Thursday, June 25, 2009

Living Character Initiative

Anything I write can't do justice to the creative wonders that the Disney Imagineers have brought to life - so you'll just need to watch the videos.

The newest Living Character is Luxo Jr. who just debuted this last week at Disney's Hollywood Studios (in Orlando, FL).

Earlier this year, Remy (from Ratatouille) began appearing at EPCOT (also in Orlando) after a hit run at Disneyland Paris. (You'll also see shots of Lucky the Dinosaur in this clip - the first of the Living Characters.)

Finally, my personal favorite - Dr. Bunsen Honeydew & Beaker... and the Mobile Muppet Lab.

Yes, I realize that I haven't mentioned Mr. Potato Head (at Disney's California Adventure, where he welcomes guests to the Toy Story Mania ride), Turtle Time with Crush (both at California Adventure & EPCOT) and Stitch's Supersonic Adventure (which is closing this weekend). Ah, well.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rolling Through The Bay

Go watch this video clip... seriously. It's guys like this that make me feel better about my collection of nearly 1000 board games - I mean, 35 years to build a toothpick sculpture of San Francisco? I look positively normal next to him!

#6: Dschungelrennen

  • designer: Wolfgang Riedesser
  • publisher: Ravensburger
  • date: 1989
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/6.33
  • age: 10+
  • # of players: 2-5
  • print status: OOP
  • cost: 12.99 Euros (German eBay)
Why, yes, it does look like you dipped a conga line of animals in bright paints... you gotta problem with that? Cuz if you do, this is probably not a game you're going to enjoy.

OTOH, if you can wrap your head around the leap-froggish nature of this dicefest, you can find some opportunities for clever plays as your five man team (monkey, bear, elephant, gator, tiger) race through the jungle.

The game itself is surprisingly simple: on your turn, you roll the custom die & execute your move. The die sides are:
  • Monkey/Bear - move one
  • Monkey/Bear - move two
  • Elephant/Gator - move one
  • Elephant/Gator - move two
  • Tiger - move two
  • Wild - move three

Each mulitple space die roll allows you to move one or both pieces on that die face. And since only one animal can occupy a space, it gives you the opportunity to create some nifty leapfrog moves as your animals jump their way to the head of the pack. The wild side lets you move any animal(s) up to a total of three spaces.

There are also 3 wild spaces on the board which are activated when one of your animals ends their movement on the space. Chaining together leap & wild spaces (each wild space can only be used once per turn) can give your team a sudden boost...

...but the very nature of the game means that your animals out in front are helping the animals behind to leap into the lead. Of course, your pokey-slow animals do get a boost - if you roll a result where all of those animals have already finished the race, you move your last place animal instead.

When an animal reaches the medal podiums, the first one of each type to get there receives the highest point value. There is a 2nd place value for the 2nd finisher... and a 3rd place value for all remaining animals who finish the race.

You see, the race ends when all of the first place positions are filled - so some of the slower animals will not even get to join in the medal celebration, hear their animal anthems played or even get kisses on both cheeks from the French judges of the IOC.

Major tangent alert: I've decided to pick national anthems for each of the animals...

  • Elephant: "Baby Elephant Walk" (Henry Mancini)
  • Gator: "Crocodile Rock" (Elton John)
  • Monkey: "Shock the Monkey" (Peter Gabriel)
  • Bear: "Bears" (Andrew Peterson)
  • Tiger: "Eye of the Tiger" (Survivor)

OK, the tangent is done (but you need to hear "Bears" - here's a link to Yahoo's New Music Player.) It's a good example, though, of the kind of light-hearted fun that Dschungelrennen (translated: Jungle Race) inspires.

I will note that I don't get the whole "age 10+" thing on the box... any semi-competent 6 year old can easily play the game, though some of the more subtle combination moves may elude them.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Tales of the Arabian Nights

Isn't it pretty? Peter, the graphic design genius behind Headless Hollow, did the redesign for this upcoming release and has more about it on his blog.

If you want to see the official release site, it's coming out NEXT MONTH (July!) from Z-Man Games. You can even download the rulebook - or read this bit of descriptive blurb:

In Tales of the Arabian Nights, you are the hero or heroine in a story of adventure and wonder just like those told by Scheherazade to her spellbound sultan! You will travel the land seeking your own destiny and fortune. You will learn stories and gain wisdom to share with others. Will you be the first to fulfill your destiny? The next Tale is yours to tell! There is, of course, a winner in Tales of the Arabian Nights, but the point of the game is less to see who wins and more to enjoy the unfolding and telling of a great story!

In this new edition of the groundbreaking storytelling game, you enter the lands of the Arabian Nights alongside Sindbad, Ali Baba, and the other legendary heroes of the tales. Travel the world encountering imprisoned princesses, powerful 'efreets, evil viziers, and such marvels as the Magnetic Mountain and the fabled Elephant's Graveyard.

Choose your actions carefully and the skills you possess will reward you: become beloved, wealthy, mighty - even become sultan of a great land. Choose foolishly, however, and become a beggar, or be cursed with a beast's form or become insane from terror! YOU will bring to life the stories of the inestimable Book of Tales in this vastly replayable board game with over 2002 tales that will challenge, amuse, astound and spellbind you for years to come.

