids 7 years & older.

The game works well with 2, 3 or 4 players... in fact, it even works as a solitaire game. We win less than 50% of the time, which seems to me to be just about right as a pain/reward ratio that keeps us playing.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


One of my favorite songs of all time... from a band that lived out what they believed. Check out info about a box set just released this year... and read the story of Resurrection Band on Wikipedia.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


Sorry, LOST fans... I had to make the video widget go away as it was attacking my computer - and, probably, your computer as well. Mea culpa. Anyhoo - 3 hours on January 21st:
  • a 1 hour recap show (haven't we LONG past the point where you could recap this monster in an hour?)
  • 2 new episodes

See you there.

#39: Das Faultier

Das Faultier
  • designer: Dominique Tellier
  • publisher: Eurogames
  • date: 1991
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/5.68
  • age: 7+
  • # of players: 3-6
  • print status: OOP
  • cost: sorry... I couldn't find a copy for sale
Race games are easy to teach to kids (well, and adults). The goal is simple: be the first person/hedgehog/car/hare and/or tortoise to arrive at the finish line & you win.

Das Faultier (English: "The Sloth) is the anti-race game. All of the players are sloths and the goal is to the LAST player to get to the finish line. If you fall asleep on the way there, so much the better. (The snore tokens pictured with this mini-review are for just such occasions.)

The game is brain-dead simple - roll the die, move any sloth on the board if they are
  1. not sleeping
  2. not stacked beneath another sloth
Obviously, the idea is to push your opponents closer to the finish while protecting your own sloth from forward momentum by routing him down the longer paths, hiding him beneath other sloths, and putting him to sleep. There even are some spaces on the board which give the player whose sloth is placed there an action card - some are good & some are bad... basically, they just increase the craziness.

I'm not cheering for this game because it's the most strategic offering for kids... I'm cheering for this game because it has a lot of hosage in a light & silly package - kids & adults who don't usually like "mess with the other player" games don't mind this one because that's pretty much the entire game.

Kids as young as 5 can play, but they probably will do better by age 6 or 7. It's best with 5 or 6 players.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Framing the Conversation: How To Get Tossed Out of a Game Group

I know that some of you have been thinking, "Hey, I get to game on a regular basis with folks who put up with my foibles & quirks... I wonder if there's a good way to make sure they hate my guts & either boot my rear end out of the group and/or change meeting places & times so that I can never find them again?"

OK, maybe you haven't been thinking that - perhaps that's not really the most important question you're dealing with today. Then again, if you spent 10 minutes agonizing over the way the barista at Starbucks was gonna make your free "I voted" coffee - or if you're spending time on Ben & Jerry's website during work hours determining what flavor ice cream scoop you're gonna score with your "I voted" sticker... maybe the whole "how do I get kicked out of a game group?" question would be a step up.

Either way, I'm planning to answer the question for you. In fact, I'm so concerned that you not overly tax your mental faculties (seeing as how many of you will spend tonight watching pundits & posers pontificate & predict - hopefully with less alliteration than I'm using), I've broken the way to get tossed into bullet points:
  • When you win a game, gloat.
  • When you lose a game, whine & accuse the other player of cheating.

That's it. A steady diet of this behavior will have you on the outs in no time - and if they choose not to kick you out, they'll secretly detest your presence. Trust me on this one.

So, how did this pithy bit of wisdom end up under my "Framing the Conversation" heading? Come on, if you're reading this blog, you have enough sense to come in out of the rain & enough smarts to figure out a metaphor when it bites you on the hind end.

Tonight - or possibly later - a number of candidates & propositions are going to win or lose. Some of you will be victorious in a battles you've fought with your keyboards & your hearts... others of you will know the stale taste of defeat - and you've fought just as hard as those who win.

Regardless (or is that "irregardless"?), you have the opportunity tonight to respond with grace & dignity.

  • If your side/candidate wins, don't gloat.
  • If your side/candidate loses, don't whine. Don't accuse others of cheating without real & obvious cause... using an actual standard of proof, not "Rush said it" or "it was on Air America."

I want to speak specifically to those who declare themselves as followers of Christ. We have a huge responsibility tonight, esp. in regards to Proposition 8.

If Prop. 8 passes, we have to live out the love for gays & lesbians we've talked about... there is NO ROOM for gloating in the gospel of Jesus Christ. These people are not second-class citizens, to be loved only if they "mend their ways" - they are created in God's image & loved so much by God that He sent Jesus to die for them (and for us!). To do the church-y equivalent of "Hey, Hey, Goodbye" is a sick perversion of the love of Jesus Christ.

If Prop. 8 is defeated, we must still live out the love of Jesus Christ in a political situation that is not friendly to our values. I can not state it emphatically enough - this does NOT justify us behaving in an unfriendly manner to homosexuals or those who support same-sex marriage. If we're gonna call ourselves "biblical Christians", then we better live like it.

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:5-6, NIV)

if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. (1 Peter 3:15-16, NLT)

The most important thing today is not the election of a particular candidate - no one person will usher in the Kingdom of God. (Well, one will, but He's not running this year.) Nor is it the passing of a proposition - law can compel moral behavior but it has no power over the heart. It is far more important that the world around us see followers of Jesus living in the grace & power of Jesus Christ.

Yep, I started this mini-sermon by telling you how to get kicked out of a game group. That's the way I roll.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Fantasies, Legends, and Heroes

I mentioned logical fallacies in my last post, Framing the Conversation: Dr. Baird & Big Love. The best explanation I've ever read of logical fallacies, particularly as they apply to dealing with religions, cults, sects (not "sex" - sheesh, get a life, people!) and like, was written by Bob Passantino.

