Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tri-perspectivalism? Really?

Admission of guilt: I'd never heard of "tri-perspectivalism" before today. I guess that means I'm either (a) an uneducated dolt with the IQ of a badger, or (b) I have to figure out to work this word into my everyday conversation.

It's hard not to love Tim Keller if you're an evangelical follower of Christ - he's smart, thoughtful, engaging & solidly Biblical. And gracious in a for-real "they'll know we are Christians by our love" kind of way.

And nowhere is that more obvious than in this blog post from September 2009 (which I just read today):
John Frame's 'tri-perspectivalism' helps me understand Willow. The Willow Creek style churches have a 'kingly' emphasis on leadership, strategic thinking, and wise administration. The danger there is that the mechanical obscures how organic and spontaneous church life can be. The Reformed churches have a 'prophetic' emphasis on preaching, teaching, and doctrine. The danger there is that we can have a naïve and unBiblical view that, if we just expound the Word faithfully, everything else in the church -- leader development, community building, stewardship of resources, unified vision -- will just happen by themselves. The emerging churches have a 'priestly' emphasis on community, liturgy and sacraments, service and justice. The danger there is to view 'community' as the magic bullet in the same way Reformed people view preaching.
Read the whole thing at The 'Kingly' Willow Creek Conference.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Big Boss: An Expansion for Zooloretto Boss

The following is my machine-aided translation/paraphrase of a variant for the newest Zooloretto expansion, Zooloretto Boss. It has been checked & approved by Michael Schacht, the designer of Zooloretto. (The graphics & original German rules for the variant can be found in the 4th issue of the Zooloretto newsletter.)

Big Boss

Big Boss is a variant for the new expansion, Zooloretto Boss.


First, glue the 6 office tiles to cardboard (approx. the thickness of the original game materials, then cut them using a ruler and craft knife.

The usual rules for Zooloretto Boss with the following additions:


The 6 office tiles face down on the supply table.


Oops! In the first round, the 6 office tiles lie face down on the market boardcan not be bought. At the beginning of the second round they are turned face up and can be purchased from now on.

II. Purchase or discard a tile - The active player can buy any office tile from the market board and places it on any empty office in his zoo, building over the office already printed there. The office tile works like a regular office & remains there for the remainder of the game.

The player may only cover one office... and only one without a worker on it. He may not cover an office tile with another office tile. The player may not buy a second office tile of a type he already owns.

Bonus for coworkers:

A. Business Consultant (2):

  • If a player has a coworker on the office tile illustrated with the hand full of money, he receives an extra coin from the bank each time he receives coins for occupying the last space of an enclosure.
  • A player can have only one business consultant.
  • Example: Anne filled the five-space enclosure. She will receive the usual two coins and an additional coin for her consultant.
  • Note: If a player has the business consultant and the fundraiser (from Zooloretto Boss), he receives both a coin and a donation from the bank when he receives one or more coins as a bonus for a full enclosure.
  • Note: The business consultant does NOT give an extra coin for coins taken from the trucks or received from another player to purchase an animal.

B. Controller (2):

  • If a player has a coworker on the office tile illustrated with the donation symbol (and "+4"), he receives 4 points for each donation he has at the end of the game.
  • A player can have only one controller.
  • Example: Dirk has a controller and 4 donations. He receives 4 x 4 = 16 points.

C. Human Resources Manager (2):

  • If a player has a coworker on the office tile illustrated with a coworker (and "+3"), he receives 3 points for each coworker he has at the end of the game.
  • A player can have only one HR manager.
  • Example: Claus has one HR manager and 2 coworkers in his zoo. He gets 2 x 3 = 6 points at the end of the game.
  • Note: if you play Zooloretto & Aquaretto together, the HR manager does NOT get points for the Aquaretto staff.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Renovating Your Zoo(loretto)

Now that Zooloretto has spawned enough expansions to make my box roughly the weight of an anvil, it's time for me to chime in again about the quality/usefulness of the various expansions that are available. (The original post like this was written in 2009 - and I've played a good bit of Zooloretto since then.)