And here's a short description of the game mechanics from Brian Schoner over on BGG:
There are no stats for your character, but you begin the game with three different skills that you select from a list of 15-20. Skills are things like Weapon Use, Stealth and Stealing, Piety, Minor Magic, Seamanship, etc.

There is no provision for cooperative play, and there's relatively little player interaction at all (though there are optional rules that add more interaction).

Movement does not use dice, but is based on your character's wealth (which goes up and down during the game). More wealth means you move faster at sea (because you can afford a better ship) but slower on land (because you have more belongings to carry).

On your turn, you move and then draw (or get from another player) a card which tells you what kind of person, creature, or situation you encounter. A die roll determines the specifics of the encounter; if you encounter a Princess, for example, the roll may determine that it's an Enchanted Princess, or a Disguised Princess, or an Arrogant Princess, or any of several other options. As the game progresses and you move farther from civilization, die modifiers mean that more exotic options start coming into play.

Once you know exactly what you are encountering, you can choose how to react from a list of options which changes based on what you are meeting. If it's a Disguised Princess, for example, you might be able to Help her, or Follow her, or Rob her, etc. There are usually anywhere from 3 to 8 or so options for a given encounter. A final die roll here chooses from one of three possible paragraphs to see specifically what happens. Some of these reactions may lead to the same paragraphs; for instance, one of the "Rob her" rolls may lead to the same story as one of the "Follow her" rolls. However, I believe the new Z-Man version eliminates this duplication.

At this point, another player (or you, if you're playing solitaire) reads a brief paragraph describing what happens. Sometimes you just get a certain result and that's it. Sometimes you may get one result if you have a certain skill and another if you don't. Sometimes you may need to make further decisions and move on to other paragraphs.

Eventually, the paragraph book will give you the results of your action, which may include Story or Destiny points (the main victory condition), wealth gained or lost, Statuses (like Wounded, Cursed, or Respected) gained or lost, treasures found, or the opportunity to enter special locations (which have their own, longer encounter stories). You record these results and play passes to the next player.

The original version has 1,001 1400 paragraphs (though many of them are taken up with encounter tables); while a few stories tend to recur fairly frequently, every game seems to come up with a tale or two that's new to me. The new version apparently has a lot more paragraphs, and has moved a lot of material from the paragraph book to separate cards, so there should be a lot more fresh material in Z-Man's version.
Seriously, I can't wait for this... I think it will be a blast to play with Braeden - and with a chunk of the Fresno Gamers!

#7: Mole in the Hole

  • designer: Bertram Kayes & Virginia Charves
  • publisher: Ravensburger
  • date: 1995
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 1294/6.40
  • age: 8+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: in print (in Germany)
  • cost: 16.98 Euros ( or there are copies available through the BGG Marketplace
This is probably as close as we're going to get on the Kid Games 100 to touting an "abstract" kids game. See, I'm not a big fan of abstracts (I'll give exceptions to Zertz, Siesta & Pyraos) so you'd think this nearly perfect information game wouldn't be my cup of tea. You'd be wrong.

The game itself is simple: place your homeboy moles (seriously: the moles are wearing their baseball caps on backwards) on the highest board level. In turn, randomly flip over one of your movement tiles (the break down is 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4) and move one of your moles that far in a straight line. If he ends up in a hole, his piece is actually resting on the next board down.

When all the holes are filled on a level, the board is removed... and all the moles who aren't in a hole are out of the game (they haven't burrowed deep enough). The game continues as the moles move for the smaller amount of holes on this board... and the eventual culling of the herd. Finally, the last board contains only one hole in the center... and the mole who reaches it first claims The Golden Shovel and the win.

The boards are ingeniously set into a custom plastic insert that includes individual holding areas for the mole tribes. The hexagonal board can also be rotated from game to game to vary up the playing experience. Oh, there are few twists as well: double move spaces, reduced entrances to the final hole, etc... but the basic game itself is very easy to understand.
  1. Turn over a movement tile.
  2. Move one of your moles the FULL movement in a straight line.

Even a 5 year old can do it.

And that's one of the big questions with this game - why did Ravensburger put a "8+" suggested age on a game simple enough for the younger set? The answer is "tactical thinking." While younger kids can (and do!) enjoy playing Mole in the Hole, it will take a slightly older child to start to think in terms of available moves, remaining movement tiles, and targeting the player in the lead.

Still, I've had enough success playing this game with younger kids that gave me "permission" (technically, I gave myself permission, right?!) to put it in the Kid Games 100.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

#8: Piraten auf Schatzjagd

Piraten auf Schatzjagd (Pirates on the High Seas)

  • designer: uncredited
  • publisher: Ravensburger
  • date: 2006
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 1623/7.02
  • age: 6+
  • # of players: 2
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $44.95 (Amazon)

I've owned a couple of games with huge boards: for a while, I had a copy of Battlemasters (which was kind of like Battlelore for Juniors), and I still have a copy of Torpedo Run awaiting a major SuperGlue intervention in my game room.

But nothing compares to the beautiful & massive roll-out seascape that greets you each time you open the coffin-sized box that contains Pirates on the High Seas. As you can see from the picture above, it's gorgeous.

