Monday, October 31, 2011

Word Bible Design

OK, the reason I'm blogging about this today is that Jim is running a contest (that you can enter, too!)... but I've been following his Word Bible Design project for quite a while.

Head over to the Word Bible Designs page to check out what he's done - more than once, I'd have picked a different image or a different emphasis for a book, but Jim's thoughtfulness about the project has caused me to think & pray about the Scripture... and that's a good thing.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Kid Game Review: Hit the Throttle

Hit The Throttle
  • designer: Wolfgang Dirscherl
  • publisher: Haba
  • date: 2010
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: not ranked/6.00
  • age: 4+
  • # of players: 2-5
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $10.88 (
Over the years, I've heard Haba's Monza touted as a great introductory racing games for young kids... and I've even personally praised the game as "a great introduction to proper sequencing for young gamers"... but I think it's time for Monza to let another Haba game pass.

That would be Hit the Throttle (not to be mistaken with the great Haba puzzle card game, At Full Throttle). While it's a simple roll'n'move, it's tons of fun for young players, has some simple decisions, and is mercifully short so that parents and older siblings can dive in as well.

Each player is given a secret card at the beginning of the race showing two of the six colored cars - the cars they now will work to get to the end of the race track. On your turn, you roll three color dice and pick one of them, moving that color car one space forward. You then set that dice aside and roll the remaining two dice, picking one of them & moving the respective car. Finally, you roll the last die and move the car indicated. When both of your cars cross the finish line (even if it isn't your turn), you flip your card over & declare your victory!

So, with a game that simple, why do I like it?
  • it's extremely accessible for young players - no number skills are required (just color matching)
  • races are close - we haven't seen a blowout yet
  • the pieces are chunky wooden cars on a colorful track
  • every kid who has played it (including my ten year old son) wanted to play it again
When we talk about "teaching our kids how to play games", Hit the Throttle is an excellent choice for ages 4-5... and the small box footprint would make it an excellent stocking stuffer.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Everybody Dance Now!

I am thankful for a number of things.

The first is that I am not the guy in the lobster costume (or the other one which I can't recognize).

I'm also thankful that DJ Chuang was kind enough to let me verbally spam everyone in his breakout session Monday afternoon with the address of my blog. (BTW, welcome to any newcomers... be sure to say "Hi" in the comments!)

Both of these things (the costuming of a bunch of youth interns & the blog shout-out) occurred at an amazing conference, Sticky Teams 2.0, which I'll be blogging about in the upcoming weeks.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Kid Game Review: Gubs

Gubs: A Game of Wit & Luck
  • Designer: Alex & Cole Medeiros
  • Publisher: Gamewright
  • Players: 2-6
  • Ages: 10+
  • Playing Time: 20 minutes
  • Review by Mark Jackson (11 plays w/a review copy provided by Gamewright)
I’ve played a lot of kid games in my life – some good (Family Pastimes’ The Secret Door), some great (Klaus Teuber’s Kinderspiel-winning memory game Hallo Dachs, soon to be reprinted by Mayfair as Badger Badger), and some downright awful (Reiner Knizia’s Nimbali – the ONLY Haba game I refuse to recommend). With all those years of experience sitting Indian-style next to our coffee table, I’ve learned that there are two keys to making a successful kid game that families can enjoy:
  1. It doesn’t cause the adults or older siblings involved to run away from the table in revulsion. (We will not speak of Pokemon Master Trainer again for fear of causing my gag reflex to kick in.)
  2. It does cause kids to ask to play it over & over & over again.

Everything else (good artwork, high quality pieces, a clear ruleset) is gravy.

And by that measure, Gubs is an absolute success. This clever little “take-that” card game has a well-written set of rules, beautiful cards in a tin box (similar to but smaller than the Forbidden Island tin)… and there are enough interesting things going on in the game so that I’ll gladly play it with my two boys… a lot.

According to the color text in the rulebook, the Gubs are a peaceful lot – but what with the Spears and the Lightning and the various natural disasters (Flash Flood, Rumor Wasps, the Gavock Plague, etc.), it doesn’t sound like these little guys have a very peaceful life. They hide behind Mushrooms or ride toads or Velvet Moths… and try to avoid being Lured away by precious stones (and Rings – these guys have a real weakness for rings).