I've divided my impressions into three categories: expansions I've played, expansions I own (but haven't played) & expansions I don't own. (When I've played with the expansions, I've noted how many times following the name.)

  • The Petting Zoo(12 plays) - This is probably the best simple expansion out there. The trade-off between cash & victory points is really nice.
  • The Savings Book(7 plays) - an exercise in delayed gratification... makes money less tight later in the game, which is a good thing when using some of the other expansions. (BTW, you should NEVER use this expansion when playing the combined game w/Aquaretto.)
  • Three Extra Enclosures(4 plays) - These are 3 two-space pens specific to the zebra, flamingo & elephant. They are available for purchase from the center of the board for $2. I'd combine 'em w/the Savings Book and/or the Petting Zoo so you have some extra cash to make them easier to buy. We've liked these - though you do need to make sure that the appropriate animals are in play.
  • * Polar Bear/Gorilla/King K(6/5/2 plays)- I like these better now that I have 3 of them and it's not simply a crapshoot to see who gets the special power first. All of these are single tiles which add a special power to your zoo - they are claimed by finishing your 6 space pen. My gut response is to put 3 of them out for five player games, 2 out for three or four player games.
  • Three Additional Buildings(2 plays) - we used these a couple & I wasn't overwhelmed by what they did or didn't do. Had to look up the rules on them a number of times... which meant they slowed the game down without adding anything deeply meaningful to the game.
  • Mission Cards(1 play) - Because of the makeup of the cards, these only work in 4-5 player games... but the one time we used them, they did some interesting things to what people would & wouldn't take from the trucks. I really want to try it again.
  • Zooloretto Exotic(10 plays) - If you're just going to buy one expansion box/set for Zooloretto, it should be this one. It makes the end game dynamics very different as players have more tiles to avoid and scoring considerations to worry about.
  • Zooloretto XXL(4 plays)- The addition of more animals of each type along with the ability to "clear" 2 of your complete pens for lower points (ship them off to another zoo) and refill them. I'm not sure the extra time is worth the trade-off... however, the Aquaretto XXL expansion is very cool (included in the same box).
  • Zooloretto Boss(1 play... so far!)- I think this is going to be a very successful addition to the game... the combination of the Market (buy a single tile for 2 bucks), the sponsors & the workers (similar to the workers in Aquaretto) make for some much more gamer-y decisions.
  • Building Sites - introduces an element of "take that" to the game that I don't like... I probably won't ever use them.

The following are all "completion of the 6 square enclosure" reward tiles with various powers (like the Polar Bear or the Gorilla). Some of them have been printed on postcards and all of them are available at (Yes, I need to print them myself - but I keep hoping that there will be another "official" collection of expansions printed.) The Reindeer, Christmas Tree & Christmas Gift, BTW, all say that they are only to be used while playing the game on Christmas. :-)

There is another print-n-play expansion available that I must find the time to produce:
  • Five Extra Enclosures - this adds the missing two space enclosures for the rest of the Zooloretto animals.
And, yes, I know about the Chameleon (an expansion for Zooloretto Exotic)... but I have real doubts about how well it will work to paste up two blank tiles in a game where drawing from the bag is a central mechanic.


Zooloretto Mini is a smaller portable version of the game and is NOT an expansion to the original Zooloretto... though the pieces are the same size & will allow you to put different types of animals into play.

Also, there is an iPhone app to play Zooloretto - it's not a bad implementation but the AI is VERY weak.


