Tuesday, March 31, 2015

#35: Show Manager


Mark's Ranking
  • 2014: 35th
  • 2012: 26th
  • 2010: 31st
  • 2005: 6th
  • appeared on all four lists
  • rank: 615
  • rating: 7.14
Print Status
  • in print
Why It's On The List
  • A wonderful card-drafting game that whips along at a breakneck pace and offers a consistently enjoyable gaming experience as the players cast (and miscast) theater productions.
Tips & Tricks:
  • You don't have to be a card counter to do well - but it is good to know what "9" cards are remaining in each show.
  • You do not have enough money - so you're going to have to accept that one of your four shows is going to be, well, a flop.
  • Use your flop show to borrow money - a common tactic is put on a flop, put it in the lowest point value city & then take the maximum amount of money out of the show.
  • While I'm very glad there is a reprint available (pictured above), I do want to note that the two included variants are not necessary to enjoy the game.
  • Thankfully, the inferior version of the game (Atlantic Star) is out of print. 
  • Showmanager scales really well for 3-6 players... I'm least fond of 4 but it still works well.
  • Here's what I wrote about Showmanager for The One Hundred.

Monday, March 30, 2015

#36: Sentinels of the Multiverse (Mark's 100 - 2014)

Sentinels of the Multiverse

Mark's Ranking
  • 2014: 36th
  • 2012: did not appear
  • 2010: prior to publication
  • 2005: prior to publication
  • rank: 120
  • rating: 7.52
Print Status
  • in print
Why It's On The List
  • A cooperative comic book game that uses multiple card decks (heroes, villain, environment) to tell the story of a "battle royale". It's enhanced by a well-developed mythos and a plethora of sly references to various "real" (read: DC/Marvel) superheroes.
Tips & Tricks:
    • Some games have the potential to divide gaming groups into "wow - love that! let's play again" and "I'm pretty much done with that one after one play" - Sentinels is defintely one of those. I get to play a lot because both of my boys and one of my best friends LOVE the game.
    • When teaching new players, you MUST let them get to know their hero decks on their own. Avoid the temptation to tell them which cards to play - it will kill their enjoyment of the game... and shortchange them of the joy of "discovering their superpowers".
    • Building a good superhero team is a little like building a good D&D party - you need a variety of skills to take on different situations.
    • One of the skills that is difficult to master is creating a challenging but not impossible game - the right combination of heroes, villain & environment. There's a resource that can make that a whole lot easier - Matthew Gray's Sentinels of the Multiverse Difficulty Score System.
    • There are a LOT of expansions for this game system - we own pretty much everything that has been published because part of the fun is getting to take on a new challenge each time. However, the game out of the box is quite enjoyable.
    • I've heard great things about the Sidekick app (that tracks hits & statuses) and the actual iOS/Steam app that plays the game - but I haven't sprung for either of them. Yet.

    Wednesday, March 25, 2015

    Mental Health & the Church

    One of the most important ministry topics... and one of the least talked about. And you have the opportunity to attend this online event (put on by Leadership Network) for free.

    My pastor will be part of the discussion - speaking in his role as the head of Lifeway Research. (He's also a funny, thoughtful & caring guy who just happens to be a statistics nerd.)
    • Tuesday, April 14th
    • beginning at 1 pm EST
    For free registration (and more information), visit Leadership Network.

    Tuesday, March 24, 2015

    #37: Agricola (Mark's 100 - 2014)


    Mark's Ranking
    • 2014: 37th
    • 2012: 31st
    • 2010: 8th
    • 2005: prior to publication
    • rank: 5
    • rating: 8.14
    Print Status
    • in print
    Why It's On The List
    • The theme - farming in medieval times - shouldn't be terrifically compelling (why do I care about the travails of a farmer?)... and yet the game system makes you sweat every purchase, every family member you send out to collect wood or stone or to get a job...
    Tips & Tricks:
      • I don't pretend to have a decent grasp on Agricola strategy - particularly when playing with 4-5 players. At the same time, it's important to remember that you don't have to do well at everything - but blowing off a scoring category completely must be compensated by complete success in other categories.
      • There's a long-winded diatribe in me waiting to get out on this next tip: don't be "super-gamer" and dismiss the badly named "family game" (the 'simpler' version of Agricola). I don't care how experienced you are as a gamer, there's so much going on that it's worth playing this version multiple times for two reasons: (a) it's a good game w/out the cards!, and (b) you'll play the version with Minor Improvements & Occupations much better if you understand how everything works together..
      • This is a game where adding players to the mix adds substantially to the length of play - so, while the game works very well with five players (and even has cards that are specific to that number), I like it best with two or three players. 
      • The Farmers of the Moor expansion is enjoyable, but does increase the complexity of the game another step. On the other hand, I'm not sold on the extra decks - I find the oddball humor to be jarring & some of the cards to have some serious power creep...
      • I like Caverna - but I don't need both of them.
      • The iOS app is splendid... both for the solo game and for multi-player.