Of course, the parakeet in me goes nuts over the pretty bits: two big ships with various plastic target parts - including a cargo hatch that pops open when hit & dumps out a treasure chest, a fort/tower with the same kind of treasure hatches, a chunky spinner & a bunch of thick cardboard pieces for keeping track of missions & hits.

And the cannons... mustn't forget the cannons. There are three of them: one for each ship & one for the fort. They fire small rubber-tipped projectiles at a very nice velocity - not "Red Ryder BB gun/you'll put your eye out" velocity, but sufficient to trigger the targets.

"But is there a game in the box?" you ask. Actually, there are two: a beginners game (that's really intended for your age 5-6 players) and an "advanced" game that isn't really all that advanced. Both games use the same basic rules - on your turn, you spin the spinner, which gives you a certain number of moves (turns & forward movement) and shots (times you can fire your cannon or the cannon in the fort.) Hit your objectives (which vary on which version you're playing) and get back to your dock before the other player.

There's some potential for blocking another player with your ship (which is actually an iffier proposition in the advanced game where you can hit the same target multiple times for "credit".) Other than that, however, your shots don't have any real effect on the other player. (This doesn't count, of course, the times you hit the other player himself with the projectile.)

The other thing they packed into the box along with the bits & the game is a whole treasure chest full of fun. My eldest son goes through phases of wanting to pull this out & play it... and got frustrated with how short some of the games are. So, we invented a "2 mission card" variant which runs a bit long but is still fun. (There are even some really wacky - and WEALTHY - people who have two sets so they can play 4 player games of this.)

The age warning is really about the dexterity to shoot the cannon successfully - I'd say a nimble 5 year old would be right in his or her element here.

The price at Amazon, btw, is very good. The list price is $70 and the shipping on the Amazon order is right around $5 for a box you could use as a foot locker if you were unexpectedly drafted.

Monday, June 08, 2009

#9: Chicken Cha Cha Cha

Zicke Zacke Huhnerkacke (Chicken Cha Cha Cha)
  • designer: Klaus Zoch
  • publisher: Zoch/Rio Grande
  • date: 1998
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 594/6.74
  • age: 4+
  • # of players: 2-4 (up to 6 w/the Duckling Dancin' expansion)
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $25.90 (Time Well Spent)
Don't let the German name of this game (which translates as "nonsense word beak chicken poop" - only substitute an expletive for "poop") keep from playing one of the best memory games in print. The combination of great Doris Matthias art with chunky wooden chickens & great gameplay makes for an incredible playing experience - and one that can easily include kids as young as 3!

24 egg-shaped tiles are shuffled & placed in a large circle on the table... then each player places their chicken with a "tail feather" on an egg. The distance between players is based on the number of players playing the game. Finally, a set of 12 hexagonal guessing tiles are placed in a circle inside the egg track.

The first player looks at the next empty tile (clockwise) in front of their chicken - it's this particular picture that they must match to move ahead. Then they flip over one of the hexagonal tiles... and if it matches, they move forward & take another turn. If they're wrong, their turn is over.

If a player manages to leap another chicken, they grab their tail feathers & put them in their chicken. The objective is to get all of the tail feathers.

Small children are SCARY good at this game... I've watched kids lap the board just to prove that they can, while the adults they were playing with were still struggling to remember 1/2 of the tiles in play.

Part of why this game works so well for small kids is that you can easily "simplify" the game - take out a couple of hexagonal tile and the matching egg tiles & you've got a quicker game that retains the same flavor as the original.

Or, if you want to get a little crazy, you can buy the Duckling Dancin' expansion, which not only adds two players (in the form of duck pieces) but also little wooden piles of poop. (The piles start out behind players and become something else that players must jump - if you step in the poop, you must give a tail feather to the person whose poop it was/is. Man, I'm not really not sure of the correct tense to use with poop - I'm guessing that doesn't come up much in English classes.)

Chicken Cha Cha is part of what BGG calls "the Chicken Family of Zoch" (a series of games connected by theme - chickens - and art - Doris) that has a lot of good games in it, including Au Backe (which is also on the Kid Games 100)!

Toy Story 3

The teaser trailer is online - and nicely done. Since it's coming out next June, it's nice to know I have something to do to celebrate my 46th birthday!

Panty Man & Lingerie Girl

Once upon a time, the wise & profound writer that you know as "aka pastor guy" was once a lowly employee of the JC Penney Call Center in Nashville, TN. (If we want to completely accurate, he was actually an employee of this establishment two different times: 1997-98 for 11 months & 2002-03 for 3 months. But since I don't care all that much about sharply focused details, that'll be the last we talk about it.)

My official title was a CSR - Customer Service Represenative. Basically, that involved sitting in one of about 300 seats (that looked a little like study desks), putting on a phone headset & staring into an aging CRT green screen. Push a button on your phone pad & the calls start coming, pretty much until you sign off for a break, lunch, or escape back to the real world.

It wasn't, thankfully, an out-call job. (In call center jargon, that means we only took in calls or called customers who had already called us, rather than cold-calling new customers.) That didn't stop us from getting some real doozies on the line - my 14 months was enough to convince me that a lot of Americans need anger management classes.