I pretty much picture the Land of the Gubs as my front yard – like A BUG’S LIFE (delightful film) or THE ANT BULLY (decent if forgettable) or ANTZ (a pretentious waste of time & celluloid). This fast-paced war is taking place in miniature right beneath my feet – and until the card game was released, I was unaware of it.

Or, should I say, re-released. Gubs has a long history: the first version of the game was created by the designer back in the early 90s. In 2005, he began the long difficult process of self-publishing his creation – with the game finally reaching the market in 2007. In the spring of 2011, Gamewright published a new edition of the game with new artwork – and that’s what I’ll be reviewing for you. (If you’d like to read the whole history of Gubs – complete with early artwork – you can check out the website.)

The objective of the game is simple: keep the largest group of Gubs safe when the timer runs out. (In other words, have more Gubs than anyone else.) If there’s a tie, the tiebreaker is which player has the Esteemed Elder Gub in play. (I picture him as kind of a Morgan Freeman type – the Gub steeped in wisdom & a voice dripping with gravitas.)

Game play is equally simple. On your turn, you:

  • MAY draw a card (there are reasons not to draw in the late game)
  • play as many cards as you like
  • discard down to 8 cards (we have NEVER had to use the discard rule)
  • say “Go” so the next player knows it’s their turn

There are a wide variety of card types (Hazards, Tools, Barricades, Interrupts, Events… and, of course, Gubs) – and the meat of the game is figuring out how to use the cards you have to protect your Gubs & make life difficult for the other Gubs at the table.

In this way, Gubs actually belongs to the same gaming family as Fluxx & Munchkin – “take that” card games where players attempt to build a winning tableau in front of them while fending off the attacks of other players. For some of you, that last sentence is a glowing recommendation of Gubs. For others (including myself), it’s a warning that echoes in a Dante-ish fashion: “Abandon all hope, ye who agree to play this game.”

There are a couple of things, however, that set Gubs head & shoulders above the other games I mentioned:

  1. It’s fast. Really, really fast. A long game of Gubs is 15 minutes, with 10 minutes being more typical. That’s due in no small part to…
  2. …it’s got a wertung timer mechanic. (“Wertung” is German for scoring/valuation – and is a common way to refer to a gaming innovation found in a number of Alan Moon games.) There are three Event cards in the deck that spell out G-U-B (or, as my 6 year old noticed, B-U-G). When all three cards appear, the game is over & the player with the most Gubs wins.

There are a couple of cards that can extend the game (the Flop Boat can be used to shuffle one of the letter Events back into the deck – and the Cricket Song – the one wild card in the game – can be used as a Flop Boat)… but the discards are never shuffled back into the deck, so you know that the end is coming.

And while I will occasionally play Fluxx (most recently, Pirate Fluxx) under duress and have sworn off playing Munchkin ever again (ranking it just above – gag – Pokemon Master Trainer), the speed & whimsy of Gubs has me even asking to play this game with my boys.

The game is pretty easy to teach – the card text does an excellent job of explaining what each card can do and the goal of the game is simple enough to grasp. I’ve fallen into teaching the game “as you go”: deal out the cards, give the objective & away we go! However, it’s been my experience that kids deal with the random/chaotic nature of the Event cards much better than adults (and particularly gamer adults) the first time they play. If you’ve got gamer blood in you, you may want to thumb through the deck & see the possible craziness that can ensue – and the various ways you can counter it through card hoarding & smart play.

While the recommended age is 10+, my six year old (who reads well) does just fine with the game. I think success with younger kids will depend on reading level & ability to hold the cards.

The game box says it will play 2-6 players… but I think it’s probably best with 2-4 players. In fact, I enjoy it most with 3.

Monday, October 03, 2011

"You Gotta Fight Your Way Through"

Ira is talking about making video pieces... but I think this applies equally well to preaching. (Think about it.)

The video interview that this was taken from is available on YouTube.