      Monday, March 23, 2015

      #38: Galaxy Trucker (Mark's 100 - 2014)

      Galaxy Trucker

      Mark's Ranking
      • 2014: 38th
      • 2012: did not appear
      • 2010: did not appear
      • 2005: prior to publication
      • rank: 78
      • rating: 7.52
      Print Status
      • in print
      Why It's On The List
      • Another Vlaada design, ripe with humor and clever game play. A real-time scramble/spatial puzzle (building your starship) is followed by Dungeonquest-like run-in with the game system, which is conspiring to keep anything good from happening to you. 
      Tips & Tricks:
      • Clean starships don't only win you points, they save lives. And starships. And cargo.
      • The rulebook is a work of comic genius. (This is not unusual for CGE games - which is probably one of the reasons I tend to love them.)
      • It is tempting to teach players this game with all of the expansions (there are TWO big boxes plus an extra set of starship boards)... this is bad. The game has enough going on that newbies should learn on the base game.
      • I wrote a mini-review of the The Latest Models for the Opinionated Gamers website.
      • The iOS app is fantastic - especially the campaign mode.

      Friday, March 20, 2015

      #39: Thebes (Mark's 100 - 2014)


      Mark's Ranking
      • 2014: 39th
      • 2012: 22nd
      • 2010: 5th
      • 2005: prior to publication
      • rank: 254
      • rating: 7.21
      Print Status
      • out of print... for now (Kickstarted reprint should arrive this year)
      Why It's On The List
      • One of the best example of a game design integrating theme & mechanics - drawing tiles from the bag "feels" like archaeology. As well, the use of the "time cost" mechanic makes the game fluid & gives each player a plethora of tactical options. 
      Tips & Tricks:
      • The tile bags are a marked improvement over the card decks from the original version of this game, Jenseit von Thebes.
      • If you're not going to collect the lecture series cards, just make sure no other person hoards them - that's some big points out there on the rubber chicken circuit.
      • I like to jump out with one or two quick expeditions to harvest a few easy artifacts (and have a variety of colors for the various exhibitions) - but there's something to be said for making sure you have a couple of assistants & shovels before you do any serious digging.
      • Don't forget about the bonuses for highest level of research into each site!

      Thursday, March 19, 2015

      #40: Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit (Mark's 100 - 2014)

      Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit

      Mark's Ranking
      • 2014: 40th
      • 2012: 29th
      • 2010: 25th
      • 2005: 45th
      • appeared on all four lists
      • rank: 317
      • rating: 7.54
      Print Status
      • VERY out of print
      Why It's On The List
      • This is possibly the best licensed game out there... based on the weakest film in the Star Wars franchise. It manages to capture the best parts of a bad film and make a splendid game.
      Tips & Tricks:
      • The Trade Federation is slightly easier to play... but with two experienced players, the game is pretty well balanced.
      • If you're playing the Naboo side, you MUST use every Anakin card possible to push the timer. (This is really the only "can't miss" bit of strategic advice I can give you.)
      • This is not the only good Star Wars game (I also like Star Wars: Epic Duels & X-Wing Miniatures) but it's certainly the best. (Note: I have not yet played Imperial Assault or the upcoming Armada...)
      • Here's what I wrote about The Queen's Gambit for The One Hundred

      Wednesday, March 18, 2015

      Catan Con 2015

      So, there are many things to look forward to in the next month or so:
      • my wife enjoys her birthday (March 31st)
      • I mark the end of my first year here at TDOE (April 1st - yes, I started work here on April Fool's Day.. go figure)
      • this blog celebrates a decade of publication - since it was started right around the birth of my youngest son (April 1st)
      • speaking of that, Collin turns 10 years old (April 12th)
      • Catan Con 2015 comes to Nashville - yep, about 20 minutes from my house! (April 24-26)
      No, Catan Con is not more important than my wife's birthday. (And she didn't make me write that.)

      But it's pretty darn cool that this first Catan-focused event is happening literally just down the road from us!

      It's the 20th anniversary this year of Klaus Teuber's innovative game design, The Settlers of Catan... and Mayfair Games is throwing a shindig/hoedown/birthday party/gaming convention at the Opryland Hotel in late April. 