In addition, there are some folks out there who are inordinately glad that they have a captive audience for their auditory exhibitionist tendencies. (There. Did I say that delicately enough?) Evidently, all of them knew that JC Penney's call center was open 24 hours a day.

The standard policy when we got "problem" calls was to warn them, push a "trace" button (which I'm almost positive did NOT trace them... at least back in '97-98), and hang up on the call. (The new system we used in the 2002-03 was hooked up to call waiting & probably did a much better job of cutting down on those kind of calls.)

Of course, the CSR's had names for the repeat offenders. All of the women I worked with had ended up on the phone with the guy they called "Panty Man" at one time or another. You can probably guess what he wanted to talk about.

I still remember (fondly) the day that one of my African-American co-workers decided she'd had enough of "Panty Man"... so when he got on the line, she began yelling into the phone, "You're a bad, bad man! That's just WRONG!" She banged her mike against her desk & went on: "You're going to hell for this, oh yes, you are!" Then she hung up, to applause & laughter from the rest of us in her section. (This was most certainly against company policy - but she'd been around a long time & didn't seem to get into any trouble.)

I never had the dubious pleasure of speaking to "Panty Man" as he (and most of the other phone creeps) would quickly hang up when they got a male CSR. On slow nights, I knew when I got a hang up that one of the folks down the line would quickly get a call from the same person.

Instead, the bane of my existence was "Lingerie Girl." This lady had worked out an elaborate ruse, where the call would start out like any other catalog call... until she'd ask the CSR to turn to a particular page in the catalog and tell her if they liked what they saw. She was a smart cookie, as I fell for her routine at least 3 or 4 times... until we got to the whole "do you like what you see?" part & I couldn't hit the hang-up button fast enough.

There were other nutty customers: the lady who spent 3 hours on the phone with me, ordering Christmas gifts that ended up being out of stock, cussing me out for 2-3 minutes, then trying to order some more stuff, which also ended up being out of stock, which brought on another round of expletives that would make a sailor blush... and it kept going. Three hours.

Not sure why I posted all this... except I'd promised to do it a long time (almost 2 years) ago.

#10: Chateau Roquefort

Burg Appenzell (Chateau Roquefort)
  • designer: Bernhard Weber & Jens-Peter Schliemann
  • publisher: Zoch/Rio Grande
  • date: 2007
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 398/6.95
  • age: 6+
  • # of players: 2-4 (5 w/the Cheesy Gonzola expansion)
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $25.80 (Time Well Spent)

The Castle of Cheese is filled with lots of gouda stuff for the mice to eat. (I promise - that's the last cheese pun for this post.) So the players send their four delightfully sculpted mice across the roofs & into the rooms to pick up cheese - but watch out for trap doors that can send your mice to their doom!

I wasn't sure whether to include this game in the Kid Games 100 or not - one of my criteria from the beginning was that the games had to be as much or more fun with kids than they were with adults. (When we finish, I'll give you the list of "kid games" I think are better as adult games.) Then I got to watch my son play it with me & with his best friend... and I realized I couldn't cut the game out.

Granted, it's a lot more "tactical" when playing with adults... with kids, it's pretty random & the game usually ends with one player losing three of their mice into the dungeons. But it's not like that's a bad thing.

This is also a great introduction for the younger set to action point games. Thankfully, since it's only 4 actions, it doesn't bog down. Everything costs 1 point: moving a space, uncovering an adjacent room, and sliding the floors (which you can only do once per turn.) Somehow, you must combine these moves in order to get 2 of your mice on the same type of cheese and claim the appropriate cheese scoring marker. 4 cheese markers wins the game.

A word about the board is important: it's layered like a trifle. (Obscure quote of the day: "Custard, good. Jam, good. Meat, goooood!") On the bottom is the box with a plastic insert filled with holes. (Yes, it's an oxymoron - or I'm just a plain ol' moron. Take your pick.) Above that is a layer of square tiles that slide in rows, very similar to A-Mazing Labyrinth. Over that is a board overlay where some squares are filled & some are open to the tile level. Above that comes a variety of roof tiles that cover 2-4 squares.

The innovative board design wouldn't mean much, however, if the designers hadn't found a clever game to go with it. Slather a great graphic look (dripping cheese!) and you've got a real winner on your hands.

It's become difficult to get the expansion, Cheesy Gonzola, here in the States. (While the base game was published by Rio Grande, they haven't printed Cheesy Gonzola or the giveaway expansion.) If you like the base game, chances are excellent that you'll love the expansion. It adds:

  • Cheesy Gonzola himself - a "Speedy Gonzales"-like mouse who can't fall in the holes & moves VERY quickly around the board. Control of Cheesy is determined by the last person to land on his special tile.
  • an extra entry tower + a set of mice for a 5th player
  • some other special expansion tiles, including the Cellar & the Mechanical Works
  • a way to store all of the pieces - this is possibly the best box insert for a game ever!

The easiest way to get the expansion is through - shipped, it's roughly 25 Euros (More than 1/2 of that is shipping - but it should arrive in about a week, which is pretty amazing coming from Europe.)

The giveaway expansion (which is MUCH harder to find) just adds two double-sided tiles... two of which are included in Cheesy Gonzola. The other two sides (the Cat & the Dirty Sock) are new.