If I was going to rank the expansions in "need to own" order, here's how I'd go:
  1. Zooloretto Exotic
  2. Zooloretto Boss
  3. Zooloretto - Rio Grande Games Expansion Pack #1 (includes the Polar Bear, Petting Zoos, Building Sites, 3 Extra Enclosures & 3 Additional Buildings)
  4. Zooloretto - Rio Grande Games Expansion Pack #2 (includes the Gorilla, Savings Books, Mission Cards & 2 expansions for Aquaretto)
  5. Zooloretto XXL
In fact, you can print-n-play most of the small expansions in the Rio Grande sets from Michael Schlacht's website, I just like having the nice professionally printed pieces for my set.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Game Review: The Rivals For Catan

  • Designer: Klaus Teuber
  • Publisher: Mayfair Games, Kosmos
  • Players: 2
  • Ages: 11+
  • Time: 25-90 minutes
  • Times Played: 5x (Rivals for Catan) 25x + (Settlers of Catan Card Game)
  • MSRP: $20 U.S.

I’ve been playing the Settlers of Catan Card Game since the original German release – I bought my copy in the summer of 1997. (Yep – my first 10-15 plays were with a German deck & cheat sheets to translate the cards into English.) I switched over to the English version when it was finally published in late 1998… and then went through the whole “upgrade” mess in 2003 so that the expansions and older edition would work together. We have a long history, Die Siedler von Catan – Das Kartenspiel & I.

Yet, for a game I claim to enjoy (I recently put it at #90 in my personal list of top 100 games over on my blog), I don’t play it very much. My wife enjoyed our first few games of it… until I figured out how to use the various action cards to decimate her cities & her resources. The game has always tended towards being overly long – rarely clocking in at less than two hours and sometimes reaching the three hour mark. The card interactions, especially if you add any of the expansions, require either a devil-may-care approach to making up rules on the fly and/or access to a pretty extensive FAQ.

So, when I read that Klaus Teuber was rebooting the card game to both streamline the game play & the playing time, I was pretty excited. The big question was, of course, could he do it successfully? In other words, could he keep the sprawling “build your kingdom” feel of the original game while smoothing out the rough edges of the design?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Well, that’s why you’re reading this review, aren’t you? Just shuffle your eyes onto the next paragraph.

Rather than attempt to explain the game play in detail, I’m going to try to do a comparative review for those of you who’ve played the original game & wonder if the new game is worth plopping down a double sawbuck. (If you’d like a good overview on how to play the game, has the oddly whimsical Prof. Easy Interactive Game Introduction available for you.)

There are a number of smaller changes in the names of cards & various events (I like that the region cards now have their names on them in tiny print to remind you of which way they are oriented when they enter the game)… but those incremental variations are not the keys to getting this game to the table 5+ times in 5 weeks.

65-in-1 Electronic Kit

When I was a kid, my dad got me a Radio Shack Electronic Project Kit… and what with all those diodes & transistors & springy things to attach the wires to, I could pretty much create what I wanted to create using the “toolkit” provided by the nice folks at Tandy Company. (My favorite project was a light-sensitive alarm that could detect unwanted intruders into my room.)

The same is true of The Rivals for Catan – the game has a basic deck which is used in the Introductory Game along with three “theme” decks (the Age of Gold, the Age of Turmoil & the Age of Progress) which can be played individually or together (as “The Duel of the Princes”). There are rules in the box, then, for five different ways to play the game. (It does not, however, keep your little sister out of your bedroom.)

Positive Hand Management vs. Negative Hand Management

Most card games contain some element of hand management… in Race for the Galaxy, for example, you decide which cards are expendable in order to purchase other cards. In Lost Cities, you attempt to build runs through the judicious discarding & hoarding of various cards, sometimes holding a card in your hand just to keep it away from your opponent.

The Rivals for Catan (and the Catan Card Game) are no exception to this – but one of the major differences between the two games is how the the structure of the card decks & some rules changes help Rivals focus on positive hand management rather than the more common negative hand management in the Catan Card Game.

There are no City (red) cards in the Basic deck – those are found only in the Theme decks. Since the Theme deck draw piles are stacked separately from the Basic draw piles, players can choose whether or not they want to potentially begin adding city cards to their hands. This wasn’t possible in the original card game unless you were willing to spend resources to search through a deck.

In addition, the end of turn rules have been changed. Now players draw their hand back up to the limit (or discard down, but that rarely happens) then are given the option to trade one card with the draw piles. In the Catan Card Game, you were only able to exchange if you had a full hand at the end of your turn.