      I'm really looking forward to:
      • mammoth versions of Catan, Downfall of Pompeii & Catan Junior
      • the giant tabletop version of Lords of Vegas
      • playing some of the oddball Catan versions I haven't played before
      • "The Big Game" - a taste of the world record-setting Catan game
      I'm not as excited about the tournaments/qualifiers - but you may be. The winner gets sent on to the Nationals at GenCon this summer.

      I'll be there, both as a reporter/photographer for the Opinionated Gamers blog and as a long-time fan of Catan. It would be great to see some of you there!

      If you're interested, just scoot on over to the Catan Con Facebook page for more information & tickets.

      Battlelore (1st edition)... For Sale

      I am offering my COMPLETE Battlelore set (1st edition) up for sale... as much as I enjoy it, I'm more likely to play Memoir '44 (if I want to do Command & Colors) or Descent or Claustrophobia (if I want to do fantasy combat).

      Here's what the lot consists of (with price estimate from BGG following):
      • Battlelore base game (first printing) - $50
      • Call to Arms expansion - $10
      • The Hundred Years' War – Crossbows & Polearms - $75
      • Epic Battlelore (extra board) - $10
      • Scottish Wars - $25
      • Dwarven Battalion Specialist Pack - $40
      • Heroes expansion - $50
      • Goblin Marauders Specialist Pack - $25
      • Goblin Skirmishers Specialist Pack - $20
      • Dragons expansion - $50
      • Creatures expansion - $45
      • For Troll & Country - $5
      • Hill Giant promo - $15
      • Code of Chivalry - $55
      • Horrific Horde - $60
      • Earth Elemental promo - $15
      • Bearded Brave - $25
      • Battlelore Collected Rulebook (Lulu.com printed & bound - no longer available) - $25
      • 3 Plano boxes to contain figures - $30
      So, it's roughly $600 worth of fantasy toy soldier plastic & game. (Actually $630, but who's counting?)

      All of the sets are complete and in excellent condition. The only remaining box is the base game - the rest of the figures are in multiple Plano boxes (which are part of the deal - unless you want to save on shipping by taking them out and having me bag the figures to ship.)

      I will not sell isolated pieces of the set - it's all or nothing.

      I'm willing to sell it all for $300 + shipping (which, unfortunately, won't be inexpensive). I won't jack up the shipping costs - just charge what it actually costs to get to you. (And apologies to my foreign readers - due to the hassles of dealing with customs & exchange rates, I'm going to stick with U.S. only.) If you live near middle Tennessee, we can probably arrange a no-ship exchange to save $ & time.

      This offer is going out first to my loyal readers... strike while it's hot!

      Tuesday, March 17, 2015

      #41: Claustrophobia (Mark's 100 - 2014)


      Mark's Ranking
      • 2014: 41st
      • 2012: 63rd
      • 2010: did not appear
      • 2005: prior to publication
      • rank: 96
      • rating: 7.69
      Print Status
      • in print
      Why It's On The List
      • Imagine taking the asymmetrical structure of the classic game Space Hulk (hordes of bad guys vs. a small band of heroes) and cross-pollinating it with some very clever dice mechanics (one even borrowed from the much-loved Euro game, Kingsburg)... and then packing the box as full of high-quality components as possible. And there you have it.
      Tips & Tricks:
        • Both players (the good guys AND the bad guys) have to carefully managed all of their resources - each of them has some pretty nifty "powers" but almost all of those are limited in their use.
        • The playing time for Claustrophobia is almost always less than an hour... and, with a few exceptions, it's pretty easy to set up as the caverns will be explored and the game board laid out as you play.
        • Warning: this is probably the "darkest" game I own (thematically)... this is not for everyone.
        • The De Profundis expansion has a lot more scenarios, some new monsters & heroes, and a bunch of new tiles & cards... and, as per the designer's wishes, does NOT make this a multi-player game. (Croc - yes, that's his moniker - was very clear that he'd designed a two-player game and that putting more folks around the table would mess up the design.)
        • The Furor Sanguinis expansion adds a new "faction" - well, to be accurate, giant lizard/demon bad guy. We've had a lot of fun with it.