I think you'd need to be 6 years old or so to be able to play at a decent level. Set-up & tear-down is a bit tricky for younger kids but doable with some practice.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

How Well Do You Know Mark Jackson?

Over on Facebook, I created this How Well Do You Know Mark Jackson? quiz & invited folks to play. Here's the scores (revised for the mistake on question #8 - see below)...

73% correct
  • Shari Becknal Jackson (wife)
46% correct
  • Jeremy Nordmoe (South Gate BC, Nashville)
40% correct
  • Chris H Herndon (Dalewood BC, Nashville)
33% correct
  • Sara Emily Lewis Foreman (Dalewood BC, Nashville)
  • Jennifer Collier-Madon (Dalewood BC, Nashville)
  • Liz Salacinski (sister)
  • Heather Usack Winters (the church @ hickory hollow, Nashville)
26% correct
  • Paul Durham (the church @ hickory hollow, Nashville)
  • Aaron Kellar (NewLife Community Church, Fresno)
  • Todd Lewis (Dalewood BC, Nashville)
  • Sarah Jones Underhill (Dalewood BC, Nashville)
  • Tim Walker (Dalewood BC, Nashville)
20% correct
  • Michael Green (Gulf Games, the Gathering)
  • Margaret Kellar (NewLife Community Church, Fresno)
  • Alaina Lawless (Dalewood BC, Nashville)
13% correct
  • Charles Glaser (Game Central Station, Nashville)
  • Winton Lemoine (gaming)
  • Tony Potter (Hedge homeschool group, Fresno)
  • Tom Sims (fellow pastor, Fresno)
I think the results tell us that it helps to have (a) known me a long time & (b) have read my blog.

Now, the questions, the answers... and some commentary. The correct answer is in bold.

1) I considered all of the following professions as a kid, except...

a) construction worker

b) architect

c) defense lawyer

d) professor

e) stage actor

I wanted to be a construction worker (thanks to Legos & building blocks) until I saw my cousin & uncles walking a beam when they rebuilt the barn - I got vertigo just seeing THEM do it. Then I wanted to be an architect until I learned how much math was required. By my early teens, I was interested in being the next Perry Mason... until I realized that Perry Mason had a weird client list, where everyone he represented was innocent. My high school years were filled with dreams of being in a rep theater somewhere, acting Shakespeare plays & oddball classics year round.

Oddly enough, as much as I enjoy teaching & preaching, I've never really wanted to be a professor.

2) Which incident is not a part of my gaming history?

a) played Monopoly on the floor with Grandma Jackson

b) my aunt bought me my first Avalon Hill game

c) nearly attacked by an angry D&D player

d) attended the Gathering 6 years after I got invited

e) was one of the founders of Gulf Games

One of the fondest memories from my childhood is playing games with Grandma Jackson (my dad's mom). He says she was the same way with him & his buddies when he was young.

My aunt (dad's sister) bought me my first AH game: Outdoor Survival. She even played it with me once, which is going way above & beyond the aunt call of duty!

I've told the D&D story before on the blog... you can read it at The Day I Quit Playing D&D.

Alan Moon invited me to the Gathering of Friends back in 1996, when I ordered Phantoms of the Ice from White Wind Games and he & I had a great chat on the phone. I didn't actually get to use that invite until 2002... and I haven't been able to get back since. Man, I'd love to go again!

I am NOT one of the founders of Gulf Games - that honor belongs to Greg Schloesser, Ted Cheatham & Ty Douds. I did, however, attend the 2nd Gulf Games & was a fixture there for many years (until we moved to California.)

3) The age difference between Shari & I is...

a) 7 months

b) 11 months

c) 3 years

d) 4 years

e) 6 years

When Shari & I started dating, she had only graduated high school 6 months earlier. The biggest issue with our age separation actually has come up in working with youth, who tried to say that a 14 year old girl dating a 20 year old guy is the same thing as our marriage. Well, no.

4) At my last full-time youth ministry position, our group mascot was:

a) a lion

b) an aardvark

c) a pig

d) a redbug

e) an elephant

The pig has been a subject of a couple of blog posts (The Tale of the Pig (and How He Still Influences My Life) & Pig Quotes). Wish I had a good picture of him.

The redbug was the team mascot of the Fordyce Redbugs - yep, the chigger as a mascot. That's rural Arkansas for you.

5) "This church sucks less than any other we've been to." Which church?

a) Good Shepherd Baptist Church, Silsbee, TX

b) First Baptist Church, Fordyce, AR

c) Dalewood Baptist Church, Nashville, TN

d) the church @ hickory hollow, Antioch, TN

e) NewLife Community Church, Fresno, CA

This is an actual quote from a teenage girl who attended with her dad - we considered using it in advertising ("We suck less than any church in Nashville") but decided it was a little too "in your face."

6) Something you're likely to hear me say during a sermon...

a) Bow your heads & close your eyes.

b) Turn in your Bibles to...

c) Like I was saying...

d) So what?

e) People... come on!

Shari suggested that "Like I was saying..." was a pretty common statement in my youth talks. Currently, I end almost every message with a "So What?" point - props to the pastors at Fellowship Bible Church for getting me into that important habit.