These two changes make it much easier to find the cards you need while keeping cards that are not currently useful from plugging up your very limited hand space. That in turn makes the game progress more quickly.

So, rather than juggling a series of cards of questionable worth to you – often choosing not to play cards in order to exchange them (in the original game) – or spending large amounts of resources to specifically target the cards you need to build your kingdom, you can focus more readily on the elements that best support the development of Marklandia (or whatever you choose to call your settlement on the isle of Catan.)

Honey, I Shrunk the Card Game

“There’s old Trader Sam, head salesman of the jungle. Business has been shrinking lately as you can tell. So today he’s having a two for one special, two of his heads… for just one of yours.” (Jungle Cruise spiel from Disneyland)

While there are 180 cards in The Rivals for Catan box, compared to only 120 cards in the Settlers of Catan Card Game (before you add the expansions), Herr Teuber managed to shrink the game through the Theme deck concept.

When you set aside the Event cards, the road/settlement/city/region cards & the initial tableau, there are 62 cards in the draw decks for the original game. The Rivals of Catan only has 36 cards in the Basic deck. Combining it with one of the Theme decks brings it up to 60-62 cards (depending on the deck) – though, as I pointed out earlier, divided into sections where it is easier to find the type of card you’re looking for. Even playing the “Duel of the Princes” version of the game (which uses all three Theme decks) only takes the card count up to 74 cards (since you remove 12 cards from each Theme deck).

Don’t Harsh My Mellow Vibe, Dude

There are a bunch of changes to the card composition of the game, most of which aid in speeding up the development of the various kingdoms or in lessening the direct conflict:

  • what used to be called Knights are now Heroes… and their strength points & skill points (formerly Tournament points) have been slightly downgraded. With that, their costs have dropped, making it much easier to field an army & claim the Strength Advantage (Knight token).
  • the addition of the Large Trade Ship (allowing you to trade 2:1 with goods on adjacent regions) gives yet another way to convert resources in something you can use… and add another Trade point to your kingdom.
  • there are two new types of cards with trade points in the Basic deck: the Toll Bridge & the Marketplace, both of which help you produce more resources. (The Marketplace also makes the “who can build settlements first?” race less powerful, as the player with a smaller kingdom can “leech” off the rolls of the other player.)
  • in the original game, the Town Hall is a City (red) building – and its “search a deck for 1 resource” power was more difficult to bring into play. In The Rivals of Catan, that power has been placed in a Settlement (green) building, the Parish Hall, with a cheaper cost – thus accelerating the opportunity to begin searching the decks without burning lots of extra resources.
  • ALL of the offensive & defensive Action cards (Black Knight, Arsonist, Spy, Merchant, Herb Woman & Bishop) are gone from the Basic deck. (Although forms of them appear in the Theme decks, they tend to be slightly less effective and/or have prerequisites before you can play them.)
  • there are two new Action cards that both speed up the game: Goldsmith (which allows a player to trade 3 gold for any 2 resources) and Relocation (which allows a player to rearrange – within limits! – the regions in his kingdom for maximum benefit). There is also an additional Caravan (now called Merchant Caravan) in the Basic deck.
  • each of the Theme decks borrow a mechanism from the original expansions – there are pairs of cards that are set out beside the decks so that either player can build them. These cards are key to each deck (they are often prerequisites for building/playing other cards). By placing them “in the open,” it gives both players more options that don’t take up precious hand space and also keeps them from searching the decks for such an important card.

All these card changes add up to a mellower, faster take on the original game. There are less turns spent simply waiting for enough resources to build an important card – instead, you have a variety of choices in how to manipulate what you have.

Of course, if you like direct conflict, the Age of Turmoil Theme deck has a lot of ways for you to mess with other players… but you have to be developing the rest of your kingdom to finance your “attacks.” (As mentioned, many of the interactive action cards have been moved to the Theme decks.)