I ran into it thanks to Cornerstone Magazine... and while doing web research for the previous post, I found a complete copy of it online at the Answers in Action website. So, here's the link to Fantasies, Legends, and Heroes: What You Know May Not Be So and How To Tell The Difference - and a short quote to wet your appetite. stake is our credibility outside the Church as people who tell the truth, even if the non-believers don't always respond to the truth. I had an agnostic friend and we used to spend hours talking about anthropology, his field of study, and Christianity. Despite the arguments and evidence that I gave him for the truth of Christianity, he didn't become a Christian. However, he respected me as someone who had integrity. When his sister, who was a Christian, became confused because of college classes antagonistic to Christianity, he asked me to talk to her, to, as he put it, "straighten her out so she doesn't lose her faith because of what ignorant philosophy professors say." Responsible apologetics is one way of speaking to the world. Peter says we are to have "our conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against [us] as evildoers, they may, by [our] good works which they observe, glorify God."

Framing the Conversation: Dr. Baird & Big Love

There are a number of reasons that I became an English major:
  1. I love to read.
  2. I love to write.
  3. I'm one of those wacky folks who think Shakespeare & Chaucer (in Middle English) are fun.
  4. I hated math SO much that I had to find a major that wouldn't require me to take any more math classes.

And that's how I ended up taking Logic as a substitute for my one mathematics requirement - though it doesn't explain why I thought it was a good idea to take Logic as a MWF 8 am class... or why the Powers That Be (at Baylor) had decided to put this class in a windowless room in the basement of Tidwell.

I fought to stay awake three days a week while Dr. Baird lectured us on syllogisms & other logical things... one of the few things I remember is when we talked about logical fallacies in arguments.

Which is where my thinking went last night as I tried to sort out the torrent of thoughts pouring through my brain. (I apologize for the trip through my brain... but it's the best way for us to get where I think we need to be going.)

  • "So, if marriage is redefined as 'whoever wants to be married', what's next?"
  • "Oh, wait a minute, I'm not supposed to ask 'what's next', cuz that's a slippery slope towards the logical fallacy of the slippery slope."
  • "Ah, but the slippery slope is NOT wondering what may come next - it's assuming (making a donkey out of you & me, btw) that whatever you fear WILL come next."
  • "OK, that means I can suggest that polygamy could be next when it comes to the redefiniton of marriage."

Which is the point where some of you start calling me a hate-mongering so-and-so... that I'm painting some kind of horror show picture in an attempt to sway impressionable voters. Look, I don't hate people who've chosen (or believe they have no choice) to express their sexuality as a homosexual. This isn't about frightening people - it's about thinking through the consequences of our actions as a society.

I'll go so far as to tell you that voting for Prop. 8 simply because you're scared of the cast of HBO's Big Love moving in next door to you is a bad idea. That's on par with voting for McCain because you've heard Obama is a Muslim. (He isn't, btw.) We should never be defined by what we're against - instead, we should be defined by what we're for.

Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

Framing the Conversation: Reset Button

Jon asked (in the comments section of the blog):

I can see that it would be surprising if God redefined marriage. However, why does it matter if the government redefines it? I don't recall a single instance in the Bible where marriage is defined by the government.

There isn't one. (Ding - first point goes to Jon.)

But what government chooses to legalize & support does make a difference. (Ding - point to me.)

If it doesn't, then why are so many people getting ready to pop a vein over whether we elect Senator Obama or Senator McCain as president tomorrow? Each one of them will make decisions & sign legislation that will make legal or illegal a variety of activities. They will implement policies that support various causes & industries... and will set the agenda not only for what we discuss about those issues but also how we discuss them.

Historically, we can look at certain government decisions & see the powerful effect of what state or federal government chooses to legalize or support.
  • Our discussions about welfare & taxation are completely different now than they were in the 1920's, prior to Roosevelt's New Deal policies.
  • The choice of then-Governor Reagan to sign "no-fault divorce" into law created a very different world for the stability of marriage.
  • Brown v. Board of Education & the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forced vast reforms not only in the South but throughout the country - and the various ways we have attempted to implement that enlightened view of race continue to permeate our political discourse (affirmative action, racial quotas, school busing, the over-representation of African-Americans in our prison population, etc.)
So, while I understand your question, I think the two points you've made are not connected. The fact that the Bible does not speak to the redefinition of marriage by another society is not germane to the plain fact that government action can (and in some cases should) reset the public agenda.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Set the Wayback Machine For 1985

I want my... I want my... I want my MTV.

Back in the day (my college years), MTV was like radio in our apartment... and now I can relive all those wonderful moments.

Like this one...

Or this one...

The Battle Is Over

Braeden & I finally finished our Battle Royale this afternoon - you can see pictures at Battle Royale and/or Battle Royale: National Heroscape Day.

Braeden managed to kill all of my monks (including the Master) as well as a huge chunk of my samurai, but the samurai archer kept finding places to gain height & range on Braeden's snipers & Major X17, which cleared the way for my ultimate victory.

Next: a big Battlelore engagement - Braeden says he wants "at least" one monster, if not two.


Our yearly field trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium with our homeschool group was a blast... as always, a favorite part is the tide tunnel.

Even waiting for to enter the aquarium was fun...

...and actually kinda sweet. (Chances are pretty good they'll hate this picture in a few years - then love it again when they get older.)