7) Which of these descriptions doesn't fit one of my many roommates?

a) BSU officer & ladies man

b) preppy heavy-metal devotee

c) theater major

d) loner guitar player

e) accountant/gamer

I never actually roomed with BSU (Baptist Student Union) officer... but I did room with a guy who wore Ozzy concert tees with creased blue jeans (freshmen year), a very talented actor & musician who was also a bit of a gamer (senior year), a guitar player who didn't really like to socialize (also senior year), and the best man at my wedding, Tim Formby, who was my main gamer buddy for the latter half of the 1980's.

This was a tough question - only Heather & Paul got it right.

8) My first crush introduced me to a number of things, except:

a) kissing

b) the Beatles

c) the musical "Evita"

d) Gone With The Wind

e) exchanging rings

This is the question I messed up on... those of you who answered "exchanging rings" got a freebie (I meant to type "exchanging gifts".) My first crush (Julie) is the one who introduced me to the Beatles, to "Evita", and to "Gone with the Wind" - but we didn't kiss.

9) I first felt "called" to be a minister...

a) ...during a revival at Rose Drive Baptist.

b) Centrifuge.

c) a Summer Missionary commissioning ceremony.

d) ...while taking part in MasterLife.

e) a BSU retreat.

While I had some amazing spiritual experiences during all of the times listed - esp. the Summer Missionary commissioning ceremony that convinced that God still loved me even though I had pretty much turned my back on Him - it was at a Centrifuge camp at Glorieta, NM in 1982 where I felt called into ministry.

Following my senior year of high school, my youth group drove from Southern California to Glorieta, New Mexico, to participate in a Centrifuge camp. Early during the week of camp I had committed my life's profession to God... and later in the week, God showed me just what that profession was to be. During what seemed like the longest invitation I'd ever been a party to, the pastor asked if any of us were considering special services. He told us that he would like to pray with us and if we were, would we raise our hands? My arm was halfway up before I realized what my body was doing. I nearly yanked it down before it hit me... this was exactly what God had been preparing me for since I was a child. I spent the rest of that night on a roller coaster of emotion, running down the trails above the chapel at Glorieta, laughing with joy at the incredible clarity I felt, then weeping with a tremendous awareness of my unworthiness and inadequacy to be a minister.

I've told that story over & over... so it surprised me that so many folks missed it. Only Liz (who was actually there!) and Aaron got it right.

10) Which of the following board games did I NOT playtest?

a) Dia de los Muertos

b) Scream Machine

c) Heroscape

d) Clue DVD

e) Heroes, Incorporated

I really enjoy playtesting games... and the correct answer here is actually a loophole answer, the kind of thing you'd try to prevent in a "for real" playtest.

I've playtested 3 of Frank Branham's games (Nodwick, Battle Beyond Space & Warhamster Rally) - but the one I get actual rules credit for is Dia de los Muertos, which I only played once in playtesting.

Joe Huber's Scream Machine was one that I playtested a good bit & enjoyed. (Sadly, the prototype graphics were better than the published game.)

I'm not sure how I ended up invited to playtest Heroscape expansions... but we had a blast doing it for about a year. (I worked on figures like Dund and Hot Lava Death expansion.)

That same Hasbro connection meant I got to playtest the American conversion of Clue DVD... it's still my favorite implementation of Clue. (Note: I haven't played the newest one, though I'd like to.)

And here's the loophole... while I didn't playtest Heroes Incorporated, I did help proofread the rules rewrite for the expansion.

I'm guessing that most of you had no clue that I playtested that many games, let alone which ones. Anyway, this was another tough one: only Shari Jo & Jeremy were correct.

11) I met Shari...

a) Baylor.

b) Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

c) a small group Bible study.

d) College/Career Sunday School.

e) a honky-tonk.

Baylor U. was a memory by the time Shari & I met... I graduated in May of '86 and Shari & I met in the summer of '88.

And while I was attending Southwestern (SWBTS) when I met Shari, she was a freshmen at Texas Wesleyan & I was in my third year of seminary.

The most common wrong answer was "small group Bible study" - probably because we tell the story of our first date which she thought was just her small group leader getting to know her better.

The only honky-tonk I've ever been in was to see Dwight Yoakum in concert with a different girl... and that's another story all in itself.

We actually met in Sunday School - which my accountant/gamer roommate taught.

12) What is my #1 "must visit" Disney park?

a) Disneyland Paris

b) Animal Kingdom

c) Disneyland Tokyo

d) Tokyo DisneySeas


I've already been to EPCOT & Animal Kingdom, though I'd be thrilled to go back to them. (Must... ride... Everest...) Disneyland Paris has Discoveryland, which used a lot of the Discovery Bay ideas - I'd love to see that. Disneyland Tokyo has some neat stuff (their version of the Pooh ride is superior to anything in the States), but...

...Tokyo DisneySeas is an almost completely new park set around a volcano - new rides, new themes, wow! It's not gonna happen any time soon, though - the airfare alone would bankrupt me.

13) I grew up in Orange County, CA... but I was born in:

a) Missouri

b) Washington

c) Oregon

d) Tennessee

e) Arkansas

While I've lived in Oregon (1965-1969), Arkansas (1990 - 1992) & Tennessee (1992 - 2003), and my parents both grew up in Missouri, I was actually born in a suburb of Seattle, WA.