The Part Many of You Simply Scrolled Down To Read, Figuring I’d Eventually Get To The Point

Dan: Can I spread it out for you in a nutshell?

Casey: No.

Dan: I can’t?

Casey: No.

Dan: Why not?

Casey: ‘Cause I’m tired of you mixing your metaphors. Spread it out for you in a nutshell? “How ya doin’? I’m a professional writer”. (from the television show, Sports Night)

Simply put, I think The Rivals for Catan is a splendid re-design of a game I liked a lot but seldom got to play. By reducing the playing time & streamlining the rules, the game is not only more playable for those of us who enjoy it but also easier to teach to new players. (My main playtester for this review was my 9 year old son, who did a very nice job keeping his old man humble.)

My one complaint is the uselessness of the box insert… but that’s becoming SOP for lots of games. I just threw it away & bagged all the cards & components, leaving plenty of room for the expansion decks.

Maybe you’d like me to be more specific about how much playing time reduction we’re seeing so far… maybe not. Either way, here it is:

  • the Basic game (no city cards to 7 points) really is a 30 minute game… and while it’s not a particularly fulfilling way to play The Rivals for Catan, it does a great job of teaching people how the game engine works.
  • the Theme deck games have varied between 40-75 minutes, dependent on (a) the speed of the players and (b) the use of the Age of Turmoil deck, which has the most aggressive card mix and therefore makes for a slightly longer game.
  • the Duel of the Princes game we played (only one so far – must remedy that!) clocked in at just over an hour – my son focused on the Age of Turmoil deck, building an engine to attack me, while I used the Age of Progress advances to out-produce him for the win.

For those of you who are interested in seeing how Herr Teuber designed the original card game then progressed forward to what we have now, there is an excellent series of blog posts (8 of them!) over on the Catanism Blog entitled The Reform of the Card Game in 2010. (Start with post number 1 and just move forward, skipping the occasional posts that aren’t about the card game.)

As far as I can see, the only loss suffered from the original game is the plethora of expansions – with the note that the expansions introduced some FAQ-induced headaches to the game. The designer (Klaus Teuber) has already promised an expansion box for The Rivals of Catan later this year (probably around Essen) and has leaked few details over on the Catanism blog:

  • The expansion doesn’t have an official name (yet) but the working title is “Dark Times.”
  • The expansion will bring back the Tournament mode (a deck-building version that was released in Germany as Siedler von Catan: Das Turnier-Set zum Kartenspiel and required that each player have a basic game & a Turnier-Set)… though there is no indication if it will work the same way with the new game.
  • The first Theme deck will be called “The Era of Intrigue.”
  • Dark Times are looming for the Rivals of Catan. In three new theme sets, you will get to know the dark sides of Catan. In "Time for Intrigue" you will be witness to the confrontation of followers of new and old beliefs. Ostensibly more peaceful will be the theme set "Time of the Trade Lords" – but don't be mistaken as trade in Catan also has its risks. More straightforward is "Time of the Barbarians" as not only will you have to deal with your opponent but also with invading barbarian hordes.

  • Aside from the three theme sets, Dark Times will contain a handy victory point marker and rules for tournament play.

BTW, Mayfair’s May 2011 release, The Struggle For Catan, is NOT an expansion for The Rivals of Catan – it’s a short (30-45 min.) card game for 2-4 players. The box is extremely similar, however, which makes it easy to confuse. (I think this may be the same game as Kosmos’ February 2011 release, Die Siedler von Catan – Das schnelle Kartenspiel.)

So, after spending $50 on the original game & expansion sets (some of which I haven’t even played!), do I feel cheated by this new version? Not a bit. Instead, I feel like an old friend is back and more likely to hit the table! (In fact, the process of writing this review – particularly doing the intensive analysis of the deck composition – has made me like the game even more!)