        Thursday, March 12, 2015

        #42: Pandemic (Mark's 100 - 2014)


        Mark's Ranking
        • 2014: 42nd
        • 2012: 25th
        • 2010: 27th
        • 2005: prior to publication
        • rank: 43
        • rating: 7.67
        Print Status
        • in print
        Why It's On The List
        • A brilliantly constructed cooperative game with nail-biting tension - are we going to be able to save the world from the viruses or not?
        Tips & Tricks:
        • You must watch ALL of the timers - the one you're most likely to forget is the draw deck.
        • When you're teaching Pandemic, work extra hard not to "run" the game - let players make mistakes, learn, and enjoy this great game experience. If you really want to play the game with extra control, play it solitaire.
        • Do go out & purchase the On the Brink expansion - not only does it offer some fun new ways to play (Mutant Strain, Virulent Outbreak, new roles & new special help cards), but it also has the very cool petri dish holders for the pieces.
        • I'm not a big fan of the Bio-Terrorist variant in the On the Brink expansion in which one player is working against everyone else. 
        • There's also a LARP game that's been run at a few gaming conventions - again, I haven't got to play it myself but I love the idea!
        • There is one more published expansion (In the Lab) which I've only played in prototype form... and another (State of Emergency) which is due out later this year. I'm jazzed enough about State of Emergency that I finally broke down and ordered the replacement decks for my first edition copy of the game.
        • There are two "spin-off" games: a dice game (Pandemic: The Cure) - which I enjoyed but not as much as the board game; and a card game (Pandemic: Contagion) - which was just OK.
        • More importantly, Matt Leacock & Rob Daviau have teamed up to create Pandemic Legacy (Season One) - melding the innovative cooperative Pandemic system to the equally innovative Legacy model... it's due out in the fall of 2015. Color me very excited.
        • Pandemic has two more "family with kids" friendly cousins:

        Wednesday, March 11, 2015

        The Robinsons Go To Church (Classic)

        This Grapevine post from April 2007 has been slightly edited... but the truth at the heart of it is still applicable to church life.

        Last Thursday night, Braeden & I got to have a "boy night" - that's when, for one reason or another, it's "just us guys" going out or staying in. When we have "boy night" at home, we usually eat our dinner in front of the TV, have extra candy, play board games, and generally behave like a couple of guys training to be college students.

        Now that Collin ends up with us, it doesn't work exactly the same - but there's still lots of wrestling... and most recently, we've added indoor basketball to the menu - boys vs. Dad. (Collin shoots baskets while Braeden tries to pin me to the ground. In real basketball, this would be a foul. In the NBA, this would be standard operating procedure. Sigh.) 

        [Note: when this post was written, Braeden was almost 6 and Collin had just turned 2. Ah, how the years fly by.]

        Anyway, our "boy night" was a trip to our local movie theater to see Disney's Meet the Robinsons... which, by the way, was a wonderful film. (You can read my review - "Keep Moving Forward".)

        And the Robinson family, from the giant octopus butler to the interstellar pizza delivery guy to the mob-connected big band frogs, got me thinking about church life. (I am NOT suggesting that our band sounds like a bunch of frogs - who actually sound a bit more like the Rat Pack in the movie.)

        No, it was the whole "peanut butter & jelly gun incident" that got me on this track. Lewis, the main character, starts the movie attempting to invent a gun that solves the main problem with PB&J sandwiches - "portion control!" Unfortunately, the gun jams & he manages to shoot peanut butter onto a man who is allergic to peanuts. (According to the film, this pretty much guarantees that these people won't adopt you... but that's another part of the story.) Later in the story, the Robinson family has trouble with their PB&J gun (don't ask how they got one) and Lewis ends up attempting to fix it.

        He fails. Once again, he splatters everyone in sight with sticky goo... and you can almost hear his heart break.

        And then the family starts applauding, telling him he's done a great job failing. Which, to our culture-trained ears, sounds like complete hooey. Yet the family goes on to encourage Lewis by explaining that great things happen when you're willing to fail over & over in order to find the right answer.

        Which is where the whole "Mark thinks about church life" comes in... if we who follow Christ are going to make a God-sized dent in our communities, then we're going to have to be willing to fail. Snowboarders don't pull a180 the first time down the half-pipe - they end up eating a lot of snow before they even get off the lip. (Those of you who don't know snowboarding just nod your head & pretend you know what I'm talking about, OK?) The same thing is true for us in the church... in order to reach people for Jesus Christ, we're going to try stuff that doesn't work.

        That's a GOOD thing. It's OK that we create a program that doesn't attract many people - as long as we don't try & keep it alive just because we started it. It's OK that we attempt a new element in a worship service that, well, bombs - the only way to fine-tune things so that they are relevant & meaningful is to try them.

        Our job as followers of Jesus is to applaud courageous & honest failures... to give people "props" for trying to follow God into new ministries & new ways of expressing the love of Jesus Christ to other people.

        And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
        Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)
        One small note of warning: applauding failure is not about applauding laziness or incompetence. It's not about glossing over mistakes or procrastination. It's about spurring one another toward love & good deeds... wait a minute, doesn't the Bible say something about that?!