14) My family is great. I have...

a) older brother.

b) younger brother.

c) older sister.

d) younger sister.

e) siblings.

My sister, Liz, is two years younger than me. We didn't get along all that well as kids but I think she's the cat's pajamas now.

15) Which game do I like the least?

a) Monopoly

b) Euphrat & Tigris

c) Settlers of Catan

d) Power Grid

e) Race for the Galaxy

I've played Race for the Galaxy nearly 200 times (2/3 of them solitaire games)... I think it's possibly the best card game ever designed. Settlers of Catan is another game with 150+ plays. I haven't tracked my plays of Monopoly, but I've been playing it since I was 7 years old and never went through a "too cool for Monopoly" phase.

Which leaves the two possible candidates (neither of which I own): Power Grid and Euphrat & Tigris. While I like the original game, Funkenschlag, better, Power Grid is a really good economic expansion game. Euphrat & Tigris is much more abstracted... and is a game that I can respect but don't really like to play. (That makes me running the E&T block at Kublacon back in 2006 even funnier.)

So, E&T it is. And only two of you knew that: Jeremy & Paul.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

It's A Goth World After All

I'm not sure where to start this week - I've been thinking about writing this post/article for a couple of weeks now, ever since I read Chuck Klosterman's article "Something Wicked This Way Comes" in his book, A Decade of Curious People And Dangerous Ideas. In this article originally from SPIN Magazine (which is the link you see above), Chuck talks about going to Bats Day at Disneyland, where 500 or so goths descend upon Disneyland to make it The Gothiest Place On Earth.

At times during Bats Day, it was impossible to swing a dead cat in Disneyland without hitting a goth (of course, if you had swung a dead cat around Disneyland, a few of these kids probably would have found that pretty awesome).
Of course, I'm aware that about 1/2 of the readership of my blog (and most of the readership of my church newsletter) won't have spent a lot of time reading SPIN Magazine lately... or be used to Mr. Klosterman's expletive-laced gonzo/pop journalism style... which is why this paragraph (aka "disclaimer") exists: if you're easily offended, don't read his stuff. Really. He's never met an F-bomb he didn't like.

But regardless of Chuck Klosterman's wordplay, he raises a really interesting concept in the article... one that applies to more than just the goth community.
What do you feed a hungry goth? Apparently, Monte Cristo sandwiches from a restaurant called the Blue Bayou in New Orleans Square. A party of five goths waits for a table in the Blue Bayou's lobby, and I mention that Disney's mainstream parkgoers appear oddly unalarmed by the number of people bumping around in capes and hooded death robes. However, these goths feel differently about the level of tolerance.

"I was just in one of the stores," says 28-year-old chemist Jennifer Nogle, "and all the normals were asking the staff questions like 'What's with these people? Are they part of some weird religion?' Get real."

Nogle's reference to "normals"--goth slang for nongoths--raises an interesting point: People are constantly asking goth kids what makes someone goth. However, an equally valid question is: What makes someone a normal?

"They are not us," Nogle says with focused conviction. "They wear polo shirts."
My "you've got to be kidding" meter spiked when I read this - jumping right up from the yellow area of "smug condescension" into the red of "ridicule outburst approaching." How silly can you get - polo shirts are the key difference? I'm tempted to put a picture of me up next to a picture of a goth & ask if my choice of shirts is the first thing you notice.

So, in an attempt to bring down my level of personal sarcasm, I made myself a little outline of what Ms. Nogle was doing to differentiate herself:
  1. referring to nongoths by a code name ("normals")
  2. feeling as if questions about unusual life choices denoted a lack of tolerance
  3. stereotyping nongoths by an incidental fashion choice

And when I did that, I had to pause & take a deep breath... because simply substituting "evangelical Christian" for "goth" made this resonate in my own life.

  1. referring to nonbelievers by a code name ("lost", "seekers", "unchurched")
  2. feeling as if questions about unusual life choices (pro-life, believing the Bible, various moral issues) denoted a lack of tolerance
  3. stereotyping nonbelievers based on surface issues ("look, he's drinking a beer!" or "he watches R-rated movies")

I'm not suggesting that we abandon any kind of nomenclature for talking about folks who don't follow Jesus Christ... just that we don't use "seeker" or "lost" as a cultural marker to set ourselves apart.

I do think we've got to get over being offended by everyone who asks us a pointed question about what we believe and why we believe it. Peter instructed the believers to...

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15-16, NLT)

People not only have the right to question our beliefs... the Bible fully expects them to! And, if that isn't enough, it gives us clear direction on how to respond:

  • prepared
  • with reason
  • gently
  • respectfully

Finally, we have to quit dismissing people because they've made different life choices than us. (That's what stereotyping is all about, btw - if I pigeonhole you, then I don't have to deal with you as a meaningful human being. That is, if you're not clear about it, very much NOT in the character of Jesus Christ.)

While I may be taken aback by a non-believer's decisions and while I may believe that the choices they're making are sinful & destructive to themselves and to others, I'm never empowered by the Bible or the example of Jesus to write them off. From the thief on the cross to the woman caught in adultery to the demoniac chained in the graveyard, Jesus specialized in reaching the people in society who were marginalized by their choices.