I think The Rivals For Catan is a definite “buy” for those who:

  • enjoy Catan (esp. if they enjoy Settlers of Catan: Cities & Knights and/or Anno 1701: Das Brettspiel)
  • enjoy 2 player games
  • those who liked the original card game
This review originally appeared on the Opinionated Gamers website.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I Am So Tired of Film Editors With ADD

Just watched Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time last night - and while there are some lovely set pieces and some nice homage moments referring to the computer game, many of the actual fight sequences are edited (seemingly) by a hyperactive 8 year old who O.D.'d on music videos & a couple of boxes of sugar-y breakfast cereal before he came into work.

The antidote: two brilliant movie sword fights that prove you can actually hold a shot long enough to prove that the actors can actually use their weapons and/or their sense of humor. (I would have added The Adventures of Robin Hood [Errol Flynn] and The Princess Bride... but embedding has been disabled.)

The Mark of Zorro (1940)

The Three Musketeers (1948)

And, finally, a really nice tribute of swashbuckling moments from the Golden Age of swashbucklers...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What Is Love Anyway?

What is love anyway? Not the tripe you've been force-fed! No, love gives people space & time; it does people good. It's not jealous, loud-mouthed or big-headed. It's not vulgar; it doesn't look after #1. It's not got a short fuse - it forgives & forgets. Love doesn't smile when dark stuff goes on, but throws a party when the truth gets out. It protects more than a blockbuster hero; it trusts more than a toddler. It's always positive; it always hangs in there. Love doesn't let you down.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 from Rob Lacey's the word on the street

Friday, February 04, 2011

Five & Dime: The Q & A

I’ve been doing this Five & Dime thing for a long time… and over the years, I’ve been asked a number of questions. Here are the answers…

…yes, of course, they are the right answers! Would I waste your time by posting the wrong ones?

Don’t answer that.

What are the Five & Dime lists?

Way back when, there was a paper game magazine called Sumo… and, from a whopping five minutes of research on The Game Cabinet (where the Sumo archives are kept), I think Charles Vasey is one who originally proposed listing games that the readers had played five plus or ten plus times circa 1990. (One of the heroes of Sumo & the Game Cabinet, Mike Siggins, is a contributor here on The Opinionated Gamers… and he confirmed my completely inadequate research.)

That tradition has continued… and I compile those lists into a (hopefully) easy-to-read format for folks to get a picture of what games are getting played and what games have “staying power” when it comes to table time.

A few years ago, I began publishing the results to my personal blog:

The previous years can be found on my old gaming website, Game Central Station.

Why don’t you factor in game length when calculating the Five & Dime lists?

I did… once. And then only for the top 350 games that year, because it seemed pointless to do it for the entire spreadsheet of games (which around 2500+ games now). Here’s the introduction I wrote for Five & Dime 2007: Time After Time:

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

So I finally caved…

All that number-crunching didn’t really turn up any major surprises (people spent more minutes playing Caylus than Ticket to Ride – shocker!) so I chose not to put the work into it again.

Doesn’t this process unfairly emphasize filler games?

OK, copper, you got me. I admit it. By asking people what they played 5+ & 10+ times, I’m actually working for a secret cabal of game designers & publishers who want to fool people into playing shorter games. We operate out of a secret island base staffed by robotic meeples.

Well, not really… but this is one of the valid criticisms of the Five & Dime stats. I would suggest, however, that when a game like Power Grid (that clocks in at 90-120 min.) appears near the top of the list year after year, that tells you something about the staying power of that particular game, especially when it does so against games that take much less time to play.

BTW, I’d love to see a game with robot meeples.

Doesn’t this unfairly emphasize online games?

This is going to sound like I’m talking/typing out of both sides of my mouth (interesting word picture, eh?) but I think the answer is “yes… and no.”

Yes, certain games receive bumps on the Five & Dime lists due to their availability in some kind of online format.

But… no, I don’t think those bumps affect the numbers as much as you would expect. Let me give you two reasons for my “no”:

  1. A number of respondents choose not to report their online gaming.
  2. Due to the nature of how I compile the data, the mouse potato who played 400+ online games of Dominion last year counts exactly the same as the guy who managed to just squeak in 10 plays at his local gaming group. (I simply track whether a game was played 5-9 times or 10+ times… no extra credit for anything beyond that.)