        Quotes of the Week

        Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things... and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
        Walt Disney (quoted at the end of "Meet the Robinsons")
        Tell yourself, "I'm not a failure. I failed at doing something." There's a big difference.
        Erma Bombeck
        Lord, deliver me from the man who never makes a mistake, and also from the man who makes the same mistake twice.
        Dr. William Mayo
        We ain't where we wanna be We ain't where we're gonna be But thank you, Jesus, We ain't where we used t'be. African-American spiritual
        My life is not futile; my failures are not fatal; and my death is not final. That simple bit of beginning theology, stolen from Max Lucado's Six Hours One Friday nearly fifteen years ago, is a lesson I still need to hear, and a truth I still have trouble believing. My actions don't often confess these three truths. But at the rock-bottom core of my being, I desperately cling to them as the core of the Gospel.
        Steve F. on his blog, Ragamuffin Ramblings

        Tuesday, March 10, 2015

        #43: StreetSoccer (Mark's 100 - 2014)


        Mark's Ranking
        • 2014: 43rd
        • 2012: 86th
        • 2010: 24th
        • 2005: did not appear
        • rank: 1081
        • rating: 6.62
        Print Status
        • don't think it's in print... but there are lots of copies available on the secondhand market
        Why It's On The List
        • It doesn't so much simulate soccer (like Pursue the Pennant attempts to simulate baseball)... instead, it uses a backgammon-ish mechanic to simulate the feel of a soccer game - and does so brilliantly.
        Tips & Tricks:
          • Like playing backgammon, winning at StreetSoccer is as much about the position you leave yourself in as well as pushing hard to score...
          • And like backgammon, what appears initially to be a random dice game actually reveals itself to be a very tactical game of risk & probability.
          • There are three different online PBEM versions of StreetSoccer... the one I used to play on (a lot!) was Little Golem.

          Monday, March 09, 2015

          #44: The Rivals for Catan (Mark's 100 - 2014)

          The Rivals for Catan

          Mark's Ranking
          • 2014: 44th
          • 2012: 18th
          • 2010: 90th (as The Catan Card Game)
          • 2005: 81st (as The Catan Card Game)
          • rank: 438
          • rating: 7.17
          Print Status
          • in print
          Why It's On The List
          • This is a streamlined & MUCH improved version of the 2 player Catan Card Game (which I first played - with German cards! - as Siedler von Catan: Das Kartenspiel).
          Tips & Tricks:
          • The expansions are both very good... and add a lot of variety to the game.
          • You can NOT neglect building at least 2 settlements... that's really the only "don't miss" strategy tip.
          • This is, like many games with lots of cards w/effects, a game that plays quicker & with many more interesting decisions once you've played it a few times to get to know what the cards can (and can't) do. I strongly suggest playing the introductory game followed almost immediately by a "regular" game with the Age of Gold deck in order to begin learning the system and the basic cards.
          • Notice how far up this game jumped in my top 100 due to the new version... I'm the president of the "Rivals kicked Siedler:DSK to the curb" society.
          • I have now played the iOS version - it's not perfect but the AI is pretty good and I'm glad I own it.
          • I wrote incredibly in-depth reviews of the base game and of the expansions for the Opinionated Gamers (which were then re-published on this blog)... the first one is particularly aimed at those who were wondering if they should make the switch from the original game.

          Tuesday, March 03, 2015

          Questions to Ask the Church Search Committee

          Really, you should read the whole excellent blog post that inspired this (by Bruce Reyes-Chow) - but I'll whet your appetite with my personal top ten (or so) from his list of twenty-five. These are in no particular order
          • What has been the most imaginative thing that the church has done in the past year?
          • Are there any topics, issues, situations that have been treated, intentionally or unintentionally, as “off-limits” and if so, what are they and why do you think they have been avoided?
          • What have been the congregation’s behavior patterns when dealing with conflict?
          • Where in the church do you see the most life and energy and where has the church become a little stuck or calcified?
          • If the church closed its doors tomorrow, would the community miss its presence and if so, how?
          • Over the past 10 years how have most people found this church and if they have visited, why have they chosen to stay or not?
          • How does the congregation approach the use of technology and social media in the life of the church: communication, pastoral care, evangelism, administration and/or worship?
          • What are your expectations, spoken and unspoken, about how your next pastor will balance church and family time and energy?
          • With what church tasks and activities is there is agreement that the pastor should NOT be involved?
          • What about my gifts, experience and perspectives have lead you to think that there may be a call between you and I?
          Bruce closes with this wonderful quote from Frederick Buechner:
          “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

          article found courtesy of churchjobs.tv