Jesus would have loved goths, too. He would have even ridden Splash Mountain with them.

Five goths convince me to go on Splash Mountain with them. This is one of those rides where you sit in a log and get completely soaked, which I normally disdain. But I've never seen wet goths before, so I go along for the trip. I find myself inside a log on an underground river. Everything smells like chlorine and Hot Topic. The girls in front of me are giggling at the animatronic rabbits surrounding us, and I find myself thinking, "How did America become terrified of these people?" Two trench coat-cloaked kids in Colorado may have become twisted killing machines and ruined it for everybody else, but most of these goths are the kind of folk who laugh at fur-covered robots. The ride concludes when the log plummets 50 feet into a mini tsunami. I bid my soaked newfound acquaintances good-bye as they reapply their makeup.

May we be known by how we live rather than by our T-shirts & bumper stickers. May we care for people so much that their stereotypes crumble & blow away. May we see beyond the surface behavior to see the people Jesus loved so much that He died for them on the cross... and may we have that much love for them as well.

Brave Arrow Rocks

First, the Aquilla faction needed more warriors... and giving them this guy (as well as his tribe, the Mohicans) is seriously cool.

Second, Concealment could be the coolest power ever for objective-based scenarios. (Yes, I'm saying "cool" a lot - if I'm not careful, I could start burbling about it being "wicked sweet" and tell you that I'm "totally stoked" about it. Sorry.)

For those of you who don't know what I'm babbling about:

For those of you who are "in the know", the aforementioned site has preview pix of all the Wave 9 figs: dwarves (squad & hero), gladiators (who bond to Spartacus!), a good (Jandar) ninja, good (Omicron) robots, more Marro (squad & hero), and some Ullar Kyrie (squad & hero).

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

#11: Dish It Up

Dish It Up!
  • designer: Ann & Monty Stambler
  • publisher: Gamewright
  • date: 2000
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/5.20
  • age: 6+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: OOP?
  • cost: $29.99 (eBay)
There are lots of memory games out there... but there aren't nearly as many who use memory in a thematic way to create a great kids game experience. Dish It Up! is one of the proud, the few... the thematically rich memory games.

Players are waiters & waitresses in a greasy spoon diner (what folks in the South would call a "meat & three" I have fond memories of an old Waco, TX institution called Leslie's Chicken Shack (this sign is all that's left) where the waitresses looked like Flo's cousin & worried that we poor Baylor students weren't eating enough. Hot biscuits & honey plus lots of excellent fried chicken... sigh. It's gone now. But I'm supposed to be telling you about a game, not salivating about Sunday dinners long past.

Ahem... well, on his turn, a player turns up two tiles from the tableau. Instead of trying to have the tiles match, though, each player is working to match the items on his order cards. Each one of those cards has a main dish, a side, a drink & a dessert. As long as you match both items with your card, you can pick them up & go again. When you complete your card, you get a tip ($1 - these are NOT generous patrons).

There are a couple of flies in the ointment (or soup!):
  • Matt has lost his mitt... if you can turn over Matt's tile & the Mitt tile in the same turn, you get a dollar.
  • There are also cranky customer & crying baby tiles in the tableau... turn one of them over & your turn ends immediately.

The round ends when one player finishes their orders... and unfinished orders don't get tips. The game is played over several (usually 3) rounds, with players shooting for a dollar amount in tips based on the number of players.

Because the game uses pictures on the order cards as well as the tiles, this game works with some kids as young as 3 years old. (However, they usually can only play one round before getting antsy.) As well, since you've got multiple matches early in the game (each player has at least 2 order cards with 4 items each), the frustration level for younger players is low as well.

We've had a great time with this game at the Jackson house - of course, neither of the boys have had to wait tables yet, which will probably take some shine off the theme when that happens.

On the Fritz

He wished to right the wrongs

He sang religious songs

He kept the private he

Under the lock and key

Heat keeps rising in an age of passion

Shakes a conscience to the core

Stopgap, hand-slap, take a tongue-lashing

My poor soul can't take any more

On the fritz

On the fritz

There he sits

On the fritz

He kept his ego there

It was a sad affair, on the fritz

The inner circle knows

And so the story goes, on the fritz

Airborne rumors chip away the image

But you knew the stakes were high

First they got you thinking you're a prophet

Now they've got you living a lie

So the crowds grew, and their praise did too

And a mailing list sent you money

So they love Jerry Lewis in France

Does that make him funny?

It's too late for apologies when trust has been betrayed

Now victims of your double life are naming names

He kept his ego there

It was a sad affair, on the fritz

The public's had enough

They've come to call your bluff, on the fritz

Small talk breeds where kingdoms come crashing

Rumor conquers where it wills

No one hears you, go ahead and cash in

If you don't die to yourself

pride kills

on the fritz

Monday, June 01, 2009

Chain of Fools

I don't care if it's "for our soldiers" or "to show everyone how much I love Jesus" or even "because this will save the lives of kids from hypodermic needles hidden in the play areas of various fast food establishment ball pits"... I am not forwarding your stupid e-mail. Don't threaten me, cajole me or attempt to motivate me with guilt, it's not going to happen.