So, how do you deal with online plays personally?

I report my online plays when they’re against another person (whether by e-mail or on a “live” site like BSW) but do not report any plays against an AI.

I do, however, report solo plays of board games against the system included in the rules. Over the years, this has included games like Chainsaw Warrior, Race for the Galaxy (using the solitaire system in the expansions) & the new solo Tannhauser scenario.

Why don’t you tabulate the results for non-proprietary games (card games, chess, go, etc.)?

Short & simple: personal bias.

I was working on this really long & convoluted answer as to why I didn’t have them in there, but nothing I was coming up with was logically consistent. As long as I’m the guy crunching the numbers, you’re going to have to live with my rather arbitrary decisions.

Factor in the hassle of compiling the various card games, my personal lack of interest in most of them, and my intense dislike for chess, and there you have it.

Isn’t this extremely unscientific?

Well, yes, yes it is. I’m impressed with your deductive skills.

This data comes from a self-selected group of respondents who already come from a subset of gamers who track their gaming with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker… compiled by one guy with a couple of hand-me-down computers.

The fact that anyone at all pays attention to the results is nothing short of amazing.

Who died & put you in charge?

Nobody, actually. I volunteered for the job way back in the spring of 1999. I saw a series of posts of 5 & 10 lists go by on the Usenet group (back when I had to boot up my computer using a hand crank) after Steve Zanini suggested that we keep up the old tradition from Sumo Magazine. I crunched the numbers (all sixteen responses!) & published the results. Then I did it again the next year… and the year after that…

…and now it’s 2011 and I’m compiling data for the 13th year of the Five & Dime lists.

A Trio of Announcements

  • If you’d like to participate in the 2010 edition of the Five & Dime lists, please add your submission to the Five & Dime 2010 thread over on BGG.
  • If you want to follow my progress as I wade through the 350+ submissions, you can do so on my “Official” Five & Dime Progress Geeklist.
  • If you want to know the results, The Opinionated Gamers will be the first place to look! (I’ll be publishing highlights on the Geek as usual, but the longer posts will appear here first… and then later on my blog.)
This post originally appeared on the Opinionated Gamers website on January 26, 2011.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Book Review: Cracking Your Church's Culture Code

The starting point for this whole book is a quote from Dick Clark - no, not the "it has a good beat, you can dance to it" Dick Clark but instead the head of Merck Pharmaceutical:
"The fact is, culture eats strategy for lunch. You can have a good strategy in place, but if you don't have the culture & the enabling systems, the [negative] culture of the organization will defeat the strategy."
Dr. Chand takes that conceptual idea and expands it into a multifaceted examination of how churches work (and how they don't) in his new book, Cracking Your Church's Culture Code. A great vision for ministry is worthless if the current culture of the church won't support that vision - the author compares it to trying to drive a car from Chicago to London, England... it doesn't matter how much you want to get there, you don't have a vehicle that can make the trip.

One of the strengths of the book is this wide-angle glimpse of how a myriad of factors shape the culture of a church - and Dr. Chand offers wise counsel from years of consulting on how to deal specifically with a number of these issues, from improving communication skills to planning ahead of the stagnation curve.

However, that strength is also a weakness - there is so much information here, presented in 2+ page "nuggets" & loosely organized by theme, that it's difficult to wrap your brain around all that the author is trying to instill in you & in your church.

With that said, I still found the book incredibly useful - esp. in dealing with questions about the nature of the culture of the church I pastor and what actions I can take to continue shaping that culture in order to build an authentic Biblical community. The chapter on "Changing Vehicles" (and Dr. Chand's admonition not to change the vision to suit the messed-up culture) is very convicting.

One note for small church pastors: unlike some church leadership books, the ideas presented here are applicable in our non-mega-church situations. While Dr. Chand uses examples from larger ministries, the principles he suggests are not restricted to big organizations.